Slightly disoriented, we blink, long eyelashes slightly in the way. Before us is a table littered – beautifully littered – with colourful foods. There is bread covered with a rainbow of sand-like sprinkles. There are cupcakes, topped with swirling pinks and purples, studded with silver sugar twinkles. In the middle of it all towers a cake. Conically shaped, it is pink and yellow, and sports tiny blue figurines dancing to a silent tune. We intuitively know that, even though they appear human in form, they will not be hurt while melting inside our mouth.
A big, round face appears in our vision. Mum. Mummy. She smiles and our chest swells with happiness because we knows that this was all arranged for us – and us alone.
I correct myself. It was all arranged for her. Her alone.
“The guests will be arriving soon,” she says to us. Our ears rejoice at the soft tones of her voice.
“Can I eat a cupcake before they arrive?” we ask.
Mum looks at us with mock concern. “A little girl shouldn’t eat before the guests arrive. It wouldn’t be polite. But,” she says, a pretty smile spreading beneath her nose, “it is your birthday. A day for exceptions, don’t you think?”
“What’s an asseption?” we ask. I don’t know either. I only know what she knows.
Mum laughs, but not meanly. “An exception is when I let you eat one cupcake before the guests arrive,” she says, handing us a cupcake with purple icing.
We sink our teeth into it. The sensation is so intense that I almost exit her body. Sweet love, sweet Jesus, sweet silence, sweet justice, sweet dreams, sweet heart, sweet… taste. We do not understand all these phrases, but they come to us in a sort of abstract way. Mostly, though, we just savour the taste. So, so sweet. It is another bomb of good intent, but this time is has exploded inside our mouth. It tastes even better than it looks.
“Mum, I don’t want the guests to come,” we say.
“But darling, they are going to bring you presents.”
“Can you tell them to leave the presents at the door and go away?”
“That would be very disappointing for them.”
“Because they want to share all this food on the table. You don’t want it all for yourself, do you?”
“Well, that would make you sick. Good things can only be experienced in moderate amounts. Do you understand?”
Mum laughs. “One day you will.”
Without warning, we start crying. We feel the tears running down our face; warm, wet. We feel some of them enter our mouth, salty. The floor jolts beneath us. Then we realise this is not the case. The floor didn’t jolt – rather, our body jolted with a hiccup.
Our torso is enveloped by Mummy’s arms.
“My darling, what is wrong?”
“That girl Melissa. She is mean to me sometimes.”
“Is she, now? Don’t worry. Mummy will fix it for you.”
We feel our heart rate slow down. We feel Mummy rocking us gently. We are safe. We are loved. Warmth envelops our body and mind. It is the kind of warmth derived from security.
I never want to leave this body. I do not remember anything outside this body. I think I have forgotten where I -
I am jolted sharply, peeled quickly from her body like the lid from a tub of ice cream. Ice cream… she likes ice cream.
I am back in my real body. I exist in floating nothingness. My body is pre-birth, kept in stasis to prevent me from coming into full being. Adults of my kind are around me, communicating. They don’t talk with sounds – they communicate more successfully than mere sound will allow. It is a method of communication outside of your scope of understanding. Having lived briefly as one of your kind, however, I will do my best to describe the following scene so that you can understand it. For the sake of convenience, I will also use the names of the little girl’s parents – the parents to whom I temporarily belonged. My kind have no need to label each other with names.
“Is it back?” asks Daniel.
“It is back. Let’s extract the sensations it experienced,” answers Sarah.
Something is inserted into me. I feel pain envelop… what can I call it? The closest thing you have to this is a central nervous system. The pain grows, enveloping my central nervous system until I want to scream. I cannot scream. I cannot move. I can only exist with the pain.
“Where did this one go?” asks Daniel.
“A planet – outside our dimension. Let’s look at the readings…. Wow! We nearly lost it. It forget for a moment it was separate to the entity that housed it!”
“What? That is extremely rare! This one will be very useful indeed. We will have to keep it in stasis for as long as possible. Give me some of that nutrient glue. It will keep the thing alive for much longer,” Daniel says excitedly.
“The readings are unusually clear. Here – let me insert the tube and try it out,” says Sarah.
Sarah sits down. Some of the senses she’d stolen from other universes and dimensions shimmer and frizzle and plummet and slant and swoon with excitement. With each sense she adds to her collection, she becomes less comprehensible and more extensive.
She inserts a sort of tube into her sort of vein and gasps. Well, she does the equivalent of gasping.
“Taste! Sight! These are totally new! Oh, I do like taste!”
“Let me try!” says Daniel impatiently.
I hear them as they exclaim at the delights of taste, sight, and various other sensations I'd experienced through the little girl. As they feel each sense, it is sucked away from me. I know sadness, because the little girl knew sadness. I feel sadness now, as my stolen sense of taste dissolves the concept of tongue, the sense of sight blacks out the vision of Mummy…
I want to writhe, to protest, to cry, to shout. Instead, I can only exist with the sadness.
Touch… Please, no. They are taking touch away from me. The touch of our mummy. Mummy’s touch…
The little girl is disappearing too. I loved her. I was her, so I loved her.
They drain me almost totally. They are full of earthly sensations while I am left deflated. I can remember but one thing. The vague sensation of love and safety. Something I can now half-understand but never receive.
“Oh, this one is a gem!” says Sarah, indicating me, such that I am. “It gets really involved with these creatures’ lives! Let’s see where else we can send it,” she says.
“Yes! Let’s send it to galaxy XYZ. That place is supposed to be full of senses we’ve never dreamed of!”
“Galaxy XYZ? They say that place is sensory heaven. Our little traveller could become so immersed it gets stuck and dies. We’d best keep it there for just a short time – as an experiment.”
“Of course. As an experiment, at first.”
I feel a tug, and my consciousness is forced into a new life form.
It is mind-blowing. I cannot explain it to you.
Despite all that is going on, I can’t shake an echo of a feeling. I don’t know where it comes from. It's the crumbs of love and safety, unattainable to my reach.
I miss Mummy.
It is the last time that sentence will ever exist in my mind.