Taco Bell Quarterly publishes writing and art that contain a reference to Taco Bell. I submitted back in June and received my (very encouraging) rejection today. I thought I’d share my submission here. It was written in the dark period when Mexican Pizzas were taken off the menu only to return for, like, half a day. I hope you enjoy!
Sometimes he looked at the stars and sometimes he slept. But sleep didn’t come easy; he tossed and turned, cried out like a newly-whelped pup. And when he did manage to keep his eyes from springing open, he’d wake with the taste of beans still on his tongue, a taunting kiss from a dream.
So it was easier to stargaze, to set up his big telescope in the dark corner of the lawn and scan the sky. He’d visit his favorite constellations, familiar old friends, and his heart would stutter when a satellite streaked by. He was waiting for something to happen. He was waiting for rapture.
He was hurting, wanting, quaking all over with an insatiable need. Two years of suffering had left him hollow and indifferent. He swiveled the telescope around on its tripod, looking for an asteroid. The only thing that excited him anymore was annihilation. Annihilation and Mexican Pizza.
You see, they’d taken it away from him. Discontinued, its absence leaving more than his stomach empty.
But like Halley’s Comet it had returned, briefly shining. So he waited in line with the rest of them, sweat trickling down the back of his neck. And when he at last laid his hands upon the counter and spoke his heart’s desire, the man in the visor frowned at him. “Man, that’s been sold out since eleven. What else you want?”
His mouth gaped open and a prickling heat spread across his body. He didn’t remember leaving, didn’t remember the drive home. Everything after was a bright white gash.
And so now he sat in the dark, wheeling the telescope around, void looking into void.
The night was like any other. A cold, algae-scented breeze blew in from across the lake, but he didn’t shiver, didn’t even register the wind but for the way it pushed his hair in front of his eyes, obscuring his view. He tucked the strand behind his ear and pressed his brow to the eyepiece once more. He visited Cassiopeia, Ursa Minor. They hung firm in the dark, but a lightness was blossoming in the east and soon he’d have to slink back to the house, defeated.
“Come on,” he said, growing frantic. “Show me something.”
He didn’t know how many more nights like this he could take.
He stood, dismantled the telescope, and tucked it under his arm without replacing the lens caps. He didn’t care. He’d let dust settle on the convex glass. At least he’d have something to look at.
Standing on the deck, he turned one last time to bid the night goodbye.
And that’s when he smelled it.
A mild spice, melted cheese, the earthen scent of beans. It was unmistakable. His mouth flooded in response, Pavlovian and right. He whipped around, searching for the source. A morning bird trilled in the distance. But for the smell, everything was devastatingly normal. It didn’t make sense.
At first the sound could have been mistaken for another bird, distressed at having lost its fledgling in the night. But the high-pitched scream grew, turned into a holy whirring. The smell was overwhelming now, heavy, almost palpable. He choked on it and his eyes watered.
“Where are you?” he yelled. He knew he was going mad. He knew something had broken inside of him, but he didn’t mind. Let this be his last semi-lucid memory. He’d gratefully carry it with him into lunacy.
A smudge marred the horizon and his hair stood on end. It was coming.
The disc approached from the north, spinning silent and slow. He watched in wonder, mouth gaping once more, and the telescope fell from beneath his arm. He heard a vague shattering, but it was far away, another life. Not for him.
The object hovered above him and he fell to his knees. It was massive, nearly the size of his house. The texture of the crisp flour shell was clearly visible in the half-dark. He raised his arms, reaching toward the shell. “Take me,” he whispered. “Take me.”
The pizza tilted in response, a nod to the man who yearned.
Red sauce dripped upon his face, mingling with his tears.