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Banana Pudding Girl

Michael W. Cho lives in Tempe, Arizona, where he plays Spanish guitar for his day job. He has publications in Terraform and Daily Science Fiction, among others. In his work, Michael focuses on bleeding-edge topics such as politics, futurism, and flesh-eating monsters.
Her skin was lusciously smooth and mocha-colored, which reminded me of a very sweet coffee drink (and a very sweet barista I'd had once), and that's why I invited her to a coffee shop. But I didn't come right out and proposition her--there's a process, a sequence, a dance.
First, I made eye contact, smiled, and looked shyly away. Having previously tailored my appearance to register as an attractive male of the dominant group, if I'd appraised her correctly, I had a good chance of a positive reaction. She'd been sitting at the end of the bench at the bus stop. The next time I looked at her, I caught her looking at me. This time, I got a smile in return, and held her gaze a few moments.
Bingo.
I slid onto the bench, leaving a respectful distance between us so as not to spook her. Her legs were encased in jeans, she had a tiny waist, and wore a halter top exposing that nice, mocha-colored skin. Only my great store of discipline kept me from seizing her right there.
"Hi, I'm Orson," I said.
Her smile was the result of my opener's novelty, the preppy name I used to appeal to types aspiring to social improvement.
"Orson? I'm Ainsley."
It turned out that Ainsley had just finished her shift at a teen clothing store. I soon discovered that she was a fan of manga (me too!), that she preferred Paul to John (of course, such a soulful voice!), and, later on, that she loved Raspberry Truffle Mocha. Watching her suck it through a straw, through those full lips, right next to that beautiful skin, gave me quite the thrill.
In fact, I couldn't help but comment on it. "I imagine your skin tastes like truffle mocha, Ainsley."
Later still, I imagined I could taste a bit of that raspberry in her.
A week later at a happy hour, as Elijah, I found a woman with skin like succulent olives. The next time I prowled a grocery store as Declan, and in the fruit section met a woman near the melons who was herself as juicy as fruit bursting with ripeness.
My period of satiety passed quickly. Soon, the public furor over the disappearances dissipated. Prowling downtown, in the lengthening shadows of the skyscrapers, at the end of the commuting rush, I saw her striding confidently down the sidewalk, wearing a coat, carrying a briefcase. By the standards of society, she was beyond beautiful. By her dress and demeanor, I guessed she was a lawyer or some other professional, who was accustomed to exerting power within the confines of her particular milieu.
Her skin reminded me of an especially sublime banana pudding. Her lips had the shade of ripe, black cherries. She was remarkable. My mouth nearly watered as I circled around, caught up, and contrived to make it seem we were heading in the same direction. Usually this was the telling moment, when she might take fright. She noticed me walking near her.
She didn't take fright.
Instead, she made a small smile, a bit shy, as if she liked what she saw, but didn't think it was quite proper to show it. My heart pulsed with excitement. It was all I could do to tamp down my saliva production.
"That was some day," I said, thinking to build something in common. "I'm Nathaniel."
The name I'd chosen, to appeal to an educated person with Ivy League tastes, seemed to have no effect.
"Me, too. I'll be glad to get out of these heels," she said, her voice full of charisma, strength, and not a touch of fear. Of course I was strongly attracted to her vitality, hinting at bright blood and juicy muscle, but I was, honestly, slightly put off by her confidence. Here she was walking along a quiet street with a stranger, but not at all cautious. I imagined that in her work environment, she was accustomed to ordering around her clients, defeating her adversaries in court--something like that.
The outside world operated under different rules.
"You can call me Yanmei," she said, before I could launch into my spiel.
At first, I hadn't realized it was her name. I'd never heard it before.
"It means, 'flattering and seductive,'" Yanmei said.
"That's fascinating," I said, as we entered the corridor to the parking garage, my rote response to any uninteresting personal detail a quarry would share. She held the door for me. I must have then said something vaguely positive about her name, made some other small talk. We took the elevator down two floors. I could have taken her there, with no threat of being discovered, but it was too soon. It's much more satisfying if the entire process, the courtship, as I usually thought of it, is gone through.
Furthermore, I felt an instinctual hesitation. My preferred sequence had been disrupted. Of course, I was secure in my physical invulnerability. She smiled at me as I madly thought of how to get this back on track.
Maybe I'd ask her to one of the many downtown bars for a drink. At the moment, I couldn't think of a more clever or satisfying resonance with her creamy, banana pudding skin.
We were nearly at her car when I realized I'd failed to make an excuse for why I should be walking along with her. I'd made no comment about my own car, or jingled my keys significantly.
"Here we are," Yanmei said, flashing me a smile that promised further adventures. Her eyes were large and interested. Her lips no longer resembled fruit.
She made to unlock her car, paused, and looked at me over her shoulder. "Say, Nathaniel. Would you care to join me for a drink at Majerle's?"
I must have stammered that I would, although my insides were churning.
"You know, you have beautiful skin," she said. "It reminds me of a sweet, vanilla milkshake."
The End
This story was first published on Friday, October 18th, 2019


My writing group made me aware that using food-related words to describe characters' skin tones, especially in reference to People of Color and women, is problematic. It can come across as fetishizing, cliche, and offensive in its association with slavery (chocolate, coffee, etc). While I accept this thinking, the part of me that writes horror thought it would work well as the sort of transgression which thrives in the genre.

- Michael W Cho
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