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The Andersons Invite You To The

ANDERSON FAMILY BBQ BASH!

This Friday, July 12th at 6 PM

Bring A Dish To Share! Libations Are Welcome As Well!

You frown, and crumple up the overly decorated invitation, tossing it over your shoulder. Fucking Andersons. Stuck up bunch of snobs, is what they are. They’ve got the biggest yard, the greenest lawn, the reddest car, the best salary, and they’re never afraid to show it to everyone around them.

This whole party is just going to be a ploy to shove their wealth in your face some more. You’re not by any means struggling financially, but you are frugal and everyone in the neighborhood knows your job isn’t super interesting. You’re a maintenance worker for a tech company. Not a programmer, high programmer, or oracle. Just a maintenance worker. You’re fine with that.

Doesn’t mean others are, though.

The Andersons are balls-deep in the tech industry. Frank Anderson has shares in all the major companies. He’s not even making money that way, he just owns a bunch of shares because it’s more stuff he can own. It often feels like that’s his only goal in life: owning stuff.

Lisanne Anderson was a critic. She ran a column in the local newspaper, where she shat all over anything anyone dared to bring out that could even be remotely identified as “creative”. She quit the job after getting a letterbomb mailed to her, and realizing that her husband made enough money just by existing.

You’re not sure why you live here, to be honest. Okay, it was because the rent was low. That’s about all the pros you can manage. The cons are far more numerous. Your neighbors are all assholes. You haven’t any friends in this neighborhood, and judging by the people who “greet” you on the bus, you’d prefer to keep it that way. It’s hard enough to deal with them during your commute, let alone having to deal with them during a party… or whatever these milquetoast dicks think a party is.

You sit down on your comfy, but well-worn and lightly stained couch. Doesn’t make much sense, such a run-down piece of shit apartment building right at the edge of a rich suburb. When you saw the listing for it, you thought it was a scam at first. Then you saw the actual building.

In stark contrast to the neighboring houses, with well-kept lawns and nauseously bright-painted picket fences, the apartment building is a gray-brown monolith standing out like a turd in a ball pit. Half the windows are smashed in. The elevator smells like hobo urine, and the porch smells vaguely of seafood, which is odd considering the nearest boardwalk is in another state.

Maybe you should go. If only to make contact with another human being again. Sure, your mom calls every now and then, and you mumble out a quick good morning to your colleagues every day, but that hardly expands your social circle. A dish to share, though. That’s a tough one. If you don’t bring anything, you’ll seem like even more of a jackass than you already do. If you do bring something, it’s going to stand in contrast to the lobster and caviar these fucks are probably eating. Then again, it’s a barbecue. Not really a fancy way of slapping some meat on a hot surface until its almost burnt.

You’ll just bring some hotdogs. It’s a Friday, after all. You think you have some lying around in your fridge. You were probably just going to slam them in a pan of boiling water or just eat them cold. Might as well enjoy an actual grilled hotdog while you’re out mingling with the jerks. Might as well put on a clean pair of pants, too. Oh, and take that bottle of scotch. They probably have some fancy wine there, so you mostly are bringing it just in case you need to numb your mind.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

“Hi! We are SO glad you came!”

“Heh… yeah, me too. I mean, I’m glad I’m here too.”

“Okay… well, go ahead and leave your… food… on the table over there.”

Passive aggressive bitch.

You grab the bowl from your bag, rip open the bag of hotdogs, and dump the contents in. There we go. No one can say you’re not an excellent guest now. You pause and survey the other consumables on the table. Seems normal enough. Burgers, sausages, ribs. All that good stuff. Bowls of coleslaw, and a few deviled eggs.

You’re almost starting to like these people. Almost. You scoff at the fact that there doesn’t appear to be a single bottle of hot sauce anywhere. Of course. That stuff is like kryptonite to these guys. Even the mustard is mild. If you’re lucky, you can sneak in a few extra cracks of black pepper on your burger to give it SOME flavor.

You look around you. Oh god, everyone knows eachother. Except you. You don’t even know anyone’s name, except the hosts. What are you doing here? You could be at home, eating cold hotdogs and drinking slightly rust-contaminated water. Okay, it’s not so bad here. There’s food and such. Act like you know how to socialize, damn it. Oh god, that guy is walking right towards you.

“Hey, haven’t seen you around here before!”

“Yeah, I’ve only lived here since four months ago or so…”

“Ah, that explains. Anyways, welcome to the neighbourhood, sport!”

“Yeah…”

The guy walks off to pour himself some lemonade. Lemonade! These people aren’t rich enough for wine and caviar, and not poor enough for hotdog water and dog food. What a bunch of posers. Alright, stop being negative. At least this means no inebriated suburban dads bumbling around vomiting on your shoes. You take a sip yourself. Eugh. There’s not even sugar in this, and you’d be surprised if lemon was actually one of the ingredients.

Right, gotta stay healthy, huh.

“Excuse me! Would you like a snack?”

You turn around and are faced with a lady armed with a large platter filled up with little cubes of cheese on skewers and sausage chunks. So that’s what goes for a snack around here. You grab a sausage chunk, and stick it in your mouth. Tastes like sausage. You’re not sure what you expected.

You mutter out a “thank you” to the lady, but she has already moved on to the next guest. You stand near the drinks table, awkwardly ogling the others. At least the weather is nice. A single wasp lazily buzzes around the lemonade beaker, seemingly bored shitless and not even inclined to sting anyone here, despite being a creature of pure evil. Seems they have a symbiotic relationship with lame backyard bbq parties.

To kill a bit of time, you decide to count the amount of polo shirts on the battlefield. You get to seven before just giving up out of depression. Finally, it’s six thirty. Food time. You see Frank light the barbecue, and immediately toss a slab of raw hamburger meat on it. Jesus, Frank. Patience. Hope you like E. Coli.

You queue up with the others, with two hotdog wieners and a burger on your plate. You’re mildly concerned about drip contaminating your cooked food later on, but whatever. This place already gives you the runs. A little food poisoning won’t make the situation any worse than it already is.

Frank smiles at you. Your turn, sport. You hand him your plate. God, couldn’t they just throw a bunch of food on the BBQ and just have everyone grab whatever they want? No, of course not. That’s not proper. Besides, this gives a great excuse for Frank to chat everyone up without them being able to run away.

“Nice weather, huh?”

“Yeah…”

“Y’know, me and my son Ricky went out to the park earlier today. Do you have kids?”

“I-“

“Hahaha, I’m just messing with ya! Good lookin’ person such as yourself is still free, right? Heh, trust me. Kids. Don’t even begin with it.”

You are seriously considering throwing yourself on the grill.

Finally. Frank dumps your food on your plate. You walk over to the coleslaw and get yourself a bit, as well as a single slice of baguette with some cream cheese. Fair enough. You don’t think you’re supposed to be full at the end of these kinds of parties anyways. When you get home, there’s still a TV dinner waiting for you in the freezer.

You sit down at the edge of the table, and start eating a bite or two. Yep. Tastes exactly how you’d expect it to taste. Bland, saltless and tasteless. Sure, those TV dinners you throw in the back of your throat every now and then aren’t gourmet cuisine either, but at least they have some salt in them goddamn it.

Lisanne and Frank, of course, are both seated at the head and foot of the table. It’s a long table, too. You suspect it’s less because of suburban etiquette and more because they can’t stand being near eachother for longer than fifteen minutes. No one besides you is eating yet, and you sheepishly put down your fork after your first two bites upon realizing this.

“Alright, everyone! Let’s raise a glass to our lovely community, our lovely lawns, and our lovelier weather!”

Everyone chuckles politely at Frank’s odd toast, and raises a glass. You go along, raising a glass of fine vintage apple juice. Lisanne mumbles something that might be a prayer, and the rest of the table joins in. You just clasp your hands and pretend you know what you’re doing. What religion are these folks even in? It’d be impolite to ask. Finally, everyone starts eating. The mustachioed father figure next to you is loudly chewing on a tough strip of charred brisket. You take a bite of the coleslaw. Oh god, it’s pretty much just mayonnaise and lettuce. Lisanne looks at you expectantly, and you take another bite out of a desire to be polite, taking care not to gag at the acidity.

Your burger is lukewarm at this point. So is the apple juice. This might be the most disappointing place on earth. The lady opposite of you is snacking on a bowl of salted peanuts. Oh god, that’s a bad sign. You read that on the internet once. You chew absentmindedly on the lukewarm meat in your mouth. You’re not sure where your tongue ends and the burger begins.

It is 7:15 when everyone finishes eating. By this point, everyone is just socializing with eachother, while you stare at your slightly greasy paper plate. The man next to you bumps your shoulder with his elbow.

“So, do you like it around here?”

“Uh, yeah. I guess. You’re all very friendly and welcoming, but I think I should go soon. Got work in the morning, heh.”

You absolutely do not have work the next morning.

“Ah, I understand. WE understand. Don’t worry about it, sport. You don’t want to miss dessert!”

“Yeah…”

You brace yourself as Lisanne returns to the table, putting down a large bowl of… stuff.

“Oh my, Lisanne! What kind of treat do you have for us today!”

“Simple, Albert. Tiramisu. My recipe.”

She puts a scoop (yes, a scoop) of “tiramisu” on everyone’s plate. She sits down again, with a slightly pissed expression.

“Bon appetit.”

You take a bite. It’s uh… It’s not horrible or anything. Thing is, tiramisu is supposed to have liquor with an actual taste in it. You can pretty much smell the rubbing alcohol as if you were drinking it from the bottle. You might not need that emergency bottle of scotch after all, if you have a dessert like this. You eat a quarter of it and leave the rest, wanting to not puke up your liver.

Frank stands up, and raises his glass again.

“Alright, everyone. Settle down. I want to bring out another toast, this time to our guest of honor.”

Everyone’s gaze snaps to you. Oh dear. Frank raises his empty glass higher, and gets a wistful stare in his eyes. He is no longer smiling.

“To you, my dear guest, we raise our glass. Now, I want the rest of my guests to know that an outsider engaging in communion is the most respectful thing they could have done. You have my thanks.”

“Uh… no problem?”

You’re sweating now. This is getting weird.

The mustachioed man is staring intently at you. Lisanne is fidgeting with her fork.

“May you live forever in the Lawn of Eden.”

Wait, what? Oh HELL no.

You stand up, just in time for Lisanne, who has snuck up behind you, to miss your neck and stab you in the lower back. You cry out in pain, and turn around, shoving her out of your way.

“BRING HIM TO ME.”

Frank’s voice is a booming roar at this point. The people at the table are standing up, and moving towards you. You dive out of the way, and run off towards the house proper. Can’t climb a fence with these fucks chasing you. That never ends well. Gotta call the police. Grabbing your cell phone from your pocket, you run off into the Andersons’ house, sliding the glass door shut, causing the mustachioed man from earlier to comically smack against it face-first.

“WE WILL HAVE OUR COMMUNION.”

You run into the living room, tossing over some kitchen chairs in an effort to slow your pursuers down. You notice dark shadows moving in front of the front door. Better not try to go that way. You pull a large flatscreen TV off the wall, and toss it in the general direction of the kitchen you came from. Even if that didn’t help in the long run, it at least means you had some minor satisfaction in your last moments.

You hear the sound of glass being smashed in, and you know enough about horror movies to know that means they’re coming in through the windows. Gotta think quick. You dash up the stairs, down a hallway, grab a garish painting from the wall, and toss it down the stairs. It collides with a rather disheveled lady, who plummets down, taking a fork-wielding old man with her.

You rush further up, into the attic. God, this place is a maze. Large unlabeled crates strewn about. Ideal hiding place. You close the door, and shove one of the crates against it. Finally, some room to breathe. You slump against a crate, and feel your back. Your hand is immediately dyed a bright crimson. Figures. Why do your attempts at socializing like a normal human being always bring you in contact with people who are even weirder than you?

Not much time to think. The door shakes on its hinges as Frank attempts to throw himself through it, shoulder-first.

“COME OUT! YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE OUR HOST!”

You just sit there and hug your knees, hoping that the combined strength of the crate and the door itself manages to hold against 37 years of failed diet attempts and stress eating.

“It could have been so beautiful. You would have been part of something so much bigger. You ruined it. All of it.”

Slam. Slam. Slam.

Crack.

The hinges have given out. You peek from behind the crate and see Frank’s arm reach out of the gap in the door and start pushing against the crate.

“Everyone was in one place. They still are. You have accomplished nothing but sow more chaos. Chaos that we are attempting to cure. Come to me.”

You look on in horror, and desperately scramble away, attempting to find anything, ANYTHING to use as a weapon. You find salvation in the form of a loose plank on one of the crates. You grunt and strain as you attempt to dislodge the plank. Splinters embed in your palm, but at this point your nervous system is too adrenaline-soaked to even register the pain. The plank snaps off, revealing the contents of the crate: a massive amount of lemonade bottles. You don’t get the time to ponder the relevance of the lemonade as Frank tears away the crate blocking the door with his bare, bleeding hands.

“COME TO US.”

Frank runs up to you, and lunges. At just the right moment, you scramble to the left as Frank collides with the very same crate you just ruined. The bottles shatter, and Frank turns around, hissing and wiping the lemonade from his eyes. You, however, don’t give him the time to recover.

Thwap.

Your opportunistic strike seemed to have effect. Frank yelps in pain as you deliver a fierce blow to his torso. While normally such a vigorous assault would result in a cracked rib or two, you gasp as your improvised bludgeon meets very little resistance in the form of a pulpy mass on the inside of his torso. Frank cracks a grin at you as his eyes roll back into his skull.

“I hope you didn’t truly believe that’d work, sport.”

You overcome your shock and raise the plank again, and aim for Frank’s abhorrent smile.

Thwap.

Frank holds his heavily bruised right arm in pain, cackling madly. Sick fuck tried blocking you. Again.

Thwap.

Again.

Thwap.

Again.

Squelch.

Again.

Squelch.

Again.

You start tearing into him with your bare hands at this point, ripping into his eyes with your fingers and digging your nails into his skin. Black fluid spills from his wounds, and Frank won’t stop laughing. He won’t. Stop. Laughing. Lost in the red mist covering your mind, you wail on him with your fists. His stupid face just won’t cave in. His teeth get smashed onto the floor. You get an idea.

You undo your belt, and strangle Frank with it. He just stares at you, gurgling. A vile black liquid oozes from between his lips, staining your hands and his shirt. You just want to go home.

With surprising strength for a man whose face is almost entirely concave at this point, Frank grabs your hands, and pulls you forward, smashing you into the wall. You groan in pain as every muscle in your body protests against your current activities, and sincerely request your brain to stop it.

Frank just stands there, giggling. You watch in horror as the rest of the partygoers walk into the room, brandishing barbecue skewers and cleavers. This isn’t going well.

“Don’t you see? No one will miss you. No one will notice you leaving. Be our vessel. I implore you.”

The air is heavy with grease. You decide that if you’re going to die, you are at least going to get some goddamned answers.

“What… what is this all for? Why are you doing this?”

Frank cocks his head, puzzled at your desire for answers. He motions for his followers to halt. Lisanne stands next to him, equally confused.

“Why do you ask?”

“Dunno, just thought it’d be weird to get killed without knowing why.”

“Huh. Fair enough.”

Frank visibly relaxes.

“Alright, imagine, if you will, a sort of sausage, right? It’s on the barbecue, and it’s roasting nice and crisp. Next to it is a peanut.”

“Sure.”

“That peanut just sort of rotates around, not really getting any heat since the sausage already absorbs it all. That make sense to you?”

“Uh… I guess?”

“There you go.”

“Ah, okay.”

You barely have the time to process the answer before you feel a sharp pain in your neck, and then nothing ever again.

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