“I was born in the primordial fires of a ravenous universe. I arose from its belly with an insatiable hunger, and a trillion, trillion souls were sacrificed to satisfy my boundless appetites. Still, it was not enough. It will never be enough. But long after your wretched little world is a dead marble floating through the void, I shall continue onward, consuming until there is nothing left to devour, until I stand alone in the emptiness, ever hungry even after the last scrap has been swallowed.”
“Yes, sir,” said the waiter. “So that’ll be another order of breadsticks then?”
“The management will rue the word complimentary, Peter,” said Vom the Hungering.
Peter left, and Diana questioned her judgment. She was destined to be driven mad one day by all the dark secrets she knew. She was certain she was already a touch unhinged, but it was nothing she couldn’t handle so far. Except maybe this was the day she finally snapped. It would explain why she’d brought a quartet of cosmic horrors with her to lunch.
Vom, a fuzzy green mouth on legs, and Zap, a tentacle-ringed eyeball stared each other down over the last breadstick. Vom had no eyes and Zap was nothing but eye, so it was difficult to tell who had the advantage.
“You ate all the other ones,” said Zap.
“I eat. It’s what I do.”
“I should get it,” said Zap. “Tell him, Diana.”
She focused her attention on her menu. “You’re both grown . . . things. Settle it like mature . . . whatevers.”
Smorgaz the Unending, a purple hedgehog-like thing scratched at his shoulder where one of his clones was sprouting. The tiny head was almost cute as it chittered away. “If you two don’t stop squabbling, Diana is going to send you home.”
She sighed. It was like babysitting adolescents who could destroy galaxies. Several nearby patrons gave her dirty looks. They didn’t see the monsters’ true forms. They saw something else. She still hadn’t figured out what, but whatever it was, it rightfully annoyed them.
She should’ve left them behind. While Vom and Zap argued, Bork the Corrupting reached into the basket and touched the last breadstick. It turned black and moldy.
“Gross,” said Zap. “You can have it.”
“Sweet.” Vom shoved it down his gullet.
“Guys, I just want to have a quiet dinner,” she said. “Can we do that just once?”
“It wouldn’t be a problem if management wasn’t so stingy with the bread,” said Vom. “Bottomless means without bottom.” He held up the basket. “I can very clearly see the bottom.”
Bork chirped and sat back in his chair. The small, orange goblin-like creature with a dozen arms had caught them leaving the apartment, and his seven puppy dog eyes had been too much to resist. He was one of the lesser horrors, though he did cause everything he touched to rot and break. His plastic chair was peeling at the edges, holding together because he was doing his best to contain his deadly aura.
They were all trying in their own way. Her bond with them meant she might gain their natures now and then. She’d felt Vom’s boundless hunger and Smorgaz’s impulse to spawn and spawn until he filled the universe. She’d seen through reality via Zap and destroyed a car via Bork. It was difficult to fight their natures, but they worked at it every day.
Peter brought another basket of breadsticks, and Vom started shoveling them down. Diana cleared her throat, and he stopped long enough for the other monsters to grab their own. A spawn popped off of Smorgaz’s body. He tore a piece of bread in two and gave half to his new clone. It sat on the table and munched contentedly.
“Can we go to a movie after this?” asked Zap.
“Why do you want to go to the movies?” asked Smorgaz. “Don’t you see everything?”
“I do,” said Zap, “but it’s more satisfying in surround sound.”
Her monstrous charges all turned to her. She imagined herself wrangling them in a crowded theater. Vom would want popcorn, and she’d have to get refills at least four or five times. Smorgaz would get overstimulated at the exciting parts and spit out a few dozen clones to scamper among the seats. Zap was likely to be surprised by something and blast a hole in the screen. And Bork would likely cause a film break or some other inconvenience.
“We’ll be good.” Vom smiled and his great, toothy maw was terrifying. “We promise.”
“We’ll see,” said Diana.
The cosmic horrors cheered. A bolt of unfathomable power flashed from Zap’s eyeball, burning a hole in the restaurant roof, flying through endless space, and vaporizing an undiscovered asteroid. The customers noticed, but the illusion of a sane universe kept them from doing more than muttering among themselves.
Zap folded his tentacles and lowered his gaze. “Uh, sorry.”
Diana ordered the eggplant parmesan while Vom devoured another order of breadsticks.