They gathered, as they did every third Thursday, around the long table. A mixed bunch, the one thing they had in common was that they were the movers, the shakers, the society people. It was Stan's turn to host, his turn to come up with something new. A lot of pressure given the group. After three hundred years it was a challenge to do something novel, to shock.
Marie was impatient. "Stan, dahling, please get on with it. We don't have forever."
"Actually, my dear, we do have forever. That's exactly the problem isn't it?" said Donnie. He could always be counted on to speak plainly. He was different from the rest; even his clothes reflected that. A plain shirt and faded jeans over canvas shoes, Chuck Taylors usually. He wasn't even beautiful, face a bit too wide, eyes a boring brown. Contrasted with Marie it was like they were a different species.
Let them wait. Nobody was going to top tonight. In another three hundred years they would still be talking about tonight.
"I'll be there in a minute. I'm just getting the appetizers ready."
"By now we should be on the main course," Marlowe said, flicking her long blonde hair. Marlowe was a classic beauty; tall and slim, she was wearing a short black dress, as always. Her bone structure was perfection, sculpted to match a young Audrey Hepburn, but blonder, bustier. Marlowe was a vamp in a way even Marie didn't manage.
"And what is the main course?" This was from Tully of course. Tully would want to know. If the man ever stopped thinking about food it would be a miracle. Once upon a time, Tully had been a pale, fat man. Now he was an Adonis, but that was par for the course; the fat man still showed up in his attitude. Stan knew that he hadn't been a prize either, but he'd always kept himself fit, not given in to the sloth that Tully and his like had engaged in.
Stan walked out of the kitchen, carrying the food by hand. It was that sort of little touch that had always put him ahead of the others. He cooked by hand, from fresh, raw ingredients. You wouldn't catch his dear wife doing that, even when they had been sharing the place. Now, of course, Marlowe was living on the beach and Stan had the house to himself.
The appetizers were a thing of beauty. Old fashioned tacos and sausages. Mini sausages even. They were a triumph. He'd programmed in the shape and flavour himself, like a primitive. The thing was, there was nothing quite like them in the catalog. Even the mustard, a grainy Dijon, was his own take on the classic. He'd upped the spice just slightly, tweaked the vinegar flavour; it was perfectly suited to the sausages. The smell wafted over the room, and everyone paid attention right away.
The tacos were a hit, but the sausages were the highlight, they were received even better than he could have imagined. Everyone started eating right away, shoving as many as they could manage into their mouths. Andrea had that trick jaw that could unhinge. Sure, she'd installed it for sexual reasons, but it worked for eating as well... Stan was never sure why you would want to eat like that. Wasn't the point of eating to enjoy the sensation, the flavours? Still, there were definitely other advantages to it, especially with the trick throat. Still, once they saw the main course they would all forget completely about the sausages.
"Oh my god, where did you find these sausages? I've never seen something like this in the databases...they are so cute, so tiny," said Von.
"I didn't. I created them. Had something like them before, I think these are an improvement, but the originals were amazing."
"What do you mean before? Like, before, before?"
"Yeah, I went on vacation somewhere down south. They had them in the breakfast buffet. One of the greatest things I've ever eaten. I enhanced that set of memories, so I could get as close to the flavour as possible. It took forever to tweak them. Fifteen minutes real time, at least. I was running thirty to one while I did it."
"Amazing. See Stan, that's why your dinners are always the best."
The conversation turned, as it always did, to politics.
"So, who thinks we should grant Richard's request?" Donnie asked.
"Seriously? You're thinking about that? Why on earth would we even give that a moment?" said Katz.
"Yeah, Richard is in my district. It's my job to think about things like that. Besides, I like the guy. He's bizarre, strange on another level, but he's a sweet guy and he makes me laugh."
Marie said, "Is it true he's completely unmodified?"
"Of course not, he's still alive, right? He's just a little over three hundred years old, no unmodified stock would last that long. Of course, I'm pretty certain that's it for mods. When you look at him, well, it's disturbing."
"This coming from you," Andrea quipped, raising her glass in Donnie 's direction.
"What, does my appearance bother you? Well, you should see Richard. He actually has belly fat. It's grotesque."
"I shudder to think. He wants us to learn primitive survival skills right? What does that even mean?"
"My understanding, and it's a bit fuzzy, is that he wants us to learn to do things like make fires with sticks and kill animals. It's barbaric," said Marlowe.
"That's more or less accurate. At least he doesn't want us to use live animals, he wants us to use simulated ones. Still, they would look and feel real, act exactly like the real things. He has some bee in his bonnet about the world being too artificial."
"Well, at least it's a non-starter. I mean, nobody is going to actually do it, right?"
"Thing is, his suggestion is that it be mandatory. A few hours a month, everyone would learn. He's a strange animal."
Stan interrupted the discussion. These things would drag on, and Richard's ideas were a little too out there to even consider. Besides, it was time for the main course to begin.
"Okay, so dinner tonight is a bit unconventional. I have finally figured out something we haven't done before, a truly original treat."
"Honey, don't tease us. I mean, the sausages were enough, but something truly original? It seems unlikely." Marlowe rarely supported him in social engagements; this was why he was divorcing her.
"Yes, something original. A dish we have never had before."
"Don't keep us in suspense, what is it?" Marie said.
"Oh honey, don't you remember? Von did human at that party in July twenty-two forty-nine?"
"Yes, it was pretty tasty. Don't worry, I remember. The difference is that this time the human will be alive as you eat him. I know we haven't done that before. You will feel the lifeblood drain out over your mouths, also, not a synthetic human. I have a willing volunteer for this, so an actual thinking, feeling human being."
"Where in god's name did you find a volunteer for this madness?" said Donnie.
"I am the main course. You will be eating this perfect specimen tonight."
"Oh, that's a little messed up man."
"Yeah, well, such is life. Now, help me clear the dishes off the table."
"Clear the? Man you are just too much," said Von.
Stan signaled the smart dust to clear the table. A moment later the dishes had vanished, deconstructed into their component molecules, and Stan lay down on the hard surface, his clothing going the same route as the dishes.
"So, how do we start?" Andrea asked.
"I guess that's up to you. If you want to use silverware feel free, or just start biting me. Try to leave vital areas for later, I only get to be eaten for the first time once, and I want to fully experience it."
"Okay, sounds good," Andrea said, as she leaned forward and sunk her teeth into his shoulder.
The pain was like nothing he had ever experienced. All his centuries on earth hadn't prepared him for this, it was beyond agony. His flesh tore, long muscle fibers parting as Andrea's teeth crunched through them, rending and tearing. He screamed, long and loud. The rest of the group took that as their signal and moved in, biting deep into his thighs, his calves, his chest. Stan didn't stop screaming and crying until the blood loss caused him to pass out.
Stan stood in the kitchen looking down at his guests as they picked over the bones of his corpse. The night was a success. He'd kept the backup going until the last possible instant, even after unconsciousness. He felt his unconscious self descend into death, the pain receding like a tide, and then he'd opened his eyes in his backup body. It was identical to the original. This was his fifth death, but he'd had continuity of consciousness the whole time, always coming back instantly as the previous version died. A unique death though. Well, this would carry them through the season. They'd probably all take turns being the meal, after so many hundreds of years it was hard to find a truly novel experience.
He had a moment of panic...it would be his turn to host again all too soon. How was he going to top this party?