A basement. The dingy space under a well-used building. Darkness gathers around the pools of light created by neon strips. Suffocating. Deadening. All-enveloping.
I don't know any of the others. But I recognise a couple. That man there; he works in the hardware store at the end of the street. The fellow in the black coat - I'm sure he drives a taxi uptown somewhere. We're looking at each other, but avoiding eye contact at the same time.
Another man steps out of the shadows. He is younger than most of us. Blond. Square jawed. He addresses the group.
"Welcome to Flan Club. The first rule of Flan Club is: you do not talk about Flan Club. The second rule of Flan Club is: you DO NOT talk about Flan Club! Third rule of Flan Club: if someone yells "stop!", goes limp, or taps out, you get to have their flan. Fourth rule: only two guys to a flan. Fifth rule: one flan at a time, fellas. Sixth rule: the flans are double-baked. No pre-mix, no shop-bought flan cases, no squirty cream. Seventh rule: flans will go on as long as they have to. And the eighth and final rule: if this is your first time at Flan Club, you have to eat flan."
"Erm, excuse me?" It's the hardware guy.
"Weren't the first two rules essentially the same?"
Blond guy sighs.
"Gentlemen. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You're the same decaying organic matter as everything else. And, like all the others, you're going to end up quite partial to flan."
Now it's the taxi driver's turn to speak. "Is quiche alright?"
"I beg your pardon?" Blond guy's voice is almost inaudible under the hum of the city.
"Well, it's just that I quite like to have a savoury option. My doctor says..."
"Enough!" Blond guy erupts. He walks over to a table, laden with a selection of custard-based delights.
"Gentlemen, tonight we will have the finest flan mankind has seen. From a basic Spanish flan to this delightful chocolate variety from the Mexican plains."
He turns to regard the group. His eyes narrow once more. "It has cinnamon."
One by one we step up, an unheard signal driving us forwards. As a newbie I am expected to be in the first wave. I take it all in. "I don't know where to start," I mutter to myself.
Blond guy hears me. He tilts his head as he speaks. "A guy who came to Flan Club for the first time, he was carved out of wood at the beginning. After a few weeks his ass was a wad of cookie dough. Try the English Custard. I made it myself." His eyes shine now. "Whole milk makes all the difference. Don't let anyone try to fob you off with semi-skimmed."
I eat. The creamy egg and milk texture coats my willing tongue. The crust is light, yet hearty. And then, something happens. I let go. Lost in oblivion. Dark and silent and complete. I found freedom, amongst the flan. I run. I run until my muscles burn and my veins pump battery acid. Then I run some more.
After flan, everything else in your life is like the volume has been turned down.