Foodies

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

A man has a debt. A demon holds that debt. A baby.... a baby? What the hell is the baby for?

1


The doors parted automatically before them just as another pain shot through Helen’s abdomen. The contractions were getting closer now. It wouldn’t be long, she thought.

“Shh. Shh,” Josh soothed her, rubbing her back. “You’re doing great, Sweetheart.” Then loudly, “Hey? Hey, can we get some help here?”

“Orderly,” the nurse behind the reception counter called out, “can we get this woman a wheelchair?” A skinny gentleman in hospital greens came quickly over, pushing a wheelchair. “Now, what can I do for you?” The nurse asked as Helen was being helped into it.

“It’s my wife. She’s…She’s having a baby. I need you to page Doctor Green.”

“Okay. Okay. Just take it easy. I need you to fill out these forms. Is this your first child?”

“Yes… Where is he taking my wife?”

“It’s fine, sir. The orderly is taking your wife...” 

Josh and the nurse’s voices receded into the background as the orderly pushed Helen down the hall towards the elevator, hitting the call button for the box as he spun Helen around. The doors pinged, and she was wheeled in backward. 

A distorted version of Helen stared back from the polished chrome doors as they rode the elevator up to maternity.

“How long do you think my husband will be?”

“I don’t know. Shouldn’t be long, I think.”

After a minute, the elevator doors opened again and Helen found herself in a drab-looking hallway that was definitely not maternity. To her, it looked more as if they had gone down instead of up. To a basement level.

“Excuse me, but this doesn’t look like the way to maternity.”

Their footfalls echoed off the walls as the orderly quickly pushed her along the hall.

“Don’t worry your pretty little head. This is a shortcut. We’re going up the back way.”

Another pain shot through her. Forcing all thoughts of getting up and going back to where Josh, forgotten. Helen would just have to trust that her chauffeur knew where he was going. 

Helen held on as he spun her around again, kicking his way through a set of double doors. 

 

2

 

Newspaper under his arm, keys jangling for beefy fingers, searching for the right one, Albert made his way through the parking lot as he always did around this time of the day. It had snowed lightly earlier, and it now scattered like dust in the wind.

The key spun in the lock. Now free of the bolt, the door swung easily open. The kitchen greeted Albert with its usual scent of disinfectant (bleach mostly), that, and with the combined fragrance of the food from the night before. It felt like home. Hell, it was home. Albert spent nearly eighty hours a week inside its confines. Which he did happily. 

Or that’s how it should’ve felt. 

Except today wasn’t a normal day. 

The restaurant was closed, and it was almost never closed. But what it was closed for. That was the problem.

Sweat collected along Albert’s brow as he made his way past the prep stations toward the little desk he kept at the front of the kitchen, inside a little alcove that was just left of the double doors leading to the dining area. The chair groaned in protest as his massive frame settled upon it. Each and every time he heard the wood creek, he told himself how he had to lose weight. But, unfortunately, life always seemed to impede that goal.

Albert took in the clutter scattered over the top of his desk and yet did not really see it. Each one of the crumpled pieces of paper contained some sort of magic that made Albert the man he was. Recipes Foodies all over would sell their sister for. Some even more. But right then, Albert could have cared less.

Penny for your thoughts.” The voice was low and dry. Like a person who hadn’t drunk in quite some time had spoken it. 

Albert looked in the door's direction. “Ulixes! I didn’t hear you come in,” he said, quickly. 

The noise that came next from Ulixes sounded more like something being dragged through gravel than the laugh it was intended to be. “For sure. I have that effect on people.”

Ulixes stood on the other side of the prep stations. His clothes and black overcoat hung loosely from his gangly body. The fluorescent lights overhead made the scars — from some long ago fire or even the fires from the depths of some hell — that covered his face even more defined. His whole left side looked as if it had melted into his skull. The eye that was there was milky white. At least, that was how Albert remembered it looked from the last time they saw each other. Too far away otherwise, to be for sure this time.

“How have you been, my friend?” Ulixes asked.

“I‘ve… I‘ve been well.”

“That is good to hear. So, no more… problems then?”

“No. Not a one.”

The mention of the word ‘problems’ renewed horrible memories. Albert brought his hand up to his chest, more out of reflex than anything else.

Ulixes clapped his hands together, which echoed strangely throughout the empty kitchen. Stiff skin stretched around his mouth, revealing the broken yellow teeth of his macabre smile.

“Well then, I have such a treat for you.”

Albert rose and followed his guest as he led the way towards the door, but stopped short. Once again, Albert brought his hand to his chest as looked past, to the strange skinny man dressed in some kind of hospital attire.

“Isn’t it magnificent? There is no fresher or finer piece of meat.”

The hospital man walked quickly into the kitchen, heading straight from the one of the prep stations. Placed the bundle he carried on it and departed even faster than he entered. The sight before Albert looked more at home in the maternity ward than it did in his kitchen. As he moved closer, Albert felt his heart skip a beat. “Ulixes…”

“Yes. Yes. I know, my friend. This will make the most beau…”

“Ulixes,” Albert interrupted, “What am I supposed to do with a newborn baby?” Even as he asked, Albert wasn’t sure if he really wanted to know the answer.

Ulixes’ smile faded as he looked back at Albert, confused. And when he spoke, Ulixes’ voice took on a harder, harsher edge. “What do you mean? I expect you to do what you do!”

“I can’t… can’t… cook--”

Ulixes was upon Albert before he could react. Hell, before he could he even blink. A sinewy hand tightly wrapped around Albert’s throat, virtually paralyzing the large man where he stood. 

Up close, Ulixes was even more of a horror show, as every scar on his face was ever more clear. The white eye of his, instead of appearing lifeless, fixed itself upon Albert’s face. And it felt if it could look deep inside his subconscious. Extracting all of the secrets that were hidden there.

“You can and you will.” Ulixes’ rank breath filled Albert’s nostrils. “We. Had. A. Bargain. Remember?”

 

3

 

Albert awoke weak, discombobulated. Unsure where he was. However, as his senses returned, Albert was well aware of all the tubes that snaked out from his arms, from underneath his blanket; the persistent tightening, then relaxation from something that was wrapped around his lower legs. As the gauze that seemed to cover his vision like a veil began to lift, Albert could see that he wasn’t in his beloved kitchen and what could only be a hospital room. 

Albert took in his surroundings, just to be sure. And yes, the situation appeared as it seemed. That this was not actually some sort of dream. He hoped for the latter, anyway. Especially as his body began to get its senses back.

His sou chef, Julio (or at least, who Albert thought it was) popped up next to his bed. 

“Oh, my god you’re awake! Lord be praised.” Julio sounded like he was at the other end of a tunnel when he spoke. “The doctors say you probably wouldn’t. But the Lord has different plans. I go get doctor. I be right back.”

Julio quickly disappeared. Leaving Albert alone.

It was becoming more apparent to what had happened. As the gauze lifted from his vision, so did the fog that obscured his mind, and Albert remembered standing in his restaurant when the first pains in his arm began. How it steadily traveled up to his shoulder, into his chest. The shortness of breath as it felt like he was being squeezed in a vice grip.

Then nothing. 

A dark shadow arose from the bed to his right that at first he took as being empty. He wasn’t aware of another patient. Maybe it was another visitor. He couldn’t be sure. 

The shadow became more of a form as it sat on the edge of the bed opposite Albert. Then hopped noiselessly off it. 

The new person, who was obviously male, looked strange, out of place from the surrounding room. And was definitely not a nurse or an orderly. But then again, why would they be if Julio left to find one? Albert figured his mind was a mess from all the drugs he had to be on. To be truthful, he wasn’t even sure that the person now standing over him was even real. Dressed in a long black overcoat that hung loosely from his tall frame, quite a difference from the hospital gown that was placed around Albert or of hospital scrubs the nurses and doctors wear. Also, he looked to be badly scarred. Like he survived a fire. Maybe he was a patient after all, from the way he appeared.

Albert blearily watched the man stroll to the end of his bed, pick up what looked to be a chart from the railing, and flip through the papers that were clipped to it. Reading it intensely. Now and then, he would look over at Albert and make a strange face. After a few moments, the man returned the clipboard back from where it came, turn and dragged a chair over to Albert’s side and sat.

Up close, Albert (even through the drugs that he was under) could see that the man was clearly burned and it wasn’t a product of his imagination. Plus, he could just make out the scent of something burning. The entire side of the man’s face was a crackled tapestry of scar tissue as it stretched across the left side of his skull, down his neck, disappearing underneath the coat he wore.

“Albert,” the voice crackled, “I hate to say this, but you are going to die.” Whereas Julio’s voice sounded as if he was shouting from the inside of a bucket, the newcomer’s voice fell upon Albert’s ears crystal clear.

“Ho… How do…” Albert struggled to ask. Thankfully, the burnt man knew what he was trying to say and finished the sentence for him. “How do I know you are going to die? Well, let’s just say I have a nose for these things.” He touched the side of the deflated cartilage that was on the front of his face.

“However, Albert. Sometimes one can, say, cheat the Grim Reaper.” The burnt man’s voice sounded like gravel as he spoke. “How would you like to be just such a person?”

Albert couldn’t speak. The pain he felt before everything went black was back. Squeezing his chest once again. 

It took everything inside Albert to nod his head.

Cracked yellow teeth filled Albert’s vision as he heard the man say: “Good. Good. But as with everything in life, there is a price.”

Albert knew he was going to die. Knew that this was all a dream. Had to be. Because no one had the power to save him from his fate except God or the Devil. But at this moment, he didn’t care which. 

“I... I... do... n’t c... ar...e,” Albert grunted out. Albert swallowed the pain down as best he could and said: “What... ever it... is. I don’t want to die.”

 

4

 

Albert stood alone now. The newborn laid upon his prep station cooing quietly; Ulixes having gone. Disappearing into the cold light of the day. Telling him he had things to take care of and that he expected everything to be ready when he returned with his guests.

For the first time in his professional career (life, in fact), Albert wondered what it felt like to be lying on the prep table. How the cold stainless steel felt upon the skin. 

Albert shook the thought from his head, since in reality (normal reality, that is), what Albert usually had lying in front of him was already dead. And an animal.

But aren’t we all just animals? He thought. Made of flesh and blood and fat?

We are.

But that fact didn’t help Albert make his first incision. Helped nothing at all.

Albert put down the 10 inch Wusthof he used when butchering things like veal or that of fowl birds. Albert imagined it shouldn’t be any different in ease to carve out...

What was he thinking? There was no way he was going to butcher a newborn baby, no matter what he promised Ulixes.

He would just have to explain. Tell the man he owed his life to, to ask for something else in return.

Ulixes would understand.

“No. No, he won’t.” Albert’s voice sounded dead as he felt. What had he done when he was lying there that fateful day last February? What had he done?

It had been so long that Albert thought he had dreamt it, after all. Having never heard from the man — if that is what he is — since. All just one fucked up dream as he lay in pain and on the verge of death.

He didn’t think much of until it got closer to the anniversary of the heart attack. That’s when the strange party invitation came, just appearing on his desk one morning (No postage. No return address.), stating that he was going to be the guest chef for a dinner party. But he failed to remember promising anything of the sort and when Albert checked his date book nothing was written about it on the date the invite said there was a party.

Then it dawned on him. Although vaguely.

Albert tried to shove the thought from his mind.

Then the call came. Late Monday night. After he fell exhausted into bed. The restaurant had been unusually busy. Although, Albert wasn’t complaining. Even with the fact that he had to jump on the line and help the others. Mostly because Albert kept Monday shifts light. Why pay for a full crew if you didn’t need them?

Twinges of pain came with every beat in his chest when he heard the voice on the other end. Albert was afraid that he was on the verge of another heart attack. Only this time, there was no one around to call 911. 

The voice of Ulixes was something he would never forget.

“Wakey. Wakey. Eggs and bakey.”

Albert’s hand shook uncontrollably as he held on to the phone. Now he knew what had taken place in the hospital was no dream. And that he had, in fact, made a deal to regain his life from the claws of death. At that time, Albert thought it didn’t matter which side of the coin the blessing of life came. But now... now he could see how wrong he was. And that, in fact, he had made the worst decision one could make.

“Albert.” Ulixes let the word draw out as he spoke it. Sounding like Owl-BurHurt. “Did you get my invitation for the upcoming dinner party?”

“I... ah... Yes, I did.”

“Excellent. It’s coming to be that time, my friend.”

“Time...“ Gulp... “Time for what?”

“Time for you to repay the gift I gave you.”

“What is... What is it you want me to do?”

“Oh, nothing other than to do what you do best, my friend.” Every time Ulixes used the term “my friend” Albert felt a new sharp pain in his chest. And he wasn’t sure if it was just because that it filled him with terror or if Ulixes could do it. As a reminder that he had the power over life and death. His life and death. “And that is cook.”

Cook?”

“Yes. Cook. I’ll supply the main protein, of course. That is what you call it? Yes?”

“Yes. That is the term we use.”

“Excellent. You have the date. I expect to have the run of the place. My guests are not the type that like crowds.”

“No. No. Of course not.”

“Well then. I’ll see you on Sunday.”


5


Albert was once again at his desk. This time actually perusing the papers of recipes that had collected over time. Trying to decide what he could convert to the protein at hand. That’s how he was trying to convince himself to think of the baby that still lay on the prep table. It was the only way he was going to get through his task. Unfortunately, it wasn’t working.

With every recipe he thought could work (like spiced monkey brains or veal cutlets in a ginger sauce) he envisioned the baby instead of a protein. And each passing minute only made it worse. Ulixes expected a meal planned with the baby. But there was no way he could bring himself to do it.

The word kept rolling around in his head.

Forcing himself, that was what it was.

Only was.

As protein bounced in his skull, it dawned on Albert.

“Yes. Yes. That’s the perfect recipe.”

With new vigor, Albert rushed to his walk in, in search of the best ingredients. The great weight lifted. He knew that this meal was going to be one for the ages.


Ulixes appeared. Standing just past the doors that lead to the dining room. “It smells absolutely divine in here.”

“I’m... I’m glad you think so. I... I just hope you think it tastes as good as it smells.”

“I have faith, Albert. I have faith.”

Albert rolled in a dolly tray, following Ulixes into the dining room. A large table sat in the middle. One that he hadn’t set. But somehow it had all the trimmings one would expect with a fine dining experience. The five that sat around the table, however, were anything but. The motley crew of Ulixes’ guests appeared roughly in the same vein of persona as their host. All supporting some sort of disfigurement caused by flame and fire. The air reeked of them as well. A mixture of unwashed bodies layered over the sent that one smells after the campfire had died down low.

“My esteemed guests,” Ulixes began as he took the place at the top of the table. “This is the great Albert Bank. Two-time winner of the James Beard Award and head of his Michelin Star restaurant.” Applause rose from the table. “I had the fortunate opportunity to meet Mr. Bank last year. Although under, unfortunately, much more... dire... circumstances. But here we are, nonetheless. And so, for his gratitude, I tasked Albert Bank to prepare us one of his finest meals. With such an elegant ingredient source from nearby. Because we all know how chefs love their local food markets.” Laughter — or what Albert took for laughter — arose from Ulixes guests. “A fine specimen of exotic cuisine that was supplied by one of our fellow guest’s charges. Stand up, Ukobathe. Take a bow for the meal that is about to be consumed. If it wasn’t for Uko, and his ward, we wouldn’t have this fine protein,” Ulixes regaled in his usage of chef-speak, “that of a newborn that was birthed not twelve hours ago.” The applause peaked as Ulixes gestured over to Albert for him to begin serving. “Please explain, my dear friend, exactly what lies before us.”

Albert warily brought over his serving dolly and meted out the plates. Each one was small, the same ones he used when doing a wine pairing. The thought only struck him he never considered drinks. “I... ah... well, the first plate comprises a green curry , the same type found in regions of Pakistan and India, except made with brains. Followed up by Veal Scaloppini cut from the inner portion of the top of the leg. The Scaloppini is dished in a saffron sauce. Next there is a Veal Chop cut from the rump with fingerlings, mushrooms and cherry peppers. And last but not least we have a Creole Mustard, rosemary and garlic crusted rib.”

The guests, as well as Ulixes, waited patiently for all the servings to be doled out.

“Excellent. Excellent. From the aroma, I have a feeling that you have outdone yourself. Albert.”

Albert started making his way back towards the kitchen. “Unfortunately, I have forgotten the wine pairings. I’ll be right back.”

“No need, my friend. No need.” Ulixes gazed across the table. Looking into each and everyone’s face. “Shall he dine?”

The reply was in the form of tearing hungrily into their meal. 

Only to stop as suddenly as it began.

Angry faces all turned in unison toward Albert, who stood dumbly by the door to the kitchen.

“WHAT IS THIS SUPPOSED TO BE!” Discarded dishes rattled as Ulixes slammed a fist on the table. 

Albert’s blood turned cold as he saw the face of the man from his nightmares. “I... I... don’t... understand. What’s wrong?”

“WHAT’S WRONG?! WHAT’S WRONG?!” Ulixes rose from his seat as he spoke. “Did you really think that we wouldn’t notice?! Did you really think that we couldn’t tell the difference in the meat?!”

“I... I...” Albert turned to run. To run as fast and as far as he could. As he did so, Albert felt he was caught in an invisible vise. One crushing at his chest. His breaths were quick and shallow; his face covered in sweat as he burst open the doors before him, making his way towards the door on the other side of the kitchen. 

Albert grabbed the side of the nearest prep table as the pain in his chest radiated out. His legs felt weak. Barely holding his enormous frame.

As Albert moved again, his vision swirled. By the time he reached the next prep station, Albert thudded to the floor. His legs giving out.

With each blink, a new face appeared above him.

With each blink, those angry faces shared something else.

Albert tried to scream, only to have it die in his throat as their knives sunk into him to exact their pound of flesh. 


Submitted: August 05, 2022

© Copyright 2022 Paul Dabrowski. All rights reserved.

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