A scream cried out through the house, but the guests paid very little attention. It was, after all, a night for celebration. There was a small ballroom for dancing; a cherry-red piano sat in the middle of a white and black parlor; lights and candles accented each room in the small mansion. But it wasn’t yet time for those things. First came dinner.

The eleven patrons sat around a wide dining table that was furnished with all manners of high-class cutlery and utensils. A crystal chandelier hung high overhead. The plates and bowls were empty, but in front of each person was a glass full of red wine so thick and dark that it might have been blood. Laughter and the clinking of glasses echoed around the room as the dinner guests awaited their meal.

For each and every person sitting at the table, that night was just as normal as any fancy get-together – a regular black-tie event, if you will. But to an outsider, however, the sight of it would seem more like a Halloween party, or Masquerade Ball.  Of course, there were no costumes involved; every man wore a finely tailored suit, and every woman wore her finest dress, accessorized by opulent diamonds and pearls. But covering each of their faces was a mask – not just any masks, but animal masks – that covered all but their mouth.

“Oh, I dare say that I love new member initiations!” Ms. Tiger giggled, her glass half-empty.

“I enjoy them when the food actually gets served on time,” Mr. Snake hissed, looking at his Rolex. “Last time there were complications, it nearly cost us.” The stick of a man threw a shaded glare across the table at a fellow with an ape mask.

“Calm down, Mr. Snake. I believe that they should be putting on the final touches and bringing it out at any minute,” a man with an owl mask reassured. His oval face ended in a grey goatee.

Before Mr. Snake could reply, the kitchen door flew open, followed by four tuxedoed waiters, each wearing a white rabbit mask. With some struggle and effort, the servers carried a large, domed rectangular platter into the dining room, each man holding onto a different corner. Carefully, and without disrupting the valued guests, the rabbits lowered the silver dish onto the table. Then they exited the room as quickly as they had appeared, leaving the dome over the platter.

A hush fell upon the room as the animals around the table stared into the mirrored cover that hid their meal. The accent lights dimmed, leaving barely more than the candle light to see by; but it was still enough to see saliva gathering at the corners of half of the guests’ mouths. Mrs. Fox and Mr. Wolf, the only married couple among the group, eyed each other, as if they were plotting to steal the food from underneath the others’ noses.

As if by magic, a young, dark-haired man appeared at the head of the table, where the only empty seat remained. The man wasn’t wearing a mask, but his long hair fell in such a way that only one piercing blue eye peered through. “Good evening, everyone. I am honored by your presence here tonight. I hope that the accommodations have been satisfactory for you all.”

Mr. Snake opened his mouth to say something, but Mr. Owl swooped in before he could speak, “The evening, so far, has been delightful, thank you. And I’m sure that the rest of my friends would agree,” he looked around the table at the smiling half-faces. “It is a pleasure to have such a visionary benefactor interested in joining our organization.” He grabbed his wine glass and held it up, “A toast to our gracious host!”

Around the table, each guest followed Mr. Owl’s salute.

Ms. Tiger downed her glass, a few stray drops sliding down her chin. “This wine is spectacular, is it fresh from tonight’s main course?” She greedily eyed the covered platter.

“Indeed it is, my lady,” the mystery man half-bowed. “Speaking of which, I have made everyone wait much too long to dig in.” He clapped his hands twice, and one of the white rabbits scurried back into the room.

The timid waiter pulled a device out of his breast pocket and pressed a button; the crystal chandelier lowered until it was just feet above the dining table. After it finished, the rabbit-man reached up and pulled a hidden hook from the bottom of the decorative light and clipped it to the handle of the platter’s dome. Stepping back, he pressed another button and the hook began to retract, lifting the cover and exposing the dish underneath.

Laid out in the middle of the silver plate were dozens of heads of shredded lettuce, accompanied by an array of roasted fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, carrots, watermelons, and pineapples. Resting on top of everything was a man that had been roasted the same way that whole pigs do, down to the apple in his mouth. All hair had been removed, the skin was a crispy golden-brown, as if he had spent way too much time in a tanning bed, and there was a light glaze glistening over his body.

Behind the mask of every person at the table were wide, hungry eyes; beneath them were equally wide and hungry smiles. One by one, they began to bang their silverware on the table – knife in one hand, fork in the other – until they were all in unison, like some sort of ritual. Mr. Owl was the only one not to join in.

“My, my. I must say that this looks exquisite! You’ve really outdone yourself. I do believe that you will make a great addition, Mr…” Mr. Owl looked at the host with a questioning glance.

“Mr. Pig,” the man replied, pushing back his long hair to reveal a newly-donned pig mask. “I’m looking forward to a beautiful new fellowship.”