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Red Death

By: The Earthotic Way

The pendulum clock in the entryway chimed solemnly at the top of the hour. The long, rectangular table in the dining room was precisely set. The delicious scent of a half dozen different dishes filled the air. Soft piano played in the background.

In the entryway stood six couples who were to be guests at this dinner. Each couple read the same food and dining blog and had entered a contest online. They had won an exclusive private dinner with Everett Doherty as their chef. While waiting in the entryway for further instructions, they raved about how much they loved Everett Doherty’s cooking, read his books, watched his show, and how they had been to his restaurant in Manhattan. Or was it the Las Vegas location?

The truth was none of them had ever heard of Everett Doherty, but no one wanted to admit to their fellow guests that they had not heard of this renowned chef prior to winning this contest. A series of convincing articles and reviews were sent to them upon winning, and here they all stood in the foyer of a magnificent house that more resembled a castle than a home.

A young waiter arrived, introduced himself as Trevor, and asked the couples to follow him to the dining area. Twelve deep crimson plates sat on white chargers, which sat on black tablemats. Trevor told them to find their names on cards set atop the plates and make themselves comfortable. He soon came by and poured each guest a drink.

At last, a door leading to the kitchens—which was obvious from the noise—opened at the back of the room, and Everett Doherty himself stepped out. He looked exactly as he did in the articles. A tittering of polite applause broke out.

“Thank you. Thank you very much. Congratulations on winning and welcome to this wonderful dinner. Before dinner starts, I’d like to discuss a wonderful timeshare opportunity,” Everett announced.

“I knew it. I knew this was too good to be true,” said a grumpy man who began to stand up.

“Please, please,” continued Everett, smiling a brilliant white smile. “I’m only joking.”

A relieved sigh and some reserved laughter came from the soon-to-be diners.

“But there still is a catch to your invitation here tonight. Because you are all people of high taste in food, all we ask in return for tonight’s festivities is a review. An honest review. I’m trying some new dishes tonight and you are my guinea pigs, so to speak. So, before you leave tonight, we will ask for a written review. Does that sound agreeable to everyone?”

The consensus around the table was that it did. Even the grumpy man nodded his head in approval, growing slightly less grumpy at the prospect of an exclusive dinner.

“Then let the first course begin!”

Trevor entered on cue, pushing a cart with bowls of creamy yellow soup.

“This is a butternut crème soup with squid, asparagus, and mushrooms. Bon appetit.”

The guests ate their soup with gusto while Everett walked around the table shaking hands and making conversation. When the sound of soup spoons hitting the bottom of bowls was heard, the bowls were cleared away, leaving each crimson plate bare.

Apple and calvados sorbet were brought out to cleanse the palate. Ten minutes of conversation went by. One of the guests began to look intently at the back of his hands.

“Is everything alright, Mr. Harrington?” Everett said in the tone someone uses when they know perfectly well that everything is in fact, not all right.

“My hands look funny,” Mr. Harrington said, holding up his hands and turning them over in the light.

“So do mine,” said his wife.

A murmur rose. All the other guests were experiencing the same phenomenon.

“Yes, that is all normal. Quite normal,” Everett said cheerfully. “You see, you all ingested some powerfully hallucinogenic mushrooms in that soup and you’re starting to experience the effects. It’s rather exciting.”

“What kind of effects?” Mrs. Harrington asked.

“Well, there will be some visual disruptions. You’ll feel incredibly relaxed. But I think the most remarkable feature of this particular mushroom is that it produces an intense apathy toward anything or anyone outside oneself.”

“Oh,” said Mrs. Harrington.

“Which is rather fortunate for you all because in about five minutes—if I’ve timed it correctly—some strange things are going to happen to the Montes couple.”

The Montes couple did not react. They did not care. But as five minutes ticked away, beads of bloody sweat broke out on Mr. Montes’s forehead. He began to cough and wheeze uncontrollably, spraying flecks of blood with every chest-wrenching hack. The whites of his eyes turned red, and his nose streamed with blood. His wheezing became a rattle. He began to thrash around wildly, turning his chair over. Then, he stopped. His wife looked down at him and then back at the table before coughing, thrashing, and finally dropping dead.

Trevor came out and grabbed them, loading them on to the same cart that had delivered their soup. The tile of the dining room floor was streaked with their blood.

The clock in the hallway chimed. There were two fewer guests at the table.

“Who’s ready for the next course?” Everett smiled.

Tomato consommé and smoked ricotta tortellini was served next, and the Meadows couple sprayed cherry-pink flecks on the walls as they died in agony afterward.

The guests congratulated Everett on his dish.

After the quail legs with tamarind glaze and fig chutney, the Molloy couple expired in a puddle of blood after clawing their throats open.

The guests declared the chutney a triumph.

Sarson ki gilawat with corn and cheese tostadas followed. Mrs. Singleton kicked so violently that she knocked over Mr. Cooper’s wine glass. Mr. Cooper apologized for being so clumsy and sopped up the wine with his napkin.

Each course claimed its victims. The sesame and coriander crusted basa came next, but Mr. Cooper had to ask for something to clean his glasses with before he could finish the course and finally, the slow-poached egg with bacon dust and parmesan foam concluded with both he and his wife twisted on the floor.

The dining room went quiet.

Everett Doherty—or the man calling himself Everett Doherty—summoned the waiter. “What do you think, Trevor?” he asked, looking quite satisfied.

“The formula is improving.” Trevor was exhausted from labor.

“It is, and it looks like our vaccines continue to be effective. Well then! I think we’re ready for full production!”

“Do you have a name for it, sir?”

“It’ll be called Novel Marburg 12 on the television. Doctors will call it non-traumatic arteriorrhexis hematopathy. But I’d prefer to call it by the name I’ve given it and what the history books will call it, I think.”

“What’s that then, sir?”

“Red Death.”


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