They tumbled out of her apron and on to the counter—twenty of them, thirty, he wasn’t sure. They looked so innocuous lying there on the counter, the very same counter upon which he rolled out his bread every morning. Rob just stared, gnarled hands ready for action, his fingertips gripped tightly around the handle of a serrated bread knife.
Nothing. No movement. It was hard to believe these were the very same pests that were infesting local stores, where innocent shoppers picked them up without realizing. Every single shop had succumbed to the infestation except his bakery, and now here he was with thirty of them on his own turf. He’d have to scrub the counter for hours to get it clean.
Rob scowled at the girl. “How dare you bring these… these monsters here!”
She had the audacity to shrug. “Everyone else’s got them.”
“I am not everyone else. I refuse to be brainwashed and stand idle while they take over the world. My bakery has standards. I thought you understood that when I hired you last week.” When she just shrugged again, Rob threw his hands up in disgust. Young people these days had no common sense.
“I’ll take them away then, yeah?”
Rob could not watch her gather the pests back up into her arms, could not watch the way they rolled limply, feigning innocence. He wasn’t going to be fooled; their diminutive size in no way lessened the evil they carried. He waited with his back turned until he heard the tinkle-tinkle of his shop door opening and closing, then let out a long sigh. Their influence was growing daily. His shop assistant had been clean the week before when he’d hired her—all the tests had come back negative. Now she too had succumbed.
Rob shook his head and turned back around, only to freeze in disgust. She’d forgotten one. It was in the corner of the counter, half-tucked behind an empty bread basket. He stared at it, could hardly bring himself to touch it, but the curiosity won through. He had to know how they were doing it, how they were brainwashing the townsfolk into singing their praises.
Rob used the tip of his knife to prod the pest into the centre of his counter. It moved along obligingly, and came to a rest upright, staring at him. There was no time to hesitate: he brought his knife down hard and sliced through the beast’s exoskeleton—or what he thought was the exoskeleton. It had the same composition all the way through to the middle: a spongy body studded with hard white squares. He almost stopped breathing. What manner of beast was this?
He crouched down, brought his face level with the dissected parts. Rob hated to admit it, but looking at this cut up pest he could feel Mother Nature’s guiding touch. Its body, its scent…. It was perfectly engineered to seduce mankind. And the pests continued to develop, to evolve, each generation even more perfect than the last, to the point that Rob felt sure even he would soon be under their thrall.
He was but a simple baker: what he could he do to stop their advance? His wife…. She would have known what to do, would have had a weapon up her sleeve to fight back. But all Rob could do was stare at this sliced up monster and wonder whether he was better off giving in and letting them take their rightful control over his shop. He was nothing without his wife—all of a sudden the solitude of being the last man standing overwhelmed him, and Rob sank down to his knees and wept.
Through his tears he could smell the scent of the sliced-up beast, enticing even after death, sweet like chocolate and smooth like banana. Rob struck out angrily and scattered the body across the shop floor, one last moment of defiance. Tomorrow he would submit to their dominion, but for now—for now…. He stood up, walked around the counter, and ground the pest’s body into the floor.
The tinkle-tinkle of the door announced the shop girl’s return. She took in the scene quietly, glancing from his face to the floor.
Then she shrugged. “Get with the times, gramps. They’re just muffins.”
Written for alphabete
(“chocolate chip banana muffin takes over the world”)