By M. Stern
Randolph was discussing the limits of sensation and the art and aura of the singular experience when the beast bellowed. It was already audible from behind the cellar’s false wall. Randolph and Grissmer’s shadows stretched far back up the walls of the stone staircase in the flickering candlelight, as if fleeing from the sound as the men approached it.
Randolph had eaten ortolan with French nobles while watching a hanging. He had consumed Long Pig with an Austronesian tribe. He had infused a murdered girl’s terrified, dying breath into brandy and drank it in surreptitious attendance at her funeral. Tonight he was purchasing an experience of an even higher caliber.
“Arborgastes, evaluate the payment,” said Grissmer standing before the basement bookshelf.
Randolph handed the heavy case to the servant and mused of its contents:
“Notice that not only will Baron Fontenot’s twin progeny be unavailable to accept their eventual inheritance, neither the Baron nor his wife will be heretofore capable of producing an heir.”
Arborgastes looked sufficiently nauseated, slammed the case, and exited. The bookshelf rotated. The men disappeared behind it.
At the rear of the hidden room, in a Magic Circle sat the black globular beast, its countless elephantine appendages and suckers twitching and hanging limp in malnourished, maltreated misery.
Grissmer started the live butchering, undertaking a precise ritualistic dance described in the old texts. Oddly curved blades zinged against sharpening stones, razors flashed, rune-covered excavators dug and tore. The thing’s physiology responded. Poison spurted from flaps Grissmer sliced open. Stinging tentacles whipped from punctured tubules as Grissmer dug deeper into the guts. He evaded each organic defense triggered, only through perfect adherence to the ritual’s enumerated steps. The beast’s shrieks rattled the room.
A bone snapped loudly, deep within the beast. Grissmer, up to his elbow, pulled out two fist-sized glands from the violated thing. He tossed it into the bucket of acid on the floor and excused himself to freshen up.
* * *
They sat at a table near the Magic Circle with the prepared glands plated in front of them.
“To The Singular,” said Grissmer, toasting.
Randolph’s cordial glass cracked in his hand as he lifted it.
Blood spiraled down Randolph’s finger. He jammed his hand into his pocket.
“No need for nerves!” Grissmer laughed. “It’s harmless as a pussycat! I sometimes suspect it likes watching, too. Just a little.”
Randolph stood, walked to the Circle, pulled a blood-soaked spell from his pocket, and pressed it into the watching beast’s flesh. The thing’s comportment suddenly changed.
Randolph calmly returned to the table.
“Have you–” Grissmer said, processing what had so quickly unfolded. “It will kill us both!”
“It will kill you first,” Randolph laughed. “Eating a shoggoth’s gonads while it observes is a torturer’s dream. But to eat them while watching the beast eat its torturer before it then turns to consume me? The purest delicacy, Grissmer! The ultimate renunciation! An unrepeatable culinary perversion! No experience has ever been so singular!”
The beast roared without sorrow.
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