The waiting room to hell has a little telly in the corner playing back to back Homes Under the Hammer.
You watch, frozen in place, as a dying generation feeds on the misery of its young.
A toilet without a seat is installed between an oven and a multi-use sink. The headboard of the bed is removed so it’ll fit in the remaining space. The doors are widened to accommodate a wheelchair. It’s all up to code.
“How can anyone live like this?” you ask.
Each room is identical, episode after episode. All the carpets are brown, all the walls are magnolia.
Soon, a family of six will share this space, in a converted Victorian townhouse in Surrey, with 4 other families:
It wasn’t always like this. A nice old lady lived there, haunting the building while still alive, forgotten by her estranged family. She died, leaving the building open to the vultures in the auction house.
You soon come to understand you are being made to bear witness to the end of civilisation.
Centuries pass by. Your memories are replaced, pushed out to make room for loft conversions, basement nooks, fully paved gardens with raised beds filled with plastic shrubbery. There’s just enough of you left to mourn what you were.
A door opens.
It’s Martin Roberts.
You pry your eyes away from the screen for the first time in a millenia to see him standing in the flesh.
He watches you for a moment, his fingertips pressed together across his chest. His skin is a deeper shade of red than on the screen. He wears a tan suit jacket with a flannel shirt undone to the navel.
His jeans are rolled up at the bottom to reveal his hooves.
“Let’s see what happens when we take you to auction,” he says. You stand, your ancient joints pop and crack as you struggle to your feet. He makes no move to help.
You meet his gaze and nod.
It’s time. You follow him through the doorway.
You stand at the front of an auction room, in front of rows of elderly business men and women. They bid disinterestedly on you as though you’re just another two bed flat in Brighton within walking distance of the beach. Suddenly, the bidding ends. You’ve been won.
“It’s certainly seen better days,” Martin says to the winners – a pair of retired builders. They walk through the ruined hallways of your soul as Martin looks on.
“We’re going to rip it all out and start again,” one of them says as he sharpens his claws, “I need something to do with my hands.”
Martin laughs, but it doesn’t reach his eyes.
He waggles his eyebrows at the camera as they fall upon you, tearing into your withered flesh.
‘Gimmie all your lovin’ by ZZ Top plays, drowning out your screams.
You’re back in the auction room, back on the market, and a retired couple from Kent have put a bid in for twice the asking price. The builders must have done a good job on you.
Wendy describes to Martin how she’s going to “put her own stamp on it” as she heats a branding iron on an open flame.
‘Disco inferno’ by The Trammps plays over the sizzle of your flesh.
You pass from one dispassionate couple to another, each tearing you down and building you back in their own image. Each time, you’re worth a little more in their endless bidding game.
Martin stares unblinking into the camera as a grin spreads across his face.
He has too many teeth.