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Bakes to Die For

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EXT. — THE BAKE OFF TENT

An endless dark void stretches out in all directions around the tent. In front of the tent we see Mel and Sue. A limbo game has been set up, and Sue is attempting to shimmy underneath the stick.

 

SUE

(rhythmically) How low can you go? How low can you go?

 

Mel appears bemused and perhaps concerned.

 

MEL

Are you—are you quite alright?

 

Sue collapses to her knees after passing under the limbo stick and looks up.

 

SUE

Yes! I’m just getting ready for today! We’re supposed to be doing the limbo!

 

MEL

Ah. I see. Actually… We’re not doing the limbo. We’re in Limbo. As in the void between life and death. The End of Time And Space, you know, all of that.

 

SUE

Oh.

 

MEL

Yes.

 

SUE

I see. So you’re saying I’ve put my back out for nothing.

 

MEL

I’m afraid so.

 

SUE

(sighs) Well, on the bright side, at least there’ll be cake!

 

Both look up and into the camera.

 

MEL & SUE

Welcome...to the Great British Bake Off!

 

Cheerful violins play as the camera pulls back into a wide shot of Mel & Sue in front of the tent, dwarfed by the infinite void. We cut to a shot panning the inside of the tent, the benches standing neat and ready for the bakers to arrive.

 

MEL (Voiceover)

Last week on the Great British Bake Off… is irrelevant, since time is a flat circle and we are currently in the space in between universes, which is even harder to reach than Aberystwyth by train on a Sunday!

 

We cut back to the exterior of the tent. Two figures approach: one an elderly woman, the other the actual personification of death, the Grim Reaper.

 

MEL (V.O.)

Today in the tent, we have just two bakers, but it’s a contest for the ages.

 

Close on the woman, who is wearing a bright blue dress in a conservative style. Her steel grey hair is gathered back in a bun. Her dark skin is deeply wrinkled but her eyes are bright and alert behind her thick, 1980s Sophia Loren style glasses. A CHYRON reads: Bettina, Stroud.

 

BETTINA

(laughing) I guess you could say that being on the Bake Off has been a lifetime ambition. Well, this wasn’t what I had planned for Christmas Eve but here I am!

 

We see a montage of mince pies, yule logs, and gingerbread houses.

 

MEL (V.O)

And what better way to decide the very fate of an immortal soul than by getting into the spirit of things with classic British holiday bakes.

 

A close up on the visage of Death. The camera cannot quite focus on the skeletal face, or maybe it’s our own eyes. Instead we can only take in the space around it; the shadows in the depths of the hood that frame the incomprehensible. A CHYRON reads The Grim Reaper, The Infinite Void; but it’s hardly necessary.

 

DEATH

I have to say this is a first for me. (the voice is unsettling: many and one) Usually when someone challenges me, it’s chess, or some kind of musical instrument. And of course involving souls of non-departed individuals is typically a big no-no. But what the hey, it’s Christmas! (shrugs)

 

We shift to a wide shot of the inside of the tent. The contestants tie on their aprons and face the front, where the judges and the presenters stand in a line.

 

SUE

Hello and welcome to our otherworldly bakers! I have the pleasure of announcing your very first signature challenge. As we are in the heart of the festive season, the judges would like to see you fight for your continued existence by baking six identical mince pies.

 

MEL

You can make any crust you like, but your filling must be made from scratch. You will have two hours to produce these festive fruity fabrications, whatever that means when one exists outside the fabric of linear time.

 

SUE

Without further ado… On your marks,

 

MEL

Get set,

 

SUE
MINCE!

 

The two bakers begin grabbing bowls and ingredients, and setting up their workspaces. We shift to a close shot of Paul Hollywood. He smiles smugly, enigmatically.

 

PAUL

Mince pies are one of my favourite holiday bakes, so I’m really excited to see what the bakers deliver. I’m looking for a delicious filling, perfectly spiced, with the fruit evenly chopped; not too dry or too wet. And of course, a perfect pastry crust.

 

Close up on Mary Berry.

 

MARY

One of the challenges here will be time management. They’ve got to get their pastry well chilled, and they’ve got to get their fillings prepared and cooked with enough time to cool before baking; or the hot fruit will melt the butter in the pastry and we’ll end up with a soggy bottom.

 

We return to the tent interior where both bakers are measuring and chopping up fruit, nuts, and other filling ingredients.

 

SUE (V.O)

Today both contestants have opted to prepare their fillings ahead of the crust. And it seems that one of our bakers has opted for a very traditional recipe.

 

Mel, Sue, Paul and Mary approach the bench where Death is working. They are finely chopping some sort of red meat.

 

PAUL

I see you’re going with an actual mincemeat filling. Interesting.

 

DEATH

Yes, that’s right. Maybe I’m old fashioned but it’s what I like. Also, decaying mortal flesh is kind of my thing.

 

MEL

Mmm, yummy.

 

PAUL

It’s fallen a bit out of favour but it really can make for a very nice, rich pie.

 

MARY

And what kind of meat is this that you’re using?

 

DEATH

Venison.

 

Cut to an illustration of a covered mince pie, cut in half to reveal the diced fruit and meat filling. The words ‘Death’s Venison Mince Pies’ appear.

 

MEL (V.O.)

The Grim Reaper will be using venison and beef suet to bring richness to their blend of chopped candied peel, seeded raisins, sultanas, apples, almonds and currants. The filling will be spiced with clove, allspice, cinnamon, ginger and mace, and finished with a splash of brandy, then wrapped in a flaky pastry crust.

 

Cut back to the group inside the tent.

MARY

Venison can sometimes be a bit gamey.

 

DEATH
I find that plays well with the spices.

 

PAUL

(smiling enigmatically again)I’m looking forward to trying these. Good luck, mate.

 

The group moves away from the bench and approaches Bettina’s station where she is measuring apple cider into a jug. Paul leans over as she pours it into a large pot containing her fruit mixture.

 

SUE

Bettina my lovely! Let’s not mince words, tell us what’s going into your pies.

 

BETTINA

(laughs) Well, I’ve got dark brown sugar, apples, cider, sultanas, currants, glacé cherries, candied peel, molasses, almonds, mixed spice… I think that’s all—oh, and some nice dark rum.

 

MARY

(smiling) Oh I like the sound of that.

 

PAUL

(tilts head) No suet? Aren’t you afraid that your filling might go a bit dry?

 

BETTINA

A lot of folks today aren’t too keen on the suet, you know. (laughs nervously) I’ve put extra apples in, and the molasses I find keeps everything moist enough.

 

PAUL

(smirking) We’ll see.

 

Bettina looks nervous but shakes her head as they move away. We cut to an illustration of a star-topped mince pie, which is then sliced to show a cross section of the filling. The caption that appears on the page reads ‘Bettina’s Starlight Mince Pies’.

 

SUE (V.O.)

Bettina’s suet-free pies will feature a buttery shortcrust pastry, and her most fruit filling will be topped with a shortbread biscuit star.

 

The camera cuts to the interior of the tent once more, where the bakers are rolling out pastry and transferring it to their tins. Once the pie crusts are shaped they quickly bring them to the refrigerators along with their cooked fillings.

 

SUE (V.O.)

Now it’s a game of pastry chicken, as the bakers will want to give their pastry and fillings as to chill as long as possible, while still leaving enough time to assemble and cook the pies. But one of our bakers has given herself more to worry about than just filling and pastry.

 

Bettina stands at her bench rolling out biscuit dough and cutting out small star shapes while Mel watches.

 

MEL

These are adorable!

 

BETTINA
I think they just make them extra special; it’s nice. And it gives me something to help kill the time!

 

MEL

Mm. Speaking of killing, what made you decide to challenge the Grim Reaper?

 

BETTINA

You know, I’m just not quite finished. I’ve, well, I’ve got so much left still to do on Earth. I haven’t seen season three of the Good Place.

 

MEL

(nodding) Oh, completely understandable then.

 

BETTINA
And I don’t think they have Netflix where I’d be going, if you catch my drift.

 

MEL
(shocked) Bettina! But you seem so nice.

 

BETTINA

I’m afraid I’ve been a bit of a tart in my life. A mince tart. (both laughing) No regrets!

 

We cut to a shot of Sue as she calls out the time.

 

SUE

Bakers you have forty minutes remaining! Forty minutes until the judges make mincemeat of your pies!

 

There is a flurry of activity as both contestants begin spooning filling into their tart shells. Death uses their skeletal fingers to make an attractive crimped edge around their covered pies, while Bettina carefully lays a shortbread star atop each of hers. We switch back and forth between views of each baker as they watch their ovens, their pies’ crusts turning golden and lovely within! The background music swells to a crescendo as the camera returns to Mel and Sue, standing at the front of the tent.

 

SUE

Five minutes left!

 

MEL

Five minutes until our teeth will be mincing your pies. Om nom nom nom nom! (both make exaggerated biting motions)

 

The music continues to grow in intensity as Death and Bettina scramble to take their pies out of the oven and remove them from the hot tins. Bettina struggles not to burn herself, but Death’s bony hands are unaffected by temperature as they arrange them on a festive platter. Bettina flaps her hands in the air trying to cool her fingers between taking out each one. She just manages to dust on a bit of icing sugar as Mel and Sue count down the last seconds of the challenge!

 

MEL & SUE (in unison)

Five! Four! Three! Two! One!

 

SUE

That’s it bakers, time is up! Hands off the pastry and mince away from those pies!

 

Bettina raises her hands in the air and steps back. She tucks a stray bit of hair behind her ear and adjusts her glasses, looking down at her pies. Death glides away from the bench with an eerie fluidity. We cut to a close up on Bettina’s star-topped pies before the judging begins. Paul picks up one of the tarts and taps the bottom with a knife.

 

PAUL

Pastry’s well baked, look at that.

 

MARY

I can’t wait to get into it.

 

Paul cuts the pie in half, offering one piece to Mary while he bites into the other. There is a pregnant silence as both judges chew and consider the tart.

 

MARY

Mm. That filling is moist. And I can really taste the rum.

 

BETTINA

Is that good?

 

MARY

It is for me! It plays quite well with the molasses, and the spices you’ve chosen. Your biscuit on top is buttery and short, very nice. It’s a little soft where it’s sat on the filling, but that is quite normal. And the pastry is crisp. A very good effort.

 

Bettina sighs with relief.

 

PAUL

I was really concerned we’d have a dry filling (shakes head). I think it is the molasses that makes it. (he taps the bench with a fingertip, thinking) The only thing I would say is that the glacé cherries don’t do much for me. They’re just sweet; they’re a nothing fruit. I’d leave them out.

 

Bettina nods quickly, looking anxious again.

 

We now cut to a close up of Death’s mince pies, which are golden brown, double crusted with a sparking sprinkle of sugar across the tops. As we switch to a wider shot Mary leans over the tray for a closer look.

 

MARY

These are quite attractive as well. They’re homey, but not rough. They look very tempting and generous; you just know they’re going to be bursting with fruit.

 

PAUL

I like the crimping on the crust. What did you use for that?

 

DEATH

The withering touch of oblivion.

 

PAUL

Very nice.

 

He cuts into this tart as he did the first one, handing half to Mary, and both begin to eat.

 

MARY

Oh, that is rich.

 

PAUL

(smiling shaking his head) I haven’t had a mince pie with venison since my Nan was alive. And I have to say, these might even be better than hers. Where did you get this recipe?

 

DEATH

In my endless years of ferrying the departed, I have put together a bit of a collection.

 

MARY

It certainly seems like it must be a well curated one. The filling is delicious. The crust is well baked and flaky, and the sugar on top has just melted enough into the hot pastry to give it an extra crunch when you bite into it. This is sheer perfection.

 

PAUL

I’d shake your hand mate, but (he holds out his hand for a second as if contemplating it, then pulls it back and tucks his thumb into his pocket) I’m not sure that’d be a great idea for some reason.

 

DEATH
A wise decision. (all laugh)

 

Cheery violin music plays again as we see Death carrying their tray back to their own bench. Their tattered robe seems to flutter on an unseen breeze as they glide through the tent without seeming to take a step. We cut to a close up shot of the Bettina in the void outside the tent, after the challenge.

 

BETTINA

That went… alright? I think. Those darn cherries! (she laughs, and smoothes back her hair). I think it’s still quite a close contest, but I am a little nervous. I’m not ready for perdition!

 

We go to Death, leaning on their scythe outside the tent.

 

DEATH

I think it’s safe to say that I will soon be shepherding the soul of Bettina to the afterlife.

 

Cut back to the inside of the tent. The bakers are back at their benches, with a heap of ingredients hidden under gingham cloths, while the judges stand with Mel and Sue at the front.

 

MEL (V.O.)

Having mastered the mince in a supernatural signature, the bakers now cross over to the technical challenge!

 

SUE

(claps hands together) Our technical challenge today has been chosen by the Queen of Cakes in the mortal realm AND the afterlife, Miss Mary Berry. (all laugh) Mary, any words of advice?

 

MARY

Pay attention to time, and don’t crack under pressure.

 

SUE

Ooh, ominous.

 

MEL

Even for the end of the world.

 

A close shot on Bettina shows her looking around nervously.

 

SUE

Right, now as always this challenge will be judged blind, so if you two could just pop off, maybe play a game of fetch with Cerberus, and we’ll call you back soon.

 

Mary and Paul leave the tent, chuckling.

 

MEL

Now that they’ve toddled away into the infinite, we can tell you that for your technical challenge, Mary would like you to make her chocolate Yule log, or Bûche de Noël.

 

SUE

You will have one hour until your bûche needs to be in our bouche… es. On your marks,

 

MEL

Get set,

 

SUE

BAKE!

 

We cut to a shot of Paul and Mary sitting in the Bake Off gazebo. It’s unclear where the gazebo is located, as the tent is not visible outside, only the formless dark of the void. On the table in front of them sits a perfect Yule Log, covered in chocolate ganache bark, dusted with icing sugar and garnished with a sprig of holly.

 

PAUL

So tell me why you’ve chosen the Yule Log for this challenge.

 

MARY

It’s the centerpiece of any Christmas lunch, a real holiday treat. And it may seem simple, but we’ve given them a very tight time limit for this one. I want to see attention to detail, despite that. Nobody likes a sloppy log.

 

PAUL

No indeed. So what are we looking for?

 

MARY

On the outside we’ve got a thick chocolate ganache. They’ll have to get it chilled down quite well to get it to hold its shape. Now inside (she takes a knife and cuts into the log) we have a tender chocolate sponge rolled with whipped cream. I want to see a good swirl when we cut in.

 

PAUL

(smiling with admiration). Look at that spiral.

 

MARY

And of course if they try to fill it while it’s too warm, all the cream will melt and we’ll have a sticky mess inside.

PAUL

Not good!

 

Mary cuts a slice for each of them. Paul takes a bite first, then sets down his fork.

 

PAUL

That is delicious.

 

MARY

Isn’t it though.

 

The camera returns us to the tent, and we see to Bettina lifting the cloth off her collection of ingredients and flipping over the recipe card.

 

BETTINA

One hour. One hour, that’s mad. And it just says ‘make a chocolate sponge.’ Well of course it does. Oh dear.

 

Meanwhile, Death has begun lining their pan and measuring out sponge ingredients. Mel and Sue approach the workstation.

 

SUE

So, have you ever made a Yule Log before, in your infinite existence?

 

DEATH

No, but I have seen a fair few. I once collected an entire family who’d gotten food poisoning at their Christmas lunch. They had a lovely one.

 

MEL

Well, hopefully that won’t happen today.

 

DEATH

At least it would be a short trip for all concerned. (Mel and Sue look at each other worriedly) That was a joke.

 

SUE

Right. Of course. Ha ha. (behind her hand, to Sue) Back away slowly now.

 

We cut back and forth between Bettina and Death as they put their sponges in the oven and begin heating cream and chocolate.

 

MEL (V.O)

The sponges will only need a short time in the oven. While they cook the bakers need to start their ganache so that it will be cool enough to pipe or shape. Too hot and it will simply slide off, leaving an unsightly, naked log.

 

The camera focuses on Death breaking bars of dark chocolate into small pieces with their fleshless hands, making a disturbing cracking sound. They then scrape the chocolate off their board into the hot cream.

 

DEATH

(muttering) ‘Make the ganache.’ These humans are as fiendish as the Malebranche.

 

Now we see the bakers taking their sponges out of the oven. Bettina covers her hot sponge with a piece of parchment and begins rolling it up.

 

BETTINA

(concentrating) You’ve got to roll it up while it’s hot and cool it that way, or it’ll break all over. That much I know!

 

MEL (V.O.)

But it seems one baker is having a little technical difficulty.

 

The camera focuses on Death as they attempt to roll their cake. One of their skeletal fingers slices through the sponge, creating a large tear.

 

DEATH

Curses.

 

SUE

(looking on with concern) Oh no! What’s happened?

 

DEATH

It is difficult to judge how tightly to grip when one has neither flesh nor nerves.

 

SUE

That is a pickle. But they do say that ganache can cover many sins.

 

DEATH

That has not been my experience.

 

We go back to a wider shot of the bakers working at their benches, pouring cream into their mixing bowls and beginning to whip it.

 

MEL

(shouting) Twenty minutes, bakers, until Yule be Logging those bûches up to the gingham altar!

 

The violin music in the background grows louder once more as we approach the end of the challenge. We see Bettina piling ganache into a piping bag, and Death attempting to roll their cracked sponge around the whipped cream. The camera cuts back and forth between Bettina piping lines with a large star tip to create a bark effect, while Death is instead using an offset spatula. Both manage to get to the stage of dusting the icing sugar on their logs as the time ticks down.

 

MEL

Five… four… three… two… one! That’s it, get those sticky hands off your logs!

 

Bettina fumbles her sieve as she steps back; it falls to the ground, scattering icing sugar across the floor.

 

BETTINA

(off camera) Well let’s hope that’s not a sign.

 

SUE

Bakers, if Yule’d please, bring your Bûche de Noel up to the gingham altar, and place it behind your picture.

 

Each of them carefully brings their bake up to the table. There are two stools provided; Bettina sits on one but Death remains standing while the judges re-enter the tent and look over both logs.

 

MARY

I must say, from the outside, these both look pretty good.

 

PAUL

I’m impressed.

 

MARY

I’m looking forward to seeing what we’ve got inside. Let’s start with this one. (they move to Bettina’s Yule Log) This baker has used a star tip to make their bark effect, which I quite like. The ganache looks good and it’s holding its shape nicely.

 

PAUL

It’s a good looking log. A nice round shape. And they’ve got the icing sugar snow on there.

 

Paul slices the log in half and pulls it open to reveal a graceful spiral of cream.

 

MARY

Look at that. Just lovely. I can’t wait to taste it.

 

Paul cuts a slice and both take a bite.

 

MARY

That is a good sponge.

 

PAUL

Very tender, good flavour. The cream is nice, not too sweet.

 

MARY

It’s hard to find fault.

 

The camera cuts briefly to Bettina’s smiling face.

 

PAUL

Moving on to this one. (they step over to the other cake) What do you think of the bark here, Mary?

 

MARY

It’s not a bad effect. They’ve used a palette knife or spatula; but I think it could have been enhanced if they’d made a few lines with a fork as well.

 

PAUL

They have got the icing sugar on though, and it looks tidy. Let’s cut in.

 

Paul cuts the log open and examines it critically.

 

PAUL

Hm.

 

MARY

(leaning over) They’ve got a good spiral, but you can see where the sponge has torn. That’s a shame.

 

We cut to Death’s expressionless, incognizable visage, then back to Mary and Paul tasting the cake.

 

MARY

Mm. Another excellent effort.

 

PAUL

That is delicious. So moist and tender.

 

MEL

Oh Paul, I bet you say that to all the logs. (all laugh)

 

Mary and Paul briefly confer, then turn back to face the bakers.

 

PAUL

Right; as there’s only the two of you, I’ll make this short. Whose is this one?

 

He holds his hands out in front of himself, indicating the second Yule Log. Death raises their hand.

 

PAUL

Sorry mate, but she just edged you out. It’s a great Yule log, excellent flavour, texture, all of it. Just a shame about that crack; and could have done with a touch more detail on the decoration.

 

MARY

Which means that the winner is Bettina. (smiles) Truly a delight. I’d be happy to serve this at any holiday party.

 

Cut to the outside of the tent. Bettina is beaming, delighted by her win.

 

BETTINA

Oh I’m well pleased. If I make it through this I’ll be making a Yule Log every Christmas. Maybe more than one, even!

 

The camera returns to the Grim Reaper, also standing outside. They hold their scythe, rolling it back and forth in their grip.

 

DEATH

I think it’s still safe to say that I will soon be shepherding the soul of Bettina to the afterlife.

 

We shift again to the interior of the Bake Off gazebo. Mary and Paul sit on one side of the table. Mel and Sue on the other.

 

MEL

It’s quite an unusual contest we’ve got today.

 

MARY

Yes, quite unique.

 

SUE

What do you make of our extra-planar aspirants? Who has the edge?

 

PAUL

I think it’s really neck and neck. I would say that Death had the edge in the signature, but then of course Bettina pulled it out in the technical.

 

MARY

They’re both very skilled. It’s all going to come down to the showstopper. I’m expecting to be wowed. This is a contest to decide the fate of a human soul after all; the standard has got to be exceedingly high. (all nod)

 

SUE

I’m just wondering if anyone’s going to address the cyclopean elephant in this unearthly room.

 

MARY

What’s that?

 

SUE

Well, us. We weren’t dead! (gesturing wildly with her hands) Are we dead now? What’s happening to our bodies? Did I just keel over in Tescos trying to buy a pint of raspberry ripple?

 

MEL

And how much time is passing while we’re here? Will it be as though we’ve only blinked an eye, or will have days gone by when we return to the world of the living? Will we return?

 

There is a long pause. Mary looks disturbed but thoughtful. Paul leans across the table towards the others.

 

PAUL

I think you’ve just got to go with it.

 

Cut to a panning shot of the outside of the tent, still suspended in the endless void.

 

SUE (V.O.)

It’s a new day in the Bake Off tent. Well, maybe. It’s hard to say when time has no meaning. Either way, the bakers are now preparing for the showstopper challenge, which promises to be a spicy one…

 

Inside the tent once more, the bakers are at their benches. Mary and Paul are in their customary positions at the front, flanked by Mel and Sue.

 

MEL

Bakers, for your final, terminal, ultimate challenge; Mary and Paul would love for you to make a three dimensional gingerbread biscuit structure, in two and a half hours.

 

SUE

Your cookie constructions must be at least 30 centimetres in height and entirely edible.

 

MEL

You could say it’s a tall order.

 

SUE

Here’s hoping you measure up… On your marks,

 

MEL

Get set,

 

MEL & SUE (together)

BAKE!

 

The camera cuts to a shot of Bettina’s workbench where she has begun measuring ingredients into her mixing bowl. The judges and presenters approach, and she looks up with a smile.

 

BETTINA

Hullo!

 

MARY

Bettina! Tell us about your gingerbread construction.

 

BETTINA

Well, I’m doing the Gherkin.

 

PAUL

(laughing) The Gherkin. Are you serious?

 

BETTINA

(also laughing) Like a heart attack! Which is how I got here, incidentally.

 

MEL

It’s got quite an … interesting shape.

 

MARY

It’s iconic.

 

PAUL

Unique.

 

SUE

I’m just going to come out and say it. It looks exactly like a great, big, shameless, suggestive… pickle.

 

BETTINA

My favourite. I love pickles. (she grins, wiggling her eyebrows)

 

MARY

(laughing) We’re learning a lot about you, dear!

 

Paul is now bent over, leaning on the bench, turning quite red while trying not to laugh out loud. We cut to an illustration of a simplified Gherkin building, captioned ‘Bettina’s Gingerbread Gherkin.’

 

MEL (V.O.)

Bettina’s gingerbread structure will be a towering assemblage made from dozens of individual biscuits, each iced and then put together with royal icing to replicate the iconic building’s faceted appearance.

 

Cut back to the group around the bench. Everyone is still laughing, although Paul has recovered somewhat.

 

MARY

You’ve got quite a lot of work to do, so we’ll leave you to it. Good luck!

 

SUE

We hope you manage to get it up.

 

Paul snorts and fails to stifle another laugh as the group moves away. He is still a bit red when the shot changes to show them instead at the Grim Reaper’s station. They turn out some rich looking dough onto the floured surface and begin to roll it out.

 

DEATH

Greetings, mortals.

 

MEL

Mm, yes, that’s quite spooky.

 

PAUL

(braces himself against the tabletop) So, what have we got happening here?

 

DEATH

I will be making a replica of the Temple of the Great Dreamer.

 

MARY

(frowning slightly) I don’t think I’m quite familiar with that…

 

DEATH

No mortal has looked upon it in millenia.

 

SUE

Sounds like a hipster’s dream.

 

We cut one more time to the illustration page graphic. Script forms to spell out ‘Death’s Gingerbread Temple’, but instead of a picture there is only a question mark.

 

MEL (V.O.)

Death’s tribute to the Ancient One’s temple is unknowable to human eyes, and will be constructed with non-euclidian gingerbread geometry. It will be iced with lemon glaze for an extra pop of flavour.

 

We return to the tent’s interior. The judges and presenters look at each other uneasily for a moment.

 

PAUL

Well, can’t wait to taste it.

 

They all quickly shuffle away. As the background music swells we are treated to a montage of the contestants preparing their gingerbread pieces, although the camera never seems to quite catch the shape of what Death is working on.

 

MEL (V.O.)

Things are definitely heating up in the tent as the bakers race toward the finish line.

 

Bettina is shown pulling out a tray of clearly overbaked biscuit diamonds.

 

BETTINA

These are as scorched as my bottom’s going to be if I end up in the Bad Place. (she looks up at the camera) I’ll have to make another batch.

 

We see more shots of the two busily icing and assembling. It’s still impossible to see what Death is working on, and the judges and presenters seem to be avoiding their table for some reason. The camera focuses on Bettina who is carefully and painstakingly assembling her iced diamond biscuits using various kitchen utensils as supports. Mel and Sue look on in wonder.

 

MEL

You’re so focused. You’re like a machine.

 

BETTINA

Well, there’s no better time to find your zen than when you’ve already died.

 

The camera pulls back to a wider shot of the tent. Time flows strangely. Has it been two hours already? More? We cannot be sure.

 

SUE

(shouting) Bakers, you have 15 minutes remaining! (quieter) I mean, probably. (she shrugs and wanders off camera)

 

The music picks up speed and intensity. We see Bettina carefully moving the supports away from her assembled Gherkin, her hands steady despite her anxious expression. The camera tries and fails to focus on the Grim Reaper’s construction before seemingly giving up and returning to Bettina as she frantically brushes green lustre dust on her gingerbread panes. The final countdown begins.

 

MEL & SUE (together)

Five, four, three, two, one!

 

MEL

Put a nail in it, because this bake is done!

 

SUE

(looking at Mel, shaking her head) I don’t think that one worked.

 

MEL

(sighing) No, I don’t think it did.

 

SUE

They can’t all be winners. (pets her shoulder)

 

The subdued yet dramatic judging music begins to play as the scene shifts. Mel helps Bettina to carry up her Gherkin, and set it on the table in front of Mary and Paul.

 

MEL

Now, nobody breathe.

 

There is nervous laughter from the humans in the room.

 

MARY

You’ve got it up! (all laugh)

 

PAUL

I’m impressed. I don’t need to get the ruler to know it’s over 30.

 

MARY

It’s holding well. You must have got a really solid royal icing. And the shape is spot on.

 

BETTINA

Well it’s one I’m quite familiar with. (more laughter)

 

PAUL

Unfortunately, you realize we are now going to have to break it.

 

BETTINA

(looks away in mock horror) Oh, I can’t watch.

 

MARY

Must we?

PAUL

(with restrained glee) Afraid so.

 

Paul reaches over and breaks a piece off the top. The structure weakened, several others fall away. Both Mary and Bettina wince. Paul passes Mary a biscuit piece, and they both begin to eat.

 

MARY

That’s a good crisp biscuit. Good flavour, well spiced.

 

PAUL

Is that cayenne pepper I’m tasting?

 

BETTINA

(nodding) Yes. Just a touch.

 

PAUL

It’s interesting.

 

MARY

I quite like it.

 

PAUL

It does work. All in all you’ve done a great job.

 

BETTINA

(visibly relieved) Oh, thank you so much.

 

We watch her proudly carry the remains of her tower back to her station and sit down, still smiling. The camera angle then returns to the front of the tent as the Grim Reaper approaches the judging table. The platter they carry is massive but the weight does not seem to trouble them as they glide down the aisle and set their creation before Paul and Mary. Space distorts around the tray; it’s impossible to grasp the shape of this inconceivable confection. The camera captures bare glimpses; hardly even impressions. An unnatural angle, a join where the structure seems to emerge and recede simultaneously. It seems out of step with even this strange corner of reality. The two judges look at it quizzically, or try to. Paul blinks at the space where it seems it should be, looks away, looks back, squints, and shakes his head. Mary frowns, rubbing her temple. Mel and Sue both look queasy.

 

PAUL

Well.

 

MARY

It’s…

 

PAUL

I can’t even look at it.

 

MARY

It’s giving me a headache.

 

DEATH

For a mortal to gaze upon the temple is to invite madness.

 

PAUL

But mate, we’re mortal.

 

DEATH

(pauses) I failed to consider that the effect would translate so strongly in biscuit form.

 

PAUL

It’s difficult to judge your structure when we can’t fully perceive it.

 

MARY
Sometimes simpler is better.

 

PAUL

(gamely) Well, shall we taste it?

 

Wincing slightly, Paul reaches into the space where the biscuit construction ought to be, and breaks off a piece of gingerbread. He looks at it dubiously for a moment, then cracks it in half and gives the other piece to Mary.

 

MARY

It’s definitely got a good snap to it.

 

PAUL

I’m getting a really good flavour. That lemon glaze with the ginger, it’s really something.

 

MARY

It wakes up your mouth in a wonderful way.

 

PAUL

It’s a ten out of ten on taste. But a shame about the structure.

 

One last time, we join the judges and presenters around the table in the gazebo as they discuss the contest. The remains of Bettina’s Gherkin sit in front of them.

 

MEL

So, heading into the showstopper it was a close race. How is it looking now?

 

MARY

I’d say it’s still tight. Bettina presented us with this mouthwatering tower, which tasted as good as it looked.

 

SUE

I’m having that. Stuffing my pockets (she takes a couple of biscuits and slips them inside her suit jacket; the others laugh)

 

MARY

… Death’s biscuit had a really excellent flavour as well, though.

 

PAUL

But we couldn’t even comprehend their biscuit structure without risking permanent insanity, so that’s a big negative, unfortunately.

 

MARY

Yes, I’m afraid so. But you know, regardless of the decision here, I think we have to admire Bettina’s moxie. Challenging Death is by no means an easy out, and I should know.

 

MEL

Yes, she definitely has moxie.

 

SUE

She’s moxiferous.

 

MEL

So you have made a decision, then?

 

PAUL

Yes, I think we’re in agreement.

 

The bakers stand before the judges in the tent, awaiting the final verdict. There is a pregnant pause for dramatic effect while the camera cuts between close ups of the two contestants. Finally, Mel steps up.

 

MEL

Well, I can safely say this bake off has been like nothing else we’ve experienced in the tent. I have the happy task of announcing our star baker… And since there are only two of you, I suppose it also means I have the not so happy task of announcing the loser, by default. (clears throat) Our Star Baker today gave us magical mince pies, a Buche-tiful Yule Log… and a gingerbread structure that was so to die for, she won’t have to.

 

Bettina gasps loudly, her hand over her mouth, eyes wide with shock.

 

MEL

Yes… Bettina!

 

SUE

So it looks like you’ll be returning to the land of the living. And hopefully, so will the rest of us. (laughs nervously)

 

DEATH

I always keep my bargains. As the human Bettina has defeated me in a fair challenge, I will ferry all of you back to the mortal realm,

 

MEL

(becoming agitated) Wait a minute. Does that mean that if she had lost we’d all stay dead too? What kind of—

 

Her words are cut off and the camera instead shifts to a close up of Bettina alone against the backdrop of the void.

 

BETTINA

Well I’ve done it. I can’t believe it. I couldn’t be happier. I’ve got another chance! Of course I’d like to say that I’ll behave myself when I get back to my mortal life but… no promises. (laughs) Terribly sorry to Mary, Mel and Sue for risking your souls but a girl’s got to do what she’s got to do! Oh and Paul's, as well. See you on the other side! (waves cheerily)

 

We cut again to Death, standing once again with scythe in hand.

 

DEATH

I do not feel bad about losing to Bettina. I do not experience human emotions.

 

The screen fades to black and credits roll, but they are in a language incomprehensible to human eyes.