“Hey,” Chuck said, glancing back at the flooded street behind him. They were having very peculiar weather that day, the asphalt now concealed in a thick stream of near knee-high mud. It was the first time he’d seen a mudslide in the streets of New York, the current now beginning to pull cars out of their parking spots and down the road. Weirder, however, was that he was currently in a relatively flat section of midtown with absolutely no rain whatsoever. Still, he’d seen stranger things. He turned his attention back to the door in front of him.
“Hi,” said a woman from behind the partially opened door. “Are you Chuck?”
“Yeah,” Chuck said, tilting his head slightly and attempting to study her features. She was now officially the first person he’d ever met via Craigslist and was thus not exactly what he’d been expecting. He figured he’d find an overweight, bearded man wearing a coat of borrowed flesh that he intended to adorn with Chuck’s own following a brief bit of torture. Instead, he found himself staring at a relatively normal woman: pale skin, short, blonde hair, thin figure, and a black-and-yellow dress cascading down over her body.
“I’m Amy” she said, pulling open the door. She extended her hand out in Chuck’s direction. He stared down at it for a moment, studying it and expecting to find that it was actually someone else’s severed wrist, before grabbing it and shaking. This was going easier than he’d anticipated
“Nice to meet you,” he said. “I had the hardest time getting here.”
“Really?” she said. “I thought you were just on the Upper East Side.”
“I am,” Chuck said, “but—for whatever reason—everything that could go wrong did. The subways stopped working, every cab I attempted to get into broke down before reaching me, the horse-drawn carriage I tried to take suddenly dropped dead—and I mean both the horse and the driver. Even the streets became flooded while I walked here.” He turned and pointed toward the river of mud flowing down the street.
“Weird,” Amy said, raising one of her eyebrows. “I didn’t have too much of a hard time getting downstairs,” she laughed, “although I did lock myself inside my apartment. Never done that before. My boyfriend had to kick down the door. Then I received a phone call that I needed to get to the hospital for a friend immediately, but my boyfriend went. I didn’t want to leave you waiting.”
“That’s nice of you,” Chuck said, glancing back behind him at the ever-growing mudslide now licking at the bottom of the stoop he stood atop. “Do you mind if I come in? It’s getting pretty dangerous out here.”
“Sure,” she said. “You might have to wait for a little while anyway, going to be hard to move the television back through a flood.” She took a step aside and beckoned Chuck to enter.
Chuck stepped into the building, the scent of burnt toast filling his nostril. A shiver ran down his spine, causing the muscles in his back to tense up beneath his dress shirt. He hated the smell, hated the very thought of toast. It made him incredibly angry and unable to control his actions. He closed his eyes and took a slow breath in an attempt to calm himself down. Now was not the time, he couldn’t let it happen here.
“Making lunch?” he said, following Amy up the stairs. She paused at the bottom of the first step. “Yes,” she said, her voice quivering slightly. “Buttered toast. Do you want some?”
“No,” Chuck said, glancing at the stairwell. “I’m not a big fan of toast, I don’t believe it’s right to eat it.”
“You don’t believe it’s right to eat toast?” Amy said, resuming her movement up the stairs. “Like, ethically?”
“Right,” Chuck said, pausing. For whatever reason, he wanted to tell her about his problem, about the curse that had consumed his life since his birth. He wanted to tell her about the years of bread-based nightmares he had, when he’d wake up in a cold sweat sure of the fact that he’d just been a loaf of bread, about how his mother would tell him to back to sleep. He wanted to tell her about the first time he stayed up late during a full moon, feeling the rush of bread slip through his veins. He wanted to tell her about how he learned to control the transformation, about how he could become a loaf of bread at will, but was unable to return to his true form. He wanted to tell her about how much it scared him, to hear her say it would be okay, that she would protect him from the toasters of the world. He wanted her to know about his ailment, about what he’d kept secret for so many years.
“That’s weird,” Amy said, climbing up the final step and turning right into the first room. The door lay sideways on the floor, clearly kicked in.
“I can turn into a loaf of bread,” Chuck shouted, suddenly unable to control the volume of his own voice. He immediately regretted his decision. She was just some woman from Craiglist who was going to sell him a television, some random person. She’d think he was insane like all the others, think he was just doing some sort of magic trick when he tried to prove it. He turned back toward the steps. He had just cost himself an incredible deal on a television.
“You what?” Amy said from behind Chuck. “You can turn into a loaf of bread?”
“Yes,” Chuck said, stopping at the top of the steps. He was shaking slightly. Why had he been so dumb? He’d never find as great an offer on a TV as the one she was selling.
“I fucking knew there was something weird about you,” Amy said, pushing Chuck violently. He grabbed onto the banister to stop himself falling down the steps. “Did Mark send you? That fucking asshole, I told him in privacy. What a fucking dick.”
“What?” Chuck said. “No one sent me, I’m here for the television.”
“Then how did you know I can become butter?”
“You can what?” Chuck said, his eyes growing wide. He was pretty confident she’d just said “I can become butter,” which was absolutely bat-shit insane. He knew he couldn’t trust someone from Craigslist, they were all out of their minds.
“I can become butter. I can turn into butter. Don’t act like you don’t know.”
Chuck turned back around and stared at Amy, eyeing her up and down. She was crying now, her eye-shadow slowly running down her cheeks. Her skin did appear a little bit more slick now that he really studied it, her hair significantly more oily than he’d originally noticed.
“Whatever you two are thinking of doing, stop,” said a voice from behind. He turned around, staring down at a man in a black suit standing at the bottom of the steps. He held a pistol in his hand, its barrel pointed directly at Chuck’s chest. A thin, black wire extended down from his ear. “Do not move, do not do anything. You don’t know what could happen if she butters your bread. It could be the end of life as we know it. You two were never supposed to come in contact with each other.”
Chuck stared at the gun, then back at the man. He’d shot himself while in bread-form before during a dark time in his life, the bullet simply entering one side and leaving the other. It did not harm him whatsoever. He could save Amy’s life. He closed his eyes and squeezed his core, feeling the familiar rush of bread spreading through his veins.
“No!” shouted the man at the bottom of the stairs. “You’ll kill us all! Get away from the girl!”
Chuck glanced over at Amy, ready to lunge in front of her and block the barrage of bullets he expected the man to begin firing. Instead, he found only a puddle of butter where she had stood, a crumpled black-and-yellow dress beside. The yellow liquid was slowly leaking toward Chuck, just a few inches away.
“If you get her butter on you, we’re all going to die,” the man at the bottom of the steps shouted. “The universe cannot handle conscious bread and butter, you don’t know what you’re creating! We’ve tried for so many years to keep you apart, don’t touch her. Don’t do this!”
Chuck glanced at the stairs, the man now rushing up toward him. He turned back toward the butter and stared down. It seemed to be reaching out to him, begging for him to touch it and end both of their problems, to stifle the curse they’d been forced to endure. Chuck wiggled forward an inch and let the warm, melted butter spread over his crust, a blinding light swallowing his vision.