A Feast of You - Brendan Vidito
Joe is joined by Brendan Vidito. They talk about body horror, illness, eye opening events, and more!
Brendan Vidito is a writer from Sudbury, Ontario. His work has appeared in several magazines and anthologies including Dead Bait 4, Splatterpunk’s Not Dead, Strange Behaviors: An Anthology of Absolute Luridity and Tragedy Queens: Stories Inspired by Lana Del Rey and Sylvia Place. You can visit him online at brendanvidito.com or on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @brandanvidito
You can contact the show at email@example.com - Just put WTR in the subject line.
Art photo by Arielle Tipa
A Feast of You
1. The Road Out
Ryker looked at the sky reflected in his coffee. Thick iron clouds pushed in from the city he had just fled, moving toward the diner with almost predatory purpose. He shifted uneasily in his booth. Cracked and blistered vinyl creaked under his weight. He brought the mug to his lips and drank. His hand shook so badly, a thread of coffee dribbled from the corner of his mouth. It was scalding, but he barely noticed. The only thought that occupied his mind was how he needed to get as far away from the city as possible. And as soon as the caffeine kicked in, he couldn’t afford to waste another minute. He was, after all, still within their zone of influence.
Despite its stinging warmth, the coffee—straight black and electrified with three packs of sugar—did an excellent job jump-starting his system. He hadn’t slept in over forty-eight hours and the energy now easing into his bloodstream almost brought tears to his eyes. The only thing was, he also had very little to drink in the last couple days and the coffee was beginning to fill his bladder to the point of discomfort. An itinerary formed in his mind. He’d take a piss, finish his third cup, leave the diner, drive until nightfall, find a cheap motel, unplug the room’s electronics to prevent them from learning of his whereabouts, get a good night sleep and finish up the drive in the morning. There was bound to be someplace where they couldn’t find him. He hoped with every quivering nerve in his body that it wasn’t simply a pipe dream.
The bell above the door jangled. Ryker spun around so fast his neck cracked. A family of three stood in the entrance. They looked like they’d stepped from the pages of a department store catalogue. The father had a kind but plain face, balding, the dark hair on his temples turning grey. He wore a t-shirt with the logo of some sports team Ryker remembered from his childhood. His wife was a head shorter, also plain but beautiful in her way. A scarf was knotted loosely around her neck and a purse dangled form one arm. She held her daughter’s hand, the diamond on her ring finger catching and refracting the diner’s fluorescent light. The child was clad in bright colors and in her other hand she carried a plastic, zipped container decorated with leering cartoon characters.
Sweat popped on Ryker’s forehead and trickled down the groove of his spine. An invisible fist punched through his stomach and squeezed his entrails. For a moment, he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move. He watched, riveted with terror, as the father inclined his head, said something to his daughter that made her laugh, and together the family made their way to a booth on the opposite side of the diner. The only other patron apart from Ryker, an older man with a grey beard and weatherworn jacket, smiled at the little girl as she passed.
Ryker tore his eyes away from the new arrivals. The clouds reflected in his coffee were closer now. He scooted to the edge of his seat, shot up and walked briskly to the bathroom. His bladder was so full it hurt, and for one embarrassed second he thought he’d pissed himself, but it was only sweat. It coated every inch of his body like an amniotic sack.
The bathroom door hit the wall with a thunderclap smash. He darted toward the urinal, fumbled with his fly, and let loose a stream so powerful it splashed back from the stained porcelain. He bowed his head, breath coming out in labored gasps. His heart hammered, gunfire-quick. Empty, he zipped up, and staggered to the sink. His long black hair was plastered to his forehead. He threw cold water in his face, made a sound crossed between a groan and a whisper. That family…they’re just people…they’re harmless. Even so, they reminded Ryker too much of them—those things he’d fled from.
He remained at the sink for another minute or two, hands grasping the edges, head bent toward the drain. When his heart rate slowed and his breathing grew steady, he straightened and exited the bathroom.
The family, the old man and the waitress behind the counter all stared at him. His throat moved. He directed his gaze at the floor. Quick, purposeful strides carried him back to his booth. He gripped the handle of his coffee mug in a quaking fist and downed the rest of its contents, wincing at a bitter taste he hadn’t noticed before. When he turned around, running a hand over his mouth, the waitress was standing inches from his face.
“Ready to settle up?” she asked.
“Y-yeah,” he managed to stutter, removing the wallet from his back pocket.
He threw a five on the chipped Formica and got the hell out of there. He had to move.
The engine of his rusted beater growled in protest before sputtering to life. He peeled out of the gravel parking lot, throwing up dust and hitting the highway at sixty miles an hour. The woods on either side blurred into abstraction, flashes of green, brown and grey as the sky leaked through between gaps in the trees.
When the diner shrank then disappeared in the rearview mirror, Ryker finally eased off the gas. The speedometer swung from one-twenty to ninety. Thankfully this piece of shit didn’t explode—and he couldn’t help but laugh. It was strained but genuine, and the longer it went on, the louder and more unhinged it became. Soon he was howling, tears blurring his vision, an open palm beating a crazed rhythm against the ceiling. Calm returned in waves until he was silent and staring at the road, his throat and chest sore from the outburst.
Silence reigned for a time before he decided to turn on the radio. It should be safe to listed to a couple songs, he reasoned. As long as he remained quiet, they wouldn’t be able to hear him over the airwaves.
The jockey said, “Now here’s a favorite of mine. I think many of you out there can use some of its medicine—especially with all the bad in the world lately. So here’s—”
Ryker relaxed his shoulders, easing back into his seat, allowing the music to wash over him. The drum beat a slow, heavy sound. The guitar was mellow and muted, the lyrics deep-voiced and lullaby-smooth. Combined with the monotony of the road, the flashing yellow lines, Ryker felt himself lulled into a trance-like state. His eyelids grew heavy, his muscles slack.
A flash in the rearview mirror. He shook his head to clear it. Another flash and Ryker recognized it for what it was: lightening. The clouds and the storm they carried were closing in.
His head was full of cotton, his eyelids dropped and his limbs were growing numb. What the hell is happening? He blinked several times, but his vision refused to clear. It was like his eyes were smeared with petroleum jelly. He pulled onto the side of the road and could only tell he was on the shoulder by the crunch of gravel under the tires. His eyes were useless and he could barely keep them open.
His breathing grew shallower by the second, the rise and fall of his chest a lulling rhythm. Oh shit. No. I can’t fall asleep now. What’s going on? He lifted a leaden arm and clumsily jabbed the button to turn off the radio. Silence except for his own breathing. Thunder rumbled not far behind. His eyelids fluttered closed, his head lolled onto one shoulder.Please. Don’t fall asleep. The plea crawled around inside his head. As he plunged into a mire of unconsciousness his last thought was of the strange bitterness in his last mouthful of coffee.