Author : Alanna Cohen

She set the plate before me and grinned with pride over her homemade dish, her hair falling in strands over her shoulders as the steam rolled in curls of fog from the meal. I looked down as my stomach roared loudly and admired the look of the food. The mixed smells of spices wafted through the room, and although it smelled good, there was not a thing on the plate that I recognized.

A yellow mound of what looked like mashed potatoes sat on one side of the plate, only sprinkled throughout the mush, there were large colorful balls that looked like berries. On the other side of the plate, a meat — yet this meat was hardly recognizable as such. Blue in color, it sat perched like a bird on two bare bones that resembled claws. No meat touched the plate.

“I have been working to get this right for years,” she admitted with a grin, “Are you brave enough to try it?”

I nodded.

She stood above me and watched as I lifted the fork from the table, feeling like an interrogated criminal. I knew what could happen if her experiment didn’t work. I had heard the stories of the others who had tried it. Her attempts had failed. But something inside me knew that this time was different.

I glanced up at her and gave her a half smile as I took on a fork full, lifted it to my lips, and gingerly took my first bite.

And, as I expected, something about it tasted not quite right.

It wasn’t the flavor, per say. Actually, it wasn’t the flavor at all… there were a variety of delightful tastes in my mouth. It was the sensation that made the dish strange… my taste buds suddenly felt warm, my tongue was tingling as if it had fallen asleep, my cheeks were bubbling. My heart fluttered with nervous thoughts. Was this it? Was I going to be another failed attempt? I felt as if my mouth was beginning to explode, and my body was suddenly betraying my confidence. But despite my fear, I knew I had to eat more. If I gave up now, I would sure be a failure.

“Keep going,” she encouraged, and I nodded. Sweat beads began forming at my brow as I scooped another fork full of food and shoveled it into my mouth, my lips beginning to sizzle like half boiled water.

With the second bite, the sensations expanded down into my throat. My tonsils began moving back and forth in a rhythmic dance. The very root canals of my teeth were throbbing to the beat of my heart pumps.

Closing my eyes, I took a third bite. My heartbeat became pronounced and I was suddenly aware of every artery that carried my blood. I felt the blood cells traveling, as if I were one of them myself carried along the bloodstream journey.

The fourth bite. The fifth.

My head began to spin. Every hair follicle gave a standing ovation on my head, a sudden cold enveloping only parts of my body, while others felt extremely hot. My organs were flopping, my bones aching, skin stretching.

And then, as suddenly as it had begun, it stopped.

The room was still, and there was a silent, small moment when she looked through me. Her eyes darted around my chair, searching for an image that wasn’t there.

“It worked!” She gasped, groping for my wrist. She found it. She lifted my hand close to our eyes. “Look!”

And there, between her clutched pointer and thumb, was nothing.


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