The Late Lunch
A horror flash fiction by Ashon Ruffins
The Late Lunch
Sometimes, I preferred to surprise my wife at work with an original recipe I’ve created with my Zen time in the kitchen. She loved taking an intermission from her daily drudgery, devoting her lunch break to spend a little quality time together. The conversation usually covered the incompetence or heroic efforts of various co-workers for the particular night. She had only been in her new nursing profession for a couple of months, but was thrilled at the thought of helping save lives on a daily basis. It was a longer commute for her than the last. The graveyard shift made it difficult to visit her during the week. Luckily, this special day of ours fell on a Saturday, and she was absolutely worth the effort. The love we shared often pushed us the extra unselfish mile for each other.
The aroma of the stuffed pasta shells permeated throughout the car during the forty-five-minute drive over the darkened waters of the massive lake, through a somewhat foggy night. The sole light that accompanied me were the headlights of the car and the bright crescent moon, which sat prominently in the sky. Even after fifteen years of marriage, my heart still fluttered with anticipation of seeing her, and the lengthy drive only heightened the joy when I reflected on the our years together. As I turned into the emergency room’s graveled parking area, Chloe was already standing outside in her black scrubs, her face painted in flawless costume makeup. It made her one of the prettiest zombies I had ever seen when she modeled it before she left home for work. Halloween was always one of our favorite celebrations, and this was an ideal night to spend with the woman I love, even it was for only thirty minutes.
After sneaking my way into the employee parking area, I stopped just a few car links away from the staff exit in the building’s rear. I wasn’t fond of the lack of lighting in the space, but along with the fog, it helped sustain my desire not to be discovered by hospital security. My smile and wave greeted her as she started her slow walk to the car. Her face, absent of any joyful expression, hinted to me her night was not going as smoothly as I hoped.
She sat in the car and begin to devour the lunch I prepared; she did not say a word. There wasn’t a glare in my direction either. Usually, it would take only a bite or two before she would give me feedback on a new recipe. That was not the case tonight. She fed as if it had been weeks since she enjoyed a good meal. The fork in her hand aggressively prodded the contents of the container. Her movements stabbed shell after shell. My vibrating phone temporarily interrupted my frustration with her lack of communication. The subtle vibration from the incoming text message was the only break in an otherwise silent car, and the luminous screen brightened an otherwise creepy atmosphere. I peered over at my wife as she continued to eat. Only a fork and food container in hand, ravenous. The sudden stench of sulfur engulfed the car. The smell turned my stomach sour.
“My God. What is that smell?” I said. The rotten odor made it almost impossible to stay in the car, but I wouldn’t dare step foot outside this car without knowing my wife was feeling a little better.
Her head still hung down as her hair fell and impeded my view of her face and the impressive professionally applied Halloween makeup. Chloe must have enjoyed the food because she rendered a laugh at my comment as the phone continued to vibrate. The fork and empty container fell to the floor of the car. It was a type of wicked laugh I had never heard from her before. The deep growl type laughter sent chills down my spine as I unlocked the phone and saw the word ‘Wifey’ displayed on the screen as the sender of the incoming text.
“Hey baby, I hope I caught you before you left home. We are getting slammed tonight. I won’t have time for lunch. Love ya,” the text read.
My hands trembled after I read the message. My heart pounded in my chest, as her ominous laugh became louder and more sinister. I slowly reached out toward her and pulled her hair back away from her face. She turned and stared at me with her pupil-less black eyes and grinned, prominently displaying her tar-colored teeth. Her bloodied, peeled, and blistered skin was grotesque and was not the product of any makeup I had ever seen. Paralyzed with fear, I could only gather one thought in my bewilderment.
If my wife was still inside, what in the hell was sitting next to me?
“Huunnggryy,” it moaned.
It let out a raspy blood curdling scream as it lunged toward me. It’s teeth gripped the flesh of my neck as it ripped open a hole tearing it away from the muscle beneath it. I screamed as it continued to bite and devour my flesh as feverishly as it did the late lunch I prepared. Then everything went black.