's 2019 Horror Write-off:

Caramel Flan

Submitted by Hisham Hasan

A battered brown package lay in front of his door.


He wasn't expecting a package.

He picked it up and brought it inside.

Possibly a mistake? Wrong delivery?

It had suffered water damage. The address and label were unreadable.

He shrugged. Might as well open it.

The interior was well-padded with brown paper.

He pulled out a faded yellow box

Printed across the top, in an elaborate flowing script, was Grandma Phyllis' Flans and Puddings.

He never heard of the company before.

Below that it read: Caramel Pudding.

Was this a free sample?

Examining the package revealed no new information.

He turned his attention to the box of pudding mix.

Unfortunately water had managed to seep through and render most of the writing illegible.

The expiry date was unscathed, though. It was still good.

He walked over to his kitchen and put it into a cupboard, and paid it no further attention.


He only remembered the box of pudding a week later.

He had put off shopping for days, and now faced a fridge full of spoiled leftovers.

He had a chicken in the freezer, but it was far too late now to defrost and cook it.

All he had was some milk, a banana, and a jar of dill pickles.

Not much of a meal.

But then he remembered.

He opened the cupboard and took out the box.

He opened the box and pulled out the envelope, bulging with powdered pudding. It was still sealed.

Welp. Might as well.

The instruction sheet was damaged.

No matter. He didn't need no instructions.

Saucepan, milk, powder. Pudding.

That's all there was to it.

He poured some milk into a saucepan and heated it up on the stove.

He opened up the envelope.

He was careful to keep the envelope away from his nose. He didn't want to inhale any and start sneezing.

He tipped the whole thing in, then started stirring.

This evening might not be so bad after all.

Warm steam rose from the saucepan.

Warm, buttery notes. Hints of vanilla and caramel.


...rotten fish?

He sniffed.

He could have sworn he caught a whiff of rotten fish.

He looked into the saucepan.

The yellow mixture bubbled away, looked like it was beginning to thicken.

He went back to stirring.

There. Again.

A strong whiff of rotten fish. And an acrid undertone, like vinegar.

The pudding was definitely starting to stink.

He took the pan off the stove and put on the counter on a trivet.

As it simmered down, the stench only increased.

Disgusted, he went to get the box.

The expiry date was still a way off. Maybe the stuff was contaminated? The milk was definitely fine.

He picked up the sheet he discarded.

Nothing was legible, except for a box at the bottom.

It read, "For Ages 8 and Up."

That was a strangely specific age warning.

A loud splattering sound made him jump.

The mixture was bubbling, expanding, overflowing the saucepan and was now dripping onto the floor.

He watched, transfixed.

It was like one of those chemical reactions he saw online. Some mix of chemicals that produced a massive mound of foam that flowed all over the place.

It kept expanding.

There was now a sizable mound of the stuff on the counter top.

He got it now.

This wasn't supposed to be edible; it was some sort of prank or novelty item.

That would certainly explain the age warning.

He sighed. It was certainly successful, but he now had a huge mess.

The huge custardy mass on the counter slid onto the floor with a loud splattering noise.

He walked over. No steam came off it, and he couldn't feel any heat.

It really looked like perfectly fine custard.

The upper part was starting to darken as it cooled.

Was it cool enough to touch?

He extended a finger.

It was warm and gooey.

It surged up his arm.

With a cry he tried to jump back, but his feet skidded on the pudding-slicked floor and he ended falling on his ass and plunging both legs into the mass.

The pudding wrapped around his legs and flowed up his pants.

He tried to pull himself free, but it was like being stuck in molasses.

What was this stuff?!

It pulled him in, sucked him inwards.

He realized he still had the sheet of instructions crumbled in his free hand.

He looked over it desperately. Searching for any hint, any way out.

He realizes he had misread the water-damaged, smudged textbox.

It actually read:

"For Levels 8 and Up."