Note from the author:
I feel like I should apologize to anyone who reads this story beforehand. I have a deep love for dark fantasy and sci-fi horror and in that regard, this story is well in line with the other ones I have written. It is, however, by far one of the grossest stories I have ever come up with. If you want to stop reading halfway through, because you don’t need to hear about Malphis, the demon of gluttony, taking on Pjotr, a mysterious stranger, in an eating contest, I fully understand. If you keep going, because you think it might get less gross at some point, I promise you, it won’t. Sorry again.
“Malphis will see you now,” an unfamiliar voice said to me, in an impossibly deep bass. It took me a few seconds to leave the gentle fields I was sitting on inside my head and to open my eyes. An ogre of a man stood in front of me, dressed head to toe in a skin-tight rubber suit, the only other item of clothing on him a pair of knee-high horse-riding boots. I couldn’t even guess which color of skin the man had, covered up as he was. I got up from the unassuming beige couch I had been sitting on and followed the ogre out of my waiting room, into the heart of the building, into a storage closet, and down a hidden set of rusty metal stairs, leading to a floor below the basement, that probably wouldn’t show up on any official blueprints. We walked down a dimly lit corridor, past more than a dozen armored doors with heavy locks on them. If you listened closely, underneath the steady squeaking of the huge servant’s suit, you could barely hear muffled screams, thuds, drilling, sawing, barking, and all sorts of other noises from the other side of those doors that brought to mind the most unpleasant of images. The corridor itself stank of disinfectant and below it, probably not noticeable for the average human nose, the smells of shit, piss, sex, blood, and fear. None of these things were of concern to me, my mind was focused on what was waiting for me at the end of the corridor: Malphis’s dining room.
As we came up to it, I could already smell the corrupted stench, before the ogre opened the door. Malphis sat at the end of his dining table, digging into what remained of a whole suckling pig. Compared to a human, he was a giant. Even sitting down he was about two meters tall and impossibly fat, his skin stretching to a bursting point above his massive belly. People sometimes compared fat men to elephants in a figurative sense. Malphis probably outweighed one, literally. He hadn’t bothered with cutlery or clothes, the grease of the pig and remnants of other meals smeared across his fingers, face, and chest. Other than the suckling pig, the dining table was covered in all sorts of delicacies, fine hors-d'oeuvres, glazed vegetables, and caramelized fruits, puddings, and mousses. All of it looked immaculate and mouth-watering, like something you would expect if you ordered a fine meal in a five-star restaurant, all of it waiting for Malphis’s disgusting fingers to smash into it and be devoured without any pause. I sometimes wondered why demons like him struggled so hard to escape from hell, just to do their very best to recreate it back on earth.
Malphis looked up from his pig as I stood in the door behind his gimp and his face lit up. I could see the chunks of meat stuck between his rotten teeth as he grinned from across the room. “Ah, Pjotr! Welcome! Come join me, what a wonderful surprise.” He yelled out, his arms stretching out as if he was going to embrace me from afar, the folds of his skin jiggling as he laughed. “Hello Malphis.”, I replied dryly, careful to sound as close as possible to what Pjotr would usually sound like. “So, what has brought my favorite little human to pay me a visit? Got something to sell again?” I didn’t reply right away, instead, I put my hand onto the chair across the table from Malphis and ran my finger along its spine. It came back covered in grease and filth. “Ah, yes…” said Malphis “the chair. It has been quite a while since anyone sat in it. Do you even know what that chair is there for?”. I took a deep breath and asked myself silently if I wanted to this. Right now, I could still back out. I shook off my hesitation, after all, there was a reason I had come here.
I sat down in the chair. Malphis’s laughter boomed across the room, saliva and half-chewed food spraying across the immaculate food on the table. “Oh Pjotr, sweet little Pjotr, you do not know what you just did.” There were tears in Malphis’s eyes and for a second I hoped he would choke on a bone from the laughter. That would be an ironic end if ever there was one, a demon of gluttony dying from careless eating. “Go on, little human, get up away from this table, I do not wish to see you die so carelessly.” I looked Malphis straight into his eyes, gathered my courage, and replied, clearly and deliberately: “I know what this chair there for and what I just did. I formally issue a challenge for your domain.” For a second, Malphis looked at me, dumbstruck. Then another laughing fit boomed across the room again, he was wheezing, crying holding his sides, while his latex-clad henchman impassively stood by his side, watching me. “A formal issue! Did you hear that Ezekiel? A formal issue! Pjotr, you always were an entertaining human, but you have just become my favorite. Well then, who am I to refuse such a valiant act of courage.” he looked to the side at his silent giant, Ezekiel, I guess.
“How many sucklings do we have left?” he asked.
“7 in storage, 2 in preparation.” replied the deep voice behind the mask.
“Well then, let’s have those. I pick one whole suckling pig each, for our first meal.”
I was a relatively slender guy, infinitely smaller than Malphis, so the pig was an obvious first choice. It would be regular lunch for him and about a third of my body weight in meat to be consumed for me. He was going easy on me, probably trying to take me out without causing any real discomfort to himself. After all, a whole pig was already way more than any human competitive eater could possibly stomach. This wasn’t going to be pleasant, but it was what I had prepared myself for. I went to a quiet place in my mind for the next few hours as I dug into the pig. I kept a steady pace with Malphis, taking the meal one bite at a time. This first course wasn’t about speed, it was about endurance and capacity. I hadn’t eaten for more than a year now and I knew I should be able to consume way more than a regular human ever could. There still was no way I could ever keep up with an eater as grand as Malphis himself. He digested everything almost as fast as he could eat it. Sooner or later, I wouldn’t be able to take another bite, if I didn’t change the game. Right now though, it was Malphis’s course and I was on the defense. All I could do was keep eating and do my best to keep Malphis underestimating me and seeing me as the human known as Pjotr for as long as possible.
An hour and fifty minutes later, I gave a little burp and tossed the last rib bone onto the table in front of me, bone marrow sucked out and all of the meat cleanly gnawed off. I had only finished a couple of minutes after Malphis, close enough for the first round to be a draw. I felt dirty, sweating grease, and unpleasantly bloated. I was already back at a point where I did not feel the need to eat for at least another year. Malphis eyes gleamed with amusement and gluttonous greed, he was only getting started.
“So, which dish would you wish for?” he asked. “We’ve got formidable crème brûlée, oysters, freshly fished this morning, french toast, prepared by an actual Frenchman. Whatever your heart desires, you name it, we have one of the most professional and well-stocked kitchens in the world, right behind the door on my right.” I could see him licking his lips, salivating at whatever dish I might ask for. The bastard wasn’t scared of this duel, at least not yet, he was looking forward to the next dish.
“Moon lilies,” I said with a burp, struggling to keep the contents of my digestive system in order.
“Moon lilies?” Maplhis echoed.
“I want the next dish to be a single moon lily, for each of us.”
“Pjotr…” Malphis started, suspicion rising in his voice, “who have you been talking to? Who told you about the lilies?”
“Does it matter?”
“Tell me!” Malphis suddenly boomed, his chin jiggling as his face trembled in an outburst of anger.
“No,” I replied quietly.
We sat there for a solid minute, staring each other down in silence. I knew how good Malphis was at reading minds and I desperately needed my ruse to hold up a little longer, so I just focused my eyes on the space between his, and let my mind roam free, leaving it as blank as I could, giving Malphis as little to read as possible. Finally, Malphis gave up.
“There are no moon lilies stacked in my kitchen, I’m afraid you will have to pick another dish,” he said.
I reached into my coat, retrieved a small leather satchel, and threw it onto the table. “You’re in luck,” I said. “Got two fresh ones right here, picked this morning.”
“Picked where?” Malphis asked, with a predatory growl.
I tried to ignore the threatening tone as well as I could. “Doesn’t matter where. Point is, they are right here and they are the dish that I choose.”
Malphis looked at me, fury in his eyes, I returned the look, pretending to be as careless as a doe on a clear summer day. He snapped his fingers at Ezekiel. The latex-clad giant approached my satchel, gingerly opened it, and retrieved the two fresh lilies. They looked out of place in this room and I wondered if they were the first flowers that had been in this room since Malphis took up residence. He placed one on my plate and another amidst the carnage of the pig Malphis had devoured. I picked up the flower, put it into my mouth whole, and chewed. It tasted a little bitter, a little alkaline, but not too bad. Malphis looked like he was struggling a lot more with it, it was literal poison to him, after all.
“Next dish?” I asked, a mocking smile on my face, trying to conceal how badly I was scared of this one. Malphis wheezed and gritted his teeth, sweat breaking out on his face and temples.
“Barrel of swamp-eels!” he hissed. “Alive and infected with feeding fungus, for a special guest,” he added with a pained, but triumphant look in my direction. I didn’t know whether I should sigh in relief or not. Clearly, the choice was meant to stop any human dead in his tracks. A bite of swamp-eel meant guaranteed diarrhea for any human, a whole eel a life-threatening case of food poisoning, and a whole barrel would be impossible to get through, without dying. And that was before you took the fungus into account. The fungus would feed on any mammal stomach, unlucky enough to have to try and digest it. Fortunately, I wasn’t human or a mammal and Malphis hadn’t figured that out yet. However, those eels would still be a mouthful and Malphis didn’t look like he was eating for pleasure anymore. Our competition was about to get very real.
I could already smell the barrels before they entered the room. The human dish that came closest to this atrocity would probably be Suströmming. Much like Suströmming, the swamp-eels were considered a delicacy by a very few. Unlike the eels, Suströmming was completely harmless to the human anatomy, if you could stomach it. My barrel got dumped onto the table in front of me, the slithering, writhing mass inside staring up at me with dozens of tiny eyes, the stench nauseating. Malphis attacked his barrel with an impossible ferocity. His giant hand slapped into the barrel and grabbed the first eel, half-squeezing it to death before it even reached his mouth and bit its head clean off. As his right hand was shoving the still twitching remains of the eel down his gullet, his left was already reaching into the barrel for the next one. If he kept that pace up he would have cleared out his barrel in minutes and I guessed he would rather speed up than slow down. Clearly, the time for pretense was over for me. I couldn’t keep pretending to be human and keep up with Malphis’s insane pace. I unhooked my jaw and let it drop wide. The skin I had taken from Pjotr ripped open at the corners of the mouth, as it wasn’t able to stretch as far as my mouth could open. Below the human skin I had worn, the first few inches of my reptilian scales began to show. I leaned my head back, opening my esophagus as wide as it could, and began throwing the eels in, as fast as I could, not even taking the time to kill them first. I could feel the things still moving inside me, trying to work against and escape from my digestive tract, while I tossed in more and more, forcing them down as fast as I could. I couldn’t see Malphis with my head leaned back, but the increasingly frenetic grunting, crunching, and slapping sound he made only made shove the eels in even faster. Damn the consequences for now.
The pigs had taken us almost two hours, these barrels were emptied in a matter of minutes. At some point, Pjotr’s skin around the belly had stretched to its breaking point and burst, along with the shirt I had worn above it, revealing my rapidly fattened lizard stomach underneath. I felt nauseous and sick, gritting my teeth against the pain, as the dying eels were still trying to fight their way out of me, spreading their fungs all over my insides.
Malphis looked at me, wide-eyed.
“You’re one of the ancient ones, aren’t you?” he asked.
I shrugged, let out a burp, then started peeling away Pjotr’s skin. There was no point in hiding anymore and I would already feel rotten enough without being covered in freshly harvested human skin from head to toe.
“Yes,” I answered.
“I thought you were all dead or at least sleeping for good.”
“Most of us are. Not me.”
“I would have welcomed you with a lot more dignity if I had known who you were.”
“And you would have competed against me a lot more fiercely from the start if you had known.”
Malphis gave a pained, wheezing laugh. He was dealing with the eels a lot better than I was, but the moon lily would still mess him up for quite a while. “I could have finished you with a simple bag of coffee beans. Your kind is still allergic to them, isn't it?”
“Well… you still could”, I said with another burp. “Third pick’s the charm.”
“Do not play me for a fool, ancient one, we both know I won’t get to pick another dish. Not in this contest, not ever.”
“You may be right about that.”
“I suppose I could plead for mercy, offer you riches, pleasures and powers.”
“Wouldn’t make much of a difference.”
“Can I at least ask why?”
“Why?” I echoed.
“Why do you do this? I have done nothing to offend you, the humans are your sworn enemies. Your kind has killed countless thousands of them across the millennia. Why help them?” Malphis seemed genuinely upset, pleading even. This wasn’t a demon being a god in his own domain anymore. This was him coming back into the natural order of things, where he was just a minor pawn, in between much greater powers.
“It wasn’t just my kind. I personally killed thousands of them over the years. Back then we still believed that we could exterminate them, like a colony of rats or cockroaches.”
“But?” Malphis asked.
“But we couldn’t. There are just too many of them and they breed and build so much faster than we can knock them down. We could waste entire cities with massive tsunamis and go to sleep for a few years, expecting nature to reclaim the shore. We only woke up to see that they had repopulated and rebuilt everything that we had destroyed in an amount of time that seemed like a blink of an eye to us. So most of us went to sleep for good, down at the bottom of the sea where it would take even the humans a very long time to bother us. However, a few of us stayed around, not to fight them anymore, but try and make them better, which brings me to you, Malphis... Because you exist to bring out the very worst in them."
I snapped my fingers at his assistant, ready to order our next dish. I could see the fear in Malphis's eyes, he knew what it would be.
To be continued… (Sorry, I ran into the 3000-word limit. I’ll link the full story in the comments if there is any interest in it.)