Every weekend, he found going to his favorite coffee shop irresistible. Of course, the coffee was good but it was the baked goods that kept him coming back. The variety was incredible and everything he tried was beyond delicious. He kept telling himself that he was going to set up an appointment to see his doctor, but found the pull of the coffee shop to be too much for him to take out the time to do so. For the past several months he had been experiencing odd gaps in his memory and a few of his friends told him that he had been acting very out of character.
He brushed off the idea of his acting out of character, but the gaps in memory were definitely troubling. The thing which both stumped him the most, yet at the same time made it easy for him to avoid a trip to the doctor’s office was that all of this only seemed to happen on the weekends. This didn’t mean that it didn’t matter to him, but since it wasn’t interfering with his performance at work he didn’t have all that much of an incentive to take a day out of his weekends to sit in the doctor’s office when there were other things that he’d rather be doing. The morning ritual of going to the coffee shop on the weekend had become the one thing that was keeping him same with all of the stress at work.
Things had changed at the office, and the already stressful environment of the hospital had become much worse after the new administrator had taken over. The old administrator had been found murdered last year, and it was a sad time all around. He had been wonderful to work for, not only because he treated the staff well, but because even though he had to care about profit, he had never placed it before the well-being of the patients. The article in the newspaper had described the way that his old boss’s body had been found. Fortunately they had spared most of the gruesome details, but they did print the way that he had been found buried waist deep in a field behind the hospital. He simply couldn’t believe that someone could do something so monstrous, especially to a man as nice as Mr. Dennis had been.
He had just begun going to the coffee shop a few weeks before the murder had happened, and the distraction of being surrounded by people in such a warm, welcoming environment had been very helpful to him in dealing with his grief. It was around the same time that his gaps in memory had started and his friends began telling him how odd he was acting at times. At first, he had thought that all of it could be chalked up to the murder and the stressful changes at work, but as the months went on, he realized that he couldn’t blame all of those things on these events forever. One of these days, he’d take the time out to go to the doctor, but for now he just didn’t have it in him to bother going through the ordeal of all of the possible tests he may be facing to get it all figured out.
For the next few weekends, starting tonight, he and his friends were going to be going out to one of their favorite clubs on Saturday nights because there were some bands playing that they had all been waiting to see for a while. On that morning, he made his usual trip to the coffee shop. They had some freshly baked apple turnovers. He couldn’t resist having one. Eating it brought back such good memories for him. His favorite grandmother used to make apple turnovers when he was young and he hadn’t had one in years. The smell and taste evoked so many fond memories for him. For the rest of the day, until it was time to meet his friends for the show, he ran some errands. They all had a great time listening to the music and having some drinks.
The next day, his best friend called and asked if he could come over for a little while. He said that he wanted to show him a funny video from the night before. The video showed him talking in this weird little old lady voice, calling everyone names like dear and sweetie. His friend told him that this was a mild example of how out of character he acted sometimes. While he thought it odd, he told his friend that he thought that it was just a result of having too much to drink and feeling silly. His best friend shrugged, finished his beer, and left after a little random chatting. As soon as his friend left, he forgot all about it, even thinking that his friend was a little bit of a jerk for making a big deal of him letting his hair down a bit.
The following week went by quickly, which he was grateful for. The new boss was a real ball buster. It was so bad, that he was even thinking of trying to find a new job, even though he had happily been there for ten years before everything changed. After falling into bed early on Friday night, he was more than ready to get up on Saturday and go for coffee. Today, they had scones. Even though some people found them to be plain, he had always enjoyed them. He spent the afternoon catching up on some neglected housework until it was time for his friends to come pick him up for the show. They were going to ride together that night, and have a designated driver in light of how much they had all had to drink the previous week. It was another good show. Just like last week though, he didn’t remember all of it. There were bits and pieces of the evening missing, just as they had been last week.
Just as the last week had been, his best friend had called to ask if he could come over to show him a video. At first he said no, because he had no desire to be needlessly embarrassed over silly behavior, and had even told him as much. His friend cut him off and told him that he wasn’t trying to embarrass him and that he knew that he’d want to see this one. He reluctantly agreed, and couldn’t believe his eyes and ears as he watched the video. In it, he was speaking in a British accent, talking about how vile and disgusting whores were and that they all needed to be eradicated from the face of the earth as he watched some scantily dressed girls dancing to the music. He was in a state of shock! Normally he loved watching the girls dancing at shows. Now, he was beginning to understand why his friends had voiced some concerns about his behavior. He thanked his friend for showing the video to him as he was leaving and vowed to call and make a doctor’s appointment on Monday.
When he got to the office the following day, the first thing he did was call to schedule his appointment. They didn’t have anything available for the following weekend, but he was able to get something scheduled for the one after that. There were no more shows for the next few weeks, so at least he wouldn’t be humiliating himself in front of his friends anymore. He kept his routine as simple as possible, even taking his stuff from the coffee shop home to eat just in case. He certainly didn’t want to make a scene in front of everyone there.
The following Saturday finally arrived and he went to see his doctor. After telling his doctor heard him out, he told him that it sounded like the effects of stress more than anything else. He ordered some blood work, just to be sure there was nothing that he was missing, but referred him to a psychologist to talk about what was going on. Things continued the same as they had been, even though he had been going for therapy for a few months. Every weekend he went to the coffee shop and every weekend, his friends told him that he had been acting like a completely different person. He didn’t tell his therapist, because he was sure that he’d be found to be insane, but he had been taking notes about what he had been eating and found that his personality changed according to what he had eaten at the coffee shop. There were certain things that he avoided because each time he had them, the after-effects were very unpleasant.
After another grueling week of work, he went to the coffee shop on Saturday morning and noticed that they had a treat which he hadn’t had in about a year. When he had visited Indonesia in his early twenties, he had gotten hooked on a dessert called putri mandi, which were rice balls soaked in coconut milk. He remembered that he had found them there once before, about a year ago, not long after he had discovered the shop. That was a memorable day as he had never seen them anywhere other than Indonesia, and had even thought of making them himself but since he didn’t care for cooking, he hadn’t bothered. On that morning about a year ago, he had met the owner of the shop. She was a lady, probably in her fifties. He had found her to be friendly but weird. She had said something about how opening a coffee shop had been a lifelong dream of hers, and that she had put in many years of study to learn how to put personality into the baked goods. He found that to be an odd choice of words, but attributed to the ramblings of an eccentric older woman.
He ordered several of the putri mandi and gobbled them down like there was no tomorrow. Sunday was an uneventful day, spent doing mundane things that there just wasn’t time for during the week. On Monday, he stopped and bought a newspaper on the way to work. Before he could even sit down to read it, he was stopped by several coworkers who told him about how the new boss had been found murdered and halfway buried, just like their old boss had last year. He numbly made his way to his desk and opened the newspaper to see the story plastered to the front page. As he sat at his desk, his mind flashed back to a story he had read when he had been in Indonesia about a serial killer by the name of Ahmad Suradji who had buried his victims in the same way. It couldn’t be him though, because upon looking him up, they had executed him in 2008. All of a sudden it hit him…he had eaten the same thing the day before his old boss’s body had been found. Even though he had only been at work for an hour, he signed himself out and left, heading for the coffee shop.
When he got there, he asked to see the owner. After a few minutes, she came out and sat down with him. He looked at her and noticed that she had a weird, almost sinister smile on her face. She asked how she could help him, so he asked her what she had meant when she had made the statement about taking many years to learn to put personality into the baked goods. After a few moments, she asked him if he worked at the hospital. He told her that he did. She then asked him if he had been the one who had eaten the putri mandi. His reply to her was that he had a feeling that she knew that he had. He then repeated his question to her about putting the personality in the baked goods. She asked him if he had ever heard of ilmu hatam. He had not.
She went on to tell him that she had spent about ten years of her life in Indonesia studying black magic, and that one of the things that she had learned was how to summon and trap the souls of people who were deceased. After she came back to the United States, she started experimenting on placing them in baked goods. She explained that the reason that she decided to do it that way was that the spirit only stayed present in the person consuming the pastry for as long as it took to digest. He was horrified, and told her that he was going to go to the police. The woman laughed loudly and asked if he honestly thought that the police would believe him or simply lock him up for the murders of his two bosses. He knew that she was right and asked her to leave him alone from then on. She told him that her baked goods had been an experiment in progress, and that now that she knew that it actually worked she would be much more selective in who would partake in them. She even apologized and offered him something which would wipe his memory of all of this.
Even though he was terrified to trust anything from her, he knew that he wouldn’t be able to live with himself knowing that he had been the one who had killed both of his bosses. So, he followed her into a back room and watched as she prepared a tea for him to drink. Before she placed the tea before him, she told him not to drink it until he got home. “To play it on the safe side, I’m going to place a banishing spell on you to be sure that you never set foot in my shop again”. He told her that he appreciated that. As he was walking out the door to the back room, she apologized one last time and told him to be sure that he didn’t tell anyone about any of this before he was able to drink the tea. He laughed ironically and asked her if she thought he was stupid. “There’s no way I’d take the chance of telling anyone. First, no one would believe me. Second, you scare the hell out of me.” Without another word or glance, he left the shop and went straight home. As soon as he locked the door behind him, he took the lid off of the tea-cup and drank it straight down without taking a breath.