The Supper Club Investor’s Ball
by Aaron Willis
Danny got off the plane, lumbered down the stairs. It was the first comfortable flight he'd been on. Ever. This was a new airline from billionaire humanitarian Charles Patterson, who despite being a thin man himself, for some reason had a big heart for the obese. The six planes in his fleet were designed to house portly folks who would normally have to suffer the humiliation of buying two seats on everyday flights. Spacious, comfortable, just like the buses he did a trial run with, although in the first test city, the grafitti tagging rendered all the buses into drive-by billboards of hurt, what with six foot bubble letters stenciling "Fatterson's Pork Wagon" and "Driveabetes" going by. And not to mention since anyone could ride, the extra large seating space was being utilized by skinny hobos for sleeping and teens of all size for late night fucking.
Since it's harder to deface a plane with spraypaint, and with busfare a fraction the price of skyfare, the planes have held up pristine. Danny felt happy. Since he and the other passengers were all the same body mass index, no one silently judged him when he trundled down the aisle, because the aisle was wide enough to accommodate a Danny and a half. Danny also felt happy because the next part of the trip was to the themepark: Plus-world.
Charles Patterson had done it again. He'd opened a themepark full of plus-size rollercoasters and whatnot, robustly made and spacious, and the grand opening was months away. Danny and 49 others had been specially invited to the week-long soft opening gala. The main logo was a plus sign, pretty much emblazoned everywhere. The code for obese pride. Plus size. Positive size. Another logo was one of the main sponsors: Gil's Grillers; the tex-mex barbecue joint that, no matter what you ordered, they would put it in a tortilla and deep fry it, thus chimichanga-ing the whole menu.
After surrendering his phone and laptop (absolutely no info to be leaked) Danny checked into his suite, tore open a packet of snacks from the mini-bar, watched some HBO on his king-sized bed before the travel-nappems nabbed him. He woke suddenly by a few sharp raps at the door. "Just a minute," he said to the door. It did take a full 60 seconds for Danny to get from mattress to slide-lock. In the hallway was a housekeeper, Latina and morose. She didn't make eye contact. "You need towels? Anything?"
"Nah, that' s ok," Danny muttered, then "Or hey some more of the chips?"
She reached into her cart-o-plenty and handed him a few pouches of the snacks he had destroyed earlier. Danny turned to fish the wallet out of his back pocket, but when he held out the bills for a tip, she was already down the hall knocking on another door. Danny shrugged it off, returned the money to his billfold, chalked it up to being a VIP where everything was paid for. After a cursory look at the desk clock, he realized the meet-n-greet with Charles Patterson was in ten minutes. Hors-d'oeuvres and cocktails provided.
As Danny got into the elevator, he felt like he was at a convention of his own ilk. And despite the fact the elevator had 9 people, all heavy, there was still space to move around. He could breathe. Nothing felt cramped. Apart from the hotel staff, no one was one of those skinny-minis. Here, they were the majority. Their world, their sized things, their rules. Danny wanted to cry. Finally a place where he didn't have to be ashamed for just being.
The meet n greet was extravagant, and several big screen televisions had previews of the roller coasters and attractions for the next day. Charles himself moved through the crowd, shaking hands and giving backpats, and more than a few hugs. One woman with tears streaming nearly crushed the wind out of him. He laughed and gasped after she set him back down. “You’re welcome, dear! You’re so very welcome! All this is for you, for all of you. You deserve dignity. And fun! Enjoy yourselves tomorrow!” Danny approached the still-weeping woman, offered her a cocktail napkin. “Thanks, hon. My mascara must be a right mess. I’m Darlene by the way.”
“Danny. You got to meet the man, huh?”
“Think I cracked his ribs, but I was so excited. He’s such a humanitarian. So inspiring. I feel like he’s the only one who really sees us and empathizes with us.”
“I know what you mean. I wanted to say something but I didn’t want to stammer. I’m sure anything I would have said he’s already heard a hundred times.”
“But he hasn’t heard it from you. This is my husband Gerald.”
A huge bearded man clapped a hand on Danny’s shoulder. “Flirting with my wife, eh?”
Darlene elbowed him. “Behave, you shithead. Let’s hit that open bar.”
The three laughed and told stories and drank rum n cokes and wrecked several trays of crab cakes. Around 11, Gerald got up. “Time to see if the beds are reinforced for us. C’mon Darlene. I’m gonna pound your cottage cheese ass to kingdom come.’
“Not if I bite your dick off first.”
“Promises, promises. Night, Danny.”
The two staggered off to the elevators. Danny stayed at the bar for another hour hoping to meet a woman himself but the crowd had thinned and he went back towards his room. In the hall, the man in the next suite was struggling with his room key and the sulky housekeeper from earlier was trying to help him. The man was clearly angry but his face wasn’t red and his mustache appeared to be peeling off on one side. He looked uncomfortable and something about his appearance was odd but Danny couldn’t quite place it, like when you see a cgi character in a film and the weight isn’t there. The man yelled again, but his neck jowls didn’t jiggle. He didn’t look natural. After some bad noise, the maid finally got the passkey to activate. He pushed past her and slammed the door. She gave his room number the finger and strutted off down the hall. Danny saw a small yellow legal pad which must have fallen in the fuss. He picked it up, went to knock, but the anger of the owner and the late hour paused his fist, and Danny resolved to give it to him tomorrow when heads would be cooler. Danny threw the notebook on the desk and collapsed onto the bed. He had pleasant dreams although the crab cakes did make his stomach rumble all night.
The next morning, Danny met Darlene and Gerald at the breakfast buffet. Darlene had sunglasses on and sipped a mimosa. Gerald tore into his eggs benedict with gusto. “Mornin, hon” croaked Darlene. Danny set to his biscuits and gravy. “How are you guys feelin’?” Gerald barked a sharp laugh and Darlene held her head. “She’s hungover, I’m fine. But with her like that, looks like we won’t be doing any roller coasters today. Or the scrambler, or the hanging upside down ones.” Danny nodded while he chewed. “I stayed up another hour after you guys. I might do some of the lighter stuff myself.” The dining room was spacious. The tables were big and accommodating, the chairs ample and wide and comfortable. It seemed so simple: just make everything bigger. People are bigger, make the stuff bigger. Danny scanned the area for the mustache man from the previous night but didn’t see him. What he did see was a group of skinny folks in lab coats and clipboards congregated by the exit making notes and pointing at certain tables.
Suddenly all the screens went black and then a presentation began. Charles Patterson himself appeared. “Good morning, friends. I want to welcome you to Plus World. Today you will be experiencing rides and attractions, however since the park is not officially open yet, some of the rides are still under construction and we will need your help calibrating the features and getting crucial feedback. We value your input, and as always, some of us may be big, but our hearts must be bigger. Thank you, and have a delicious time.”
Gerald snorted. “What’s this dude’s deal? Zee have a family member with weight issues? Why does he care about us?”
Darlene said, “He just does. Maybe his aunt is Samoan.”
Gerald inhaled another forkful of egg and dripped hollandaise in his beard. “No one with that much money is a saint. Maybe his limo driver ran over some fat fuck and now he feels guilty. Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving’ this, but something ain’t right underneath it all.”
Darlene pursed her lips and Danny looked away. The rest of breakfast was silent and awkward. As they got up, a couple of the thin people in lab coats gave Darlene a couple passes. “These are for a special ride we’re still working on. It’s kind of behind the scenes and we’d love your ideas on it .” Gerald bellowed “Hell yeah, VIP baby!” and chugged the rest of his bloody mary. Darlene held them out to Danny and Gerald. “You two go. My stomach’s not up for it.” Gerald snatched them, “Uh uh. You and me. This is our trip. Our anniversary. Chew some tums and get your tits back in the game!” Danny hated being in the middle and lied, “I have plans already.” Even though he really wanted to see the behind the scenes specialness.
Darlene put her hands on her hips. “We’re going to be here all week. Let’s do it tomorrow.” Gerald held the passes in her face. “They’re only for today! Chug some water, take some Advil and woman up!” Gerald got on on one knee and acted like the passes were a ring box. Darlene looked to the side trying to stifle a smile. She chewed the inside of her cheek but the smile erupted. “Goddamn you. I will puke on you.”
“Worth it,” Gerald said and kissed her forehead.
Darlene looked over her shoulder. “See you later, Danny.”
Danny waved them off, then went to the the table with some maps and put one in his cargo shorts pocket next to the small yellow notebook. He was still hoping to run into the mustache man. Around noon, he did. A crowd had gathered around one of the rides that went upside down. The body of the mustache man was on the pavement below the ride, a pool of blood encircling his fractured skull. One of his legs was bent underneath him in an angle even yoga couldn’t accomplish. A piece of his cheek was flapping though there wasn’t blood. His facial expression seemed to be a docile “Oh now I get it.” Some lab coat people threw a blanket over him and security moved everyone back. Danny walked around dazed and the TV screens had another presentation. Once again Charles: “My friends. As many of you have probably heard, an accident has occurred on the grounds. Someone fell from one of the rides and has died. I want to assure everyone the rides are safe, completely safe, and the reason this accident has happened is because Im afraid our park, our sanctuary for big people like you has been violated. A reporter, who is not himself obese tried to ride our attraction but slipped through the safety harness and fell to his death. Had he been of proper weight and actually been invited here, this would not have happened. Our rides are designed for a specific body type. This reporter tried to pass himself off as one of you for a story and his untimely demise is entirely his own fault….”
Charles went on and by the end of his speech, you not only felt the park was in the right, but that this evil scheming reporter had brought it on himself. It worked on everyone who listened. Everyone but Danny. Suddenly the notebook in his pocket felt like it was burning. He rushed back to his room. Some security and others were at the next suite of the now deceased man. Danny slipped in his room as casually as he could, but his breathing and heart rate were beginning to spike. He flipped through the notes, searching frantically through phrases and lists of words but none of them made sense. He wished he had his cell phone or laptop to look up phrases and search who the reporter was, what he really looked like without his fat mustache disguise. Then on one page a phrase clanged in Danny’s brain so hard he could think of nothing else: The Supper Club Investor’s Ball. Something chilled him about that. From an intercom a voice chimed “Activate the eggs.” At once, a mist seemed to cloud his vision, he thought he could hear screaming downstairs. He rushed out his door and felt more clear headed. He went to Darlene and Gerald’s room but a housekeeper was stripping the bed. Danny demanded, “Where are they?” The sullen maid replied, “They check out this morning.” Danny wrinkled his brow. They said they were staying a week. He definitely remembered them saying that. The maid walked slowly towards him with a round object, some mist or smoke was emanating from it and Danny was getting sleepy. The maid had a surgical mask on. “Why don’t you return to your room?” she said before Danny’s eyes rolled to blackness.
The next thing Danny knew he was naked on the blades of a forklift on top of three other naked obese people snoring. Before they were dropped into a pit, Danny rolled to the side in the dark, hiding in the shadows of the floodlights. A voice said “Fuck, Derek, did you lose one? You tilted!”
“I didn’t tilt, Boone.”
Boone said, “Then why are there only three instead of four?”
Derek said, “Sure? I mean it’s hard to tell with how goddamned pudgy they are.”
Both stared into the pit and one of the lab coats came out of a door and asked them, “Is it done?”
Derek and Boone nodded. Derek began walking towards the lab coat saying, “That should be all of…”
A crack sounded and a spurt of blood erupted from Derek’s head. His legs buckled and he slid into the pit. The lab coat turned the pistol towards Boone. Boone quaked and said “Jesus Christ.” Labcoat shrugged, then another crack from the pistol. Boone went down a far distance from the lip of the pit. The lab coat muttered. “Goddammit.” He put the pistol down on the ground, then went to drag Boone’s body in with the other flesh heap. Danny, fearful and confused, had one functioning brain cell which screamed, “Get the gun you goddamned fool!”
After lab coat dragged Boone’s body into the pit, he brushed his hands off and turned around. Suddenly he was staring down the barrel of his own gun held shaking by a naked obese man. Instantly lab coat got his hands up. “Go easy, big fella. All’s good.”
Danny said, “The coat.”
Lab coat nodded, took it off, threw it to Danny. As he put it on, the fabric stretched and a seam popped. It didn’t do much to hide anything but Danny wanted a blanket before he went into shock. The instant the gun was off him, coatless began to run. Danny raised the pistol and fired. Coatless made a head gesture like a labrador going for a ball, and then crumpled into the pit. Danny spit and walked towards the door. Through the gap he could see footage filmed earlier in the day on a TV screen. A black and white coaster car of about 30 people had come to a halt. He saw Darlene and Gerald in the front row. They were stopped in front of a large glass window with lab coats on the other side. Gerald gave them a thumbs-up in the footage. One of them then pushed something on a panel and a massive what looks like box spring descended from the ceiling, with spinning razors and mesh netting. It descended onto the occupants of the coaster and sprays of blood and screams ensued which chillingly silenced in unison as the machine did its work. Then the contraption lifted dripping, leaving only a meat slurry which poured into containers by the side of the coaster.
Danny turned and vomited at the side of the door while a microphoned Charles Patterson said, “And that’s how we made the meatloaf you’re enjoying tonight, eh?” Applause. Danny wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Through the gap he saw Charles onstage gesturing towards the video footage now paused. “Because we can? That’s why? Because of boredom? Because it’s the last forbidden pleasure on this earth? All of you here have your own reasons but Supper Club Investors, you can agree I have raised the bar. This is a veritable orgy. And once we’ve had our fill, the entire place is wired to blow ands we have a rock solid alibi for all these deaths. That scumbag reporter; we have him framed for blowing up the park due to his conspiracy theories that we did all this to eat people with impunity. Now, who do you think the public is going to believe?” Uproarious laughter.
Danny knew he was right. It was unbelievable. Even if he made it out alive, the truth was more bizarre than their cover story. He couldn’t get them all. But goddammit, he was going to get at least one of them. And it was going to be Charles. Danny waited until Charles ended his speech, bowed and stood still soaking in his adulation with that fucking white toothed grin. Then, Danny raised his arm and squeezed the trigger….