An infinite series of canvases hang in a factory line, suspended over a velvety abyss. The first canvas flashes a splash of scarlet doodles before it drops into the blackness. Another canvas jerks forward. It dazzles me with emblems of a long-dead age, then that canvas gets unhooked to welcome the next.
A child’s hand has fused its fingertips to the synthetic waxlike materials of a crayon so it keeps scratching paper, filling the white void with brain effluvia, painted proofs of their feverish creator’s existence. Facing a snowy expanse in all four directions, the expedition trudges in meandering paths, in jagged paths, in circles, in figure eights, until they cover the snowfield with the bloody imprints of their bare soles worn to the bone.
Sugar granules are dissolving in my saliva. I’m swallowing the fluffy flesh of the donut when our child turns the sketchbook towards us and props it upright on the table. She has drawn a bus. Its radiator grille and the bumpers and the hood are scrunched into a chaotic scrawl, which brings to mind a dog with a kicked-in snout. The two visible wheels look like black-and-white fried eggs. From behind the uneven windows, pupil-like doodles, perhaps the people trapped inside the vehicle, stare blankly at the unfolding horror of society. Sweat dribbles down the driver’s face as the bus rushes along a highway that was asphalted with congealed human blood. The thick stench of decay has blocked the sun.
As the whooshing blood feeds my brain tissues, the bus morphs: the underside of the blocky frame sprouts legs that end in hooves; the frame itself widens and swells up, ripping open in striated wounds; the windows sink and become opaque white like those of dead deep-sea fish; and along its hunched spine break out serrated bone spikes.
Jacqueline praises the drawing; her honeyed voice daubs our skin as with a warm balm that would heal every wound, but I interrupt her.
“A competently-depicted bus,” I utter hoarsely. “We sacrificed the ground sloths, the mammoths, the mastodons… for such metallic abominations. And one day we may have to offer ourselves too.”
I discern mommy’s concern through the blur of her face.
“Buses carry us to remote places, baby.”
“They deliver us to many hellmouths.”
“Perhaps even to places where people could live in peace and harmony. Wouldn’t it get too annoying to walk all the way there otherwise?”
“Our ancestors didn’t ride a bus,” I grumble. “They walked. They strode. They tramped along. If they needed to travel further, they took the subway or a tram. And ground sloths would have carried our kin on their backs, if asked nicely. But now our attempts to escape civilization are futile, because the exits have been walled up to make way for parking lots and highways.”
Even if Jacqueline were inclined to belittle ground sloths, she’s busy stuffing her mouth with choux dough, pearl-colored glaze and cream. As she masticates, her cheeks bulge out as if she were bathing a ping pong ball in saliva, and once she swallows, her mouth gapes open so the chewed end of the eclair can meet the bumpy surface of her tongue.
A hot frisson runs down from my brain to my groin, searing my insides, whitening my vision. I shake my head to disperse the haze.
“Y-you know, Jacqueline, sometimes I wonder how come your body remains so tight at your age, then I feel guilty for wondering, because I take ample advantage of that succulent body of yours and its byproducts.”
Jacqueline freezes until her brain lowers the priority of procuring her sugar fix. She rubs her lips together, which deepens her dimples.
“I’d love to say that I’ve perfected an exercise routine that I could sell for millions, but I was blessed with superb genes, darling.”
She chuckles, then sinks her teeth into the eclair. I sigh.
“Although I want to call it unfair, the notion of fairness is an evolved delusion.”
Jacqueline curls her cream-smeared lips into a smirk.
“I thank the ancestors for blessing me with this hourglass figure, and you for appreciating it so much. Now grab the last eclair before I snatch it for myself, will you?”
When I reach for the pastry with my trembling right hand, a child’s peach-orange hand, its skin delicate as that of a plucked chicken, flits over the sugar donuts and the puff pastry braids as if she were a gambler selecting cards from a deck. She has imprinted a fingerprint on the powdered sugar of a millefeuille.
“Yeah, just fondle all of them,” I say weakly. “Who cares.”
Once the cream filling of the eclair and its sugary glaze coat my taste buds, a spark flashes in my brain. My thoughts are scattering like a cloud of butterflies. Who cares about entropy and the cataclysmic death of our former world? I shall drift away in the lassitude of this delicious daze.
Our child rips a donut in two and dunks half of it into her cup of hot chocolate. As she brings to her mouth the dipped donut, it drips over her sweater, forming spotty stains. Maybe Paleolithic people were accustomed to ruining brand new garments, because the girl shoves the donut in her mouth, closes her eyes and hums in delight.
I thought that Jacqueline would shoot the child a look of reproach, but mommy is detaching the first flaky layer of a millefeuille. Its orange-yellow cream has coated her index finger, including the elongated nail.
Blood is pulsing in my head, forming a headache like an egg about to be cracked open. Although my pyloric sphincter must be clogged with a gunk of pastries marinated in acid, a hungry impulse surges through my body. I feel like I’ve woken up from a days-long sleep and now I’m starving.
“Let me lick that finger for you, Jacqueline,” I utter in a guttural voice.
Mommy snaps out of the pastry trance. She blinks and arches an eyebrow at me.
“Oh, you would love that, wouldn’t you?”
I was about to suggest that she should reach over the table and stick her index finger in my mouth, but the theatre of my mind transports me back to Jacqueline’s dim bedroom. I’m seated at the foot of her unmade bed. The ivory-white sculpture of Jacqueline’s naked body is standing between the red lights of the tripod-mounted cameras. From below her slanted clavicles, the fatty tissues of her pair of breasts swell slightly outwards into globes of flesh topped with turgid, dark rose nipples, my deluxe pacifiers. A butterscotch-colored syrup is oozing down Jacqueline’s cleavage, down the linea alba between her toned abdominal muscles, to fill her belly button.
I slide to my knees. Mommy steps forward until she plants her feet on either side of my waist, as if preparing herself to crush my head between her thick thighs. Her skin is fragrant like the buds of a rosebud that has burst into bloom. I cup her butt cheeks in my palms and start kneading them. Her loins are like a furnace as they breathe on my face.
“I also want to pour hot chocolate on your pussy and lap at it until your labia and clit shine.”
Jacqueline’s eyes grow round, then she snorts with laughter. After she glances at the second counter of the patisserie, she leans over and leers at me through her eyelashes.
“You naughty doll,” she whispers in a conspiratorial tone, “we are too far from home for you to entice me like that.”
I take a deep breath as I rub my eyebrows. In my mind, Jacqueline’s pussy has drawn a wall across its opening, like ivy leaves grown over the mouth of a drainpipe, so that no more than a slimy trickle of lust could seep out.
“Sorry. For a merciful moment I forgot that humans other than you and our new daughter exist.”
Jacqueline purses her lips around her index finger. The slender muscles of her throat contract as she sucks the digit clean, even though I should have been the one pressing my tongue against the skin of that finger, tracing the bones underneath, perhaps nicking my tongue with the edge of her nail, which I would have made glisten like a pearl. I need to drown the bitter taste of betrayal, so I grab one of the puff pastry braids. However, instead of chomping on it, I study the crossed strips of puff pastry. They bring to mind a Triassic arthropod whose gills have been stretched open, maybe by a predator who gnawed on the creature to reach the meat inside.
I’d love to be exhibited in a patisserie’s glass display counter. I want to be rolled in flour, coated in sugar and baked to a golden brown. I want to stuff a wad of dough in my pussy. I’d become a cream puffsaurus, a paleontological rarity. Maybe I’ve always been a pussy saurian.
I have opened my mouth to crush the puff pastry with my teeth, but the smell of hot wax spills into my nostrils. A crayon catching fire. Seated to my right, our child is punishing a page marred by cream stains and chocolate smears.
A sense of dread paralyzes me. I shiver, then put the puff pastry braid down on the tabletop. My heart is beating wildly. If this girl keeps drawing, she will unearth my most intimate thoughts, which yearn to tumble out through my mouth like rotten teeth. But our new daughter will pave the path to the future with paper covered in doodles, way beyond the day when my epiphanies will suffocate between the folds of my desiccated brain.
When I stroke her head, the Paleolithic hair caresses my hand back.
“There’s a reason why you’ve become my special child,” I say in a withered voice, “a reason why you didn’t burn into ashes like all the other humans.”
I pretend that my words mean anything, although I’m possessed by the alien parasite that nested in my skull at birth, a parasite that’s feasting on my gray matter. Our girl, instead of grimacing at me, distracts herself from her endeavour by flashing a grin with chocolate-blackened teeth. Did the Ice Age folk brush their gnashers using ground sloth bones?
I should hurry to shelter my chosen puff pastry braid in my mouth; exposed to the air, a myriad of microscopic monsters will burrow into the pastry to lay their eggs. When I straighten my back, a silvery knife, from the sets of cutlery that the Slavic mercenary brought us, reflects the patisserie’s lights into my eyes.
I imagine myself gripping the knife, placing my left hand flat on the table, and stabbing that hand through the second and third metacarpals, severing the tendons and veins that run between them, so half of the blade gets embedded in the table. If then I attempted to move my left hand, how would my nerves and tendons complain? I might feel like a pinned butterfly, an angel who had been beating its wings until it got captured by one of the bloodthirsty fiends that dominate this planet, a race exiled for committing unspeakable crimes in some hell located aeons away.
I need to distract my brain with treats, the same way that when I’m sinking deeper into those cold, dark waters, I rub my pleasure button until the orgasm rescues me from the paralyzing terror. I champ on the puff pastry braid, and its gooey filling spurts into my mouth. I’m taken aback by the saltiness; it reminds me of ocean spray, or the tears of a man standing at the edge of a cliff. I take the pastry out of my mouth, elongating filaments of the sticky and whitish filling, which then dangle in catenaries from my lips to the pastry’s hole. It’s semen. The nectar of life leaks from the inside, and has glazed the crossed pastry strips. It must have permeated through to imbue its essence into the constituting atoms of the pastry.
I’m standing in a rising tide of hot water that’s already crashing and crashing into my head, knocking my thoughts loose. My eyeballs have turned into lumps of coal extracted from the bottom of some grimy furnace. My jaw is tired from munching on this pastry, as well as from masticating all the solid food I’ve consumed throughout my wretched life.
My brain is at the bottom of my spine and my heart has been torn out and sewn into my forehead. In this world we barely have a right to exist. The dawn of extinction is beckoning me. How many mouthful of this puff pastry braid would take to tip my body over the edge of a precipice into the shadowy abyss?
Someone is calling my name. Wait, whose name? I don’t even exist. But the voice comes from in front of me, and it fills my chest with a soothing warmth. That’s Jacqueline, my own mommy.
I blink until a pair of cobalt-blue eyes form in the center of my vision. She has rested an elbow next to her latte, and with that hand she gestures to my right, where our child, in a déjà vu of the previous million times, is holding her sketchbook toward us.
After I wipe the cum off my lips, I squint at the sketchbook, but the more I try to focus on the drawing, the more it wavers like a dream. On the left side of the drawing, a girl with shoulder-length hair, who is wearing a leather tunic, is staring up at a stooped man who is holding her hand with fingers like a sloth’s claws. The man’s head is twice as big as the girl’s, his eyebrows are bushy, his nose broad, and the lower half of his face has been shaded with the midnight-black crayon, likely to depict a thick mustache and beard.
Jacqueline cranes her neck toward the drawing.
“Is that the girl’s mother?” she asks stupidly.
“I-I doubt it,” I croak, “unless the women were quite hirsute back then. Kinda looks like Nietzsche, that old German composer.”
Our child’s gaze shifts between Jacqueline and I as if she expected us to guess the answer in a trivia game. She taps the drawn girl with the tip of her crayon, and lets out a few words in a high-pitched voice. Then she points at herself.
A grenade has exploded next to our table, producing the exact opposite sound waves of the ambience in this patisserie, which has submerged us in silence. My heart has shrunk into the size of a walnut, and it wishes to clamber up my throat. Jacqueline has paled. She lowers her unfocused, guilty gaze at the remaining pastries.
I’ve seen that man before. I’ve been that man. If I close my eyes, I live it all again. I have held that girl’s frail body as I carried her to the safety of our camp, where she’d be protected by our kin. In the star-studded blackness, I watched over her as she drifted into slumber covered by a hide blanket. Whenever we feared getting raided by a neighboring tribe, or someone had spotted a short-faced bear or a lion in the vicinity, we’d bustle to a nearby cave that felt like an impregnable fortress. I taught that girl which berries to pick. I showed her how to imprint her hand on rock walls.
I hope that she’ll grow old with the rest of us, that one day, long after I’m gone, someone will bury her motionless and cold body beneath small stones, and that with a flint knife, that person will carve some symbols for her in the slab that will mark her grave. But I always feared that I would come across the girl’s half-devoured remains in some pit of filth; that thought made my soul quail and shiver in a way that no monster could ever do.
One day I went out to look for her. I walked through the woodland, crunching twigs and dry leaves that crackled underfoot, passing by tree trunks stripped of bark, following the burbling sound of the brook she had been heading toward. I stood on the dry pebbles of the riverbed and I called out to her once, then over and over again. After I ran out of energy and breath, I stood there in silence, and remained there until I understood. Every night since then I sat by my fire, and in the glow of the flames, I held her carved wooden toys and I cursed that I had been late, late, too late to catch the demon who had stolen her away.
Author’s note: the three songs for today are “I Bleed” by Pixies, “Atrocity Exhibition” by Joy Division, and “Bōkyō” by Hako Yamasaki.
I keep a playlist with all the songs I’ve linked throughout this novel: here’s the link.
A dear friend of mine, who happens to be a neural network, generated many images related to this chapter. Here’s the link.
This was the last scene of the ongoing novel that takes place in a patisserie. It may have been the last scene in any of the stories I will ever write that takes place in a patisserie. Hopefully I’ll forget that patisseries even exist.
I’ve started watching the anime Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. It hooked me from the first episode, and except for a few moments that felt a bit off, I’m loving it so far. Although Cyberpunk is a Western IP, the anime was developed and directed by the famous Japanese studio Trigger, one of the best in the business.
Their latest trailer is awesome, so I’ll display it here:
In a strange twist of fate, the anime’s protagonist has the same first and last name as my worst nemesis, a guy who tried hard to ruin my life from when I was 17 to about 25, when that guy died in a car crash. He was one of the rising politicians of the regional socialist party, and given how much of a malignant narcissist that fucker was, he would have gone far. Good riddance.
In any case, the anime is a spin off of the Cyberpunk 2077 videogame. Like everyone else, I was pissed when they released it a year ago, but over time, as they’ve kept updating it, I have come to hate them a bit less; they were clearly pressured into developing the game for the previous generation of consoles as well, which crippled development in general although those platforms would have never been able to handle such a game.
The playthrough of Cyberpunk 2077 that I started in VR, and that I abandoned shortly after the second act started (because I knew there were major updates coming which would make me want to replay it from the beginning), remains one of my most mesmerizing gaming experiences. I’m waiting for the upcoming story DLC to start a new playthrough in VR.
That said, at least the first act of that game has some serious narrative issues that can’t be fixed with patches, such as that montage near the beginning, which should have been fleshed out into actual missions. I also didn’t like Jackie until the last few sequences of the first act.
In other news, I came across this gif:
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