Brave New Cafeteria

It’s 13:00 at the feeding center. Before the meltdown, the center’s windows allowed in sunlight. Now, the windows are walls. We each line up six feet apart on our designated floor positions. Like newly manufactured widgets under inspection for defects, we are summoned towards the checkpoint. The feeding officer motions for me. I tap my proximity card onto the reader, “Welcome A160038**,” she vocalizes. “Brave new world,” I remark. “Mhm,” she murmurs from under her mask. Robotically, she administers an isopropyl alcohol solution onto my hands. Mercilessly, the hydroxyl groups “shred apart” the phospholipid bilayers of my resident microbes—my hands rendered devoid of life. Having executed this brutal scorched earth policy, I follow the red arrows into the main chamber. It is different here; the new quietness and impersonality is discomforting. Once my selection of hermetically sealed rations has been made, I’m efficiently directed out of the center. The whole process takes no more than three minutes. It’s painless, but nothing more. In and out, we’re processed, allotted rations, then expelled.