He was back, wagging his pasty pastry butt.
“You can’t catch me!” he shouted from the hill up ahead. The little tart did a cartwheel, then a back handspring, and then a series of side to side feints to make it harder for opponents to track his centerline. Mesa ignored all this. Well, at least she tried. She had pulled out a book on goblin kings while she rested, but her attention was less on Emperor Rikrak the Instigator and more on the dancing dough.
There was something in that pipsqueak falsetto that thwacked the nerves. And the tart had some tasty morsels, too. “Come on, smelly face, why don’t you pick up the pace!” was almost his catchphrase, and his litany included such classics as “Catch me if you can, pimple pan,” and “See you in a while, bile pile.”
Now he put his little brown fists on his hips and said, “And I thought I was the one who’s full of jelly!”
“Kid, I’m not trying to catch you,” said Mesa. “We just happen to be walking the same road.”
“Ha!” he shouted, and then for good measure: “Ha!”
It seemed like forever ago a frog had given her a map to the Littlelight Library to return the book she’d stolen. And if there’s a timespan longer than forever, that was the distance she felt from the real-world, from the Not-Make-Believe, a world wholly unlike her resting spot here near the Peerless Peach Path with its rashy red-and-yellow squish pit and short, scratchy fur, or this gingerbread man knock-off. In the real-world, farmers didn’t grow juicy pots of paint, bears didn’t carry rapiers and cloaks, and clouds didn’t coo over the “cute little glaring girl.” And she’d had parents.
Now the Kolache Kid sashayed his hips like he was hula-hooping. “Run, run, as fast as you can. You can’t catch me – I’m the Kolache Kid!”
She shut her book and glared. “That didn’t even rhyme.”
“Ha!” he said. “Fuck you.”
Mesa ignored his profanity, for after all, she’d taught him that phrase earlier this morning. Instead, she slid the book back into her satchel, stood, stretched, collected her sword, and stepped delicately onto the Path, grimacing as juices bubbled up over her shoes. Her movement incited the dough to scram. He shouted, “See you later, big fat baker!” before tumbling down the other side of the oncoming hill and out of sight.
The Kolache Kid came back around nightfall. Trees laden with Lunchables and Styrofoam cups full of hot cocoa provided Mesa some form of supper, and she was just settling into her sleeping furs when the Kid leaped out from nearby bushes. He was a few feet tall with a round, golden-brown tum and a gooey purple eye which, when it blinked, made a slapping sound and leaked.
Mesa sighed. “Look, Kid, I have no desire to kill a sentient creature, even one made from food—”
“Ha!” he said.
“Why do you keep doing that?” She rubbed her forehead, where a headache was forming with the precision of a vermilion mark. If only she could find a tree that grew aspirin. “What’s a kolache anyway?”
The Kid stuck out a jellyjam tongue. “It’s a piffly wiffly pillow wrapped around a sugary lump of something sweet! But this Czechy smexy isn’t always a dessert item. Oh. No.” He sashayed his hips s’more. “Sometimes I’m packed with sausage.”
“My family mostly eats donuts,” said Mesa.
But he was gone—the bushes rustling.
She met the Kolache Kid one last time while rustling through the underbrush for a lunar rabbit (it was said one lick of their lucent fur could cure the toughest sore throat). With an oh crap and an oof, Mesa fell into a sizeable and well-dug hole. Stray bones told her nobody had checked on the trap in a while.
The Kolache Kid appeared moments later, looking in nervously at first but gaining confidence as he surmised her predicament.
“Kolache Kid, please,” she said. “There’s a rope in my bag. Could you throw it down? Or that vine there. Just the vine would work. If you could just push it over—”
“Oh! I see what’s going on here!” said the tart. “My eyes are open, little girl. This is all part of your plot to lure me into a false sense of security so you can devour my sweet, supple, slippery strudels.” He stroked his crust. “Nuh-uh, bruh!” He tried to backflip away, but slipped on a wet leaf and tumbled down beside her.
The Kolache Kid sneezed like a kitten, then scrambled away from her, shouting “No-no-no-no!” He ended up pressed against the wall, appraising her in terror.
Mesa, not wanting to provoke any further exclamations, rifled through her pockets. But everything she pulled out was useless. A glass eyeball. A pair of dice carved from a lemur femur. A small pouch of cat teeth. And something from her own reality before she’d been sucked into this mess – a dollar bill with her friend’s email written on George Washington’s forehead.
How could she have been so stupid to leave her pack on the side of the path? The bush-weed had been handsy, pushing green probing vines into her satchel and pulling out books and and a blue cookie she’d found in a wizard’s kitchen so she’d put everything aside, keeping only her sword to hack the creepers—the very sword that now lay on the hole’s lip.
This was exactly what the frogs had warned her about. Well, not exactly. They’d said, “Be careful. The road is dangerous,” and that was a pretty wide-reaching category that probably included hidden pits. Mesa put her head in her hands.
But the Kolache Kid could not be ignored for long. He slid down onto the floor and began to writhe about suggestively, running his hands over his body as he described its features.
“Oh, go ahead,” he said. “This is what you wanted, isn’t it? My plump plum, my freckly flakes. My golden bun buns. My bohemian brainbread. All yours. All for the taking!”
“I’m not going to eat you,” said Mesa.
The little cake turned ugly real fast: “Yeah? Well, if you don’t eat me, I’m going to cut you while you’re sleeping. I’ll bleed you out, human. You wanna die in a hole?”
He continued in this fashion, threatening her with all sorts of terrible deaths, until she reached over and picked him up.
“This is what you wanted, isn’t it?” he said, suddenly pathetic. “Well, you got me. You got this dumb old dough!”
Mesa sighed, and looked at him, really looked at him.
And then she ate him over the next few seconds – first biting off his flapping hands and legs and then chomping into his creamy belly. Not long after, the wind knocked some of the vine down by her head and she was able to climb out, a little fuller now than when she started.