Kraft by Z.K. Abraham

Macaroni and cheese isn’t real food. She learns this by adolescence, as one of many rules. There are things that should fill her up (motherly desire, raw beets, a single dick) and things that shouldn’t (dildos or ants, snack machine foods or carbs, frappucinos & carbs). But the hole in her howls and howls and howls, sometimes so loud she can’t sleep.

Macaroni and cheese isn’t real food, but she needs to be filled up.

This is the beginning of the contamination. She won’t realize this until later. Sat on the edge of a twin bed, waiting for water to boil in a kettle. The squeal of steam. Clinking macaroni, hard against ceramic. Bright yellow chalk that curdles to life with hot water. Freshman year passes in this Mac and cheese haze.

She eats Mac and cheese while rewinding VHS tapes. She searches the footage. What did Felicity eat in her 1999 dorm room in the lower east side during the second season of Felicity? Yes, remember that scene, Felicity is eating something that looks like Mac and cheese. If she existed in the world of Felicity, she and Felicity would dance with joy and eat Mac and cheese in sepia tones. Keyla, her sister says, you like that white people TV. No more trash boxed cheese shit! How about a little love, just like grandma used to do. You aren’t better than us. Wait, I see, you know that. She stares at the screen while she eats. An unwashed bowl attracts a trail of ants out of the corner of her eye.

Fake cheese is a staple of modern living, but she should be better than this. Be filling herself with things of a greater and finer substance. She and her siblings used to gobble up American cheese, that rubbery, refined goodness. Macaroni and cheese isn’t real food, her father barked. But it was savory and sweet, pastel-rich and chemical-bright, hitting their mouths with endless flavor that sat orange on the tongue for hours. Her brother was a sneaky little brat and always got extra. No, wait. She was the child always begging for more Mac and cheese, begging for more warmth and comfort. At night she’d sneak down into the dark kitchen and sprinkle that tiger-bright dust onto her tongue.

At least, she could try and be like Diane. Diane from school who now has three kids, and makes Mac and cheese with gluten-extracted pasta, nutritional yeast and a puree of butternut squash, cauliflower, onion replacing the gooey lava.

Her bouts of Mac and cheese consumption often bloom in early spring, or descend as the last crimson leaves fall from the trees, or late night after three shots of tequila. Times of melancholic transition, hunger and decay. That ache, maybe it’s in her bones, crying out for calcium, iron, pennies, dirt, coffee grounds and vending machine creamies. And Mac and cheese. She consumes vast amounts of it. She examines the ingredients off used boxes stacked in her trash bin: skim milk, milk, milk protein concentrate, milkfat.

Mac and cheese seeps out of her pores. Powdered cheese gets caught in her eyelashes and mixes with her tears, forming a congealed goo that sometimes keeps her eyelids stuck together. Her head is light with pop nutrition.

She can’t stop running through ingredients. Canola oil, maltodextrin, salt, cheese culture. Which one is the key component, the one to satisfy this craving?

She’s nostalgic; she wants to consume her lost innocence. Sometimes, she eats slowly, crushed and quivering noodle bits circling in her mouth, but sometimes she eats quickly and with desperation, whole noodles sliding down her gullet. The hole inside her weeps. She can’t find it exactly, only hear it, only feel it. Where is it, that cavern of empty static she is trying to fill with memory, color, this lemon brilliance?

While eating Mac and cheese, she watches tv all day, then into the night. Her head is loopy. The TV plays advertisements from when she was a child. Flashing primary colors, jangling music, kids in over-sized t-shirts and flannels, eyes-wide as they eat from their bowls of brand-name Mac and cheese. Mom and Dad, can I get some more?

Tearing the cardboard, ripping the powder satchel, over and over. Her stomach aches. Mac and cheese isn’t real food, it’s a ritual. Particles of cheese smell like desiccated flowers in her nose, like the sweet underbelly of delusion. Noodles shiver in the water, then swell, becoming turgid. Sprinkle the powder on the floor and wait for the insects to emerge. Wait for the feast. 

Mac and cheese is just a collection of molecules, organic chemistry. She loses perspective. Everything is just molecules. She keeps consuming. The ants keep on eating and that is good.

It is a new era. Why not, she thinks, eat your fill. She sits on the couch in her living room and loses track of the time and season. She feels ants trail over her feet, following the long path of the cheese granules. Out the window, she sees a branch heavy with lilac flowers, illuminated by the sunrise. Her cheeks are freckled in a fragrant dust. The TV plays and she sees herself eat Mac and cheese on the screen. She looks rosy and golden. Her face is awash in light, covered in amber speckles.

She makes one box, then another. She buys a huge pot. Noodles plop in rhythm into the water. Noodles swell. Soon all the pots and pans are filled with Mac and cheese, and all the bowls, plates and cups too. She can only smell that particular yellow now, a yellow of flesh, thick blood, tender skin. All the containers overflow, as well as the sink, the bathtub, her shoes. Her entire apartment’s fulfilled with Mac and cheese. She can’t see herself in mirror. She can’t move. She pees in this Mac and cheese pool. Full to the brim. Right now, there is no hunger left.


Z. K. Abraham (she/her) is a writer and psychiatrist. She has been published in/has worth forthcoming in Clarkesworld, Necessary Fiction, JMWW, Fantasy Magazine, Podcastle, and more. She is completing the Tin House Online Winter Workshop in winter 2024. She is represented by C. L. Geisler at ArtHouse Literary Agency. She can be found at, Twitter @pegasusunder1, and bluesky @pegasusunder.