EXCERPT (This is from a short story featured in the Fantasy/SF collection “Tales From Beyond Tomorrow” Volume One).
DRUM ROLL OF COLONIAL FISH
Poached mullet marinated for twenty-four hours in a sauce of milk, rosolio liquer, capers and red pepper; poach lightly. Just before serving the fish, open it and stuff it with date jam interspersed with discs of banana and slices of pineapple. It will then be eaten to a continual rolling of drums.
– from ‘The Futurist Cookbook’
It is a well-known fact that while waiting in a supermarket queue, a common obsession is to stare into the baskets and trolleys held by the people standing next to you.
There, you may see the hoarde of the closet bulimics with their exquisite, nuerotic marriage of a Lean Cuisine lasagne and a frozen blueberry cheesecake. Or the unmarried drones, with their bulk-buying of precooked meals. Or the veterans of tinned steak and kidney pies and corned beef, still nostalgic for food that was rationed and piping hot.
Such is the stalking ground of the Whispering Sisters.
Take the young man standing in the queue, here at the Camden branch of Sainsbury’s. Slowly he becomes aware of the slow burn feeling on his neck, telling him he is being watched.
He has fallen under their spell.
Looking around, he catches the eye of the woman standing next to him, hands resting on the shopping trolley. Chestnut-brown hair, swept back with a multi-colured headband. An expensive business twin-suit, in a shimmering colour difficult to name. Attentive eyes, with no trace of the glazed disinterest of ordinary city-dwellers.
Full lips that open as she leans closer to his bewildered face.
“I think the cashier’s waiting to serve you,” she says.
After they have both been served, pleasantries are exchanged in the area where the trolleys are deposited, until the young man enthusiastically helps her carry her shopping to her car. The Sister has chosen
well; the young man is absurdly open to hypnotic suggestion. He is left simmering for five
minutes until the Sister has driven away, and his head finally clears. He comes to with a start sitting in his own Volvo, staring at the wrong bag of shopping lying on the passenger seat.
Back in the security of her apartment, the Housewife carries the switched Sainsburys bag to the kitchen table. The doors are bolted, the blessing is said, and the long, serrated knife is prepared for use.
The bag is slit cleanly down the middle under the piercing thrust of the knife. The shopping spills out onto the formica kitchen top; canned, packaged, frozen, fresh, wrapped, bottled. The Sister’s eyelids and lips twitch as she intently reads the entrails of this sacrificial offering.
At length, once the augurs have been divined, she turns away with a frown. She retrieves her mobile phone from her handbag, and dials.
“Charles? This is Alison … I think you’re in some sort of trouble.”
2: WORD SALAD
SLIPS OF THE TONGUE IN MADEIRA SAUCE
Boil tongue until tender (about 1 hour) in lightly salted water. Meanwhile, saute a handful of fresh mushrooms in butter and oil, with a tbs. of chopped onions or shallots. Add 1 cup of the water in which the tongue has been boiling and 1 tbs. tomato paste. Boil for several minutes until reduced to a few tbs. Add a glass of madeira with a tbs. of arrowroot stirred in. Boil until sauce thickens. When tongue is tender, remove the skin and cut into slips of about 2 inches each. Add to Madeira sauce. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper and serve topped with parsley.
– from ‘Freud’s Own Cookbook’.
The absence of storm within the restaurant ceased momentarily, and Mr. X stepped from the kitchen into the interior. By the side entrance, a shadow stood in rain-drenched overcoat and hat. This was the belated
arrival of Mr. Y.
“It’s a foul night,” the newcomer commented.
“It is indeed.” Mr. X advanced, and the two men greeted each other with the customary clandestine salute. “I was starting to get a little concerned about you.”
“There’s an all-night sitting in the House, and the Euro-Rebels are stirring things up again. There were some eyebrows raised when I slipped away, I can tell you.”
“No lasting repurcussions, I hope?”
“Nothing I can’t take care of.”
“Good, because our honored guest is waiting. He’s in the fridge.”
The two men stepped through the hushed shadows of the restaurant, the taller man taking off his dripping coat as Mr. X led him to the cloakroom.
“There has been talk,” the visitor said as he slipped his coat onto a hangar, “that the annual dinner might not run so smoothly this year.”
“Problems?” Mr. X’s dark, narrow face was instantly alert.
“Possibly. Charles got a call from one of the Whispering Sisters this afternoon. She was contracted to make a divination for us, just to be on the safe side. The augers say that the Benandanti might be planning something for us tomorrow, but I’m afraid she couldn’t be more specific.”
A long, wheezing sigh. “Tomorrow…that doesn’t give us much time to increase security arrangements, you know.”
“Awfully sorry to be the bearer of bad news.”
“I hope you’re not suggesting…”
“Cancellation? Of the annual dinner? Out of the question.”
There was a long moment of speculation in the warm, humid silence; then Mr. X snorted and gave a shrug. “Well, time’s getting on. If we’re having Donald for dinner, we can’t keep him hanging around all night.”
The restaurant owner guided Mr. X through the brightly illuminated kitchen to the solid, intimidating entrance to the walk-in cold room. Unfastening the bolts, he swung it open, releasing a white mist of water vapour.
The refrigerator was stocked with segments of cow, pig, and rarer animals that beared their exposed ribs and inner cavities to the two men stepping carefully along the slippery floor towards the back. Mr. X switched on a torch that he held in his gloved hands. Sliding aside a metal folding partition, Mr. X held up the torch to examine his guest.
“Now then, Donald, let’s have a look at you.”
Donald Oughton hung from a specially-made harness, naked, his body almost entirely plastered with thick, off-white waxed paper. The bumpy contours of his body hinted at the truth concealed by the paper; he had been gutted.
Eight days ago, once Oughton had fallen completely under the sedative that Mr. X had himself administered, the master chef set to work, draining blood from the still-living body. A three-foot catheter had been inserted into the inferior vena cava then threaded through to the heart, with the pumping action of that organ emptying the body of its blood supply. Mr. X had helped it along, of course, with a little shaking and pushing. That had cut down the risk of bacterial infection, and considerably slowed the process of decay.
With the accuracy of a surgeon, Mr. X had skinned Oughton and removed the abdominal organs. Most of these had been consigned to the restaurant incinerator. Specially selected organs were then removed and set aside, including the specialty Mr. X had liberated by sawing open the skull.
Oughton had then been slipped into the harness and hung in the cold room at a steady 5 degrees centigrade. Over the period of eight days, the rigor mortis had gradually faded, as the glycogen in Oughton’s muscles broke down into lactic acid and started to soften the fibre. To aid the conditioning process, he had been liberally smeared with a certain tenderizing powder of Mr. X’s own devising, then covered up with greaseproof paper.
Mr. X led Mr. Y to a rack of shelves. One of them slid outwards on rollers to reveal the liver, brain and selected cuts from the shoulder, back and rump of the late Mr. Oughton, chilled and wrapped in clingfilm. The meat of the muscle held a dark, cherry-tomato color, looking slightly coarser than the smooth texture they had both been hoping for. The meat was ringed by ragged edges of yellowy-white fat. Although in texture and color it looked similar to beef, they both knew from years of experience that when cooked, it would give the lie to the cannibal jargon of ‘long pig’, and present the delicate flavor of good, fully developed veal. They also knew that if eaten uncooked, it would melt in the mouth like the finest tuna sashimi.
“Very impressive.” Mr Y clapped his hands together with a cushioned slap. “Right! Let the dog see the rabbit …”
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