Diana Hauer

“I crave something… extreme. Awe-inspiring. Powerful.”

Sandra looked up from the half-frosted three-layer cake. “Sure, I’ll be with you in just a moment.” She set her spatula aside and cycled through the readouts for each layer of the Perfect Autumn Day. Virtual numbers superimposed themselves over the cake as though projected on a pane of glass only she could see. They showed her the balance of each segment: temperature, humidity, air pressure, and so on. The first layer had thick morning fog that was gradually banished by sun. The second layer was a crisp, cool afternoon with sparse clouds. Sunlight would kiss the earth and ward off the chill. Evening, the third layer, brought clouds in slowly to make a spectacular sunset and keep the day’s heat from bleeding off into the atmosphere. The code was interwoven through a carrot cake matrix and topped with cream cheese initiation frosting. More frosting served as filling to make the transitions between the segments move smoothly. This was the most complex weather pastry she had ever created. Sandra hoped her mentor, Weatherman Fawkes, would be pleased. His standards were forbiddingly high. With hard work, he might judge her ready for the Journeyman test in a year.

After she wiped her hands, Sandra smiled and turned to look at her customer. Spiky hair, piercings, chains and metal spikes all over his clothes. Tattooed lightning crept out from under his shirt and climbed partway up his neck, as if it was trying to strangle him. He made a beeline for the storm section.

“What did you have in mind?” asked Sandra as she walked over to the case that housed their most complex weather concoctions. “We have Sandstorm Soufflé if your reality pocket has arid settings, or Blizzard Baked Alaska if you favor cold. Either of those set things up nicely for sandsurfing or snowboarding after the weather program ends.”

He tugged at the ear gauge that expanded his earlobe as large as a mouse’s hula hoop. “Not enough.”

She forced herself to keep smiling and tried not to groan. Master Fawkes had warned her about this sort of customer. “I am required by law to advise you that all of the goods at Weatherman’s Bakery are intended for safe, recreational use in your private reality pocket, with proper precautions and shelter in place before activation.” That warning had been instituted after someone unleashed a giant-sized lightning storm in a small reality bubble, not even a pocket. It was basically a grassy field with some sky. And every school child knows that lightning seeks out the tallest thing to ground itself.

Black fingernails released the earlobe to flick dismissively in Sandra’s direction as the customer peered into the Wild Weather Case.

“You have to sign a waiver and safety agreement before I can sell you anything from that case,” she said, holding grimly to the bright smile and professional demeanor that Weatherman Fawkes had drilled into her in the first week of her apprenticeship.

‘Tyr Typhoonmaster’ signed without bothering to read the document. Sandra had a sinking feeling she knew what he wanted.

“I want a hurricane.” He licked his lips. “A wicked one.”

Sandra gestured at a tall, elegant creation. “Hurricane Flower Cake.” Layers of spun sugar wound around each other like petals. White in the outer layer, the petals darkened gradually as they went deeper. The innermost layer of the flower was storm-cloud gray, so dark it was almost black. “Vanilla cake with black raspberry filling. The deeper you cut, the stronger the storm. Outermost layers are a tropical storm, if you cut all the way to the middle it will be Category 3.”

Tyr placed both palms on the case and leaned in so close that his breath fogged the glass. “What if I cut it in half?”

Sandra swallowed hard. “Category 5 hurricane, but we don’t recommend that.”

“Does it come with lightning? I want lots of lightning. Ball lightning, if you have it.”

“Not in this cake, but we do have Banana Crème Thunderstorm Pie. The two should be compatible if you don’t cut more than halfway through either.”

“I want them together.”

“That would be a special order. Would you like me to get one started?”

The entry bell chimed as Mrs. Johnson and her four-year-old son walked into the bakery.

Sandra shot her a sincere smile and a nod. “I’ll be right with you.”

Mrs. Johnson took Peter by the hand and went over to browse the Lovely Day Case.

“Can’t you just add them as sprinkles or something?” asked Tyr.

Sandra shook her head. “Each weather confection is a delicate balance. If it was a Sunshine Bun, no problem. They’re simple; just sunlight, flour, water, and sugar. A hurricane pastry combines pressure, humidity, and a dozen other factors. Altering a finished item of that complexity could make the whole thing collapse in a mess of corrupted code and frosting. I do have some Ball Lightning Cupcakes, though. They require the presence of cumulonimbus clouds, such as from the Thunderstorm Pie or one of the tornado items.”

“Oh, all right.” Tyr pouted. It was not a good look with the tattoos and chains. “I’ll take hurricane, thunderstorm, and Ball Lightning.”

“I’ll have those right out to you.”

Sandra boxed up Tyr’s order and activated the items. As she rang him up, she smirked inwardly at the black-clad punk guy carrying pink boxes around. Tyr didn’t notice. He had eyes only for the storms.

“What will it be today, Mrs. Johnson? A few hours of sunshine?” After a questioning glance at his mother, Sandra slipped Peter a plain sugar cookie to chew on. Tiny clouds materialized in front of him. He giggled and batted at them with the hand that wasn’t holding the slobbery cookie.

As Mrs. Johnson debated the cheaper options (with effects lasting one to three hours, small to medium coverage) versus the more expensive and complex options (four hours minimum, large enough to fill extra-large reality pockets), Sandra realized that she hadn’t heard the door chime when Tyr left. She stood on her tiptoes and looked around. Tyr was in the corner, hunched over one of the display tables. Was he rearranging his boxes so they would be easier to carry?

Sandra walked towards the door to get a better look. The cookie boxes she had arranged yesterday were now shoved off to the side. Empty, pink boxes were on the floor. She froze for a moment to consider the implications, then ran for the gate between the cases. “Sir, what are you doing? I must insist you stop right now.”

Air pressure dropped. Humidity rose.

Tyr turned to her and grinned. He set the cupcake atop the pie, which was sitting atop the cake, making a baked pyramid. The pie had disturbed the cake frosting, starting the hurricane program.

Sandra flicked her wrist to activate her VR weather code programs, desperately hurling cancellation codes at the cake. The display flashed red. She was too far away to affect the goods on the table. Tyr drew a large knife and grinned at her.

“You can’t activate a major weather effect in shared reality!” screamed Sandra, forcing herself to breathe so that she didn’t choke on panic. “Weatherman, help!”

Tyr raised his knife and cut straight down through the pastries. Frosting and cake exploded everywhere as three distinct weather programs activated at once. Sandra could see the code, carefully infused in the matrix of each delicious confection, unfurl chaotically, mixing and merging in unintended ways. The bakery ceiling disappeared behind a layer of storm clouds, pregnant with rain and ready to birth lightning.

Sandra swore. Avoiding indoor manifestations of major weather was one of the first safety rules taught to a would-be Weatherperson; right after making sure effects activated discretely, one at a time, to avoid precisely what she was witnessing now. The air pressure plummeted, and winds whipped through the store. They hit walls, bounced off, then circled around, taking the clouds with them.

Tyr spun and capered, cackling in ecstasy. He raised his arms to the clouds as if inviting the lightning to take him. Naturally-formed hurricanes took hours to build up. Indoors, everything was condensed and concentrated. She and the customers were about to be right in the middle of it. Weatherman Fawkes was in the back room. Sandra didn’t know if he’d heard her yell. Hopefully he would hear the storm; her mentor tended to play music while he worked.

Mrs. Johnson and her son huddled against the Wild Weather Case. Whether they had been blown there or were trying to take shelter in the shallow overhang. It was about the worst place they could be. If the case shattered, shards of glass could cut into the pastries as well as the people. The more dangerous baked goods in were kept inert until sold, but the buns and cheaper items were active. If their case broke, Tyr’s “perfect storm” would seem like a pleasant Spring day by comparison.

Or a perfect Autumn day…

Sandra stopped trying to fight the wind and let it shove her back into the employee area. She snagged a doorknob and struggled with the kitchen door, but the wind and pressure held it shut. Probably the door to the Weatherman’s workroom, too, she realized. She fought her way behind the cases, crawling over debris, dragging herself to the rear of the weatherbun case. Sandra yanked open the door, scooped some buns into her apron, and slammed the door shut before the wind could wreak havoc with the rest of the contents. She scrambled over to her worktable and was relieved to see that her half-decorated cake was untouched behind its work shield. She flipped open the cover and hurriedly set two Sunshine Buns and two Windcalm Buns on the top. Habit and training made her arrange them symmetrically, so the cake would look nice.

Slamming a plastic display dome over the cake to protect it, Sandra curled her body forward as she struggled forward against the unpredictable winds that battered her like the world’s largest cake mixer. Cake mixers always miss a little bit on the bottom and the sides, Sandra realized, and she dropped to her hands and knees. She crawled with one arm wrapped protectively around her little carrot cake, inching her way towards Mrs. Johnson and Peter. The wind roared between them. Gusts ripped at Sandra’s hair and clothes, threatening to sweep her away. Time for desperate measures.

She pulled a Windcalm Bun out of her apron pocket and ripped it open with her teeth, praying that she wasn’t making things worse by adding more code to this debacle. The air around her instantly stilled, but she could see the code clashing and roiling as effects fought against each other. The weatherbun’s effect was no match for the complex cake and pie systems. They started to rip it away like layers of phyllo dough off a baklava.

Sandra got to Mrs. Johnson and Peter just as the storm systems finished devouring her little bubble of calm. There was no time for finesse. She set the cake between the three of them, flipped the cover off, and ripped it and the buns apart with her bare hands.

Calm burst out from the cake like the opposite of a bomb blast. The riot of wind and clouds immediately stilled and started to disperse…on her side of the bakery. Fog swallowed the view from the windows outside. Sandra heard pounding on the door – Weatherman Fawkes trying to get into the bakery. Ugly purple clouds swirled faster and tighter on the other side of the room, between her and the front door. Her program dueled with the storm, order against chaos, a momentary stalemate. Sandra pulled up her control panel and desperately twisted the weather code, urging the storm towards the front of the bakery, clearing a path.

Autumn sunlight broke through the clouds and caressed the workroom door. It burst open. Weatherman Fawkes stood scowling in the doorway. His long, gray hair had escaped its usual tight braid, and his thick, bushy eyebrows cast shadows over his eyes as he surveyed the scene through his glower.

Tyr was standing on the edge of the two systems, one side in the calm, the other in the storm. “Isn’t this amazing?” he yelled. His eyes were open wide, wind and rain plastered his clothing against his skinny body. “I am the lightning god!”

Weatherman Fawkes laughed as his fingers twitched, tapping intricate commands into his VR control panel. Sandra couldn’t see what he was doing. Her panel was apprentice-level; whatever he was doing was far beyond her skills.

“Rudolph, is that you?” bellowed the old man. The wind was starting to pick up again, blowing his baker’s apron behind him. Sandra could see the code of her Autumn Day shredding under the power of the storm. The bubble of calm was shrinking fast. “I hoped I’d be the one to bring you down, lunatic. Now here you are, in my bakery.” Weatherman Fawkes laughed and strode forward, unconcerned as the clouds closed in on him. “And it’s not even my birthday!”

Wind recoiled from the Weatherman’s scowl. The dark, angry clouds cringed away like frightened puppies. They huddled in corners, as far from the angry Weatherman as they could get, until he dispersed them with a wave of his hand.

Tyr/Rudolph snapped out of his ecstatic trance and turned to flee. Weatherman Fawkes raised a Lightning Cupcake to his lips. He must have snagged it from the case on his way by, thought Sandra. He bit into it when Tyr was almost at the door. Sandra watched in awe as the weatherman activated the cupcake while spinning code to simultaneously direct and weaken the bolt of electricity that struck Tyr. The sodden punk collapsed in a heap.

Weatherman Fawkes turned to consider the weather programs still battling for supremacy in his bakery. With a few deft swipes, he enhanced Sandra’s Perfect Autumn Day code, spreading its influence to every corner of the bakery. It wiped away the gathering storm and fog as if they never existed.

“I’ll call the Weather Authority, explain what happened and have them send someone to pick up Rudolph, there.” He jerked his head at Tyr, still twitching on the ground. “If you ever wondered what happens when an apprentice Weatherperson goes bad, there you go. Rudy was my greatest failure.”

Weatherman Fawkes looked at the windblown shambles that was his bakery. “Close the store and get started on this mess, Journeyman. I’ll be out to help once I finish my call.” He grimaced. “Believe me, yours is the easier task.”

Sandra gaped at him. “J-journeyman? But Master Fawkes, I haven’t tested. I’ve barely finished half of my apprenticeship!”

The old man looked over his shoulder and gave her one of his rare, true smiles. “I’m promoting you to Journeyman, because if this doesn’t count as a field test, I don’t know what does. At any rate, see to Mrs. Johnson and then get to work. I’ll cook something nice to celebrate later.”

Sandra beamed after him. “And maybe I’ll make dessert,” she said softly.

She helped Mrs. Johnson up from the floor and fetched towels from the kitchen to dry them off. Peter sobbed, wet and miserable, until Sandra handed him a Sunshine Bun. “Thank you, Weatherwoman,” said Mrs. Johnson as she basked in the warm sunbeams.

“Someday,” said Sandra wistfully, “but today I’m just a Journeyman Weatherperson. Can I wrap you up something warm before you go?”

“I think we’ve had enough of weather systems for a while, said Mrs. Johnson as she wrung her clothing. “But I’ll take a dozen Sunshine Buns.”

“On the house,” said Sandra. “Have a lovely day!”





“Weatherbuns”  ©  Diana Hauer  2017.  This is its first publication.
Diana Hauer is a writer of words both technical and fantastical.  She lives in Beaverton, Oregon, with a dog and a fiance, both of whom she adores. When she’s not writing, she enjoys gardening, reading, gaming, and martial arts.

“Cinnamon Twister”  photomaniopulation by Fran Eisemann
Stock Used:
“What a Coincidence”   by Pinky19295
“California Thunderstorm”  by  David Mark, ‘tpsdave” Alcoa, Tennessee
“Restaurant Dessert Case”  by  Fantasystock
background images:
“Galway decorated cake 3″  by  Fantasystock
Clouds and Sea, lightning storm, from Pixabay

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