Hubris

He swiped his tongue across his lips. Gathering every tiny morsel that lingered there. Every droplet. Relishing the sweetness. Sticky and exquisite.

He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth and studied the scarlet smear left behind. How he loved the colour. Its deep intensity. The rich redness. He licked at the stain on his skin and breathed out a satisfied sigh.

Another victim was placed before him.

This one was paler than the last. But still beautiful.

His jaws opened wide, and he sunk his teeth in.

Warmth exploded in his mouth, and he smiled as a trickle of thick liquid dribbled down his chin and splashed onto the ground. A vibrant ruby dot on the grey concrete.

How long had he been living for this? This ecstasy. Had it been ten years? Twelve?

No, more.

Fifteen, at least. Yet the rush never left him. The euphoria of the conquest.

He reflected on his first time.

He had done it for her. He would have done anything for her. Anything she asked. He thought he loved her. That he needed nothing else. Until he committed to his first bite. Until he tasted that first triumph.

On that day he was changed forever.

And now he was the master. The king.

He closed his eyes, gloating at his power, and sunk his fingers into the ragged hole left by his teeth, desperate to feel the viscid of what lay inside—scoop it out and lick his fingers clean.

A gasp filled the auditorium.

His eyes snapped open, and he looked around at the sea of stunned faces.

What had he done?

As he stared at his hand, buried in the pastry with thick red goo oozing between his knuckles, the PA system crackled to life.

“Ladies and gentlemen. We have a shock disqualification. Under the rules of the international pie eating association, competitors must only touch the pie with their mouths. Which means, after a nine-year run, we have a new world champion.”

The press jumped to their feet and a mass of flashlights exploded.

Billy blinked, trying to clear the black spots from in front of his eyes. He turned towards his competitor—his fingers still buried in the crust and cherry filling.

The other man’s jaw was hanging—his own hands behind his back and food smeared across his face. “Dude,” was all the man could say.

Heat rushed Billy’s cheeks as he pulled his hand from the crumbling pie.

He had lost.

Six pies in and he forgot where he was, he forgot what he was doing, he let his mind wander and his concentration slip, and he lost.

He thought he was unbeatable. But he lost.

In one swift movement, he flipped the table over.

Jeers filled the room as empty pie tins tumbled and crashed to the floor—crumbs and jam splashing into the laps of the judges in the front row.

Billy stood, his chest rising and falling with deep, panicked breaths as the audience looked at him with wide, judgemental eyes.

He was no longer world champion.

He was no longer the master.

He was no longer king.

He had lost – and now he was nothing.

Again.

© Amy Hutton 2021

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