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I always wondered why my mom hated me being in the kitchen when she cooked. Sure, most moms hate the fact that their children are running rampant while they cook, but my mom was different.
My mom always forbid me from even entering the kitchen when she cooked, to never ask about the basement, and every meal I ate was vegetarian-based while hers was meat-based. Despite these oddities, I always wished to taste what she ate, to enjoy what she deprived me of. At least until my 13th birthday.
I remember this day almost too vividly: it was a nice summer's breeze, the
temperature was just right in terms of warmth, and there were no clouds in the sky. It was the last Saturday in July, and my mom allowed me to invite several of my friends over for a sleep over party. I had invited mainly my guy friends, but I especially made sure my crush Sarah and her friends would make it. Before the vast majority of my friends showed up, my best friend Jason had made sure to stay the night so he could be there before anyone else. We had talked all night, planning what we would do the entire day and which activities would be more enjoyable. Naturally, as guys we figured a water balloon fight would be awesome, and we could transition that into the pool. My mom did not disagreed with these ideas, hinting that we should plan more events, so we were stoked for when people showed up.
It was around noon when the first group of guests showed up, and while people were coming, we moved them from the front of the house towards the back so that they could enjoy the pool and relax. When Sarah showed up, I completely forgot I had a party, and diverted all of my attention to her, making sure she had a good time and would not want to leave early. In between staying glued to her and entertaining my guests, I became parched and proceeded to head into the kitchen to get a glass of water. As I walked in, I happened to see that my mom cutting up what looked like chicken and putting it into the oven.
She seemed to have caught a whiff of my presence, as she quickly jolted up and gave me this vexed stare, as if I shouldn't have seen what she was doing. I could feel the goosebumps on the back of my neck stand on edge, and all the heat I previously felt from outside quickly turned into an ice cold shiver down my spine, leaving me motionless. My mom quickly changed demeanor, as she went from this cold entity to her usual, glowing self. She asked me, “Eric, how would you like to have a taste of what I eat, and if you like it, you can enjoy more of it?” Before I could think, I had ecstatically replied in glee at the thought that I could finally have what she had. “Eric, before you get too excited, my one condition is that you have to wait until tomorrow morning; I will make sure you get to enjoy a full day's worth, okay?” I agreed to the terms, and continued to get my glass of water before heading back outside.
The rest of the evening was spent playing tag, splashing water, singing songs around a campfire, all for it to end with everybody singing happy birthday to me with a cake made by my mom. Soon after, we all headed to bed; the boys slept in my room while the girls slept in the guest room. The following morning, I woke up to see that the guys in my room were gone. Not thinking any of it, I sneaked into the guest room, only to see the same thing. I was especially worried seeing as how I didn't see Sarah, so I rushed downstairs and asked my mom about the whereabouts of my friends. She looked at me and gave this welcoming smile while telling me they had gone home early, and that if I am that worried about them, that I should give their parents a call.
Worried? Of course I was worried. I had started to go into a panic trying to scramble up the phone numbers to each house, although I was mainly worried for Jason and Sarah's sake. As I called each house, each parent had said that their child had made it back, but that they were under the weather. That's weird, seeing as how everyone was fine just last night and now they're sick. Needless to say, the phone calls started to soothe my racing heart with each parent answering the same answers, although I was still perplexed about this sudden illness. My mom came to me, trying to distract my rushing thoughts with a plate of steak and eggs. “Hey, I did say you could enjoy meat today, didn't I? Might as well enjoy it now and not fret over them, for they are fine.”
I heeded my mother's advice, and took my first bite into the steak. Oh my goodness!! The flavor was enchanting, and I enjoyed it almost too much as I had not noticed the blood from the steak dribbling from the corner of my mouth. “I didn't know how well to cook it because I normally like my meat rare. I hope it's good son.” She had this look in her eyes as if she was wishing that I would savor every bite. “Mom, this is seriously amazing!! Can I stay a meat eater from now on?” She started laughing, but some could easily mistake that for a cackle. While I had this bewildered look on my face, she leaned in closer, gently caressed my cheek, and said in this uncanny voice “Baby, you can eat whatever your heart desires.”
Throughout the day, she steadily prepared porkchops, hamburgers, turkey, baked chicken, and anything else that I had been deprived of. Anything she made, I gobbled up as if I hadn't eaten prior to the meal. Although I was thoroughly enjoying these meals, with each dish she brought out, her facial expressions changed from warm and inviting to frightening. Her smile transformed into a sinister grin; her eyes became cold and empty, and her speech changed from soft to harsh and scratchy. I had finally had enough to eat, but at this point I had to address her sudden change in appearance. Without even a blink, she turned around and told me to follow her. We headed outside to the back where the entrance to the basement was; still padlocked like always but this time the lock was a different color. She unlocked it with the key hanging around her neck and said “Come with me Eric, I forgot your last present.” What welcomed me in the basement horrifies me to this very day.
As we walked down the steps, she moved towards the right, more so hugging it to find the light switch. When she had cut the lights on, my eyes were greeted to two long rows of cages along the back wall, each containing one or more people. They all had tape covering their eyes and mouths, and their heads had been shaved clean. Upon closer inspection, each person was a friend from the party, and had something missing from them; some had fingers removed while others had their legs completely hacked off. To my right, several shelves hosted what looked like fetuses, still with the umbilical cord attached, and in front of these shelves was a large table with all sorts of power tools hanging above it. Most notable was the power saw, which was stained red from, what I'm assuming is blood, all of the bodies it has cut through. There was a single drain in the middle of the floor, surrounded by old and new splatters of blood. To my left were refrigerators, and each fridge had a different name on it, but each name was as horrifying as the last. The one closest to me was labeled “Organs,” followed by “Tissue,” “Skin,” and finally “Appendages.”
I couldn't even muster up a word to say as I was paralyzed from pure terror. My gaping eyes found its way back to my mother, who had now begun to see the terror in my eyes. Despite her ragged look she attained while feeding me, she was back to her usual self once she began confronting me. “It's okay son, I know you may not approve of this initially, but there's a reason behind everything. You see, I'm what you call a specialist. I am a master chef of the human anatomy; people all over the world pay me to cook humans. Even the neighbors, yes the ones you called, paid a hefty price to taste some of my cooking. See, humans aren't as good dead as they are alive, which is why I keep them alive and locked up. Once a person dies, the blood coagulates, causing the tissue to become tough. However, if you happen to cut, or hack, off a piece while they are alive, the meat is nice and tender, well, if you preserve it fast enough. In addition, the hair on a person's head does tend to get in the way when I'm trying to extract the brain and cerebral fluids, so I tend to shave them while they're out cold.”
“So you just kidnap my friends, cut them up gradually and c-c-c--.” I couldn't bring myself to finish that statement, as now tears were pouring in streams down my face. All of my friends were just meat to whoever wanted to taste, and I am sure I had tasted a good portion of them. Before I knew it, my stomach gave in and I had rushed outside and hurled large chunks all over the grass. My mom calmly walked back out, caressed my back and said “Don't worry Eric, I would never harm you like this. In addition, don't get mad at me for doing this, be mad at the other parents for wanting me to do this. Oh and if you're wondering, Sarah and Jason were the first to go. I couldn't bear keeping them alive knowing you would find out, so I made them into the meals you ate today.”
20 years have gone by, and while I've moved out of the house, I always keep in constant contact with my mother. I never fully understood why she kept going back and forth between her usual self and this “witch persona” she embodied, but then again there was a lot I chose not to ask. It seems the entire town was well aware of her “secrets,” but have chosen to indulge in it as long as they aren't the victims. I always think about Sarah and Jason, which is why I've chosen to live a mostly vegan life, but every now and then I come back home to get one or two plates of mom's cooking.