The Minotaur's Pancakes - Part 1 / Mike Piskur



Real maple syrup pours over the pancakes in divine folds, the stack gleaming under high-efficiency lights, as I empty a small metal jug of the stuff onto my plate. I peer into the syrup in the hope of catching my own reflection, but settle for a dim, distorted wraith instead. That felt about right for a Sunday morning coming down, despite the prospect of more than three pounds of flour, eggs, sugar, and butter entering my gullet over the next ten minutes. I wedge a fork between two pancakes to assess the mid-stack butter situation and insert a healthy slab freshly extracted from a small plastic tub. Time for glory. Time to eat some fucking pancakes. But as the glimpse of the space between those pancakes settles in my mind, I realize something is askew.

Something about the shadows, the way the LED track lights play against the golden surface of the pancakes, the butter melting embryonic, some unnamable but vital thing calling out to me, a voice inside myself saying, "It is in there. Go and find it."

Deciding this was entirely too weird, I set down the utensils and head to the bathroom, where I splash water in my face and wash my hands twice. I return to the table and down a glass of cold water before channeling my therapist's advice to focus on my breath and complete five sets of inhaling, count to five, and exhaling for five. 

Yet the feeling that some essential truth (I feel foolish calling it destiny), resides within the pancakes, and lingers in my mind. 

My foot is longer than the pancakes are wide. The whole endeavor seems impossible, but like conquering Everest or circumnavigating the globe, the pure of heart persevere and find a way. It's only impossible until you do it. Someone told me that Michael Jordan said that. Perhaps this really is my destiny. As I stand up and dip a toe into the stack, with clear mind and full heart, spacetime allows this seeming contradiction of known physical laws. My leg sinks into the plate, then my hips and torso, quickly followed by my arms and head. A birth played backward.

I melt into the pancakes. Inside, the temperature is appropriately womb-like, like the Mediterranean Sea poured into a gingerbread house. I shrink to microscopic level since the tiny air pockets within the pancake become caverns for me to wander. No light penetrates the sticky stack, temporarily rendering me dependent on the senses of touch and smell until I remember the phone in my pocket, which should allow at least 30 minutes of illumination. Holding the phone in one hand, I make a wide circle with my other arm to get my bearings and gauge the size of the cavern.

The oblong cavern allows six inches above my head and nearly two feet on each side. The footing, however, is less than ideal. A spongy surface absolutely lousy with syrup does not make navigation easy.

I wander through the sugary cavern and quickly discover a stream of butter running through a sort of gutter lining the walls. Like any good explorer, I know to follow the flow to find riches. This stream surely finds it source in the melting mound of butter situated at the center of stack, like a combination of a glacier and Valhalla, the promised land.

The butter's flow increases slowly but consistently as I move forward. The source of overwhelming deliciousness, and perhaps of the essential truth that I crave, is nearly within reach. My confidence reaches its peak just before it craters to frightening depths. I spot something horrible and clearly non-native to this stack of pancakes. Mere butter and sugar don't form shapes like this, I assume, even within this bizarre world.

I crouch to examine it. Something (or someone) has imprinted a series of ovoid shapes, or not so much oval but shaped like candy corn, into the sticky surface. The pattern within the shapes makes two semi-circles and a small almost triangle, like a character from an alien language or the logo of a 23rd-century mining corporation. Someone applied significant force to create these imprints, someone either wielding serious force or bearing serious weight.

The shapes continue through the cavern for what would have been at least thirty meters in the normal world until the path forks in two different directions.

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