Chris's runner-up entry in my Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Vol 22. competition not only demonstrates his writing skill but had me chuckling through the sinister undertones.
Get yourself a cuppa, maybe a slice of cake - and read why.
by Chris Allinotte
Ada read the name of the bakery, and the phrase underneath again, and smiled. It read, "Venial Sins. It's not so bad to be so good!"
Inside, behind a short red counter, stood a tall, powerful looking man in a crimson apron. At the window, an elderly couple sat at a bleached oak table, sharing a slice of pumpkin pie, and sipping foamy, steaming cappuccinos.
"Good afternoon, Miss," said the man. Ada assumed he was the owner.
"It's Missus, actually," she replied, smiling.
"That's a shame." He winked; and Ada felt hot blood colour her cheeks.
The man pushed a paper menu across the counter.
"What can we tempt you with today, Missus?"
She giggled – actually giggled. Alan never made her feel like this anymore. His brother Michael had – briefly– but that was years ago.
On the menu were five desserts, including chocolate mousse cake, white truffle tart, and her absolute girlhood favourite - butterscotch pie. She tapped the page. “I’ve never seen this anywhere else. Is it good?"
"Just like Grammie used to make," said the owner, winking again. She blushed again.
He went swiftly behind a black velvet curtain, and returned with a small sliver of pie and a gleaming silver fork. Ada seated herself on a black vinyl stool. A moment later, he brought a tall glass of milk and set it beside the pie. The experience was complete - exactly as she remembered it from her childhood. The pie was creamy and sugary, its crust flaking and falling apart with ease. Each mouthful tasted better than the one before it. When she finally finished, her heart sank. Nothing, it seemed, would be as good ever again.
Without knowing she was going to, she spoke. "I'd sell my soul for another piece."
The owner laughed. "You'd have to."
"Pardon?" Ada sat up.
"One piece per customer.” He laughed. “An odd rule perhaps, but it serves." Her surprise must have been obvious, because he added, "Unless you're serious?"
Ada nodded, unable to help herself. She wanted this; she deserved it. Deserved a treat.
"Excellent." The man smiled, and produced a contract.
"Oh, don't worry, darling." said the owner, "It's not forever - not for a piece of pie. It's just three minutes."
He opened the curtain, and Ada walked through.
The owner laughed again. He nodded at the old man, "For in hell, one minute shall be as a thousand years, eh?"
There was no reply as the couple faded back to nothingness.
Three minutes later, the curtain parted, and the thing that had once been Ada stumbled through. She saw the pie waiting for her, and began to shriek.
"Lookit that old lady," said the construction worker, looking out the window. "Been wanderin’ around for years now. All she ever says is 'pie.' Sad how some folks get, huh?"
"Indeed," said the man in the apron. "How was your cake?"
"Fantastic," said the workman. "I'd kill for another slice."
"You'd have to..."
Bio: Chris Allinotte lives in Toronto, Canada. In the winter it sometimes gets dark at four o'clock. That, and reading "Christine" when he was eight are probably to blame for some of what he writes. He blogs at The Leaky Pencil.