The Valentine’s Day Monster

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Monster parent: Heather Ratcliff (@MortuaryReport). Heather is one of my favorite people on the planet. A first-generation funeral director, embalmer, crematory operator, storyteller, and badass motherfucker. Please check out her Patreon. I can’t think of a person more worthy of your support.

Champagne glasses filled the restaurant with tinkling music, and Charlene and David added a clink to the melody as they made a toast to their relationship.

Charlene giggled, feeling the two glasses of bubbly already in her belly, and batted her long fake eyelashes. She couldn’t shake the feeling that she’d glued spiders to her face, but David adored the way they looked. He gave her a wolfish smile and squeezed her leg under the table.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, pumpkin.” His voice, normally radio host smooth, was roughed up with the huskiness of arousal.

She felt heat rush through her in response — not lust, but a different kind of ardor. “God, I love you so much, David!”

Everything about this night had been magical, right from the start.

When David picked her up, he’d greeted Charlene at the door of her apartment with a painting she’d once pointed out to him at a local art show. Then, he’d escorted her to a limousine, which had brought them here, to the finest French restaurant in the city — an establishment so exclusive, Charlene knew he must have made the reservation at least five months in advance.

This was quite possibly the most romantic place Charlene had ever been.

The restaurant’s walls were covered with ivy, intertwined with twinkling lights. Most of the illumination in the room came from candles on each of the tables. The tables were adorned with roses and almost entirely occupied by doting couples. In the corner, a man played a piano covered in flower petals, while an auburn haired woman in a dress the color of the champagne in Charlene’s glass sang love songs in a voice made of smoke and honey.

Passion was turning the air to velvet.

Charlene leaned across the small round table and kissed David. A deep kiss. She slid one hand through his thick black hair, mussing it carelessly, her other hand grabbing his tie and tugging him toward her. The table’s centerpiece – a red rose in a slender crystal vase – fell over, but neither of them noticed.

Kissing David wasn’t enough. Charlene loved him so much. So fucking much.

She stood up, his tie still firmly in her grip, and hauled him to his feet.

“Goddamn, I love you, mister!” she said, her eyes blazing. She threw her arms around his neck, squeezing. She couldn’t hold him tight enough to express the power of her feelings, although her ardor seemed to flood her with strength.

“You’re the love of my life.” David’s voice came out in a wheeze as Charlene joyfully throttled him. But his eyes were just as bright as hers when he returned her passionate embrace.

“Never leave me, pumpkin. Never.” He crushed her in his arms, breaking several of her ribs. Tears of bliss rolled down her face, setting one of her fake eyelashes askew.

Charlene and David were so absorbed in their love-fest, they were oblivious to the sounds of chaos filling the restaurant: dishes and vases breaking, chairs overturning, cutlery clattering to the floor, cries of “I love you!” and “No, I love you more!”

Every couple in the room was gripped in a frenzy of adoration.

All over, they clung to one another, eyes crazed with passion. Each couple embraced in a madness of love, love so profound it imbued them with inhuman strength. They hugged one another until their rib cages were crushed to splinters. They flung arms around one another’s necks and squeezed until they snapped.

No one escaped cupid’s arrows. The cooks, servers, bus boys, hostesses, piano player and singer, the old man who’d come to the restaurant alone because he always ate there every Saturday night – every person in the building was swept away on the wave of amore.

People who’d been indifferent to one another, enemies, or even strangers, found themselves consumed by the deepest, most intense love they’d ever experienced. They needed to touch, to kiss, and most of all, to hold. To hold and to squeeze as tight as possible.

They knocked tables over and the candles started several small fires. The light of the flames glittered upon broken champagne glasses.

Within fifteen minutes, everyone in the building was dead, or twitching on the ground and well on their way to leaving this world.

Only then did a shape slowly emerge from the darkened room the restaurant used for large gatherings and staff meetings: a candy heart so big it scraped the ceiling as it moved, leaving two deep gouges in the plaster.

It was Pepto-Bismol pink. In the space between its googly eyes and its dopey smiling mouth, the words BE MINE blazed in yellow letters.

It moved with great difficulty. Its legs were teddy bears balanced atop feet made of heart-shaped boxes of chocolate. Its arms were almost as ungainly: bouquets of roses encrusted with crappy diamond jewelry. Without the power to make its victims kill one another with love, the poor thing would have starved to death.

It waddled over to the nearest bodies. Charlene’s fake eyelashes had both become fully dislodged as David crushed her chest and she his windpipe. Now, they clung to her cheeks, and it really did seem like she’d glued spiders to her face.

But the Valentine’s Day monster didn’t mind.

It thought she looked delicious.

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