Food Chain

by Jason Warden

The sauces were really the key, and learning them came pretty easy. So why that son of a bitch Gavin made me eat a raw onion everyday when I came in, I guess I’ll never know. I can only assume it was some kind of initiation ritual, culinary art school’s answer to “The Shocker”.

Regardless, I ate it.  I wasn’t about to let them make me quit. My dream was on the line.

The outbreak started in California, but no one knew why. The reports gave little in the way of detail; maybe they just didn’t have any. The bottom line: the dead were walking and killing everything in their path.

In our small city, nestled comfortably in the Bible belt, life went on. Of course, the religious nut jobs came out holding their signs about the end times, but living here all my life, they’re just part of the scenery anytime there is a disaster.

I didn’t really worry until the television and radio went dead, but even then we had no reason to believe they would come here. All our dead were still in the ground, and any that were newly dead were cremated.

The day they came the place was packed, of course. Things always seem to happen that way, if I’m running late I can always count on an accident to hold up traffic. If we run out of mushrooms, someone is going to want them. It’s like Murphy’s Law or something.

I was preparing a filet mignon with balsamic glaze, and trying to get the asparagus to stick out of it like a bloom when the front glass crashed in.  I looked and saw them climbing over each other in a tangle of arms, legs, and gnashing teeth. They moaned and gibbered. I stood just staring, holding out the plate. When Chef Gavin (the one who had given me the onion this morning), turned, he ran into me and the plate crashed to the floor. I looked from the asparagus spears spread out on the floor to the bits of crusted sauce, to the crafted piece of meat that would have been someone’s meal, to Gavin, and irrationally wanted to kill him. He pushed me out of the way and I fell over backwards. I watched as he ran out the back emergency exit.

I was angry until the first one made it to the kitchen; he was missing an eye, green slime hung from the empty socket past his chin.  I grabbed a knife and backed away, he shambled forward and then I remembered the freezer. I didn’t turn my back on him; I just backed toward it, pushed open the door and slid inside slamming the bolt home as I pushed the door closed.

Maybe if the power had gone out a day earlier everything would have been different, likewise if had never gone out at all. As it was, I woke up hot, disoriented and covered in cookie dough and rotting meat. Presumably, as I backed away from the door I tripped over the box of precut cookies, and knocked over the rack of meat. It must have fallen over on top of me.

There’s no blood in the freezer, and none on me, but… I’m not breathing. The rack must have hit me in the head. I can’t remember, but I guess I froze to death. It’s odd, I should care, and I know I should, but I don’t. Maybe I’m just an optimist.

I take a watch off the corpse in the dining area. There’s blood smeared over the face. I wipe it away. Tuesday, that means I’ve been in there for three days. I try to imagine how I looked lying in there, frozen. It makes me sad, but then I look around this room and see how much worse it could have been.

I don’t look so bad, a little grey, but much better than any of the dead I’ve seen, either the walking variety or otherwise. They don’t seem to take any notice of me, and none of them can talk. They just stare off into space with their black eyes and moan. They’re pitiful really.

Maybe this is the break I needed, my chance to shine. I could clean this place up, replenish the stock, it shouldn’t be hard at all. I’m thinking that Pinot Nior sauce would do wonders for this meat. It’s just so plain. Who knew we were all so bland. Hell, maybe once the others taste the meat prepared and seasoned they won’t waste so much of it.

I’m going to take a walk down to Jordan Valley, Chef Gavin told me he lived down there. I’ve got a bag of onions, and I’m sure he has the ingredients for the sauce. If not, I won’t complain, he’ll be just fine with the balsamic glaze. As my Dad always said, “I didn’t fight my way to the top of the food chain to become a vegetarian.”

The next installment of this series is here