971604, proletariat, conversation 2

Artwork by Alex Kinney

[digs into a glazed piece of salmon]
The last time I had salmon like this was when I was ten or so. That was a long time ago. You know how old I am.
Yes. I’ve had fresh fish here and there, but mostly I have only had protein powders flavored like fish. This tastes much better than the stuff I’ve had.
Yeah, relish it, sweetheart. You won’t have any fish for a long, long time. Good thing it comes outta your boss’s budget. This shit is expensive.
[a few moments. Food is cleared off the table. Takes a mint from breast pocket.]
Where were we? Cannibalism?
Yes, the cannibalism.
Well, as you know, the meat industry was a complete disaster for the planet. Even the organic farming industries, you know. That whole movement became some kind of trend for the upper middle class. There was no actual proof as to if it was more carbon efficient. Sometimes it was just as bad, and it used more land than conventional farming. . .
[trails off for a moment, in old lady fashion.]
The farming was offsetting the climate, no?
Yeah, like I said. There were more extreme weather patterns than ever before and every day was hotter than the next. There were more hurricanes and extreme storms. The carbon impact of the meat industry became so severe and soon enough all the chicken, pork, beef, whatever, all that became a luxury. It became expensive because of its processing.
Yes, it’s on special occasions that we get to eat that stuff.
Exactly. So, rather than let human meat go to waste, we take the offal, or put car crash victims out of their misery, and we cut them into nice little pieces. And then you buy ‘em from the grocery store and you make a nice sautéed dish with garlic. It’s affordable for the lower zoo. Myself included.
So, our normal meat sources became too expensive and we turned to human meat instead?
Precisely, yes. We were just pumping the dead ones full of formaldehyde and other shit, and burying them. It was terrible for the environment. All kinds of nutrient depletion in the soil and all. There was really no need for all those chemicals, you know.
What do you mean?
[chomps down on mint aggressively.]
Jesus, sweetheart. Human burial should be left at that. All the chemicals are such a waste. Bodies should be free to decompose and maggots should be free to burrow into the entrails and cycle through the ecosystem, you know? Maybe we could make something of all the waste.
Perhaps cremation is better?
[coughs and gathers belongings]
No, not necessarily. Cremation still uses fuel. And it’s not exactly environmentally friendly.
Well, then, how do you suggest we dispose of the bodies if they are not eligible or if they are not used for our diet?
Between you and me, I have a neighbor who froze his grandma and dipped her in liquid nitrogen. And then he flung her against the wall and she shattered.
She shattered?
She shattered. His grandma literally shattered into a million bits. All over the sidewalk. In the grass. In the bushes. Speaking of which, really started to flourish after that.
That’s interesting.
[cracks knuckles and shifts restlessly]
I think it’s a better alternative to traditional burial. I mean, the old lady had one of those medical devices inside of her, so maybe we could filter that stuff out. What’s left over is compost for your precious kale and quinoa.
[silence]
I suppose it’s cost effective.
Oh, it is more than cost effective, darling. People spend too much money on burial. If you must have a coffin, make one out of cardboard. It’s biodegradable that way. But I have to say, liquid nitrogen is a shit show. It ain’t cost effective in that way.
What about people with certain spiritual beliefs?
[stands up]
Everyone can do whatever they goddamn want. If there’s no reason to waste, then we shouldn’t. Just look at where we are now.
[shakes interviewer’s hand]
This has been a great talk, really. I must get back to the butcher shop. They have a big crisis with some kind of airborne virus. Some kind of plague. Maybe it’s the end of the human reign.

971604, proletariat, conversation 1

Artwork by Alex Kinney.

State your name, please.
Forget about names, sweetheart. It’s not like it matters anymore.
[one breath of laughter]
I’m one of those lucre club millennials. At least, that’s what the Wikipedia hologram page says.
What can you tell us about your experience with how the world has changed, 1604?
It hasn’t changed much. It just…continued its devolution. I knew we’d keep spiraling until we were in this state of something out of a horror movie. But who am I to talk, right? I was just as complicit as everyone else. We were all so greedy.
[reaches across the table, takes two cheap plastic bottles of rum and stuffs them into coat. Opens another one and takes a swig.]
When I was twenty, the president decided to abandon those climate change initiatives, you know? You’re too young to know. Well, in any case, that’s what we did.
What became of it? What did you do?
Things didn’t change for a while. Things went on. I didn’t give a rat’s ass at the time, either. I was a fresh-faced piranha looking for a career in real estate. I just wanted to make a killing and live luxuriously.
Yes, the drive for avarice never changes, does it?
No, no it doesn’t.
[chuckles]
Years passed by. Obesity was still shooting through the roofs. At least pot was legalized in most states. And gas prices were insane, sweetheart, let me tell you. People started working from their homes, and online. Jobs were getting automated. It was a nightmare. Still is.
Yeah, I read somewhere that people used to spend hours in traffic driving themselves around!
Oh, yeah. You won’t see a driver anywhere these days.
What do you do for a living? Is your job about to be automated?
Darling, I hack human limbs and torsos up for a living. Of course, I’m due to be automated soon.
[groans purposefully]
But there’s an art to disarticulating the human body. How will machines read the infinite variety of bodies? There’s lanky ones, pimpled ones, big ones, bony ones, squishy ones. How will they be able to slice the best slabs of meat without hitting the viscera? How will they know without truly seeing and understanding a human body and having a body of their own? There’s an art to it, darling. There really is.
When did the mass production of human meat begin?
[cackles]
Oh, sweetheart, you mean to ask ‘when did cannibalism become mainstream?’
[relishes alcohol and pauses for a moment]
Well, you know there was an exponential growth in human population and the food resources just simply couldn’t keep up with its leisurely arithmetic pace. Malthus was right. The meat industry for poultry, fish and seafood, beef, pork, you name it, was at its apex. But it just couldn’t keep up with our growing appetites and demands. We had to turn to any meat source we could find. We laughed at all the clean, ethical eaters. We laughed at the vegans but God, if I could go back and change things, I would. They knew that the meat industry was destroying the environment.
How was it changing?
God, you’re young. Well, when I was a kid, there were four seasons. Four very distinct seasons. There was winter. That was very cold, and there was snow. There was summer. And then the environment and climate had to adapt to fossil fuel productions and everything was warmer than it had ever been. There were more extreme weather patterns. More hurricanes and floods. It was devastating.
So how did cannibalism come about?
Tell you what. Get me the biggest fish you can find and I’ll tell you the rest of my story.