We get to the library, and I collapse into the closest chair. I’m exhausted, hungry, and looking at my watch, it’s… fuck. Four in the morning. Elisab… er, Liz is excitedly chatting at me, gushing about how much she enjoyed our little night out while she stitches the dismembered arm onto its new owner.
“I mean, it was all so… so… exhilarating, don’t you think? But really, what was he thinking with the cross? It’s not like death is unholy or something.”
I only manage a grunt in response. In my defense, I don’t think I’ve done that much physical labour in… well, ever, come to think of it.
“Oh, what’s wrong? Feeling dead tired?”
Was that a…? She’s sniggering. Yes, that was supposed to be a pun. I really don’t want to even dignify that with a response, but a groan comes out on its own.
“Do you not like my jokes? I’m really digging deep for this material, you know.”
“Come on, I’m tired.”
“No reason to be so grave, boy.”
“Goddammit, Liz, you’re killing me.”
She giggles, and it takes me a moment to figure out what I’d done.
“Just… fuck, I’m too tired for this. Are you hungry? I’m hungry.”
Her face lights up. Well, her expression changes from the usual deadpan to something that might be seen on a bored, though living person. But for her, that was quite a big change.
“Well, I don’t get hungry, exactly, but I do have a bit to eat every few weeks or so for fun. And it just so happens I’ve got something we could share.”
She turns to the zombie she had been working on and pats her head.
“Sally, would you tell some of the girls to bring us some of the lutefisk, please?”
Wordlessly, ‘Sally’ shambles off, though in a more coordinated way than Matilda had seemed to be.
“Sorry if it’s a little off-putting, she was feeling a little too shy to try to talk in front of you. She is more advanced than most of the girls, though.”
“They… can talk?”
“Oh, as soon as they get it in their heads, really. They’re much more interested in the dancing lessons than learning to speak, though. Seemed like it took forever to get the first few going, but now that a few of them can talk, I’m getting a lot more progress out of them.”
The lich continues talking for a while about her classes for the zombies, still practically bouncing from the night’s excitement. A few minutes later, the library door swings back open and… oh god. I can’t tell if the smell that sweeps through the library is more like rot or soap, but either way, I’m disgusted.
The zombie sets the plates down in front of us, and my suspicions are confirmed. The smell isn’t decaying flesh, it’s the food. Liz starts taking delicate bites of the food, looking up at me when I stare at the gelatinous mess in front of me.
“What’s wrong, boy? I promise it’s good once you get over the smell.”
“What… What is this?”
“Lutefisk. It’s… cod, by the taste.”
“Do, uh… I don’t want to be rude, but, do living people eat this?”
“It’s a delicacy in Norway. Go on, try some.”
I hesitantly extend my fork toward the remains of the fish, reluctantly spearing a piece. It feels just as disgusting as it looks, but I try not to think about it as I pop it into my mouth.
**Perspective Change to Elisabeth**
Look at Sam’s cute little face, all scared of a fish. Well, I guess I was a little off-put when I smelled it for the first time, but really, he’s in for a treat. I’m glad I had this ready for a reward for him, he really did well tonight. I mean, maybe it was a little mean to play two pranks on him in a night, but good god his reactions were hilarious. I hope he’s not too mad at me.
Ah, here it comes! He’s chewing, and…!
Oh, lord. He’s gagging. I didn’t leave it too long in the lye, did I? No, it tasted like usual to m-
OH GOD, HE’S PUKING EVERYWHERE. Uh, um, uh, uh…
“Sally, uh, g-grab some tissues or something! Oh, and a mop!”
She looks pretty panicked too, and she trips over herself on the way to the storage closet.
“S-Sam? Are you okay?”
He looks up at me, looking betrayed.
“Liz… Why? Why would you eat this?”
Oh, god, he hates it. Should I get him something else? …I don’t have anything else, do I? Um…
“Oh, come now, boy, I’ve had five-hundred years to hone my palate. Don’t get uppity, it’s just a more refined taste than you can appreciate.”
DAMN IT ALL. It wasn’t supposed to come out like that, I just wanted him to understand. I mean, I’m sure he could come to like it if he just… Ugh. I look up and he sighs in that charming way of his, resting his face on his hand as he looks at me, wiping his mouth with one of the tissues he’d been handed.
“I’m sure I’m nothing in comparison to your impeccable taste, doctor. I’m going to order a pizza, do you want any?”
It sounds… Italian? I suddenly realise that missing a few hundred years of food development makes me a little… dated. I’m glad I can’t blush any more, because I’d look like a complete idiot if I looked embarrassed on top of asking a stupid question.
“Er… what is that, exactly?”
He stifles a snigger into his hand like I couldn’t see it. Dammit, just tell me already.
“It’s, uh… An Italian delicacy. You’ll love it if you try it, I’m sure.”
Snarky boy probably thinks he can get away with laughing at me just because he’s handsome. He pulls out that pocket-telephone and taps its surface a few times before holding it up to his ear.
“Hey, could I order a pizza? …Okay, could I get a large mediterranean? I’m on the uni campus right now… No, arts building. …I can meet you by the main entrance. …Okay, thanks. See you in a bit.”
“They deliver this… pizza?”
He gives me a cheeky-looking grin and bites his lip, looking away to clear his throat.
“Ahem. Uh, yeah, it’s their main business, really. We’re going to have to go meet them upstairs, though.”
“Oh, I can just send one of the girls to get it for you.”
“Is that… I mean, I don’t want to sound offensive, but…” Sam leans in to whisper to me, “Is that a good idea?”
“Of course it’ll be fine, Sam. Jessica, do stop hiding, won’t you? I have a job for you.”
The zombie jumps a bit when I call her name. Did she really think I wouldn’t be able to see her poking her head out from behind that bookshelf? She sheepishly walks out from her hiding spot, wringing her apron in her hands.
Aaah, I can’t stay mad at her when she gets embarrassed like that. I’m glad I made that silly little maid uniform for her.
“Would you mind meeting the deliveryman upstairs? He’s, er…”
Sam cuts in for me, turning to Jessica and smiling. “He’ll probably be the only one around at this hour. I think they said his name was Jets or Jeck? He’s their only deliveryman, kind of um… chubby. …Oh, yeah, give him this.”
He holds out a handful of coins and banknotes to the girl, who hesitates a moment, probably shy of meeting a new person.
“Oh, don’t be so nervous, Jessica, Samuel’s a good man.”
“I… thank you, Mister Samuel. I’ll be back momentarily.” She grabs the money and curtseys, walking out of the library, remarkably poised. I should really have her show Matilda how to stop tripping over herself, the poor girl seems like she walks into walls as often as she does anything else.
“So… You’ve really never even heard of pizza before, Liz?”
Damn it, he probably thinks I’m stupid or something for not knowing this. I mean, why does he even care? It’s just food, so why would an immortal bother keeping up? I need to get him off this subject.
“W-well apparently not, but never mind that. Help me fetch a book, won’t you?”
We walk together towards a corner of the library I picked at random, and I realise I didn’t actually have a particular book I’m looking for, so I stop abruptly somewhere in 091 and grab a ladder.
“So, uh, what are we getting, Liz?”
“It’s… you’ll see. Hold this ladder while I look for it.”
“Can’t you fly?”
…He’s a bit quicker than I gave him credit for.
“Of course I can. …It’s just not practical indoors. Now be a dear and make sure I don’t fall, alright?”
Wait, fall. Fall. Dammit, why didn’t I think of this when I was messing with him on the flight home? ‘Try not to fall for me, boy.’ Heh. I’ll have to save that one.
I climb up the ladder and play around a bit, arranging the books a little better to waste some time. Glancing down, I notice that Sam is looking down, blushing a little bit. Oh, yeah, he can see straight up my skirt, can’t he? I decide to play with him a little, spreading my feet a little wider.
“Sam, I need you paying attention up here, I don’t want you letting me fall.”
“But… Uh, I can see from here…”
I’d definitely be grinning like an idiot if my face could move. Looks like wearing the good panties today is really paying off.
“Does it matter? I don’t care.” I spread my legs a bit wider and hike my skirt up a little. “Unless you’re having impure thoughts about a corpse, Samuel~”
Aaaah, he’s adorable, just standing there and not being sure of what to say. Oh, he glanced up again.
“That’s not… Fine. I don’t care either. Go ahead.”
I giggle a little bit and decide to make him sweat a little longer, looking around some more on the shelf in front of me. Ah, this is the S section. I wonder if… Wait, where is it?
“Yes, they’re as impeccable as the rest of your tastes, Doctor.”
“T-that’s not… I mean, thank you, they’re my favourite pai- No, I mean, have you seen a copy of The Key of Solomon around lately? I’m missing a copy, here.”
“Uh, I-I meant to say… Er, no? What does it look like?”
“It’s a leather-bound grimoire. It’s the 1677 Latin edition that’s missing.”
“Er… I don’t think so? I haven’t seen any books just sitting out.”
I take a look around, on the other shelves, but it’s nowhere to be found. Did I take it to my room? No, that doesn’t sound right…
We sit back down at one of the tables after a few more minutes of looking, to find that Jessica had come back with the… uh… pizza, I think it was. Sam opens the large paper box and-
Good lord. It absolutely reeks of poor-quality cheese and grease. Looking at the offending… thing, it doesn’t look like I was far off. It’s like… some kind of toast? It looking closer, it seems to be a pile of grease, hot cheese and pieces of meat piled onto a flatbread. Sam picks up a slice of it and shoves it eagerly into his mouth.
“You… You’re actually eating that?”
“Hmm? O’Courff, id’ff goo’.”
I reach out and hesitantly grab a piece of it, the grease-soaked bread making the whole piece floppy. My hand feels filthy just touching this. Well, nothing ventured and all that, I suppose. It’s not like it can kill me, at least. I bring it up to my mouth to take a tentative bite, chewing slowly.
Suddenly, it felt like it was just me and this… pizza, all alone in a world of our own. Everything else just… stopped and melted away. How could this be? Was I dying again? The cheese was just… it was just a simple blend, mostly of mozzarella, and heating it up had brought out the grease in it, but… somehow, it complemented the sweetness of the tomato sauce and bread. The grease from the meat and cheese was making the otherwise dry bread much more palatable. Onions and olives kept the taste grounded and earthy, and the cheese stopped the meat from coming off as too salty.
Feeling some saliva running down my chin, I realised I’d managed to eat the entire thing near-instantly, and I hurriedly snapped up another piece, then another, and yet another. How could a food so… pedestrian be this good? Was it some kind of enchantment? I hadn’t eaten this much in a sitting in decades, at least! Had I even eaten this much when I was alive? My mind felt hazy in a rush to shove more of this delicacy into my mouth. Reaching out again, I found… nothing?
Coming back to my senses, I found myself groping blindly around the box, hands soaked in that delicious grease as Sam stood back, a slice of this miracle, this… pizza in each hand, laughing hysterically as spittle dripped from the corners of my mouth.
“You okay now, Liz? I take it you’re a fan?”
Oh, god. I must seem like an cretin now, getting so excited over this. Will he not take me seriously any more? I… I need to recover this somehow.
Delicately wiping my chin with a handkerchief, I clear my throat and fix my posture.
“It was… passable. An interesting flavour, to be sure.”
“Isn’t it? I thought you might appreciate the mediterranean, it’s one of my favourite kinds.”
I freeze in place.
“Oh, yeah, the place over in town I usually buy from has a dozen or so, but the more expensive place has a few of the weirder ones.”
I end up grabbing him by the shoulders in my excitement.
“Tell me more about this… pizza.”