by Alex Gallegos
Phil Tanner was watching the Bengals game when he died. The refs had blown an obvious call, so Phil responded by barking a barrage of obscenities at the screen. He leapt from his seat in the midst of his tantrum and beat his chest with his fist, mimicking a move his favorite players often did to release their own frustration and passion into the stadium. The stripes’ oversight was going to cost him fifty bucks. There, alone in his living room, yelling at a man a time zone away, Phil had a heart attack and collapsed onto his coffee table, crushing his bag of nacho flavored chips in the process. His wife was visiting her sister for the day and by the time she got home, Phil had been dead for two hundred and fifty-three minutes.
When Phil regained a sense of awareness, he was astonished at the unlikelihood of his new situation. Since he was a child he had believed something amazing and mystifying would happen after death—but not this. Gone was his flabby body, hairy and pockmarked with age. He was freed from the evolved shackles of humanity. He had transformed into something equally unexpected and familiar: Phil was a cheeseburger. There was no grand ‘ah-ha’ moment when Phil realized his transubstantiation, but instead he felt a deep seeded sentience of his delicious form. The warmth of the lightly buttered bun and the greasy, juicy patty covered with melty cheddar cheese, oozing down his sides provided him a hearty life force. The crisp onions, lettuce, and pickles countered that energy, giving him focus and restraint. Both buns were slathered with tangy mustard, which conveyed to him a sense of depth and perspective. There was no tomato on Phil, which he thought was unfortunate, because he really liked tomatoes. These disparate ingredients were inanimate entities on their own, but stacked together they produced Phil.
This was his life now. He wished he had had the chance to say ‘good-bye’ to his wife, but he didn’t, and there was nothing that could be done about it. Cheeseburgers have no regrets.
Whilst relishing in his new existence, the inevitable happened: ten pudgy digits grabbed Phil’s buns. The fingers were coarse and squeezed him much harder than was necessary. Phil wanted to squirm away, but that was impossible. He had been so caught up in the majesty of being a cheeseburger that he forgot that his sole function was to be devoured, chomped up and forced down into a pool of stink and bile. Phil was scared. He feared that being eaten was a violent and painful experience, equivalent to a human having his limbs ripped from his body.
This is the point where Phil would have held his breath in dread and anticipation if he still had lungs. A set of teeth pierced both of Phil’s buns, slicing through the meat, cheese, and vegetables. They tore him apart, but the incident was free of pain. Instead, a sense of exhilarating pleasure filled his medium-well core. This was his purpose! Phil was being eaten and enjoyed and he felt proud of himself, even though he knew he had done nothing. He was a good burger, worthy of digestion.
Phil’s eater sat him down from time to time to free his hands to munch on some French fries or drink his beer. Each time Phil touched down on the plate, he was smaller and closer to his goal. But then, after so many starts and stops, Phil remained alone on the plate, his bun smushed and getting soggy with grease. He was about a tenth his original size, only a couple of bites away from total consumption, but it would not be happening.
Getting cold and feeling weary, Phil waited. What was next? Finally, the plate beneath him began to move and warm air rolled over his last sesame seeds. He wondered whether he was unsatisfying or if his eater had just gotten full. People get full. Then, he began a freefall, landing with a moist thud on the garbage below. This can’t be it, Phil thought and he waited for something else to happen.
Alex Gallegos is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin and is currently living in San Antonio with his wife Kelly. He loves cartoons, Mexican food, and seeing strange and beautiful new things. He is very excited about the potential for outer space tourism.