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by Maggie McAteer

It is hot. Uncomfortably hot. I feel the burning all around me as my chest rises. I cannot think just yet, I have no coherent mind. All I am aware of is burning. Hot fire consumes my soul and tears through my mind. Flames twist around my heart, burning, burning, burning-


A rush of cool air hits my skin. I have no eyes, nor a mouth, yet my skin feels the cold of the world seeping into it. The heat that was radiating off of my body cools to nothing. An eternity later, I feel my body being lifted through the air.

I am placed down again, and it is not long before I feel a sticky substance applied in smooth lines to my body. It smells sharply of sugar, almost sickly sweet, so much so that if I had a mouth I would gag.

And then I do have a mouth, pasted onto my face. But I cannot move it.

And then I can see through candy spheres. But I cannot blink.

And looking down at me are a pair of dark eyes and a smile of blinding light.

“Look, ma,” the beast shouts, the low, slow words reverberating through my boneless body.

“Look at my gingerbread man.” I have a name now.


Gingerbread? Man.

Gingerbread Man.

I try to move my limbs, but they are bound tight with burnt sugar. Already I can feel them stiffening to a hard, tooth breaking dough, but I do not want that.

I want to live. The thought echoes around my head, and from it I draw pride and strength. I want to live.

I know somewhere in the back of my mind I should not feel these things, that I should not be able to feel, to think. To live. But I do not care. The words become a pounding resolve fueling every breath I take through my stolen lips. I want to live.

Beside me, my brothers and sisters rest and do not care to wake, but I cannot be like them. I think, and so I will live. I muster the strength in my crumbling limbs, forged through hot fire and baked until they let me breathe, and I manage to move. An inch, nothing more, but I did it.

Next, I try to stand. Somehow, I know that in order to stand, I must bend my arms and my legs. I try to lift them up, and for a moment, it seems to work. They bend and then stretch ever so slightly.

And then I hear the SNAP. And it all comes crumbling down.

My broken soul lays in the crumbling bits of me strewn around. My best laid plans have come to ruin and sweet sugar dust. I want to cry, but I have no tears to give. My body is dry and cracked and burnt on the edges. My life is over before it had a chance to begin.

I hear the sound of giants moving and know the beasts have returned.

“Oh no,” they scream slowly, “It broke.”

Broken. That is all I am.

“Eat it,” the bigger one says, “Or throw it away.” I do not know what I would prefer. A slow death by flies and the suffocating smells of garbage, or a quick, painful death from the sharp teeth of the beast.

I suppose this was always my fate, in a way. I was always destined to die. Whether in a blaze of fire at the beginning, or the sharp sting of acid near the end, my life was always going to be short. I had a chance to live, but I couldn’t take it. I wasn’t strong enough.

Slowly, tortuously, I am lifted towards the beast. Some part of me still struggles against the inevitable, but in my soul I am already dead; digesting in the belly of the monster before me. Sharp teeth pierce my hardened shell, reaching for the soft cookie flesh underneath.

Bits of my body crumble to the table beneath, falling onto my brothers and sisters below me. They stare up at me with unblinking eyes, their little frosting faces devoid of any life or recognition. They do not realize what fate awaits them. They do not mourn the life they could have had. They simply sit there, waiting for the inevitable end of their too short lives.

It started with the burning but it will end in a dark, damp cave. My head is the last to go, each bite savored as explosions of sugar and spice dance across the tastebuds of the monster consuming my soul.

Gingerbread Man. That’s all I am at the end.


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