Here’s Week 2 of the 26000 Words project. This story is really…weird and dark. I’m not really sure why my last few short stories have been kind of twisted like this. If you ask anyone, I’m pretty much a ball of sunshine and rainbows 99% of the time.
I had a hard time coming up with a topic for this week. But a few days ago, the words “The Dinner Party” popped into my mind, followed by the name Siegfried Zassou. This is a result of these two things and the 1% of macabre craziness that I’m starting to think lurks around in my head. Apologies for any grammar or spelling mistakes – I got to the editing process pretty late in the game. tLet me know what you think in the comments below.
Mr. Siegfried Zassou stared at his plate in bewilderment, unable to identify what was being served on it. The entire thing was covered in a thick, bluish sauce that wasn’t unlike the colour of a corpse’s lips. Beneath it lay something that looked vaguely like meat, but it was pulsating ever so slightly, as if it were still alive and struggling for its last breath. The whole thing gave Zassou the chills and he longed to push his plate away, but his hands felt numb. He was so afraid of accidentally insulting his dinner hosts, he could barely feel his fingers.
He looked up at the Von Schwartz’s, who were watching him closely with smiles on their faces. Mrs. Annabelle Von Schwartz kept her lips pressed firmly together as if she held a dark secret between her teeth that she wanted no one to see. Alfred Von Schwartz’s smile was the opposite of his wife’s. His grin took up more than half his face, laying bare large, white teeth that could probably crush a man’s bones with one chomp.
But the strange smiles of his hosts weren’t what made Zassou so nervous. He was slowly going numb because of the ridiculous game they were playing, which revolved around the ghastly dish set before him.
“Well, Siegfried, any guesses?” asked Von Schwartz, stroking the end of his beard, which was as wild and dark as a lion’s mane.
Von Schwartz had travelled extensively as a young man, discovering both the well known and hardly spoken of cultures in all corners of the world. His favourite game was born from the thousands of dishes he had sampled over the years. Before his dinner guests could take a bite of whatever was on their plate, they were to make one guess as to what it was first. The dishes were always foreign and always nearly impossible to identify, so that his dinner guests would be hard pressed to figure them out with their one and only guess.
No one in the village would tell Zassou what was the price of guessing wrong. It seemed like the villagers were all in on Von Schwartz’s game, sworn not to give the surprise at the end away.
It also seems that one of them had told Von Schwartz that Zassou was also a well-travelled man. It was part of his job to go to big cities and remote villages, but now the stamps in his passport would be his downfall. Von Schwartz had made tonight’s dish especially hard in his honour.
Zassou eyed his plate once again, completely dumbfounded. “I’m afraid our dinner will get cold should I continue to think on this,” he declared, hoping to end the game at a standstill. “It seems a shame to let this good meal go past the point where it will be the most delightful to eat. Shall we commence dinner instead and pick up this game again at our next party?”
Von Schwartz roared with laughter. “Ho Siegfried! You are wily, my friend. Ordinarily, it would be a shame to continue the game while our dinner slowly rots. But lucky for us, this is a dish that is most excellent hot or cold. Time only makes it better and better!” He pointed his finger and jabbed it through the air to emphasize each better, ensuring that everyone at the table understood this game would not end until Zassou had made his guess. “So, Siegfried. Please give us your guess when you are ready. Anabelle and I have all night. Delaying the meal will only make it that much sweeter once we consume it.”
Sweat began to bead around Zassou’s brow. He didn’t want to stay here all night no more than he wanted to eat whatever was on his plate – no matter how damn delicious it may be hours from now. The Von Schwartz’s were bizarre and he couldn’t decide which one made him more uncomfortable: the wife or the husband. He heartily regretted seeking out this dinner invitation. The Von Schwartz’s may be the most influential family in town, but even the prospect of a raise and promotion couldn’t make him endure another minute in this house.
Zassou had spent the entire day wondering what the punishment would be for guessing wrong. As a man who didn’t like to lose, he had vowed to himself that he would guess correctly. Now, he no longer cared. He wanted out. And the only way it seemed Von Schwartz would let him go is if he made a guess – right or wrong.
“Black bear stuffed with juniper berries and topped with a currant mustard gravy,” he blurted out before he could stop himself.
If it was possible, Von Schwartz’s smile grew even bigger. Zassou wasn’t even sure how there was space left for such a smile, but it made the hairs on the back of his arm stand on end. It was as if Von Schwartz had the ability to make his mouth wide enough to fit a whole body in it.
The Von Schwartz’s looked at each other and then back at Zassou. Panic started to blossom in his belly at the sight of Annabelle Von Schwartz’s face. She was smiling as widely as her husband now, revealing the nightmarish secret she hid behind her blood-red lips.
Where Von Schwartz had teeth for gnashing, Annabelle had dagger-like teeth that looked strong and sharp enough to tear the leathery skin off of a crocodile.
“I’m afraid you’ve guessed wrong, Siegfried,” said Von Schwartz, rising from the table.
Zassou gripped the tablecloth, unable to get his body to cooperate and run like hell out of the room. “I-I didn’t mean to,” he said, weakly. “Please. Give me another guess. I beg you.”
Von Schwartz ignored him. To his wife, he said, “My dear, tell Mr. Zassou what the price is for guessing incorrectly.”
Annabelle’s teeth gnashed together like knife blades as she spoke. “I’m afraid, Mr. Zassou, that instead of this dish, tonight what we’ll be having for dinner is…you.”
Even as he opened his mouth to let out a piercing scream, Zassou knew that it would be the last sound he made. No one would ever hear from Siegfried Zassou again.