What is it with this place and waking up in the dark and on a cold-ass floor. He thought to himself.
He remembered getting sucked through the door into the black, but he didn’t remember passing out or getting thrown to the floor. As he lay there staring at what he was assuming was a ceiling (there was no way to tell in the total darkness) he saw a faint light start to show at the start of what must have been a hallway. Once again he painfully stood up and made his way towards the hallway entrance.
As he approached the hallway entrance he squinted to see if he could make out any details of the next room. Unfortunately, the hallway entered into a corner of the room where nothing was visible, but he could see vaguely person-shaped shadows against the wall coming from off to the right.
He began slowly walking down the hallway, making sure to control both his breathing and his steps to make as little noise as possible. When he got about halfway down he could hear noise coming from the room. As he got closer the noise began to take on the tones of a feast in progress, with plates clattering, cups spilling their contents, and the unmistakable sound of food being violently masticated by at least one person who had no shame.
“Ah, you’re finally here! Why don’t you come out from hiding so we can get a good look at you. It feels like we’ve been waiting an eternity for you to show up!” The voice froze him in his tracks. How could anyone have known he was there? He had made every effort to stay as quiet as humanly possibly, especially with the noise coming from the people who were eating masking any minor noise he may have happened to make.
As he inched his way into the room, his jaw dropped at the sight before him. At the end of a long table filled with food was a man larger than what should have been physically possible. His features were so far stretched from all the corpuscular rolls of fat that it was hard to believe the figure was even human. The rotund man sat there sat there shoveling food into his face in a manner similar to that of a cartoon character, and every bite seemed to contain more food and drink than the last.
“There you are,” he said. “Why have you kept us waiting? Don’t you know it’s terribly rude to slink about someone’s domicile like an uninvited guest in the middle of the night. We wouldn’t have brought you here if we knew you were going to show that kind of gratitude to our hospitality.”
“Hospitality? I didn’t ask to be brought here. Why should I show you any gratitude?” He ignored the feigned indignation in the large man’s voice. He wanted answers and he wanted them now.
“An insolent little shit aren’t you? You should show gratitude because this is my house, which makes you my guest, and a good guest should always introduce himself.” As he was speaking, a sly grin appeared on his face.
“Why should I do that? Like I said, I never asked to be brought here…” He let his thought trail off as panic started to overtake him. He couldn’t remember anything about his life. He remembered his last moments before he woke up in the room with the seven doors, but nothing about his life before that, none of the people closest to him, not even his own name.
“What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue? Forget your own name? Then I’ll just have to call you Outis.”
“If I’m Outis then you’re Fat Man.” The newly christened Outis said as he glared at the larger than life figure.
“How original of you. I’m guessing you’ll be calling my compatriot at the other end of the table Slim?” Outis’ eyes shot to the far end of the table. Sure enough, there was a figure sitting there quietly observing the exchange between the other two.
While Fat Man had lavish and rich food and drink in front of him covering almost the entire table, the other figure had just a small plate with a loaf of bread and a cup of water. A stark contrast to the boisterous Fat Man, the figure on the other end of the table looked like he hadn’t eaten in years, with his skin pulled so tightly over his frame that every muscle twitch was visible withthe skeleton underneath the skin his only defining feature.
“Slim. Sure why not,” Outis said halfheartedly. While he felt nothing but anger towards the Fat Man, Outis couldn’t help but pity Slim. He couldn’t tell if was because of the obvious malnutrition, but Slim just looked sad and tired, as if he was there simply waiting for the end.
“Look, I’m not trying to start shit, I just want to know where I am and how I can get the hell out of here.” Outis had moved past the initial shock of seeing the two figures and was ready for answers. He didn’t have time for silly games.
“You are where you belong.” The voice that answered him came from Slim. It startled him because this was the first indication that the waif at the end of the table was still living. Not surprisingly, his voice was barely audible over Fat Man’s near deafening mastication and sounded sad and tired.
“Enough with the cryptic bullshit! Just tell me what I’m doing here and how I can get the fuck out!” Outis’ anger flared. These two “men” were going to keep giving him the runaround for as long as possible, that much was clear.
“Ha ha ha! That’s the spirit! It’s about time you showed some life in you. Unfortunately, we’ve only just begun. If you want out, you’re going to have to learn to play nice. For now anyway.” Fat Man was positively jovial over watching Outis lose his temper. The grin on his face reached from ear to ear and exposed his rotten teeth and fleshy tongue.
“Fine! What do I need to do to get the fuck away from your disgusting fat ass.”
“Simple. Walk down that hallway all the way to the end. Once you reach the end you’ll have your way out.” With that, suddenly Outis noticed an entrance that he would’ve sworn wasn’t there a moment ago. The hallway was pitch black and gave no indication as to it’s length.
“All I need to do is walk down that hallway?” Outis was understandably cautious. He knew it couldn’t be that simple.
“All you need to do is walk down that hallway.” The Fat Man nodded his head and waved his hand in the direction of the entrance, the ugly smile still plastered on his face.
Outis made his way around the long banquet table and stood staring down the impossibly dark space. As he entered the hallway he instinctively turned around to check behind him and to his horror he was now enveloped in the darkness. Still facing what he assumed was forward, he placed his left hand on the wall and slowly back up trying to make his way back into the room with Slim and the Fat Man. After about a dozen paces he still found himself in the hallway with no apparent way out. With a slight sigh, he gave up on going back and moved his right hand in front of him and began slowly walking forward.
As he trudged forward, right arm straight out in the hope of not running into anything, he blinked for just a second and almost ran into Becky, stumbling around like the incoherent drunk she was.
“Goddammit, Beck! Watch where you’re going! You almost made me spill my drink!” When he showed up at the party and saw her there he knew it was only a matter of time before she made a mess over someone.
“Sorry, man. We can’t all be professional drunks and hold our liquor like you can.” At least her apology was sincere.
“I’m not a professional. Professionals get paid.” The self-deprecating humor got a laugh out of Becky and the people within earshot who heard him. At least I’m good at something, he thought grimly.
After giving Becky the wide birth she needed, he continued on to the kitchen. This being a party thrown by Austin, he knew he could find his buddy’s latest creations taking up counter space. That was the single greatest thing about being friends with someone in culinary school, it made being a fat-ass easy. Today’s creation appeared to be some kind of sushi role looking concoction, with the seafood bits subbed out for various other cooked meats and vegetables. He tried one, and stuffed three more into his mouth in short order.
“I figured you’d like those. I made them with you in mind!” Austin had managed to sneak up behind him with a huge grin on his face.
“These are fucking delicious!” He managed to choke out the words in spite of the four or five faux sushi rolls in his mouth.
“Well, just take it easy there big guy. I really don’t need you choking to death and ruining the party.”
“C’mon, you know me better than that. It’ll take at least six of these stuffed into my gullet before I’ll choke.” Austin gave a half-smile at that remark, never able to truly appreciate his friend’s particular brand of humor.
“Hey, I’ve got someone I want you meet. We had a new girl from Oregon start at the school the other day and she doesn’t know anyone in town. Main reason I want you to meet her is because she wants to set up a brew pub once she’s done with school, and I told her all about you and your homebrewing endeavors.”
“Is this an actual thing or are you just trying to set me up with someone again because we’ve had that conversation more times than I can count.” He appreciated Austin trying to help with his abysmal dating life, but he quickly grew tired of his friend constantly trying to get him to go out with random women.
“No, I’m not trying to hook you up. I learned my lesson the last time. I told her, ‘My friend’s been making his own beer for a couple years now and everyone loves the brews he makes. He’d be a great guy to partner with because he already know a lot about the craft.’ She’s over here. Her name is Melissa, try not to be a dick.” Austin was leading him to a corner of the kitchen where there was a girl standing off away from everyone else staring at the various creations the host had laid out. As they approached, Austin waived and got her attention. “Hey, Melissa! This my buddy I’ve been telling you about!”
“Hi! It’s nice to finally meet you! Austin’s told me all about you.” She reached out her hand with a smile on her face that caused him to just stand there and blink at the reflection looking back in the mirror at him.
It had been three years to the day since the night Austin introduced them and almost two years since they started the brewpub together. It seemed like an eternity since his reflection was that of an overweight gourmand who was known for eating everything in the room that wasn’t labeled off limits. Now, the man staring back at him looked like he belonged on the cover of a fitness magazine.
“Hey babe, you almost ready?” As usual, Melissa had decided to sneak up on him during his post shower admiration.
“Yeah, almost ready,” he said and smiled at her. She smiled back at him through the mirror. The memories of the last few years suddenly flooded his brain and he had to blink back the tears as he lamented on how it all went to shit. He stood there scowling at the shell of the man that stood before him.
For the last year his diet had consisted of mostly cigarettes and beer, and his body was the worse for it. Where there was once muscle, there was just bone trying to tear its way free from the flesh covering it. His ribs were especially prominent, looking like the claws of death trying to crush him.
“How the mighty have fallen,” he said to man on the other side of the mirror. As he stood there fighting the urge to rip the mirror from the wall, he felt a familiar rumble coming from the pit of his stomach. As he arched his head back in preparation of the coming heave, he fell backwards into a room with a cold concrete floor.
“What the hell!” Outis screamed as he jumped up from the floor. A second ago he was in his bathroom ready to purge what little contents his stomach contained and now he was back in another strange room.
As he looked around, he noticed that like the first room light seemed to come form nowhere and everywhere at once. Unlike the first room, there were no doors out and no windows either. He began to break out in a cold stinging sweat that reminded him of his poor life choices when he noticed a table along one wall filled with food.
That wasn’t there before was it? He thought to himself. He knew the room was empty when he first lifted himself off the floor, didn’t he? He cautiously walked over to the table and began inspecting it’s contents. The table was a veritable cornucopia filled from end to end with freshly cooked food. The smells made him salivate like one of Pavlov’s dogs.
Outis inched his way closer to the table and when he got within range plucked a grape from its stem near the edge of the table. As he popped the small fruit into his mouth and bit down, he suddenly realized how hungry he was and the amazing sweetness of the grape. Since he was alone in the room he decided to help himself to the feast in front of him. He began tearing into the succulent chickens, sweet wines, and sugary pies and pastries.
As he ate, Outis noticed that regardless of how much food and drink he consumed, his hunger only seemed to grow. He began eating quicker, channeling the days when he could clear a buffet almost single handed, but still his hunger grew. The pangs of hunger grew more and more powerful as he shoved everything on the table into his face, wanting nothing more than to end the hunger. He began to feel skin tighten and muscles retreat as his body began to eat itself in an attempt to stave off starvation. He began to get weak and could barely stand when he noticed an untouched glass of water next a loaf of bread at the end of the table.
He dragged his now ragged form over to the glass and reached out in desperation, experiencing a thirst like none he had ever known. In his weakened and failing state he knocked the glass over, spilling its contents. Unable to even cry in frustration, he positioned his open mouth underneath the edge of the table to try and catch the water spilling over the edge.
As the water trickled onto his tongue he experienced a deep relief like none he had ever known. He managed to find the strength to pull himself up the table and tear off a small piece of the bread. Like the water, the bread provided relief from the intense pain that was now racking his body.
He collapsed in exhaustion, only to reawaken in the room with Slim and the Fat Man.
“What the FUCK was that?!” Outis shouted to the two figures.
“Your trial,” Slim muttered from his end of the table.
“What the hell am I on trial for?!” Outis screamed back. He wanted answers and he wanted them now. The two figures simply smiled back. His anger welled up and he lurched forward toward Slim. If they weren’t going to provide answers he was going to force it out of them. The wraith-like figure simply smiled and raised his hand, and as if he were hit by a shotgun blast, Outis went flying into the wall and suddenly found himself in the room with the doors.
He stood up and looked at the wall with the doors. The door that led to Slim and Fat Man was gone, replaced instead by a mirror. As Outis approached the mirror, he noticed the reflection seemed to constantly morph between himself and the two other two figures.
As he stood in front of the mirror trying to process everything that was happening, the door to the far left swung open and sucked the room’s only occupant in, slamming shut behind him.