The Last Bite

LastBite

The Last Bite

A Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives fan-fiction

It was on a particularly humid morning in Mobile, Alabama that celebrity chef Guy Fieri found himself wondering where the years had gone. He was gazing at his reflection in the rearview mirror of Big Bite (the nickname he’d given to his beloved 2007 Chevrolet Corvette) and noticed that there seemed to be far more lines in his face than he’d remembered. Up ahead he saw the sign for Billy Bob’s BBQ Restaurant and for the first time since he had started upon this quest years ago, he questioned whether or not he really had the energy for it.

The night before had been rough. He hadn’t gotten back to the hotel until around Midnight. He had gotten used to operating with little sleep over the course of his career but no sleep had come to him that night. Once again, Guy found himself haunted by the nightmares of his past.

He’d always suffered from nightmares but lately they were coming almost every night. Blurred and distorted visions from long ago, as if his entire childhood had been eaten up and vomited out by his own subconscious. He saw dark figures in robes huddled over a naked infant. He saw a ceremonial blade being polished and blessed with indistinguishable prayer. He saw the blade prick the flesh of the babe. He’d woken then as the child’s cries echoed out into his conscious mind. It was 3:30 a.m. By that point any hope of sleep that night had been eradicated and Guy had no choice but to fix himself a crispy shrimp po’boy and watch his own television program until the morning came.

And here it was. In a few minutes, Guy knew that he would have to summon whatever energy remained in him and walk into that BBQ joint and try everything on the menu and do it with a cheery smile on his face. But something about today felt different and Guy wondered if maybe his dreams were meant to symbolize something. Maybe he was getting close. Maybe, after all this time, he was finally about to find what he’d truly been searching for.

Pain. Torment. The end of a lifelong mission. The vanquishing of an ancient evil. All right here on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

*

Plates piled high with cheese, meat, and vegetables, each dish shining with a coat of fresh grease. Restaurant patrons eating years off of their lifespans and enjoying every minute of it. Men, women, children, and the elderly alike sucking down deep fried delicacies like zombies feeding on human flesh. Guy entered the threshold of the restaurant and knew immediately that this town, like many towns before it, had become a slave to its greasy-fingered overlords – the fry cooks of the local diner.

The woman that greeted him as he walked in the door was Sally May Jenkins, the current owner and operator of Billy Bob’s Barbecue Restaurant here in Mobile, Alabama.

“My father, William AKA ‘Big Billy’ Jenkins, founded the business shortly after returning home from Vietnam in 1968.” She explained to him.

“No way!” Guy exclaimed, having already transformed into the exuberant ball of energy he was known to be. “That’s the same year I was born!”

“Crazy coincidence!” She said with a laugh. “Anyways, he passed in ninety four and I’ve been running the place ever since.”

“And from the looks of it, you’re doing an incredible job!” Guy told her.

“Well it’s not just me.” She said. “Why don’t we check out the kitchen and I’ll show you where the magic really happens.”

“Choo choo! All aboard the train to flavortown!”

As Guy followed her into the kitchen, he couldn’t help but notice a wall of flyers taped up near the entrance of the restaurant. Posters for upcoming local gigs, freelance babysitters and piano teachers offering their services, calendars noting the schedules of the local high school sports teams. But what caught Guy’s attention more than anything was the surprising amount of missing posters – simple documents featuring the faces of missing mobile residents and the last date they were seen.

“Are you coming?” Sally said, snapping Guy out of his trance. He took one last look at the posters and hobbled into the kitchen.

*

From the moment he saw him, Guy knew the man behind the grill was no ordinary fry cook.

“This,” Sally Mae explained. “Is John Alfredo.”

He was a hardened looking man with a face like a worn leather jacket. Spiky silvery hair that once burned a bright blonde peppered the top his skull and his skin bore an almost inhuman red tone. The man offered his hand to Guy with a crooked smile.

“Please, friends call me Jack. Pleased to meet your acquaintance, Mr. Fieri.” The sound of his voice rocked Guy so to his core that he didn’t even think to correct the man’s mispronunciation of his last name.

“Right back at’cha Jack!” Guy said. “Now why don’t you tell me a little bit about what you got cookin’ here?”

“Well this here,” Jack began, gesturing to the pile of slop currently crisping up on the flat-top “is our gut-bustin’ meat mountain hash made with our signature tummy ticklin’ BBQ sauce.”

Guy watched as the man drizzled a bottle of fluorescent orange liquid over the pile of food, creating a cloud of steam that sifted throughout the kitchen. He sucked in the steam through his nose, searching for hints of ingredients. Brown sugar. Ketchup. Cayenne pepper. Cinnamon. And something else that Guy couldn’t quite place.

“Smells delicious!” Guy said. And that’s when he made his first move. He again flashed his well-crafted surfer bro smile and reached for the pile of food, plucking a handful of slop directly off of the grill and scooping it into his mouth.  “And delicious it is!”

Even without looking at her Guy could sense Sally’s disgust. But it wasn’t her reaction he was interested in. Guy waited what seemed like hours for Jack Alfredo to respond to his egregious food theft until finally he cracked a wry smile.

“Glad you like it!” Alfredo said.

“Order up!” called out a zit-faced teenage waiter as he clipped the order ticket to the kitchen window.

“Oh boy…” Jack Alfredo said. “You’re in for a treat.”

Jack excitedly rushed to the refrigerator as Guy plucked the ticket from the window and read it aloud.

“The Meat Monster?”

As he looked up he immediately understood how the menu item had earned it’s name. In Jack’s arms had to be somewhere between five to ten pounds of the most peculiar meat Guy had ever seen.

“Our most famous menu item!” Alfredo exclaimed. “A double cheeseburger the size of your head covered with cheese, and bacon. We try to serve it with vegetables but most folks aren’t really interested in shit like onions or lettuce.” He tossed the meat onto a cutting board and began to shape it into two individual patties.

“Beef? Pork?” Guy asked.

“And more.” Alfredo replied. “It’s a blend.”

“What else you got in there? Duck? Rabbit? Sage?”

“Can’t tell ya.” Jack said as his smile began to wane. “Alfredo family secret recipe. I’m sure you understand.”

“Oh c’mon, you’re among friends!” Guy said with a devilish grin. Jack smirked.

“I don’t have friends, Mr. Fieri.” He said coldly. “I only have customers.”

*

Jan Belinski was forty-two years old. Having lived her entire life within the confines of Mobile, Jan had become more than familiar with Billy Bob’s.

“I still remember Billy and Jack smiling behind the grill,” she recalled to Guy. “Laughing and smiling. I think Jack made me my first ever flapjacks. Banana chocolate chip with bacon and cinnamon chorizo.”

“Incredible.” Guy replied. “So clearly Billy Bob’s is more than just a place to eat for you.”

“Yeah it’s more like gettin’ together with family, I guess.” She said as she spooned a mouthful of grits smothered in cheese and bacon into the mouth of her two-year old daughter. “My husband and I used to come here two or three times a week. He even made it up on The Wall of Fame.”

“The wall of fame?” Guy asked.

“Anyone that can finish Jack’s double meat monster gets their picture up on the wall.” Sally Mae explained, appearing behind Guy as if she had stepped out of thin air. “That and a free t-shirt.”

She pointed Guy to the wall so that he could get a closer look. Men and women of all ages, smiling through the thin layer of meat sweat that covered each of their faces. Some of them still had bits of meat clinging to their lips.

“There’s Jeffrey there in the middle.” Jan said, pointing out her husband’s picture. A heavyset man with greasy hair and a patchy beard grinning ear to ear.

“Why isn’t he here now?” Guy asked. Immediately he felt the weight of his question as Jan dipped her head, the cheery smile on her face giving way to an expression of sadness and grief. 

“He went missing a while back.” Jan explained glumly. “Not too long after that picture was taken actually.”

Guy looked at the picture closely, suddenly remembering where he had seen it. The other faces began to come into focus too. Tina Nichols. Matthew Vaughan. Ethel Murray. These were the missing citizens of Mobile, Alabama.

“Well that’s quite an accomplishment!” Guy said of the photo. “Maybe I’ll end up on this wall someday!”

“Yes…” came Jack’s voice from behind the kitchen window. “Maybe you will….”

*

Guy sat wide-eyed on the hotel bed, far too energized by the day’s events to even entertain the notion of sleep. Still, however, the visions persisted – coming in now even more frequently than ever before. Every time he closed his eyes…

…A bloody piece of uncooked meat is wrung out into the mouth of a chubby three-year old child who guzzles its drippings with glee…

…A spiky blond-haired child training with a set of kitchen knives, using them to slice an array of vegetables to shreds before throwing them at distant targets with deadly accuracy…

…The hooded figures crowd around a naked man – Guy, from a younger time, before he had perfected his signature facial hair. The lead figure dips a thin blade into a small dish of dark red liquid and begins to carve something into Guy’s back – an ancient symbol whose true meaning may never be known…

Guy rubbed the back of his neck, the sudden flood of memories triggering a burning sensation in his scar. Nearly twenty-four hours had passed since he was awoken by his nightmares the night before though Guy didn’t feel the need for sleep. Of the mysteries that lied within Billy Bob’s BBQ Restaurant, Guy was unsure. But whatever it was, he knew one thing to be true. He could feel it in his bones. He was close.

He made his way to the restaurant on foot, having built up incredible stamina as the result of his childhood training. And despite his flamboyant appearance, Guy had picked up more than a thing or two about stealth. Like a shadow moving through a dark night, Guy steadfastly crept into the back parking lot.

He almost smiled when he saw the sticker on the door to the restaurant’s rear entrance. “Protected by Tyrell Security Systems.” He paused for a moment and bowed his head.

“Matzia guilia mich vult.” He whispered in a hushed tone. He reached into his jeans pocket for his secret weapon – a buffalo chicken wing. He sucked the entirety of the wing’s meat directly off the bone in one foul swoop and tossed the remains to the ground.

“Freige.”

The word left his lips in a plume of ethereal smoke. He heard the sound of a click and the door opened, as if bending to the will of an unseen visitor. Guy took one last look at the darkness looming within the restaurant and prepared himself before stepping inside. He closed the door behind him, careful not to make too much noise.

“Seinsvuir.” He whispered quietly. He felt a slight burning sensation in his eyes as the spell took effect, granting him the ability to see in darkness. He could see now that the restaurant had been immaculately cleaned at the end of the day, something Guy thought seemed unlike most of the restaurants he had visited before.

He hadn’t been invited into the restaurant’s main office that afternoon but he had gotten a peek inside on his way to the kitchen. Again, he noticed that everything had been organized with extreme articulation. Guy couldn’t remember the last time he had seen a restaurant this organized and wondered if he ever had. Even at the restaurants he owned and operated, Guy couldn’t deny that he allowed things to get a little cluttered from time to time.

He started in on the file cabinets, rifling through legal documents and recipes dating back to the restaurant’s inception. He scoured photos of Jack and Big Billy himself hanging out in the kitchen along with a young Sally Mae learning the ropes in the restaurant’s early days. He quickly gleaned through the entirety of the first drawer and found nothing out of the ordinary. He was about to start in on the second drawer when he heard something.

“Help! Please help me!” Came a desperate cry from the dining room. Guy quickly closed the file cabinet, careful not to leave any trace of his presence as he crept out of the office.

Despite the blood and bruising, Guy recognized the man crawling on the floor as the customer that had ordered Jack’s ridiculous cheeseburger – the Meat Monster – earlier that afternoon. He was young, maybe just a few years older than Guy’s son Ryder, and surprisingly slender given his immense appetite.

Guy stuck to the shadows, carefully avoiding being seen.

“It’s gonna kill me!” the man screamed. “Please!”

Guy ignored his cries for help and watched in horror as “it” emerged from the darkness.

A hulking figure of inhuman proportion stalked towards the man on the floor like a predator closing in on doomed prey, it’s mushy brown flesh glistening in the moonlight. Guy watched wide-eyed, unable to believe what he was seeing. A real life monster made from meat.

“Pleeaa-!”

The monster ended the man’s cries with a single punch to the throat. His body went limp and Guy watched in horror as the meat monster descended upon him. The monster pulled its victim into it as if swallowing the man with the entirety of it’s body. Guy couldn’t help but wince in pain as he heard the sounds of bones crunching and veins bursting.

Within a matter of minutes, the monster had completely devoured the man, leaving no trace of him in the restaurant. It let out a satisfied belch.

“I hope you enjoyed the meal.” Guy said, rising from the shadows. “Because it’ll be your last.”

The monster turned towards him. Its faceless head was hard to read but Guy could tell it was surprised. He reached into his pocket for another chicken wing and sucked it down. This time, however, instead of tossing the bone Guy raised it close to his lips and whispered.

“Hildi.”

The remnants of the wing immediately began to transform into a massive sword made entirely from bone. The monster let out a spine-chilling roar from within its meaty orifices and charged towards him. Guy smirked and raised his sword.

“Welcome to Flavor Town, motherfucker.”

Guy waited until the monster was within range and leapt forward, slicing into the monster and ripping a hefty chunk of meat from its mid-section. The monster squealed in agony as it tumbled to the floor.

Guy quickly spun around with his sword in hand, ready to deliver the final blow when he saw it – the severed chunk of meat crawling back to its host. The meat monster lifted the hunk of meat from the ground and slammed it into its chest, reshaping itself as if the sword’s blade had never touched it.

“Well shit.” Guy uttered to himself, almost ashamed for thinking it’d be that easy. The monster hurled itself at him and Guy had no choice but to duck and roll, just barely avoiding being swallowed up into it. He lifted his sword again and whispered.

“Anzuin.”

The blade of the bone sword burst into flames, casting a dull orange glow over the entirety of the restaurant. Guy reached for the set of sunglasses hanging around the back of his neck and threw them on.

“Come and get it, big boy.” Guy taunted. The meat monster let out a mighty roar and charged once again. Guy lifted the sword over his head and hurled it at the beast like a spear. The blade struck the monster’s arm, slicing another chunk of meat from it’s body. This time Guy was quick, sprinting to the severed piece of meat before it hit the ground.

The fiery heat of his blade had charred one end, cooking it to a perfect medium rare. Guy saw the warm meat juices seeping from within and couldn’t help himself. He took a bite, chewed and swallowed.

“AAAAGGGGHHHH!” The monster cried as if seriously injured. Guy turned to find the beast clutching at its wound. It was then that he knew what he had to do. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and whispered –

“Matzia arme.” His eyes flickered open and he saw his enemy standing before him. Without warning, Guy leapt at the beast, tearing into it with his fiery sword. As his blade singed the meat of the monster’s body, guy ripped into it with his teeth and swallowed it. For nearly fifty years Guy had been forced to repress his unearthly appetite but tonight he would be sated by the sweet flesh of his enemy.

The monster found itself helpless to Guy’s immense hunger. No matter how hard it fought, it was unable to withstand the fury of his blade. Little by little, Guy hacked away and ate nearly every bit of the monster, taking him down in a matter of minutes.

“No! Please stop!” came a cry from within the beast.

Guy backed away, startled by the monster’s sudden humanity. He watched as the remaining meat fell to the floor leaving only the shape of a naked, wrinkled old man in its place. Guy was almost surprised to discover that the meat monster was none other than Jack Alfredo himself.

“Please…don’t kill me.” Jack whined. “You….you don’t understand.”

“No, Jack, you don’t understand.” Guy began. “I’ve been trained from birth for the sole mission of tracking you down, finding you, and killing you.”

“I know what you are…” Jack said. “Those words…the ancient language. Sifila um matzia n gunda.” Guy couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“But…” Guy stuttered. “That can only mean…”

“That’s right.” Jack said. “I was like you once.” He turned around slowly as he spoke and pointed to a scar on the back of his neck – one almost identical to Guy’s own. Guy couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Still he held tightly onto his sword.

“You betrayed our code.” Guy asserted. “You…you used our blessing for evil.”

“Blessing?” Jack said with a half-hearted chuckle. “It ain’t a blessing you damn fool. It’s a curse. An unholy damnation from which there is no escape.”

“You lie.” Guy said, stunned by Alfredo’s words.

“You feel it too.” Jack claimed. “You haven’t become a victim to it but you soon will. I’m talking about the hunger. The pain that you feel in that trollish belly of yours every waking moment of your life. The same pain felt by every sluggish, big-boned idiot on that damn wall.”

“So that’s what this was?” Guy asked. “You were freeing them from their pain?”

“All while trying to feed my own.” Jack said. “But this is a hunger that will never end. So kill me if you have to but know that one day it will come for you too. And there is no escaping it.”

Guy considered the man’s words for a moment, unsure what to feel. There was an undeniable truth to them but he was unsure if it was a truth he was ready to embrace just yet. These were worries for another day and at this moment in time, Guy had a job to do.

He lifted the sword over his head and prepared to deliver the final blow.

“Drincan mi Ricuz.”

With one fowl swoop, Guy tore Jack Alfredo’s head clean from his body. At last, he had achieved victory and earned the glory he had spent his entire life seeking. Still, however, he felt hollow. Like something inside was missing. Like he was empty.

He looked at Jack’s corpse lying in a heap of uncooked meat and couldn’t shake the memory of his foe’s words. The hunger burned inside him, just as Jack had predicted it did, and Guy wondered if his appetite would one day do the same thing to him. But for now, there was only one thing on his mind that really mattered.

*

Guy flicked on the light-switch in the restaurant’s kitchen and turned on the flat-top grill before drizzling a bit of olive oil over it’s surface. He dug around the kitchen for a little while, picking out his favorite ingredients and seasonings and pulling out all the stops. This was his ultimate meal of course. It had taken him awhile to drag Jack’s remains into the kitchen but Guy did it with pleasure because tonight, he would feast.