's 2017 Horror Write-off:

Square Pizza

Submitted by Austin Brooks

Kevin was in trouble. He was ten minutes late for work, on Black Friday. He entered the back room as quickly and quietly as possible, dreading the hard day ahe-Oh Shit is that a pizza? Not just any pizza, that was the distinctive orange and white pizza box emblazoned with a chubby cartoon pizza chef of Pudgie's Pizza. Pudgie's was Kevin's, and anyone in the Pennsylvania/New York area with any modicum of good taste's, favorite local small pizza chain. Not only that, but the size of the box said it was an entire sheet pizza, a massive rectangle of greasey cheesy goodness. One of the managers must have ordered lunch for everybody to take the edge off the most stressful day of the year for any minimum wage employee.

Kevin beelined for the pizza box, pausing briefly to boggle in disgust at the plate of discarded crusts beside it. What ignorant fool would throw away perfectly good food? He grabbed one and took a hearty bite before moving on to the main course. The box was even still warm! Not that it mattered, he could eat Pudgie's stone cold. Hell, he could eat it frozen. He lifted the lid and gazed reverently at a pristine and complete pizzascape of mana from heaven. As he reached for center front edge piece, two things crossed his mind over the course of a split second

First of all, this pizza wasn't just still warm, it was sizzling hot, as if it had just come out of the oven. Second, if this sheet was untouched, where had the plate of crusts come from?

Too late, already dozens of flat pepperoni shaped compound eyes had registered the sudden change from light to dark, and millimeters from the surface, the pizza snapped shut around Kevin's hand like a scroll suddenly free to coil itself back up. It pulled his head and shoulders down closer, his arm sinking into a cheesy sinkhole. Jagged cardboard teeth unfolded from beneath the box's rim, digging through Kevin's shirt and into his fleshy back.

He gazed in horror as the pizza that had so thoroughly ensnared his forearm receded into a box that was somehow deeper on the inside than the outside, a pit the size of a large trash industrial trash can.  He struggled in horror at the sight of a boiling pit of melted cheese and pepperoni, teeming with other, more horrible things. Mushrooms, peppers, pineapple, the half-dissolved remains of past victims, black olives. Already his skin tingled and burned as if he had stuffed his head in a pizza oven.

A pair of spindly arms extended from the sides of the pit, melty mozzarella skin stretched over doughy flesh coursing with marinara blood, supported by a rigid skeleton of breadsticks that helped to force the struggling Kevin further into its tepid stomach. As his face touched the scalding surface of the cheese at the bottom, boiling cheese filled his mouth and throat with deliciousness even as it blistered his esophagus and muffled his cries for help.

In his dying moments his flailing kicks connected with the now closed lid, flopping it up and down in a way that may have alerted a bystander to his plight had there been any to bear witness. The pizza pit was already filling with the thick solution of boiling grease that served as a substitute for conventional stomach acid, boiling over the lower lip of the box and onto the tile floor with a wet sizzling splash and a veil of hot steam, contributing to the growing greese stain on the floor directly below.

Ten minutes later Kevin's manager Sandra stomped angrily into the back room in search of her awol employee and to catch her breath. The Black Friday rush had been bad enough, but now another noshow in addition to both the first and the replacement for the first that had failed to arrive... she eyed the pizza in the corner enviously, assuming the store owner had brought it in as a feeble "reward" despite the fact she wouldn't likely have a chance to taste it while covering for three employees that were as good as fired and she honestly hoped for their safety she would never have to see again.

As Sandra's disgruntled footsteps faded, a pair of tiny sausage-chunk eyes extended on stalks of stringy cheese to survey their habitat. Though it had fed well, they hoped to score a final meal before scurrying away to hide and lie dormant for months. Quickly and surreptitiously a slender hand draped in gristly supreme meat and cheese gently placed another crust on the plate besides it, the condensed and dehydrated remains of its meals indigestible bits, it's only waste material.