The Post-Traumatic Scoville Diet
Eating a poisoned apple can really mess you up.
She expected this. You don’t get almost-murdered by your stepmother and stuck in the backwoods of nowhere with seven strangers without some screws coming loose along the way. Not even a new hot fiancé with a penthouse apartment could erase that trauma.
But, she survived, and afterward she was ready for the xenophobia, the agoraphobia, and the somniphobia. She installed doorcams and alarms, followed a strict schedule, met people by appointment only, and bought a very expensive white noise machine. She saw a therapist weekly, a psychiatrist monthly, got on some killer meds. So she was, or would be, fine.
But then there were the apples.
She hated apples now, for obvious reasons. An easy fix, you’d think. Just never eat an apple again.
But suddenly, everything tasted like apples.
She sobbed over sweet foods that tasted too much like fujis and tangy foods eerily similar to granny smiths. Every bite of crisp and crunchy foods snapped like a death knell to her ears. She choked on grainy textures, gagged over slimy foods, and coughed up anything juicy. Even the smallest, most masticable forkfuls left her a spitting, retching mess. The slightest similarity to apples on her tongue sent her straight back to that cottage and the sickly voice inviting her to have just one bite.
Meals became a torment. She wouldn’t go back to that place, not even in her mind, so she wouldn’t eat. She’d rather starve.
And slowly, she did.
Then one day, her fiancé ordered hot wings for the home tailgate. As usual, her stomach growled loudly in the face of food, and as usual she ignored it, telling her friends over and over again she was just fine with water, thank you.
But she wasn’t fine. She was hungry. Her fiancé caught her staring at the takeout containers with greater desire than she ever showed him, and he slid one over to her. He smiled. She wavered. Maybe she could just try, just one, just for him. She reached into the container, pinching the top of one wing, fingernails digging in to find purchase in the saucy exterior. It was still warm, and as she brought it to her face it smelled so good.
Before she knew it, she was tearing into the chicken wing, consuming it in two large bites and then reaching for a second…then a third…and a fourth. Soon, eight men were watching in stunned silence, the game forgotten, as she gorged herself on chicken, properly eating—overeating—for the first time in weeks.
“What’s this flavor?” she demanded between bites, licking her sticky fingers. It wasn’t honey glazed or she’d be reminded of kikus. Nor could it be lemon garlic as that gave her strong recollections of braeburns. This flavor profile was unlike any apple she knew. Not sweet, not sour, but—
“Spicy habanero,” her fiancé answered.
And there it was. The answer to her pome problem: tongue-tingling, eye-watering heat.
She set to work. Chile flakes in her oatmeal, sriracha on her sandwiches, jalapeños in the pasta, and salsa over salads. She burned her mouth raw and ate with tears streaming, snot dripping, the flavor combinations disgustingly offensive. But every day she eagerly seized her Frank’s RedHot because she was finally eating. No gagging on the taste of apples. No panicking from echoes of wicked stepmothers. Her mornings started quietly with harissa on toast and ended just as serenely with Mexican hot chocolate.
And if her therapist questioned her nutrition, or her friends stopped inviting her to dinner parties, or her fiancé didn’t quite understand her thrice daily check in with the Scoville Scale, well, none of them had ever eaten a poisoned apple before, so what did they know.
About the author:
Jenna Glover is a speculative fiction writer from California. Her work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, After Dinner Conversation, the Santa Clara Review, and multiple cycles of F(r)iction’s Dually Noted. Alongside writing (and reading—so much reading!), Jenna enjoys being a mediocre knitter and an excellent cook.