The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
One Perfect Burger
by Mary Ann Peden-Coviello
“All right, you damned souls, listen up.” The demon in charge stood beside a long conveyor belt. Behind the belt loomed massive, vaguely ominous, barbeque grills. At the demon’s back burned the pits of Hell. The demon addressed the terrified group of damned souls, an assortment of suburban dads, who’d been assigned to him for torment. “You men neglected your families while you sought to possess the greenest lawn, the shiniest car, and the showiest mistress in your status-obsessed little communities. Now you’re here, and you’ll be dealing with the Boss. You have one chance to avoid that.” As he said ‘that.’ the demon jerked a claw-tipped thumb over one scaly shoulder toward the flames behind him. “Grill the perfect hamburger for the Boss and win a Get Out of Hell pass. Fail, and the Hell pits await. And there’s only one pass. First perfect burger wins.”
The men stampeded to the grills, elbowing, clawing, and punching. Shouts and curses rang out as they tried to light the grills, burning their fingers. Demons prowled up and down the line and dragged away those who burned themselves (“Nah, you’ve lost. Might as well get used to the sizzle early. Haw haw haw.”) or flipped their burgers onto the cobbles that ran beneath their feet (“Tough luck, sinner. The Boss won’t eat that.”) The damned screamed as demons flung them over the edge and into the depths of Hell.
When a few men succeeded in grilling their burgers, the head demon snapped his fingers, and the conveyor belt jerked into motion. Cries of dismay filled the air along with demonic laughter as the first grills and cooks tumbled into the fiery pits.
“Cook faster! Time’s running out – so to speak.” The demon bent double at his own joke, snorting with laughter. He turned to an underling. “The Boss was right. Giving them hope and then snatching it away is a fine torment.” He had to shout to be heard over the shrieks of the last of the damned as they fell, some clinging to the hot grills to the final second in their doomed attempts to grill a burger – any burger—and save themselves.
Fiction © Copyright Mary Ann Peden-Coviello
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Mary Ann Peden-Coviello:
Women write horror and have written it since before Mary Shelley wrote FRANKENSTEIN. This anthology is to highlight the fact women write great horror and to kill the fallacy that they aren’t in some way up to standard. They are. Read here stories by Elizabeth Massie, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Lucy Taylor, and a plethora of other great writers as they work on your nerves, get inside your head, and bang out some of the scariest tales written today. I’m proud to present these women for your consideration, as Rod Serling might say, as I ask you to step into FRIGHT MARE. Lock the door and windows, put on a light, and remember, it’s not real. It’s not real. Midnight awaits, monsters scheme to take you away, the strange and weird wait in the shadows, but it’s not real. Is it?
Edited by Billie Sue Mosiman, the author who brought you the SINISTER-TALES OF DREAD collections and her latest suspense novel, THE GREY MATTER.