This story first appeared in Incite Magazine, volume 11, issue 6, April 2009. It was inspired by “The Magic Chalk” by Kobe Abe.
I sliced the knife into the pale yellow flesh. Coming away with a sizeable glob, I smeared it all over the toasted rye, a painter coating his canvas with gouache. I was not hungry—I was never hungry—but this is the last supper. I took a little nibble from the crust. My salivary glands moistened slowly as I let the buttery morsel roll around the inside of my mouth. Suddenly I became ravenous and I chomped and chomped until the toast was gone.
In one hour I will be hanged for killing Miss Nippon. I shot her with her own pistol. She was supposed to be my lovely accomplice, the Eve to my Adam, my wonderful-to-look-at partner in crime, my Miss Nippon… but she was too greedy. She tried to kill me! She had to go. The police were there before I had time to run from the flat. Even still, I did not resist when they handcuffed me. I could have slunk my skeleton hands out of the handcuffs, but life as a prisoner is better than life as a starving artist.
For my last supper, I have requested a light meal of bread and butter, a red apple, a cup of coffee, and some cubes of sugar. “Looks more like breakfast to me,” the guard said as he set down the tray. “Usually the condemned ask for more lavish meals. A five-course meal, some lobster or steak, with flan for dessert.” The bolt clicked as he left me to eat, alone in my cell at a dining table. I gobbled down the second piece of toast, dry. Then I dropped all of the sugar cubes into the coffee and gave it a brief stir. The sugar crystals came apart like a piece of chalk disintegrating in the darkness, smashed to smithereens by an invisible hammer. I gulped it down, the whole cup, and let the undissolved granules tickle the back of my throat. Then I picked up the apple. I gnawed at the skin until my teeth penetrated the cherry red covering and pierced into the tart flesh. I munched through it until only the core was left. Because I was still hungry, I ate it too. Seeds, stem and all.
Fifty-three minutes until I hang like a roasted duck in a restaurant window. Shit. I was still hungry. The guard would not return until fifty-three minutes from now. Besides, once the menu for the last supper is set, it is final. No alterations. I had signed the agreement. But I was so hungry. The last time I was this hungry I had to forage around in the sewer for thrown-out takeout containers. My stomach was about to eat itself, so I scraped desperately at the bottom of the coffee cup, hoping to find some grains of sugar to mollify my gut. I shoved the spoon into my mouth. I felt a tingling on my tongue and my saliva melted the steel. I swallowed down the ladle and threaded the rest of the spoon through my lips, swallowing it too. I was still hungry, so I ate the knife, the plates, the mug, the jar for the sugar, and the tray. I ate the decorative flower, washed it down with the flower water, and ate the glass, as well. Everything tasted like chalk. It was heavenly! Still, my gut yearned for more. I slurped up the tablecloth, and chomped my way through the table. Then I removed my prisoner’s garb and devoured it. I removed my briefs and ate them, too. Then I was naked.
Forty-seven minutes now until I hang like a strip of tenderloin at the butcher’s market stall. I had to get rid of the clock. Forty-seven times sixty seconds times one thousand milliseconds—I couldn’t bear to look at the clock anymore, or to hear its measured ticking. I dragged the chair over to the wall and pulled myself up so that I was face-to-face with the ticking monster. I licked its face to soften it and then ate the entire machine, swallowing its mechanical heart with a relish. Then I got down on my hands and knees to work on the chair. Soon I found myself standing alone and unclothed in an empty room. Thank the Lord I was not hungry anymore.
Suddenly I felt a churning in my bowel. The churning moved up my entire digestive tract and my stomach felt like it was on fire. The fire coursed through my esophagus, and soon it was in the back of my mouth. Before I could scream for the guard, I threw up. It was a white and chalky powder. My esophagus quaked and shuddered as more and more throw-up came up. I kept throwing up even after I had drained my digestive organs. Then my insides were summoned forward, from the bottom up. First my bowels, then my intestines, guts, esophagus, then all of my alimentary organs were threaded out of my mouth by an invisible force. I watched as the organs writhed on the floor, like fish flopping about on a dock. One by one, they disintegrated into a fine chalk dust. Then I felt my toes being sucked up into my feet, and my feet being sucked upward into my legs and turned inside out. I threw up my toes, and my legs. The rest of my body followed; soon, my torso, balls, penis and limbs were sticking out of my mouth. My lips stretched over my head and I threw that up, too. I was now completely inside out. I felt a tingling sensation creep up my body and I crumbled into a fine white powder.
A whirlwind rose from beneath the pile of chalk dust, swirling the white powder around in the air. Bit by bit the white whorl grew, until it formed a cylindrical vessel in the middle of the room. Slowly, an invisible chisel carved into the spinning chalk dust cylinder the figure of a curvy woman wearing a sequined blue evening gown, a sash and a tiara. She pirouetted in place until the carving was complete. Then she collapsed to the spotless ground.
The guard returned to usher Argon to his execution. Instead, he found Miss Nippon, a crumpled cobalt heap on the ground. Her figure was beautiful to behold, her legs long and shapely, neck white as a swan. She stirred. “Oh, excuse me. I must have lost track of time,” she said as she rose. Her breath reeked of chalk, as did her perfume and hairspray. She pushed past the guard and walked out of the prison cell, adjusting a bobby pin in her hair. In her left hand, under her baby and ring fingers, she clasped the last fragment of the magic chalk. “I have had enough!” she huffed. She popped the magic chalk into her mouth and walked off to her next photoshoot.