Late night was turning into early morning when something inside her finally broke. She couldn’t deny what was happening, even though she would like to. “So this is it?” she asked, giving in to pain and exhaustion. “After all this time?” Her throat spasmed, voice cracked. “Do . . . do you have any idea how much I loved you?”

No answer of course. She felt the knot tightening around her belly again. Another up-welling of agony. Another spiral into the abyss.

It had all started with a date at a trendy brew-pub all those years ago. They had split an order of parmesan truffle fries. That’s when she knew—from the first taste of those crisp, tangy fries—she was in love. And over all these years, she had been faithful, ordering the same fries almost every time she visited that brewery, each experience as satisfying as that first.

And now this. Betrayal of the most visceral kind.

Had she been stress eating? Of course. Was the high ABV pint she’d ordered a part of this too? Undoubtedly. But there was only one thing she could blame for the chunks floating in her toilet bowl.

“Alright,” she muttered in resignation. “It’s over.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox


His name was Laurentius, and he served the emperor.

“Wine!” a voice echoed across the marble floors. “Wine, you useless son of a barbarian whore.” A milder insult than usual. The ruler of the world was not that drunk. Not yet, at least.

Laurentius moved swiftly, but not to the cellar. Instead, he scooped an ember from the central fire, carried it out to the balcony, and lit a brazier. Light blossomed invitingly in the cold night.

Was this how he served his emperor?

No time to contemplate. Laurentius descended to the cellar, retrieved a wineskin and carried it to the bath chamber. He poured it into the emperor’s cup himself and took the first sip.

“Some nights I wish it was poisoned,” the emperor declared, “and then I’d finally be rid of you.” Laurentius inclined his head politely and exited.

The general was waiting in the hall with a detachment of soldiers. At a nod from their commander, the men moved swiftly into the bath chamber.

Screams in the night.

Meanwhile, general appraised servant. “So, you’re the traitor?”

A bow. “My name is Laurentius, and I serve the emperor.”

The general smiled grimly and drew his sword. “Not anymore.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox