Julia tried to shake herself from the dark abyss she found herself in, but it took a long time to do so. When she finally did, she realized that she was not alone. She, along with what looked to be roughly nineteen others, lay on the ground in an empty room. But what was more disorienting and frightening was the fact that they were all tied up.
She tried to twist her hands free, but she could not. Her legs, she soon found out, were also bound.
A moment later, the others began to come around. They too studied the room with wide eyes of fear. The door—one she hadn’t noticed before—opened and a short man with white hair sticking on ends walked in. His shirt and apron were covered in stains, brown stains.
She tried to roll herself back, further against the wall, but she could not because someone lay directly behind her. Was this man some sort of killer? Had there been more people in this room and he was coming back for the next one? Surely the stains on his clothes could not be blood, could they?
The man surveyed them and smiled. “Good. You are all awakening. I suspect you are all hungry.” He motioned to something behind them, or rather someone. A muscular man with short cropped hair and scowl on his face walked in, a sharp and deadly-looking knife in his hand.
She tried once again to push herself back, but her movement only caught the burly man’s attention. He started stalking toward her, the blade glinting in the light of the room. She froze.
This was it. She was about to die and she did not even know where she was. She closed her eyes. Preparing for the pain of the blade as he sliced her throat or worse, plunged the blade into her chest. But no pain was swift in coming. She peeked one eye open, perhaps he was simply waiting. Enjoying her discomfort before he ended her. But rather than seeing him standing over her with cruel pleasure in his eyes, she saw him hacking at the bounds that were wrapped around her legs and then her hands.
After she was free, he walked to the next person and cut the ropes that bound them. After a few minutes they were all free. The first man nodded to the knife wielder and turned back to the group. “Now that you are free, come with me. I have prepared a meal for you all. It shall be a six-course meal that I believe you shall all appreciate.”
Julia, along with the others, glanced at the man before trading glances with each other. Nobody moved. At least, no one did until the big man with the knife began pushing people forward. Julia rushed ahead, so she would not be in contact with the scary man.
As she was moving forward, she bumped into a girl. “Sorry,” she whispered. Not wanting to draw any attention to herself by speaking louder.
But rather than being upset at being bumped, the girl—who looked to be about 15—clutched Julia’s hand. She didn’t say anything though, just kept walking with her hand in Julia’s.
Julia squeezed the girl’s hand, hoping to ease some of her fear, for she surely couldn’t ease her own. Something was not right. But that was clear, since they had been tied up and knocked unconscious. But something more about this situation was odd. They white haired man spoke of food, a meal. But why would they need to be tied up to be brought to a meal?
She was not allowed to ponder the thoughts any longer because the man led them into a dining room and stopped. “Everyone, please take a seat. The meal will begin shortly.” He smiled, but it did nothing to reassure Julia, as it was a creepy smile.
Still, with the knife man behind them, they had no choice but to take seats. Julia sat next to the girl and on her other side sat a tall man with wheat colored hair. They all waited in silence as the white-haired man left the room.
He returned thirty seconds later, with two servers behind him. They both held trays with food on them. The white-haired man stepped forward. “Before the meal begins, I should introduce myself. I am Chef Philippe. I have prepared for you all a six-course meal, as I mentioned before. But this will be no ordinary meal.”
Julia closed her eyes, not wanting to know the words he would state next.
“For some of you, this will be your last meal.”
Gasps and sounds of horror were made all around the table. Several people jumped from their seats and tried to make an escape. But Chef Philippe motioned to the burly man who had come with them and now stood guarding the room. “I forgot to mention that Boris will be making sure that none of you escape and that you eat your food. You must eat at least five bites of every course. And if you do not, Boris will not hesitate to use his knife.”
The few that had begun to get up, hurried back to their seats and sat down. One of them shouted, “So you plan to kill us all?”
Chef Philippe shook his head. “Not all of you. Not every portion is poisoned. If you choose the right plates you will survive, but if you don’t…well, you know what will happen.” He clapped his hands together. “This should be fun. Enjoy the meal, talk, make friends, do whatever you please during the meal. Just choose wisely.” With those words and a gleeful smile, he motioned to the servers and exited the room.
The servers stepped forward to each end of the table. Julia sat near the middle, but she could hear them ask each person which plate they wanted. This must have been what the chef had meant when telling them to choose wisely. She watched as the servers grew closer, a significantly smaller number of plates left on the tray. That could prove to be a good thing or a bad thing.
The server served the man on her right and then went to her. Julia looked over at the girl next to her, who looked at her with wide eyes. She turned to the server. “Please let her choose first and then I will choose mine.”
The server did not even raise an eyebrow and did as she asked. Once they had all been served, the chef returned.
“Before you is your first course. The appetizer for today is shrimp cocktail. Enjoy, and remember, Boris and my servers will be watching you.” With those words, he re-exited the room.
For a moment, no one spoke, nor did anyone reach for the food in front of them. That was until one brave soul grabbed one of the shrimps from the edge of the glass and took a bite. He shrugged when he noticed everyone staring. “We may die either way. We might as well enjoy the food.”
Julia watched him for another moment before taking a bite. She wasn’t a particular fan of shrimp, or any seafood for that matter, but she remembered the chef’s words. Five bites.
Everyone else also started to eat, all except for the girl beside her. Julia touched her arm. “You have to eat some.”
The girl still did not move.
Julia tried something else. “What’s your name?”
“Scarlett,” the girl said.
“Well, Scarlett, I know you don’t want to eat this food, but you must. I imagine you have a family somewhere?” She phrased her words as a question.
Scarlett nodded, tears filling her eyes.
Julia felt compassion well up for the girl, almost covering her own fear. Almost. “Well, I know this is hard, but if you want to see them again, you must cooperate. I will be here, right beside you and I hope I can help you through this.” She wouldn’t make any promises though. She could hardly help Scarlett, if she lay dead. The thought made her stomach tighten. But what if it was not the fear causing such a reaction, what if she had eaten the poisoned food?
She tried to keep the fear from her face, glad that Scarlett had listened to her and now sat forward taking tentative bites of her food. Julia reached for her glass of water and her hand shook, spilling water on the linen tablecloth. The man on her right looked at her with concern. “Are you alright?”
She shook her head, then nodded. It was surely all in her mind. She took a deep breath and then gulped down half a glass of water.
After everyone had eaten their food, one of the servers stepped out and returned with the Chef. He walked around and surveyed their cocktail glasses. “Good. I am glad that everyone has finished. Unfortunately, I imagine a few of you will find yourselves struggling to breathe soon.”
The clock on the wall ticked as everyone looked at each other, all expected themselves to be the first ones to die, all hoping that they would be spared. A second later, and the choking started. Three people clutched their throat, trying to gain air in their lungs.
Julia studied them, fear and relief warring inside of her. The first person was an older man with a bald head and eyes that had been so kind when they had connected with her as they sat down, eyes now wide with distress.
The next one was a young lady. Her breathing was even more troubled than the others as she tried in vain to fight the tears trailing down her cheeks.
The last one was a middle-aged man with red hair so bright in color that was only rivaled by the redness of his cheeks.
Julia turned to the Chef, willing him to save them or do something. But he did not. He only watched with a sick sense of satisfaction.
When Julia could stomach the scene no longer, she placed a hand over her eyes and used a napkin to catch her tears. Three people were now dying, and this was only the first of the courses the psychopath of a chef had prepared. She or Scarlett, or any of the others could be next.
When she opened her eyes again, she found the three had been removed from the room. The chairs they had occupied sitting empty.
She stared blindly at them before remembering Scarlett beside her. She straightened herself up. She had to be strong for her sake. She grabbed Scarlett’s hand and squeezed once again, finding it to be as cold as her own.
“The next course for those of you who remain is the soup course. Enjoy a lobster bisque.”
Julia noticed the server beside her and studied the bowls of soup. All of them looked the same. There was no discoloration, no odd smell, nothing to tell her which was poisoned. She pointed to a bowl and watched as it was placed before. The expression on the server’s face did not indicate whether she had picked a tainted bowl or a safe one.
She waited for Scarlett to choose her bowl and together they took their first sip. Julia did not notice anything odd. In fact, the soup was delicious despite the fishy flavor, or it would have been delicious, if her stomach hadn’t been roiling with anxiety. She took the necessary number of sips and pushed her bowl away. Scarlett did the same.
She looked at Julia. “Do you imagine either of our plates have been poisoned?”
Julia looked at her. “I don’t know.” To be honest, she did not expect for them both to live. What would the chances be that two people sitting directly beside each other would be spared while others around them died?
She heard a clatter and a splash to her left and turned to look. The man who had been sitting at the head of the table, sat with his head in his soup bowl and the splash must have come from his water glass which must have tipped over.
She heard a similar sound to her right followed by a thud. She didn’t bother to look this time and simply waited to see if someone else would fall, or…if she would. But no one else did.
The Chef returned once again and surveyed the room. He scowled at the bisque that now stained the tablecloth, but then smiled again. “I see my cooking has felled two more of my dinner guests. Well, I believe you all deserve a palate cleanser after all of this. But before I do so, I will need a few minutes before the next course while my servers finish preparing it.” Then he and the two servers left.
While they were gone, everyone at the table traded glances. Julia guessed that they were all thinking the same thing. They had survived the first two courses, but four courses remained. Which meant that any one of them could be next.