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Mangoom (Bryan Hinojosa-Lafayette, LA)



“Thank the God,” whispered Elias, opening the rusted trunk he had recently uncovered from a pile of dust-covered rubble, “Food!” There were tins: some crushed in upon themselves, missing labels;
large ones with beans, red and white; smaller ones with yellow slivers and white hemispheres: canned fruit, the only form of the food Elias had ever known; and smaller, flatter tins of fish meat, an animal Elias had never seen. Medical supplies and other inedible detritus littered the rear of the trunk.
This type of thing had happened long ago, even to his own group, and stories of such occurrences had been told around campfires often and dreamt about innumerable times. But this time it was happening to him: Elias had actually found a forgotten cache!
He turned to go deliver the incredible news, but the movement prompted an event which was infrequent in his life: he caught a glint. In this world of dun earth and gray skies, where shimmers were rare enough (unless one included the rainbow coruscations of the oily sheen that covered most bodies of water), a sparkle was enough to cause Elias to drop to his knees, digging through the trunk, seeking the source of the glitter.
He found it: a flat package, square, four inch by four inch, containing a round object. The wrapping was of a shimmering material that he had once, long ago, heard called “foil.” It was golden, a color that he couldn't name, hadn't really seen before. Elias marveled, smiling as the small item scintillated in the dim light. It was a relic of halcyon days, times of plenty, when people actually produced beautiful items, materials, like this “foil,” that were meant to be simply discarded after a single use.
Reverentially, as a priest would mouth the forbidden name of a god, Elias whispered “Candy.”
He had only eaten candy once, long ago, in celebration of some holy day no longer commemorated. An elder in his group had brought out several handfuls of goodies. There was chocolate, whose color was that of soil many feet down. It smelled of pleasant, dimly-remembered times, and it tasted deeper than any sleep Elias had slept, and twice as dark.
He handled the shimmering package, caressing it. No, he thought, it's not chocolate. Chocolate was hard, yet soft, pliable, malleable, and it melted into silk. This thing was squishy springy, flexing and bending, then returning to its normal shape. He remembered another type of candy: gummies, brightly-colored, in the shape of now-extinct animals, possessing flavors he instinctively knew to be those of artificial fruit. He remember sucking on one for hours, rolling it around his palate, until just a flavorless lump of waxen material was left, and he remembered pieces that stuck in his teeth, which still tasted good after being picked out.
Elias looked in the direction of his group and then back down at his find. Even with just a third of the food in the trunk, he was giving them a feast, unlike anything they had had in years. Even without this piece of candy, he would be remembered as a hero. No one would notice. Not this small, minuscule thing. And, it might be the last piece of candy. Ever.
Elias had been taught his letters, but when most writing he had encountered was dedicated to navigating a dying world. He hadn't much need for reading, and had practiced little. Regardless, he wanted to know this thing's name, to speak it. He spelled out the word in block letters on the front of the package as if it were a communication from divinity: “M.A.G.N.U.M.” Elias said the word aloud, almost tasting it, “Mangoom.”
With trembling fingers, Elias tore open the package.

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