Now you probably want to know when I lived, and you probably won’t listen when I tell you that it doesn’t matter at all. I know you’ll think me quaint anyway when I describe my family’s kitchen, which is the most relevant stage in my tale aside from the one other one.
You’ll judge me as soon as I tell you we didn’t have electric ovens or plastic stove tops. I did not even know what plastic was until after the events in question. In all honesty I would happily give that knowledge up for a handful of pleasant memories, seeing as plastic has been no help in the fields of meal-making.
Everything started when I was quite young, but not too young to be left alone in the kitchen and expected to produce fine scrumptious pot pies and stews within a few hours. We were not a wealthy family; I had only two dresses and I was expected to avoid getting flour and sauces on them completely. My father never saw the weight of our heaviest pots as an excuse for an even a single spilled drop.
I was in the kitchen one night, rolling out dough for a tart my father did not deserve, when things got very strange. I don’t consider them strange anymore, my new home makes a lot more sense, but at the time I thought the occurrence had an equal chance of being caused by Satan’s meddling or Jesus’ blessing.
The main course was already complete; I kept it warm in the oven: a fine stew of simmered rabbit and nearly-wild peas. It was my speciaty and it was the first recipe I’d come up with all on my own. My mother was still alive at the time, and I remember how proud she was. Her pride only triggered after the first bite, so I knew it was genuine. My brothers and sisters loved it too, licking their bowls clean every time I made it.
I still had to bake the tart, so dinner wouldn’t be for a while yet, but I needed to move the dinner bell to arrange some things on the counter. It wasn’t anything fancy, just a big triangle of rusty metal that I battered with a honey stirrer to let everyone know it was supper time.
While I was moving the bell I tripped and naturally let go of it in order to protect my precious little face from our dusty stone floor. The bell struck the wall, ringing out loudly and stopping against it like a leaned picture frame. Then it got strange. The note didn’t stop; it just sort of got softer and turned into light. That light got brighter and brighter, but only inside the triangle. Not a single ray escaped its sides.
I stood up and wandered towards it, trying to move quietly. That wasn’t necessary, given all the other noises suddenly coming out of it. I heard pans being shuffled from flame to flame: both cast iron and copper. I heard tomatoes straining against their vines as they hung from hooks over stoves and cutting boards. I could tell you how I knew all these things without seeing through that brightness, but that would be getting ahead of ourselves.
The triangle was just big enough for my head to fit inside. Whatever was past that light, I knew it was warm and I knew it had more nuance than my father and my bowl-licking, albeit lovable, siblings. So, I put my head in. Next thing I knew I was somewhere else entirely. All my suspicions about those sounds proved correct. It was some place between a kitchen, a restaurant, and a castle keep. The air was mostly steam from the various things cooking. Some of the fires were unnatural colors: violet, blue, and green. Chefs in white garb, in a hundred different styles, shuffled by each other in attempts to finish and plate their creations.
Before I could react, somebody with very soft hands grabbed my shoulders and maneuvered me into a chair. A plate was dropped in front of me: a beautiful crepe. I’d never tasted such a thing, only seen them on the covers of fancy French cookbooks, so all the other questions emptied out of my head. My soul assumed that if it needed more questions, the crepe would be stuffed with them and I could keep them in my stomach for later.
Once again, you being off in some other time, you’ve probably had a crepe before. For me though, it was buttery soft heaven… and strawberries. There were other people eating at the table around me and they were very odd. Some had faces like sock puppets and some had hats like turtle shells. I had the sense they were from places very different from my flour-dusted kitchen.
After the crepe came more delicacies, all dropped right in front of me with clean silverware and warm clay mugs of cider from fruits I could not identify. I had steaks, rolls, vinegar-dressed salads, and fancy artsy arrangements of chocolate, fruit, and melting golden-brown cheese.
I ate and ate and ate, but never got full. Nobody else there did either. I was ready for the next course, hankering for it, but I was pulled out of my chair and put up next to a counter. Laid out before me I saw a skinned and gutted rabbit, plenty of peas in need of shelling, and all my other stew ingredients. The garlic was plump and shiny. The salt came in big blocks like crystal. Everyone looked at me.
At that point it was clear nobody spoke anybody else’s language, because they just stared and urged me on with hand gestures. Sure people laughed and talked, but it was just for the atmosphere. The food was the information. I was glad one of the ladies there couldn’t talk to me. She had slightly purple skin, like she was retaining fruit juice of some kind, and a sprig of wheat in the brim of her chef’s hat. She eyed me with anger and crossed arms.
I was supposed to make my stew and, for whatever reason, she didn’t want me to succeed. Perhaps she would’ve been a good replacement wife for my father. I saw before me an opportunity. It was a true opportunity, because I had the skills necessary to grasp it when it was presented. And grasp it I did, by the haunch no less. People of all sorts whistled, clapped, and licked their lips as I assembled my stew.
I was sweating near the end when I put it over a magical purple fire, thinking I’d have time to recover while it simmered. The magic in the fire had other ideas. It cooked it up in ten seconds. I knew it was my turn to dish it out for their enjoyment, so I grabbed a ladle and went to it.
I was even nice enough to give that mean lady a bowl. She tasted it. You should’ve seen the look on her face. Even in your future I doubt you’ve ever seen anyone so jealous. I breathed a sigh of relief once it was clear they all loved it. It turned into a bit of a ruckus, people popping corks and rolling cheese wheels in some kind of game.
Me though, I was a little suspicious. Whenever my father made a face like that mean lady he was plotting something, usually a tirade about how my cooking wasn’t enough like Mother’s. I snuck between the others and went looking for her. I didn’t want her to have the opportunity to ruin my good time. Sure enough, I found her in the darkest corner of the extremely well-lit place, hunched over a bowl of my stew. I called out to everybody else and they ran over. She was trying to leave with it. There were a bunch of dinner bells like mine up against the wall; they were the doors in and out of this wonderful toasty kitchen cupboard.
It took me a while, but I eventually figured out all the rules to this place. You were invited whenever you invented a truly great recipe, as I had done with my rabbit stew. Then you had to prove yourself by making it in front of everybody and letting them taste. That mean lady, she was trying to sneak food back to her regular world. Stealing recipes. Shameful.
Everyone else showed her the door, in this case a chamber pot they pulled out. They tapped it on the side, filled it with a nastier version of the light from the dinner bells, and dumped that mean old lady down into it. She wouldn’t be coming back.
Me? I never left. You never get full here and there’s always something new to taste. Nobody complains about the food, because they’re all chefs and they all know what it feels like. This is a place of my peers and their praise is so loud I can never hear my father’s stomach rumbling.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by moonraker0071 during a livestream. The prompt was ‘I saw a triangle filled with light and was transported to another dimension.’ I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!