“Boss, you need to come see this.”
Kenji called Takashi into the ramen shop kitchen. He pointed at the wok pan.
There was a faint light emitting from the pan. It was half-full with a weird purple liquid.
“What the hell is that?” Takashi asked.
“I don’t know,” Kenji said, “but it just appeared out of nowhere.”
Takashi got closer to the pan, carefully observing the liquid. It looked like an invisible spoon was stirring it.
“Do you think it’s dangerous?” Takashi asked.
“I don’t know,” Kenji said, “but I’m not going to touch it.”
Slowly Takashi stuck out his hand and dipped his index finger into the liquid. His eyes widened.
“What is it?” Kenji asked.
“It feels like a void, my finger didn’t even get wet when I touched it.”
“Yeah, like there’s nothing there.”
Suddenly the liquid started bubbling and a black tendril reached out of it and wrapped around Takashi’s finger. Takashi yelped and tried to pull his hand away but the tendril was too strong. It pulled Takashi’s hand into the pan and he disappeared with a scream.
As though he snapped out of a dream Takashi emerged into a different-looking kitchen. It had different staff and a head-chef that only vaguely resembled Kenji.
Takashi headed out of the kitchen, into the restaurant. The interior looked different as well. The layout was the same but all of the fixtures and furniture were different.
“What the hell?” Takashi said to himself.
He walked up to the counter and sat down. A waitress came over to him.
“Welcome to Ramen Kaira, what can I get for you today?”
“Are you alright? You look a little out of it.”
“I need to get back. Back to my own restaurant. Where am I?”
“You’re in Ramen Kaira. It’s the best ramen restaurant in town.”
“No, I mean what city is this?” Takashi asked frantically.
“This is Tokyo.”
“Tokyo? But my restaurant is in Osaka!”
Takashi sprinted back to the kitchen. There was the same wok pan with purple liquid that Kenji showed him in his own kitchen. Without hesitation he stuck his arm into the pan.
A brief darkness. Takashi felt like he was falling and then he crashed into something hard. He groaned and opened his eyes. It looked close, but still wasn’t his own kitchen. He ran into the restaurant. This one was quite smaller.
A well-dressed man was talking intensely to what looked like the owner of the restaurant. Takashi ran up to the men and rudely interrupted them.
“Excuse me sirs. Where am I, what’s this place called?” Takashi asked frantically.
The two men looked at him, confused.
“This is Ramen Kaira,” the owner said, “the best ramen restaurant in town.”
“No no no, I mean what city is this?” Takashi asked impatiently.
“This is Tokyo,” the well-dressed man answered. “And you are?”
“I’m Takashi, the head chef of Ramen Kaira in Osaka.”
“Osaka?” the well-dressed man and the owner said in unison.
“That’s not possible,” the owner said, “I am the head chef of Ramen Kaira.”
“No, I am!” Takashi insisted.
The two men looked at each other, confused. Takashi didn’t know what was going on but he had a feeling that he was stuck in some sort of time loop.
He realised that the wok pan was some kind of portal to a multiverse, allowing him to travel between different versions of his restaurant. Takashi ran off to the kitchen again.
He jumped from one restaurant to another. Along the way he saw surreal scenes in front of his eyes. One restaurant had a school girl hurling fireballs at the owner. Another had R.C. cars chasing around restaurant guests and waiters. Some restaurants were nothing more than a cover-up for the yakuza.
Robberies, explosions, crazy customers, Takashi was exhausted after using the wok pan dozens of times.
He was close to giving up on ever coming back to his own world again. But he remembered what the head-chef said to him in one of the restaurants.
“There is one way you can get back to your own world,” the chef said, “but it’s very dangerous.”
“I don’t care, I’ll do anything to get back!” Takashi said.
“You need to find the Source.”
“It’s a place that exists outside of time and space. It’s where the wok pan came from. If you go there, you can change your own reality.”
Takashi was sceptical but he had nothing else to lose at this point. He jumped into the wok pan again and found himself in an empty void. In the distance he could see a faint light. He started walking towards it.
As he got closer he started to make out a figure in the light. It was a woman, she looked ethereal and otherworldly. Takashi walked up to her.
“Who are you?” Takashi asked. “Where am I?”
“You’re in the Source,” the woman said. “I am its guardian.”
“The Source? The head-chef told me about it. He said I could change my reality if I came here.”
“That’s correct,” the woman said, “but it’s not as simple as that. You need to be careful what you wish for. Be specific with your desires or you may end up changing more than you bargained for.”
Takashi thought carefully about what he wanted. He wanted to go back to his own world, but he didn’t want anything else to change.
“I wish to go back to my own world, exactly as it was before,” Takashi said.
“Your wish has been granted.”
Suddenly Takashi felt a jolt and he was back in his own world, in his own restaurant kitchen. Kenji was standing there, looking at him with a confused expression.
“Boss, where did you go?” Kenji asked. “And what’s with your hand?”
Takashi looked down and saw that his arm was covered in black tendrils. With a horrified expressions he pulled his arm out of the wok pan and the tendrils retreated back into the pan.
“I think it’s time we retire this old pan Kenji.” Takashi said.
“I couldn’t agree more, boss.”
Kenji took the wok pan out to the back and smashed it with a hammer. Takashi breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that he would never use the wok pan again. He was content to stay in his own world and live out the rest of his days in peace.