It was a normal Monday morning, when the package arrived at my doorstep. As a professional food critic, I expected fan mail. I was aware about my fan base so I made a fan mail address, and I announced it on my website a year ago. I also made it clear that if you want to send me food to review, you have to make sure it has been refrigerated a couple days prior to sending it. This will help prevent the food from expiring while it's being delivered. I also advise you to make sure the package is completely sealed shut before you send it; this will also help keep the food from going off. The packages were always delivered through the local post office, as I didn't want to disclose my actual home address for obvious reasons. This had been going on for an entire year and it worked. I felt honoured whenever my fans sent me their food to review, and because of that I tried to keep the feedback as polite as possible. But there was something specifically unusual about this package. The box was covered with ten coats of duct tape, with what I assumed was the sender's address, written with a bold black marker. It didn't have the post office's logo on it, so I knew it had to be hand delivered. How did he or she get my address? But what made this even more mysterious was the sender's address. It was near where I lived. It wasn't in the same neighbourhood or anything, but I knew it was only a short distance away from my house. It just seemed familiar to me.
I asked my friend Seth to accompany me, while I opened the box. This was just in case anything happens, you can't really trust a box covered in duct tape, let alone delivered by the sender. But there was another part of me that told me not to worry, saying that it was probably just fan mail, and that the post office might have given him or her my address. I hoped that would've been the case. Nevertheless, I slit open the ten rounds of duct tape with a box cutter. This process may sound simple and basic, but to me it felt like an eternity. Once I opened the box, I stared into the dark abyss. What I discovered was a plastic container, which had five pieces of sushi in it. It looked surprisingly fresh, like it was made a few minutes ago. Even if it was refrigerated long before it was delivered, I still didn't expect it to be that fresh. Like what I do whenever I receive food from fans, I microwaved it for a few seconds, just to kill any lasting bacteria while keeping the freshness. I have to say, it was one of the worst sushi I’ve ever tasted. The seaweed was sour, the rice tasted like it wasn't cooked, and the fish was really crunchy. It felt like sandpaper scratching my tongue, which was irritating me quite a bit. Seth and I could only eat two of them before throwing the rest away.
I expected to just write an extremely negative review about the sushi and carry on with my day. I know I said that I will try to keep my remarks nice and constructive, but what happened next definitely confirmed otherwise. Now keep in mind, I have never had a sick day in months, I have never smoked before, I exercise daily and I have never experienced a single asthma attack. But suddenly, my lungs felt like they were crushed by a gigantic pile of bricks. I felt like I was suffocating in a plastic bag. The only things I could grab onto were my chest and the couch. My hands were getting tighter as the pain on my chest grew. I was completely paralysed. I felt like I had been possessed. I rushed to the bathroom and coughed out tiny fragments of blood and phlegm. That was when my curiosity got the better of me.
I was so stupid. I should have gone to the hospital first. But once I was able to snap out of my agonizing state, I became curious yet agitated. I decided that I wanted to meet the sender in person, to ask him or her what the hell was in the sushi. I was already familiar about this place, so I didn't need any other guidance. I traced the address on foot, walking tirelessly toward the other end of the neighbourhood. I was expecting to find this place in half an hour's time, but I started to walk slower and slower as I started to get nervous. Many thoughts were going through my head. For some reason, the words “crunchy fish” and “strange meat” had been repeating itself over and over again, like a tune you can never get out of your head. I even started to conjure up different possible scenarios that may explain the disgusting taste of the sushi. I was constantly asking myself “what if”, like I was an attention-seeking conspiracy theorist. I was looking left and right constantly. I feared that he or she was still watching me, which was probably the reason why he or she knew where I lived. That almost got me back into the ill state I was in before. My chest was getting slightly heavier, but I was able to fight it with a few beatings to the chest. It was at that point of decay and paranoia, when I arrived at my destination. That address directed me to the woods. That didn't help with my state of panic. I stared at the trees for so long. It took some time before I was able to walk into the woods. It was getting darker and more isolated, as I dug deeper and deeper. I was hoping that nothing jumped out from behind a tree. I felt more closed in and more unprepared.
I stood completely still when I found a plastic apron, crushed up in dirt and soaked in blood. Right next to it was a neatly stacked pile of tools. Tools you can only find in operation rooms of hospitals. They all had traces of blood and small fragments of flesh glued onto them. I didn't know how to react. My hands were shaking violently. My adrenaline was reaching its highest. Out of fear, I was whispering “no” over and over again. I knew something bad was going to happen, I knew it. I heard neck cracking sounds coming from behind, which were followed by the sounds of gurgling. I could hear hands slowly creeping toward me. I slowly turned around, in sheer fear. It was a shirtless man, crawling away from a torn-up garbage bag. His fingers were covered in duct tape, the same type of duct tape that covered the box. He tried to wave his hand in front of my face, trying to yell for help. His tongue was sliced off, so he could only talk in vowels. I could've called for help, but I couldn't handle it. An image that will never leave me. I turned away, I ran and I never looked back. My adrenaline was draining so fast. I didn't know what to do, except to just run out of there.
The police department later discovered the area, and informed me that the man was already dead when they found him. Despite the surgical tools left behind, they weren't able to find any leads. They claimed that the fingerprints on the tools only traced back to people who were already dead years ago. The doctors informed me that I had to recover in the hospital for a couple days, due to what happened to my lungs. They said that the bronchi pipes in my lungs were filled with phlegm, due to a rupture in my stomach linked to food poisoning. Even if I tried to forget, the fear and the memory of what I witnessed will always be planted in my head subconsciously. The words “crunchy fish” and “strange meat” still played in my head like a poem. I started to hear the neck cracking sound at random times. I still remembered the man begging for his last breath, misery planted in his eyes. It was like the scratch you get on the roof of your mouth, which will only heal if you stop tonguing it, but you can't. Even though I tried to convince myself that it didn't happen, it was always able to grab hold onto my thoughts. I laid alone on the hospital bed, as I became more consumed by the haunting memory.