Haunted Nights is a collection that oozes Halloween, it bleeds black and orange, carries a turnip, is cloaked in shadows, and breathes fog. No matter what time of year you read this, for instance May(like I did), all you'll think about is the terror that lurks in the month of October. Ellen Datlow and Lisa Morton collected 16 short stories focused on Halloween/All Saints Day and squeezed them into a form of concentrated evil that'll help jump start the true terrors of Halloween.
It's a fascinating collection that pivots from the past to the present and even up to the moon for the future. All of them are centered around Halloween, but not necessarily on the actual day. Most of them use Halloween just as a backdrop to deliver a terrifying story. What makes it interesting is how the stories revolve around the history and lore of Halloween. I really enjoyed digging deeper into the holiday and found at least one new thing about Halloween in each story.
You'll find a lot of horror fiction's big names in the table of contents, from Seanan McGuire, Stephen Graham Jones, Garth Nix, to Brian Evenson, Kelley Armstrong, and S.P. Miskowski. All of them find interesting ways to scare you into not trusting the shadows during October 31st. I love the fact that each story puts a great twist on one aspect of the holiday. Some of the stories will freak you out, others might make you angry, some will keep you up late, and maybe one or two will make you sad. I give a ton of credit to Datlow and Morton for mixing up all the stories to create a sine wave of feelings to carry you through the book.
Now to pick out some of the stories that especially stuck with me...
Jonathan Maberry's A Small Taste of the Old Country puts us in 1948 Argentina with two "not" German men meeting an Austrian baker. The two men realize how much they miss Germany when the baker offers them some food from the old country. He invites them to his kitchen for a late night feast and a special holiday celebration. I loved how inventive and twisted this story was. I thought it was going to go one way, with the allusions to the ovens, all of the food, everyone hiding who they truly are. But, at the ending I was pleasantly surprised to find out what the baker's true plans were. This is one of those stories that you are happy to discover because of how different it is.
A Flicker of Light on Devil's Night by Kate Jonez is a heartbreaking story about a mother trying to care for her kids, one who might have made a deal with a demon. The apartment they live in is run down, in a terrible part of town, and the mother is struggling with a very angry and disrespectful son. Let me tell you, he is a real piece of work, cussing out his mom, pushing her down the stairs, threatening his younger sister. I mean, the mom is doing her best to keep the kids safe and wishing she could give them a better life, but sometimes there is nothing you can do but just hope for the best. You'll wish you could jump into the story and help them by the end of it. God, I hated that son, he was just the worst.
Nos Galan Gaeaf is a dark story about a boy not happy with himself because he is in love with the wrong girl. Kelley Armstrong sends us to a little town following the ancient Welsh tradition of Nos Galan Gaeaf, where each citizen puts a rock in a bonfire. If the rock is still there in the morning, they get good luck, if it isn't, they'll die sometime that year. The boy, Lance, can't believe he is in love with Seanna, the bully. He hates himself for it and blames her, so to fix the problem, he decides to remove her stone from the fire. But, to add more to this tradition, there is a monster that will hunt down the last person out on Nos Galan Gaeaf. So, we now have a race against time to determine if Lance can do his terrible act or not. It's a suspenseful story that will have you rooting for Seanna, the main character Lance is a bit of a tool that needs to learn to deal with his emotions. I think there is something special in a story that has you angry at the main character, plus it's a really neat exploration of a Welsh tradition.
In probably the most heartrending story of the bunch, All Through the Night by Elise Forier Edie we follow Maggie while she tries to navigate New York's Five Points. She lives in squalor, eating dirt, and maybe lucky enough to get a piece of a thick cake called barm brack. She meets a sly man named Blai Orrit, whom Maggie believes isn't human. Blai Orrit offers her riches for the child in her belly. Of course she refuses only to discover that she might have taken the gift by accident. She spends the next year trying to take care of the child and hoping Blai Orrit never comes to collect. However, the following year she finds that her baby has been switched for a changeling. From there it just gets sadder as she tries to find her child. This story hit me right in the feels. It's one of those cautionary tales that does not have a happy ending and leaves you feeling sad. It's perfect.
There are so many other stories in here that are amazing. What I gave you above is just a taste of what you'll find. I highly recommend you hunt this down and bring it out every October. Read one story a night and you'll have a pretty awesome lead up to Halloween.
Friday, May 25, 2018
Saturday, May 5, 2018
I’ve noticed a pattern to end of the world movies: a band of heroes figure out a way to stop the storm, destroy the meteor, or deter a missile at the last minute. Basically, humanity finds a way to save the world. But, what if we were to zero in on the everyday person? What if there is no way to stop the world from ending? In Storgy’s Exit Earth, we are given this microscopic view of the people that have to deal with the consequences of a higher power. Throughout the collection of 24 stories we explore the before, during, and after of a cataclysmic event and what it takes to survive.
When I heard about this anthology through Kickstarter I knew I was going to put my money down and help it get published. And I’m really glad I did. Each story is unique and wonderful in its depiction of “real” people going through a terrible situation. Accompanying the stories are beautiful full color pieces of art, as well as an afterword from the authors.
I want to make it clear I did have a hand in bringing this to light(my name is in the list of supporters). But, a lot of other people also wanted to see this come to fruition, possibly because they thought it was a cool concept or wanted a handbook for surviving the future.
Storgy went into a lot of hard work voting on the best stories to fit the theme of Exit Earth. Some of these stories will make you sad, others might make you laugh, and a few will just leave you feeling depressed. All of them, however, do a great job in taking a mirror to real life and reflecting the terrible things we could do to each other when faced with impending doom. Or we are past the doom and just trying to survive. At the end of this collection I found myself wondering what I’d do if I was faced with any of these situations. Which I think is the perfect reason why these stories are in the book.
I’d love to go into detail on each piece, but I think I’d do a disservice to the work the authors put into their stories. Besides, there’s 24 of them and in the end I think you should just read it. But, they are all so good, it’s hard for me not to highlight a few of them. So bare with me as I try to give you a little taste of what you might find within these covers.
Rachel Connor’s How to Curate a Life is a disturbingly close-to-home tale regarding a family trying to delete a deceased daughter from the internet. They go to a business that can collate the life of a loved one, but the family wants them to go one step further, hating the idea of possibly seeing her face somewhere online. It’s crazy how true this is going to be soon, or how true it probably already is for quite a few people. Connor delivers a remarkable story that’ll make you wonder how much of your life is going to exist in the world after you are gone.
When the Tide Comes in by Joseph Sale gives us the final moments before the earth is destroyed. Everyone knows it’s coming and there is nothing anyone can do about it. So what does everyone do? They get wasted, have sex, steal things. Basically, no cares are given. But, the morning of the end of the world, three people sit on the beach, each holding back a secret from the others. Only when the clouds part do they decide it is time to open up. I love this story because there is so much heart in it. That feeling of using hopelessness to finally reveal how you feel is so real. I’m sure everyone has something buried away that would only come out when death is imminent.
And the Waves Take the Words by Phillip Webb Gregg is just awesome. He takes the simple concept of someone stranded on a deserted island and makes it more. A woman is on an island, she sees the bombs explode in the distance, then things start washing ashore. She collects them, starts building stories about the items and where they came from. Eventually, she writes the story of the world on the beach. It’s one of the shorter stories in the collection, but, man does it pack a wallop. You’ll feel strong and devastated about what is lost.
Okay, let’s do one more…
The dark and disturbing Ken from Jessica Bonder. A never ending war needs soldiers. Supplies for humans are running low. Women can become War Moms, donating their unborn babies to the war. However, not everyone supports this idea, they protest the moms and the cause. When one mother gets an eight hour window to explore, she discovers that the papier-mache effigy is not the only thing that will burn. This story is pure power. I found myself screaming at the mom to get out of there and get back to the centre. Bonder found a joyful thing like a fair and corndogs and turned it into a suspenseful look at what someone will sacrifice to survive in this world.
I could go on and on about the different stories in this book, from revolutions, to trying to find food, to visiting old Earth. Each one is just a slice of the bigger picture of the end times. I can guarantee that at least one or two of these pieces will stick with you long after you read it. If you are feeling a bit paranoid about society, want a glimpse of possible timelines, or just want to read some kick-ass stories, Exit Earth will have what you are looking for.
I'll do you a favor...go here and buy it!
Monday, April 16, 2018
Stephan Franck's Rosalynd is a beautiful graphic novel that tells the backstory of Rosalynd Van Helsing. Yep, that Van Helsing, the one that fought Dracula. This is his great great great granddaughter, and she is as much of a badass as he is. Though you don't get to see that in this story. In this story we see her beginning.
We are in Germany during the early twentieth century with a young Rosalynd and her sister Beatrice. They are living with their parents hiding from the vampires that have been hunting their family. One night, they are found and we get a heartbreaking story and understanding on what a badass Rosalynd will become in the Silver books.
It is a short story, with only a couple of words on each page, however it's the art on the pages that tell the whole story. Beautiful black and white painting, charcoal, and pencil mix into a stark and lovely picture of Rosalynd's world. You'll find yourself flipping back and forth through the pages just to look at the work Franck put into the book.
I don't think you'll need to have read the Silver books(set years later, a crime caper including a team of experts trying to steal Dracula's silver) to appreciate this book, it sits on its own quite nicely. But, if you've read the Silver GNs it is great to see how Rosalynd became the ultimate vampire killer she is in these books. I'd definitely recommend taking a peak at this book, you won't be disappointed.
Rosalynd on Dark Planet Comics
Finally, twitter stuff:
Friday, April 13, 2018
I know it's been a long time since I've posted on here, and I've definitely haven't been doing the Witches Tales. I am writing still, I promise, but was given the advice, don't give away your work for free. Plus, most of what I've been working on has been stuff I'm trying to submit to places, so I don't want to ruin a chance at getting published.
However, that doesn't mean this blog is going to die. In fact, I have something I can start doing with this that will help give it a lot of life: book reviews! Around Christmas time of 2017 I started doing book reviews for Storgy Online. It's a blast to do and I've been reading a lot of great books. In between reading the books they give me, I can squeeze a book or two in, and I'll post my thoughts up here with them.
So look out for some great and not so great book reviews coming your way!
Monday, May 1, 2017
“We can’t kill humans on the show!” Mr. Zeero said.
“Your ratings are in the toilet and you know it. This would give us a huge boost, the allure of cooking something that has been forbidden. It doesn’t really matter what you make, as long as it is with the humans, they will watch.” Maleria, the Vice President of the network said.
“But, humans? Gross. No one cooks with them anymore. We are past that and it just feels like a gimmick.” Mr. Zeero said.
“Exactly, it’s a gimmick. Your show has bombed the last three seasons and the investors are looking for a change. Your audience has grown tired of your same old routine. They want something new. If you show them something shocking, they’ll eat it up.” Maleria said.
“I’ve never cooked with humans before. And the only recipes I’ve ever seen were in museums and on those terrible horror movies. Do we even have real humans?”
“Yes. Neen, was so gracious as to scrounge up some humans on short notice. And you better come up with a good meal, you are cooking them tonight.” Maleria said.
Mr. Zeero sat at the table as the others left the meeting room. Tapping a claw on the table, he racked his brain for an idea on how to cook the humans. Most of the recipes he remembered were basic, skewer a human through their mouth and out their rump then stick them over the fire. That was how their ancestors did it, before their eventual evolution to more advanced creatures. Now, they cooked animals, plants, and grains. Mr. Zeero was at a loss, until a producer came in with some sheets of hand scribbled paper.
“Mr. Zeero, I want to say, I am really excited about what you are going to do. I think it’s great that you are going to do something completely different than what anyone has done before. Cooking humans. It’s amazing.” Neen said.
Mr. Zeero looked at the young producer standing in front of him. “It’s amazing? More like barbaric. We are way past eating humans. I don’t think it’s good at all. I think it is going to backfire on all of us.”
“I don’t know. I think it might just be the thing we need.” Neen said.
“How long have you worked here?”
“Just a couple of months. This is my first job. Well, not first job, but first real job. I’ve been watching you since I was kid.” Neen said.
“So, you’ve seen my work. That’s nice.” Mr. Zeero pegged the producer at around twenty. Have I been on the air that long, he thought. “But, you are new. So you don’t understand how the TV business works. This is going to be suicide. It’ll be bad for me and bad for the studio.”
“I think you’ll be surprised Mr. Zeero. I’ve gotta go, but before I do, here is a recipe for tonight’s show. It’s going to be killer.” Neen said before he left the room.
The paper’s blue lines and frayed edges suggested it came from a notebook. Mr. Zeero looked it over, trying to determine how the producer had a recipe ready for the show. The ingredients distracted him from following that line of thinking. His mouth watered while he imagined the pieces mixed together into an amazing rustic soup, it was going to be delicious.
It had him cooking them in a soup with lots of herbs and vegetables, it also asked for a few cups of rice. The ingredients would mask the gaminess of the human meat. He would still have to cube the humans, which would be nasty business, but it could work. I can’t believe that we are actually going to do this.
Neen watched Mr. Zeero looking over the recipe. The recipe was meant to replicate what their ancestors had eaten before moving into houses with kitchens. While at school, Neen and the other children had been taught that they had eaten humans. Eventually they had evolved past it and moved on to eating in a more humane way. They had pushed out their old habits, even looking down at them as a cruel way to do things. The humans receded into the Wasteland, far away from their society. But, something was going to happen. Something tonight and Neen had passed the first key on to Mr. Zeero.
Blue and green skinned co-workers fretted about, pretending to work. Neen walked past their offices, break rooms, and recording studios and could see they were focused elsewhere. Their focus was on what was in the TV studio kitchen: two humans.
Protesters had begun to line up on the sidewalks outside of the building. Neen had passed them this morning on his way into the studio. Before Mr. Zeero had entered the meeting, the studio heads and producers, including Neen, had been discussing the protesters.
“Some how, the word got out that we were going to cook humans. We’ll deal with that leak later,” Maleria said.
Everyone in the room eyed each other as the leak to the press. Neen shifted his green eyes back and forth, looking down anytime someone eyed “the new guy” as the one that talked to reporters. When Neen had started at the studio a couple of weeks ago, another producer had made it clear to him that as the new guy, all things would be blamed on him. So, of course everyone was going to assume it was him. Which it was.
On Neen’s first day at the studio he had been given a tour of the building, and that was when he entered the biggest set in the studio, the kitchen. After handing Mr. Zeero the recipe, he went back into the kitchen. He walked through the studio and seemed to transport to a demon’s home kitchen. The granite countertop on the island was cool to the touch as he dragged his finger across it. He could almost see Mr. Zeero behind the counter talking to the camera as he delivered a delectable treat and his usual homey wisdom. Behind the island, Neen found two cast iron ovens, taller than he was. A couple of years ago, these same ovens were used to cook a whole horse. A counter behind the island was stacked with the TV chef’s kitchen tools, Neen couldn’t resist touching them. His circuit of the studio brought him face to face to the humans, shackled to a wooden stockade.
Yellow and black tape circled the stockade, providing an invisible barrier between the studio crew and the humans. Neen stood within that circle and stared at them. An ancient feeling stirred in him, instincts that had been buried deep fought to come out. He resisted the urge by observing the workers who were doing their best to avoid the circle and the humans.
The studio crew was quiet and worked quickly. He watched as they snuck peeks at the stockade before they turned back to their work. A ladder had been set near the stockade, an electrician was fiddling with some cables in the rafters. He wasn’t paying attention to what he was doing, his eyes focused on Neen, and the cable came loose falling into the circle. He cursed and banged his wrench on the ladder, than asked another electrician to bring him a new cable. Neen picked up the one that fell and tried to hand it to the creature on the ladder. “I don’t want to touch that. It probably has their germs all over it.” The electrician said. Neen dropped it and left the uneasy studio.
On his way out he passed two assistants pushing a large item hidden under a white sheet. He stepped aside to let them pass. “What’s under the sheet?” he asked.
“We’re not sure.” one of them said.
“We were told not to lift the sheet, that it was something special for tonight.” Another said.
“And you guys didn’t look? I mean, I’m curious. You guys have got to be too.” Neen said.
“Well, we were told not to.” The first said.
“But, I think it is some sort of cauldron, at least that’s what it sorta looked like from the bottom.” The other said. The first one shot him a look that said he was going to smack him when the producer went away.
“Some sort of cauldron, eh? But, where did it come from?” Neen asked.
“Who knows? We were just told to put it in the studio and that the fabulous Mr. Zeero would be doing something with it.”
Neen nodded, satisfied that it would stay secret. “Mr. Zeero is fabulous. Just you wait and see.”
Protestors outside of the studio held signs that called the studio and Mr. Zeero monsters. Mr. Zeero watched them heckle the early audience members as they tried to squeeze past them and head into the studio. Mr. Zeero turned from the window and went to his desk. On the edges of his desk stood stacks of haphazard papers, acting as a barrier between him and a reporter. In the middle of the desk laid the recipe that Neen had given him. He sat down and took a sip from his coffee mug, grimacing at the lukewarm bitterness inside. The reporter coughed and tapped his notebook, waiting for Mr. Zeero to comment on the night’s show.
“I think that we are just trying to introduce something new to the audience. Something they haven’t seen before. Of course there will be protesters, there are always protesters for something. We just can’t let them control everything we are doing.” Mr. Zeero said.
“Yes, but you have to admit that this seems to be a ploy. An easy way for you to get views.” The reporter said.
Mr. Zeero tapped his coffee mug. Damnit, that’s exactly what I said. I knew I shouldn’t have done this.
“That is true. We will get more viewers. They all want to see humans. I can’t help that. And yes, I know all about the stories about what happens to us when we taste their blood. I also know about the religious views when it comes to eating a human. But, I’m a chef and I like to explore the more exotic tastes. You’ve seen my show, you know what I do. Well, now it is time to taste the one thing that I haven’t tasted, a human.” Mr. Zeero said.
“So, you are really going to do it then? I’ve heard from a source that you were against it. But, have you changed your mind?”
I guess so. I guess I am kind of intrigued by it all, he thought.
“You might say it is for ratings. You might say it is for shock value. But, we have two live humans in the studio right now, and I’m going to do it.” he said.
The reporter nodded. He threw the notebook to the ground and jumped from his seat, holding his pen like a knife. The papers on Mr. Zeero’s desk splashed to the floor as the monster flew over it and landed on top of the chef. They fell back into his chair, breaking one of the legs, before they toppled to the floor. Mr. Zeero tried to fight the monster off of him, but he was too strong. A large pendant fell out of the reporter’s shirt as he put the tip of the pen into Mr. Zeero’s neck. An odd thought popped into Mr. Zeero’s head while he grabbed at the pen wielding arm. A religious nut, of course. The pen broke through blue skin.
Blood trickled down Mr. Zeero’s neck while he thrashed uselessly under the monster’s weight. An arm appeared around the reporter’s neck and lifted him off of Mr. Zeero. One of his security guards held the reporter in the air, while another one came to chef’s aide. Mr. Zeero pressed his hand against his neck and looked at the reporter.
“We heard a noise and came in as soon as we could Mr. Zeero.” the beefy security guard holding the reporter said.
“He’s some religious fanatic. How’d he get in here?” Mr. Zeero asked.
“He had legit credentials. We assumed he was working with the paper.” An assistant said. Outside of Mr. Zeero’s office he could see the wide eyes and shocked looks of all of his co-workers. He recognized some of the faces, even the new producer was among the crowd.
“I am a reporter.” The reporter said. “But, I am also one of those religious fanatics that thinks what you are doing is wrong. When I heard you were going to do this, I knew what I had to do.”
“Why? Why is it okay to kill me, but not a human?” Mr. Zeero said.
“You don’t know what this is going to do, what is going to happen if you kill the humans in front of us. It is going to put our whole society into a tailspin of destruction. Where did you even get a human? Who put you up to this?” The reporter said.
“I don’t know.” Mr. Zeero said.
“Think about it. Something is going to happen and you are going to be the cause of it all. Someone is setting you up. You have no idea what you are going to do.”
“Alright, that’s enough. Get him out of here.” Maleria said. “I heard there was something going on and I had to check on you. Are you okay?”
Mr. Zeero pulled his hand away from his neck and looked at the blood on his palm. He dabbed at the wound again, the wound burned. “How am I going to look on camera with a pen wound in my neck? It’s going to look like I don’t know how to shave.”
“So, I guess you are okay then?” Maleria asked. She bent down and righted the toppled chair in front of the desk, then she picked up the notebook and sat down. “Maybe we can use this. We can tell the new stations how you were attacked and fought back against the tyranny of a religious order. Maybe say something about how we all have the rights to do what we want.”
“Or we could just cancel the show and move on with our lives. You see these papers all over the floor? They are new ideas. New ways to cook things. New ways to do things. Maybe we could do more stories out in the world?”
Mr. Zeero went to sit down, then saw the broken leg. He went around his desk and sank into the torn leather sofa that was along a wall in his office.
“I think we had a good idea, but this is too much. What if there is a nut in the audience? Is it really worth risking all of these lives for one show?”
“We have it all figured out, don’t worry your pretty little head. It’s too late to cancel, too much has already been set to back out. The security guards are frisking everyone and putting them through metal detectors. Besides, we already have the humans. We can’t back out now.”
Mr. Zeero wiped his face, leaving a streak of blood on his blue skin. “Where did the humans even come from? It’s not like you can just get them from a farm. I didn’t think we could go into the forbidden zones.”
“One of the producers got them for us. Said that you had told him where to go. We didn’t ask, assuming that if you got them that you must have been on board.” Maleria said.
She got up and tossed the notebook into the trash. She went to the door, then turned back, “You have half an hour to get ready before the show starts. I’d clean up, put on your chef coat, and get downstairs. And smile, this is going to put you back in the big time.” She smiled, revealing sharp pointed teeth.
“Did you know the reporter was crazy?”
Maleria shook her head, “Why would I do that? Just get ready for the show.”
After she was gone, Mr. Zeero went to the trash can and picked up the notebook. Scribbled on the pages in angry black marks were crosses, stars, and the seeing eye of the brood mother. Scripture regarding the sin of shedding human blood, of tasting human blood, were sprinkled with the insane drawings. Mr. Zeero shivered and dropped the notebook as if it burned his skin.
Neen knocked on the door, causing Mr. Zeero to jump. “Sir, they are ready for you in makeup. Oh, and the cauldron is in the studio kitchen ready for your show.”
“Thanks Neen. I’ll be right there.”
Cauldron? Did I ask for a cauldron? Jeez, Maleria is really playing this up.
Audience members buzzed at the prospect of seeing something perverse. Many had watched his show when they were younger, but now found themselves changing the channel anytime they saw it was on. But, this was new.
Some hoped that the legends were true and that they would be there live to see armageddon. Some wanted this to finally prove that the religion so many followed was a lie. Yet, hidden deep within all of them was the strange primal urge of their ancestors calling out for real human blood.
Neen was supposed to be in the studio control room, helping produce the show. However, he wanted to be on the floor, close to the action. He needed to be on the floor when the human’s blood was finally spilled. His life had been built for this moment. The moment when the monsters finally were released from their shackles of living like the humans. He was on the crest of the wave that would crash onto the world and wash away the past. The control room might be where the magic happened every night, but this night, the magic was going to be in the kitchen.
Lights dimmed, a hush fell over the crowd, the studio lights sparked to life, and Mr. Zeero entered the kitchen. From where Neen stood he could see Mr. Zeero’s nervousness. The overflowing audience hollered and cheered. Neen felt the excitement and clapped with the audience as Mr. Zeero smiled. He watched Mr. Zeero avoid the humans and walk to his mark behind the island. A director spoke up through the crew headsets; Neen listened as the cameras pointed at Mr. Zeero. The show was now live.
“Welcome to the show everyone! Tonight we have a special treat for you all. That’s right, we are going to make a rustic human soup with the meat of humans.” Mr. Zeero said.
He paused for a moment and directed everyone’s attention toward the two humans on the stockade. Another stage direction came through the headset, a spotlight fell onto the humans. They were mostly skin and bones. When Neen received the two from an old shaman deep in the Wasteland, he hadn’t examined them. And when he shackled them to the stockades the night before, the dark studio and his nerves kept him distracted from getting a good look at the humans. This afternoon was his first chance to look at them, but they didn’t look the same as they did under the bright lights. The one with the long hair shuddered under the light and began to scream. The other one just hung its head. The audience gasped at the sight of them.
“Now, I want to take a moment to discuss with you, the audience, and those watching live at home. I know that there has been a lot of discussion regarding the killing of humans. It is against the religious believes of a lot of you. And others might wonder why cook something we can’t have. But, I believe that on this show we have a duty to explore the natural or unnatural. I...” Mr. Zeero stopped.
The ear piercing scream from the long haired human interrupted Mr. Zeero’s speech. As much as Mr. Zeero was conflicted about killing the humans, Neen knew that Mr. Zeero was a celebrity, and the screaming woman was taking the spotlight off of him. Neen was impressed at how Mr. Zeero seemed to keep his composure through the interruption.
“Excuse me folks. If you have worked in a kitchen as long as I have, you have no doubt worked with live animals. Usually, they are quiet. But, every once in awhile you get one that makes an awful racket. In this case, I recommend you get out your trusty meat tenderizer.”
Mr. Zeero pulled out a large shiny hammer. One side had rounded spikes, the other side flat. “And what you do with this is bop the creature on the head. I suggest one strong wack to the top of their skull. It should kill them or at least knock them unconscious.”
Neen’s eyes went large as he watched the TV chef walk up to the human. The studio was silent except for the screams of the human and the whirl of the camera. Mr. Zeero lifted up the hammer and brought it down hard on the top of the human’s head. A large crack went through the kitchen. The human’s leg spasmed uncontrollably. The smell of blood filled the studio as blood began to drip down the human’s face. Mr. Zeero smiled at the camera and audience. Then he dropped the hammer with a thud on the counter.
“Where was I? Ah yes, killing humans. On my show, I want to share with you recipes that you might know, and some that you do not. I’ve done a lot of shows and cooked a lot of dishes. But, this is a new dish for a new era.”
Mr. Zeero walked back to his mark.
“My producers have told me that my show has run its course. That my loyal fans and audience are tired of the same old stuff. So, I’m here to turn the page and give you something new. Something that you haven’t tried before. Because I think that is what my show is all about, giving you something new.” Mr. Zeero paused again, this time he looked down at the counter.
Wow, this is such bullshit. Neen thought as he watched Mr. Zeero pause for dramatic effect. I guess it doesn’t matter, as long as he kills them, I don’t care what he says.
“Finally, the religious aspect of this isn’t lost on me. My audience is filled with those that believe in the religion and those that don’t. I can’t discriminate against one without making the other angry. But, I want to open up the world to you, show you something new. If that means I break a religious vow, than so be it. I’m foremost a chef, and a chef does things that might seem weird, or terrible, but if it is what a patron requested, then who am I to judge?”
Applause ripped through the studio. Neen’s headset shook at the cheers from the control room. He could hear Maleria say this is going to be an award winning episode. Neen could imagine Maleria already practicing her emmy speech. Neen prayed that after this night, there wouldn’t be any award shows; they were too much an aspect of the monsters trying to act like humans. The audience quieted down as Mr. Zeero began to talk through the recipe.
Mr. Zeero began the long process of prep before he had to cook the humans. Neen paced back and forth. He checked his watch. He picked his teeth. He did everything he could to distract himself from the fact that Mr. Zeero hadn’t touched the humans yet. The show was almost half over, and Mr. Zeero hadn’t prepped the main protein. I gave him that recipe, I know that the humans need to be skinned, they need to be quartered, they need to be tenderized, and they need to be put in that cauldron! Is he chickening out? Then it dawned on him. He’s delaying. He is going to drag the show out and not cook them at all!
The minutes ticked by, and Neen’s chance to bring about a new world began to slip away. Mr. Zeero began to discuss the significance of the cauldron, how they would have cooked the meal before they had kitchens. The audience seemed restless, Neen watched them as they looked around stifling yawns and talking. The control booth was silent, yet Neen could feel the anger emanating through the headset. Their anger almost matched his. If he didn’t do something soon, he knew that Mr. Zeero was going to have someone let those humans free and there was going to be no death, no release of the father beast.
“Well, folks, we are almost out of time. I know you wanted to see the humans get cooked, and even get a taste of this delicious soup. A soup like this takes time, and sometimes, with a live show, that’s just the way it goes. I still have a little prep work to do, but you’ll have to comeback next week for the results.” Mr. Zeero said.
Neen had it. Live show be damned, the humans were going to be cooked on the show tonight, and it didn’t matter who did it. Neen walked onto the set. Mr. Zeero dropped the knife he was using to chop onions. “You need to cook those humans. Now.” Neen said.
“What are you doing?” Mr. Zeero whispered. Then he faced the camera, “Folks, we have our young producer here. Neen wave to the monsters at home.”
The disturbance caught the attention of the bored audience, Neen could feel their eyes on him. His headset hissed at him, “What the hell are you doing, Neen? You are fired!” Neen threw the headset down. He picked up the hammer that Mr. Zeero had left on the counter. “If you are not going to cook them, I am.”
“Neen, my boy. I don’t think you realize what you are doing. We can’t cook the humans. We don’t do that anymore, we’ve evolved. We are better than what we were. We’ve done great things. If we cook the humans, what’s next? Do we start killing each other? Do we go back to being the playthings of a wicked god? I’m doing the will of our new god. She expressly forbid the taste of humans because she knew it would send us on a tailspin of destruction.”
“No! You lie! You’ve been lying and delaying this whole time. You are exactly like what the humans were, two-faced! Clearly we haven’t evolved, we’ve become some sort of strange copies of what they were. We were better than that. Now I’m going to prove it and kill them!” He said, pointing the hammer at the two humans.
“I’m not going to let you.” Mr. Zeero said. He moved between Neen and the humans.
Neen, filled with the primal rage of his ancestors, pounced on Mr. Zeero. The audience began to whoop and holler. Neen lifted up the hammer and crashed it down on Mr. Zeero’s skull. The blue skin around Mr. Zeero’s face sunk in around the hammer. Mr. Zeero began to twitch. Neen brought the hammer down again, and again.
An evil shape in the center of Neen’s brain tore at the pieces that made Neen act like a human. The shape inside of him ripped and gnashed until all that was left was an urge to kill and offer up human blood to the ancient beings.
The sound of the audience screaming was a distant noise to Neen. He ignored the shouts from the crew. In the corner of his eye he could see the giant security guards running toward him. He knew he didn’t have much time. He reached up to the human with long hair. With a loud rip and pop, the human, now missing an arm, was free from the stockade. A security guard was in Neen’s sight, pointing a gun at him. The mission was too important for Neen to worry about what was going to happen to him. He dumped the human into the boiling cauldron as a shot rang out.
Hissing steam bellowed out of the cauldron. The studio filled with the fragrant smell of cooking meat mixing with vegetables. Neen sunk to the floor clutching his shoulder. Two security guards stood over him. Neen waited for something to happen.
He had imagined this night for years. He imagined the cauldron shaking. A loud boom as the thunder cracked in the studio, green and orange smoke filling the room. He imagined snake like beast slithering out of the cauldron and everyone dropping to their knees worshipping it. Instead, the cauldron continued to bubble, the human simmering in the soup and nothing happened.
Tears filled his eyes and realized that he had been a fool. His life had been a big lie. He curled up on the ground, sobbing and holding his wounded shoulder. A large foot crashed down on top of him. Why are they beating me, he thought. Neen lifted his head up to see the two security guards fighting. He looked past the island and saw the studio had become a bloodbath; the monsters were attacking and killing each other.
Neen stood up and watched the horrorshow in front of him. Teeth, torn clothes, howls, and blood filled the stands. Monsters tore into their family members, friends, or strangers. He watched one eat another whole, swallowing it like it was a piece of pie. A claw grabbed his head and forced him over to the cauldron. Before it could dunk him into the boiling pot his mind cracked as he realized he had gotten exactly what he wanted, they had reverted back to being monsters.
Thanks for reading! I can't believe I'm almost to number 10. This has been a fun ride and I want to thank you for sticking around through it all. I think I'm getting better with each one, but if you notice something, please let me know. I would love some feedback. Please comment below and let me know what you think!
Stick around, number 10 is going to be a good one.