One website I regularly enjoy reading is Big Think, a site with commentary covering numerous categories of progressive throught, such as in science, politics, ethics and philosophy.
Some time ago, the site held a short story competition, with contestants given a weekend to write a science fiction tale around the subject of ‘future food’. I couldn’t help but give it a go, and here is the final product.
It didn’t win any prizes, but I enjoyed telling the story. I hope you enjoy.
“What does it taste like?”
I cant remember the taste of a real apple. Or a strawberry.
Now that I think about it, there are lots of foods that I cant remember eating. You know, the real ones. The ones grown in the dirt or picked from really big trees.
Mum says that I did get to eat some when I was much smaller. I ask her how old I was when I ate them. She always replies “when you were about 2 or 3 buddy”. I’m 11 and half now.
Whenever I ask Mum about what the real ones taste like and why cant we have them now, she seems a bit sad, gives a little sigh and explains to me that they don’t grow very well now, its too hot for them, and that only people with a lot of money can afford the ones that are left.
I dont really understand what Mum means. The other day at school I secretly used my Google Goggles to see if I could find a better explanation on the internet, but I still dont understand it really. It says something about a tipping point when suddenly the temperature all around us jumped up really quickly. Snow melted in places it hadn’t for millions of years. Lots of animals went extinct. The internet says it happened in 2052. Lots of people, old people like my Nan, died when it happened.
I don’t remember Nan, but Mum says she would be fond of me and all the questions I ask.
The little black machine makes a funny noise when Mum uses it. Woooshhhzappppp! Woooshhhzapppp!
The kitchen benches are too high for me to see what happens when Mum points the machine at the tub and pulls the trigger. I grab the box that it came in down from next to where Mum is getting dinner ready. Food Matter Materialisation Device says the box. “With improved nano-wave particle identification technology – better tasting food for you and your family at every meal”.
Mum grabs another tub of pure matter particles from the cupboard, points the gun-like machine at it and starts pulling the trigger again.
Our new food gun isn’t as great as Sam’s one. Sam’s my best friend at school. His family live in a big house in Werribee, an inner suburb of Melbourne. Their house is much bigger than ours. I think Sam’s family is rich. Their food gun does everything really quickly, even cooking the food perfectly when it forms.
Dad had to buy a new one the other week because I had broken the last one. Before Mum had finished cleaning up after dinner I grabbed it ran to my room, pretending to shoot things. I accidently pulled the trigger and a piece of my desk started to melt and turn into a zucchini. Mum had just made some zucchinis for dinner and had forgotten to turn it off. The gun didn’t work quite as well after that.
I ask Mum how the gun works. She says she’s not really sure, some very smart scientists built it. She says that all she knows is that the processor shoots energy waves of different lengths into the particles and, depending on what food you ask the processor to make, it pulls out the particles it needs to make that food.
“Why can’t I see the waves Mum? I can see waves at the beach!” Mum explains that the waves are tiny and made of light, and we can’t see them without special goggles.
“And then” says Mum, “the processor assembles all the little bits of matter into the right order so that it makes something that looks like, feels like and tastes like the real thing”.
I hear the front door close and then something heavy falling to the ground. It was Dad.
“Please turn your skateboard off and put it away when you’re finished playing with it!’ He cries out. Whoops! I must have left it hovering next my shoes when I came in.
Rosie, the automatic vaccum cleaner, weaves it’s way around my legs. It’s name isnt’ really Rosie. I named it that after the cleaner robot on The Jetsons. Nan first showed me The Jetsons which she said was from her childhood.
Mum puts the last bits of the freshly made vegetables in the oven.
“Do they taste as good as the real thing Mum?” I ask.
“Sorry?” Mum asks. The beep of the super-conductor oven setting itself must have drowned out my question.
“The apples. The ones from the tree. Do they taste different to the ones we have now?” I repeated.
Mum kneeled down to me.
“Well buddy, sometimes the real ones looked a bit funny, or had some marks on their skin. Not like the ones we have now. But, when the juice from a real apple runs onto your tongue, it was delicious.”
“Mum!” I begged.
“You didn’t answer my question! Do the ones we eat taste as good as the real ones?” I asked impatiently.
Mum glanced away, and then turned back to me with a kind of pitied look. The kind of look she gives me when we lose footy by a few points on the weekend but tells me we played really well.
She turned away slowly again.
Her shoulders lowered a bit and her back hunched forward a little. She stared out the window.
I was starting to get impatient with the pause.
“Close enough Buddy. Close enough”.