This is a collaborative experiment, where a bunch of us WritingPrompt writers try to build an exquisite corpse of a story.
The footsteps got closer.
A distorted silhouette. A box on wheels. A woman.
As he tried to figure out who this approaching figure was, he realized -- he hadn't even figured out who he was. What the hell is his name? Did he have a wife and kids before all this happened? Would he even want a wife? Was he even straight? And why did he keep thinking about that stupid backpack?
The woman with the cart stopped in front of his cage.
She looked down at him, smiling, squinting. He could feel the cart's warmth. The steam rising up from it made the woman's face look like her skin was rippling. She opens the cart. She pulls out a plate of hot food, pushes it through a small horizontal slot in the cage, and says...
"Orange chicken! Yummy Yummy! You so skinny. Eat! Eat!"
Also, she wasn't squinting.
He felt bad for thinking that, now. He took the plate. Maybe he wasn't a normal family man before all this. It's completely possible he was a total racist. Or a serial killer. Or a subprime mortgage broker. Whatever he was, it sure seemed he was being punished for something.
The woman also passes him a pair of chopsticks, and to his surprise, he's somehow good at using them. He eats the chicken. Tiny chunks of meat coated in a savory-sweet sauce. All things considered, it actually tasted pretty nice. Maybe this food would help jog his memory and he would rememb--
His name was Brian.
He was hiking in the woods with his backpack, before he blacked out.
His name was Bill.
He was carrying textbooks across campus in his backpack, before he blacked out.
His name was Betty.
He was a single mother, placing an apple into his daughter's backpack, before he blacked out.
B. Backpack. Blackout.
B, now that he decided to name himself B, was stunned. Slack-jawed. A piece of half-chewed chicken fell from his mouth.
"You like orange chicken? Yum yum?"
"Yes." B was shocked by the smooth silky sound of his own voice. "Yum yum."
"Good! We have more on menu. Come, order more!"
"Excuse me, but... Who are you? Who am I?"
"Ai-yaaaaa, just call me Aunty. And you... are skinny! Here!"
Aunty passed the unusually thick menu through the bars. B still had many questions, now including whether Aunty's real name also started with B, but for now, he was still starving. B flipped open the menu. Of course. It's all in Chinese.
Which... he could read.
He wasn't sure how all these foreign hieroglyphics automatically translated into meaning for him, but now that he thinks about it, the same could be said for a set of 26 symbols with occasional spaces and dots. But although the meaning of the words was immediately obvious, the meaning behind the literal meanings did not strike him until much later. B kept reading.
"Mushrooms. Found in the mossy forest."
"Young veal. Very smart and studious." Wait...
"Mother cow. Feeds apple to her calf every morning." Is this...
B looked down at the pieces of orange chicken he just ate. He didn't dare swallow. He jolted his head up towards Aunty. His eyes had an expression between a captive begging for mercy, and a dog begging for dinner scraps.
"You want Daily Special?"
Writing Notes: - I really love the mix of silly/serious I got going on here! - Picking up on throwaway details from Part One, such as the Chinese Restaurant and the backpack. - May have made the connection between the past lives and the food too subtle, coz the next writer + one commentor did not get it.