Trompé Setsuled (setsuled) wrote,
Trompé Setsuled
setsuled

Unsatisfying Meal

I was really on a tear last night. After midnight, somehow all I wanted to do was work on my project, and I finally had to pull myself away. I wrote over two thousand words.

Anyway. I have several appointments to keep to-day. I thought I might post something from the novel I wrote about Nesuko T'Kreth before Boschen and Nesuko. There was a long, particularly bleak segment of this new project I did a couple weeks ago that reminded me of a large section of that novel. Chapters 38 through 51 (of 92 chapters) were entirely devoted to Nesuko living by herself on her home planet, Naeh’Beng, after a crashed Zai'Pi ship had leaked perfume, killing everyone except Nesuko (because of her weird physiology). I tried very hard to convey an impression of someone completely losing touch with a solidly defined reality; I came up with titles for each chapter of the section before writing any of them, wrote them on slips of paper, mixed them in my hat and wrote them in the resulting order. And the narrative never refers to Nesuko by name for the section.

I still think the novel's mainly not very well written. But I don't mind this section so much. I remember chapter 47 as being the most difficult chapter to write of the whole novel. So here it is;


47
Learning to Cook, Eating Ashes


Although she had made it a point to leave it open, she found the door was shut when she had dragged the futon up the stairs to it.

She stood there, looking at that woodsy beige painted door in the corridor that was as dimly and yellowly lit as all the other corridors in all the flats in the city were, and she puzzled over this unforeseen circumstance.

In a moment, it came to her that the door was on a slightly angled hinge that shut it automatically after a few seconds—she even remembered it doing so when she had first been up here to inspect the flat.

But the moment of confusion had been enough time for the futon to fall onto the floor from her fingers—which had been struck nerveless by the tiny thrill of excitement . . .

With a sigh, she grasped the knob and lifted the futon at the same time, and then made her way in.

In stark contrast to the corridor outside, the room was a pure white—from ceiling to walls to carpet. The sound of the futon being dragged across the carpet echoed softly throughout the flat that was devoid of furniture—as the door shut behind her, it created a miniature thunderclap.

This was the largest flat she had yet decided to live in and, in addition to this expansive living room, there were two bedrooms, two bathrooms (one of which was located in one of the bedrooms), and a kitchen.

She took the futon into the bedroom that had the bathroom and a good view of the street three storeys below and laid it next to the wall opposite the doorway, between the window wall and the wall with the bathroom door. Then she lay down on top of it. And, as she happened to be dressed in black flannel pyjamas, very nearly fell asleep.

But instead she just laid there, in the bright, sunlit white room, and found herself thinking about the kitchen.

With the now sharp, dreamlike focus brought on by having rested for several moments, she stood up. And, feeling the luxurious virgin carpet yielding under her bare toes, she walked to the kitchen.

It was a somewhat thin rectangular room with clean (except for the pervasive dust) white counters at hip height starting to the left of the doorway, to run along all the walls, except the one to the right of the doorway, which held a built-in pantry with caramel wood doors.

The counters were littered with all sorts of interesting devises used for cooking.

She recognised a few of them, such as the behyuen, the klellye, and the microwave. But there were a lot more that she did not recognise.

Timidly, she fingered a long, hook-shaped metal tube that protruded from the centre of a white plastic box-shaped device. By tugging slightly on the tube, she found that the device was actually fastened to the counter.

Next to this, there was a smooth round metal cavity, about one foot in diameter. At its centre was a black metal disk.

There was a small white knob outside and to the left of the cavity—she twisted it.

A small blue flame appeared, wreathing the black disk.

“Hmm.” She switched the dial off.

She smiled, feeling vaguely excited.

The only food she ate anymore was the food that grew in the mall—all the food at the grocery store and the restaurants elsewhere had long since spoilt or been appropriated by animals.

If she was going to attempt to cook something, she should have to get her ingredients from the mall.

So later that day, just as the sun was setting, she returned to the flat with her arms wrapped around a big paper bag. Inside there were scones, chwemiks, lollipops, menii snakes, okuisiis, cookies, and other such things.

Setting the bag carefully down on the floor, and leaning it against a counter, she removed from it, after a moment’s deliberation, a scone and a gelled sweiimep.

Holding one in each hand, she paused to consider what she would do with them.

Her eyes ran along the white door cupboards that were affixed to the walls above the counters.

Placing her two chosen items on an empty patch of counter (having dusted the counter earlier with an old shirt) she inspected the cupboards’ contents.

She selected a certain wide, black round pan for her purposes. First setting this on another empty spot on the counter, she then slowly lowered the sweiimep into it, allowing it to coil down onto the metal surface, forming a spiral. Then she held the scone above the pan and crushed it so that the crumbs sprinkled down onto the pan, and also onto the sweiimep, where they stuck to the gelled surface.

She took the pan by its thin, rubber-sleeved handle, and placed it on the black disk at the centre of the cavity she had noticed earlier. She switched on the flame.

Nothing happened.

But now she could hear the faint hissing of an active flame. Sighing, she leaned back against the opposite counter, and waited.

For about five minutes, an anticipatory excitement sustained her. But after that, boredom and impatience set in, and she began to fidget.

A minute later, a terrific flame quite suddenly flared up from the pan.

She yelped and jumped as the room was now more illuminated by a pillar of blue and white fire than by the weak little fluorescents on the ceiling.

She was paralysed for a moment, caught in her astonishment. But then she rushed foreword and reached broadly around to switch off the dial.

To her vast relief, the flame immediately vanished.

As her eyes accustomed themselves to the room’s regular illumination, though, she beheld what remained within her pan.

Ashes.

Just dark grey little flakes spread evenly throughout the pan, not even in any way retaining the shape of what she had just put in.

Her fists clenched and she trembled slightly, angry. She grasped the handle—then yanked her hand back as the sudden pain assaulted her palm and fingers. She cradled her throbbing hand against her chest, struck senseless by the burn.

But then, once her hand had healed a moment later, she took the old shirt with which she had dusted the counter and used it as a mitt to take up the pan. Then she sat down on the floor with it. She gazed at it.

There was a bit of smoke in the air, and it bothered her eyes so that they began to tear up a bit.

Then she felt confused—she was not sure if this was a sensation provoked by the smoke, or if she was actually crying. Her jaw trembled.

An hour or so passed while she contemplated the ashes, feeling lost and somehow betrayed—she could not say by what.

But then, as she realised that the ashes had by now cooled, she began tracing her fingertips idly through them and decided to eat them anyway.

Taking up as much as she could in one hand, she shoved the portion into her mouth. She worked her jaw as if chewing, but in reality the flakes tumbled about elusively between her teeth.

Meanwhile she allowed her tongue to mull over that dry, dangerous feeling flavour.

Hours later, her stomach would feel very bad. Yet she would be very taken—and somehow pleased—by how appropriate a stomach ache it was.
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