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The Music Box and the Baker

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by Daniel Williams

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When has there ever been such a song? The song I crave more and more I hear it as it trickles from this soft, miniature music box. Yes, the song that is my curse, yet gorgeously so. It haunts me as the trickling harpsichord sonnet blossoms in the echoing room as I write my final words. You see, I am not the particular man to write a story with a soppy introduction. The reason I say that these are to be my last words is because I've been a victim of circumstance and a victim of desire. The music box is playing the sweet melody of Chopin’s ballad number one on a mechanical loop. The gears tick sweetly as a percussive accompaniment to the song. The ticking keeps my eyes fluttering frantically as I write this down. The wires from the music box are embedded into a device that is hooked into my lower left side through a system of complex tubing and mechanics that I have no grasp of.

I am but a humble baker from Bristol. Nothing wrong with baking a fine pie in the world is there? No, no God, nor heavens above could fathom my hypocrisy to state humility within this passage. Ha, the thought of it. No, I was the best baker. The very best in all of England. The queen would be proud to taste my delicacies, she would. I was something of a divine marvel of the pastry business. They loved what I made, and I made it gladly. As long as they didn't ask how.

Sometimes people or press would come forward with accusations or bothersome inquiries that left me no choice but to show them to my special dough room. The room where I would chop and chop away at the dough. We would show them how we made our pastries like no one else. They found out everything they wanted. I’d rather not put to writing what things we did inside those lofty cellars… Too many lives ended, too many people used up like cattle. Curse this music box distracting me from my writing its such a lovely melody for such ghastly imagery that I can’t ignore the juxtaposition.

The men and women we held in the cellars were what we called “fungi mothers”. We would chain them to walls, feed them special mixes of herbs, mulches, and several decayed rat carcasses. They would scream and scream until they realized that it was useless and they accepted their fate. So many people, so many fresh batches of our best yeast. Yes, it's not pleasant to recount, but I’m trying to reach why this music box that serenades me so is tied to my fate, and it is very important that you know this.

One day while I was baking a few dinner rolls in my shop, I heard a sharp scream from the cellar that really shouldn't have been audible from such a place. I left the rolls in the brick oven and descended the stairs. I looked through the fungi mothers’ cells to see what the trouble was, when everything went black.

I awoke chained in the same fungus-infested cellar I had placed so many others. A woman covered in spores from head to toe hobbled over to me with a crutch. She said, as I recall “now you’ll be the secret ingredient you sick bastard!” while she grasped the bandage around her right leg in rage. She was quite rude with me to be honest. I’d never slurred at her or spat in her face.

She told me that she ripped her own rotted leg off and would come up with something that would befit me for my crimes. “Crimes,” she said. As if my culinary skills were damaging the world in some fashion. I was cooking the most pristine flavors in all of Britain! Dukes would have duels over a cake of mine! This woman was committing the greatest sin of all. She was trying to take me from the adoring public.

Eventually, the lass did come up with something that I thought was a bit ironic, but nonetheless painful. You see she had been a student of engineering for many years before her capture, and she loved the idea of “bio-technicals”, as she called it. She rammed her shards of metal into my side and set up some strange contraption that she said was made to interact with my heartbeat or something. The song is getting a little slower now. I best hurry.

The machine is a set of rusty tubes and old wires hung into a battery on the floor. There’s a slight jolt of electricity that raps at my heart near where she stabbed this contraption into me. She said that when the music stops my heart stops. I pray Chopin has a few more chords left in him because I need to explain one last thing.

The woman was my wife. She owned a little toy store down the road, and I never wanted her to end up as one of them. She just couldn't stop asking about the strange smells coming from the cellar and when she found out she said she was going to have me locked up. What was I supposed to do? Let her give away my most treasured ingredient? The one thing that gives such a fantastic flavor to my breads? No! this business was my life, and she needed to understand that. I hope that if you read this Mary, you understand that I did it for the craft! I didn't do it to hurt anyone. I do enjoy the irony of dying to one of your toys as I tried to make you to one of my pastries, but please know that I always loved you. Even while covered in spores devouring your flesh you were the most beautiful woman in the world.

The ticking is stopping.

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