This story won first place in Zeroflash‘s July 2018 flash fiction competition. The theme was pulp horror. Word count: 300. Bon appétit!
by I. E. Kneverday
My Dearest Elizabeth,
As promised, I am writing to inform you of my safe arrival in Grotte-de-Noyade. So the village exists after all! My journey, while fraught with danger (I nearly lost a toe to frostbite) has not been in vain, for the mere existence of this place suggests that the old man’s map was no mere tourist trinket or forgery, but the genuine item (as had been my conviction from the start). The “village,” if such a term can be applied to what I have encountered here, consists of a series of caverns, the majority of which are inhabited not by people, but by massive cast iron vats. My translator Damien tells me that the villagers use these vats to soak their cheese in a peculiar type of brine, the recipe for which has been passed down among their kind for centuries. This brine is said to allow for the cultivation of a rare bacterium, which gives the cheese a rare taste—and perhaps other properties rarer still. So you see, my dear, how more of the old man’s story has been proven true! I promise I will deliver some of this famous fromage to you upon my return. For now, I must bid you adieu, for it seems the villagers wish to give me a first-hand lesson in their craft. What an extraordinary honor!
With all my love,
It is with great sadness that I must inform you of your fiancé Jonathan’s passing. I discovered his remains in a brine vat on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, on account of the brine’s bacterial content, it was impossible to recover the body. As a token of their sympathy, the villagers of Grotte-de-Noyade would like you to accept this wheel of cheese, which was crafted with Jonathan’s input.
Pssst. Looking for a longer read? Check out my collection of three (interconnected) short stories, The Woburn Chronicles.
“It’s like The Devil in the White City meets Hocus Pocus”