Saturday, September 17, 2011

FICTION: Dream Food By Anthony R Pezzula

Prudence was suspicious from the start, even before the party that became her living nightmare. She sensed something wasn’t right, and her intuition was rarely wrong. She had felt like she was in the eye of a hurricane; everyone else around her was caught up in the excitement and enthusiasm swirling around the country while she languished in her quiet doubt.

It started, like most fads do lately, with a posting on You Tube. It was little more than a five minute infomercial that spread quickly through cyberspace. Within days it had been viewed more than a million times. The product and the pitch were so unusual, as was the spokesperson, that some people considered it a hoax while others viewed it with hope.

He, the spokesperson, called himself Xavier. He had a deep, almost hypnotic voice, but it was his appearance that garnered the most attention. His body was very thin, while his head was oversized. Like the creatures in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, only much taller and with more human features. The promise he persuasively made for the product he was pushing, called KafKake caught the imagination of the masses.

“Within days,” Xavier intoned, “you will be as thin as I am. But that’s not all. This amazing product is also guaranteed to increase your brain power.”

He proceeded to parade out individuals who had body and head shapes similar to his, with before pictures preceding each entrance. Both men and woman were displayed and interviewed. IQ scores before and after were posted, “verified by independent testers,” Xavier proudly proclaimed. Within weeks there were millions of “likes” on the product’s Facebook page, with an equal number of followers of Xavier’s on Twitter, hanging on all his Tweets about himself and the mysterious product.

Prudence’s husband Jack seemed to be caught up in the excitement despite her reservations.

“You remember Tom my old college roommate, remember how overweight he was?” he said to her one day.

“Yeah I remember him,” Prudence replied.

“He got this stuff and I saw him today, skinny as a rail.”

“I hope he’s smarter than he was.”

“Didn’t talk to him that long, but he seemed sharper. The way his head swelled, he’s bound to have a bigger brain in there.”

“He could use it.”

“Always the wise ass.”

“So what’s your point in telling me this,” Prudence said, “you’re not thinking of trying this stuff are you?”

“Why not?” Jack replied. “It seems to be working; you’ve seen the reports on Nightline and other news shows.”

“Jack,” Prudence pleaded, “you can’t be serious. We don’t know what’s in this stuff, long term effects, any of that. Why would you want to jump into this?”

“I could use a little more smarts to get ahead on my job. Besides, you’re always saying I could lose some weight.”

“But not like this. I don’t like it; something about that Xavier guy doesn’t set right with me.”

“How about this, he’s going to be on 60 Minutes tonight let’s see what he has to say, what they have to say about him. If anybody can get at the truth, those guys can. What do you say, let’s watch that, and then go from there.”

Little did they know that interview would shake the world. Xavier insisted it be done live, and the producers agreed sensing a huge story. That’s when he revealed he was not of this world.

“We, as your movies say, are from a galaxy far far away,” he told the interviewer, but really the camera and the millions behind it. He went on to explain that he was from a planet billions of miles away that was similar to Earth. He was vague about how they travelled here, and insisted their mission was a peaceful one. When the interviewer expressed doubt, Xavier requested the camera point skyward in a northeasterly direction. It did, and within a few seconds a huge spacecraft appeared as though out of nowhere. A minute later it flew away so fast it seemed to vanish.

From that moment on Xavier had everyone’s attention. He sent out representatives to all the major cities to promote their product. It would be given away free now that the truth was known, and would serve to better humanity. Knowledge, and the intelligence to use it, would serve mankind well, healthy minds and healthy bodies, that’s what they promised.

Prudence remained unconvinced. Nevertheless she agreed to go with Jack to the huge block party downtown that Xavier’s representative, Eric, would host. When they got there the crowd was enormous. There were thousands of Xavier’s people there, or were they regular folks who ate the KafKake? There were rumors around that the change from consuming it was even faster than before, almost instantaneous.

Prudence fidgeted, looking around, eyes wide trying to hold onto Jack’s hand as they were pulled apart by the crowd. She resisted but eventually lost her grip and was separated from Jack.

“Jack,” she yelled near panic as he was pushed away from her and toward the handout stations, “Jack, come back.”

“Can’t,” was the last thing she heard him yell.

She fought her way against the stream and found herself on the outskirts of the crowd among a group of people that were hesitant to join the rush. They were, however, listening to Eric speaking from a stage set up at the end of the block. She forced her way to the front of the stage and raised her voice to get his attention.

“Hey,” she shouted, “I’ve got a question.”

“Yes,” he said as he turned his coal black eyes toward her, “what is it.”

“Has this stuff been approved by the FDA?”

“FDA?” he said with a smirk.

“The Food and Drug Administration. Have they tested it to see what was in it, anything that might be harmful?” said Prudence.

“Do you really want the government to tell you what you can eat?” he said smugly. “You’ve seen the results, you’ve all seen it. Do your friends and neighbors look harmed? Don’t they look great and smarter too you have to admit.”

There was a smattering of applause as some of the crowd moved toward the giveaway. “But,” Prudence stammered, “but what about long term affects, how do we know this stuff won’t give us cancer or something years from now?”

“My dear,” Eric replied in a loud voice, “what you call cancer was eradicated over a hundred years ago by us, as were most other diseases. Our life expectancy is hundreds of years; I myself just celebrated my one hundred sixty-fourth birthday.”

The crowd gasped and even more of them moved toward the growing masses headed for the giveaway. But Prudence held back, still not feeling right. She melted into the crowd as best she could, trying to stay out of sight from Eric and his backers. She sensed a danger about him, about the whole situation.

She wandered around the outskirts of the crowd among other stragglers who were trying to decide what to do, or looking for a spot to enter the hoards in line for their treat. She came upon a huge tent, a supply tent she figured it to be. As she went toward it, she was nearly knocked down by a small group of people, not people, creatures, running from it. It was like a scene from Star Wars, some of them had three eyes, or eyes on the side of their heads. Others had floppy ears and scaly skin. All sizes and shapes, running on two legs or four. Not far past her they were surrounded by Eric’s men and herded back toward the tent.

Prudence hid in a basement apartment entryway as she watched them march by. She followed a distance behind as they were led back into the tent. She managed to lift a flap of the huge tent, and the sight shocked her. The escapees were put in line with others like them and were being forced to enter a huge pit in the middle of the tent. Coming out on the other side of the pit were blocks of KafKakes ready to be packaged.

“It can’t be,” she thought, “is that what they have in mind for those of us who don’t change? I’ve got to find Jack.”

She ran as fast as she could away from the tent and back toward the crowd. Her attention was diverted by the sight of a small group of people chewing on KafKakes, half eaten bars in their hands. She ran to them plunging within their midst and slapping the bars out of their hands.

“Stop,” she shouted, “do you know what you’re eating?”

“Tastes pretty good,” one of them said as his body started to shake. Soon they were all shaking and before Prudence’s eyes their bodies shrunk and heads grew.

“Oh no,” Prudence muttered.

“Wow,” another one of them said. “This is wonderful, I feel…different.” He turned his attention to Prudence. “Come on, join us, have a bite to eat.”

“No,” she shouted backing away as they closed in on her. “No, I…I’ve got to find my husband.” She ran turning to see them trying to get the attention of Eric’s men.

She couldn’t find Jack in the crowd and wound up returning home alone. Later that night Jack showed up, body thin and head almost twice its size.

“Pru,” he said, “you’ve got to try this stuff, they have frozen meals now too, I brought one home for you.”

“I’m not hungry,” she said, not liking his tone of voice or the look in his eye.

“Come on,” Jack said, “it’s delicious, and the changes are wonderful. Everybody’s eating it, everyone’s coming over, it will do you good.”

“Wonderful?” Prudence couldn’t help notice he used the same word the other man did earlier. This stuff doesn’t make you smarter, she thought, it makes you more compliant. “I said I’m not hungry, maybe later.”

“Sure,” he said. “We’ll have a bite to eat later, maybe with some wine. You’ll like it, you’ll see.”

“Yes, I’m sure I will,” Prudence said hiding her sadness at knowing her Jack was gone.

Three days later Prudence still hadn’t eaten. She’d left the house when the new Jack fell asleep that night. She travelled the countryside avoiding the changed people and looking for others like her so they could figure out what to do and how to eat safely. She didn’t trust the food supply in stores or restaurants. Maybe she and others could grow their own vegetables, start a farm in some remote area, with chickens, pigs or whatever. There had to be a way. Then they would need to resist, to alert others like them not to fall for the pitch, not to eat Xavier’s “food.” They would have to find a way.

No comments: