Seymour did not speak during the meal, but kept his eyes fixed on his plate, absorbed in his thoughts. Nor did he eat with as much gusto as he had the previous night, picking at the food rather than devouring it. Time was ticking away too fast, leaving him with a sick, twisted feeling in his gut, and he was no closer to a plan than he had been in the infirmary. This was not good. Not good at all.
At one point, Seoc asked him what was bothering him, and he had considered telling. But that did not seem right. The knowledge could only hurt him. So Seymour had simply shaken his head and returned to pushing slices of pork around his plate with a knife.
The phantom bells chimed seven, resounding throughout the castle and bringing a sudden and somewhat sinister silence to the crowded hall. Five hours left.
“Fuck,” Seymour swore under his breath, viciously stabbing a broccoli.
Seoc looked at him with an expression of concern, but he made no remark.
Something happened then, as the last reverberation died away into silence, that would have certainly caused Seymour to lose his appetite, had he had any to begin with. Something horrible and nightmarish. Something that he would probably not have noticed if his eyes weren’t glued to his plate.
His pork moved.
It was only a slight movement, and he thought he might have imagined it at first. Perhaps the flickering candlelight was making his eyes play tricks on him. But no. It moved again, more distinctly this time. And then it began to bleed.
“Hmm?” Seoc responded, turning to him once more, his cheeks packed full of mashed potato. He looked like a hamster. Seymour would have found it funny in any other context.
“Do you see that, or am I hallucinating?”
Seoc looked at his plate, and his mouth fell open a bit. A few potato crumbs spilled out, unnoticed. “Igh!” he exclaimed, alarmed. “Eght’th ogithcuthdig!”
“Swallow,” Seymour reminded him, more calmly than he felt
Seoc choked down his mouthful but became speechless forthwith, only managing a whimpering kind of moan as the pork moved on to its next piece of theatrics.
“Worms,” Seymour observed, blood running cold.
And worms they were, pale and wriggling, sprouting like grass from the bloody slab. The thickest ones were about the breadth of a standard make of yarn, the thinnest scarcely the circumference of a single thread. They had no eyes, obviously, but nevertheless seemed to be searching for something. The ends that Seymour supposed would have been the equivalent of heads swayed back and forth, all eventually turning to point in one direction—directly towards him.
Seoc looked from Seymour’s plate to his own and turned Aechyed-green. “I ate that,” he mumbled. “The pork, I mean.”
By now, others were beginning to notice the ecosystem that was developing on Seymour’s uneaten meal. There was some pointing, some gasping, and some horrified squealing. The woman seated on Seymour’s left reared away and bolted out of the room, screaming pitifully. But Seymour remained still, despite his writhing insides, maintaining a pensive air.
“I don’t think you have anything to worry about, little fish,” he assured Seoc. “I think this pleasant little surprise was reserved for me alone. From our dear, silver-tongued friend.”
The worms began to crawl in his direction, inching along his plate with undulating motions, every once in a while pausing and raising their ‘heads’, as if following a scent. Seymour glanced over at Seoc, who was watching their slow progress with wide eyes.
“I think it’s time to go now,” Seymour decided as the first worm reached the edge of the table and began to strain to reach him, extending its string-like body toward his face.
“I second that,” Seoc agreed, practically leaping out of his seat and making for the door.
The door to the corridor.
“Seoc,” Seymour shouted. “Wait!”
But he had already pushed it open and begun to pass through, and though he stopped and turned at Seymour’s shout, it was too late. With a cry of alarm, he disappeared into the darkness beyond.