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Thursday, February 29, 2024

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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Dinner, a short story

By Sreejon Mazumder

“YOU are what you eat.” It is a very well-known saying. But what does it mean? I am what I eat? Do I become what I have consumed? If I eat a grape, do I magically transform into small parcels of what wine used to be? If I were to take a trip to KFC, would I leave as what they were most likely to fry next? Or are the gods of stringing together random words to form coherent sentences as profound wisdom implying something deeper?

Maybe what they are saying is that we will be haunted by the ghosts of what we eat. Now, food-related apparitions have their own way of showing up. Maybe it will be some extra inches along the waist. Maybe it will be the cholesterol trying to derail our heart. It can be anything but a “haunting”. Or what if it were possible? What if we were being haunted by the ghosts of all the living creatures that we have mercilessly massacred?

What if we are being swarmed by the souls of all the poultry and the cattle and the fish and whatever other animal fell prey to us, and we simply have not realised it. Hell – we can throw that one stray camel into the mix as well.

Can vegetables have souls too? They are probably hanging around us too. But ignorance is bliss. As long as we cannot see them, they are not here, and we need not worry about this spectral farmer’s market around us. But what if I told you I can see them? No, not a spectral goat spectrally charging at me with his spectral horns to seek retribution for being stuffed into an oven. I mean, I can see them. I feel their presence everywhere. Watching me, studying me, biding their time. I feel them breathing down my neck when I lay down to rest. They follow me wherever I go. And they take no steps to keep themselves hidden.

They want me to know when they are coming for me. It is not just one or two beings. With a body count as high as mine, it is fair to have a good number of visitors from beyond the
grave. Their visits started right when I started working on my patients, but now, they don’t just come to visit, they come to stay.

The buzzing has gotten louder too. It just doesn’t go away anymore. It is less of an abuzz and more of a constant shriek now. I hear them every time I look one of them in the eyes.
They scream without opening their mouths. In my ears… in my head…they are always screaming – screaming out my name – screaming out what I did to them. There is one sitting across the table from me right now… Jim. I met him yesterday.

He was a nice guy… a bit chewy. Jim’s screaming at me right now, just like he was screaming when he was alive. Maybe Jim wants the rest of his leg back. Or maybe he is just reminding me of what he felt while I played the executioner. They’re all screaming at me now. It’s deafening. Can’t you hear it, Mary? How can you just stand there and be so unaffected by this? You are the only one not screaming here. That’s why I can still talk to you. “In sickness and in health”, we said, during our vows. And you were there, during my sickness.

You did not know that I was what I am. Or maybe you did. Is that why you didn’t scream when I slit your throat. Were you expecting it? You were the first in a long line of victims, Mary, and you tasted exquisite. You were soft, juicy, flavoursome. You were perfect. And I have longed for that taste ever since, but nothing has come close. I do miss you, Mary, in more ways than one.

I don’t know why I am conversing with a dead woman in my head. Maybe it’s better than listening to the screams. Remind me to look up the side effects of my sickness in the morning, but you don’t speak and I won’t stop. The screams are getting louder every day. Jim has been glaring at me. I fear that the time is nigh for the hunter to become the hunted. They’re all glaring at me now. Jim was a feisty one. I had a feeling he wouldn’t go down too well. Well, if I am to be spending my last moments talking to the dead, can we return to my question? You never answered it. If I eat healthy, will I be healthy? They can’t possibly mean I will turn into what I have eaten. But then again, I am only human, and we become what we eat. Does that mean I am the most human?
“You are what you eat, and now, we eat what you are”. Mary?

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