June 29

The Hell Of Food That Looks Like Other Food (Part 2)

[…continued from June 28 entry…]

 

“Eat your sandwich,” her mother said.

As far as Marcie was concerned, it wasn’t a sandwich.  Instead of bread, the layers outside were made from a strange puffed substance that tasted like paper.  A smear of brown paste around the edges simulated the crust.

And the meat inside was…who could tell?  At her school cafeteria, back when there was a school, Marcie and her friends used to joke about so-called mystery meat on the lunch trays.  All of the brown chunks would taste the same — like chicken, they’d say.  Salt and gravy and a slight gristle.  Although they never knew what it was, even after consulting the menu taped above the sneeze guard… they never doubted that it was meat of some kind.

She couldn’t say the same about the flat, stiff square between the fake bread slices.  It looked like ham, it really did…but when she bit into it, she noticed a purple-gray center to the oddly textured foodstuff.  Her best guess was some kind of eggplant paste, mashed flat — perhaps mixed with purple cabbage — then painted over with a pink glaze.

Marcie dropped the “sandwich” onto her plate, disturbing the brown triangles that simulated tortilla chips.  “Why do we have to eat this stuff?  It’s terrible.”

“Be quiet.”  Her mother looked over her shoulder into the next room…the kitchen where Randall Haines gathered food items together, transforming them with pastes and dyes…continuing his strange attention to detail.  “We don’t want to upset him,” her mother said.  “He’s doing the best he can.”

“But there’s better food.” The smell of it sometimes reached her — rich and marinated and real.  “Why can’t we eat some of that?”

“You know why,” her mother said.  “We’re lucky to have someone with Randall’s skills.  He makes our food look like other food, so we can enjoy it.”  She took a bite, swished it around in her mouth and pretended to savor it…even as she struggled to chew, then made an awkward gulp as she swallowed.  “Odors can also enhance our experience of food, Marcie.  Try to enjoy the smell from the kitchen, as Randall cooks for the others.”  Her mom took another unconvincing bite.

That night, as always happened, the Others came.

They were as mindless as the movies used to suggest.  They shambled to the houses, often forced their way inside to find people hiding in cellars, cowering behind locked doors.  Sometimes the barricades weren’t strong enough, and the victims’ screams echoed long into the night.

At Randall’s shelter, the Others never ventured inside.  An offering waited for them on the porch — nicely prepared meat, shaped into a human face, olives for eyes and red peppers forming a smiling mouth.  Beneath a quilt of ham slices, fashioned to resemble a shirt, large portions of brothy gel would burst forth at the urging of decayed hands, and meat pieces shaped like internal organs would spill onto the ground.

The Others ate their food that looked like other food, remembering the smell and taste of humans and, as always happened, they left satisfied.