Friday, October 21, 2011

Oktober the Twenty-First: Save Room for Dessert

In WNY, we can tell for sure that Autumn is getting on... it's way past chilly and windy as hell. Giant crows are flying behind my house all the time, looking for a chipmunk nosh. So, at under 1,000 words, here's a neat little story that's ripe for Hallowe'en...

 Peace, Mari


Save Room for Dessert

By Mari Kozlowski

 The long driveway curved up to their new home in a graceful swath of pale rose pavement, custom laid. The view was spectacular in every direction— well tended flowerbeds bordered by playful arbors or inventively planted patches of herbs made just to step on and give up their fragrant souls as they were crushed. In the center of it all, the riot of greenery framed the most beautiful house Kit could ever imagine living in. She turned to her husband, eyes gleaming in excitement as they parked.

“It’s really ours?”

 Ted smiled and put his hand on her knee. “Yep.”

“And you seriously checked on all that poltergeist stuff we heard about it, right? We’re not going to have any problems?”

“No, we’re not. It’s going to be great. It all checked out fine, you’ll see.”

"Thanks, Babe. You’re the sweetest, most considerate husband in the world.” 

“I know.”

 They got out of the car and stood holding each other, awed that their bid for this near palatial estate had been accepted. The previous owners had even thrown in a gardener, still under contract for a year. An amazing bonus on top of an amazing deal, and their realtor had been stunned— still, after she had three different independent inspections come up clean, she’d advised them to make the best offer they could. The rumors she’d heard about a family being murdered there 80 years ago were probably crap, and even if they weren’t so what? People die in their homes all the time, for lots of reasons. So they’d made a ridiculously low offer.

 And now they were spending their first night there, alone, before the kids arrived next day.

"That smells like heaven—and I’m starved. Can we eat now, please?”

 Ted sniffed the pot roast as it rode by in Kit’s oven-gloved hands. She smiled wickedly and shook her behind a little as she went by.

"You can have something in just a minute. I want to light some candles first, to celebrate. And set the mood.”

 She set the steaming casserole dish on the only flat surface table they had access to, besides the kitchen counters— a hollow black leather ottoman with a top that could be turned to use as a tray table. It was wide enough for their plates, the roast and a salad, with just space in the middle for a single candlestick.

 Kit pushed a long black taper into the short holder and lit it. It sputtered a moment before catching, and then blazed up nicely. She smiled and looked around her new living room, with its mix of deep rose and palest pink walls. Very romantic.

“Now we can eat,” she said. “If you found the cushions I asked you to unpack.”

 Ted laid the cushions from their old divan around the ottoman and waited till Kit sat, before pulling a bottle of champers out from behind a box.

"You didn’t!” Kit said. She looked at the label and back at Ted.

“Yep. The same kind we drank on our honeymoon. I think the occasion merits it.”

“Glasses?” she asked, and her husband pulled two acrylic flutes out from the same hiding spot.

 They toasted their new life, and then ate, the comforting scent of bay leaves and onion rising from the casserole, and the tingle of brut Champagne on their tongues. Kit was pouring herself a third glass when they both heard a small, sharp creak, like a foot on a stair. She raised her eyebrows at Ted and looked over her shoulder, where the noise had come from.

“Probably just the wind,” he told her. He didn’t look concerned.

 She settled back into her champagne, enjoying it.

“Just make sure you save room for dessert,” Ted said, eyeing her flute. “You know how you get when you have too much booze during dinner.”

 Outside the wind rattled through the windows; the candle fluttered a bit, then resumed its full glow. Kit sighed.

“I know. Don’t worry.” She leaned over and kissed him, then took a sip of her wine.

 Another creak sounded from behind, louder this time. Then what sounded like a moan, low and agonized.

 Kit’s head whipped around, and Ted put his hand on her arm.

“You okay?” he whispered. She nodded, then stood and began walking to where a misty figure was just materializing on the bottom stair.

 It had a gruesome wound at its throat, a gash that seemed to flow with blood that never spilled onto its long pale skirts yet never clotted. A mangled infant tucked under one of its arms twisted and started to cry, then to howl. The mother ghost ignored it, focusing on Kit.  

 Ted watched motionless as his wife strode to the apparition and reached out a hand. The horrid thing opened a mouth full of broken teeth and writhing insects, a rictus grin. Its eye sockets trained on Kit.

 Who smiled back, her mouth suddenly opening wider and wider, till her jaws extended the whole width of her face, her blue eyes glowing now with a cold white fire. She grasped the flailing arm of the ghost as it tried to pull away, grin turned to a churning dismay.

“I’m so glad you showed up tonight,” she told it, her voice deeper, smokier than before. “I’m still starved, even after that pot roast.”

 Ted watched as his transformed wife leaned over and inhaled, sucking the spirits down whole as they screeched and writhed. It was beautiful, really, once you got used to it.  In fact, it kinda turned him on.

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