All hail the true one, as the true one hails us. May the society be pleased to receive the enclosed selection of notes from one Dr Smiley, ‘ae Greate Lovere Of Winnes’, as presented from her diaries. As we all know, diary-keeping was, in the early years of the Ascendance. a very popular hobby, given the largely indoor nature of the lives led in this time period. We cannot ascertain much about Dr Smiley’s other proclivities, but we know in excellent detail the state of her tongue and liver. All hail the true one, as the true one hails us. We are missing many sections from these notes – in particular, the loss of the Cretaceous period is a real shame – but we hope to obtain a fuller flavour of the text, should the society vote to permit us to use The Machine. We have selected a lab assistant to sacrifice, should the society grant us this wish. The lab assistants have not been informed which of them has been selected, as pending doom tends to make them ferrety and nervous. Please do not leave the platform. Let us begin. All hail the true one, as the true one hails us.
A medium red
A full-throated satisfaction. Dew-soaked piles of rubies, afforded the respect they deserve. A drum in the distance indicates that you are too late. The hunt began hours ago. You saved your own skin but at the cost of your conscience. You may now cut out and consume this (located just under your right collarbone) as it will become toxic in a matter of hours. Burying it at a crossroads will not stop your conscience from hunting you down. Your conscience never sleeps, never breathes. It cannot smell silver or taste garlic.
Pair with: deer haunch, with the teeth marks of your favourite hunting dog still imprinted on the flesh. Cat-lovers may struggle with anything larger than pudús. Rub down with an Icelandic black lava salt-cube for an invigorating pyroclastic tingle.
A deep red
Silky, buttoned-down, and intellectually satisfying, especially for those who feel the Jurassic period is beneath them or too flashily modern; one must ignore the cries of one’s colleagues and ex-lovers who have theorised that the brevity of the taste somehow reflects poorly on one’s own life choices, and who would do WELL to look at their own vintners before throwing glass bottles, ROBERT.
This era is particularly beguiling to lovers of mammalian lifeforms. Hot and bloody on the palate. Plenty of rushed tannins. Chewy but short-lived. Much like a certain physical activity I could mention which we used to enjoy together, ROBERT, but which you now partake of solely with unascended, miserable, interchangable widows, so miserable and interchangeable that I refuse to even learn their names in order to hate them properly.
Pair with: duck breast, coiffed and preened, inside a whole citrus peel. Stand alone on a well-lit stage with a half-lit audience. Wait until the murmurs have grown uneasy. Use a syringe to pipe it in. Don’t break the skin. Don’t shatter the illusion.
All hail the true one, as the true one hails us. May the society accept our apologies that we could not ascertain who Robert was, despite sacrificing two lab assistants to the beast which currently inhabits the book vault. Dr Smiley, by her own admission, is ae Greate Lovere Of Winnes but perhaps not ae Greate Admirer of Menne, or at least one particular manne. All hail the true one, as the true one hails us.
Glacial rivers. Tectonic plates which used to grind together but which have now parted, leaving a cold chasm where once a stomach wound elegantly around a heart.
All hail the true one, as the true one hails us. We are missing the pairing of the Permian section, but the reference to the placement of the stomach leads us to believe that Dr Smiley was reasonably well-versed as to the placement of human organs after the Ascendance. There would, after all, have been thousands of bodies lying around in the streets like overripe fruit from laden trees. Scientific experimentation was plentiful during this period. We shall not bore the society with what it already knows. All hail the true one, as the true one hails us. Regarding the question of whether or not humans were generally aware that, prior to the Ascendance, our stomachs were usually found below our hearts, is a long-standing debate in our community. Efforts to reverse the natural order of unascended subjects has not been greatly successful. We apologise for our continued interruptions. All hail the true one, as the true one hails us.
The immediate floral bouquet of the Pennsylvanian elevates what might have been a simple Mississippian marine transgression; a trace amount of ancient salt left in the shell after the tide has been swallowed. You recall a time a childhood friend died of dehydration, having miscalculated the amount of water required for a hike. Hot days find you pouring Evian out by the side of the road. You slosh out as much as you took from her that day to impress a boy. A libation to love.
Pair with roasted pine nuts, blow-dried on a bed of damp kale. Lowest setting advised. Serve whatever kale has remained on the plate; this is the good-old-boy kale, the bootstrap kale, the kale to which other kale must aspire to be considered worthy of kale rights. Kale rights are not free. To think otherwise is perverse, the sure sign of a populated mind. Encourage your dining companions to check each other’s facial orifices, particularly the ears, for kale-creatures. If anyone has been Taken, let groupthink do all the heavy lifting here.
A white demi-sec
The finish is acorn-rounded, cloven-hoofed. A foxy stroll through a forest in autumn, maple leaves turning various shades of wounds. The sudden realisation that you have married into a clan who is at this moment polishing their hunting weaponry and planning your demise. They must play by the rules but you, an outsider, do not have to.
Embrace this opportunity; use the chaos to your advantage to avenge yourself for that dig in Cousin Barbara’s speech at Tim’s wedding last year. She thought she could pass it off as a light-hearted pun, but you know her sly ways. She undermined you and now she has to taste the sweet dish at any goddamn temperature you want to serve it. They will respect you for it afterwards. One day, you will rise to the exalted position of matriarch. One day, they will cower in your shadow. One day, you will rule this entire family. One day, you will replace all these ancient, flickering hall lamps, because they cannot possibly be environmentally friendly. For now, there’s only you, Barb, and the knife on the floor between you. Do not hesitate. Seize your moment. Seize your destiny. Recycle that bitch.
Pair with: chicken fillet drizzled in a rosemary and thyme sauce. Arrange carrots (julienne, not sliced, you are not a monster) in the name of your dinner guest along the edge of the plate. You may gain additional respect – but lose personal touches – if you simply write BARB on each one. It works as a threat on multiple levels.
A sweet white
A foggy ship deck. Eerie noises bubble just under the surface of the water; they detonate in a series of small bursts, like belches pleading for rescue. This is a maiden voyage propelled entirely by blushes and the naive expectations of having heard what it is to lie with a man. It is, in reality, quite different; the duet shorter, the after-aria lonelier than before. You awake in the dusk. You stumble to the basin and immerse your whole head. You emit several wracked, coppery coughs into your grandfather’s handkerchief; the firelight illuminates the thickened, cassandric contents of your lungs, which up until now you believed to have been free of the Disease.
Pair with: something which you have caught on a line woven from your mother’s hair and your own; ignore the creature’s feeble protests. Ae Dirre Warninge: do not let it sing. To hear the song is death, to hear the song will eclipse your own Ascendance. Let those take note who wish to learn from my own errors.
All hail the true one, as the true one hails us. We believe that we could, with use of The Machine, restore the text to its original form. Samantha will give her life for this. We have decided. Please do not leave the platform, Samantha. Cease your struggling. The kind donation of your life will advance the knowledge of humanity, or at least, what is left of it. We invite the society to vote regarding our request. I repeat… I repeat… Samantha, they cannot hear me over your screams. This is very impolite. The society does not tolerate impoliteness. We invite the society to vote regarding our request. All hail the true one, as the true one hails us.
Lindz McLeod lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. Her short stories have been published by the Scotsman newspaper, the Scottish Book Trust, 365 Tomorrows, and the Dundee Victoria & Albert Museum. She has published poetry with Allegory Ride, Selcouth Station, Passaic/Völuspá, Prometheus Dreaming, For Women Who Roar, Ink Sweat & Tears, Coffin Bell, Dust Poetry and more, with work forthcoming in The Hellebore and Impossible Archetype. She is the competition secretary of the Edinburgh Writer’s Club and holds a Masters in Creative Writing.