The Things that Eat You: another scary dairy tale for Halloween
This story comes from my friend, Kristi Petersen Schoonover:
Hives. Nausea. Anaphylaxis. She’d been at a cheese sampling with her lover Emil when it happened. Thank God her husband Jack hadn’t found out; Emil had dropped her at the hospital and hurried away.
You’ve got a severe cheese allergy, the doctor had said. You shouldn’t ever touch it, or even breathe it in. You’ll die the next time you come into contact if no one’s there to help. The body’s always changing, and allergies sometimes develop suddenly. Lizzie was home now, recovering. Hives, like stigmata, still pocked her hands. She poured a cup of tea. Don’t go near that refrigerator, Jack’d said. I’ll toss all that cheese when I get home tonight. Tonight. After ten, like always. When she blared every television because she was still terrified of being home alone. Outside, it rained autumn leaves, and she hoped Jack had locked up when he’d left.
How was she supposed to go on with life? She cooked everything with cheese. And what of the wheels she’d bought the day before the illness, at the shop where they knew her name, the one downtown in the spooky Victorian everyone claimed was haunted. Stories. The only thing haunting that place was the intoxicating nutty-sour-apple smell—brie, blue, camembert, imported Swiss, and something new, cheddar aged over one hundred days in Howe Caverns, and now she’d never get to try it. Emil—she couldn’t see him again; he made cheese, so the poison would saturate his clothes, his hair—
Someone whispered: Lizzie.
She flung around. “Jack?”
No one. A leaf settled on the kitchen skylight.
You want me, Lizzie.
Emil. Had he come to see her?
The garage door, around the corner out of eyeshot, creaked open, followed by the patter of feet.
Her breath caught. “Jack? Emil?”
She backed to the counter and felt for the knife block, her stare fixed, expecting the intruder to round the corner…
...there. Knife in hand.
Her hives itched. “Where are you?”
It was coming from the refrigerator.
She was suddenly aware of the hollow gnaw of starvation in her belly.
You’re dreaming about me.
She shivered. She was dreaming…about cheese, she needed cheese; her mouth watered. The doctor’s words echoed: You’ll die next time…if no one’s there to help.
What was she thinking?
Aren’t you empty?
“Yes,” she said aloud.
Surely dying had been an exaggeration. Although she didn’t have her EpiPen yet, Jack was supposed to pick it up today—
She took a step toward the refrigerator.
You know you want me.
She felt her hair move.
I want you.
She took another step. In her sweaty hand, the knife. In her mouth, the tang of anticipation.
Just one bite. That was all.
She seized the refrigerator’s handle and pulled.
There it all was, glorious—brie, bleu, camembert, imported Swiss, and something new, cheddar aged over one hundred days in Howe Caverns, and she slashed their wraps and chipped their rinds and took bite after bite, so enamored with that nutty-sour-apple taste that she didn’t notice her throat was swelling closed until she could no longer swallow.
Kristi Petersen Schoonover specializes in ghost stories; her fiction appears in many publications including Carpe Articulum Literary Review. Her first bound collection, Skeletons in the Swimmin' Hole--Tales from Haunted Disney World--was just released. She holds an MFA from Goddard and is the recipient of two Norman Mailer Writer’s Colony Residencies. For more information and to read her work, visit www.kristipetersenschoonover.com.
Photo by Like_the_Grand_Canyon