Food – Michael Meillarec
It happens like it does in old movies. Milo walks home down some winding country road, humming the appropriate John Denver song. Then, something moves in the sky. A shimmer. A burst of brilliant, cornea-scorching light.
Next he knows, four metal walls surround him. He screamed for what seemed like days, naked flesh against cold steel. Not a single rivet or screw in the walls either, and no clearly defined door.
Four metal walls became the breadth of Milo’s existence. At first, he beat against them until his hands went bloody.
But time tempers even the most disorderly. It only takes a few hours under the buzzing electric light, though it felt like days.
Eventually, he falls asleep, despite the chill and hardness of the cell.
He wakes with a start to the crackle of thunder. Bangs his head against the wall as he jumps. Pain shatters through his head as his eyes adjust to the light.
A bit of red has invaded his grey cell.
It’s an apple. But not really. It sits in the corner, almost mocking him, unnaturally misshapen. Rather than round, it’s edged with flat sides, hexagonal and isometric. No stem. No discoloration. Solid red all throughout without so much as a freckle or a bruise.
It feels odd in Milo’s hand. Too heavy, too hard-edged.
He throws it against the wall so hard that the blood in his arm stings. It bounces once as it hits the floor, doesn’t even dent.
“Is this even real food?” he howls. His voice cracks, tongue dry as ash.
His anger is enough to sustain him for a while. But food is food, and he cannot recall when he last ate. His mouth waters, dribbles white in the corner of his lips.
Still, he rejects it for a time. Hours that drag like days in the cold silence of the cell. Not a blanket or pillow to be found.
That’s when it first appears. Thunder crackles, then it emerges from some unseen fold. An orb bobbing on the air like a tennis ball on the wake. The same rivetless steel complexion as the walls, but rounder and somehow softer.
It regards him eyelessly. Then a word plunges into his mind. A thought as crisp as fire cuts through him like a cold wind.
Milo cradles his head in his hands as the word echoes endlessly off the walls of his skull.
He doesn’t know how long it is before he says, “I know it’s food!” He almost laughs at situation. At how ridiculous it all is. A day ago, he was at a party. Now he’s naked in a cell with an alien apple. The laugh never comes. “But it’s fucking weird food.”
The orb simply bobs on nothing while whirring at a high pitch. Like a computer thinking.
It repeats itself. Food. The concept enters his mind like a knife through butter.
“Me?” he asks, finally understanding. “I’m food?”
The orb doesn’t deign to respond.
Most Michael Meillarec’s efforts have gone into genre writing. In addition to a research thesis about post-apocalyptic fiction, he has published a novella called the Scouts Handbook for a Post-Apocalyptic World, a short story collection he curated named Radioactive Dreams, a few personal essays in Touchstone and New Leaf, and some scattered poems in places he’s too proud to mention. He has also written a few text-based video games, one of which is n the App Store and on Steam. Learn more: https://mmeillarec.wordpress.com/