“Welcome,” Krisi said and held the door open for him. Glenn gladly accepted the invitation. He’d never done anything like this, and he told her as much.
“Many people haven’t, but don’t let that put you off.” She closed the door and took him down the hall.
“I’ve heard many good things,” he said.
“You will gain from this what you most desire. That is our guarantee, but you must first be open to the experience or else you will gain nothing. Everyone who leaves here after completing the full list of activities has gained a new perspective on their lives. A perspective that opens their minds to what they were missing. They gain…an appreciation.”
He followed her into a small room filled with a bar top and a few stools. Krisi ushered him to a seat at the bar before walking around.
“Would you like a drink to start things off?”
“Sure,” he replied hesitantly, “I didn’t just pay a thousand bucks for a drink, did I?”
She offered a smile, “No, this is just a courtesy. We find it often helps calm any nerves about what will happen next. Anything you want. On the house.”
“Oh.” He looked over the wall of bottles. “I’ll take some of that Macallan if that’s okay.”
“Of course.” She grabbed a glass and poured a small amount. He noticed the 40 on the label and accepted it graciously. She then pulled two trays out from behind the bar and set them on either side of him.
“Before we begin in earnest, we must ask that you sign a confidentiality agreement.” She lifted the lid off the first tray to reveal a paper and pen. “You may read it over if you like. It simply details that you will not reveal anything you see beyond this point. We do not restrict you from telling anyone how you were changed by any event held on our premises, in fact we encourage you to do so, but we must ask that you refrain from any specifics about our processes.”
Glenn took the paper and began reading it. Before he could ask any questions, Krisi lifted the lid off of the second tray to reveal a pile of neatly stacked, pristine one-hundred-dollar bills.
“If you choose not to sign the contract,” she continued, “we must ask you to leave the premises. You may keep the one-hundred thousand dollars as a refund, but you may never again attempt to use our services. I apologize, but this is non-negotiable.”
He stared at the cash. One-hundred thousand dollars could solve a lot of problems, but the fact that nearly everyone he knew had turned it down (hell, hadn’t even mentioned the money) and only praised this place helped sway his hand. He signed the agreement.
She placed the lid back on the money. They left the small room. Glenn brought his glass with him. He wasn’t going to waste a scotch that cost more than his admission.
He followed her to another room. It was a large banquet hall filled with an enormous oak table. They each sat down, occupying one of the fifty chairs evenly spaced with enough room to never bump elbows.
“Are you hungry?” Krisi asked.
“Yes, actually, I’m starving,” he said. He wasn’t when he first came in, but now he found himself famished.
“Good.” She pulled a device from her pocket, turned it in her hand, and tucked it away again. A train of waiters came through a door at the opposite end of the hall. Each one carried a large silver tray. They placed a tray in front of each chair.
“Are we expecting company?” Glenn asked.
Krisi smiled, but offered no reply. She lifted the lid off of her tray and examined the food. Glenn did also. His eyes took in the roasted meat. His stomach growled and his hunger intensified. Krisi smiled at him and took a sip of wine.
“Enjoy,” she said.
He forgot about his drink and carved into the meal. The meat was prepared so perfectly it melted in his mouth like velvet cream. He hardly noticed anything else until he had consumed the entire plate.
Krisi hadn’t touched her meal, but took another sip of wine and asked, “Still hungry?”
“Actually….’ he said bashfully, “I am.”
“Eat to your heart’s content,” she said and nodded to the platter next to him.
He grabbed the tray and removed the lid to find an exact copy of what he’d just eaten. He carved into it to find it even better than the first meal. When he finished, he was still unsatisfied and grabbed another plate. He never noticed how the plate next to him was always replaced after he took it.
Krisi watched on, sipping her wine, as Glenn ate plate after plate. She watched as his features changed. She was not surprised how quickly he abandoned his utensils, then his hands, and began taking large bites directly from the platter. If anything, Krisi was disappointed that Glenn only made it to the second trial. He ate and ate and ate and became less and less human. He soon took on the physical shape of the animal he always was.
She took the small device out of her pocket and turned it over twice. A handler came in and put a lead on what had been Glenn.
“Place him in a pen and fatten him up a bit. We can serve him next week.”
The handler bowed and left with the animal.
Krisi took one last sip of wine before getting up. She walked down the hall and opened the door.
“Ethan. Welcome.” She smiled and held the door open for him. She wondered if he would make it through all seven trials, but had a feeling he would fail at number four.