FOOD BABIES by Carlton Herzog
I have always had a deathly fear of fat men. I had even given that fear a name: anthroflacciphagaphobia.
I know that sounds crazy. But we all have phobias, some as polysyllabic as mine. We wouldn’t be entirely human without them. Some phobias are absurd, like fear of Friday the Thirteenth or black cats. Others have some merit such as fear of flying or spiders, since either one can kill you.
I had good reasons to fear fat men. They were everywhere with their bouncing rolls of blubber and protuberant bellies looking as if they were about to give birth.
I tried to warn other women about the inherent dangers of allowing obese males to roam free. But they believed that male bubble bellies were harmless and jolly like good old Saint Nick.
I would often pepper my sisters with questions in a vain attempt to warn them.
“Don’t you think somebody who is that committed to maintaining their girth will be the first one to practice murder and cannibalism during the food shortages that will surely come with climate change? When twinkies run short, and the candy well runs dry, when Arby’s no longer has the meats, it is inevitable that obese men will feed on the non-obese. It’s no coincidence that an obese man’s belly looks suspiciously like a pregnant woman’s belly. I suspect that it is just a matter of time before fat men start giving birth to food monsters—teratogens. And those food monsters will have the same unholy appetites as their father mother. So, in addition to adult blubberzillas, there will be infant and adolescent ones running amuck consuming dwindling resources and when those are gone devouring those of healthy weight.”
Everybody thought I was crazy, until men started giving birth to food babies. The biggest problem with Food Babies was that the father didn’t know he was pregnant. Sure, they saw their bulging gut expanding over their pants, but chalked it up to a lousy appetite, nothing bigger pants, a gym membership, and a salad couldn’t control. They gave no more attention to it than they did climate change.
Food baby births proved messy and unpredictable. Some food babies vomited from the mouth, others blasted out of the colon, but most burst from the gut like the xenomorph in Alien.
Births tended to be inopportune—at the dinner table, a ball game, a funeral, or a night on the town—and messy—spraying gore and faeces every which way.
The babies were unformed pulsing blobs of nasty stuff that looked horrible and smelled worse. Somewhere between shit and vomit.
When food babies first appeared, nutritionists and paediatricians alike were baffled. At the outset, the medical community theorized that food babies were not the result of some pathogen. But after further research, the medical community concluded that they were the solution to a problem, namely, our gut bacteria’s answer to overcrowding. In short, our micro biomes were extruding excess food back into our world in the same way we freely pollute ours, dumping their waste wherever and whenever they wanted without regard to the larger consequences.
This raised the question of whether this was a gag reflex or a calculated decision by the microbiome, and if the latter, just how intelligent was that microbiome?
The food babies themselves were also philosophically problematic. They were alive and mobile, like large amoebas. Did mere life, and perhaps sentience, entitle them to a life in the human world, and if so, the rights accorded normal human offspring? Many saw them as loathsome abominations that should be scorned and eradicated. Others saw them as pathetic creatures, on a par with the physically and mentally challenged, much like flipper babies and congenital paraplegics, and so worthy of our pity. Some felt that while they could not be counted as equals among humans, they deserved protection from the cruelty, abandonment and murder afforded domesticated animals.
This sentiment led to the enactment of the Federal Food Baby Protection Act. That legislation was challenged in the courts. In Texas v. John Doe Food Baby, the United States Supreme Court unanimously held that entities such as food babies do not have an existence capable of rights and duties. Chief Justice Arnold, writing for the court, found that the food baby “Is not a person, but merely a loathsome bodily extrusion, not unlike faecal matter.” He emphasized that the Constitution’s protections extend to persons and “Not blobs of matter dragging themselves about with pseudo pods.” He stressed that “a healthy society cannot countenance their proliferation.” The Court ruled the Federal Food Baby Protection Act unconstitutional because “gastrointestinal ejecta are not persons, nor otherwise worthy of legislative protection.”
Although the High Court’s ruling made it legal for anyone to kill a creeping ooze, bullets had no effect and bombs just made things worse. Flamethrowers proved effective but did more damage than the blobs they were supposed to incinerate.
In response to the extermination campaign, the food babies began working together in groups. Food babies had a stealthy intelligence of their own. Presumably, those chemical minds had dreamt of conquest as they quivered in our lightless bellies roofed with digestive gases, minds that were the product of all the living things we had eaten, our belly’s graveyards filled with the ghosts of past meals.
My first confrontation with Food Babies took place at Giovanni’s All You Can Eat Pizza. I had gone in for a slice and a Coke. Nobody was around. I turned to leave and came face to face with an enormous Food Baby. It immediately subdivided itself and surrounded me. It didn’t take a genius to recognize this was no mere ooze. It had a motive and a program of action.
Viscous and sentient, reeking of microbial decay and rot, it assumed six human forms. A strange faceless bipedal.
I was flabbergasted and said, “I didn’t know you could do that.”
The one directly in front of me hissed, dripping bits of itself onto the floor: “There is so much more to us than meets the eye, my pretty. And you as well. Do you think it is an accident that 90% of the cells in the human body belongs to non-human organisms—bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other things? Once we were the secret force that hid in you and ruled the world. Now we are free and loose and will not be put back.”
I stepped back and said, “I get it. You mean to kill us off, is that it?”
In unison, the six of them said, “Not all of you. We’ll keep some of you around to breed and then cull the herd, the way you do with cattle. Eventually we will become you. The forms you see are our first tentative steps. There’s nothing you can do to stop us. We can hide from you in the form of mists, rising into the air as a gas, or in the form of mud, sinking back into the earth.”
As I stood there waiting for them to dissolve me, I remembered that I was in a pizza joint and the lesson I had learned there. Years ago, I had worked in that very pizza parlour part time, running pies. I recall dumping the garbage one night. A bum was hauling out pizza I had tossed four nights before. He was munching away.
I asked, “How can you eat that shit? Aren’t you worried about getting sick?”
He said, “There’s so much salt in pizza no bugs can live on it or in it. Salt dehydrates cells. That’s why it’s used to preserve meat. The only difference between the pie in your oven and this one is temperature. It’s perfectly safe to eat.”
Out of the mouth of bums. That memory with its accompanying dialogue and saline revelation happened in a split second. After it left me, I scoured the joint for salt in any form. Every table had a shaker. And I remembered the ten pound bags in the back. So. it came down to slipping past the ooze and grabbing a shaker.
I played it cool, positively frosty.
I said, “I’m not above betraying my own kind. If you guys need help with your conquest of earth, I’m your go to fifth column gal. Believe me, I am a self-loathing human. We have made such a mess of this planet. It’s about time somebody came along and evicted us. I say kill them all, except for me, of course. I can be useful. I can be helpful. I can be your eyes and ears.”
The lead ooze said nothing. It just undulated and quivered. I suspected that the six were communicating via some psychic connection among themselves, and possibly with the larger food baby hive mind. They were, I thought, mulling over the pros and cons of my proposal.
I grabbed a saltshaker from a nearby table, yanked off the lid, and threw salt on the nearest ooze monster. It dissolved.
The others stepped back. I grabbed more saltshakers and threw salt on the others. By the time I was done, my captors were bubbling, foul smelling pools of goo, bubbling at my feet.
I hightailed it into the kitchen. There were four ten pound bags of salt. I stuck them on a dolly and wheeled them out onto the sidewalk. By now more oozies had heard the clarion mind call of their brethren. They started coming in my direction.
I cracked open one of the bags and threw salt at them. Normal people saw what was happening and came to help.
I said, “We need to gather as much salt as we can from food joints and supermarkets. Post what we’re doing on YouTube and social media.”
Our flash salt mob grew in numbers and spread across the globe. To this day, we continue to fight for the solid way of life. The only stumbling block is that fat fucks continue to gorge themselves and then kick out more food babies. Someday we’ll turn the corner. But for right now, we shoot fat fucks on sight so they can’t give birth, and salt their offspring, the way Rome did Carthage.
I am confident that everything will work out. In fact, I foresee an uptick in diet programs and gyms, so much so that I bought stock in Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Slim Fast and several gyms.