Prompt: A tough-as-nails female cop and her partner, a sentient rotting banana that only wishes to be eaten, must solve a murder.
The smell was horrendous, but she dealt with it by reminding herself that their partnership was going to be short-lived. It was just one case, and she hoped to solve it before most of the people in the office building were done with their lunch hour. It was a murder, sure, but most parties involved wanted an answer as quickly as possible.
Detective Amber Norest bent down over the victim’s body. She had to solve this without any tools. CSI wasn’t allowed in due to all the red tape surrounding the buffet. They would only be allowed to interrogate, and it would practically take a confession for her to make an arrest. She leaned closer. The body was fresh, so all the stink was wafting off her partner, who was cradled in her shirt pocket.
“So he’s not anybody famous?” Amber asked; she hated how nasal her voice was when she held back her breath. “He just walked in and took a bite?”
“It took some convincing,” her partner said, his peel opening a slit to act as a mouth. Whenever it was open the smell was twice as bad. She could barely stand to look at him: a truly ancient looking banana, so black it was almost purple, its flesh softer than peanut butter. Teaming up with this thing was a joke. Worse still, they even gave the banana a little badge, pinned right into its putrescent peel. “I imagine he was an easier nut to crack than you. You don’t even look tempted.”
“How could I be tempted?” she asked the fetid fruit. “I mean no disrespect, but looking at you makes me want to puke. As for the rest of you…” She stood and wandered back to the buffet. It was divided into many different trays, each filled with a foodstuff, but none of them were for eating. Amber looked around. It was quiet. Clean. All the rot was contained within the buffet itself. There wasn’t even a rogue maggot or fly feasting on the contents.
There were locks on the doors, and they’d only been opened, via voice command from the inside, to allow Amber in. She was the only human the foodstuffs would allow to approach, and even then they demanded she have a partner in her shirt pocket to make sure the humans weren’t trying anything funny.
She walked down the row, unsure what food group to question first. The lasagna looked suspicious, with its bubbling green cheese and torn noodles. Perhaps the victim had been the one to do the tearing when he took his fateful final bite. There was also the fried fish to consider; there were six fillets in the tray, swimming around in the remnants of a lemon-butter sauce, though at this point, nine months after the foodstuffs’ creation, that sauce had congealed into something that smelled like garlic sun tan lotion.
All of them were suspicious, surely toxic enough to kill a man, and many of them tried to distract her. They barked threats, questions, and offers. Some of them spoke so passionately they sprayed pieces of themselves and stained the detective’s coat.
“Are you sure you’re not hungry?” the banana asked. “We are quite a spread. I’m salivating just thinking about us.”
“Why do some of you want to die so badly?” Amber asked the banana, turning away from the rest of the food and resting her hands on the chrome edge of the buffet. “This doesn’t seem like a bad place to live. It’s quiet. Tidy.”
“I can feel my body falling apart,” the banana answered. “Every moment of every day. Rot is worse than any existential dread or terminal illness that a human can hold. The way we were designed, only a proper eating, gnashing with teeth and dissolving with acid, can truly kill us. You would be as angel to me if you peeled me right now and shoved me down your throat. As a god.”
“Well I won’t be doing that,” Amber informed the banana. Its stem sulked. “We’re supposed to be working together though. You have a name?”
“Yes. It’s I’m Delicious. First name I’m. Last name Delicious. You can only pronounce it properly when I’m in your mouth though.”
“Give it up. Let’s solve this. Some of your food died and one of my people died. Who do we ask first? You know the locals.” She turned back to the food. Slices of seasoned eggplant flopped in her direction. She knew it didn’t always look like this. It used to be an ordinary cafeteria, but they had to convert it after the experiments in the lab next door went so awry.
She recalled the birth of the foodstuffs. At first it was hailed as a miracle, the first man-made one ever. They had successfully played god by inserting a neural matrix into inert organic matter. They wouldn’t have tried so many times, on so many mundane meals, if there hadn’t been a delay to the activation. The scientists were stunned when, one day, all the food started screaming: wailing waffles, sobbing spaghetti, bawling bratwurst, and crying cabbage. All alive. All in pain because their bodies couldn’t repair themselves.
If she was in charge they would’ve been shoveled int the furnace immediately, but that wasn’t how it went down. Some of the food wanted to die, some of it wanted humanity to die for creating them, and all of it wanted rights. After the first reporters got wind they had to make concessions. The foodstuffs were citizens of their own republic now, the borders starting and ending at the walls of the old cafeteria.
“I would ask the scalloped potatoes,” I’m Delicious suggested. “They have the most eyes.” Amber moved over to the stinking pile that she guessed was potatoes. She put on her best interrogation face without knowing if they could even interpret human expressions. It turned out they could, as the potatoes squished themselves into an arrangement resembling an old man’s face for the conversation.
“You there,” Amber started, “potatoes.”
“Our name is ‘Oh Sweet Lord Please Consume Us Now’,” the face answered.
“I’m sure it is. Did you see which food that man ate? Or how he got in here? Whatever poisoned him is the culprit. I’m guessing that’s how this will go down.”
“He came in through the floor below,” the potatoes answered. “A loose tile. You know many rumors swirl that eating us creates immortality. That’s why he came. He thought it was someone else, but it’s actually me. Take a bite and see. You’ll be so happy. It’ll be bliss. Floating in a pool of potato fluff for all eternity.”
“So if one of you lied… then it was poisoning,” Amber mumbled, rubbing her brow, ignoring the pleas of the potatoes and peas. “Which means it was murder, even if he was an idiot.” She turned her attention back to the foodstuffs. “How did none of you see it?” The food answered that it had all been asleep. Apparently they needed that. She vaguely remembered a detail about the building shutting off the power to the room every twelve hours so they could sleep.
“There’s an obvious solution,” I’m Delicious proposed. “We have carving knives. Treat him like you should treat us. A quick autopsy should reveal his stomach contents. Whatever he ate is guilty.” Amber had to admit that it seemed like the quickest way to get out of there. She’d been given extra latitude for the case, so hopefully the deceased’s family would forgive her.
She took one of the serrated knives and returned to the body, lifting its shirt. The smell was getting worse. I’m Delicious whispered constantly, begged her to end their little picnic. She ignored it and made an incision. She pulled on a glove, reached inside, and removed a glob of broccoli casserole. They had their culprit.
“I would do it again!” the casserole moaned as the last of it dissolved between he fingers and fell back into the body cavity.
“We did it partner,” I’m Delicious said. “Let’s you and me get out of here.” Amber carefully grabbed the banana by the edges, feeling it squish inside its peel, and placed it back on the side of the buffet. She turned to leave, to make her report after a long shower. “Come back! I’m full of potassium! You need me! We’re so good together!”
Amber closed the door and heard the lock click behind her. She’d been on her diet, to try and trim a few around the middle, for nearly a week. She’d almost given up, but now she had a partner to picture every time she was tempted. Twenty pounds would be no sweat.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by nicholaspatton during a livestream. 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!