Winter Holidays - Story 3 - Pâtisserie Du Diable by Eric J. Guignard

This story first appeared in Winter Horror Days from Omnium Gatherum, December, 2015.

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You revelers, défenseurs and fêtards of the feast day Epiphany, lovers of sweet cake, heed my caution, consider this narrative: beware La Galette Des Rois, for it is not what you think!

My alarm may sound Impossible! C’est fantastique! Absurd, even! But it is so, and nothing further from fiction, and no less than the very ruination of your eternal soul! For what I am to tell you speaks to the infernal, the demonic, and though I am named a fabulist, this is no sensational tale told for thrill, but a forewarning of the most ominous stripe.

La fève, la fève! It is not the sweet charm of childhood delight, ce n’est pas the beloved célébration of our baby savior, but instead the insidious cunning of Le Diable meant to deceive us innocent mortals!

Take heed! Beware! Méfiez-vous La Galette!

…Ah, sacré bleu, but you know not yet what I speak, you so unmoved to believe in the dark, the fiendish manipulations that shape this realm, our very world in which we live, you so bound in belief of what you are taught, a skeptic of the spectral, you cannot yet understand… Non, non, non, I see I must explain from the beginning…

My name is Henri Hébert, and I was at the time of these events a librarian at Université Paris Diderot. There I met and briefly loved a young woman, though the brevity of that romance is through no fault of our own; I would once have wanted to wed and spend all my days anon with her, picnicking on the banks of La Marne, dining at the quaint cafés along Rue Saint-Honoré, strolling the food court at Le Marché des Enfants Rouges, sampling tastes of the Japanese, the Moroccan, the Greek, even tasteless plats de Américains. For Émilie DuPaquet was, like myself, a lover of all cuisines.

None other have I met whom I bonded with so completely by way of smelling, seeing, tasting, hearing, feeling; food culture engages all the senses, and Émilie and I accessed the globe together by way of the spoon.

For so goes the code of the gourmand, the same as it is all over: What do you wish to eat today? Kashmiri lamb chops from Mongolia? Sicily’s shiitake scallopine? Alecha and honey stew, a specialty from Mali?

“I wish for foie gras parfait from Singapore,” and it is so!

“I wish for cheese pirozhki from Russia,” and it is so! For there is no food devised which cannot be found plentiful in glorious Paris.

So Émilie and I discovered amour through à manger, let us say, and I have never been happier. But of our epicurean delights, none other was greater than discovering new tastes at an afore-unknown noshery, in which we’d patronize for several days, partaking of each house specialty, until growing weary and anxious for the next grand esculent experience. By way of this routine, oft we’d let fate guide us to new alchemies of flavors, taking indiscriminate trolleys to distant sweeps of the city, traipsing their obscure lanes, sauntering the cobblestone paths that seemed to lead backward in time as much as they led farther from the glare of La Ville-Lumiére

Thus Woe! Here is where fate led us astray that day, for this is where the dreadfulness of my tale comes to bear, and I urge you to listen with utmost assiduity!

It was winter holiday, you see, and the Université closed, so Émilie and I had much time to enjoy the eateries. New Year’s was three days past, and the city reawakening to a fresh course of bons vivants and buffet-dreams. The “Twelfth Day of Christmas” was soon coming, another cry for the passions of overindulgence, as if we needed such pretext. Though puddings and pies and sweets are all part of the Christmas holiday, it is Epiphany which is the culmination of confection with the celebratory La Galette Des Rois, or Three Kings’ Cake, served in great and delicious solemnity merely once a year on the first Sunday after the year’s inception.

“We must find the perfect La Galette Des Rois,” Émilie announced in her joyous sweet voice. Everything was joyous and sweet with Émilie, oh, Émilie. “Epiphany is in three days’ time, and we are to attend the Bellerose sunset soiree.”

So even in light snow, as it were, no difficulty prevented our traversing the city. We left by trolley on a glum, gray dawn, not unlike most all Parisian daybreaks, not unlike the morn I remember last. It was our stomachs that led us forward that day rather than any notion of cold or discomfort.

“There is Pain de Rêves on Rue Saint-Maur,” I suggested, weaving my fingers through Émilie’s. Émilie was always warm, and even with gloves I could feel her pleasant heat.

Non, they are too stingy with their zest of orange.”

“Perhaps Sucre Amour on Rue Bonaparte?”

She rolled her eyes. “It’s sinful, the glut of vanilla in their frangipane.”

“It does not have to be frangipane. We can find La Galette instead with brioche or pâte feuilletée.”

“I thought you argued pâte feuilletée to be vulgar?”

Oui, but not for the La Galette Des Rois.”

“Anyway, it must be frangipane! Nothing else is civilized.”

We sidelined to breakfast at Café de Triomphe on Rue du Foin, well known for their heterogeneity of fare, which Émilie and I decided to put fully to the test.

Bonjour, monsieur et mademoiselle,” the waiter greeted us. “What do you wish for this morning? We have Scottish salmon on bialy rolls, and sticky Breton kouign amann. Our pistachio and butterscotch quiche is unprecedented.”

“I wish for,” Émilie said before a dramatic pause; she had such a flair for ordering! “Bread.”

“Bread?” the waiter repeated with not unnoticeable disdain in his tone.

Oui, bread. Two slices of your pain perdu, toasted golden, no more, spread with caramel-mango sauce. And I wish for a cup of pumpkin soup topped with chestnut shavings, so hot my tongue should tingle. Do you boil black-rice porridge in coconut milk?”

Oui, mademoiselle, of course.”

“A side, but served only in a demitasse cup. I wish also for two organic eggs poached soft in a ramekin with sautéed chanterelles, a touch of green garlic, and a glut of blackberries. Do you have that all?”

The waiter tipped his head to her, sharp as a salute. “Bien sûr.”

“Add an apéritif of fromage blanc. And for drink your finest Kir Royale in a flute, and filtered coffee.”

Ça sera fait! And for you, monsieur?”

I ordered a dish of salted kippers in bourbon butter, scones of Tamworth pork and maple syrup, oeufs à la coque in pear cream, viennoiserie, and semolina pancakes cooked with chickpeas and lemon, which I had long wished to try mixed with spicy plantain and Ghanaian beef, though the fusion turned out not to suit me well, and by consequence, perhaps, saved me, at least briefly.

“When I was a fille,” Émilie said after some time, sipping at her soup, “We’d get three wishes for Epiphany, one for each of the three magi who presented gifts to baby Jesus. One wish a day, always for sweet stuffs, leading up to the day of His revelation as the Christ child, and then on that day, we would eat the celebratory cake itself at sunset.”

Moi aussi, when I was young, we too followed that tradition of wish-a-day. But ma famille held to stricter principle, and instead of desserts we received religious gifts: a vial of frankincense for the wise man, Melchior, then a belt of gold cloth for Caspar, and lastly a thorny branch dipped in myrrh for the wisest of the three, Balthazar.”

Ça alors! A thorny branch for children?”

“And mon père would beat us with it if we tried to sneak a bite too early from La Galette Des Rois!”
She laughed immensely. “It still would not have held me back!”

We were into our third course when Émilie tapped the side of her head thoughtfully. Her nails still showed festive polish for the holidays, red and green and white, and each color brought out a different facet of appearance: full cheeks rosy like great pomegranates; bright eyes radiant as sprig of mint under mist; teeth bleached radiant as the iced crème atop gelatin cakes... ah, Émilie, ah, Émilie!

“If I should find the figurine—la fève—hidden in my slice of the cake,” she said, “I will expect to be treated by tradition as queen for the day.”

“I’ve never gotten la fève,” I confessed, which was true. Always a sibling discovered the small plastic person in their own slice. Only one toy charm is hidden in each cake, and year after year I’d watch someone else exclaim they’d received the figurine by luck, and I’d have to honor them as “king or queen for the day”.

Émilie patted my face. “You, mon cher, are quite simply deprived.”

“I read once,” I replied in sudden recollection, “that the wise man, Balthazar, was really the Devil in disguise, and that was his greatest trick, presenting himself as patron to enfant Jesus. The gift he gave was deceit, and when we celebrate Epiphany, we unwittingly also celebrate Le Diable.”

“How did you come to that?”

“Because of the crown you wear, if you find la fève in your slice of cake.”

“The crown is for Jesus, fou de vous!”

Oui, but Balthazar anointed Jesus in myrrh oil, and said He would wear it until the end of days. Chance what He had on His head at crucifixion?”

“The myrrh?”

“A crown of thorns, or more precisely thorny branches wove from a myrrha tree. Thus the devil is upon us from birth until death.”

“I don’t like that.”

I shrugged. “It is only something I once read.”

“You’ll make yourself ill, ingesting such wild things.”

C’est la vie, and I am filled!”

With that, we left the café to continue by foot, our search for a suitable La Galette Des Rois. Probing along the blocks between Rue de Turenne and Rue du Parc Royal for pâtisseries, we attempted first a favorite, Pain de l’Arc en Ciel de Miel, and then the highly-recommended Mon Cher Croissant, and even the famous Pâte en Pâte, in which there is a three-month backlog of orders by aficionados of all sugar cake tastes. Yet no La Galette was found suitable by Émilie.

“Is it so much to ask,” she complained, “that the glaze be made from apricot preserves and not marmalade or jelly?”

So we ambled farther on, while disputing the merits of boiled burenwurst over smoked waldviertler. Yet now in hindsight we ambled carelessly too far, entering unsavory locales, past industrial parks minded by graffiti; following stone row homes, boarded over with plywood planks; crossing lots empty but for refuse and strange weeds; trekking further even than the Liquor & Cheese shoppes with their painted plastic signs of half-nude women sipping spirits in the windows, searching, still searching for the perfect La Galette Des Rois.

It was after some distance my stomach began to give complaint from breakfast, that most vexing dismay of any dining connoisseur. Though the sights and smells of exquisite fare may still be found intoxicating, the consideration of any foodstuffs actually finding their way down my gullet caused anxious consternation.

I told Émilie as such, and in sympathy she felt resigned to settle for a cake of pâte feuilletée instead, and thereafter soon to homeward retreat. But then! Quelle malchance! We were taken unawares by a startling vortex of smells, a tempest of buttery paste, sweet fruit crèmes, burnt crusts of sugar, soft toffees, caramel dreams! A bakery air seemed to fill us entirely with lusts for warm yeast and cinnamon swirls like an ocean that overwhelms you, filling your airwaves and lungs until you drown in it, and the currents take your body and drag you where they will.

So were we seemingly dragged to a certain shoppe some blocks away, one with no name but of that which it signified: Pâtisserie.

Mon dieu,” Émilie breathed as we entered, “I have never seen such confections.”

Indeed, there displayed creations of all shapes and sizes: macaroons as large as cake platters; meringue truffles colorful and rich as Egyptian jewels; towering cocoa cakes lavished in spearmint and iced rum; strawberry arnaud atop Italian Cassata; cannolis wound round Swiss butter rocha…

Bonjour, monsieur et mademoiselle,” a great hairless man behind the counter greeted us. “What do you wish for this morning? Cinnamon peach chiffon à la crème? Pastry of salted pecan with a dash of raspberry compote?”

“Tell me you have La Galette Des Rois with frangipane,” Émilie said, “and I shall be delirious with pleasure.”

Oui, mademoiselle, oui! Our specialty, I will make La Galette exclusively and exquisitely just for you.”

Glorieux! Please wrap it in a double box, I do not trust this weather.”

Non, non, non, they are prepared over the course of three days in advance, only for the célébration of Epiphany. You must come back, so it’s fresh, indefectible, a gift worthy of any hallowed king or queen.”

“Very well,” Émilie said. “So long as it’s ready before sunset that night.”

“Of course, I have many, many orders dependent upon that hour.” The baker smiled at her, an expression that in some way suggested as much treachery as it did of mirth. “Meanwhile, perhaps you may wish for something else to enjoy at present?”

“How can I resist? Un instant to decide...”

As they spoke, something from my innards rumbled foul as any wharfside profanity. I cleared my throat to cover the impropriety.

The man, thinking I sought his attention, turned to me. “And for you, monsieur, what do you wish?”

My insides, however, were twisting in despicably uncivil ways, and regardless how enticing the pâtisserie’s displays appeared, I thought only to reach my apartment’s bed, and toilette perhaps, post-haste.

“Nothing for me, merci.”

The man frowned as if I’d insulted his livelihood. “But we have apple butterscotch tart with brandy coulis, and plum-macerated cherries in lemon mousse!”

Suddenly the senses I’d relished so much in overindulgence turned horribly ungovernable, and I faltered under the disharmony of scents, realizing I would not make it safely back to my own apartment; the need struck emphatically of an urgent and immediate need to eliminate.

Pardonnez-moi,” I said to Émilie and dashed outdoors. Even in the seeming mesmeric wind which had taken us to that Pâtisserie, I’d noticed a public toilette we’d passed on the street prior, and I made my way there with swift abandon.

Sometime later I returned to the pastry shoppe, feeling bearably relieved, though still with a sense of declining constitution. Émilie was waiting for me outside the door, while other customers entered and left, none exiting without purchase.

As I neared, I noted Émilie seemed somehow “off”, as if her normal great warmth had cooled a degree, though I granted the waning as to effect of my own senses suffering malaise.

“Feeling better?” she asked in a low tone.

Un peu,” I replied, appropriately abashed. “Did you get what you wished for?”

Oui,” Émilie replied, then paused as if searching for the right words, a difficulty she did not normally ever encounter. She held up a crumpled paper bag, perhaps for inspiration, then with a note of guilt continued, “Gingerbread soufflé, topped by cappuccino-and-frankincense pudding. I ate it while you were gone. Do you know what the man charged me for it?”

Non,” I said, as clearly I’d not been present.

“One hair.”

“A hair? From your beautiful head?”

“That he plucked himself. One hair...”

C’est étrange.”

“Quite...” but she promptly shrugged it off. “They wish to set trends, you know these avant-garde shoppes.”

“I suppose,” I replied, as my bowels begged off discussing the matter any further. “Chez soi.

Émilie lived not far from me, and she saw me to my door with a perfunctory kiss and parting wish that I’d feel better soon. I wished so too, but it was not to be.

For the following day found me in bed with an exhaustion from both ends of my digestive tract. I telephoned Émilie, and she shared to me the queerest experience. She’d awoken that new morning with an incessant craving, which would not ease until she’d returned to the Pâtisserie from the day prior.

“That great hairless baker asked what I wished for, and my eyes fell upon the champagne truffles wrapped in gold leaf.”

“Sounds délicieuse.”

“It was. But the cost, I profess, was as bizarre as yesterday’s.”

Qu’est-ce que?

“The clipping of a nail.”

I sucked in a breath. Though feeling weak myself, I perceived she too sounded weaker, short-winded.

“I do not like this,” I admitted. “I don’t want you returning there. Something is not right with that shoppe.”

Émilie agreed, and again wished me good health; she reminded me I must be fully recuperated for the Bellerose sunset soiree, which was to be the following evening.

And so the day passed, and my spirits and health did recuperate, and I slept well, and by following morning felt, if not fully hale, at least passably able to confront a buffet.

I telephoned Émilie to inquire her availability for brunch. The phone rang several times before she answered, and it was as if I’d woken her from a deep sleep. Her voice sounded thick, viscous, slow to push out words.

Now it was she who did not feel well. She suggested, “Perhaps it was too rich...”

Ce qui était?

Émilie admitted another irresistible craving earlier in the morning, which led to her return to that vulgar Pâtisserie. “I wished for the honey ricciarelli rosettes with licorice myrrh sprinkle...”

“And the cost?” I asked, my teeth clenched as if to shuck oysters by mastication alone.

A pause. A stutter. “A drop of blood...”

“The gall is too much! Émilie, you must not return there!”

“But I must... my cake will be ready tonight, La Galette Des Rois... it is being prepared just for me... it will be ready at five, in time for the Bellerose sunset soiree.”

“I will pick it up for you. I do not want you to go back!”

Émilie agreed, and said she was returning to bed. Hopefully she’d feel better, rested and recuperated, and would meet me at the soiree in late afternoon.

As I felt better, I left my apartment to make a day of errands and trivialities. By mid-afternoon, I took a trolley to Rue du Foin and from there set out on foot, realizing I could not recall exactement where the pastry shoppe was located; it already seemed like a bit of dream how I’d been taken there... I wandered the broken streets for an hour that brought vague reminisce of my previous visit with Émilie, and then, as I saw the public toilette that had before saved me, I was once again taken unawares by the scents of cinnamon swirls and buttery paste, which promptly drew me to the Pâtisserie in no less a deadly manner than the nectar secretions that lure insects to climb inside some carnivorous plant.

Bonjour, monsieur,” the great hairless man behind the counter greeted me upon entrance. “What do you wish for this morning? Perhaps another La Galette Des Rois, like your lady friend?”

“You remember me?” I was surely surprised at this, as the shoppe seemed to have no shortage of patrons.

“I remember all my customers.”

“Very well, but I’ve come only for La Galette you prepared for Émilie DuPaquet.”

C’est ici,” he said, waving an arm at the counter. A plain pink box was there, where none had been the moment prior.

“I do not like your shoppe’s prices,” I felt compelled to admit. “What do you use the hair and blood for? An éclair spécial?”

“Never ask a chef what goes into the cake,” he replied with a smile that, like before, seemed equally as treacherous as jolly. “Just eat.”

“And you are a chef who spices with nail clippings?”

“Here, I am the Master Chef... and all will soon call me Master.”

Truly, his answer unnerved me.

He continued. “Perhaps I could bake a La Galette Des Rois personalized to your tastes? I’m sure we can arrange the prices more to your liking. Three wishes, Henri; you will be surprised at how satisfying they are.”

Never mind that he knew my name, I was taken aback, unsure if he was mocking or insane. “Non, I will eat nothing here.”

“Is it not confections you wish for, the sweet stuff of life? Perhaps something more substantial? Wealth, power, adoration?”

“You are mad, cinglé!”

“Do you wish to hold your lovely Émilie once again?”

“Of course I should wish that!”

“And it is done. Two more wishes, and La Galette Des Rois is yours.”

“I will report you to the Minister of Health!”

“Ah, something else instead of La Galette? After all, la fève can be placed in any of our creations.”

“What does la fève have to do...?”

“Our charms make wishes come true. Wish for something else, Henri, and I will bake it for you.”

I was at once a much calmer personality than at present, believe me! But that day I’d had enough, and I called forth a wish of the most heinous offense that this “Master Chef” should take a certain body part of himself and insert it into a sensitive orifice, which under normal circumstances should be quite impossible to perform.

Though not for him!

The great hairless man uttered a bit of a shriek, then a growl, and before my eyes he took off his flour-stained apron, pulled down malt-flecked trousers, and proceeded to engage in that which I’d wished—

A contortionist could not have been more flexible, mon dieu! In panic, I took the cake and ran, wondering at the absurdity of what I’d just witnessed.

Soon thereafter, as the sun began to wane beyond the glinting Parisian skyline, I arrived at the Bellerose sunset soiree.

Adélaïde Bellerose greeted me with grandiose airs, two kisses upon each cheek, and a heavily-perfumed tour of the estate, leading me from the vast ballroom to its lavish dining counters.

Mon cher, it’s such a delight to have you arrive. You cannot imagine how dull the conversation has kept on.” There was a dozen or so men and women, grazing at the long buffet, staring mindlessly off into space, engaging in small talk that seemed forced, as if expected rather than enjoyed, but for a few who spoke animatedly of chocolate crumpets and plum pudding Christstollen, which could be found without parallel at only one shoppe. Otherwise, there was no joie de vie to be seen in the room.

Adélaïde continued, “They are drugged, unless they speak of some chichi Pâtisserie and the wonderful delectations it affords. Oh, Pâtisserie this, Pâtisserie that, but no mention of bisques, no remark of tartare or pickled shallot, no insinuation to bouillabaisse, only the confections, and here I am a diabetic!”

At the time, her comment barely registered, for then I saw Émilie bearing a small plate of praline lemon tarts, a daub of yellow crumb at her mouth.

I approached, and my hand slid in caress down her arm. She felt spongy, flaccid, cold in a way—not chilly, but rather like a pork tenderloin that has been set on the counter for too long. “You made it,” I said, and then realizing the full asininity of the obvious, added, “It’s lovely to see you.”

“And you, Henri,” she replied blankly. Her voice carried no emotion, and I wondered at Émilie’s strange way, wondered perhaps if she were still ill.

I kissed her, and there was no reaction. She tasted sour, like overripe cheese. “Are you feeling well?”
Her response was a soft grunt of disinterest, and she sucked absentmindedly at the lemon curd sticking to her fingers.

Her entire presence seemed of one who has been brainwashed or—dare I say, impossiblement!—not even her at all... Truly, Émilie looked “formed” somehow, sculpted, as if in replica, though like all copies they can never be as precise as the original. Her mindlessness, her dispassion, the pallor of her skin like cold butter, were of someone else, something else, a creation one reads about only in old narratives, beings brought forth from inanimacy and controlled like a golem... But I chided myself as Émilie had been right; I’d make myself ill ingesting such wild fancies. Surely this was mon amour, a real person that existed and stood before me, simply out-of-sorts, merely weary from a harsh malady.
I changed topic. “You would never believe what just occurred to me at that Pâtisserie.”

Her eyes suddenly lit up. “The Pâtisserie! Oh, you must go, Henri. Il est très extraordinaire! Très, très extraordinaire!

“What—? Extraordinaire, the man who takes your blood for a ricciarelli rosette?”

“The Pâtisserie, everyone is going! All the chic! The Pâtisserie is la meilleure! Exquisite! They have black cherry cheesecake puffs, and green tea sorbet in tuile cups, and vanilla ganache biscotti with candied cranberry chips. You can wish for anything, Henri, but who would not wish most for the sweetmeats, their blueberry custard beignets, and Turkish baklava, and—”

So Émilie went on, raving for some time; I thought to speak over her, question her wits, but Adélaïde Bellerose made the sunset announcement that it was time for La Galette Des Rois.

“Though I cannot partake but a nibble,” Adélaïde declared, “I hope all else will enjoy La Galette that Henri and Émilie were so kind to provide. It has been sliced into equal shares for you present, to celebrate the magi who brought gifts to the manger on this eve so many centuries ago. Each gift, like each year, is greater than the last, and so this cake, like our future, must be evermore splendid! Bon appétit!

I eyed Émilie warily as I cut into my slice. There was something terribly wrong with her, something illness alone could not explain...

I ate.

My senses, as they’d turned already to high alert, shrieked suddenly in my brain: Délicieuse! The chilled pastry bread hinted with ginger spice, the frangipane was the dream of almonds, the dusting of sugar so delicate, so cultivated. I’d never savored such crust, such crème; the whipped egg yolk could be no less than a convergence of artistic euphoria and culinary transcendence!

The second mouthful was entirely rapturous as the first, but upon chewing halfway through I bit into something hard, which most certainly did not belong in that master work. The taste of warm plastic leeched across the scintillation of vanilla and nutmeg, while my tongue lolled over rigid features.
I withdrew from my mouth a small plastic figurine... It took a moment to understand, but then I recognized la fève! For the first time in my life I’d received the toy charm of La Galette Des Rois.

Though I was not in any celebratory mood, it nonetheless caused a smile that I would finally be “king for the day”. I turned to Émilie, as the charm brought certain entitlements, when it struck me: How could the cake be served chilled, yet the charm within be warm?

I looked down at the small plastic person in hand. It was the natural resemblance of any young woman, though the expression on her face showed not the usual smug smile of a fabricated doll, but rather a frown of much distress. And upon closer scrutiny, I shuddered with recognition... for she had full cheeks rosy like great pomegranates; bright eyes radiant as sprig of mint under mist; teeth bleached radiant as the iced crème atop gelatin cakes. And the toy was warm, warm as Émilie was always warm, even now in her plasticized, miniature scale...

As the enormity struck, I turned back upon the Émilie standing before me, and saw her in a new light: she had full, rosy cheeks to be sure, but the blush was like red jam bleeding through a colander, and her mint eyes were wilted, and the bleached teeth in sugary decay... She truly was some sort of golem, a thing born of dough and marzipan, with apricot glaze for skin and cinnamon icing hair, and when I looked about, I saw Émilie was not alone. None human was there but myself and diabetic Adélaïde, and all around us they spoke with hints of zest and whiffs of crème...

Three days and three wishes, three gifts for Émilie, one each of the magi—count them! The frankincense in her gingerbread soufflé; the gold leaf from her champagne truffles; the myrrh sprinkles in her honey ricciarelli rosettes...

It is Balthazar, the Devil in disguise, don’t you see! Sur mon honneur! Heed this horror, and beware La Galette Des Rois! Beware the Pâtisserie!

I myself did not fully understand until I escaped the Bellerose sunset soiree and fled to the Université library to research further... It’s the root word of Balthazar that is key: Baal. The title of “Lord” in the Semitic languages, referencing Baal Hadad, god of fire and punishment! Oui, this very same Baal, oft depicted with horns, cloven feet, and a three-pronged trident... it is he who gave the gift of deceit, he who grants the wishes, and by his ways do we continue to be ensnared!

Now of Émilie, poor sweet Émilie... if my toffee eyes could weep when I dream of her crying my name, the tears would surely be peppermint. For I made my own third wish, you see, and what did it matter? The giftor of deception always gets the last crumb!

I admit the wish was not for my love to be returned; it was not for all the Pâtisserie’s wickedness to be undone; it was not even for you, cher reader, to believe this tale...

Oh, but for the taste of La Galette Des Rois!

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Eric J. Guignard’s stories and non-fiction have appeared in publications such as Nightmare Magazine, Black Static, Gamut, Shock Totem, Buzzy Magazine, and Dark Discoveries Magazine.

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