The Gingerbread Cabin on Chocolate Cake Lake
By Sean C. Wright-Neeley
Oh, how I wanted to nibble the reddish-brown walls, drizzled with white icing. The décor was everything you see on those quaint, little houses at Christmastime, too: hard candies in lurid, primary colors. It also smelled heavenly.
Gingerbread. 130 calories.
Instead, I stumbled down the sweet-smelling hall, and into what looked like a living room, full of people.
“Cat!” a beautiful woman and handsome man exclaimed in unison, as they came forward. “So glad you made it.” They each took one of my hands.
“I’m Anna,” said the beautiful woman.
“And I’m Rex,” said the gorgeous man.
Other thin, beautiful people milled around behind them. Anna gestured towards them, stating, “everyone, introduce yourself to Cat.” They all formed into a semicircle, and complied. The last girl broke the semicircle by stepping forward. “I’m Lauren, and I’ll show you around,” she said with a warm smile.
“Nice to meet all of you,” I stammered with wide eyes, “but what is this place? Am I dreaming?”
Rex chuckled before he answered. “No, Cat. It’s not a dream. It’s a place where your dreams come true. There’s food everywhere, and none of it has calories.”
I felt myself smile.
“We thought you’d like that. Now, go with Lauren. She will give you a tour.”
Laura took my arm, and away we went. We went outside first. The bank on the lake was not mud, but chocolate frosting. The “rocks” were chocolate cake balls. Lauren wolfed down a handful. “Go ahead,” she said with a twinkle in her eye, “You can’t gain weight from it.” I followed Lauren’s suit, and ate a heaping handful. And lo and behold, there were Gummi worms in it, too! I chewed appreciatively. When I was done, I licked my fingers while watching Swedish fish candies jump out of the lake in the distance.
We then stopped at a tree whose low-hanging fruit was pizza and French fries. I was still smacking on the pizza’s savory sauce and the fries’ starchy goodness when we left. Our next stop was a small field, the grass stalks green apple Twizzlers. Such bliss.
“Lauren?” I squeaked, gazing at an undulating hill in front of us.
“What’s over that hill?”
She stepped towards me, wagging a green Twizzler she had plucked from the ground, “Nothing. There’s nothing over that hill – for you, or me.”
I studied her. She had dark circles under her eyes. Lauren’s blonde locks looked brittle and lifeless. Her tunic hung on her, like a sack cloth. I looked down at my own body, and realized I was wearing a hospital gown on my own skinny frame. Why hadn’t I noticed before? I tried to recall something about myself, other than my name, and couldn’t. Where did I live? What were my favorite TV shows? Family member names?
“Sorry,” Lauren said, composing herself, “It’s just that we have rules.”
“In paradise?” I asked with raised eyebrows.
She shrugged. “It’s such a small rule to follow – not going over the hill – in exchange for all this,” she nibbled on the licorice rope in her hand. “Come on, let’s get back.”
“Okay,” I said. I let her lead the way, several feet ahead of me then I whirled around, and broke into a run towards the hill. It was a while before Lauren realized I wasn’t behind her. All she could do was shout as I ran, “Cat! What are you doing? You can’t do that! Come back!” But it was too late; she couldn’t catch me.
I ran and ran until the green apple Twizzlers were no more on the ground. I stopped short of falling off a deep, black chasm. I looked ahead, and saw what looked like a screen. Images from my life flashed on it: my mother, tearfully coaxing me to eat more, my sneaking laxatives, my exercising for three hours a day, and finally my body, lying in the hospital bed with the machine flat-lining nearby. My eyes bucked in horror, my breath stopped.
“You just had to come here, didn’t you?” Lauren said softly. She had noiselessly come up behind me, as I gawked at the images. I turned around, my eyes wild.
“What the hell is this place? Tell me the truth!”
She looked down. “It’s a place for people who died…like us.”
“I’m dead? How did I die? I can’t remember.”
“You pulled out your feeding tube. They found you too late,” Lauren said softly, tilting her head at the image of me in the hospital bed.
I swallowed. “And you? How did you die?”
“I died from a heart attack in my apartment. I only weighed 82 pounds at the time. Yes, we’re in the valley of death, but it’s delicious, and best of all, calorie-free.”
“I don’t care,” I nearly shouted, beginning to cry, “I want my life back. Even if I have to weigh 300 pounds. All the chocolate cake and pizza and fries can’t compare to sunshine and friends and family.”
“You quit enjoying all those things on Earth long before you died. It’s too late for us anyway,” Lauren said, softly. I dropped my head in my hands as I wept. It all made sense now. Our hosts, Anna and Rex. Anorexia. And I had no one to blame, but myself. I had chosen the disease over life.