CONTINUED FROM: Ring of Fire – The Lead-up

 

Three weeks passed, and Phaal Day was upon us.  I did my best not to psych myself out, but the imminent horror was hard to push aside.  We all gathered at the restaurant a little after 6pm – there were eight of us in total.  By the time I got there, everyone was already about two drinks in and feeling loose.  And why wouldn’t they – most of them were there to witness insanity, not dive into it.

I took my seat at the table, doing a piss poor joke masking my nerves.  I started to ask our server about the phaal challenge.  How big of a bowl of curry are we talking about here?  “16oz.  And you have to finish everything, including all the sauce.  You can order it with vegetables, tofu, chicken, lamb, goat, any of that.  And you have 30 minutes.”  Jeez.

I started running through the game plan in my head:

  • I needed to finish this fast.  Get it down my throat and be done with it.
  • That meant now minimal chewing.  So no chewy meats.  Tofu would be a good choice.  Fish a second.
  • No rice, no naan, no starchy medium.  Again, I needed this to go down fast to minimize in-mouth burn time.  The more I have to chew, the longer I’m prolonging the burn.  Rice is bullshit.
  • It’s 16oz of molten nightmare.  That’s two cups of food I’ve got to inject.  That means there’s no way I can afford to drink much to put the flames out.  Just shovel.
  • There are two kinds of burn – the spices, and the temperature.  Why add to the spice burn with a temperature burn?  I would let the phaal cool off a bit before I dug in.

Phaal Line UpThe three of us who were competing all sat in a row, with our backs against the wall.  As if before a firing squad.  Backed into a wall with no means of escape.  When our three bowls of phaal were laid in front of us, everyone’s iPhones came out and I felt like The Beatles at a press conference.  *flash* *flash* *flash* *flash*  The pictures hit Facebook before I even took my first bite.

The other two dug right into their piping hot curries.  I think one of them might’ve actually squealed a little, completely taken aback by just how searing hot the phaal was.  I held back.  Stirring the curry, watching the steam waft up, but careful not to inhale the sharp aroma too much – that shit’s like a spike up your nose and into your brain.

After letting it cool off a bit, I scooped up a spoonful and took a bite.  Oh, the pain.  The startling immediate pain.  Like eating thousands of shards of glass in the form of a thick gravy.

I kept working at the bowl in front of me.  The other two would stop to converse but I ignored them – I had a job to do.  I had a strategy and I was sticking to it.

I scooped, I ate, I scooped, I ate.  We had 30 minutes to polish this off.  About 10 minutes in, I was about halfway through my bowl.  My mouth felt like the bowels of hell, my throat was charred raw from swallowing the molten earth, and my stomach started to feel like I’d swallowed a hot brick right out of a kiln.

My server came by for a bit of encouragement.  “Actually, you’re doing quite well.”  He then handed me a small bowl of yogurt dressing.  Decorum be fucked, I took out the serving spoon and chugged the whole thing and asked for a second bowl of the cool dressing.

I looked over and my partners-in-crime were grinding to a slow halt.  10 minutes in, and they were looking done.  One was casually swirling around a piece of naan in her curry.  The other was taking his time carving the goat meat from the bones.  Neither seemed in a particular hurry.

I, too, was slowing down at this point.  I contemplated throwing in the towel.  On account that I now felt like the fiery member of the Fantastic Four.  This was too much.  My mind started to toggle back and forth – slow down and dull the pain, or power through and compound the pain?  I looked down at the bowl, and I realized that I maybe had about three spoonsful left.

I had come too far to turn back now.  I made the three scoops, and raised my arms in victory.  “Holy shit, you’re done?!”  “WHAAA?!!”  Oh my God!”  iPhone popped out again. *flash* *flash* *flash* *flash*

Phaal Over

I asked the server over to evaluate.  I looked in the bowl, and I realized I hadn’t done a great job polishing the bowl.  A true competitor – and a goddamn sadist – would have scraped up the remaining bits of gravy.  My server gave a half-hearted approval of my feat.  Fuck it, I’m not tripping into the finish line, I’m marching right through it.  I grabbed my spoon, scraped up all the remaining curry in the bowl and let the burn in my mouth one last time.

Now, I’d fucking earned it.

I was the first to finish.  But as it turned out, I was the only one to finish.  That’s when I also learned that there was money on the table – $40 to a winner.  I grabbed the cabbage, then grabbed my toothbrush and toothpaste that I’d packed and ran to the bathroom to clean the hellfire from my mouth.  I was a puddle of sweat, and I was in agony, but I’d done it.  I made phaal my bitch.

Now, just because I had hastily inhaled my meal didn’t mean that dinner was over.  Everyone was only just getting started on their chicken tikka masalas and their saag paneers and their rogan josh.  I sat there, with 16oz of pure grade, uncut curry hell in my stomach.

That’s when the staff showed up with my rewards.  A massive mug of lager and a certificate with my handwritten name on it.  Nice gesture, but easily the most pointless reward ever.  Where the fuck was I supposed to put that lager after I’d wolfed down all that blistering curry?

 

The pain wasn’t sudden but it was fast.

I excused myself to the bathroom, and that’s where I started to fall apart.  I started to feel woozy, nauseous, with a growing pain in my stomach.  I made a slight vurp, and quickly realized that hurling the contents of my stomach wasn’t an option.  That’d be going through the whole phaal consumption experience again, in reverse.

I stumbled back outside and crumpled into a chair, a big sweaty heap.  Which promptly freaked everyone the fuck out.  I have no recollection of how long I was out, but after a while, I got up, we walked out of the restaurant, poured into black limo that took us all back to the suburbs.

That’s where the full force of the phaal was realized.  I was soon to learn that the great lie ever told about phaal is that it’s an extremely hot curry.  What no talks about is what phaal does inside your body.

That night, I didn’t sleep a wink.  One might expect that I was kept awake because I was terrorizing my bathroom.  In fact, the bathroom offered no comfort.  The pain was buried deep in my gut.  Through the entire night, I was able to plot exactly where the curry was, as it made its slow trek through my innards.  The pounding pain just below my sternum slowly crept downward toward my navel.  There, wave after wave of dull, cramping agony ensured that there’d be no comfort anytime soon.  Sitting upright didn’t help.  Lying down didn’t help.  Laying on my side did nothing either.  Curled up like a ball?  Nothing.

I suddenly started think back to all the childbirthing classes the missus and I had taken just before our first kid.  The short, rapid breathes.  Ice chips, my kingdom for some ice chips!!  I was convinced that this was the closest any dude would ever get to experiencing labor pains.

When the night passed, and the sun came up, I had gotten no sleep.  Slumber was replaced with crippling agony and a million questions all centered around the same idea, “Why the fuck did I do that?!”

Why the fuck indeed.  I had just put some of the most hostile material created by mankind – highly questionable if it should’ve even been edible or not – into my body, paid the price for it, and for what?  For the satisfaction of having done it?  Exactly what part of it was satisfying?  I couldn’t even enjoy the beer I was rewarded at the end.

Now, 24 hours later, I still question whether or not it was a wise stunt.  Wise?  Well, most stunts aren’t exactly grounded in wisdom.  The best ones are grounded in some manner of insanity.  In this case, it sure was.  Mission accomplished, that case.

Now, if anybody needs me, I’m going to take a bath in a milk shake.