The Property Brethren

Behind the scenes on The Property Brothers: a fever dream.

Television is a black hole. Especially reality television. You think that would be the easiest kind but YOU WOULD BE WRONG. It’s a conspiracy. There are layers and regressions leading to a writhing underworld that you just would not believe. It’s more real than reality.

On the HGTV series The Property Brothers, criminal mastermind Drew and evil genius Jonathan build a beautiful, impossible world out of what, at times, amounts to nothing more than a pile of used, wet toilet paper rolls and a vial of blood of unknown origin. They can build such a world because the vial is payment to be paid at the altar of their Dark Lord. This is how, for the pauper’s sum of $3,781.27 they can manage to convert your old outhouse into a Victorian mansion.

But sometimes their god is displeased with them. Jonathan shaves his chest, and this is a sin against the Dark Lord. Don’t even ask what it is that Drew does to offend the Shadowy Majesty.

And so, at times, the Property Brethren are on their own. Left to fend for themselves in this pit of fire we call real estate. Down here with the rest of us, the snakes. This is the writhing underworld.

They are not without their wiles. For Master Drew and Magician Jonathan have built a hell all their own. A sub-basement, if you will. (With a brand new ensuite!) In it are housed the immortal souls of many various experts and sub-contractors. (Appropriate for a sub-basement, no?)

Over there stands Mikail, a master in the sinister arts of flooring and drywall. Well, “stands” is perhaps inappropriate. He is partially entombed within the plaster of the wall. Only his head, right hand, stomach, left knee, and left foot stick out.

Then there is the former Sir Todd, the best there has ever been in the ancient practice of bathrooms and kitchens. He rests, submerged to his eyeballs, in a tub full of sticky, half-cooled blood.

And one cannot forget Larry the Luminous, a wizard of appliances and lighting fixtures. One never sees Larry, as he exists only in our peripheral vision where the light and our sanity fails us. But we know he is there.

At the head of the room, Jonathan and Drew sit on a throne of thorns in front of a rusted and madly sparking control panel. This is a game. And today, it is the three unfortunate souls previously mentioned who are destined to play.

Without their Lord’s good favor, the Property Brethren must correctly predict the exact amount of currency that it will take to resurrect the shitty home they just conned two innocent souls into buying. The objective of this hellish game show within a reality show is relatively simple. These cursed contractors must investigate the property and subsequently provide the Brethren with a number that represents their assessment.

The cursed that divine accurately curry favor not only with the Property Brethren, but with their Dark Lord. And as such, they move one small step up the winding staircase out of hell. If — WHEN they fail, as they so often do, they tumble down the stairs into greater darkness. Mikail pulled deeper into the chalky wall. Sir Todd’s bath of blood cools and solidifies further. Larry drifts further to the periphery.

“Let us enter,” Jonathan declares with a wave of his hand. The damned find themselves occupying brittle golems that resemble their former selves. Their dry-mud feet suddenly shuffling down the driveway towards the abomination that some would call a house. The three enter the foyer and already know that this one may be a trap. Sometimes the Brethren like to play tricks, presenting the three with a dwelling so inhospitable that even the darkest of magicks cannot overcome the darkness already therein.

This could be such a home.

Larry eyes the holes high on the walls and ceiling. Exposed wiring. Uncapped. Sconces, maybe? Or the growing insanity of an electrician pushed too far? He reaches for the one bare, exposed bulb he finds in the den and it explodes, frightening him.

Mikail runs his fingers along the classically textured wainscotting and doorways. It has been painted so many times that it flakes off in sheets. He shudders. He imagines his skin peeling off in exactly so horribly and with just as much bad taste.

Sir Todd turns the corner into the kitchen and retches. The smell is unbearable. The cabinets beneath the sink are rotted completely away, exposing the dark recesses of what could only be a hellmouth. A black hose runs from beneath the sink out into the back yard, where it has self-welded to a rusty spigot. The water had ceased working indoors ages ago, and the savages that had lived there after did the best they could.

After hours that seem like days, the booming voices of the Brethren speaking in unison shake the tender walls of the sad home.

“It is time!” they exclaim. “Return to us, and place your bids.”

The golems burn and crumble into dry, dirty ash.

Mikail, Sir Todd, and Larry the Luminous are back in the shells that they are doomed to occupy. Drew reaches for a knob on the control panel, and three holes open from the floor in front of the damned. Strange panels arise from these holes in front of the contestants. They look like bulletin boards made from stretched skin, lit from within. Red and pulsing, like a flashlight being covered by a hand. Brighter, veinous lights move and glow to form the names Mikail, Todd, and Larry. Beneath each name a number arises: 0.

Let the game begin.

Mikail reaches out with his one free hand. In chalk, he scribbles atop the game pedestal. The 0 on the front of the board changes to the number he wrote. His predictions on cost.

Sir Todd does the same, in blood, atop his pedestal.

The number Larry writes on his pedestal is dark, like a burn. The pedestal seems to twitch in response.

Drew waves his hand on the dreary wall, where a panel moves aside to show a screen. Here we peer into the future. Jonathan is no longer on his throne, but rather within the screen.

Swinging his sledgehammer as if he were Thor, Jonathan demolishes a wall. No asbestos. No critters. No surprises. Mikail seems to sigh with relief at his success, though it could just as well be from his prison releasing some of its grip. See there! His left hand is even exposed now.

“The lights were a big worry,” Jonathan says to the homeowners, “We had exposed wiring that didn’t appear up to code, strange placement of fixtures.” He pauses, reaches for a switch. Larry flickers. The lights come on. “But the wiring was actually pretty sound. We managed to get you an all-new chic recessed lighting system that ended up coming in UNDER budget!”

The soundtrack in the background drops an octave or two. A man in a bandana is kneeling on the kitchen floor, shaking his head. “What did you find?” Jonathan growls. The man just points. Mold. Thick sheets of it. Running beneath the tile.

Jonathan, with the owners. “We found mold in the kitchen. Turns out this is actually from the poor plumbing. It all has to be ripped out and redone. This is going to add at least thirty dollars to the budget.”

Bubbles rise from the red fluid of the tub. Bubbling that sounds a lot like, “No! No, please!” Then the bubbles stop popping as the fluid thickens. Sir Todd’s eyeballs look up, desperate as they too are pulled under, deeper into the tub. Only his hair is visible — and as we watch, it thins and turns gray.

Drew smiles, knowing this is happening off-screen in obedience of his will.

“It turns out that this entire house was originally built out of matchsticks. The plumbing, meanwhile, transported only kerosene. And it is built atop an old coal mine.”

The owners look mildly perturbed.

“However,” Jonathan continues, “We managed to knock down this wall to give you that nice open concept feel you’ve been looking for.” He waves his hand majestically, then beckons them upstairs. “We reconfigured the upstairs to include that extra bathroom you wanted, and even had room for a garden tub.”

The owners look pleased, but confused. This amount of space did not match up with the actual square footage of the house. How did they…

But Jonathan is already headed downstairs. “And now for the real surprise: the basement.” Here, he lets the room speak for itself. The previously unfinished basement has been turned into a beautiful play room for the couple’s three children. They are pleased.

And yet. In the back of their mind lurks the question: could this tinder box still catch fire?

Somehow, without it having been vocalized, Drew still offers an answer: “We have ways of controlling the fire.”

24. April 2015 by Greg
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