October 3rd: Monster Mash
Bon Appetit
, by David Neilson

“No! No! Eet cannot be! Eet ees eempossible!”

Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski stomped around his kitchen, a fury burning within his 350-pound frame.

All around him, his staff quivered in fear, huddled together in clumps of two or three hoping for safety in numbers. When Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski got angry, the kitchen became a war zone.

“Vat haf I done to deeeeserve zees? Why does God mock me so?” He grabbed a sauce pan and threw it at the source of his anger, a large brick oven from which poured forth a mass of black smoke.

“Sir, Master Chef, Sir!” said Sous Chef Jeff timidly, remembering to address his master properly so as to not incur his wrath. “Shall I put out the fire, Sir, Master Chef, Sir?”

Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski bellowed profanity for a few seconds, pounding his fists on the Gluten-Free counter and knocking a plate of gnocchi to the floor. Poor Diana, the carrot-peeler, let out a whimper as the heavy butter sauce splashed against her shoes.

Sous Chef Jeff stood stoic, waiting for the tirade to temper.

Finally, Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski grunted and flicked his wrist towards the oven. “Oui,” he said. “Put out zee blaze.”

Sous Chef Jeff immediately lifted the fire extinguisher and shot three quick blasts of coolant into the oven, quenching the fire. Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski shook reflexively with each blast, as if the coolant were snuffing out his smoldering anger along with the fire.

In an instant, the sound of coolant dripping from the roof of the oven was the only sound in the kitchen. All eyes turned from the oven to Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski.

“I am ru-eeened,” he muttered dramatically, throwing the back of his pudgy hand to his forehead.

The staff, sensing the calm, began to slowly inflate the kitchen with their bodies, much like a sea monkey released in an aquarium. While there was relief that Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski had not accidentally impaled anyone with one of the butcher knives this time, they all understood that with the oven broken, the restaurant was, indeed, ruined. They needed that oven.

Without it, they could not cook.

They needed to cook.

“Is it… dead?” asked Phillipe the garlic crusher. The others took a step back when he spoke per normal due to his breath.

Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski flopped his bulk atop the kitchen’s lone stool and glared at Phillipe. “That ees no longer an oven. Eet ees a tombstone. Eet ees my tombstone. Mah fate ees wreeteeen een eet’s stone walls.”

Everyone looked to their neighbor for encouragement, for hope, for any sign that they would get through this tragedy. Everyone, except for Little Billy, the spoon-washer.

“Written in stone,” he mumbled, first to himself and then out loud. “Written in stone.”

Margarite smacked Little Billy on the head dismissively. “Hush, child! Do not mimic Master Chef! Don’t you have a spoon to wash?”

But Little Billy would not be silenced. “Written in stone!” he cried, ducking under a second backhanded swipe from Margarite and rushing forward to fall to his knees before Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski.

Sous Chef Jeff moved to wrench Little Billy away, but was stopped by a grunt from Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski, which may actually have been the sound of something unimaginable digesting within his gelatinous mass, but did the trick for the moment in stopping Sous Chef Jeff in mid-wrench.

“Speak,” commanded Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski.

“The Room,” moaned Little Billy. “You must enter The Room.”

Half the staff shrieked like little girls, the other half shrieked like slightly larger girls.

“Blasphomy!” yelled a voice.

“Heathen!” screamed a second.

“Kill the boy!” called out a third.

“That might be a bit much but we should at least hurt him a great deal,” reasoned a fourth.

Only Sous Chef Jeff did not respond. Instead, he turned to Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski, questions in his eyes. He raised an eyebrow. Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski snarled. Sous Chef Jeff raised the other eyebrow. Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski snorted. Sous Chef Jeff raised the eyebrow of his inner eye.

Finally Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski relented. “Alright!” he announced. “I veel enter Zee Room!”

The kitchen staff gasped. Nobody ever entered The Room. Nobody had set foot in The Room since the day, many years ago, the Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski’s father, Master Chef Juan Stanislavski, had opened the door in search of some saffron, closed the door behind him, and had never been seen again. To enter The Room was to tempt fate. To enter The Room was to spit in the face of evil. To enter The Room was to mock God Himself.

“No!!!!” shouted Henri, the lemon-squeezer. “There is only one rule in The Kitchen. No one must ever enter The Room. Not even you, Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski.”

Sous Chef Jeff whipped around to confront Henri, nearly clonking Little Billy in the head with his ladle. “How dare you speak to Master Chef in this manner!” he screamed. “Where is it written that Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski cannot enter The Room if he wishes?”

Henri lifted a trembling hand and pointed to a graven image carved on stone next to a dark, dark, dark oaken door. It read:

‘No one must ever enter The Room. Not even Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski’

“Oh vel,” said Master Chef Pierre Stansilavski. “Eef eet ees so written, who am I to tempt fate?”

“Sir, Master Chef, Sir! You cannot back down from your destiny!” shouted Sous Chef Jeff. He strode over to the stone sign on the wall, grabbing the kitchen’s mega-macho potato masher on the way, and smashed it against the sign over and over. Clouds of dust and crushed rock poofed away from the sign with each mighty blow. At last, Sous Chef Jeff dropped the mega-macho potato masher to the ground and stepped back. The sign now read:

‘N- –e must -v– enter The Room. –t e-e- Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski’

“Your destiny awaits!” cried Sous Chef Jeff.

Igor the meat tenderizer walked up and peered at the engraving. “Nnee must venter The Room. Tee Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski,” he read.

“Zee Fate! She callz mee!” with a groan of exertion, Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski rose from the stool, determination on his face. “Zee sign! Eet even has mah accccceeent!”

He strode towards the dark, dark, dark oaken door, each step deflating a nearby souffle with the power of its vibration. The staff parted like the Red Sea before him, none wishing to come between Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski and his destiny within The Room.

Thirty-seven seconds later, Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski stood in front of the dark, dark, dark oaken door- the portal into the unknown. His grubby fingers slowly pulled a rusty chain from around his neck revealing a large, iron skeleton key. It would have glimmered in the flickering candlelight had it not been covered in decades of rust.

Sous Chef Jeff dropped his jaw in awe. “Sir, Master Chef, Sir! You have carried the burden of The Key to The Room around your neck all these years?”

“Oui,” said Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski solemnly. “Eet ees mah sacrid doooty, handed down to me from mah older brother, Klaus, who sealed zee door when fazzer vaneeshed all those yeeeers ago.”

The older members of the staff quickly crossed themselves in memory of Kluas Stanislavski, who had died a decade earlier after a lobster he’d been stuffing into a boiling pot had managed to break free and sever the arteries in Klaus’ wrist with its claws.

Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski approached the door, key in trembling hand, and slipped it into the lock with a slow intake of breath. Once the key was all the way in the lock he paused, and turned back to his kitchen staff.

“I do zees for zee good of us all,” he said.

He turned the key to the right and the door groaned from being disturbed after so many years. As if on cue, everyone else took a step back, leaving Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski alone to face whatever cruel fate was in store.

Finally, the inner workings of the lock released with a loud clang, which echoed throughout the kitchen like a dinner bell of doom. There came the sound of metal-on-metal, then the door, now unlocked, opened a crack on its own, letting off a hiss of pressure. Standing in front of the door, Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski took in a quick breath and immediately began coughing and grabbing his throat.

“Sir, Master Chef, Sir!” cried Sous Chef Jeff.

“He’s been gassed!” exclaimed Angelique, the butter-spreader.

Little Billy the spoon washer stepped forward to rescue his hero, but Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski waved him away. “Back! Back!” he bellowed. Little Billy stopped in his tracks. Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski caught his breath and stood up straight. “I am not dyeeng,” he said. “Eet eez not gas. Eet eez only zee air of zee past pouring forth eento zee present after being locked away for a generation.”

Little Billy obediently bowed his head and stepped back.

Sous Chef Jeff placed a hand on Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski’s shoulder. “Sir, Master Chef, Sir. Are you quite certain about this?”

Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski jiggled his blubber until Sous Chef Jeff’s hand rumbled off of his flesh. “Oui,” he said and pushed the door open.

Stepping onto The Room was like stepping into the past. There were fondue pots everywhere. Massive microwave ovens (Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski’s mind balked at the thought that his father had ever used a one of those demonic machines) cluttered dusty counters. Spider webs criss-crossed The Room. His foot sunk into an inch of dust with every step, kicking up toxic cloud that was absolute hell on his asthma.

“Merd,” he muttered, gazing across the remnants of what had once been the most glorious kitchen in all of France.

Three more steps in, he let go of the door, allowing it to slam shut with a sense of fatalistic finality that momentarily caused Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski to question his humanity. But the moment of reflection passed, to be followed by a moment of utter panic as he was now entirely in the dark.

“Zee curse! Zee curse!” he cried. But no one answered. No one could hear him through the dark, dark, dark oaken door. He tried to pull himself together, slapping his face repeatedly until the panic passed. Then he reached behind him, his chubby fingers fondling the wall behind him until they found the light switch, which they flicked up with childish eagerness.

As the lone bulb flickered to life, bathing The Room in a brown gloom, Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski spotted a pile of bones partially buried in the dust at his feet.

His father!

Quacking with grief, Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski knelt down in the dust and gently lifted a thigh bone in his hands, cradling as if it were a newborn baby, and not the remains of his long-dead father.

“Papa,” he whispered. “At last, you hef beeeen found. We cried for many days when you disappeared. Mama cried for anozzer day after zat. Eez was embarrassing. But zen she got over eet.”

Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski paused. Taking stock of The Room, his culinary training took over. He spied all the elements of a proper kitchen that he would need to cook the evening meal for his very special customers due to arrive in a matter of hours. Is was dirty, yes, but cooking was dirty work. Dropping his father’s bone onto the floor, Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski approached a surprisingly well-stocked shelf. He found boxes of pasta that even after 40 years would probably be fresh. Sealed canisters of flour, salt, and sugar he could use. A wild tomato plant that had flourished over the years until it covered an entire wall.

He could do this.

He could cook.

***

The kitchen staff sat immobile, waiting for Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski to reemerge from The Room. Poor Andre the lemon-grater had nibbled his fingernails to nubs and was now proceeding to devour the tender flesh beneath.

“Do you think he is dead?” asked Amelie the oyster-scraper.

Sous Chef Jeff pounded his fist against the knee of Philipe the lettuce-washer. “Master Chef cannot die! He is immortal within his kitchen! Never doubt him again!”

Everyone nodded their agreement, shooting dirty looks at Amelie, who suddenly wished she had never moved to France in the first place.

Suddenly the door to The Room burst open and Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski stood triumphantly in the doorway, holding a steaming cauldron in his smoldering hands.

“Bon Appetit!”

Everyone stared at Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski in shock and horror. His face was covered in grease, his hands had been burned raw, his clothes bore the stains of sauces unknown, the handle of an ancient spatula stuck out of his pocket. But the worst were his eyes. Somehow, someway, for some reason, Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski had severed his eyelids from his face, leaving a strip of blood coating his eye sockets.

“Sir, Master Chef, Sir!” said a stunned Sous Chef Jeff finally. “Your eyes…”

“Timing vas critical!” declared Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski. “I could not take zee chance that I vood blink and rueeeen my deeesh.”

The staff gave an appreciative ‘Ooohhhhh’ upon hearing this, marveling in Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski’s wisdom.

“What…” began Ambrosia the timid Jell-O shaper.

“Go on,” encouraged Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski.

“What have you created?”

Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski shambled over to the meat counter and set the cauldron down with a foreboding thud.

“A masterpiece!”

Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski stepped back from his bubbling cauldron and allowed his kitchen staff to approach and, one by one, waft the scent of the dish into their nostrils. Eyes widened in amazement as each individual took in the mysterious odor.

“Sir, Master Chef, Sir!” exclaimed Sous Chef Jeff. “It smells Heavenly!”

“Taste! Everybody taste!” barked Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski proudly.

“Spoons!” shouted Sous Chef Jeff. “Little Billy spoon-washer! Bring us spoons!”

Little Billy the spoon-washer, quickly brought forth an army of spotless spoons which he handed out to the greedy kitchen staff. Each one hungrily dipped their spoon into Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski’s treasure and savored the experience.

“Marmalade!” cried Francisco the knife-sharpener.

“Molasses!” cried Hidalgo the olive-pitter.

“Meringue!” cried Antoinette the veal-carver.

“Minestrone!” cried Kelsey the hippy chick who hung out in the kitchen without actually doing anything.

“Oui!” cried Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski. “Eet eez all zat and more! Eet eez zee perfect deeesh.”

Everyone stared at one another, confusion ruling the moment.

Eventually, Sous Chef Jeff spoke for them all. “How is this possible? What is in your stew that can create such a wide range of tastes?”

Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski smiled from ear to ear as if he held the secret to eternal handsomeness in his head and was ready to share it with the ugly people of the world. “Cobwebs! Dust! Rotted bug carcases! Leetle peeces of mah fah-tzer!”

Everyone froze, speechless. A mouthful of stew plopped out from between Kelsey’s lips to splatter on the floor.

“Sir, Master Chef, Sir,” began Sous Chef Jeff tentatively. “You cannot be serious. You are having a little joke on us, yes?”

“Mah cookeeng is no joke!” bellowed Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski. “I have deeveloped a masterpiece! No one has ever before made dried human bones taste so incredeeble!”

He was answered by the sound of two more squishy splatters as both Luthor the orange juice strainer and Ellen the pomegranate seed picker spat out their bite. Little Billy began to cry.

Sous Chef Jeff, however, stood in awe of his idol. “What,” he whispered reverently, “is your secret?”

Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski quickly drew a shiny, golden spatula from his hip pocket with all the gusto of a gum-chewing gunslinger whipping out a six-shooter to put a bullet between the eyes of poor dining experiences everywhere.

“With thees!” he cried, holding the spatula high for all to see and worship.

Once again the room was filled with stunned silence as all eyes craned up past the blubbery arms and fingers to view the object of mystery and wonderment held within.

No one knew what to say. No one knew what to think. A few more people spit out the soup.

From the back of the room, someone coughed.

After a moment, the someone coughed again, this time delivering a more obviously-fake cough. A few heads turned. Not satisfied, the someone belted out an ear-splitting, “A-hem! Cough! Cough!”

Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski tilted his head from side to side, the rolls of neck fat swaying to a rhythm all their own, as he tried to make out the identity of the serial cougher.

“Who ees eet?” he asked. “Ees someone suffering from zee whooping cough?”

The voice started out barely audible. It was deep and gravelly, and though no one was sure what the voice was saying, they were pretty sure it was grumbling. If Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski had been tall enough to see over the heads of his kitchen staff, he would have noticed a parting of people starting in the back and then slowly making its way towards him. The grumbling and muttering voice grew closer as the various peelers, tasters, grinders, and whatnot shuffled aside to let the owner of the voice pass.

Finally, Gladys the bacon grease-dabber and Uruk the whipped cream whipper stepped aside to reveal an ancient man, wrinkled and leathery, bent forward in constant pain. The older-than-death individual walked with an awkward clomp-drag motion whereby he would lurch forward with his right foot and drag his withered left foot behind him. Finally, when he was mere inches away from a truly stunned Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski, the creature from years past slowly raised a hand twisted by arthritis up to Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski’s face threateningly.

“How dare you, foolish child!” breathed the ominous figure.

Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski’s eyes were almost as big as his bulging belly-button as he stared into a face he had not seen in decades- even though the old man both lived and worked and, in fact, spent every waking hour of his life within Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski’s kitchen. “Augustus,” he murmured softly, as if afraid to name the legendary figure for fear of incurring his wrath.

“Do you even know what it is you hold in your filthy fat fingers?” asked Augustus. “Do you have any idea of the fate to which you have doomed us all?”

Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski brought down the spatula from on high and peered at it intently, frowning. Finally, he held it out to the wizened old man. “Eet eez a spatula.”

Augustus moved to smack the spatula out of Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski’s hand, but unable to control his muscles due to years of atrophy, he merely swiped the back of his hand against the handle. “You ignorant nincompoop!” he rasped. “That is The Golden Spatula of Doom and Decay! I was there when your father ordered it from a mail-order catalog. I begged him not to purchase it, I warned him that only doom and decay could come from something called The Golden Spatula of Doom and Decay. I was there when the package arrived. I was there when he tried to open the package but was unable to because the company has used so much tape. I warned him not to fetch the scissors to cut through the tape, telling him that such an ungodly amount of tape could only lead to bad things. I stood by and watched as he got the scissors anyway and opened the package. I was there when he first beheld The Golden-”

“Could you get on with eet, please?” asked Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski.

Augustus frowned, hacked up a ball of phlegm, swallowed it back down, and continued. “The Golden Spatula of Doom and Decay was your father’s undoing. He only used it once, and thank God Almighty that he and only he tasted the resulting Hellspawned concoction.”

“You mean he died after using the spatula?” asked Sous Chef Jeff. A few more people spit out the remains of their bite. A couple of them were now actively trying to vomit up their swallow.

“Reediculous!” warbled Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski. “Nobody in thees room has died!”

“Eating the stew he created with The Golden Spatula of Doom and Decay did not kill your father,” explained Augustus. “I did.”

Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski opened his mouth to reply, then shut it without uttering a word. “Now I am confused,” he said.

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, Master Chef, but I killed your father all those years ago. I gutted him like a fish, threw his body and that cursed spatula into The Room, and sealed it shut for eternity.”

“Eternity?” asked Sous Chef Jeff.

“That was the idea.”

By now the entire kitchen staff was looking around, trying to figure out if they needed to get the stew out of their system any way possible or not. Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski, however, only had eyes for the decrepit old man standing in front of him. “You murdered my fah-tzer!” he said, waving his hand dismissively in front of his face. “Why? You ver hees best friend! You roomed togezther at University! You ver bestest man at hees vedding! He had tattoo of your face on his tummy! Why would you keeeel heem?”

Augustus straightened up, a sight which sent ripples of fear into everyone in the kitchen. Each bone snapped and cracked as it was forced to bend upright for the first time in a decade. After six agonizing minutes, he finally stood straight and tall, reaching the full six feet, eight inches he had reached in his younger days. Towering over Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski, Augustus glared at the bulbous man.

“Because  Master Chef Juan Stanislavski, your father, ate the stew he created with the Golden Spatula of Doom and Decay. And it turned him into a blood-sucking Demon. As it turns all who dare to sup from food touched by the Golden Spatula of Doom and Decay.”

This seemed to settle the ‘should I have eaten the stew or not’ debate and the room was suddenly awash in people trying to make themselves vomit up the demon-spawn stew.

Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski, meanwhile, shook with terror. It was only a short shake, but once he stopped shaking, the rolls of his fat continued shaking for a few moments before coming to a rest. “A deeeeeeemon?” he asked. “Zees spatula turns people into zee deeeeemons?”

“They do,” whispered Augustus. “All who ate of your cursed stew are doomed.”

“Uhm, excuse me. Augustus?” asked a very timid Xerxes the napkin folder. “What if we, say, went to the bathroom very quickly. Could we, maybe…”

But Augustus shook his head. “You are doomed.”

“You know, I read a book once,” interjected Soo the kimchi baster. “It takes a few minutes for your food to reach your stomach. What about slicing ourselves open with one of the kitchen knives and catching the demon stew before we digest it?”

“Imbeciles!” roared Augustus. “Do you not understand? It is too late! For all of you! Even those of you spitting or vomiting up his stew! Once the work of the Golden Spatula of Doom and Decay passed your lips, your fate was sealed.”

Silence. Some whimpering. A sob.

“So… so… vat you are saying…” began Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski. “Ees that I vill need to hire a whole new keetchen staff?”

Sous Chef Jeff broke down in tears. “Sir, Master Chef, Sir!” he cried. “Do not banish me from your kitchen! I beg of you!”

Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski shrugged. “Eef you are to be deeeemon…”

“Never! I swear to you on my honor! I will never turn into a-”

And Sous Chef Jeff turned into a demon.

It was a surprisingly sudden transformation. First his lips swelled to ten times their size, then massive green lumps popped up all over his arms, ripping through his shirt. As he stood, his eyes wide in shock but hidden by his enormous lips, his suddenly ridiculously-hairy toes thrust their way through his boots, toenails green and cracked. His left ear ran up the side of his head and sprouted hair, his right left puffed up as attached to an air pump, and with an unholy fumble his belly exploded through the buttons on his pants and shirt, sending them flying around the kitchen like ninja throwing stars. One of the buttons hit little Myrtle the muffin pan greaser in the eye, killing her instantly.

Demon Sous Chef Jeff’s hair sprouted out of the top of his head until it looked like he’d stuck his fingers in an electrical outlet and a noxious gas poured forth from his backside as his new demon-style internal organs rid themselves of healthy vitamins and minerals they no longer needed.

Finally, a number of his teeth extended into fangs, criss-crossing each other and his right eye, now completely yellow, popped forward past his protruding lips.

“It begins,” said Augustus, head bowed in shame.

Everyone stared at Demon Sous Chef Jeff in horror. A few screamed, a few fainted, a few screamed and then fainted. Jackie the olive pitter squeaked in terror, turned, and ran face-first into the metal door of the freezer, knocking herself out cold.

“Sacre bleu!” barked Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski. “Eet eez true!”

And it had only just begun.

All through the crowd, people transformed into demons. Hairy demons. Filthy demons. Muddy demons. Gruesome demons. Bouncy demons. Fluffy demons. Horrific demons. Cuddly demons. Demons with fangs and claws. Demons with sponge-like tentacles. Demons with seventeen eyes. Demons with no heads. Bardolph the strawberry stem remover turned into a demon that looked exactly like an angry bowling pin.

Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski stumbled backwards in fear, surrounded by the remnants of his kitchen staff. “Vat haf I done?” he asked himself. Then deciding he wanted an answer, he tried again. “Augustus! Vat haf I done?”

But instead of answering, Augustus shoved the dark, dark, dark oaken door to The Room closed behind him, barricading himself within the only demon-free space available. When Master Chef Juan Stanislavski had turned into a demon, a much younger and more vigorously youthful Augustus had forced him into this very room, to be sealed for all time. But now, old and feeble as he was, and facing not one but an army of demons, Augustus chose to run and hide. We will speak no more of him.

“Augustus!” cried Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski. “Help me! Somebody help me!”

But there was no one to help him. His entire kitchen staff had tasted the demonic stew, and thus his entire kitchen staff had now become deranged, man-eating demons. Except for Bardolph, whose entire demonic existence consisted of standing around waiting to be knocked down by a round object and set back up on his one leg once again.

Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski grabbed anything his meaty fists could snatch from the countertops around him- pans, plates, heads of cabbage, very clean spoons- and threw them at his tormentors. They did little damage, though a head of cabbage did knock Bardolph over, and soon Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski was out of options. He was surrounded by a horde of hungry man-eating demons, his 350-pound mass (in truth closer to 390 pounds, but as he hadn’t stepped on a scale in eighteen years, he was unaware of this fact) acting as a clarion call for the hungry, demonic mob. They eyed the multiple rolls of fat hanging off his chin, leered at the circumference of his protein-rich legs, and slavered at the site of his enormous gut.

“Get back!” he shouted uselessly. “Don’t make me fire you!”

The demons were less concerned with the ultimate state of their employment than with the ultimate state of their hunger, which was large indeed. As they descended upon Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski en masse, he swatted at them with the last remaining object in his grasp- The Golden Spatula of Doom and Decay.

No luck. The first demon he swatted- a four-armed behemoth with blades of stone jutting out from his body who was once Sylvia the mushroom-shaver- chomped the Golden Spatula of Doom in Decay in half, dooming the entire staff to remain in demon form for all eternity and ensuring that once they had devoured Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski they would be free to leave the magical confines of the kitchen and wreck havoc upon the world.

The last thing Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski saw before his eyes were ripped from his face and swallowed by Demon Sous Chef Jeff was Demon Sous Chef Jeff’s gnarled, claw-like hands reaching for his eyes.

But right before that, he saw, or thought he saw, a small, yellow bird, perhaps a canary, take flight from atop the pot rack and escape the coming carnage through an open window. Seeing this, Master Chef Pierre Stanislavski’s heart found true peace in the beauty of nature.

A moment later it found true terror as Demon Sous Chef Jeff ripped his eyes out and swallowed them in a single gulp.

*

David Neilsen has written short stories, novels, straight-to-DVD films, and parental advice columns for a number of years. He has been searching all his life for a way to combine fine cuisine and demonic possession into a coherent narrative, and now that he has accomplished this goal, he can die in peace.


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