She tried to kill me with a mooncake mould.
It didn’t work, of course. That’s why I’m able to talk to you. My name’s Eric by the way, and I don’t think I have much longer to live. My head feels like a mosquito bite after you scratched it too many times and the gentle depression on my right temple—the one that makes me black out if I touch it—doesn’t bode well for anything.
There’s blood everywhere. I wish it wasn’t mine. I had such a nice kitchen too. White granite tiles, white counters with dark green stone countertops. The appliances are only a few years old and they gleam like tarnished silver in the evening. Of course, fate wouldn’t let me have such a nice kitchen for more than a year. Granted, I thought it would get ruined from the warranties running out, not from my blood staining everything.
It’s night now. The only light comes from the fluorescent bulbs overhead—the ones that flicker every five seconds to let you know they’re saving energy—and the brief, flaring mote of the streetlamp in the window. I don’t know where Nicole went.
I’m not surprised she didn’t manage to kill me. She’s not a killer. She’s an arts major. A graduate student actually, getting her master’s at York.
Her entire perception of death has been shaped by movies and books. In her world, death comes right away. One minute it’s there, and one bash later, it’s gone. She doesn’t know how long it takes a man to die. I’m about to find out and you get to watch. Lucky me. Lucky you.
The blow didn’t kill me. It knocked me unconscious. When I woke up there was blood everywhere. It’s caking my hair. It’s stiffening my shirt. It’s staining my eyes and no amount of crying is getting it out. I don’t have time to waste on crying anyway. I have work to do.
Parts of my body shut off every other second and I lose feeling and the ability to move. I’m like a broken computer, or a broken engine with too many parts yanked out. It’s hell to move even when I can. My breath drains out of me just from thought of moving, and my depth perception is gone; the countertops seem like mountains that go up to heaven. I’m trapped in the strange wide expanse of cold, white tiles.
My sense of smell is haywire too. I smell fresh, cold water, not the salty, copper smell of blood, or the buttery, warm smell of baking moon cakes.
Do you know what mooncakes are? I’ll tell you as I push myself to the end of the counter at the corner of the room. Oh god it’s hell to move. Did I tell you that? Sparks are going off in my head and I don’t know when I’ll faint. I can’t faint yet. So let me tell you about moon cakes.
A mooncake is sort of like a Danish, eaten during the New Year and the mid-autumn festival celebrated across Asia. Regional recipes differ, but the recipe I use calls for chewy, buttery crust, surrounding a whole egg yolk and lotus seed paste. When I make them, I don’t use the yolk or the lotus seeds. I fill them with sweet red bean paste. If you’ve never had it before, red bean paste sort of tastes like chocolate and coffee that’s been dunked in red bean paste. There’s nothing like chewing through a moon cake, feeling the buttery, almost flaky dough give way to the dark, bass tones of the beans. Can beans taste dark and bass? They must. Or maybe my brain’s playing tricks with me.
My lungs are heaving. They feel wet, on the inside. Like they’re sweating or I’m drowning.
Oh God. Ohshitohfuck. I just coughed up a wad of blood. The effort it took nearly killed me. I’m still in the kitchen. That’s surprising. I thought Nicole would be back by now to deal with my body. I wonder how long I was passed out.
The alarm on the oven timer woke me up. It’s only been two minutes. Thank goodness. I have a job to do. So let me tell you more in the meantime.
The thing about mooncakes, the defining feature really, is their appearance. Mooncakes have designs stamped onto their crust. Usually it’s a bunch of Chinese characters. I don’t read Chinese so I don’t know what they mean. Benevolent things, probably. My mooncakes are square, with a floral design and a small fish curling up on themselves in each corner. When they come out of the oven, they gleam like brass.
The mooncake designs aren’t made by hand; no baker could do that. To get the design on them, bakers need to use a mould. They’re made of wood—dark, heavy wood perfect for bashing brains—with the design chiselled into the bottom. Usually they’re shaped like a paddle. When I make moon cakes, I hold the paddle in my left hand and the handle in my right. I push down on the unformed block of pastry, already containing its neat, secret paste, and really, really push. If I tried to push like that now, I’d probably cough up some more blood.
I’m moving again. Oh God, it’s hard to move. I need to get to the end of the counter. That’s step one of my plan. I have to finish my plan. My plan is all that I have left to do in life, and I don’t have a lot of that left.
I hit my chest when I fell, that’d explain why I was coughing up blood.
No, that’s a lie. Nicole bashed me in the chest a few times. I can’t remember.
No—that’s a lie too. I remember it was three times exactly. She didn’t bash me with the mould once I was on the ground either. She threw it aside and stomped on me. How could she have been so strong? It must have been adrenaline.
Nicole’s a sweetheart. Or at least I thought she was. The crater in my head might tell a different tale. She’s beautiful, with sort of a nerd-girl look going on. Thick, black glasses, snub of a nose, dark brown hair cut above her shoulders. Teeth like baby’s toes, all neatly lined up together, all the perfect size. She has a tiny scar on her right earlobe. It’s nothing, just a tiny crease running from her ear piercing to the tip of the lobe, but she was always insecure about it—still is I imagine—and always brushed her hair to cover it up. She got the scar when she was seven; her little brother Steve, who was four at the time, tore her earring out in a fight. Steve’s a good guy. I’ve met him, drank beers with him, did the entire boyfriend-bonding-with-younger-brother-to-get-in-older-sister’s-pants thing.
I wonder what Steve’s up to now. I wonder if he knew his sister was going to try and kill me.
Was it something I did? I never cheated on her. I never hit her. I tried to never make her cry but, you know, I’m a guy and do stupid things sometimes.
Maybe it was a sudden urge. That’d explain why she tried to murder me with the mould. We have so many other objects in the apartment that’d kill someone faster and quicker. She could have used the poker from the fireplace, or she could have smothered me. Hell, we have some bad meat in the fridge; she could have just fed me that.
What did she feel when she clubbed me? I remember how I felt. Everything else about my life is hazy right now but I remember the pain of that blow clearer than anything
My hands are so sweaty. When I try to push myself to the end of the hall they just slide over the tiles like penguins on a snow bank. I have to use my elbows, shuffling them forward like I’m climbing up a mountain. I wish I had worked out more; maybe it would have been easier now.
Okay. I’m halfway to the end of the counter. I’ll just rest here for a minute or so. I’m really tired, and I deserve a break.
Do you know what’s at the end of the counter? Don’t laugh. You’ll laugh at me if I tell you. I know you will. Fuck you. Fuck you and your sick voyeurism.
Fine I’ll tell you. But don’t laugh.
I was making mooncakes when Nicole came in and cracked my head. You know that already. I had just finished the second batch. The first batch was in the oven. It’s still in the oven.
The oven is at the end of the counter.
Get the picture?
It’s hot down here. It’s because of the baking oven and the poor circulation here. When I bake, the air takes on the humidity of a swamp in
Florida. I enjoyed the heat, but now it reminds me of hell.
I wonder if they let you bake in hell. I’m guessing no. Heaven probably reroutes the heat to use in its own barbecues though. So if you act virtuously in this life and enjoy a hot dog in the next, just remember that you’re probably also tasting a hint of my roasted flesh. Enjoy buddy.
I never had many goals in life. That’s what attracted Nicole to me. She wanted someone to coast with while she played around in graduate school.
She’s smart. She’s really, really smart. She treats the classes like jokes, writes off papers the day they’re due and still gets great grades. She went to graduate school because she didn’t want to work. I’m not a fan of work myself, so I can’t blame her. I am a fan of living though, so fuck her.
I’m dead now. Not in the biological sense, but there’s no way I’m going to get out of this kitchen alive. So before I go, I just want to do something you know? I have to do something.
I could try to set up a trap for Nicole, maybe write out her name in blood or some creepy shit like that. But I don’t have the energy and I don’t want her caught anyway. It wouldn’t serve much of a purpose in the long run. But maybe if I take out the mooncakes, the paramedics and forensics team will get a little snack. They deserve it, working in such a bleak job all day.
If I can pull open the oven door, I’ll have actually done something good in this world. Mooncakes don’t breed hate, no pastry does. They just make people feel better. I want to make people feel better. I just want to do something good before I go.
Please let me finish this. Please just let me do something before I die.
When I was young, I thought I’d do great things, make lots of money, maybe be an astronaut. I never made a plan on how to get there though. I guess that’s the difference between Neil Armstrong and me. I was ridiculous as a kid. I still am, I suppose. But it doesn’t matter. I’m willing to forgive myself. I’m willing to forgive Nicole and Steve and everyone on the planet if I can just turn the oven off so the mooncakes won’t burn.
I’m nearly there. Sweet zombie Jesus, I’m nearly there. The oven is right there, like the monolith from 2001, like the burning bush from the Ten Commandments. I’m actually going to do this.
I don’t know if God’s out there. If my murder was part of his plan or if he just really doesn’t like mooncakes. I don’t know if there’s justice or love or any of that immaterial crap out there that people die for. If there is though, if there’s anyone out there, please just let me lift that door off. I have to do this.
But it’s so far away…