The Curse of the Elves

Jenna frowned as her husband, Frank, shook his head. No, they would not have enough money to pay the rent. Again. It was their last warning. Eviction would follow, so they’d lose not only the butcher shop, but their apartment above, as well.

What was a poor couple in the midst of a recession supposed to do?

What she did not expect for him to do was to give away a still good – well, maybe not good, maybe more like questionable but still sellable – hunk of cured meat to one of the homeless guys begging out behind the shop.

“Goddamn it, Frank. We could have at least used that to feed ourselves. What are we supposed to eat for dinner?”

Frank sighed. “It’s better this way. I ate some of that same batch for lunch yesterday and it gave me the runs.”

They took stock of their empty larder, and went to bed with only a cup of ramen between them.

“We’ll have to close up shop tomorrow,” Frank sighed as they drifted off to sleep. Jenna bit back bitter tears. This is not what she had in mind when she’d left her first husband for Frank four years ago.

The next morning, they awoke to the wondrous smell of baking. Jenna smiled as she slowly came awake, thinking somehow that Frank had gotten up early and gone to the bakery, but jolted upright when she realized he still snored next to her.

“Frank, wake up. What is that smell? Is the house on fire?”

They blundered down the stairs, and much to their amazement, there were two dozen neat little meat pies lined up on their counter, and a line of people at the front door.

They both blinked questioningly at each other. Where had this food come from?

She reached out for one, stomach grumbling.

“Jenna,” Frank said warningly.

She was too damn starving to care. She bit into one, and the hot juices flowed over her tongue. Perfection. She moaned in appreciation of the delectable treat.

“This might just save the business,” Jenna exclaimed, and, throwing an apron on over her night clothes and yanking her hair into a ponytail, she dashed for the front door to let the people in.

“Are you sure this is a good idea, Jenna? If you didn’t make these, and neither did I, where did they come from?

Jenna rolled her eyes. She didn’t care if fairies magically made the pies for them or if the homeless guy out back decided to pay them back for their kindness, they were going to make a killing.

She flung open the doors, and people pushed their way in.

“We smelled this amazing smell from blocks away, so we had to find out where it was coming from,” one woman said.

Another man bought two for himself, and two more to-go after he had eaten the first two. “I have to share these with my co-workers. They’ll love them. Beats a fast food breakfast sandwich to death!”

The comments and the customers kept coming, until they were down to their last two pies.

Jenna finally finished hers, and Frank finally grew a pair and ventured to eat one himself. His eyes grew wide as he chewed.

“That might just be the most amazing thing I’ve ever put in my mouth,” he said thoughtfully.

She gave him a naughty look.

“You know what I mean,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Split the last one with you?”

She nodded, but just as they were about to cut it in half, Frank looked up and saw the Hoffman twins standing with their faces pressed against the glass. They both knew their folks were in worse straights then even they were.

Jenna sighed and nodded to her husband’s pleading look.

He grinned and brought the two boys the last pie. Their eyes lit up, and they devoured the thing mercilessly. They went darting off after that, sucking the juices off their fingers.

While Frank cleaned up, Jenna tallied the morning sales, and breathed a heavy sigh of relief. “We can make the rent. And even some of the back rent. And, we have just enough to pay the vendors for our next shipment.” She frowned. “Only problem is, we won’t get it until Tuesday next week. Not sure what we do until then.”

Frank just smiled. “Someone is watching over us. We’ll be fine.”

She rolled her eyes. Whatever. She was pretty sure it was a one-time thing. She had no idea how it had happened, but asking for that sort of miracle more than once was horribly naïve. Her biggest fear was giving the whole neighborhood food poisoning. They’d never be able to recover from a lawsuit.

She’d taken a gamble and won. They hadn’t had anything else to lose at the time.

That night, Frank slept like a baby, but she was nervous. Was that the beginnings of food poisoning in her grumbling stomach? Or was it just that they hadn’t had much to eat aside from one meat pie each that day? She regretted Frank giving away their last one. Her mouth salivated slightly at the thought of the delectable treat.

So obsessed with the scrumptious pastry she became that she could have sworn she could smell them again. Was she dreaming? No, she was quite awake. She sat up, and realized she did, indeed, smell baking meat pies.

She dashed down stairs to the shop, but when she burst through the back door, all she found were the pies, and no evidence of who had made them.

Frank joined her about twenty minutes later, after she had eaten her fill of pies. His eyebrows rose in shock as he looked outside. The number of customers had doubled from the day before. Luckily, so had the number of pies.

They threw open their doors and let the tide in.

Nothing but compliments from all of the customers. Ones from the day before sang the praise of how delicious they had been, how they had dreamed of them all night long, and had then told their friends about them and brought them along. Jenna just smiled as they forked over their cash.

Near the end of the rush, she watched Frank out of the corner of her eye as he boxed up a whole baker’s box with pies. When the last customer rushed off, Frank gave her a nod.

“Gonna take these over to the local homeless shelter. I’m sure they could use a bite to eat.”

Jenna sighed as he made his way out the door. The poor, simple, horribly misguided sap. She shrugged it off, though. They made enough to break even on all of their debts. One more day like this, and they might even make a profit.

But that night she was uneasy again. Where, in this economy, was that quality of meat coming from? And who in their right minds would do work for the benefit of someone else with no recompense themselves?

It just wasn’t right. So that night, after Frank had fallen asleep, she snuck downstairs and hid so she could see the kitchen.

She had to stifle a scream when a line of little men paraded across the kitchen counter with hunks of meat that they tossed into the meat grinder.

Little men, barely six inches tall. Elves? She clamped her hands over her face to stifle a laugh. Or a scream. She wasn’t sure. Elves. Little helper elves.

God they were hideous, though. Their bodies were twisted and misshapen. Their eyes glowed red and their fangs were sharp and pointed. Demon elves, maybe. The worst part was that they were completely naked. She watched in morbid fascination as they waved their tiny little elf-parts all over her kitchen.

Surely that wasn’t sanitary.

She clutched her knees to her chest, half-terrified and half-fascinated. She had to be dreaming. She’d wake up in the morning and there would be a rational explanation.

But if there was she didn’t find one. She woke up slouched against the wall, her whole body aching. The elves were gone, but the pies were made. Even more than the day before. Triple the amount of the first day. For some reason, though, she wasn’t hungry for meat pies anymore. Not after being exposed to the unsanitary practices of naked elves baking.

After the breakfast rush, she took the profits and went grocery shopping. Lots of fruit and vegetables, but no meat.

As she made her way home, she found one of the Hoffman kids sobbing. Which one was it, Tommy or Timmy? Maybe the brat was hungry? She tried to channel Frank’s inner good Samaritan, and invited him inside for something to eat.

Tommy was his name, and he picked at his meat pie as he sniffled. Apparently the day before the twins’ cat, Tails, had gone missing, and when his brother Timmy had gone off after Tails, he’d disappeared as well.

Frank patted his shoulders comfortingly. “Well, definitely go to the police if he’s gone for much longer. We’ll keep an eye out for little Timmy and Tails, as well.”

Frank took another load of leftover pies to the soup kitchen across town. When he got home, Jenna hugged him tightly.

“Frank, will you stay up with me tonight? So we can see who is doing this for us?”

“Isn’t that kind of like spying on Santa Claus?” he chided.

She suppressed a shudder. Decidedly not. “Don’t you want to know who to thank? Today is the first day we’ve made a profit in this business for two years.” But more than that, she wanted to make sure she wasn’t losing her mind. Surely little demon elves weren’t their actual benefactors.

Frank sighed and stuffed his fist into a yawn. “I’ll try to stay up for a little bit.”

Frank nodded off before anything happened, but it didn’t take long. With as little as the men were, and as much meat as they had to make for the pies, they got started early in the evening. She elbowed Frank in the ribs, and he jolted awake. She shushed him and pointed.

He sat there next to her, hidden behind a stack of boxes, and watched wide-eyed as the elves threw huge chunks of meat into the grinder and cooked it into pies.

“I’ll be damned,” he whispered as he watched the little creatures work.

“God, but they’re ugly,” Jenna whispered back.

“It’s not what’s on the outside that counts,” he shot back. “Just look what they are doing for us.”

She rolled her eyes. Pathetic sap.

By the time the shop opened, heaps of pies were ready for the howling masses waiting for breakfast.

After the rush, Jenna sat at the counter while Frank swept up. There was no sign of the homeless man, the twins, or their cat, Jenna realized. She pushed a little pile of crumbs around until Frank came through and swept them away.

“Frank, where do they come from? And where do they get the meat?”

Frank frowned. “It’s no good to question miracles.”

“Well I am questioning them. Good God, Frank, what if these little monsters are killing our neighbors to feed the rest of us? Hacking up their body parts and putting them into pies?”

Frank laughed. “You are letting your imagination run away with you, Jenna-dear.”

She wasn’t convinced, especially when a sobbing Mrs. Hoffman came by looking for her boys. Frank consoled her by giving her a meat pie.

Jenna grimaced as the woman bit into it. What if her very own son had been butchered to make that particular pie she was eating?

She ran into the bathroom and threw up.

That night, she hid in the kitchen, waiting with dread for the elves to show up. And they did. And they ground up meat and made pies until she felt like she was going to throw up again, even though there was nothing left in her stomach.

Who was left? The whole homeless shelter? Mrs. Hoffman? Her and Frank themselves? She’d never sleep again. Or eat. Not as long as these little beasts invaded her kitchen every night.


She tried to shoo them away a couple different nights. They just shook their little fists at her, and scurried away. But still, the pies were always waiting in the morning.

“You should stop staying up all night watching them, Jenna-dear. You’re looking a little ragged around the edges,” Frank commented after about a week. “And eat something, too. You’ve lost weight.”

She glared at him and chewed on a finger. Her finger. Not one of the fingers ground into meat pies. He bit into a pie, and juice spilled down his chin. She shivered, tried to suppress the nausea, but failed. She dashed to the bathroom.

She noticed Frank didn’t bring pies to the homeless shelter anymore. When she asked him about it, he shrugged.

“It’s the darnest thing. They just don’t get homeless folks there anymore. I’ve tried the soup kitchen, but their numbers are declining as well. I guess maybe the economy is turning around. Or maybe the elves are helping everyone out.”

She went upstairs, curled into a little ball, and cried herself to sleep.

She woke when he came to bed, and took up her post in the kitchen, watching the elves.

She couldn’t take it anymore. The goddamned things were taking over her life, eating her whole town. Soon there’d be nobody left. She’d tried attacking them, she’d tried leaving ground meat for them to use but they never did, they always brought their own. She locked the doors, boarded them up at night, and they still got in, still made their pies, and got out somehow.

And she couldn’t stop watching them work. She had to keep her eyes on them at all times. Their little bodies made her sick. Those little elf penises dangling as they worked. If only they’d wear clothes. Even lunch ladies had to wear hairnets.

So the next day she went to the store and bought some doll clothes. She set them out on the counter next to the beef she hoped they’d use. She wasn’t hopeful, but maybe they’d do her this one courtesy.

Strangely enough, that night, when they arrived, they stopped short at the clothes. They exchanged glances, then dropped their bundles, threw their hands in the air, and screamed. The little bastards urinated on the clothes, and then took off running.

She shook her head. What the hell? The little things weren’t afraid of her, but they fled in the face of clothing?

She went to bed, but clutched their best butcher knife, as she had taken to doing for weeks now. She was surprised to find Frank wasn’t in bed. Had he heard the ruckus downstairs and gone to investigate? She shrugged, and sunk into bed, knife to her chest. Eventually exhaustion won out, and she fell asleep.

When she woke up, it was quiet. And there was a stale smell in the air. No smell of baking pies. That was a relief. Too good to be true, even.

No Frank in bed next to her, either. Was he up already?

She cautiously made her way downstairs. When she pushed through into the store, there were no pies. No pies anywhere. She went into the kitchen, and there were the pee-stained clothes she had left for the elves.

Clothes. What story had she heard that brought up some vague sense of familiarity at that? She had no idea, and pushed the thought aside.

Along with the soiled clothing, she also found the bundles they had dropped. The meat they were going to make pies out of.

She took a closer look, and jerked backwards.

She tried to scream, and couldn’t. She realized she was still holding the butcher knife, and dropped it. When it clattered to the ground, the sound shattered the frozen moment, and she did scream then.

She screamed until the police came and arrested her for the murder of her husband, whose body parts littered the kitchen.

They managed to tack on the murder of several other victims, including the Hoffman twins and a number of homeless folks, but managed to keep the story of the meat pies out of the press.

“That’s just sick, lady. Why would you do it? Kill all those people just to save the business?” the arresting officer said as he shoved her into a police car.

She just shook her head and choked on a hoarse sob. “It wasn’t me. You have to believe me. It wasn’t me, it was the elves.”

“Sure, lady. That’s what they all say.”

Sara is a Kansas-grown author of the fantasy and horror persuasions. She is convinced that fantastical things are waiting for her just around the corner, and until she finds the right corner, she writes about those things instead.

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