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It’s too hot to get out of Hell’s Kitchen. It seemed like a brilliant idea at the time. After inheriting her grandmother's old cookbook, Helena decided to throw a dinner party for the ages, inviting her friends and even her boss! Then everything went wrong. The stove caught fire. The cat stole one of her filets. She even bit her tongue! And now her dinner plans could not be any more ruined because she’s accidentally summoned a demon. Now everything is going… right? The dinner was amazing, her friends are thrilled and her boss would like to talk to her about a promotion! And of course she would never be so foolish as to again summon the demon…. This story contains sexual content, suicide, and other adult themes that may be triggering for some readers. Connect with Megan Mackie at http://meganmackieauthor.com Check out more books by 4 Horsemen Publications at http://4horsemenpublications.com Artwork by Oxford Craik Cover by Autumn Skye
Helena smiled smugly as she flipped through her grandmother’s cookbook, surrounded by the smells of ginger and cinnamon from her freshly bought supplies. Her cousin had wanted the precious heirloom so badly, but Helena had prevailed. It was hers now. This hadn’t been about ability or who had the actual skills to cook or not. This was a precious piece of her beloved Nana, and she deserved it as much as anyone.
Turning the pages of the old musty book, she slid her fingers past the printed text to touch on her grandmother’s scrawled handwriting in the margins. The old woman should have been a famous chef; she was such a genius in the kitchen. But this was all that remained of that lost legacy. The cookbook may have started out as a church creation from the 1930s, complete with the cheap black spiral binding and laminated cover, but now it was a unique thing in its own right. Every blank page in the back had been filled with original recipes as well as every inch of margin, either adding to or correcting what had been printed.
Finding the page she desired, Helena slapped her hands together. “Alright, let’s get to cooking!” she declared. There were three hours before her dinner guests came and she was going to make them a home cooked meal or die trying. “The Seven Dish Course for Eight!”
The instructions seemed straightforward at first. Chop this, dice that, stew and sauté and set to simmer.
It all should have been so simple.
“What the hell is wrong with the spinach?” Helena shouted, though no one in her empty apartment heard her aside from the cat. The smoke billowed into her face as she leaned over the book, desperately flipping the pages to get back to the one she wanted about greens. “Place the freshly washed spinach in the pan and sauté with oil … but what the hell does sauté even mean? Doesn’t it mean to just move it about? I thought that was what I was doing, so why is it burning?” She gave the pan a spin with her spatula, then tapped it three times on the edge while wiping her nose, which had started running from all the smoke, with a potholder.
Her timer dinged.
“Dammit—the buns…!” Helena reached for the hot pad to pull out the lumps of bread on a warping cooking sheet when she bumped the saucepan handle on the other burner. It went careening to the ground, slapping the white sauce in a slash across her tiled floor.
“No! Don’t—Pooka!” she shouted as her black cat snatched one of the fish filets from the tray on the counter and ran off. “Dammit! You traitor!” She spun in a circle counterclockwise trying to catch the cat, only for it to make a full speed circuit twice before escaping for a corner.
Before she could give chase, more smoke billowed out of her oven.
“What now?!” She set the cooking sheet in her hands where her sauce had been and looked in the oven. When she had been distracted by the cat, a couple of buns had dropped off inside and were now igniting on the bottom into merry balls of flame.
“Oh crap!” she cried and grabbed for the fire extinguisher provided by the house’s previous owners. She pulled the pin and directed the hose at the flames only for a pathetic amount of white, watery goop to plop out the end. “Oh dear, Lord!” She shook it hard, and another spurt of goop came out, a small burst that was more like what she had expected. It gave the inside of the oven a nice, if thin, coat of white film before dying almost immediately. At least it had been enough to put out the fire at the bottom.
“God dammit all to hell!” she coughed, tossing the useless fire extinguisher to the side. “Okay, you know what? No one really cares about the dinner if you have a really fantastic dessert. So just get it together, regroup, and focus on—”
Then she remembered.
The cake she had been baking with the buns now had splotches of whatever had been in the fire extinguisher. She slapped the dishtowel she had been preparing to use to pull the cake onto the open door of the oven in disgust and anger. And then she slipped on the extinguisher foam on the floor. The cake pan went skyward to land with a crash on the open oven door. Helena landed hard on her butt and bit the edge of her tongue.
Tears burned in her eyes when she slapped her hands over her mouth. She could taste the metal of blood as horrid pain pulsed. All she could do was sit there and sob a few moments. After those few moments, the pain subsided, and she spit the tiny piece of her tongue she had bitten off into the sink along with bright slaps of blood. Quickly, she went to her freezer and retrieved an ice cube from the icemaker to hold against her tongue-cut.
Taking in a shuddering breath as the cold seeped in, she grabbed for her grandmother’s cookbook again. “It’s okay. It’s okay. Don’t give up,” she told herself, snuffling back her liquidy nose and brushing back the snot into her frizzing, rose-gold hair. She flipped desperately through the pages until she reached the last one before the index. At the top in bold, calligraphy-like letters read: “In Case of Emergencies.”
A poem seemed to be written underneath, but if anything qualified as an emergency, this did. Tossing the ice cube into the sink, she focused on the flowery cursive words.
“Stir once and tap three times, spin widdershins, and spit your tongue, take a deep breath and say three times, ‘Tribblespins, tribblespins, tribblespin’,” she read aloud. “What the fu—?”
Just then another alarm went off. “Oh! Now what!” Then all the alarms went off, including her phone, the oven timer, and her coffee machine. It was so loud, Helena had to cover her ears, letting the book drop to the ground.
On the floor of her kitchen, lines of fire appeared, etching out a circle that filled in with a pentagram. Words in a language Helena couldn’t read ignited with bursts of scorching white fire and she swore she heard disembodied whispers sweep around her and down her spine as if carried on their own wind. Then a vacuum of silence swallowed all the sounds, exerting painful pressure on Helena’s ears and sinuses.
Then the center of the kitchen … exploded.
Helena screamed as she fell backward, hitting the baking sheet off the top of the stove. Her burned buns went flying.
More smoke billowed up, thinning as it rose and stinking like sulfur and patchouli. As it cleared, a demon sat in the middle of a blackened circle of what had once been white linoleum. He looked up from his crouched position, just as a bun hit him in the face. Swiping it off, he stood. He was enormous, easily six foot five with horns that added another half foot. He wore little to nothing but a gray apron wrapped around his middle that matched his gray skin. His eyes burned like twin suns, the pupils moving to look down at her with pinpricks of white-yellow light. He seemed unhealthily thin.
The demon looked down at Helena crouched terrified on the floor before him, then turned to appraise the room, his eyes going wide.
“What—what the hell did you do?!” he said.