I took the first exit. Indicated off. I took the second exit. Indicated off. I indicated right. I took the third exit. Indicated off. I took the second exit.
Suicide seemed unlikely. No note. No drugs or alcohol in the house, and these were exactly the kind of cases where a little nip helped the synapses. Hardy winced when he saw the Puritan League flyer on the fridge. Surely that’d be motive enough to bite the big one. He scanned inside the fridge and broke off a chunk of pork mass. Crusty. It felt good between his teeth.
Hardy went to look at the body again, on the bed. A blow to the back of the neck, broken vertebrae, looks like he’d been paralysed and died of starvation. Homicide? The doors and windows were all bolted from the inside, they’d had to ram through the door to get inside. Hardy scanned the bedside table for anything valuable: just a few cheesy meditation books, a leather-strapped watch, and a lasertape player. He pocketed the watch. Inside the lasertape player was some levitation training program. Nutjob, offed himself for the insurance money. Case closed.
Josh Maltov climbed into bed and started the lasertape playing. Took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “You have helium balloons attached to your arms”. He felt the balloons lifting his arms up. “Your entire head is filled with helium”. His head felt lighter and the bed seemed further away. “Helium, noble helium. Element number two”. Was he imagining it? It felt so real. “Helium, noble helium. Colourless, odourless, non-toxic”. He could no longer feel the bed at all.
Josh opened his eyes and looked around. He was three feet above the bed! A sudden shock came over him, and he fell onto the metal headboard.
I knew a guy, worked at a dental surgery. Filling some holes one day, patient bit his hand off and ate it. He’s a chartered accountant now.
After much consternation on the bus, Frederick decided he would have sex with Fiona, his high school sweetheart. No, it would be a threesome: Fiona, himself, and a younger Joni Mitchell. His mind had been made. He hopped off the bus at Leicester Avenue and walked through the entrance of Gratification, Inc.
In the lobby, he saw a Marilyn Monroe facsimile working the reception desk. The Marilyn looked up at him and smiled at him as he walked in.
“I know you! Weren’t you the first lady?”
“Yes, sir. Do you have an appointment?”
“Room thirteen, on the left. Go in, get undressed, lie down, and the doctor will be with you shortly”
Frederick did exactly as he was told.
After a few minutes, the doctor came in. Frederick craned his neck from the bed to watch the doctor walking to the cupboard and fiddling with implements.
“So, Frederick, what are you in for? What’s your fantasy?”
“Well, I’d really like to do it with Joni Mitchell.”
“And someone I knew in high school.”
“Right. Well, just relax, we’ll take care of you.”
The doctor walked over and jabbed a needle in Frederick’s arm.
“Just some medicine to loosen up your brain waves. It helps the machine do its work.”
Frederick had trouble keeping his eyes open, and when he blinked he found himself at home, on his lounge. Joni Mitchell was there, and Fiona too.
“Boy, the fun we’ll have!” he thought.
Frederick woke up in his bed, smugly smiling to himself. It was a work day, and he was a working man, but he kept smiling. He performed his ablutions and got ready for work. After work, on the bus home, he saw Fiona. He tried to wave hello, but it was busy and she didn’t see. He went home and heated up some pork mass for dinner.
The next week, he saw Fiona again at his office. What was she doing there, he asked. She looked perplexed, she’s worked there for eight months, didn’t he know? No, he didn’t know.
It turned out that she actually lived in the same apartment block as him. Unit 309. She must have just moved in. He loitered around her doorway in the mornings, waiting for her to come out so they could go to work together, but she just ignored him. Funny how she acts so differently at work than at home, he thought.
Around five o’clock he sauntered over to her desk as she was getting ready to leave. They rode the elevator down without speaking, and walked to the bus stop together. She got on a bus into the city.
“Not going home?” he asked.
“Yes?” as she hopped on.
He hung around and waited for the bus to take him home. Fiona was already on it.
“Catch the wrong bus?”
Pork mass for dinner. He knocked on 309 and asked if she wanted some, but she said she’d rather just be left alone.
He turned on the television. Fiona hadn’t told him she was on Masterchef. Perhaps that’s why she’s been acting so strangely lately, he thought. The stress. And he had offered her industrial-grade pork mass, like a schmuck!
He tried to apologise to Fiona on the bus in the morning. She had her headphones in and mustn’t have heard him or seen him. He apologised again at lunch. She said that yes, she would love to have pork mass with him tonight, and where does he live? Just a few doors down, unit 305. Surely she knew that? No, she wasn’t aware. Why don’t they take the bus home together?
At five he couldn’t find Fiona, so he just left. He’d see her later tonight. He got on the bus. Fiona was driving. He dipped his ticket and sat down. Why was Fiona driving? He stood back up.
“Why are you driving the bus?”
He couldn’t make out the mumbled answer underneath the busy hum of traffic.
“Are you still coming over tonight?”
She pointed to a sign that read ”Please, don’t speak to the driver while the bus is in motion”.
Perplexed and dejected, he got off the bus and walked up to his unit. He walked passed Fiona’s unit and noticed that the door was open. He looked inside, knocked, and saw Fiona inside.
“Would you like to come over for dinner?”
No, sorry, she said, not tonight.
He went to his unit and sat down to watch television. There was a knock on the door. Perhaps Fiona had changed her mind! Such fickleness. He opened the door, and it was Fiona. She had brought a friend. A twin sister? He didn’t know she had siblings. Fiona mumbled unintelligibly and walked inside. He tried to give her a hug, but was quite rudely and firmly pushed away. What was that in Fiona Two’s hands? A new jacket! They helped him put it on.
“Love bacon? Like to travel? Hate gravity?”
B-Stein fondled his last memories of Earth as he unexcitedly, indiscriminately picked at his breakfast. Terra. Solid ground. It had been three years since he felt the ground, and three years of eating the same bacon every day. And it was the same bacon. It was the same atoms of carbon, sodium, iron, and whatever else he had brought with him, reconstituted from his effluvient, delicately pressed together to form the shape of some dead animal.
While B-Stein is preoccupied with his breakfast, strange vibrations are starting to emanate from small electromagnets around the ship. The vibrations move through the recycled air, and reach B-Stein in a few milliseconds.
“Christ”, he muttered, “not another one”.
His crewmate F-Meier had been experimenting with the porkulator, trying to extract something slightly less porky, but all his experiments so far had ended up as a ball of plasmodic, flaming flesh.
B-Stein started to undo the velcro that was conveniently fastening him to his seat. The loud crackling zipping, which he had relished as a child, brought no joy to him any more. He felt a strange, yet familiar, sensation of air passing by him as he was sucked towards a new hole in the ship’s hull. He didn’t feel particularly cold, but did find it quite hard to breathe. This caused him a great amount of stress. He didn’t think of his wife L-Stein or their unborn child.
After the porkulator explosion of ’808, the hull breach was, purely by accident, sealed by the porkulator itself. Despite plans to remove the porkulator and weld the hull shut, by the time they were ready, the exterior was already overgrown with meat. A committee was formed, and it was decided not to risk further injury and leave the porkulator where it was. Plus, it tasted much better now.
B-Stein with L-Stein née Schön begat B-Stein-II, who with K-Stein née Meier begat P-Berg née Stein.
F-Meier with M-Meier née Feldt begat K-Stein née Meier.
F-Berg begat J-Berg, mother unknown; J-Berg and P-Berg née Stein begat T-Berg.
T-Berg put on his shaving suit. The shaving suit had begun life as an ordinary space suit, designed primarily for keeping oxygen in and radiation out. After a few unfortunate accidents shaving the pork, however, it was decided that it must also keep very sharp objects such as carving knives out as well.
T-Berg gave a firm tug on each of the fastenings, seals, rings and pinnipeds of his suit. No oxygen would be escaping today. He shook the carving knife to check the fuel, and heard sufficient petrol splashing inside its tank.
T-Berg had some trouble negotiating the ship without his velcro boots, and slowly worked his way to the airlock. He closed the inner lock, took the pressure down, and opened the outer lock. Before leaving through the outer lock, he pulled on the cord and started the carving knife.
He shimmied out of the lock, turning on his electromagnetic boots to anchor him to the exterior of the hull.
“Strange”, he thought, “there doesn’t seem to be any growth since last week. Something must be wrong with the porkulator”.
The hull breach where the porkulator was embedded was a five minute walk away, and he walked there uneventfully. He hadn’t been this far from the airlock before, but it all looked the same: a sea of meat, seared from the unfiltered radiation of a thousand distant stars.
He identified the porkulator as a large protrusion of meat, and started digging away with the carving knife. He stuffed what he could into his carry bag, and let the rest drift away into the void.
As he got deeper, his anxiety grew. Nobody had seen the porkulator since ’808. What if he reopened the hull? No, it was unlikely that he could reopen the hull. That entire section of the interior had been filled with meat for generations. He kept digging, and finally reached a metal compartment, like a safe or a refrigerator.
T-Berg had studied well, and knew a bit about porkulator mechanics: you had the source material that needed to be kept frozen so it wouldn’t get rancid, and the probes into the source material to inspect the DNA and structure. The effluvient input pipes were then filtered, processed and the output was a delicious porky meal, full of vitamins, calcium, and everything else your body decided it didn’t want in the first place.
T-Berg carved around the refrigerator door and pried it open. The light didn’t turn on. One thing T-Berg knew about refrigerators and freezers was that they had lights. He turned his headlamp on and peered in, to find the perfectly preserved face of his maternal great grandfather.