Eating at Night is a scary story about a man who strikes a bargain with a ghoul in order to protect his dead wife’s corpse.
Many years ago, in a small town, there was a murderer on the loose. All of the townsfolk lived in fear that they would be his next victim. Over the course of seven nights, seven people were murdered.
They were all men and they had all been out walking in the park late at night, unaware that they were in danger. Their throats were cut and their bodies were found lying in the town cemetery. Their corpses had been ripped open and their entrails were devoured in a fearsome manner. Everybody thought the murderer must be some deranged lunatic.
On the eighth night, the police staked out the park and spotted a young man lurking in the bushes. When they stopped him and searched his pockets, they found a bloodstained knife. He was arrested and taken before a judge, accused of being a serial killer.
The young man’s name was Lester Banks. Nobody in town could believe that he could possibly be guilty of such horrible crimes. He was known to be a nice, pleasant and generous fellow who could always be relied on to help anyone who was in need. In fact, he was so well-liked that a group of people stood outside the courthouse protesting his arrest.
The judge was shocked by the atrociousness of the crimes and found it hard to reconcile them with the young man’s polite demeanor and well-spoken manner. He decided to question the young man himself.
“Lester Banks,” he said, “you have been charged with horrific crimes. Do you want to do the right thing by unburdening your conscience and making a confession?”
The young man stood up and faced the judge. His hands were shaking with emotion and tears were rolling down his cheeks.
“Your honor. I do,” he replied. “I must admit that I am guilty. I am ashamed to say that I murdered all seven of these poor, innocent people. It was I alone who killed them, but I am not a monster. I didn’t murder them for their money or their belongings. I am not a thief.”
“Then, why did you kill them?” asked the judge.
The young man hung his head in shame and told this story:
Two weeks ago, I had the perfect life. My mother and father raised me well and always taught me right from wrong. I was a decent, honest and God-fearing man. I had a good job, I worked hard and I took care of my family. I was married to a wonderful woman named Amina and I loved her more than anything on this earth. We were blissfully happy together and we were eagerly awaiting the birth of our first child.
When my wife died in childbirth, I was overcome with grief. It was so sudden and unexpected that I was stunned beyond belief. On the day of her funeral, I stood by her graveside, crying bitter tears as I watched them lower her coffin into the earth. It was the saddest day of my life.
That night, I couldn’t sleep and found myself wandering aimlessly through the town. Eventually, I came to the cemetery. I wanted to go to my wife’s grave and say goodbye to her one last time, but I noticed I was not alone. There was another man in the cemetery. He was crouching over my wife’s grave. As I drew closer, I realized that he was digging it up.
I flew into a rage and attacked the strange man. He fought back and he seemed to have superhuman strength. He easily overpowered me and with one hand, he grabbed hold of my throat and began to squeeze, lifting me into the air. There was nothing I could do to stop him and I thought he was going to strangle the life out of me.
Then, without warning, he let me go. I tumbled to the ground, clutching my throat and trying desperately to catch my breath. The man stood over me and when I looked up I could see his face was hideous. He had eyes that burned with a scarlet fire and a cavernous mouth full of huge gnarled teeth.
“What do you want?” he demanded in a booming voice.
“That’s my wife’s grave,” I gasped. “Why were you trying to dig her up?”
“I am a ghoul,” the man hissed. “An eater of the dead. I have come to feast on the fresh corpse that was buried in this grave today. Now begone, for I have not eaten since yesternight, and I am much ahungered.”
“Spare this grave, I beg you,” I said. “I loved my wife more than anything in this world. I couldn’t stand it if her body was desecrated. I’ll do anything you wish, just leave my wife in peace.”
The ghoul was angered, and said, “I will do as you ask, but only on one condition. Every night, for the next eight nights, you will bring me a fresh corpse. Do this for me and in return, I will not disturb your wife’s grave.”
With that, the ghoul turned and walked off, disappearing into the trees. I left the graveyard that night and stumbled home, filled with anguish and sorrow. Throughout the next day I was torn between my conscience and the horrible bargain I had struck with the ghoul.
After sunset, I put a knife in my pocket and made my way to the park. I hid among the bushes and waited for someone to pass by. When I saw a man walking down the path, I drew my knife, crept up behind him and slit his throat. Then, I dragged his body to the cemetery and gave him to the ghoul.
Every night, for the next six nights, I returned to the park and repeated the same foul deed. Every night, the ghoul was waiting for me in the cemetery and as I watched in horror and disgust, he tore the corpses open with his bare hands and devoured their insides.
In all, I murdered seven people. Just one more and my bargain with the ghoul would have been complete. I was horrified by what I did, but all of it was done in fear of the fate that would befall my wife’s corpse if I broke the bargain I had made.
“This is my sad, shameful and disgusting story,” said the young man. “Unfortunately, it was all for nothing and tonight, when I fail to provide him with another corpse, the ghoul will consume the body of my wife. The things I have done are unforgivable. I murdered innocent people. I don’t expect mercy. I deserve to die for the terrible crimes I have committed.
When the young man finished telling his story, the judge was amazed. He had never heard such a strange and depraved tale. He pondered for a long time and then passed judgment, saying:
“Lester Banks, the crimes you have committed are indeed heinous, and you deserve to be punished harshly. I see that you are genuinely sorry for what you have done and I believe you are an honorable man. For this reason, I am going to set you free and allow you to punish yourself. I believe you already know what you must do.”
“Thank you for this mercy,” replied the young man. He walked out of the court as everyone present stared in amazement.
The next morning, another body was found in the cemetery. It was the body of Lester Banks and he was lying, half-devoured, on the grave of his wife. He had taken his own life. In this way, he punished himself for his crimes while also keeping his terrible bargain with the ghoul. The final corpse he provided was his own.