A Banquet of Monsters

A Banquet of Monsters

Chapter 18

All over the kitchen, clatter, music, and laughing flitted through the air. Food and wine passed from chef to servant, who passed it along from servant to guest. Platters of beef, venison, and lamb and stacks of mashed potatoes, beans, cauliflower, and sliced tomatoes. On the far side of the accordion kitchen doors, kisses and plates passed around a ballroom full of dancing and laughing.

Red wine splashed from clanging cups, and the patrons giggled as it hit the floor. A drunken fool slipped in it and knocked over a woman carrying a bowl of beef stew. The stew flew to the ground and six guests dropped to their knees, slurping the mess up with their hands.

But none of them were guests that the Dolors would ever invite over. Both the kitchen and ballroom were full of vampires, demons, witches, and ghouls, dressed in tuxedos and gowns for the banquet.

Aaron’s little eyes peered over the edge of the dumbwaiter and darted around the room. An obese vampiress in a red dress howled from the ballroom when a shrimpy, obscene, green demon made her laugh. A ghoul floated above the kitchen island and chewed on the fat of a stuck pig. The food slid down its entrails and back onto the table and floor, covered in a milky white substance. Other guests picked up the defecated leftovers and ate them. A little red man with horns on his head laughed in the corner at nothing, while a witch painted her nails on a stool, and a Minotaur looked awkwardly left and right at nothing.

Aaron’s hands trembled, and he didn’t know if it was because they were tired or he was afraid. 

“What do you see?” Herbert whispered.

Aaron couldn’t speak when he looked down at Herbert. He knew they made a mistake, but there was nowhere else to go. The rope was gone, and he felt too weak to make the climb back down. 

The howl of a man, clearly in pain, came through the open shaft above. It sounded like it came from a dungeon far, far away.

“C’mon!” Herbert said. “We gotta get to my Dad!”

Aaron shook his head and glanced around the room again. No one seemed to be paying attention to the dumbwaiter. He pulled on the edge and leapt through the opening. 

Herbert didn’t realize how much having Aaron next to him made him feel better about hovering over that long vent until he was gone. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. His arms were so tired as his shoulder inched upward. His tongue stuck out of the corner of his mouth while his foot scooted up the rest of the way. He reached out his fingers and took hold of the opening. 

The door came under his chin, and his eyes widened when he saw the party inside. In front of him, on the lower shelf of a kitchen cart (the same island Herbert hid behind earlier in the night), Aaron cowered and waited beside a row of pots and pans. Herbert shook his head in disbelief. He gulped, clenched his eyes, and dove through the opening. 

His hands splashed on the tile. The ghoul’s milky substance was all over it and covered his hands and knees. He scuttled to the cart and climbed onto the shelf with Aaron. They looked around in horror and prayed no one had seen them crawl on. 

“What are we doing?” Herbert whispered. 

“You said, ‘go through the kitchen’!” Aaron reminded.

“Oh my God,” Herbert sighed. 

The boys peered around the pots and kettles, and through the legs of demons, vampires and witches, for the pantry door. At least a dozen enemies were laughing, drinking, and flirting in the kitchen on every side. They couldn’t fathom getting through it all. 

“To victory!” A shout came from the ballroom. It stirred an echo and soon everyone was shouting. “To victory! To the victory of his future and past!” Each of the patrons lifted their drinks and gulped the red wine in unison. The boys eyed each other and wondered if it was an opportunity to drop and run for the pantry on the other side of the kitchen. 

While they perused the room and timed their chance, Aaron noticed a sulky figure not toasting in the corner of the kitchen. It was the Minotaur. He looked miserable, hunched over and maybe even a little sad. Aaron had the impression that he was in trouble, though he wasn’t tied up or anything. As if he were in “time-out”.

“Should we go for it?” Herbert asked. 

A bang came from behind them, and the kitchen door flung open. The drunken fool who crashed into the woman with the stew, splashed into the kitchen and flung himself against the cart the boys were on. It rolled forward, and the boys gripped the edges to keep from spilling off and into the feet of the guests.

The drunk’s arms flailed in the air and he cried, “More wine, connoisseur, more wine!” 

A low growly voice replied, “You’ve had enough wine, Wormwood,” and Herbert recognized it as the chef. 

“Oh, then give me some of this then!” The drunk said and dipped his slimy finger into a kettle on the cart. A red concoction stretched from his finger to the kettle like mucus. 

“That is the Professor’s La Ars Nova Tonic,” the chef warned, “and no one is to use it but Mr. Dauer.

“Oh, but it looks tasty!” Wormwood held a piece near his outstretched tongue. 

“That’s enough!” The chef stepped forward with a cleaver in his hand. 

“Or what, fat man, you gonna stop me?” 

The boys heard the cleaver hit skin and bone, then the head of the drunk flop onto the ground next to them. An uproar shook through the kitchen and everyone came to see. They kicked and pulled to grab at the corpse and take bites out of it. Soon, limbs and organs passed around on plates and trays to the patrons out in the ballroom. 

The boys peered out from under the cart in horror. The cart rattled under their hands and knees, and they realized the whole house was shaking from the vibration of the gong, echoing from the Pendulum at the top of the house. 

“Oh, shut up!” A witch screeched at the chime and went back to her meal.

The boys wouldn’t wait any longer. They scurried off the cart and scampered to the other side of the kitchen on all fours. Aaron looked back for Herbert before bouncing off the backend of the chef. 

He fell down onto the tile and looked at the grotesque man looming over him. The folds of his skin bellowed under his clothing like crashing wild waves. He turned and looked down at the frightful boy. Herbert stopped in the middle of the kitchen between Aaron and the cart, and searched the room in panic, before stopping on the Minotaur hunched in the corner. The Minotaur’s eyes met his, and the two looked at the chef raising his cleaver over Aaron’s body. 

The chef grinned at the boy and tried to swing the blade, but a frying-pan slammed into his head and sent him crashing against an oven. The boys turned to see the Minotaur standing over them with his hoof hand held out. 

“Go!” The mythical beast hollered. He turned around and lunged his horns into the two nearest patrons, a witch and a vampire, picked each of them up and threw them like rag dolls at a group of bystanders. Monsters shrieked. Witches howled. Demons fled. The ghouls vanished. And the boys dove into the pantry. 

Ah!” A painful roar came from the Minotaur and Aaron stopped to look back. The patrons rallied together. They were leaping at the Minotaur now, with knives, pans, pots, claws and teeth. They were on him. He was slipping under the weight of the evil creatures. 

Herbert jerked Aaron into the bedroom, slammed the door, and locked it secure. They collected themselves on the floor of the bedroom, next to their blankets and pillows. 

“What was that about?” Herbert gasped. 

“Who in the world knows?” Aaron panted. “But we made it.”

The boys stood up next to the floating door in the middle of the room. On its other side were long halls of stone and orange candlelit corridors. 

“One of those leads to Dad,” Herbert said, wiping his brow. “We can’t stop now. Let’s just get through as fast as we can. Maybe—maybe Dad can…” He trailed off.

Both knew now that no one, not even Mr. Dolor, stood a chance against all the monsters in the house. It was a last ditch effort that turned impossible. They hugged each other and mustered the strength to continue. 

“One stupid step at a time,” Aaron muttered. 

They leaned forward into the passage as two long arms came from behind, out of the darkness, and yanked at their shirts. Flailing in the air like puppets from their collars, they spun their necks to see the Professor holding them.

Hello boys.” Professor Wolfgang grinned.

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