Bogleech.com's 2018 Horror Write-off:
And Now I'm Soup and Now She's Eating Me
Submitted by Cameron Rhode Kil Fetter (email)
I will never sleep again. Of this much I am certain.
This is not an overreaction, despite what all my friends will tell you. They’ll say, “Leon is being weird again” or “Leon will have to sleep at some point”. But they are wrong. I am making a perfectly rational choice never to sleep again, and I am holding myself to it until the bitter end. Staying awake is my only defense against the things I’ve been forced to know. The things I’ve eaten.
Last night was the most horrific yet. I felt drawn to my bed, just like before. Sleep pulled me in like a whirlpool swallowing an exhausted swimmer. My eyelids forced themselves shut and I was sitting in the now-familiar banquet hall, in my designated seat. Head of the table. As usual, the table was empty except for place settings and name cards. I stood and circled, reading the names. Marcia. Ann. Rob. Gwen. Simon, again. Roy. Charlotte. Caleb. Jo. And, back to Leon.
Ten names. Leon, Simon, and eight new people. Where was Simon? I wanted to leave. Simon scared me. I could not handle another night of Simon.
I turned to face Simon and winced. His neck was twisted almost into a full circle. He nodded to me and I could hear the shattered bones clatter against each other. I wanted to vomit.
“I have a special treat for you tonight.”
What? Maybe people other than me and Simon would actually show up this time.
“Leon, don’t play dumb. We’ve never been stood up. You know that. Come with me.”
I did not know that. I did not want to know that. I did not want to know anything that Simon made me know.
“Marcia. Ann. Rob. Gwen. Roy. Charlotte. Caleb. Jo.” Simon walked out of the banquet hall as he rattled off the names. I followed, drawn again into his horrid maelstrom.
Into a crimson-carpeted hallway we went, and around a sharp corner. This was new territory.
“They're all here, Leon. Everybody has been here every night. You know that. And you know why.”
No! I wanted him to stop. We rounded another corner, and CLANG! Simon smashed forehead-first into a metal lamp mounted on the wall. His head shook like a cartoon gong, spinning around to face me with a series of fleshy clicks. I almost vomited. Then I did vomit. His eyes swirled around their sockets.
“Thomas. Pat. Isabella. Richard. Sophia. Max. Rita. Phyllis. They were all here.”
With every step Simon took, his head bounced in a more gruesome manner. I wiped the bile from my chin with the back of my hand.
“Carly. Sam L. Titus. Benny. Sam F. Talia. Zoe. Amber. They all came too. You know that!”
He grasped his head between his hands, holding it steady.
“Christopher. Allison. Victoria. Stephen. Russell!”
With a sickening crunch, Simon twisted his head back around into the forward position.
We rounded another corner, and he stopped in front of a set of scuffed double doors. Kitchen doors, with thick circular windows.
“Catherine! And you, Leon. Even me! We’re all here. We all came.”
Where was he going with this? I wanted to wake up. I wanted to be far away from him.
Simon put his hands on the doors, poised to throw them wide.
“Are you ready to know, Leon?”
No. I didn't want to know anything else. I couldn't see his face, but his voice told me he was grinning.
Before I could answer him, Simon pushed open the double doors slightly and vanished between them, leaving me alone in the elegant hallway. I didn't want to go in. I really didn't. But it was that whirlpool pull all over again, tugging me through those terrible doors with a gravity I still can't understand.
The first thing I did through the doors was vomit again. Chefs in gray aprons bustled around a stainless steel kitchen, holding mallets and carving knives and ladles and wearing latex gloves and squeezing chunks of ground meat between their slender fingers. Pots and pans filled with meat cluttered the stovetops, belching steam into the ceiling vents.
That wasn't what made me vomit, though. What made me vomit was the people in the center of the room. There were eight of them, screaming, strung up on meathooks, missing limbs and chunks of flesh, streaked with blood and scabs and bruises, bones sticking through skin, some of their eye sockets empty and dark red. They saw me come in. They saw me and they cried for my help and I just stood there and heaved stomach acid onto the shiny linoleum tile and did nothing else. I knew now, I knew more than I could bear, and I knew also that I had known all along but pretended not to. The banquet hall. The banquets…
A timid little chef scurried over with a wet mop and soaked up my stomach puddle. I cast my eyes across the room, away from the grotesque spectacle at the center, and I spotted Simon. Standing behind a polished counter, licking his fingers clean of something red, looking at me. My feet brought me toward him. Three cooks brushed past me holding a rib caked in meat. I wanted to stop moving. I needed to stop moving, but instead I fell forward onto my hands and knees, staring into the dark eyes of my reflection in the glossy floor.
I smashed my head against the ground. My teeth rattled in my head and I came unstuck from whatever surreal state of consciousness I had been wandering through. I tumbled through layers of dream and reality, slurping down spoonfuls of stew, watching a butcher flay human meat from bone, circling the banquet table and reading the name cards. Marcia. Ann. Rob. Gwen. Roy. Charlotte. Caleb. Jo. Simon’s head spiraling toward me on his slithering broken neck, chewing, chewing, chewing, chewing and I was awake.
I woke up at my table, like before. But this time, I was chewing. Chewing? What was I chewing? No. No, no, no. I spat the thing in my mouth onto the table and looked down. The front of my shirt was soaked in vomit. And there, on the table, was a chewed-up red piece of meat and a fleck of bone.
So I decided not to sleep anymore. That was this morning. I haven’t told anyone. I won’t tell anyone. I’ll just stop sleeping, and if I waste away into nothing, that will be it. It will have been worth it. No more banquet hall, no more banquets, no more Simon!
Right now, I’m standing in my kitchen thinking. I’m staring at the piece of meat I coughed up this morning and I’m wondering how I can possibly stay awake for the rest of my life. And now I’m feeling something I really do not want to feel: that fucking whirlpool pull. I’m awake, but I can still feel myself being pulled. I’m going down my stairs, and I’m leaving my house. I find myself on the train. Why? I’m spacing out. I’m drifting into my head, and I’m reliving my week. I’m remembering the things I’ve been forced to know.
The first time, it was just a dream to me. Just a really weird dream, and nothing else. I dreamed about a banquet hall. The floors were covered in crimson carpet, and the whole room was wrapped in hideous yellow wallpaper. The table was wooden and ornate, the tablecloth was lacy and white, and all the chairs were empty except for mine and Simon’s. Simon was normal-looking then. His neck was the correct length. His head was attached firmly to it.
We chatted. I didn’t know what to think of him, but I didn’t have to think anything, because I was dreaming. There were eight empty seats, each with a name card. Thomas. Pat. Isabella. Richard. Sophia. Max. Rita. Phyllis. None of them showed. The only occupied seats were Simon’s and my own. I had been holding my own name card in my hands, staring at the flowery ink spelling “LEON”, waiting to wake up from the most vivid and bizarre dream I’d ever had.
When I looked up, the table was full of food. There were pots and bowls filled to the brim with rich pinkish stews. Seared strips of meat, large hunks of steak. Red sauces. It was all delicious. I ate not because I wanted to, but because I realized I was already eating. That was the first time I felt the whirlpool. Simon smiled at me. He dabbed at his face with a cloth napkin, then rose from his chair and approached me. Taking his head in his hands, he snapped his own neck right in front of me. And I woke up at my dinner table, heart pounding.
Right now, I’m getting off the train. I don’t know why, or what stop it is. I can’t make myself look at the name of the station. I’m walking through the station and I’m leaving through the glass door. It’s the evening.
And now I’m coming unstuck again, and I’m remembering my second feast.
It was two days after the first one. The whirlpool pulled me into a deep sleep and I found myself back in the banquet hall. That scared me, a lot. I didn’t want that bizarre dream to recur. But when I looked around, the name cards were different. Carly. Sam L. Titus. Benny. Sam F. Talia. Zoe. Amber. There was a noise behind me, so I turned around. Simon. An instant burst of adrenaline lanced through my veins. Simon beckoned for me to turn back to the table, his head balancing at an unnatural angle on his broken neck.
I was turning back to the table and I was already eating the food. I wanted to stop. I didn’t want to eat with Simon watching me, with his eyes darting from my hands to my mouth. Every time he took a bite I could see him chew and swallow and I could see the lump of food travel through his crooked, elongated throat. He talked to me as we ate and he told me I knew things, and even though I didn’t want to, I knew them.
He told me I liked the sauce and I loved the sauce. I hated him. I hated his gravity. I tried to stop eating but I couldn’t. I tried to grab my wrist with my other hand but it didn’t work. I just kept spearing slabs of meat with a silver fork and shoveling them into my mouth. I kept chewing and I hated Simon and I wanted out and he kept making me know things.
I strained so hard. He must have noticed. He must have known how hard I was trying to escape, because he got out of his seat and he came over to me, and he grabbed his fucking head and he twisted it so far around it was upside down and he laughed in my face and I finished my meal and I woke up in my kitchen digging my nails into my wrist.
Now, though, I’m walking down some dim city street. I’m wobbling forward with one foot up on the sidewalk and one foot down on the road. I’m going somewhere, and I don’t know where, but I’m sure Simon would tell me that I know. I’m sure he would make me know. I’m remembering the third banquet I was at.
It had been two nights without a dream of Simon. Two nights drenched in sweat and fear. I didn’t want to dream him again. I didn’t want him to make me eat anymore. Was I safe? When would I know if he was coming back?
The whirlpool pulled me to sleep. I wasn’t safe. That time there was even more food. I was already eating when the dream started. There wasn’t even time to be startled by Simon’s snakelike broken neck. I gorged myself and I looked around at the name cards. Christopher. Allison. Victoria. Stephen. Russell. Melanie. Arnold. Catherine.
Every bite that Simon took, his neck cracked a little more. It zig-zagged out from his shoulders, barely providing any support to his wobbling head. I was eating. Chewing. Chewing, chewing, chewing, and every time I closed my mouth I could feel my teeth grinding against each other and I wanted to die and I never wanted to dream again. I didn’t want this. I didn’t want any of this. I didn’t know why it was happening. Simon told me I did. And I did.
I woke up at my table again. I went a day without eating. Then I had my last banquet dream. Then I decided never to sleep again. Now I’m standing in front of a small storefront. I don’t read the signs. I don’t look at anything. I just walk in and I go up to the counter and I see a sign-in binder. I open it to the last page. Roy. Charlotte. Caleb. Jo. Hans. Gerry. Doris. I take the pen and I write my name. Leon.
I look up. The receptionist is Simon. I want to fucking kill him. I cannot.
He brings me behind the desk and into a red-carpeted hallway. I ask him why me. Why is this happening to me. He stops me. His neck is longer than his body, ricocheting off the walls and twisting in on itself.
“What makes you think this is just happening to you?”
He leads me through the hallway. He leads me into the banquet hall. He takes a card from his pocket and he writes Leon. He puts it at the table. Not at the head. One of the empty seats. There are four cards now. Hans. Gerry. Doris. Leon.
Simon’s body stays in the chair and his neck leads me out of the room again. Down the hallway. His throat snakes and loops around the light fixture from last night. We’re in the kitchen.
I’m hanging in the air from meathooks. Chefs are slicing cubes out of my body. I’m being salted. Seasoned. Seared. Severed.
In my mind’s eye, I can see somebody sitting in the chair that used to be mine. Who? The name card tells me she is Nicole.
I'm coming unstuck. I'm the center of the whirlpool. I'm asleep and I'm dreaming and I’m wide awake. The coils of Simon’s neck are tightening around me and this is real and this is happening now, right now.
Nicole doesn't know yet. But she will know. I wonder if she knows how much she’ll know. I know now. I know about Emmanuel and Trudy and Kyle and Emily and Fiona and Kevin and Edith and everybody.
I'm being cooked and gouged and mutilated and laughed at and I'm doing what I swore I would never do again. I'm sleeping.
And now I'm soup. And now she's eating me.