's 2020 Horror Write-off:

Red Eyed Chef, Black Eyed Chef

Submitted by DandelionSteph

How….how long have I been studying plants?

Ema looked away from her clipboard and up at the sky. While it was a weak-lit winter day, it was still clearly noon.

Ugh. I somehow missed dinner with the other postgrads and forgot to bring breakfast when I ran off. And now it must be lunchtime. Ema sighed and shook her head. What did they keep telling her? ‘Ema Nakamura! You can’t do science on an empty stomach!’

The sky was swarming with clouds. February. The snowiest month in Hokkaido. But… there’s no snow.

Ema spotted a wooden building—a old-styled inn?—just out of the forest. The words “Two-Color Restaurant” were emblazoned in old-fashioned Japanese on a small neon sign out front.

The inside was the same blend of antiquated and modern as the outside. The warm interior felt so nice on her skin, chilled as it was by her lengthy hike. Ema spotted two muscular middle-aged men in chef’s aprons: one swept the floor with a broom, and another, with a chef’s hat, washed a table.

“I am here for a meal,” she said. Her stomach growled. “Right now, please. I’ll leave the dish up to you.”

The hat-less chef chuckled. “Right away, miss.”

Ema sat down on the only chair in the room, by the only table in the room. Ema glanced at the table...and startled. That’s...Thai rosewood. she thought. It’s critically endangered. It’s impossible to get now

Ema shrugged. Eh, if they want to use decades-old antiques for their restaurant, that’s their choice. I won’t complain.

“You are sure to enjoy the food, miss.” said the chef without a hat, in halting English with a strange accent. In front of her was a small, hot plate of crab meat with soy sauce and rice. Before the chef had even given her a pair of chopsticks, she had fetched out her fork from a pocket in her shirt.

So delicious! Ema thought. Oh, I forgot to savor it...I was just so hungry…

“Do you...have more?” Ema said. The chef with the hat stepped forward, smiling. “I am sure you will enjoy my food more, miss.” The hat-less chef frowned, and the two went to the kitchen.

They sure are tall for middle-aged Japanese men...Ema thought as she watched them go. In fact, they don’t look at all Japanese…

They must be Americans!

In mere minutes, the hat-less chef presented a bowl of shio ramen: tiny, the most delicious she had ever eaten, and slurped up fast. The chef with the hat chuckled, while the other said nothing as they both went to the kitchen again.

They quickly returned with simple and still small dishes of perfect, fresh vegetables: nigauri and then miyoga. Those are traditional summer vegetables...but they’re served deep in winter. Ema paused, a hand to her chin.

They must have a greenhouse out back!

The next dish arrived mere seconds afterward. The two were simple fruit dishes...and still so small. Ema’s eyes boggled. Wait..Black Diamond apples? They’re not just an April Fools’ Day prank?

The apples finished, the hat-less chef presented his dish. And Gros Michel bananas? Ema thought as she stared in surprise. I thought these were extinct!

The hat-less chef made a self-satisfied grunt. The other chef hissed, and took one heavy step towards Ema...who delightfully started eating the bananas. The chefs must have a buddy in Japan’s botanic gardens to get these!

Ema paused as the chefs went back to the kitchen once more. Something is weird about these chefs. And not just them being tall and not Japanese-looking. No, no…

The one with the hat...he had long black hair. Oh, and subdued red skin, like more photogenic bricks. And the other had puffy hair cut short, black skin with blue undertones, looks almost like little horns…

Ema stared in shock and stood up.

How could I not notice? It all adds up…

She sat down.

This is an oni-themed theme restaurant! I didn’t think they had theme restaurants in Hokkaido!

Ema turned around at the sound of footsteps and glanced up at the chef. The one in the hat had completely black eyes. After eating that meal, she observed the other chef’s eyes were entirely red. Cool contact lenses! It really shows the dedication to their monstrous theme!

“I’m sure you will enjoy this exotic dish, miss.” the chef said with a strange tone. Before her were just a few slabs of grilled meat, surrounded by blackened, scaly plates of armor.

She dug in without a second thought.

Wow! This grilled armadillo is just like back in Texas! But it sure isn’t Texas-sized.

I need more.

When Ema looked back at the chefs, she caught the red-eyed chef looking at the other with pursed lips. They’re probably wondering why I didn’t even ask what it was!

And so it fell into a pattern. One went in to the kitchen and brought out a delicious, supposedly “exotic” dish, she ate it, and the next did the same. And the trips sped up, until it was only a second after she had finished one dish that they gave her another, carrying off the other plate.

Now the red-eyed chef handed her a cold chunk of solidified brown slime, filled with cubical chunks of pink flesh. Head cheese! Delicious!

Then the black-eyed chef handed her a dish of powdery, tumor-like grey blobs of fungus, bursting from a corncob and staining it black. Oh, so this is huitlacoche-on-the-cob!

Suddenly, the food delivery stopped. The chefs gathered in a corner of the room, and anxiously muttered among themselves in antiquated Japanese. Finally, the two returned, carrying a huge plate together with shaking hands. On the huge plate laid a small, waxy white wedge, pocked and threaded with blue mold.

Ema’s fork stabbed it off the plate before they even laid it down.

“Mmm!” Roquefort cheese! So fragrant and complex!

Wait...don’t the people here think cheese is disgusting? She swallowed. Nope! Hokkaido actually has a big dairy industry!

Ema let out a roaring burp. “Thank you for the meal!” Ema said. “It was so delicious.” She looked at them brightly. “Do you have any dessert options?

The chefs backed away, waving their hands in appeasing gestures. “Special deal! One thousandth customer! Totally free for you! But no dessert!” the black-eyed chef exclaimed. The two chefs ran back to the kitchen, almost tripping in their haste. They’re probably so scared because of all those dishes! It’s going to be a long day washing them all.

Shouldering her pack, Ema walked out of the strange inn-restaurant.

“I should give this a great rating on that restaurant-review site. What was the place’s name again?”

She turned around and the restaurant was gone, as it was never there.