Here is the other story that did not make it into the end of the world series, more because it did not strongly relate to the “wind” sub-theme than being a bad story. This one hits a lot of the things I see as evil. You decide.
A Taste of Armageddon
The great cauldron sat deep in the fire, shimmering waves of heat rising all around. Flames licked the soot blackened metal almost to the rim. What could be seen of the kitchen where it boiled was a nightmare of warped selves, darkened by millennia of cooking, filled to the brim with jars of all sizes and colors, jars that contained any number of rare delicacies for the tastes of the depraved. Light flickered off jars of spurned love, betrayed trust, and glutinous lust. Helen reached out a fine hand covered in smudges of vanity and grabbed a jar from a shelf. Her exquisite hair clung to her scalp in oily strands, while the porcelain beauty of her face was hidden under layers of soot and sweat.
She opened the jar and smelled the powerful aroma of polished leather and expensive cigars wafting off the influential men who had guided humanity only for personal gains, men who were careless of the costs to others. Helen reflected on how plentiful this particular spice was now. She carefully shook only two screaming businessmen into the bubbling cauldron, knowing full well its overpowering nature. Pursing her full lips, she perused the glass crocks from which blood smeared bodies writhed in the throes of agony. The mistress of the cauldron reached up to the top shelf for a jar distinguished by a bloody red cross. Opening the lid she inhaled the cloying smell of incense mixed with sacramental wine. Letting a wicked grin twitch one side of her mouth, Helen pulled out a hefty squealing Catholic Bishop with several child molesting Priests clinging to his legs. A quick flick sent the caterwauling bunch into the stew. The Bishop should add a nice hint of hypocritical self-righteousness with a lingering aftertaste of restrictive dogma towards the female gender.
Ingredients from millennia of human history weighed down the shelves of Helen’s kitchen, which made the creation of each stew an art unto itself. Every century carried a unique note that had to be accounted for if the final product was to be worthy. Helen walked down the long line of shelves to where the light from the fire barely touched the dark shadows and the glass containers were smoky with age. She selected a jar from near the bottom, rubbing away the accumulated dust of ages. From within, Helen pulled out a golden statue of a cow. She left the squirming orgy of the makers of this false idol in the jar; their unfinished orgasms holding them in an eternally unsatisfied agony of unreleased pleasure. Resealing the jar she placed it back on the shelf. From a nearby nook she pulled down a bottle filled with the blind arrogance of military leaders so set in their ways that the deaths of thousands could not change their useless methods. The bottle swirled with broken bodies in a gravy of thick blood. Helen returned to the bubbling cauldron to add her latest ingredients.
She tossed the golden cow into the stew and watched as it melted like butter, giving an oily film to the top of the concoction. Helen lifted a paddle from the wall and gave the contents a stir before adding in the next ingredient; the comingled smell of sins tickled her nose. Continuing to stir with her right hand, the mistress of the kitchen upended the entire contents of the bloody bottle. The smell of scorched earth, decayed bodies, and dried blood rose strongly from the cauldron. Young men dying on the battle fields of hypocrisy would form the base for the Master’s soup. Helen hung the paddle back on the wall to allow the stew time to burn a little.
She brought a delicate finger to her lips. The challenge was to create harmony in the stew without losing the distinctive notes of each individual spice. The arrogance of ambitious officers, while overpowering, carried the desires of all the other spices to fruition and formed the tempo that organized them into a coherent symphony. To dilute its presence too far would turn the mixture into a chaotic blend of competing players with no direction, every flavor trying to outdo the other. Helen pulled a tarnished spoon from the pocket of her stained apron. With a deft flick of her hand the spoon slipped just below the surface of the thick morass and carried a steaming sample to her ample lips. She blew softly then placed the spoon into her mouth. The rich blood of sacrificial lambs rolled over her tongue followed by the tang of secret meetings and religious doctrines, ending with the bitter taste of betrayal. Not quite everything she was looking for yet.
Helen tapped the spoon in her open right hand as she contemplated what to add. She moved to a set of shelves just behind the cauldron where newer hybrid varieties of older spices glistened in their shiny bottles. She studied the shelves for several minutes before hooking a finger around a bottle of swirling grey mist and dancing sparks. Removing the lid, Helen caught the strong aroma of gunpowder and deception from modern war profiteering. This particular bottle carried a stronger variety gathered from the leading councils of the NRA who reaped wild profits for the corporations they represented by making it harder to stem the tide of guns sold to criminals, while using the fear of such weapons to sell more to the public they pretended to protect. The refined hints of misdirection, duplicity, and rabid loyalty were intoxicating. In combination with the blind Generals, the profiteering would add a satisfying base of rampant death and misguided trust. Helen turned and sprinkled a liberal helping, almost sneezing from the pungent smell of spent gunpowder. She returned to the cauldron and stirred for a while.
Inspiration came to her as she worked scorched mixture loose from the sides of the great pot. She reached to the right for a jar wrapped in red velvet. Pulling off the velvet, she revealed a jar filled with a thick golden substance that seemed to flash as it swirled inside the bottle. Helen tugged the stopper out and sniffed the scent of floral perfumes, stale vomit, and leftover sex, Hollywood’s finest. Women forced into visions of splendor by old men drunk on power and lust. Girls who worshiped at Aphrodite’s Alter and suffered through the jealous goddess’s penance of anorexia, low self-esteem, and unrewarded trust. Helen knew all too well the costs of following the dictates of this creature of legend. The golden spice should add a nice touch of unobtainable anguish and foolish pride, affecting men, as well as women, since they would desire the illusion more than reality. They would punish themselves for not obtaining the ideal, while they abused their lovers for failing their dreams. Blending with the other spices, the golden essence would bind the others in a knot of tension that would explode upon the Master’s palate.
Helen added the essence of delusion then reached for the stirring paddle before sitting on the stool near the cauldron. The only task left was to watch over the stew to keep it from burning too much as she allowed the concoction to reduce and concentrate the blend of sins into a conflagration of flavors. Centuries passed as she tended the great cauldron. Civilizations rose and fell. Finally, Helen judged the mixture complete and extinguished the nether world fires beneath the charred cauldron. She called out to the Master’s servant Adolf, while she searched the pantry for an appropriate vessel to carry the stew to his table. Pulling down a large golden soup tureen she returned to her stew and neatly ladled the final product almost to the brim before replacing the lid. Turning to the immaculately dressed servant, Helen carefully placed the Master’s dinner onto the intricately etched silver tray he held out. Without a word, since he had no mouth, Adolf turned and left the kitchen through a heavy wooden door.
He walked down a short hall as quickly as possible though the fear of spilling even a single drop caused him to sweat profusely. Opening the door at the end of the hall, he entered a room worked to a grand scale, several miles from wall to wall and floor to ceiling. Thousands of fine crystal chandeliers with hundreds of candles filled the vast space with a soft burning glow. A fireplace, five hundred feet wide and two hundred feet high, was placed in the wall opposite the entrance and before it was set a table half a mile long with hundreds of seats to a side. The Master was seated on the end closest to the fireplace. Without stopping, the servant moved as swiftly as he could to the Master’s side, the focus of the room weighing heavily upon him.
When he finally arrived at the near end of the table, Adolf refrained from looking at the ornate tableware set for the Master’s favored minions, whom would eat only after the Master had deemed the meal worthy. Unfortunately, he could not tune out the orgy of lust, treachery, and murder, which played out continuously down the length of the table, droplets of various bodily fluids threatening to stain his spotlessly maintained outfit. With great relief, Adolf finished his journey and bowed to his better before carefully filling the Master’s bowl with the steaming broth. He then moved to his place behind and to the left of his Master.
Satan inhaled the spicy mixture of lust, greed, and violence, making some guesses at the ingredients this particular cook had used. Millennia had weathered the world bald as cook after cook had failed his expectations for the final feast, the screaming anguish of his starving horde gnawing away at his delicate temper. Tentatively, the Master grasped an ornate spoon and broke the surface of the stew. He closed his eyes as the smells of sins, new and old, rose from the disturbed surface, saturating his sinuses and causing his nostrils to dilate with anticipation. Satan’s sensual lips parted as he brought the spoon slowly to his mouth. Flavor burst upon his tongue with a release of spent tension that deposited the blood of millions to caress his palate in a celebration of carnal desires, causing his overheated skin to rise in excited response. Subtle tones of abused childhood melded magnificently with betrayed youth and bitter old age. Boy molesting priests, philandering husbands, and vindictive sirens merged with religious fervor, hush money, and tabloid headlines. Blind trust answered by cruel manipulation. Satan quivered as he tasted the slaughter of entire species and the desecration of almost all of God’s creation. A long sigh of pleasure escaped his lips as the spoon fell to the table forgotten.
The servant twitched with fear at the cacophony of furious hunger that raced along the walls of the enormous hall, while hundreds of servants rushed forward to fill the table before the horde was freed. Few were successful as the Master made a negligent flick of his wrist. Even the Master’s personal servant was flung viciously to the side, ending in the great fire behind his Master, as the ravening pack annihilated anything in their path. Most of the candles throughout the chamber were extinguished, sending the room into a nightmare of primitive sounds and fears. Soft slurping sounds were punctuated with the snap of bones as even the centerpiece of human sinners was consumed. The sharp staccato din of platters crashing to the floor echoed off the distant walls. Overall, Satan’s satisfied chuckle could be heard. Finally, at Satan’s command the candles relit, freezing the horde of demons in mid debauchery for which the Master smiled fondly at them.
Satan arose from his seat to walk
the length of the table, hundreds of gleaming red eyes and pointed ears tracking his every step. A lazy hand caressed the spawn nearest as he progressed down the grand feast, letting the copious amounts of blood and bile drip from his delicate fingers. When he reached the end of the table, Satan turned to address his minions.
“Beloved, at last our great task is at hand. I held back your succor for millennia so that your perfection would not be sullied by an inferior product. Tonight, you have supped on the sublime creation of all my dreams and are now prepared to unleash the fullest measure of your talents upon the flawed creations of the world. Go, go and show the heavens the will of your Master!”
But for Satan, the room was empty. He strode gracefully toward the kitchen entrance as a wicked grin creased his handsome face. When he entered the kitchen, the walls were spotless, the shelves modern, and the kitchen fully outfitted. Helen winced as her appearance changed from weary exhaustion to radiant beauty before her master had taken a single step into the room, grand illusions even unto the end. The Prince of Lies entered his kitchen with a broad smile on his face and a cocky swagger to his step.
“My dear Helen, you have finally outdone yourself. My minions would also give you their expressions of joy, if they did not have other business to attend to.” Helen shuddered involuntarily. “Soon all will be set right and I have you to thank. I see now that I could not live another day without your delectable creations so I have decided to make your position permanent.”
“Noooooooo…,” Helen screamed as her legs buckled.
On the surface, cities fell. Man knew that the apocalypse had come.