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A SURPRISE IN EVERY BOX

Short story By: Randall Stone
Horror



A murderer, hungry after committing the foul deed, finds an out of the way restaurant, deep in the English countryside on Halloween. It promises a fantastic, mouthwatering fayre until there is a sudden change to the menu. . . . .


Submitted:Nov 26, 2012    Reads: 24    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


A SURPRISE IN EVERY BOX
By Randall Stone
PT. I
The murder had gone better than planned. An anonymous phone call from the gym to get that prick out of the way followed by an unannounced visit to his ex-wife's. Lawrence Taylor congratulated himself, a smug grin on his face. He had even dressed for the occasion. Blue boiler suit, blood stained now, black leather gloves and Michael Myers mask. And nobody had thought it odd because there were costumes out on the streets tonight, more garish than his. After all, it was All Hallows Eve. Eight months surveillance on this shit hole estate in this fucked up town had paid off. And, being a Chief Superintendent with the Lancashire Constabulary had made the planting of false DNA at the scene, a piece of piss. That would teach that bitch for taking him for every penny and her lover, Mr. Fucking Muscles would answer for it. Perfect. How he had enjoyed driving the blade home, again and again. To listen to her grunts of agony as he twisted it in her stomach. And her face. . .that was the best part. That startled expression on her stupid fucking mug as she realised what was happening. . .Truly epic.
He glanced up at the country diner through the windscreen of his BMW. A converted pub made restaurant where they advertised, rather tastefully, it must be said, the best steaks in Lancashire. And tonight, they had a Halloween special. He smacked his lips. Well, why shouldn't he have a celebratory meal after all the hard work he'd put in tonight? He made to open the door but then stopped. Shit! How the hell could he walk into a restaurant like this? In a blood spattered boiler suit? He checked the clock on the instrument panel. 8:22pm. If he hurried, he'd be able to make it home and change and get back. It'd be pushing it but it could be done. But then, he'd retired home early from work on the pretence of being ill. He couldn't afford to be seen leaving, not when he'd gone to all the trouble of sneaking out, almost invisibly. Bollocks! It would have to be take out again. He gunned the car into life and was just moving from the car-park when something caught his eye. A party of nine or so fancy dressers, each costume more outlandish than the next.
Music floated into the night to mingle with the chatter and laughter of the diners as the door was opened by a tall dark figure, he guessed was the Maitre'd. Perfect. He donned his mask, his gloves (he wasn't about to leave his finger prints here) and checked his wallet. No credit cards here. He'd pay cash.
The figure on the door was a bit of a shock. Tall, gaunt and square shouldered, dressed in an immaculate black dinner suit, the man actually looked dead. The make up was amazing. His alabaster flesh tinged blue in places and his cheeks, like his eye sockets, were sunken and hollow.
'Will you be dining alone sir?' he asked, in a deep, gravely voice through thin, blue lips that looked oxygen starved.
'Yes, I'm afraid so.'
'Very good sir.' He reached over and pushed open the door to reveal a plush, classy looking place. Tasteful décor, pristine white table cloths topped with gleaming silver cutlery and. . .totally deserted. Puzzled, Taylor turned back
'Restaurant's closed tonight. We're dining downstairs for Halloween. If you'd care to take the door to the right sir. . .?' He indicated with a huge hand. Taylor nodded.
Taylor lifted his mask in order to see the steep, very worn stone steps as he descended the narrow passage way. Stale air swept up from below, blowing the real flames of the bracketed torches. Together with the cold, rough stone and the cobwebs that hung from above like peeling skin, the effect was amazing. Laughter and music erupted as he stepped through the doorway at the bottom and he took in the ambience of his surroundings as he lowered the mask again.
He stood in a low ceiling cellar that seemed to run the entire length of the restaurant above and then some. Cobwebs hung in tatters down the walls, hewn from the same stone as the passageway, and the lighting here was made from the burning of heavy, tallow candles that threw shadows against the wall and made them dance. He wrinkled his nose beneath the mask as the acrid smell of the black smoke tickled his nostrils and in a far corner, a six piece orchestra played, the players dressed like zombies. Most of the tables were taken up with costumed diners. There were witches, werewolves, vampires and demons and a whole host of other grotesquery's. The diners chatted happily and sipped their drinks but none appeared to be eating.
'Table for one sir?'
The voice startled him and he turned to see a young waitress behind him. Her dark hair was piled in an untidy bun atop her small, white face, strands of loose hair framing her features. The darkness around her pale eyes and the high, well defined cheek bones gave her the look of a living skull. She smiled brightly as she indicated a small table just off to the left against he wall. As Taylor took his seat, he noticed that the table tops were in fact, headstones. He grinned. Like everything else he'd seen tonight, the make up, masks, décor, they were extremely realistic. He ran an appraising eye over her black dress and tattered white piny with laddered tights and asked for a menu.
'It's a carvery tonight sir. A Halloween special, like every year. Can I get you an aperitif while you wait?'
'A whisky on the rocks would do nicely and the wine list if possible?' he replied. She jotted this down on a little note pad and smiled before turning away.
Well, this is all very nice, he thought, tombstones for tables and Jack 'O' Lantern pumpkins for table ambience. He surveyed he other diners, delighting in their costumes. He had always had a penchant for horror movies and novels and he had always loved Halloween. What a stroke of luck, taking that wrong turn back there and finding this place. Pity, he mused, that he and Julia had never had children. It would have been great to dress them up every October and take them trick or treating. The young waitress returned with a glass tumbler and placed it at his elbow, the ice clinking cheerfully. She handed him the wine list and he thanked her.
It was a moment or two before he realised that the orchestra had fallen silent and an expectant hush had descended. He looked up and followed the gaze of the others. Standing in front of the seated players was a tall, thin man. His features were long and drawn and deathly pale. Like so many of the other diners he'd seen tonight, his eyes appeared to sit deep within two, black caverns and his thin , blue veined flesh seemed to hang from his skull. He wore a long, old fashioned tailed coat and, like his black trousers and waist coat, it was dust encrusted, as if it had lain in some dry hole for years. On his head, sat a black and battered top hat with a tatty, black, silk ribbon around the base.
'Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to present your meal for tonight. The meat has been hanging for the requisite twenty three days so that it is at its most tender and succulence. It will of course be served, as usual, with all the seasonable vegetables. When Chef is ready, I would ask that you form an orderly queue and take up your plate and cutlery, ready to be served. It just remains for me to bid you bon appetite.' He gave a cordial little bow and half turned as an age old, crumbling wooden doorway, opened behind him.
Men and women, dressed in the pristine white uniforms of chefs, complete with tall, stiff hats, appeared, pushing what looked like steel gurneys, laden with steaming hot dishes of winter vegetables. They lined the trolleys up beside a long table containing knives, forks and plates and stood patiently behind them. The door swung open again and in walked a huge, pot bellied man, the Head Chef. In one huge meaty fist he held a sharpening steel and in the other, a huge carving knife. His fore arms resembled ham shanks and there was a hard, no nonsense look to his broad, square countenance. Behind him, dressed as undertaker's assistants, four men, two either side, wheeled in a coffin. It had once been a handsome, highly polished, oak box with attractive shell pattern handles of silver. Now, it was encrusted in muck and damp, the polish having lost its lustre, and it looked for all the world that it had recently been dug up. It even had steam rising languidly from it. A great ripple of excitement swept around the room.
Extending one, pylon like arm, the Head Chef threw open the lid. As it rose, it screeched noisily on rusty hinges. They've gone all out for realism, thought Taylor, with a grin. Adjusting his mask, he rose and took his place with the other diners by the table that held the plates. A nice bit of turkey, brisket or topside wouldn't go amiss now, he smiled to himself.. Maybe all three eh? It was a carvery after all. As he queued, he listened to a werewolf and a vampire in front of him.
'I really look forward to this feast.' said the werewolf.
'Mm, me too.' replied the vampire, running a pink tongue along heavily painted dark lips.
'Mind you, I miss the old days, especially during the blast war when fresh meat was so easy to come by.' Fresh meat? Easy to come by? Taylor was only eleven when World War II ended but he remembered the rationing and for the seven or so years afterwards and fresh meat had been anything but easy to come by. Perhaps he had miss heard. Sounds seemed muffled within the confines of the mask.
'Yes, meat is always best, bloody.' replied the vampire.
Taylor flinched. He definitely hadn't miss heard that. He liked a rare steak as much as the next man but he drew the line at blood. The queue inched forward and Taylor picked up his plate and his cutlery. The lid of the casket, which Taylor had guessed was a cleverly disguised barbecue grill, obscured the tasty treat from view. His belly suddenly rumbled loudly and the vampire turned round and grinned at him.
'Now there's a belly that appreciates good food. Won't be long now.' she smiled. Taylor nodded and excused himself. He was within ten feet of the coffin, watching the Head Chef carve and place meat on plates with vegetables, Yorkshire puddings and gravy, when he noticed the smell. Oh, fuck me! What a stench!. He gagged and coughed and the vampire broke off her conversation with the werewolf and turned again with a grin.
'I know,' she chimed, 'smells scrumptious doesn't it?'
A SURPRISE IN EVERY BOX
PT. II
Taylor eyed her incredulously but remained silent. How the hell could the stench of organic corruption and decay smell fucking "scrumptious"? In his time as a police officer, he had seen enough dead bodies to recognise this unholy aroma. He had reached the casket now and the stench had begun to make his eyes water. He was all for fun on Halloween but this was taking it too far. Surely this stink could only put diners off their food like it was putting him off. And then he was staring up into the terrible visage of the Head Chef. He fixed Taylor with rheumy eyes.
'And what can I get Sir? Leg, breast, rump?
'Try the thigh. It looks absolutely delish.' cooed the vampire as she turned away.
'What is it?' asked Taylor, fighting down the bile. 'Turkey? Lamb? Brisket? A nice piece of topside perhaps?'
'It's meat.' said the Head Chef, puzzled. Taylor stood on tiptoes and peered over the lid. He felt the colour drain from his features before the dizziness hit him and made him sway.
There was no elaborately concealed barbecue or grill. No assortments of tasty meats that one would normally expect at a carvery, not even a ham. It was exactly what it looked like. A coffin, plain and simple. The cream satin lining had been marred from the bodily fluids of the woman's corpse in the first stages of decomposition. Her flesh was mottled green and in places it had been neatly and expertly carved of flesh, especially around the thighs and the breasts. In life, she had been a large woman. In death, she had become a sickening buffet.
'There's offal, if you prefer.' said the Head Chef, mistaking Taylor's weakening of the knees for a minor trip. He stuck the knife blade into the soft tissues of he stomach near the Mons Venus and slid it up towards the breast bone. The gasses and the smells that erupted from the cavity had the diners around him salivating and Taylor, having fallen back against the table holding the plates and cutlery, had a clear view of the inside of the coffin. He watched in sickening horror as the blue/purple intestines pushed up through the incision, like a languidly uncoiling monstrous slug. Taylor gagged as vomit exploded from his lips to splatter the inside of the mask and his face, stinging his eyes.
Realising now that something wasn't quite right, the other diners caught hold of Taylor's arms and held him fast. Someone snatched the mask from his head and he felt he cool rush of stale air against his vomit covered flesh. He felt his eyes being roughly wiped and when he opened them he recoiled. He was just inches away from the flattened nose of the Head Chef. The diners and the staff had noticed he furore and had begun to gather around Taylor. With a flick of his huge head, the Head Chef indicated to those holding Taylor to bring him and follow.
Amid excited cries and chatter, the diners followed and congregated around the small stage on which the orchestra sat. Taylor struggled uselessly against his captors as the Head Chef stepped up and had a word in the MC's ear. The old man nodded and waved Taylor forward. He was dragged over and held up. Bending slowly, the old man scrutinised every inch of Taylor's terrified face. This close up, Taylor could see every single line etched into those pallid white features. The face was terrible and ancient. If every line and scratch in that terrible, taught flesh represented a year, he had to be at least a thousand years old. There was a thick, yellow film over his eyes that wept in the corners and ran down the sides of his aquiline nose and his breath smelled of old and open graves. He raised a twisted and arthritic finger to Taylor's face, the fingernail yellowed and cracked, the edge jagged. Ever so slowly, he ran it from the upper cheek and up the temple, catching bits of vomit and cold sweat on his rank finger tip. It made Taylor shudder. The old man stuck the finger in his mouth, between cracked and wrinkled lips, closing his blind eyes in ecstasy, and sucked noisily.
With an agility that belied his years, the old man straightened and turned to the crowd, raising his spindly arms high.
'A LIVE ONE.' he screamed. A moment's silence was followed by an ear splitting yell of delight from the diners. Taylor heard doors slamming shut upstairs and guessed that the whole place had gone on lockdown as he was man handled backwards, the old man following at a sedate pace. He heard dishes and cutlery being swept off one of he gurneys as he was roughly and quickly stripped, lifted and slammed down on the cold, hard table. His arms and legs were held tightly as the Head Chef came round to his left, sharpening the lethal looking carving knife on the sharpening steel with practised ease. He raised the knife and brought it down slowly against Taylor's right pectoral muscle, laying it at an angle. He stretched out his left hand and one of his assistants placed a large two, pronged meat fork in it. The old man came up on his other side and bent over him.
'You have provided us with a very rare treat my friend, a very rare treat indeed.' He swallowed hard and his Adam's Apple, made all the more prominent due to his scrawny throat, shifted.
'We are an ancient race. Far older than humanity. We walked the earth in the absence of light and fed on each other. When humans came, we found them more to our liking and our tribes united. We now had a common food source. However. . .' He closed his eyes and seemed to look inward at something only he could see. 'our prey, we found to our misfortune, was more powerful and far more cunning than we envisaged. We underestimated them and we paid dearly.
The humans went to war with us and we found that there was no limit to the sorts of weapons they could create and wield. Within the space of a single millennia, they had all but wiped us from the face of he planet, driving our ancestors underground like the common sewer rat.' He straightened up.
'In times of war, and there have been many across the earth, ever since man learned to beat his ploughshares into weapons, we fed well. The meat was almost relatively fresh and plentiful. But man's ingenuity and science began to detect our presence and so, like the common sewer rat, we were driven into the drains, seeking shelters in cellars and beneath wastelands. We learned to harvest the churchyards, the cemeteries, the mausoleums but once again, we began to get detected. Our last great extravaganza was feeding on the dead of the bombed cities during the last war.
Like your kind, we are capable of eating and surviving on the food stuffs you do but we crave fresh, human flesh. It is our most primal instinct. Apart from our paleness and gauntness, we pass for human. We can live and walk among you with little notice. That is. . .until the blood lust comes upon us. With a little clever manipulation and the passing of money of course, we are able to, once a year, in celebration of this most auspicious night, release that bloodlust during one, delicious feast. A local undertaker, keeps aside a prime piece of meat for us, often cremating an animal or burying an empty box in its place. I am a great believer in fate my friend and karma. And you must have been a very wicked individual for fate to have brought you to us tonight.' The old man nodded at the Head Chef.
Taylor screamed as the razor sharp blade bit into his flesh and the tines of he fork pierced his muscle. Blood welled and spilled down his side as the Head Chef sliced. Fire filled his whole being in and agonised wave as his flesh, including the nipple, came free. Speared on the end of the fork, the meat was lifted towards the old man who took it in his twisted fingers. As Taylor's blood dripped thickly down his hand, he placed the gory strip in his mouth and chewed noisily in the silence before swallowing. He opened his crimson stained maw and whispered,
'Magnificent.' He turned to the expectant crowd. 'Gather your plates my friends. There's plenty to go around.'
Through wide, tear blurred eyes, Taylor saw them rip off heir masks but what was underneath was far, far worse. Eyes that glowed like amber suns burned in terrible, feral countenances. He watched their brow ridges swell and drop above the bridge of their shortening noses. On either side of heir jaws, their muscle mass seemed to increase and with it, the mouth extended into short snouts filled with shark like teeth. If ever a shark was merged with a human, this is what they would look like. The old man looked down once more.
'Over the years we perfected the art of keeping the meat alive while we feasted and Conrad here,' he indicated the Head Chef, 'is a master of the art.' Taylor's screams filled the entire room, reverberating off he walls, echoing up the passageway and driving the diners appetites to fever pitch and the orchestra accompanied his agonised yells until his vocal chords were neatly trimmed from his throat. . . .
(C) Randall Stone




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