About Reptilspire Productions

            You are at your Grandmother’s house.  She is a quaint little old woman and is much more pleasant than the typical Grandmother.  Every time you arrive on her doorstep, she has a fresh tray of homemade cookies ready for you to gobble down like you always did when you were a child.

            You take a seat on your Grandmother’s floral-patterned sofa and reach into her candy dish, which is filled to the brim with tightly-wrapped peppermint candies.  You snatch one from the dish, carefully unwrap it from the tightly-twisted cellophane wrapping, and pop it in your mouth.  The peppermint flavor rushes through your sinuses and down your throat.  It comforts you.

            “How have you been eating?” she asks you.  “You’re as skinny as a rail!  You need to eat in order to be healthy!  I don’t want my favorite grandchild being all stringy like those people on the television set!  Eat up, hon!”  She hands you a tray of just-out-of-the-oven peanut butter cookies.

            “That’s fine,” you tell her.  “I’ll just have a peppermint instead; I just had lunch.”

            “Okey dokey,” she says with a smile.  “I’m going to take a short little nap.”

You nod an acknowledgement to her and continue to suck on the peppermint candy.  “Okay, I’ll just wait around for you.”

“When I get up, we can cook dinner together.  How does that sound, hon?”  Your Grandmother turns around and departs the room.

            “That sounds good,” you tell her.

            “See you soon, then,” she replies as she steadily ascends a staircase and enters her bedroom.

            As you suck on the peppermint candy, you remember when you were four and how your Grandmother moved from Louisiana so that she could be closer to you.  Along with the move came an entire collection of traditional Cajun recipes that you could never get enough of.  The only reason you even remember your high school graduation was because your Grandmother cooked a giant batch of your favorite shrimp gumbo for the party that your family held afterwards.

            You always loved your Grandmother’s cooking – the only logical reasoning for this was that she cooked it and you loved anything that she made, whether it was a cake or a silly drawing that she quickly doodled on a thin piece of butcher paper for you when you were a child.  As you grew older, you admired your Grandmother’s ambition to collect her favorite recipes into your so-called “official” family cookbook, “Cookin’ Cajun.”  Yet, for some reason, the book seemed incomplete – there seemed to be several more recipes that you could recall from your childhood that she left out, such as a delicious beef jerky that she made when you were seven, around the time that your uncle Jimmy drowned when he was on a fishing trip.

            Even though the peppermint reminds you of the old days, it quickly becomes a nuisance and you spit the remainder of the peppermint into its original cellophane wrapper.  You stand up and look around for a trash can, but before you can do so, you notice a tarnished brass key lying underneath a mahogany antique table.  You place the cellophane on an old stained crocheted coaster and take the key.

            Upon examination, you discover that the key has an engraving of a lion’s head.  This brings back memories of a huge old trunk with a carving of a lion eating a gazelle on the front that your Grandmother used to keep in her living room.  It always piqued your curiosity.  When you were nine, you were scolded left and right by your Grandmother when you attempted to pick the lock with a paper clip.  She told you that it was a valuable antique from when she was a little girl and that you were not allowed to ever touch it again under any circumstance.  You touched it again several times, but it never opened.  When you were thirteen, you concluded that the lock was jammed and the trunk would never be opened again.

            You continue to stare at the key.  You look up from the key and check that your Grandmother’s bedroom door is closed; you see that it is.  For a minute, you stay on the floor next to where you found the key.  You think to yourself: “this key has to be the key that opens that old trunk.”

            The trunk beckons, so you creep towards the basement, passing row after row of faded baby pictures of people in your family on the way, all bearing the mark of dozens of years of sun exposure.  You creep down a small set of stairs, making sure that they don’t creak and wake up your Grandmother.

            The basement is musty and it reminds you of the time that you visited Martha McGee, an elderly woman that you volunteered to help with everyday chores back in middle school.  Her house wasn’t morbidly creepy, but you never felt quite normal there because Martha rarely moved anything around, so, over the years, the thick curtain fabric deteriorated and gave off a pungent, vinegar-like stench.  Her eight cats didn’t add anything positive to the experience, either.  You were glad when your volunteering program was over.

            You remember that the basement is not much different than Martha’s house.  Your Grandmother, despite her cheerful disposition, has never liked people snooping around in what she calls the “non-guest rooms” on her house: rooms such as the basement, laundry room, attic, or utility room.  All of these rooms scared you as a child to begin with, so your Grandmother never made a big deal out it with you, but she did always keep them locked just to curb your curiosity.

You haven’t been in your Grandmothers’ basement in years.  The first time you were there was when you snuck down to see what she had down there after your cousin jested that she was keeping a hunchback boy chained to a pipe and that she was feeding him table scraps.  Even though you knew that this claim was too outlandish to contain a single thread of truth, you had to take a peek.  One evening, you and your cousin snuck down to the basement after everyone had gone to sleep but all you ended up finding that wasn’t locked-up or covered with protective cloth was a case containing your Grandfather’s war medals.

As you grab a set of keys from your Grandmother’s mail-sorting wall unit, you recall the time that she moved the lion and gazelle trunk to the basement after another of your younger cousins, Carol, spilled a glass of grape juice all over it.  Even though the carpet was the only thing that bore a stain after this incident, your Grandmother was so frustrated that she moved the trunk to the basement, despite that it was her favorite decoration.  The last time that you even saw the trunk was the time you snuck down to the basement several years later during Carol’s wake luncheon.  You can remember looking at the engraving as your Mother caught you and demanded that you return to the wake.

“Come back up here and remember Carol,” she told you.

“But Carol would have wanted me to remember her in my own way,” you replied.  “And this trunk reminds me of that time she spilled the grape juice.  That’s my only real memory of her.”

“Fine,” your Mother told you.  “I understand, but you are to come up here immediately.  You know how your Grandmother doesn’t like it when people bother her trunk.”

As you insert a small, silver key into the doorknob of the basement door, you remember walking back upstairs and flipping off the light switch to the basement on that day.  You also remember how the rest of the party went and how you felt as you take your first few steps down the wooden staircase into the basement.  When you flip on the lights, you remember how you vowed to find out what was in that trunk.

The trunk is sitting in a corner of the room next to a broken grandfather clock.  Out of the corner of your eye, you notice a small burlap rug and you decide that if you are going to look through the contents of the trunk, you will need something to protect you from the chilling sense that emanates from the concrete basement floor.

With a deep breath, you blow the dust from the keyhole of the trunk.  You take a deep breath as you insert the key into the keyhole.  You turn the key until you hear a click and then you slowly open the trunk as a poof dust of spills upwards.

You look down into the trunk and find several old black and white photographs in golden frames along with a few unidentifiable beaded rock necklaces.  You extract each of these items one by one and find several tattered books underneath several sheets of old newspaper.  You grasp a gray book at the top of the stack and raise it towards your face.

The book reads “Recipes for Family + Friends.”  At last, you have found what appears to be your Grandmother’s allegedly “long-lost” recipe collection!  Even better, they might be new recipes that you have never tried.  You flip through the tattered, tanned manuscript pages and stop on a page titled “Swedish Meatballs.”

You ask yourself: “What is my Grandmother doing with a recipe like this?  This isn’t Cajun food.”

You read down the list of ingredients:

…one egg

…one onion





…fresh black pepper


            It appears to be a regular meatball recipe, but you continue to cruise through the ingredient list:


…parmesan cheese

                        …2 pounds special meat

            “Special meat.”  Not beef, not chicken, not even opossum.  Just simply “2 pounds special meat.”  You flip to another page titled “Lobster Theodore.”

                        …one lobster





                        …1 lb meat, preferably bicep, but calf works equally well

            “Bicep?  Calf?  What the hell is this?” you utter as you flip through more recipes:

“New Yorker-Style Pizza”

“Rocky Mountain Climber Oysters”

“Trailer Park Surprise”

Chile Con Carol”

“Stewin’ Stu”

“Trucker Flank Steaks”

“Baked Alaskan”

“Beef Jimmy”

“Babies Back Ribs”

            “Beef Jimmy?”  Your uncle Jimmy?  Chile Con Carol?”  Your cousin Carol?  “Stewin’ Stu?”  Your grandfather Stu?  You toss the book aside and flip through another, only to find more disturbing human recipes:

“Macaroni & Cheeks”

“Lady Fingers (Alternate Recipe)”

“Eyeball Cake Supreme”

“Little Boiled Brat”

“Broiled Arm Bone Soup”

“Fried Fred Legs”

“Fran Flan”

“Slut Slaw”

Peking Dan”

“Kung Pao Charles”

“Blood & Pepper Jack Pasta Sauce”

            You toss this book aside as well.  Underneath the two books is another small case.  Already shaking, you remove this case and inside you find two human skulls and numerous finger bones.  The larger skull has “the cheating husband” written on it across the forehead with permanent marker.  The small skull reads “the little spilling brat.”

            You place this box back in the trunk as you turn pale.  You run away from the case and open the utility room.  As you fiddle with the keys, the only thing you can think of is when your grandpa Stu died of a sudden, unexplainable illness.  Memories of other bizarre family deaths rush through your head.

            Inside of the utility room, you see a rusty old shotgun, a blood-stained shovel, and a wall-mounted metal shelf with various little bottles with peeling labels.  Some of them are empty but others still contain liquids.  You examine the bottles closely:


                        “Potassium chloride”




On the back of the door of the utility room is a cross, crudely painted in red.  Upon closer inspection, you discover that it is blood: not paint.

You throw open the door and dash out of the utility room.  To your left is a large cedar chest.  You glare at it, eyes watering, and you throw aside the protective cloths from it.  Inside, you discover more human bones and some large unidentifiable human remains.  One skull in this trunk is defaced with “the deadbeat brother.”  Another states “Fran, the town slut!” in red permanent marker.  You shift about left and right opening up drawers as you discover other strange elements, including blood-stained knives, at least a dozen more skulls, and countless femur bones.  Some of these femur bones even have carvings of biblical scenes on them, but you cannot exactly tell what the scenes are.

You stop and pant heavily as you panic.  The room spins and becomes a blur of carnage and doilies.  Upstairs, you hear footsteps: “step… creeeeak… step…. creeeeeeak…”

            “Admiring my artwork, hon?” you hear your Grandmother call out from the top of the basement stairs.  “Nana wants to cook with you now...”

You stumble backwards and collide with a broken china cabinet.  A shotgun loads near the entrance to the basement.  “Chhh…chhhk!  Step… creeeeak… step…. creeeeeeak… step… creeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeak…”

Copyright 2009 Matt Hohnstein. All Rights Reserved.