|The steak was succulent. The chicken juicy. The entire meal had a certain…character to it. He tucked into it with unusual abandon. She finally spoke when he’d finished licking his fingers.
“You like it?”
“Like it? It’s magical! Where did you find such a genius chef?”
“Oh, he’s good, no doubt. But the magic here lies in the ingredients and also,” she hesitated before adding, “the meticulousness with which they were sourced.”
“Stop!” My companion smashed his fist on the bar counter, spilling some of his beer in the process. “I’m not going to listen to any more of this tripe. I can see the twist coming a mile away. She served him a human being, didn’t she?” he asked.
I smirked in that annoying way which always got on people’s nerves.
“No, she didn’t. How predictable would that be? And who said anything about there being a twist anyway?”
“Fine. Continue then,” he said.
“Where was I now…oh right…the source.”
“Where do you source your food from?” he asked.
“We grow it ourselves,” she replied.
“What’s your secret?” he asked as he not-so-discreetly mopped the remaining juices off the plate with his fingers.
“Our farm animals are on a special diet. So are our vegetables. We don’t use ordinary feed or fertiliser.”
“She grinds humans up into the fertiliser and the feed, doesn’t she? Is that it? It’s even lamer than I thought!”
“Why are you being so morbid? And I do agree — that would have been very lame. Now, if you don’t have any more ‘theories’, shall I continue?”
He nodded. A cold, steely determination had crept into his eyes.
I smirked again.
“I’d love to meet and compliment the chef in person. This was the best meal I’ve ever had in my life,” he said.
“I’ll summon him immediately,” she made a couple of gestures at the server.
A few seconds later, a voice coughed behind him. He looked up to see a tall slender man in a chef’s hat standing over him.
“Well, that was quick,” he said.
“Meet The Count, our head chef. He has apprenticed under a lot of culinary masters and is now a man who possesses the sum of their skills. He’s absolutely lapped up their talents, so to speak,” she said.
The Count smiled at him. He smiled back. The Count’s teeth glinted.
“This, sir, isn’t chic-lit!” I said with as much indignation as I could muster.
“What’s your secret?” he asked.
“Would you believe, cauldrons? I always cook in cauldrons. And I like to sing with the other chefs while I do it,” The Count replied.
“That’s…interesting,” he said.
“Surely, there must be something else?” he probed further. He knew that The Count was hiding something.
The Count hesitated for a bit, then leaned into his ear and whispered.
“Salt. Lots of it,” The Count said. “And a shitload of MSG,” he added with a wink.
“You’re horrible at spotting the twist,” I said. And then I ate him.
Telling that story always gives me the munchies.
She showed him the horror again.
Clear as crystal. His own. It can really affect you, that.
It was the curse, she told him.
He had heard about the curse before. From her as well as the elders. Three centuries ago, an ancestor had burnt a witch in cold blood. The witch’s sister, who plied the same trade, hadn’t been impressed. Every male heir since then had met with a gruesome, albeit creative, end.
He believed what he’d seen. He believed in the curse. But he also believed that he could undo it.
It had required a lot of effort, but it was finally ready. He sat at the controls and drew in a deep, purposeful breath. This was it. He was ready to rewrite history, and his own future in the bargain. He pressed the button, the science did its thing, and the machine hurled back into time.
He peeped through the window again. The witch still lay asleep. There was no sign of any tip-toeing ancestors in the vicinity. He guessed he had some time to kill before he’d have the opportunity to prevent the deed from being perpetrated. He sat down in the bushes, lit himself a cigarette, and waited.
The screams jolted him out of his nap. He rushed to the source. The machine was up in flames. So was the witch. She must have gotten inside, curious to determine what the contraption was. Maybe she had fiddled with the engine. Maybe there had been a short-circuit. It was too late to save her, or the machine, which would soon become her coffin.
A cold tap on the shoulder caused him to turn around. It was who he’d thought it’d be. And she was mad.
“Don’t eat that pear,” she said.
“But why?” He asked, giving it a look over.
“It’s forbidden.” She tried to snatch it from him but he dodged her attempt.
“Who are we, Adam and Eve? And this isn’t even an apple!” He chuckled, taking a huge bite out of it anyway.
“Well, it isn’t a pear either.”
He was too busy choking on the wax to notice her joy at having nailed the punchline.
“How can you not believe in yourself?” The others always ask me. They find it amusing.
Maybe they have a point though. I can fly like a bird. I’m faster than a train. Bullets don’t even tickle me. I can perform feats which no ordinary man can. Why do the doubts still persist then? I’ve tried to push them away. I’ve tried to see what they do when they look at me. But the doubts always return. I can’t do it. I can’t get myself to believe in ghosts.
After years of heartbreak, the adoption agency finally called. We were happy. We were complete. At least, until the sickness engulfed his tiny frame.
He offered to help. In exchange I’d have to sacrifice another human on my son’s first birthday.
I’d have taken a worse deal.
He kept his word. When the dreaded day came, I kept mine. Her eyes will haunt me forever.
I hid the body and returned home. My hands still trembled.
My wife greeted me with a bemused look, “The adoption agency called. Apparently there was a mix up with his birth certificate. They said his actual birthday is on the fourth of next month.”
She looked around at the decorations she’d worked on all day, and laughed.
“What a waste,” she said.
I nodded in agreement.