The young man awoke with a jolt, freezing water pouring down his face. He blinked several times, focusing his vision. Looking around, he realized he was in his Tokyo hotel room. The snow-capped peak of Mount Fuji loomed over the landscape outside his window. Then he noticed he wasn’t alone.
“Oh, what the hell happened? My head hurts. I feel weird. Who are you? Why are you naked?” Then the young man realized he, too, was nude.
“I didn’t want to get anything on our clothes. And you’re feeling the effects of the Xanax and other drugs. You speak English?” asked the bald, overweight, middle-aged American.
“Of course, I speak English—I’m American. Who the hell are you? What drugs?” He realized he was unable to rise from his chair.
“Trust me, you need the drugs. Damnit. I don’t understand. You look Japanese.”
“I’m American. My parents are Japanese, they were born here. Why am I tied to this chair?”
“But I heard you speak Japanese at the hotel desk. What’s your name?”
“Kyu. I don’t speak Japanese fluently, just enough to get by. Who are you? Why am I tied to this damn chair? Why is it so important that I be Japanese? What the hell’s going on here?” He struggled frantically, but couldn’t loosen the rope.
“You were the last on my list. I don’t know what to do now.”
“Help! Please, help–” Before Kyu could finish, a rubber ball was shoved in his mouth, the gag tightened behind his head.
“That’s enough of that,” said the man. “It doesn’t matter who I am. You’re tied to this chair because I tied you to it. And it’s important that you’re Japanese because in order to complete my list, I needed someone Japanese.”
Kyu tried vainly to speak, the words only muffled by the ball.
“I can only assume that you’re asking about the list.”
“Japanese was the last on my list,” said the man, walking behind Kyu. “I started with Indian, then Mexican, African, French, German, Italian, Greek, Russian, Chinese, and now, finally, Japanese. But you not being Japanese really screws things up.”
Kyu again muffled a question, then felt cold metal on his thumb. He writhed in multiple directions, crying hard, screaming quietly, as his left thumb was removed from his hand. Then the right. His former appendages were tossed on the floor as warm blood poured out of his hands.
The man waited several minutes, applying gauze to Kyu’s stubs, for the shock to take over and for Kyu to get quiet.
“Believe me, that would have hurt a lot more, if you hadn’t had the drugs. Makes it a little more difficult to free yourself without opposable thumbs. Now, I’ll remove the gag if you promise not to scream.”
The young man nodded. He opened his mouth wide, closed, and repeated the exercise once the gag had been taken off.
“I’ll do whatever you say,” said Kyu, breathless. “Please let me go. But, I still don’t understand.”
“I’ve been going around the world sampling true ethnic food. How am I supposed to know what Japanese really tastes like if you’re not Japanese?”
Kyu’s eyes widened. “What do you mean?”
“I’ve always heard that we are what we eat,” the man said. “With that in mind, I set out to see if it’s true. The only way to do that, is to consume those who consume their ethnic cuisine.”
“You eat—people?” asked Kyu, the words barely escaping the fear lodged in his throat. “Oh, my God.” Tears rolled down, mixing with the cold water already on his face.
“I eat animals,” the fat American said. “Just like anyone else does.”
“You eat human beings. You’re a cannibal.”
“Human beings are animals. And since they eat other animals, we’re all cannibals.”
“You’re fucking insane.” Kyu tried desperately again to free his hands, finding his struggle more useless than before. Fuck, he thought.
“Don’t judge me.”
“Judge you? You want to EAT ME! You cut off my thumbs!”
“Well, it looks like I’m not going to eat you now.”
“Oh, thank God. Please, let me go.”
“But I can’t very well just let you go, either. What to do, what to do.” The man paced the hotel room floor.
Then Kyu watched the man’s eyes light up with devious joy.
“I know. I’ll make you Japanese. I assume you’ve been eating the cuisine since you’ve been here; I’ll just keep feeding you nothing but Japanese food for several days. We’ll stay holed up in this room. It’ll be like fattening a turkey for Thanksgiving. How long have you been here?”
“Please, I want to go home.”
“How long?” the man screamed.
“Five days,” Kyu sobbed. “This was my last day. I was supposed to leave tonight, go back home to California.”
“Five days. Hmmm. We’ll make it another couple of days. That ought to do it.”
“How did you become like this?” asked Kyu, staring through his watered vision at the floor in a corner of the room, lacking the will to raise his head.
“So kind of you to ask. I was on a bus one day and noticed that all these Indian people around me smelled like curry. So I wondered if they also tasted like curry.”
“Oh my God. You’re a cannibal and a racist.”
“I’m conducting research. It’s science.”
“Why me? How did you get me?”
“I sat in the lobby and watched you come in alone. You’re a lean individual, no fat. I don’t like fatty foods. I heard you speak Japanese to the woman behind the desk, followed you up here, and waited for you to unlock your door. It’s amazing how little people pay attention to their surroundings. Too easy, really.”
Kyu felt the man walk around behind him again and tighten the rope.
“I’d hate for you to get loose and pull some Bruce Lee stuff on me.”
“Bruce Lee was Chinese-American, you crazy fuck.” Kyu shuffled his legs and realized they weren’t tied. His mind raced, formulating a plan. Make him comfortable, so he expects nothing. God. “So what parts do you eat? Of people, I mean.”
“Well, to truly know if someone is what they eat, one must dine on the parts which they use to dine: tongue, stomach, those areas. Basically, the digestive system, in layman’s terms. I won’t eat your thumbs—the human hand is so dirty.”
Kyu felt a wave of nausea come on, his stomach turning, as he tried to hold back his desire to vomit. He watched the man pick up a hotel menu.
“So what would you like from room service? I can’t read any of this, but I’ll figure it out. Come on, my treat,” said the man, sitting on the corner of the bed, inches from Kyu.
The young man suddenly lunged forward, head-butting his assailant, knocking him to the floor. Kyu then tried to stand, only to fall flat on his face, the weight of the chair hurting his back.
“You shouldn’t have done that,” said the man, standing up and righting Kyu. “You don’t have any feet.”
Kyu looked down, horrified to find it was true.
“But I can feel them,” he cried.
“No, you only think you feel them. I’ve numbed you there. Like anyone else whose had an amputation, those are phantom sensations. The nerves that run through your legs and connect to your feet are still there. I didn’t have enough rope to tie all of you up, so I had to improvise. Take no chances, you know what I mean? Anyway, now I’m thinking I have to speed things up. You’re not what I wanted, but you’ll make a nice…appetizer.”
The man stood in front of his victim, his fat stomach, and other body parts, rubbing against Kyu’s exposed flesh. Suddenly, he stabbed a syringe into the young man’s neck. Everything went black.
A little later, Kyu once again woke up, groggy, and surveyed the room. He was now tied to the bed. The fat, naked man sat near the stumps of Kyu’s legs, a plate on his lap and silverware in hand. A Japanese game show, with colorful, singing, dancing anime-costumed people, was on the television. Kyu heard the man laugh hysterically. His lips smacking together as he paused his laughter to eat. At times, the man would put down his fork and knife, using his fingers to pick up his food and swirl it around the plate before ingesting it. It looked like someone using bread to sop up their gravy.
Kyu opened his mouth to scream, but only grunts and meaningless utterances came out. The man turned around. The entirety of his lower mouth was red.
“Oh, you’re awake,” he said, as if he were talking to his best friend. “Have you seen this show? It’s hilarious. Oh yeah, you’ll find that you’re not able to scream for help, anymore. Or speak at all, for that matter.”
The man stood and faced the victim on the bed. Then, looking at the plate, Kyu saw what was left of his own tongue resting in a pool of blood. Two-thirds of it had already been eaten.
“I’ll be moving on to some skin and muscle next. Wanna save the stomach, the good stuff, for someone who’s really Japanese, you know?”
Kyu struggled, more than he had before then, suddenly, stopped. The realization hit him—he was going to die.
“Did you know I used to be in medical school?” the man asked, between bites of tongue. “I was. I left, though, because I was interested in vivisection. That’s live dissection, to you. That’s frowned upon in school. I’m very interested in performing experiments while the subjects are alive.
“Later, I began to look at another doctor’s creative pursuits and found that his methods were incorrect, so I began to conduct my own experiments. Then I got sidetracked with this, but I’ll get back to my original goal, soon. Then I’ll be recognized as one medical science’s greatest minds.”
The man bent closer to his victim’s stomach, the scalpel in his hand inching ever closer, his fat belly resting on Kyu’s side. Kyu mumbled, tears trickling down his face.
“What’s that?” the man asked.
What the stranger didn’t know, what he didn’t understand, was that Kyu, having no tongue, still tried to quietly tell his parents he loved them.
“I want you to know, that I think I’ll be conducting further research when I get back to the states. I want to know if the regional and racial stereotypes hold true. So many possibilities. Then, of course, back to my original research.”
Kyu felt the cut, he felt everything, as the man, that nameless, naked, cannibal, lurched over, with knife and fork, and began eating his insides. Suddenly, his vision went dark and Kyu’s consciousness fell into death’s black hole.