Cheese on Rice

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A mysterious stranger shows up in Gildre's picture in the library where she's hiding.

Submitted: April 04, 2016

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Submitted: April 04, 2016

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It was always the same: Gildre would open her eyes and for a second that felt like a lifetime, she thought she was back home. After two blinks she would remember, and would sit up in bed, already chased by boredom. It’s not that the library was a bad place to be stuck in, she’d just always been restless and confined spaces, no matter how big on the inside, had never amused her.
She only ever took comfort in her Sabaki. It was grey like gentle rain clouds, and it had never grown very big, about as big as a human dog (and easily confused as one), so that they both fit (barely) in the bed in her room. When Gildre had first come to the library, her Sabaki had had no name; but after a couple of centuries even it realized Gildre couldn’t keep referring to it as “Hey, you” and so they had agreed on a name. It was not a particularly glamorous name but Gildre felt comfort in being able to call the creature and the creature felt a humorous comfort at being called by such a ridiculous name: Pasty.
The Sabaki’s true name, of course, was hidden, as is traditional. And Gildre new better than to go around asking for it anyway.
And so on this thousandth morning, Gildre woke up, thought of home, blinked twice, realized where she was, and looked to Pasty, who was, as usual, gently snoring next to her. Gildre stretched, got out of bed and wondered down the corridor and out of the painting where her room hung. After that, she made her way to the small coffee shop and hopped into the picture in the corner. She raided the fridge in there: fruit, cereal, pudding, chocolate milk and that weird vanilla custard humans are so fond of. She ate it all without really focusing on what she was doing. It wasn’t until someone tapped her on the shoulder that she even really bothered to focus her vision.

“Cheese on rice! Who are you? When are you? Why are you?” Gildre was, safe to say, more than a little shocked at the sight of a young man, dressed in a very neat and probably fashionable suit, looking very confused and dishevelled. It had been at least one century since she’d last had a visitor, and that one had been a nasty, old, smelly sock spirit; the kind that likes to take dirty, stinky, hockey socks and use them to knit sweaters for their young. It had not been a pleasant 50 year visit.

The young man had the decency to look shocked and in little more than a whisper answered, “I’m sorry but, do you know the way out?”

Gildre took a moment to gather her wits, which she was sure had literally been scared out of her head, and stood to face the young man. “The way out of what?”

“The way out of this place. I’ve been…well…I’m rather afraid to admit this but I’m either hopelessly lost or fantastically insane. I keep heading toward the door, you see, and when I get to it…it…it…”

“It’s moved beyond your grasp.”

The young man sighed in relief, as if everything suddenly made sense, “Well at least I can feel better knowing I’m not going quite insane. But…why?”

“Why are you not insane?”, asked Gildre, being both sarcastic and confused.

“Why does the door keep moving beyond my grasp?”

“Well that’s no mystery. Because that door isn’t there. It’s a picture. You can’t go through a picture, are you insane?”

“I thought we’d established I was not.”

“Well if you’re not insane how do you explain not knowing about the doors in the picture?”

“What picture?”

“This picture.”

“I don’t see a picture. I see a door.”

Gildre quickly moved on from confused to annoyed. She made a dramatic swoop with her arm,  showing the whole room of, “This picture. The one you are in.”

“I’m in a picture?”

“Yes.”

“Are you a picture?”

“I certainly am not!”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you I just…I’m lost, and confused and still not entirely convinced I’m not going insane.”

Gildre took a deep breath and rolled here eyes dramatically. She almost smiled, it had been so long since she’d last been able to roll her eyes at a creature that understood the gesture. It felt liberating. “Let’s start at the beginning. I am not a picture.”

“You are not a picture.”

“You are not a picture.”

“I am not a picture.”

“We are both in a picture.”

“We are both in a…hang on…a what?”

“Cheese on rice! It’s like talking to a child! A particularly stupid one.”

“Excuse me! Where I come from people do not simply wake up inside a picture. Not unless they’ve lost their minds.”

“Why would you go looking for your mind in a picture? That makes no sense. Minds never hide in a picture.”

Now it was the young man’s turn to look annoyed. He was starting to feel the victim of a tasteless prank. He took a calming breath of his own and asked again, “Alright, we are both in a picture. How do I get out?”

“Well you just go out the exit. Same way you came in.”

“I told you, I already tried the door but it keeps mo-“

“Since when is the door the same as the exit?”

The young man thought about that for a second. He supposed the girl was, technically, right. “This is true. So, where is the exit?”

“Which exit?”

“The exit. The one that leaves this place.”

“Yes, obviously. Which exit?”

“There’s more than one?”

“Wow, the expression “thick as a brick” does not quite do you justice, does it? Of course there’s more than one exit. No self-respecting painting has less than two exits, and I wouldn’t really be caught dead without at least three exits anyway.”

“Alright. OK. Fine. Which exit? I suppose the one that takes me back to sanity, please.”

“Sanity is not a place you can go to, at least not one that you can exit to from a painting.”

“Alright. OK. Fine” The young man punctuated each word as if he were stabbing them with knives, “The exit that leads back to the real world.”

“Oh…you mean the human world? Is that what you are? Human? As in a mortal cursed with a miserable and short life? The ones with no understanding of the universe and yet all the favour Creation itself could bestow upon them?”

The young man blinked five times in rapid succession. Then made a face that made him look like he was trying to suck his own lips through an invisible straw. Gildre had seen that expression before, she was pretty sure it was exasperation, “Yes. I suppose I am. Aren’t you?”

“Oh no. I’m nowhere near human. If I were, would I be having my breakfast inside of a painting?”

The young man did not have enough space left in his brain to think about that, “I guess not. I certainly wouldn’t.”

“Which is probably why you’re so eager to get out and back into your world?”

“That’s about the gist of it. Yes.”

“I thought a gist was what you got on your birthday?”

“That’s a gift. Not the same thing.”

“Ah. Right. Well then, that’s good to know. It’s really hard to hear you lot from inside the pictures. All the noise is muffled, like it’s trying to get through a thick layer of jelly.”

The young man shook his head, trying to keep his mind focused on the task at hand, “The exit then? To my world?”

“Oh right, this way.” The young man followed Gildre. It was quite a short trip. She took exactly four steps, stopped and pointed right in front of them.

The young man was suddenly surprised so see, clear as day, the coffee shop at the library where he’d been not ten minutes ago. He briefly wondered how he’d missed it but something told his brain to shut up and not get on that train of thought. He turned to the girl, somewhat less annoyed at her now that she’d proven useful and smiled.

“Uhh…thank you. Thanks. Very much.”

“No need to thank me, it only took four steps.”

“Are you ah…are you heading my way?”

“Into that world? Oh no! With all the thoughts and the feelings and the squabbling and the loose ideas you people carry around all day? I’d rather stay here where it’s nice and quiet, thank you.”

“Well, alright then. I suppose it was nice to meet you.”

“Not really. It was more annoying and confusing for me. You humans have an interesting idea of what nice is.”

The young man smiled. He was tired and now that he was so close to home, he felt a pull that was making it hard for him to think of anything else. He decided to stay quiet, nodded at the girl and turned around and walked straight out of the painting in the coffee shop in the library.

“Gilbert! Gilbert! Jesus Christ, Gilbert wake up. You are embarrassing me!”

The young man opened his eyes very suddenly and sat up very straight. There was a woman with a very shrill voice shaking him quite hard. He looked up at her, unsure if it was real. “Did I make it? Is this the real world?”

“Jesus Christ, Gilbert. I realize you creative types have some strange mental processes but what are you talking about?”

“Uhh…nothing. Never mind. I uhh…must have fallen asleep is all.”

“And it was quite embarrassing too. They are waiting for us.”

“They?”

“The board? Of the library. We have a meeting to present them the proposal for the new wing that is being built?”

It all came rushing back to the young man in less than a second. “Right! Of course, I’m sorry Jessica. I was just kidding.” He flashed the woman his most sincere smile. She rolled her eyes and walked away.

“Jesus Christ, Gilbert.”

He stared at her. Did I just hear “Cheese on rice”? He thought, Nah. I just need to get through this meeting, then get a decent night’s sleep. I’ll be fine in the morning.

The young man stood up and followed the woman. Out of the corner of his eye he caught sight of something in the corner. He glanced at a picture and his brain barely registered a girl sitting at a table, quite happily scarfing down some pudding. It wasn’t until later that night that the memory caught up to him. The girl. The picture. The pudding.

The next morning he went back to the coffee shop inside the library. The picture was there.

The girl was nowhere in sight, but right there, in the corner of the picture there was a little sign. It had not been there before.

“Cheese on rice, Human.” It read.


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