God knows how I’ve gotten here, but it seems as though I’m in a subterranean kitchen of some sort. Two strange features of the room is that it has been covered over in jet black paint and that there is a complete absence of air vents installed to divert any vapoury by-products of cooking liable to facilitate oxidization. The rectangular shaped room features a range of sinks, benches, stoves, and such fancy cooking utensils as to give the impression that it’s part of an exclusive and opulent restaurant in the middle of Beverly Hills.
Taking a glance around, I can see that there are various raw meats simmering in dark-coloured pots and pans. To my right the water in some kettles has reached boiling point and the latter have begun to whistle unceasingly. The amber-red flames emanating from beneath them cackle, flicker, and fluctuate in their plight for vertical ascension, threatening to engulf a series of Magnum Opuses that are coming-to-be. Moreover, a large chute overhead seems to connect one of the pots with machinery in the adjoining room. Judging from the intermittent rumbling, I’d say orbicular objects or pieces of food are rolling down the chute and splashing into the pot. Wafting across the room, the pungent aroma pertaining to the misty vapours doesn’t inspire any mouth-watering response on my part; on the contrary, they evoke a nauseating pang.
“Hey chef!” screeches a deep, scratchy voice from the next room. “Keep stirring the pot.”
Instantaneously, I realize that there’s an oversized wooden spoon in my hand. It’s so big and heavy that I need two hands to manoeuvre it.
“Stir the mixture,” says the masculine voice again, ‘with the tool that has been given to you by the master.”
I take a step forward, to the closest cauldron, and jab the spoon into the thick, congealing mass of lard simmering within. The temperature in the room is so great that I have to cease the action time after time to wipe away rivulets of sweat dribbling down my temples.
“Hurry up,” the voice declares. “We don’t have all day.”
‘What’s in this mixture?”
“That’s none of your concern.”
For a while I engage in the monotonous, mind-numbing activity without as much as a thought for what might be happening on the opposite side of the kitchen door, but at some point I become attuned to a series of murmurs that seem to be coming from that direction. The murmurs gradually transmute into a succession of muffled, bloodcurdling cries for help that are blighted out and then silenced by the menacing buzz of a chainsaw. My intuition tells me that something sinister and malevolent is going on outside, something that has nothing to do with cooking and hospitality. Pain and the fomentation of food are multiple universes apart, I tell myself. I desert my post and tiptoe all the way to a door adorned with glass panels and curtains, sliding the latter aside just enough for a quick peek of the beyond. What I see petrifies me.
Barely more than a few feet away, nude men and women are all seated on a rectilinear arrangement of wooden chairs with their backs to an executioner. Their arms and legs are bound by handcuffs and their heads covered over by black hooded facemasks. They don’t seem to be aware that their lives are about to be cut short like broiler chickens. Or if they are they’re putting up a stoic front. I catch a brief glimpse of the executioner as he revs up his assailing weapon and steps towards the chairs, getting ready to lop off another head. The tightness in the pit of my stomach grows into the size of a golf ball and I begin shuddering violently.
Clutching my throat, I stumble back to the cauldron and look inside. There, amidst the gelatinizing heap, are the putrefying heads of those that have been beheaded in the adjoining room. What’s going on in here? How did I ever end up in a human slaughterhouse? I need to get out of here!
The door suddenly swings open and a tall man dressed in a classy business suit walks in.
“What’s going on?” I ask, trying to keep my voice from quavering.
“We saw you looking through the curtain,” he said. “We know what you’re thinking.”
“I see the doubt and the uncertainty. You’re going to betray us.”
“No, I’m not!”
“Oh, yes you are!” he exclaims. “I know that sort of look when I see it.”
“I promise I won’t tell a soul.”
“You won’t get the chance,” he said. “Our master wants to have a word with you.”
Innately, I recognize that this “master” of theirs has supernatural or mystical powers and that meeting with him could mean potential dissolution and death. My legs feel weak; my head as light as a feather. Should I use the wooden spoon as a weapon and attack my potential assailant or should I just drop everything and run? But where do I run to? There’s no way out of here. Incapacitated by an influx of trepidation and revulsion, my body refuses to do either. I feel heavy like grey lead, as if the soles of my feet have fused with the earth.
“Who is the master?”
“Hello,” says another mesmerizing, guttural voice from beside the businessman. “I am the master.”
I avert my eyes, anticipating that his physiognomy might be able to enchant or possess the psyches of other people just by making eye contact.
“Look at me!” he snaps.
I look downwards. “No!”
“No. I know exactly what’s going to happen if I look.”
His voice is much closer than before. “Look at me,” he reiterates. “I know you want to. There isn’t a human on this earth that can resist me, you know?”
“I’m not looking!”
I can feel his breath against the nape of my neck now. I clutch my eyes tightly, wishing that he would just dematerialize and leave me be. “Why can’t you just leave me alone?”
“If you don’t look I’ll saw your head off!” he exclaims.
The jaws of a chainsaw suddenly roar to life. Mortified by the prospect of being decapitated, I open my eyes just enough to see who the master is. The man gawking at me is somebody I recognize quite well–me. In fact it’s an older, scruffier looking version of me, a middle-aged me that might exist in a good decade or so. The other me has a wry smile on his face. Our eyes meet for a brief second and then, without warning, the real me is thrust from the dream segment back into the everyday realm of consciousness.