Why My Pot Pie is on Fire in the Toaster Oven by Victoria Wraight

It’s been a week since the chasm opened, and I’m getting sick of scraping moss off my shampoo bottles.

The crater is as big as my cat Meatball, and smells like sulfur and honey and the perfume my Aunt Janet stopped wearing when Grandma told her she smelled like a floozy. Meatball bats a jingly toy mouse into the chasm, and the pit widens further with a burst of fresh yellow spores that cling to my armchair like fleas. It’ll be gone by nightfall. The spores eat, the moss spreads, and the vines steal.

I pick up my cat and plop her on my bed, wishing my apartment was bigger than a shoebox. Meatball purrs and flops onto her back.

The pit is gurgling again. I hate when it gurgles.

Mom says to put a tarp over it, but the damn thing already ate my shower curtain, so I don’t think a tarp would do much good. She also told me to call my landlord, but seeing as I’m behind on rent— being a waitress only gets you so far in the city, I’d rather put up with the strange pit that steals my socks and candles.

I pour more salt in it to stop the gurgling. My shoulders sag when it begins to hiss. Meatball hisses back before returning to her absentminded rolling. My fierce protector.

“Stay here,” I tell her. “I’m gonna make dinner.”

She’s been smart enough to avoid the gaping maw in the living room, but I can’t help but worry. Meatball’s been my only friend since I found her in the dumpster outside my work.

I hop over a bundle of vines to make it to the kitchen. I don’t know what’s in the pulsating mass until I see my new tote bag go flying into the chasm, dragged by thorny vines wriggling like worms.

I check on Meatball before shoving a frozen pot pie in the toaster oven. She snoozes on her back, paws twitching. I wish I could be so carefree. No, actually, I wish I had a fork. The chasm took my entire cutlery drawer yesterday, so I’ll have to make do with the stash of chopsticks above my fridge.

Something brushes against my leg, and I dismiss it as Meatball begging for her dinner. The pit starts to gurgle again as I carefully enter the small living area to grab the box of canned cat food from under the sofa—typical big city apartment storage options, I know. The chasm has left it alone thus far. Guess it doesn’t like mashed fish parts.

I gasp when my ankle twists, sending me sprawling to the floor in a graceless tumble.

“Meatball, I told you to stop walking under my feet,” I sigh, but Meatball is watching me from the bed with her hackles up. Something tugs on my leg. Once, twice. Then pulls.

A vine is wrapped around—no, in— my leg. Spindly thorns embed themselves in my skin, sinking so deep they break skin and muscle and bone. I try to scream, but all that comes out is a soft wheezing. Meatball yowls and bolts from the bed and into the bathroom.

My nails grip the carpet as the vine pulls me closer to the chasm, and my mind conjures up the sick image of a claw machine tugging a teddy bear up by its tummy. Maybe there’s some weird Lovecraftian monster child at the bottom of the chasm, pulling me in like a deflated teddy bear in a run down arcade.

Is this hysteria? Panic? Are there spores in my brain?

I kick my leg again, as if that’ll do any good. I kick and twist and flex, but its grip is solid.

The chasm is surprisingly warm, but then gets hot, too hot, like I stuck my foot in a cooling fire pit. The vine is nearly receded into the chasm when a blur of gray flashes crosses my vision and bats at the vine with a vicious yowl only an overweight tabby who didn’t get dinner could make.

The chasm gurgles and whines as if hurt, retracting its vine with a sickeningly wet hiss. The sudden jerky retreat causes it to rip off my ankle with a sinewy twist and bloody CA-CRACK  before releasing a burst of spores and moss and blood— my blood my tissues and veins and bone shards— and I shriek, crawling away from the wall to avoid a retaliating vine, to save my other ankle because Jesus fuck how can I waitress without at least one foot—

Meatball squeaks in curiosity as she laps up the blood, rolls in moss, and I croak, “No! Get away from…the…pit?”

The black spots fade from my vision, replaced with pure adrenaline, flooding my body with a sickening focus.

It’s gone. The chasm is gone. Where there was once a yawning hole is now a patch of discolored paint and a pile of dead crickets. Like the chasm never existed. 

Except it took my foot. The one with the butterfly tattoo I paid twenty bucks and a handjob for. Supernatural entities are such dicks.

I groan in pain as I force myself to my knees and shout for Siri to “call 911, or my mom, or the Chinese place, because I’m hungry and I lost my foot and my pot pie is burnt to shit,” because that’s what you when you’re in you’re living in the city in your twenties with a cat who’d rather attack a monster than miss her dinner of mushy tuna.

You lose the foot, and move on. You sit gasping in your apartment staring at your bloody stump ankle, waiting for crab rangoons, and move on. You debate calling an ambulance because an Uber would be cheaper, but you can’t remember your Uber account password so you promise yourself to maybe call 911 after you eat your crab rangoons, and move on.

You just have to move on.

Victoria Wraight (she/her) is an avid reader and writer always looking for the cryptic and strange in her hometown of Buffalo, New York. When she isn’t haunting local bookstores, she can be found hunched over an iced coffee exploring her latest weird ideas. Her work has been featured in Diet Milk Mag, Wintermute Lit, Hearth & Coffin, and Not Deer Magazine.

Twitter: @cryptic_vic