The employees of the Haute Stuff Bistro had never seen a lunch date go so wrong.

A nervous-looking guy and a mousey-lloking girl had met at the front table, the one near the window. They had been making nervous small talk for a few minutes when the lady spoke up, concern in her voice.

“Are you okay?” the woman said. “You look awfully red and…well, horny. You’re also radiating visible heat.” Indeed, the air around the man shimmered and his salad was already beginning to brown.

“It’s a little embarrassing,” the man said with a nervous laugh. “But, well, my father’s from Queens and my mother was a lava succubus of the Fifth Circle. So whenever Jupiter is in the house of Mars, I tend to take more after Mom.” His salad, already dried out, caught fire on his plate in an eruption of croutons and oily dressing.

“Oh, that’s so sweet!” said his date. “How did they meet?”

The man loosened his jacket to allow his demon wings to hang free. “Dad tried to sell his soul to win a rollerskate contest. It was the 80s, after all, and skating was big. But instead of passing it up to the Infernal Abode, Mom just hung onto the soul herself.”

“Neat!” said the woman. “That’s kind of like how my parents met, but with rollerskates replaced by coffee and selling souls replaced by buying penny stocks.”

“Sounds like the same thing to me,” the man laughed. “Hey, are you all right? You look a bit uncomfortable.”

She shrugged, popping every button on her blazer. “Oh, you mean the hair and the sudden increase in body mass? I’m a werewolf, but I’m REALLY highly sensitive to moonlight so I tend to break out in fur around noon on the full moon.”

By now the other half of the table was actively ablaze, at least the parts that weren’t actively melting. “One would assume that all werewolves were equally sensitive to full moonlight, but I’m happy to be corrected!” The polyester in the man’s outfit was running molten down his body, the only thing preserving even a hint of modesty.

“Oh, it’s okay! There’s a lot about our culture most people don’t know. For instance, there’s a law from 1911 that bans me from a career as a cook, can you believe it?” Shaking with laughter, the girl spread fur far and wide through the air even as her chair started to splinter at the increased weight. “Do you know how many times the werewolf lobby has had someone promise to do something about that?”

“Oh, I believe it,” her date said, now seated cross-legged on a pile of ashes. “I’m an artist and I have a similar problem. I can’t draw using human-ash charcoal or souls! Ethically sourced, I promise, but they still throw a stink.”

“Hey,” said the girl in a husky baritone. “Wanna ditch this place? I know somewhere we can get some great souls and human ash.”

“Definitely.” The man floated up and out the door, the cries of agonized souls audible in his wake, followed by his date on paws that cracked the floor tiles as a few half-burned dollar bills fluttered to the ground where the table one had been.

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