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Finally, a bowl with a lid was placed between us. After Kazuko-san had backed out of the room, I said, "You open it."

"Nope, it's all you," said David. He'd been drinking chilled sake and seemed to be enjoying my agony.

"Fine. I don't care. It's probably more fishy crap anyway." I lifted the lid. "Hey! Pasta! Ha!"

Like a mirage convincing a lone traveler wandering lost in the desert that an oasis is mere steps away, I had seen what I wanted to see in that dish because the reality was too terrible for me to fathom. I clutched my chopsticks and raised the bowl. It was then that I caught a whiff of the stench -- a salty, something-rotting-on-a-beach sort of smell. The mirage of pasta faded away and another image came sharply into focus. Tiny eyeballs, hundreds of them, were staring back at me. I dropped my chopsticks onto the table and stared into the bowl with grotesque fascination. "What the fuck? Are those... baby eels? "

I was stunned into silence when David doused the freaky little things with soy sauce and ate them with rice. When he was finished, David rubbed his belly like a happy Buddha.

"I'm starving," I complained.

"Look," David said, in an attempt to find a bright side for me. "At least we didn't have to pry any tentacles off your face."

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