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Friday, November 12, 2021

"When Good Salad Bars Go Bad" • by Gustavo Bondoni


The worst thing about being an apprentice had to be negotiating with the demons. That went double when you summoned them without the master’s permission.

“I get it. You’re angry I woke you. But could you at least stop pushing the ship down while we talk?” Gene said.

The algae monster he’d summoned roared something incomprehensible.

“You’re not supposed to kill everyone, just stop them from eating so much meat.”

Huh? A giant tendril of greenery did a good impersonation of an arm scratching a head.

“Again, I already laid the groundwork. I pretended to go into a trance right there in the steakhouse, and said that a spirit was coming to teach them a lesson. All you needed to do was to show up, grunt a bit, poke a diner with a tendril and disappear. Scare them vegan. No need to sink the ship.”

Grunt. This sound combined a sense of obscenity with a questioning of whether the person talking to it was in possession of all his faculties. A lot of meaning for just one grunt: magical telepathy.

“What will it take to make you stop?”

Grunt, snicker.

“Where the hell am I going to find a virgin? This is a single’s cruise.”


“It’s your problem, too. I won’t release you from the spell. You can’t hurt me while under my command.”

Grunt, grumble.

A large leaf-hand encircled him and placed him carefully on the monster’s shoulder.

From high above the water, Gene watched the ship go under. He’d only been half-serious about changing careers from waiting tables to dark magician. But after killing the crew and passengers of the Sea Spirit, he had little choice.

The monster began the long trudge to shore.

“Are you edible?” Gene asked.


He decided not to risk it.

¤      ¤      ¤

Gustavo Bondoni is novelist and short story writer with over three hundred stories published in fifteen countries, in seven languages.  He is a member of Codex and an Active Member of SFWA. His latest novel is Test Site Horror (2020). He has also published two other monster books: Ice Station: Death (2019) and Jungle Lab Terror (2020), three science fiction novels: Incursion (2017), Outside (2017) and Siege (2016) and an ebook novella entitled Branch. His short fiction is collected in Pale Reflection (2020), Off the Beaten Path (2019) Tenth Orbit and Other Faraway Places (2010) and Virtuoso and Other Stories (2011).
In 2019, Gustavo was awarded second place in the Jim Baen Memorial Contest and in 2018 he received a Judges Commendation (and second place) in The James White Award. He was also a 2019 finalist in the Writers of the Future Contest.
His website is at

stupefy (ˈstü-pə-ˌfī) to stun, astonish, or astound

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