Dave and I often ordered takeaway late in the night, when the respectable chains had long since shut. This meant getting food from places with two star health ratings, and rats in the alley outside.
We ate some very ropey meals. Unidentified meat in a sauce so thin you could serve it with cornflakes. Lumps of still raw pineapples and soggy, shoelace-like noodles. We forced them down.
Dave had a term for these orders. He referred to them as a horror tandoori, regardless of the food’s country of origin. He wolfed them down, chanting “Horror Tandoori, Horror Tandoori” after every bite.
I was never sure about Dave. He used to pick the grot from his flesh holes.
That day we had been drinking cheap, warm cider all night, lying in the living room, watching reality television past midnight. Our housemate slept the sleep of the dead upstairs.
‘Time for a Horror Tandoori’, Dave said with a grin. He dug up a sun faded flyer stained with grease. I did not need to confirm the suggestion. After cheap, warm cider, Dave always paid.
Our food arrived twenty minutes later, carried by woman with long, dirty fingernails and a faded floral skirt. She handed me two plastic bags worth of food, and smiled.
I carried the bags through to the living room, and dumped the food on the coffee table next to an empty two-litre plastic bottle and a dozen cigarette ends in a makeshift yoghurt pot ashtray. The containers were wam, not with the usual burn of microwaved foil, but the gentle heat of a stone in the sun. Dave snatched the nearest container, and peeled off the lid like orange skin.
‘Horror Tandoori,’ he said.
The thing inside launched forward from a sauce as dark as bloodied earwax. It was like a tadpole with bits of noodle, beansprout and mange tout sliding off its body, with teeth the size of toothpicks. The room instantly stank of something between a curry and a stir fry left on the hob too long. It latched onto Dave just below his jaw, and they vanished behind the coffee table. A trail of sauce flowed over the carpet.
I was about to help, when the remaining plastic bag trembled. Out peeked what looked like a baby chick with scarlet eyes, covered in sag aloo.
There came a gurgling from behind the coffee table. I wished one of the nice chains stayed open just that little bit longer.