Earlier, there was a marvellous thread on TV-Tropes about themes that repeat themselves in your stories and it did get me to thinking. Some are already represented here, but one I think I haven’t really shown yet is my disgust with eating and food in general, so here’s this.

Honestly, if I could rip out of my digestive tract and replace it with something mechanical I’d be golden.

“I’ll have the biggest burger you can make!” Barry declared. He didn’t even say hello.

The new restaurant in town had a reputation for the quality of its burgers and the level of control the diners could exercise over them. Barry – a man who knew what he liked when it came to putting beef between bread – took this as a challenge. He wanted size, he wanted girth, he wanted to have to sit down for a bit afterwards and recover. This was going to be the highlight of his week.

The person behind the counter look shocked, hands frozen above the till. They went a horrible shade of pale.

“Biggest, sir?” They asked. Oddly formal for a burger restaurant, but there you go. Barry grinned and folded his arms.

“Yes, biggest! Money is no object!” Barry said. He wasn’t joking, either. Since the removal of physical money from circulation currency really was no object. He had also meant it in the idiomatic way, as he was willing to spend a lot. It worked on many levels.

“Are you quite sure, Sir? It costs more than simple money, the largest burger,” the server said, pointing up the board. Barry looked up to actually look at what was on offer, something he had formerly neglected to do. He saw various chips and drinks and then got onto the – so-to-speak – meat of the menu, by way of the burgers. They started normal, and then expanded outwards in various ways and various options one could have with them. Sat at the bottom of them all was one simply titled ‘Biggest’ and the price listed as ‘a portion of your soul you will never see or hear from ever again’. Barry raised a finger.

“That one. Yes, that one,” he said, pointing. The server shuddered in obvious dread and reached for a dusty and be-cobwebed bell jutting from the wall. They rung it, and it gave out a hollow, mournful sound. All activity in the restaurant ceased for a moment before resuming rather more subdued than before.

“Take a seat, Sir, it will be with you shortly.”

Barry did take a seat, failing to notice the breach in ordering convention for an establishment such as this. Payment would have come at the beginning, but it had not. This lapse in attention would be inexcusable were he on a professional excursion, but this meal today was for pleasure, and so his guard was down. Humming happily to himself he twiddled his thumbs and stared out at nothing in particular, eagerly awaiting his biggest burger.

He was not disappointed. A little while later – long enough for Barry to start feeling he could be annoyed at the service – his burger was brought to him. Again, a great breach in protocol and this time one he actually noticed.

“Aren’t you supposed to call my number out?” He asked. The server laid the burger – which was enormous and foreboding – down in front of Barry before very quickly stepping back.

“There is no number for this, Sir,” they said before offering a tiny bow and very rapidly beating a retreat. Barry shrugged, and tucked in.

It was a challenge. Even with his extensive eating experience expediting edible endeavours, Barry found himself up against something that was the culinary equivalent of running up a hill. Every bite made him sweat a little more, knocked a tiny bit more wind out of him. But he had to finish. He had expected it to be a mild challenge but nothing he couldn’t handle, but now it was a case of his professional honour being at stake. This burger had to go down. His throat, into his belly. That was what happened to food. What happened afterwards was less pleasant.

Blood started trickling from Barry’s ears, such was the effort he was putting into eating. His jaw clicked as bones ground against one another, skin splitting as he forced more into his mouth than was technically advisable. Other patrons left, vomiting at the sight and sound of him. But he didn’t care. He couldn’t let the burger win. No matter how much he swallowed there always seemed to be more; the meat so dense one bite contained at least three normal burger’s worth. But he was slowly getting through it, little by little.

So intent on finishing was Barry that he failed to notice the staff setting up ladders and bringing out paint and other decorating equipment. They set about changing all of the restaurant’s décor, while still more came about and started altering the labels on all of the branding; swapping out napkins and the like. Barry did not see this, and even when they swapped his napkin, his skull was too full of meat for him to truly comprehend it.

What seemed liked hours later he pushed the empty foil away. He was done, at last, but at what cost? He didn’t feel his soul was particularly injured by the experience. His mouth, throat, gut and likely colon and anus in the morning, yes, but not his soul. That was as squeaky clean as ever, in his estimation.

Smacking his lips and dabbing them clean with one of the napkins he paused, looking at it. Something was different. The server from before was walking by and so Barry flagged them down.

“Did you change the name of the place?” He asked. The server nodded.

“Why?” Barry asked. The server seemed unsure whether they should answer this, but then did so anyway.

“It’s only four guys now,” they said, sadly.

The door to the kitchen chose this moment to flap open and for one fleeting second Barry got a glimpse inside. He saw, in their cages, four greasy, swollen men; lashed securely in position and with hoses of slurry riveted into place between their jaws. Watery eyes – any intelligence behind them mercifully long since having disappeared – blinked at him. There was one cage empty.

“Only four guys,” the server repeated before slouching off back behind the counter.

Barry felt a little ill.

END

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