Sugar Showpiece Universe
by Caroline M. Yoachim
The best pastry chefs in the Milky Way meet once every two hundred years at the Intergalactic Pastry Competition, sponsored by FTL Travel. We prepare desserts and candy showpieces in hopes of impressing the judges, and I'm among the favorites to win. My main competition is a currently-female humanoid named Tela from Kesenia-186f. She's three thousand years old and started working as a pastry chef several centuries before I was born.
The themes of the competition are space and time, and the prize is a ticket out of our slowly dying universe, provided by FTL Travel.
My tasting dessert explores the theme of space. It is a galaxy of chocolate cake topped with threads of candied orange peel and drizzled with hazelnut caramel, all swirling around a black-hole truffle made from chocolate so dark that light cannot escape its surface.
Tela offers the judges an hourglass of clear sugar, full of freeze-dried grains of cardamom-infused cream cheese. A frame of chewy gingerbread cookie surrounds the delicate hourglass, and the presentation is so lovely that the judges are reluctant to crack the clear sugar with their forks and sample the dessert. She gets the highest score in the tasting round, but I'm confident that my sugar showpiece universe will win the judges over.
I heat sugar to the hard crack stage, boiling away nearly all the water. The few bubbles that remain are like tiny universes in the sugar syrup of the multiverse, forming and rising for a brief but glorious existence before bursting on the surface. The end of our universe will be less dramatic--a slow and steady march toward thermodynamic equilibrium. The last of our stars are already running out of fuel, and soon the universe will be dark. My life will end before the heat death of the universe, of course, but I want to live my remaining millennia in a place with energy and hope. My sugar showpiece has to win.