“Temptation” by Karuna Riazi (2714 words)
No Spoilers: Kayla is a prisoner, trapped by Them in a place where to partake of Their food would be a curse. A defeat. The key that locks her forever under Their power. And yet she’s been able to resist for some time now thanks to the memories she carries of the food she’s eaten. Food she wishes she had appreciated more. The piece is strange and heavy, the feel of it that of a relentless assault on the senses, a cloying call to devour, to eat, to give in to the temptation all around despite seeing the danger and knowing what’s right. It’s a story about resolve, and tenacity, and finding faith in difficult places.
Keywords: Food, Bargains, Fasting, Memories, Traps, Faith
Review: I really like how the story takes on this feeling of being surrounded, of having sort of stumbled into something without thinking, without knowing what it means, and then suddenly finding yourself far from home in a place where everyone is trying to get you to eat things that seem like they might be delicious but are also obviously loaded. That to eat is to give up the desire of returning to the world that exists outside this place. For Kayla specifically, it means forsaking the religious tenants about food that she’s not always been the more observant of but which ends up being something that, surrounded by these strange Others, by these perhaps magical fae or other beings bent on her subjugation for their amusement, falling back on the comforts of her faith, and its requirements for her diet, is a big part of what helps her to abstain and to remain herself and whole, able to take the opportunity to escape and return to her family when the time comes. For me the parallel seems to be with people who grow up in observant households but who don’t find those practises all that important and then move or go to school in an environment where the norm is actually completely different. And having to face that reality where the forbidden is being actively pushed, which might seem like freedom for some but for others it becomes a kind of gauntlet, a way of affirming for them what is important. It can be this moment that shapes their faith and their desires, where they decide for themself, rather than being told to by a parent or guardian or priest, that this is something they want to do. And for Kayla it grounds her, allows her to endure this situation that is overwhelming, where she is surrounded not only by temptation but by a shallow kind of plenty and waste. That makes her yearn for home and its tastes. That makes her regret not appreciating more the meals she had, the flavors and the spices of meals prepared with intent and care, not restricted but rather an expression of faith and love. It’s an absolutely lovely piece that you might not want to read hungry. A fantastic story!