The Apple Plaza

The cannibal hotel was known for its apple champagne. Other than that, it was a two-star destination. The view was subpar. The rooms were drab. The complimentary meals were often freezer-burnt or expired or both. The architecture might have suggested luxury, but its high ceilings were a relic of the past, stained from cigarette smoke. But the apple champagne was delicious. It was specially imported from Italy, rich and bubbly and pearl-like on the tongue, and it never seemed to run out. Guests guzzled it until they were dizzy, staggering back to their rooms for sloppy sex or to the bathrooms to share a line of coke. Because of the apple champagne, the hotel was thrown into a perpetual haze of indiscretion. For this reason, the cannibal hotel was not known as the cannibal hotel, but The Apple Plaza.

Anton Rossi, the sole owner, methodically flipped a key card between his fingers as he watched the hotel’s evening rush. It was the usual crowd; they mostly ignored the complimentary dinner and downed the champagne. Women with ragged hair and rail-thin arms, men with sunken cheeks and hollowed eyes, all revitalized drink after drink. All of them greedy to be rid of themselves. Anton was never greedy; not with the champagne, and not with his victims. One harvest per year. And never, no matter how much a figure struck his fancy, did he harvest anyone who might be missed. Luckily, the dining hall was teeming with prostitutes and addicts. He tapped the key card against his knee and considered his options. He had narrowed it down between an older Salvadorian man named José and a young white man named Robert. José was surprisingly fit after years of drinking, but the vacancy in his stare gave him away. Robert was pale and soft like a worm drowned in rain, his figure rather feminine. Anton was choosing between venison and veal, and it was a difficult decision. Anton lost himself in thought and hardly noticed the young woman everyone called Luz approach him. He slipped the key card into his pocket and reached for his glass of wine on the coffee table.

“People watching?” she said tipsily, plopping down on the sofa next to him. “Or just trying to be mysterious?”

Luz was barely twenty-one with a penchant for fentanyl and hookups. She’d been at the hotel for two weeks straight with her boyfriend/pimp, partaking in copious amounts of drugs and partying. She had a wiry frame and papery skin from cigarettes and Florida sun. One thing Anton didn’t dislike about her were her hands, which were soft and artistic.

“The latter,” Anton said. “Is it working?”

“Might be.” She swirled the champagne around her glass. “You know, I know everyone here sucks your dick because you give out free rooms and shit, but the food you serve – atrocious. This champagne barely makes up for it.”

Anton grinned. “Did you just binge Hell’s Kitchen?”

“I went to culinary school, smartass. For a little bit, anyway.” She downed the rest of her glass and wiped her mouth on the back of her hand. She watched the drunks mingling across the room and looked back at Anton.

“You never join in on the fun. What is that, your second glass?”

He puffed up. “Someone’s gotta run the place.”

“Right. Is there something that needs your attention right now?”

He took an exaggerated glance around the dining hall. “I guess not.”

“Then come to my room.”

“Didn’t you come with a boyfriend?”

Luz rolled her eyes. “I’ll be waiting,” she said, and zig-zagged down the hall to the elevator.

He sat on the sofa five minutes more than he should have, and then made his way to her room. The harvest could wait a few hours.


Anton searched for his clothes at the edge of Luz’s bed. She sat up and wrapped the sheets across her chest.

“Going so soon?”

“I’m afraid so.”

She shrugged and curled back into the sheets. Her high was waning anyway. She considered the baggy of fentanyl in the breast pocket of her inside out shirt on the floor. She’d wait until Anton was gone so she wouldn’t feel obligated to share. She watched him slip his polo over his head, pull one leg through his pant leg, and then the other. As he adjusted his collar, Luz noticed a key card fall silently from his pocket. She closed her eyes and pretended to nod off as Anton put on his socks and shoes and made his way out. As the door clicked shut, Luz reached over the side of the bed and snatched up the key card.

“Hello,” she murmured.

She flipped it between her fingers curiously.

The keycard paired to a room in the basement. Luz dressed and left her room in hopes to nick a few things from a wealthy conman. The elevator groaned as she descended into the belly of the hotel. She ran her fingers down the edge of the keycard like clockwork. The hallways of the basement were deathly quiet. Luz guessed it was the service floor—cleaning supplies, laundry, a roach-infested kitchen somewhere. Off-limits, for sure. She padded softly through the halls, ears keen to any sounds of employees.

“B12, B13, and here,” she whispered, “B14.”

She slipped the keycard into the door’s card reader. After a moment it lit green, and she pushed through into the room. Her heart fluttered as she closed herself in and felt for a light switch. Maybe Anton had some cash or some electronics she could pawn. She’d be satisfied with either.

She finally found the switch and flipped it on. Soft, yellow lights poured into the room like butter. Luz gasped. There was an eclectic, nearly-romantic kitchen and king-sized dining table. The table was mahogany with a blood red table runner and tall, ornate candles. It was much too large for the room, sandwiched next to the extensive kitchen. On the left wall was an industrial meat grinder, an oven, a sink, two deep freezers, a fridge, and a rack of assorted wines, scotches, and champagnes, including, of course, the apple champagne. Eccentric, Luz thought. She ran her hand down the table as she explored deeper into the orderly clutter. The walls were lined with pots and pans, pristine and sharpened utensils. She tapped an unopened box of contractor bags with her foot. Beside that was a new box of disposable vinyl gloves. The room was clearly designed for food preparation and yet it smelled peculiar. She opened the fridge. It was stocked full of fresh fruit, vegetables, and dark bottles of sauces. Funny, Anton might’ve mentioned he was a chef. Luz helped herself to an apple. He certainly kept the best for himself. Luz was so intrigued by his culinary oasis that she hadn’t even stuck anything of worth in her pocket. Her mind was elsewhere. She recalled her mother’s cooking, meals that melted on her tongue. The mere memory of her mother’s pumpkin pie brought Luz the faint smell of nutmeg. She was willing to take fentanyl from anyone, anywhere, but when it came to food—her mother had shaped her into a snob.

“What else are you holding out, Anton?” she said out loud.

She opened a freezer. Cold air pooled at her ankles. That peculiar smell was stronger now, but the freezer was bare, save for one long and slender paper-wrapped package of meat tied up in blue string crowding the freezer. Luz stuck the apple in her mouth and took the package. She undid its delicate bow and peeled away the paper. Skin. She dropped the package and the apple. Frozen, pink, slightly hairy skin at her feet. Her chest tightened.

“No,” she breathed.

Maybe it was exotic meat. Turtle, rattlesnake, eel. Luz squatted into a ball and shakily pulled away the paper, careful not to touch the skin itself. It tapered into a bony wrist, a broad palm, and finally frozen, curled fingers. She screamed.


In the end, it was Robert. It always had been. As stout as José was, Anton couldn’t pass up Robert’s supple flesh. He could smell it sizzling on a pan with butter and juniper. And if he was careful, Robert would last him the rest of the year. They chatted all night, Anton generously refilling Robert’s glass time and time again. The apple champagne was the secret to the meat. No matter the state of the body, after liters of champagne, the meat softened and tasted distinctly of fresh Italian apples.

“Thanks, man,” Robert slurred. He tipped his glass back. Anton smiled. As the first shades of dawn seeped into the Apple Plaza, guests retired to their rooms to sleep away the day, leaving Anton and Robert alone in the foyer.

“Want something stronger?” Anton said.


They took the elevator to the basement.

“I haven’t been on this floor,” Robert said, stumbling out into the basement hall. Anton didn’t answer. Instead he reared back, and slammed Robert’s skull, once, twice, and a final third crack into the wall. He crumpled to the ground in a drunken state. He wasn’t dead, but he would be. Anton dragged him to room B14. He reached into his left pocket for the keycard. Then his right. But his pockets were empty. The sound of blood roared through his ears. Panic he hadn’t known in years electrified his every nerve. He dropped Robert with a thud and frantically searched his pockets again, but the keycard was gone.

“No, no, no.”

He jangled the door handle furiously when a whimper from Robert snapped him out of his fit of rage. He stepped back from the door. Inhale, exhale. Where had he been tonight? The front desk, the entrance, the foyer, and—Luz. The keycard must have fallen out of pocket when he undressed. He dragged Robert into a nearby closet by the cuff of his shirt and slammed his head against the floor until he was dead. He hated stale meat, but this wouldn’t take long. He took the elevator and stepped off onto the floor of Luz’s room.


“You’re just high,” Randy said from the bed as Luz relayed the horrific scene to him. “Maybe your shit was laced.”

“I know what I saw,” she insisted. “Randy, I think he’s fucking eating people. We have to leave. Now.”

“Yeah, okay. First thing in the morning.” He turned onto his side.

Luz clenched her fists. “Randy. Get. Up.”

“Piss off.”

A knock came at the door.

“For Christ’s sake, can’t I fucking sleep?”

Luz tentatively peered through the peephole. On the other side was Anton, handsome and scowling. Her heart dropped.

“It’s him,” she hissed.

“Who? Anton?”


“Well, let him in.”

Randy sat up and swung off the bed. He headed towards the door. Luz tried to block him, but he knocked her out of the way.

“Anton, my man! How’s it going?”

Luz pressed herself against the wall as the door swung open.

Anton smiled, stepped in and closed the door behind him. “Randy, how are you?”

“Good, good man. Just hanging out. Hey, and thanks again for giving us a couple nights free, you have no idea how much that means to us. Right, babe?”

Luz nodded mutely.

“I actually came looking for something. I think—I hate to make accusations, but I think your girlfriend took something of mine.”

Luz kept her face neutral as her fingernails cut into her palms.

“She stole from you?” Randy grabbed her roughly and dug through her jean pockets. “The fuck did you take? I’m sorry man, this dumb bitch has been tripping all night.”

Anton raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”

“I mean serious, crazy shit. Saying she found a fucking human arm in a freezer.” Luz stared at Randy in horror. “I don’t know, but that’s the last time I fucking buy from José.”

“Fucking José,” Anton laughed.

Randy laughed too, and then Anton slammed his temple into the corner of the dresser, killing him instantly. The left side of Luz’s face speckled hot with Randy’s blood and she screamed. Anton straightened up, his chest rising and falling in heavy breaths. His pupils were dark and full.

“Luz,” he growled. “I just want the keycard.”

“Just hang on,” she stammered. Her hands trembled as she reached slowly into her back pocket, and extended the keycard.

His eyes flashed at the sight of it.

She snatched it out of reach. “You’ll let me go, right?”

He nodded.

“Open the door, first.”

“Keycard, first.”

A moment of anticipation hung rank in the air, and Anton was the first to break it. He lunged for Luz, but she’d expected this. She dodged him and shoved him hard on her way towards the door. She’d fought Randy enough to know she couldn’t beat a man, but she could get away from one. Anton stumbled, giving Luz just enough time to throw open the door and bolt down the hall. She ran. She had no money, no vehicle, no one to turn to. She considered calling the police, but that movie played out in her mind instantly: A cop or two stop by The Apple Plaza, take a statement from the eccentric but overall charming slumlord, and call it an evening. The movie ends with Luz in pieces in Anton’s deep freeze. A side stitch pierced her lung, but she couldn’t stop running. Somewhere behind her the door to Randy’s room opened. She turned the corner. She needed to hide. The roof? No, she’d be thrown over and ruled a suicide. The bathrooms? No, she’d be dragged back into an empty room. The look in Anton’s eyes when she held out the keycard flashed in her mind — there must only be one. The thought of returning to his kitchen made her sick, but she’d run out of options. It was the only room he wouldn’t have access to. She skipped the elevator and barelled down the back stairs, her bare feet slapping against the carpet in muted thumps. B14 was just past the elevator. Her lungs burned as she raced down the hall. Then the elevator beeped, and slowly started to open, revealing the sliver of Anton’s face, his fingers curling out of the doors. She dove for B14, and unlocked the door just as Anton stepped out of the elevator. The door gave way, and Luz slammed and locked it. She gasped, breath coming from her hard and ragged. From the other side Anton kicked at the door.

“Luz,” he hissed, “you don’t know what you’re doing. Let me in. We can talk.”

Luz wasn’t listening. She grabbed one of the mahogany chairs from the long dining table and stuck it under the handle. She looked for something heavier to blockade the door with but everything was either built into the walls or too heavy to move. She grabbed a knife and retreated to the back of the room, her chest heaving up and down.


He pounded on the door, but there was only one key. And she had it. The knocking stopped. After several minutes Luz’s hoarse breathing steadied. Hair clung damp to her forehead, her shirt soaked along the collar line. With a white knuckled grip on the knife, she edged towards the door and peered through the peephole. He was gone for now.


Anton stalked to the front desk. He knew he should have kept a spare key card in the hotel, but he’d been overconfident. In a fit of rage he flung everything off the desk in one swipe of his hand. Someone in an armchair stirred from the foyer but didn’t wake. He wanted to sprint to his car, speed down the interstate, get the spare card key, speed back and gut Luz. Maybe eat her. But he wouldn’t look undignified. He wouldn’t run. He walked to his office, retrieved his car keys, slicked back his hair. He’d had a slip up, but he could take care of it like it never even happened. He marched to his car, a vintage 1967 red Mustang. He slid his hand along its sleek exterior and took a deep breath. The storage building was a half hour away.


Luz sank to the floor. She’d die here, and the credits would roll. From in between her arms, she saw the open freezer, the severed arm on the floor, nearly thawed now. Anton would kill her and eat her. No one would find her. No one would miss her. Certainly not Randy. And she had no family to miss her. She remembered her mother. She was kind and she was a cook. Mashed potatoes, meat pies, pumpkin pies, homemade sausage links, corned beef in ginger beer, braised steak and onions. Meat, tenderized, fresh, her mother knew how to make it her own, let fold and bend and transform in her hands, her pots and pans, her seasoning. And when Luz returned home after a bender, her mother, without fail, without saying a word, would cook for her. Her mother was dead now, and all Luz had left of her now were her recipes. She tried not to imagine her own death, but it was all she could imagine. Would Anton slam her head against the wall? Would it be instantaneous? Or would he slowly dismember her because she’d dared best him? No. She rose, stumbled towards the kitchen and reached for a large, butcher knife on the wall. If she died it wouldn’t be by his hands. Her hands shook. Should she slit the right wrist first, then the left? She touched the tip of the knife to her skin tentatively, leaving a bright dot of blood in its wake. This wasn’t right either. Her eyes traveled back to the half-thawed arm. The poor remains of some nobody that Anton had preyed on. He was a genius; the Apple Plaza was full of nobodies. Luz set the knife down and tiptoed towards the hand, as if it might reanimate, scuttle towards her and choke her. She squatted next to it. The nails of the hand were clean and short-cut, with a wide palm and a fleshy forearm. It reminded her of the calf of a cow. Her mother used to make stew with cow legs when times were hard, and they often were. The legs always had a good deal of connective tissue, but it broke down well into bone broth and made a thick, filling stew. She poked the arm with the knife, making a tiny incision.

Gingerly, she took the arm, set it on one of the kitchen counters. Since being trafficked by a series of boyfriends in her teenage years, seduction was the main form of persuasion for Luz. But was she desirable enough to convince Anton not to kill her? She flinched at the idea of sleeping with him, flinched at the fact that she had once already. She would do it if she had to—but, no. Sex wasn’t enough. She’d already given him that. She had to cater to him. She had to be the girl he wanted, the girl he didn’t know that he needed. She would contort and twist and bend and break into the dark shape of his dream girl, the love of his life, because her own depended on it. She picked up the butcher knife again and considered her pale wrists. Luz slammed the knife through the wrist of some dead addict. What cannibal wouldn’t fall for a chef?


Anton Rossi had been under Officer Ramos’ physical surveillance now for three weeks now. He sat in the parking lot of The Apple Plaza and gnawed on a piece of jerky, trying not to depreciate the task at hand. Miami PD had been anonymously tipped off that missing person Joaquin Grey had last been seen with Anton. Officer Ramos was aware that several other missing persons in the area had frequented The Apple Plaza; but the missing persons in question were addicts and sex workers and they often overlapped in the same seedy hotels and sketchy bars. Officer Ramos was of the opinion that Anton Rossi was no more a suspect than other local business owners profiting off lowlifes. Still though, he thought, digging through the beef jerky package, a lead is a lead. One that was going nowhere, as Anton hardly led the hotel. Officer Ramos’ job was painfully easy. He was biting down on another piece of jerky when Anton himself slipped through the hotel’s front doors. Officer Ramos watched him get into his Mustang and head towards the interstate. Officer Ramos set the jerky aside, started his car and followed.


From his unmarked sedan, he watched Anton open storage unit 397. The first object Anton retrieved was too small for Officer Ramos to make out. But the second — he recognized it immediately, even without it being completely revealed. A flash of metallic in the weak rays of dawn, stuffed deep into Anton’s jacket pocket: a gun. Officer Ramos radioed to his partner this interesting development as he tailed Anton back to the hotel.


Luz had sliced the meat off the arm, cubed and seasoned it, and set it aside to fry. She put the arm, its flesh peeled away and mostly revealing bone, into a large pot with water. She put the heat on medium, then low, and then let it simmer to make the bone broth. She sliced tomatoes, garlic, onion, and red bell pepper. She set it in a well oiled pan with olive oil dashed across the top. After a few minutes she added the meat, seasoned it with salt, curry, and thyme, put the top on it and turned the heat down low. Her heart ticked nervously. It was a slow process, but she had to get it right. She’d gotten over the human arm and the fact that she’d taste-tested the bone broth. Was she a cannibal now? Maybe slightly. But nothing revolted her more than the idea of sleeping with Anton. And who was to say if he did decide to keep her alive, that she wouldn’t be locked away in this kitchen forever. Luz’s head spun. She turned and steadied herself against the table, palms sweaty on its surface. The table was so sanded she could see her reflection. Pale, scared, desperate. She wasn’t pretty enough. She never was. And she wasn’t sure she could touch him. She sobbed, grabbed a pot and hurled it against the wall. Then something fell from her breast pocket. Fentanyl.

She examined the baggy of pills. She should take them. One last trip. Her body ached for it. But Anton would be back soon, if he wasn’t already storming through the hotel, and she didn’t want to die high. She shook the baggy. It wasn’t enough to make her overdose. Her tolerance was so high after years of abuse that it would take an impossible amount to kill her. She turned from the table, tended to the meat and vegetables in the pan, turning them over so they cooked evenly. She tested the bone broth, seasoned it heavily. Parsley, Curry, Pepper, more salt. It was dark and rich, and it tasted wonderful. She glanced at the wine rack. What would pair well with it? She imagined Anton, timidly sipping on his apple champagne. He hardly drank. Prude. He probably hadn’t even smoked weed, done any sort of hard drugs.

Luz’s eyes snapped to the fentanyl. It wasn’t enough to overdose her, but it was enough to overdose Anton. Something lifted in her chest. Now she had a fighting chance. She took apple champagne from the wall and poured two glasses. She lit candles. She toasted sourdough bread and spread thick garlic butter across it. She laid out the dishes, the silverware. She tested the broth again, and checked the meat. The stew was nearly ready.


Anton stormed through the foyer, gun at his side. He didn’t even try to hide it. He didn’t need to. This was his hotel, his harvest. He took the elevator down into the basement. The hallways were deathly quiet, like they always were early in the morning. Rays of dawn through the windows promised a scorching day. He’d be finished before then. He came to B14. He slipped the keycard into the card reader and readied his gun. Luz would probably be waiting for him with a knife, a pitiful attempt to survive. Or maybe she’d be balling on the floor, plastered to a corner, already begging for her life. He opened the door. It was dark, but not completely. His hands shook, and as his eyes adjusted to the dark, he realized that the room was dimly lit by his candles. The table was laid out in delicate, plated silverware. There were two bowls of soup set out and matching spoons carefully arranged beside them. There was a bottle of apple champagne, two glasses filled generously to the brim. And sitting at the head of the table, face flickering in the candlelight, was Luz. He lowered his gun fractionally. Luz did not move. She stared him down, and something in her eyes enticed him. She had…cooked for him? With what? His eyes flickered to the kitchen, where bone fragments littered the counter and one, severed hand lay palm side up. Anton looked at Luz. She was different now. There was hunger in her eyes. The same hunger he witnessed when he spent hours and hours gazing into his own reflection in the mirror. He lowered his gun.

“You’re in my seat.”

Luz shook her head. “No. You’ll sit beside me.”

Anton felt rustled. Disrespected. He should shoot her. And yet, carefully, slowly, he found his way to the seat left of her.

“No knives or meat claws on you, I hope?” He waggled his gun.

“No need. We’re having stew,” she said, gesturing to the bowls.

Anton felt a little stupid for that. He sat, his eyes trained on Luz. The spoons were on his left, the gun on the right of his soup bowl. As candlelight danced along the hollows of her cheeks, he could not help but think of her beautiful beauty like a polished skull. Luz said not a word. She took a deep spoon of her soup. It was chunky, full of flavor, Anton could smell it. She closed her eyes, letting the flavors dance on her tongue. He could kill her now, being so careless, so vulnerable with her eyes closed like that. He knew that, she knew that. But he may as well see how far this charade would play out before he had to kill her. And the soup did smell delicious, it smelled distinct, and he was sure.

“What kind of soup is it?”

“Stew,” she corrected, taking a measured—not greedy—sip of wine. “Originally it’s made from the leg of a cow—stringy, gelatinous, if you don’t know how to make it right. A poor man’s stew, but don’t discount the classics. Besides, this isn’t beef, is it?”

She nodded to his bowl. Anton looked down reluctantly at his meal.

“It smells wonderful, but I can’t know if you’ve poisoned it.”

Luz laughed lightly. Anton burned as if she were making fun of him, but she shook her head at his scowl, rose slowly, leaned over him and his bowl. Her hair fell over her shoulder, wispy on his cheek. He couldn’t help but notice how especially long her eyelashes were. Luz, he realized, was quite beautiful. But he needed to kill her; she was a liability. Instead he let her lean over him, taste his stew, sip his wine, nibble his bread. She settled back into her chair and continued eating her own meal. Anton looked at the stew, suddenly starving. He gingerly took a bite. And then another, and another, and he had to catch himself before downing the entire bowl, one long, insatiable gulp. It was delicious. His harvests never tasted nearly as good as this.

“You, you are a chef.”

Luz laughed and chewed thoughtfully on a piece of garlic bread. “Well, I did go to culinary school.”

Forgetting himself, Anton shoveled spoonful after spoonful into his mouth. Luz—he looked up from the stew—she was perfect. Anton was dizzy with excitement. This is what he’d been missing: a partner. With Luz, the kitchen was a home, and Luz herself was the image of a goddess. In fact, light seemed to emanate from her skin. It seems only appropriate that the love of his life be an ethereal being. He admired her artistic hands, imagined how she must have seasoned the stew and buttered the bread, and the question fell from his mouth before he could stop it.

“Would you like a life with me?”

Luz met his gaze, unwavering. “I’m willing to hear your pitch.”

“I harvest, you cook. We try new things, new recipes, we rid the city of rejects, we turn nobodies into art. We dine, we travel, we expand beyond this place.” A bodily wave of euphoria overtook him. His vision narrowed and darkened on the edges. “We would build an empire, and you, you are my muse.” He took Luz’s hand and squeezed it. “So will you? Will you have a life with me? Sometimes it gets so—just, please.”

She met his gaze. Sweat had gathered on his forehead and his pupils were constricted to a point. He was monstrous, and yet—why in this moment could Luz feel only remorse?


Luz made her way through the halls of The Apple Plaza, taking in every detail. The high, ornate ceilings, the grungy carpets, the littered cigarettes. Maybe it was adrenaline, or maybe it was the spoonful of Aton’s fentanyl-laced stew coursing through her blood, but either way, life itself had a richer quality to it. Sun blazed through the smoky foyer, giving the room a feverish feel. Drunken, unconscious bodies lay sprawled across the couches and chairs, champagne and sweat stained into their clothes. The only sound was their slight snores, and then, as Luz reached the double-doored exit, she saw a young man, maybe her age. He was observing the lulled chaos of the night before. His clothes looked like anyone else’s but his face was too full, too youthful to belong to an addict, and Luz saw the hint of a holster beneath his shirt before he saw her.

“Good morning,” she said, attempting to pass him.

“Excuse me,” he stopped her, “I’m looking to try some of that famous champagne, and I hear Anton’s the man to see. Have you seen him around?”

Luz imagined Anton.


“So will you? Will you have a life with me? Sometimes it gets so…just, please.”

He squeezed her hand again, his eyes desperately searching Luz for her. A sharp sadness coursed through her, stronger than her fear, deeper than her anger, and gently, she squeezed his hand back.

“Does that mean yes?” his words slurred.

“No.” She looked him in the eye. “It means no.”

Anton’s eyes widened and he flinched away from her. He untangled his hand from hers and fumbled for the gun, but the fentanyl had already taken effect. His hands struck uselessly at the hammer. Luz watched his grip loosen, his shoulders slump, and finally his face dropped into the empty bowl of stew. She didn’t breathe. She leaned across the table and felt Anton for a pulse—there was none. A sob escaped from unknown depths within her.


“I’m sorry, I can’t say I have,” she said to the young man. “But if he’s here, you’ll find him.”

“Oh, do you know where he usually hangs out?”

Luz paused. “The basement.”

“Oh, right on. Um, where—”

“Good luck,” she said firmly, and walked briskly past him. Officer Ramos looked back at her once, and started for the belly of the hotel. Her “good luck,” he would soon find, was genuine.

Luz walked through the double doors, out of the cannibal hotel, into a world where she knew death was not quite confined to the night; but neither was hope confined to the day. Perhaps she’d finish culinary school.

SAGE MACKIN lives in Fort Smith, AR. She graduated from UAFS with a B.A. in Writing and Rhetoric. Her work has appeared in the UAFS Applause Literary Journal and in an upcoming volume of The Dallas Review’s upcoming volume.