Chef Jakub – Written By Stephen Fahey. Part 2

I knew from the beginning that my guests would have to consume the toxin before the meal began and then the antidote within two hours or they would die. I knew it was dangerous, lethal in fact, but I had gone beyond the point of coming back to what is normal. Death would sit with them all as they enjoyed the meal I prepared for them. But it would be evicted with the application of the second serum. I didn’t even flinch as I handed over a bowl of soup at the homeless shelter where I conducted my first test. I had volunteered and with my credentials the mission accepted me without a second thought. I stirred the first serum into one man’s bowl then watched him. He did not react in any way but a few minutes after he had finished the soup I knew that the poison would have begun to work. True to the doctor’s word the man appeared unaffected, until I returned with an untainted plate of basic meat and vegetables.

That first mouthful of carrot exploded inside that shabby man’s mind. It was clear that he was experiencing something phenomenal from the almost fearful expression on his face. The other men at the shelter wolfed down there food, but he glanced around and then savoured his meal. Even though I had been expecting him to have a response to the serum’s effects, his reaction was dumbfounding. I had never seen a person enjoy food on that level. Even when Luke and I struggled through the bread in that shack it was not like the pleasure that that man was experiencing. I had surpassed myself. Obsessed with the experience of his meal, that man didn’t make a fuss or draw attention to himself. As the meal ended I administered the second serum through a mug of tea and watched him until the two hour time limit had passed and then went about my way as if nothing happened.

That night I knew that I had to try it for myself. Knowing that the food itself was immaterial I prepared a selection of all of the food in my humble home, fruits, cheeses, meats, vegetables, pate, an omelette, tea, chocolate, biscuits and, of course, bread. I began by stirring a few drops of the first serum into a mug of tea and watched the clock, hoping, knowing. I hurried through the tea and when ten minutes had passed, feeling no different than before, I reached out my hand and lifted a slice of brie. I had never preferred brie, but it was cheap and my means were meagre then. Before I even put it in my mouth the scent of it flooded my senses. It was a barrage that watered my mouth in an instant, an unfathomable want.

As it touched my tongue a vivid taste of soil brimmed up underneath the scent of the cheese. I could all but see the farm on which the cow whose milk the brie was made from was reared. Damp leafiness claimed my taste buds before relinquishing them to the salt and hidden smoked flavours which I had never noticed before. Then as the brie melted, I melted. As I consumed it, it consumed me. I felt as though I was outside of myself looking at myself eat this manna, and yet somehow able to taste and relish it too. My breath shortened and I had to brace myself on the table with my palms as the last of the cheese slid down my gullet and the aftertaste washed over me with a silent vengeance. A long, slow breath billowed the remaining flavour of the brie into my lungs where I could taste it all over again in a way I had never even imagined. Savouring the bitterness of the cheese I had never cared for, I felt it fill me body and warm my being. It was more of a succulent emotion than a taste. A yearning of the soul.

That night I tried everything on my table. Over and over again I experienced the majestic power of what had until then been mere ingredients. Discovering those undertones showed me that I had achieved my goal, but also, it showed me that I had learned the hidden true wealth of the culinary world. I was so involved in my exploration that I almost lost track of time. With a scarce minute to consume the second serum, even in the midst of such revelation, I could feel the eager claws of death beg my flesh. It took seconds for the antidote to accomplish its purpose, but I knew that feeling, I remembered that feeling, and I knew all too well that it had been too close a call. I resolved to set a timer in future to prevent myself from ever being haunted so again.

To be continued…

© Stephen Fahey

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