“Lift the fork and put the food in your mouth.”
A different kind of Thursday evening. What the fuck is going on.
“Did you hear me?”
It smells. It smells so bad.
“I said…lift the fork…and put the food in your mouth.”
“What is it?” I yell. I’m answered with a heavy smack across my face.
“I won’t ask again.”
I hear something click, I can hear the others around me whimpering and crying. The girl to my left is slumped on the table, I’m pretty sure she fainted the second the lights went out. I strain to see but nothing. Not a shimmer, not a movement. It’s dark, and they want me to eat.
“3…2…1.” As I hear the booming sound, I realise the click was a gun. Somebody gags and I hear a heavy body drop to the floor.
“Looks like the next course is almost ready, and you haven’t finished your starter.”
I feel it touch me, the gun. It’s pressed against the back of my head. I hear some movement and a sound I can’t make out. A sort of pulling and tearing. Is someone else eating?
“Now, lift the fork and put the food in your mouth.”
I decide to do as I’m told. I lift the fork already laden with the mystery food. It smells horrific. Sour and rancid. I do it quickly, just shovel it in and try to swallow without chewing. It wriggles, whatever it is its moving in my mouth. I quickly realise there’s more than one. Whatever is in my mouth, it isn’t alone. I swallow and feel as these things wriggle in my throat. My stomach heaves and starts to push it back out but I just swallow, again and again and again. I swallow until there’s nothing left in my mouth, until I feel nothing moving and I reach out instinctively to find something to drink. My hand clasps around a glass and I pour the liquid into my mouth without a second thought.
The liquid hits the back of my throat and I gag. I’m fighting to keep the things in my stomach and trying to scrape the thick putrid liquid from my mouth. It tastes metallic and bitter and it burns the back of my throat. I hear someone near me heave loudly and hear the sound of undigested food hit the floor in heavy drabs. The man behind me tuts and I hear the gun go off again. Another body hits the floor. The scraping, tearing sound stops for a second and then starts again, this time more hurriedly.
“Ready for the next course?”
This had sounded like a dream come true for a foodie like myself. 10 hours, 10 courses. Dark Dining: Can You Last the Night. When I saw the advert I’d called straight away. I didn’t realise lasting the night meant eating something foul every hour or being shot. I someone lift my plate and place another one in front of me. This one sounds heavy as it lands on the table.
“Excited? This one should be even tastier!”
“What is it?”
The hand strikes my face again. I should’ve learned not to ask that question a second time. I reach out with my hands and feel the plate. It’s moist, soft and warm. It’s a little spongy but with a firm spring when I push it. Someone takes my left hand and places something in it. Then they take my right and place something in there too. A knife and fork.
“EAT!” he yells.
I stab blindly at the dish and try to cut it but it’s so tough. I drop the fork and use my hand instead, ripping at pieces with my nails and cutting what I can grip with my knife. I grab the slice I manage to free from the whole and shove it into my mouth, I chew as fast as possible.
Don’t vomit. Don’t vomit.
Whatever it is, it’s raw. Raw and bitter. I chew and chew and chew and barely make a dent. It has the same metallic taste as the drink, but this time a little bit salty. I make the decision to just swallow. As long as a piece goes down, I can move onto the next course. That’s the rule. He must see me force it down. I hear someone else cry out when they take a mouthful. My bet is they just had the thing that wriggles.
“Looks like we got ourselves a champ here boys!”
I feel a pat on my head. Am I the champ? I’m on the second course so maybe I’ve gotten the furthest. I try to think of the people sat around the table when the lights went off. We were led in by a man in a white mask and tuxedo, he didn’t say a word but he was skinny and had slicked, light hair. The girl in front of me was blonde, kind of mousey. She had sat next to me. She’s the fainter. There was a big man, he took up almost two seats. The small guy with adult acne and glasses sat opposite me. I think he may have been the vomiter. Dead now. I can’t recall anyone else. Someone starts coughing and someone else cries out again. I hear a loud smack and a scream as my plate is lifted away. Another, lighter bowl replaces it.
A spoon is placed in my hand. I reach out again and feel the bowl, hot. I dip a finger into the liquid. It’s warm and thick. It sticks to my finger as I pull it out.
“Use the spoon, you’re not a fucking animal!”
I do as instructed, sinking the spoon into the liquid as best as I can. I lift it, it pulls back into the bowl. I manage to get a good spoonful and lift it to my lips. I put the whole spoon in my mouth and whip it out. I try to swallow without tasting the liquid but I can’t. The thick, viscous ooze is salty and reminds me of days when I have a cold and I snort phlegm into my mouth. It’s warm, so the flavour fills my nose from inside my mouth and makes me gag. I manage to swallow it down but my stomach hurts. It hurts a lot. Whatever’s in there needs to come out. I think about anything else, my house, the paint job I never finished, work. Anything to keep my mind of the pain, but it’s rising. The pain is travelling up to my chest. I feel beads of sweat pour out of my skin and I know what’s about to happen. I hold my stomach and try to swallow one last time, I’m unsuccessful. As the saliva tries to go down, the three courses come back up. The wriggly things, the raw chewy thing and the phlegm all come up at once. I have no idea where it lands but someone to my left screams as it splatters on the table. I heave again and more comes out, more and more until I’m just dry heaving.
“Looks like dessert is served diners!”
I panic. I know what this means. Two people have gone before me. I hear someone move behind until they’re stood behind me. I feel the barrel on the back of my head.