“Sorry to keep you up,” Cindy said as she walked with Jacob through the maze of corridors on the way to the Farm.
Cindy hadn’t been able to sleep—she’d felt wired and jittery. So after lying in bed for a few hours, she’d gotten up and found Jacob. He’d said that he hadn’t been sleeping either, and he’d offered to take her for a little walk. Cindy wanted to see the Farm. They’d now been walking in the dim light of the underground tunnels for almost an hour.
They mostly walked in silence. Jacob was generously allowing Cindy to take the lead in starting a conversation, giving her space to think. Once in a while they saw a slight blue glow, but Jacob always steered them away in another direction. The path was so tangled with turns that Cindy was sure she could never find her way back on her own.
But she found that the mechanical movement of taking one step after another was helping to untangle her thoughts, to shape her perceptions and questions. She decided to hide what she had learned from the wastebasket in the bathroom.
“How did you find Digger?” Cindy finally asked.
“They found me,” Jacob answered. “I had always been interested in growing things. Digger spotted me in the library one day. He told me he had been observing me for several months before approaching.”
“Had you ever noticed him watching you?”
“Nope. Then again, I never really paid much attention to the people around me. I was usually reading,” Jacob explained.
“So how did he get to you?”
“What do you mean?” Jacob asked.
“Why do you trust them, Jacob? I look at Digger and I look at Phebe, and I don’t see someone that I would naturally want to approach. So how did they get to you?”
“The world has an obesity problem.”
“No shit! I’m not some uneducated clod—I know the history.” Cindy adopted the robot-like voice of a government official telling the official history of tits. “‘We were all very lucky to make the connection when we did. The whole world supports the work of Transdimensional Industries.’”
Jacob smiled, but his voice remained earnest. “But it’s not only obesity. We also had severe food shortages. Starvation and death by overeating were the most common ways people died.” When Cindy didn’t say anything, he continued. “We had food shortages and riots. There were over ten billion people on our planet. There was no way to feed that many people.”
“I wasn’t making—”
“Just let me finish, please. There are even more people alive now. Right now, Cindy. There’s no way to feed everyone if not for the goo. We need the goo!”
“But…” Cindy started to speak but didn’t know what to say.
“We only get as much goo as we put into the system. Get it?” Jacob’s voice got very low. “We need people to contribute into the tits program.”
“Or we all starve.” Cindy stated the logical conclusion.
They walked in silence for a while. Cindy was thinking through the implications.
“So why not give everyone a fully funded tits account? Why make people wait? Why leave them fat and unhealthy?” she asked. “What was the point of my old job?”
Jacob explained. “When the first transdimensional breakthrough was made, it was just a tiny puncture in the universe. Transdimensional Industries figured out how to exploit the connection between the different dimensions and how to pump the human fat in and the goo out. And then it was all about trying to make the connection bigger, to make more connections.”
“How many connections are there?”
“I don’t know.” Jacob gestured to the tunnels and the walls. “This is one. There are many more. I don’t know how many.”
“It’s a government secret,” Cindy said.
“Something like that. But there aren’t infinitely many connections. And it’s been very hard to make more. In fact, Digger said there haven’t been any new dimensional breakthroughs in over a decade.”
“So we’re dealing with a very limited resource,” Cindy said.
“And a continuously growing population,” Jacob added. “And I mean that in more than one way.”
“I got that.”
“When the limited resource is critical for our food supply,” Jacob continued, “it’s not a sustainable situation.”
“So what are Digger and Phebe doing about that?” Cindy asked.
“They’re looking for ways to stop the dependency on tits.”
“Are they?” Cindy said.
Jacob gave her a surprised look. “Phebe has been searching for a technological solution for years. And there’s always the low-tech approach.” Jacob jiggled the extra skin on his stomach.
“But not everyone would be able to just eat less,” Cindy said.
“Better that than a catastrophic failure.” Jacob’s expression was dark.
“Can something like that happen?”
“It’s not whether it can happen, but when. It’s just a matter of time. And every day, more and more people are born and become addicted to tits.”
“For both the fat removal and the food.”
“Yeah. It’s pretty grim. But at least here, on the Farm, we’re trying to do something about it. That’s why I joined them. They were trying to do something. Everyone else is just…”
“Complacent. Hoping that it’ll all just work out,” Cindy finished.
“Let’s go see our beautiful gardens,” Jacob said, changing the subject. “We’re almost there.”
He took her hand, and Cindy didn’t pull away. She liked the feel of his fingers against her own. It made the news of the impending worldwide catastrophe more bearable somehow.