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The Baking Games

A utopian baking challenge

By Scott ChristensonPublished 3 months ago 5 min read

In 2047, Deshpande, the world’s top baking judge, walked over to the table where the four chefs had carefully positioned their entries.

“Strawberry shortcake, the cake presented to President Post Malone for his inauguration, given to every school child on their birthday. The cake that represents complete worldwide equality, all thanks to Aurora!” He said, then bowed just slightly to the four contestants and to the cameras.

Jessica looked on nervously as the leading authority studied their cakes—four strawberry shortcakes, all looking absolutely wonderfully identical.

The cameras panned upward, the cakes spiraling into the heavens, before returning to Deshpande’s smiling face

“Thanks to Aurora, the people of Earth no longer need to work. We can devote our time to our artistic passions.” Deshpande winked at the cameras. “And I, to giving long expository speeches.”

His commentary was sure to be stuffed with baking puns. It always was.

“Time to take a bite of the cakes. Let’s see if our bakers have risen to the occasion!”

Jessica held a frozen smile for the cameras.

Walking gaily to the judging table, he exclaimed, “I think I am on a roll.”

Jessica laughed as if it was the funniest pun she had ever heard. Since childhood, Aurora had taught her to always give positive feedback.

The scourge of extreme positivity was everywhere.

Before the final, co-contestant Meredith, after she pretended to eat Jessica’s cake, told her, “OMG! This is the best cake I’ve ever tasted!” despite the fork not even touching her lips.

Follow your artistic passion, Aurora urged Jessica when she was young. But now, she had been baking the same cake over and over, following the same recipe, for years. Making anything else was sure to upset the others. Where is the creativity in that? She wondered why the AI, Aurora, didn’t bake all the cakes the way it created everything else.

Contestant #1

Deshpande took a bite of the first cake.

“This isn’t a cake baked well,” he said, looking glum and holding a pregnant pause. “This is a cake baked to perfection!” Deshpande beamed smiling.

The display showed a 9.99.

He was the world’s top cake critic, but there was never much criticism. Scores ranged from 9.97 to 10.00.

Deshpande cleaned his teeth with a wooden toothpick, one he kept in his shirt pocket. In 2047, pretensions of any sort were not allowed. But even Aurora couldn’t determine why a $0.01 toothpick was ostentious, even though everyone in the audience knew it was.

Affectations were frowned upon because everyone was happier that way. Thanks to Aurora, the world had reached perfect equality, and then went even further, with intelligent wealth redistribution.

For example, last week, a cold front struck Alberta. The people of Alberta were awarded $27.34 to compensate for their hardship. Keeping the world perfectly fair was a full-time job. Luckily, Aurora never slept.

Contestant #2

Deshpande studied the second strawberry shortcake on the judging table. “Every cake the same. That’s the way we like it.”

He ate a forkful, and his expression fell into one of deep concentration. The audience held their breath.

“Some cakes are merely a simulacrum of what a strawberry shortcake should be...but not this one!”

A score of 9.98 flashed on the overhead display.

Contestant #3

Deshpande cleaned his teeth with his famous toothpick, and took a deep breath.

"I'm a whisk taker when it comes to baking cakes," he quipped. "Let's see what we have next."

He dug into the cake and had a nibble. After tasting this third cake of the day, Deshpande looked bored. He body appeared pained to stir himself to say something fresh and positive.

“It’s as if, you blundered through a quick précis of what a strawberry cake should be, and have come up with something amazing!”

The score was a low 9.97.

Contestant #4

Deshpande looked at Jessica. “Last but not least, Jessica Kao from Seattle, your family must be proud of you. And Aurora has told me of your rebellious childhood before you began baking.”

“Thank you!” Jessica said, with all the fake confidence she could muster. “Another person might say being here isn’t what it’s baked up to be. But my mother says I always rise to the occasion.”

He cocked his head ever slightly, looking at Jessica with a fresh spark of interest. He took out a fork and sampled her cake.

“This cake is not great,” he said, “it is simply superb! Shall I dare to break my diet and take another bite?”

His famous gaze fell upon her. She nodded, and he moved his fork to take another mouthful.

“The delicateness of this cake, it is simply–”

He stopped mid-sentence, his face contorting into one of displeasure. Opening his mouth, full of half-eaten frosting, his fingers searched for something. Television viewers were horrified as they watched a close-up of his fingers, cake, and the inside of his mouth.

With two food covered fingers, he pulled something out.

“It is a toothpick,” he said. “Inside of your cake!” Anger rose in his voice. “What do you have to say for yourself?”

The audience were stunned into silence.

“At least you felt something,” Jessica sneered at the world’s greatest food critic.

Deshpande contemplated that, his face deep in thought from the aftertaste of a contestant acting differently.

He tilted his head, hearing something in his earpiece. And then looked back at the audience.

“This is so unfortunate for Jessica. We wish we could reward her 10.00 for effort, as effort is what counts, but sadly she will receive a 9.96.”

The crowd gasped in collective astonishment at her historically low score.

The winners took their prizes. Ethan in first place, Isabella in second, Meredith in third. They each received macaroons, all the same flavor, for winning the World’s Biggest Bake Off.

She bit into the cookie and felt a toothpick stuck in her teeth. Pulling it out, she looked up, Deshpande winked back at her.

She nodded.

Deshpande grasped the microphone. “As a consolation prize for losing the World's Biggest Bake Off, I’d like to announce Jessica Kao will be added to next year’s judging panel.”

She was already planning how she would fly under Aurora's radar, to add a spirit of individuality back to the world, just as she realized Deshpande was doing all along.

Sci Fi

About the Creator

Scott Christenson

Born and raised in Milwaukee WI, living in Hong Kong. Hoping to share some of my experiences w short story & non-fiction writing. Have a few shortlisted on Reedsy:

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Comments (8)

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  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarran3 months ago

    Hahahahahahhahahaha that $27.43 compensation!! Lol I loved how Jessica made it to the judging panel!

  • Kageno Hoshino3 months ago

    brilliantly humorous, nice job

  • Sid Aaron Hirji3 months ago

    haha referencing Alberta too and a measly compensation. The judge giving out such high scores cracks me up. Good one

  • This is brilliant Scott! Not only does this scream of one of my nightmares of the Future, but also expresses that Hope of what we would see from humans if that nightmare ever came to pass!

  • JBaz3 months ago

    Post Malone….27 bucks for compensation…lol I like your twisted sense of humor

  • Lamar Wiggins3 months ago

    I watched this play out I’m my head. I love cooking shows and this one takes the ‘cake’ for being the most bizarre. Loved it!

  • D. J. Reddall3 months ago

    A deceptively sweet dystopia featuring a reference to Alberta?!? Delicious!

  • A reworking of a story I wrote for a 2-day writing competition, that poses some questions about what the world would be like if AI makes everyone perfectly equal (and might that just be boring if it went too far?)

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