L'Aisselle du Diable

The year 2500 had seen the most massive uptick in space travel in centuries. The year 2300 had produced the very first lightspeed engine; 2400, the advanced lightspeed engine; and 2500 was the century of the super advanced lightspeed engine. And by golly, we were running out of names for lightspeed engines. One thing that we weren’t running out of, however, were ludberries. They came from the planet Galapraxos-Snogladant IV, home to a race of tiny alien creatures called the Ug, named such, since they were not necessarily the most loquacious of species and walked around saying “Ug” while eating wild ludberries most days—except for Tuesdays, when they turned into giant, ravenous, Godzilla-like monsters that consumed entire worlds… but that’s neither here nor there. It was not entirely clear how the world of Galapraxos-Snogladant IV got its name, but it was rumored to be onomatopoetic for how the Ug sound when they consume entire worlds on Tuesdays… but that’s also neither here nor there.

Ludberries were everywhere. They pollinated like bullrabbits on a quiet, summer evening. They grew from every crack and crevice of my home world now, and yet they were still considered a delicacy. “Why?” You might ask. It was because a ludberry always tasted like your least favorite food, but multiplied by one-thousand degrees of mushy, disgusting, eye-wateringly potent stench that could drop a skywalrus. But people would never eat them in the wild. No. To eat a ludberry off the ground was a savage thing to do, but to eat a ludberry in a fancy restaurant with la creme de la creme of the city, well, that was cultured.

To wax philosophical for a moment, the human mind is the most backwards, twisted, nonsensical thing imaginable. Give a person a good thing, and they want another. Give them a bad thing and they're satisfied with just one. Give a person a juicy steak, and they'll only pay upwards of thirty Imperial dollars for it and then want a bigger portion. Give them ludberry wine and they'll pay upwards of 3000 Imperial dollars for a bottle, and walk away satisfied. I was in the business of distilling ludberry wine, and I must say that my philosophy rang true for the commoners who would spend a fortune just to try one sip of the wine, spit it out, and leave. They were simply there for the experience and the culture, and if drinking wine with notes of burning flesh, rotten eggs, and a hint of cilantro was cultured, then, by golly they'd do it.

As for my profession, I ran a decadent restaurant called L'Aisselle du Diable, which, translated reads, "The Armpit of the Devil", a fitting name for a restaurant that serves a wine that tastes like how I would imagine the Devil's body odor smells. My main and most frequent customers consisted of the Imperial Elites and the wealthy club of private business executives called the "Ludberry Club", who would come into "The Armpit" every Tuesday for a glass of my finest Vin du Diable, the most expensive wine in my selection, at 6,666.66 Imperial dollars, containing notes of fire-ant venom, volcanic ash, and hydrochloric acid. Of course, I included my signature palette cleanser, which must be drunk within three seconds after the Vin du Diable is consumed, lest death occur. The palette cleanser, called Salut, which included Venusian Moonworm powder and Betelgeusian stardust, cloves, and cinnamon, served as a base to counteract the hydrochloric acid and an antitoxin to the fire-ant venom. I had tried the Vin du Diable, chased directly by the Salut only once and it was hell. The burning of the hydrochloric acid and fire-ant venom had erupted my whole body into an agonizing inferno of torment and I thought I would die as I reached, trembling for the Salut, my only true salvation in my dire moment of need. I poured the stuff down my throat, gagging, coughing, choking. It was the most refreshing thing I had ever tasted; warm and cold at the same time, soothing, enlightening. It had covered my entire body with an aura of warmth, like a fire on a cold winter's night. Wonderful. Ambrosia. I understood why the Imperials and the "Ludberry Club" came to drink here so often... or at least I thought I did.

One particular Tuesday afternoon, I walked into "The Armpit". There were the usual suspects sitting around, chatting, drinking Vin du Diable and Vin aux Aisselles, another finer ludberry wine in the assortment with notes of rotting flesh, sewage, and body odor. They glanced up at me, and those that weren't in the middle of attempting to prevent their own deaths by chugging Salut waved to me heartily. I waved back and entered the hermetically sealed kitchen. It stank of all of the most horrendous stenches you could imagine, but my nose immediately picked up the stench of dead animal. I waved to my sous chef, "I see we have a Vin D'Animal Pourri ready?"

"Yes," She replied, "Though I doubt anyone will order it today. It's a Tuesday, after all."

"Right," I remarked. On Tuesdays, nobody came in except for the Elites and the "Ludberry Club". They stayed all day and reserved every single seat in the restaurant, though they hardly filled half of them. Then, during the evening, they would retreat into a private room at the back of the establishment, leaving the dining area completely empty. It was odd, but I didn't ask questions. They were our most lucrative clientele, after all.

But as it became evening that Tuesday and the Elites and "Ludberry Club" retreated into the private room, there was an abrupt shockwave that rumbled through the restaurant. The restaurant was shattered into smithereens, and me and my sous chef found ourselves face-to-foot with a gigantic, Godzilla-sized member of the "Ludberry Club".

"Hmm," I thought, "Perhaps I shouldn't have dismissed that thing about the Ug and Tuesdays." I supposed I'd have to cater to a new consumer base now and I wondered how much profit I could make off selling entire planets for Godzilla-sized monsters to eat on Tuesdays. As I pondered this, the giant constituent of the "Ludberry Club" trampled my sous chef.

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