The Cricket

insects are the protein of the future

A bitter rain fell on the city of Los Angeles.

It was cold out for this time of year. Summers used to bring agonizing heat waves to the city, but in recent times the weather had been much chillier. Some eggheads in pristine lab coats had been babbling on TV. We had entered a “solar minimum” and were due for an ice age. They had been saying something similar for quite a while, but this time it seemed like they were right.

The prices of everything had gone up. Nobody lived by themselves, and it was common then for half a dozen “urban professionals” to pack themselves like sardines into tiny one-bedroom apartments. While this was bearable at times, the exorbitant cost of a meal was not. Food prices soared as much of the country was covered in a thick layer of frost throughout the year. People made do with what was still within their budget: hearty tubers and indoor-grown legumes.

Meat was a rarity in those days. Once found in every single meal, people were lucky to get their hands on a tin of anchovies or a single egg. The great herds of cattle that dominated the American West were nowhere to be found.

J.C. tapped away at the wireless keyboard in front of him. He had just been hired at the hottest startup in Silicon Beach, DKPK. DKPK was a revolutionary company by all measures. They touted themselves as the world’s first “Web 5.0” company. DKPK was so innovative that they had skipped Web 4.0 entirely and were already on its fifth iteration.

DKPK produced a mobile application that seamlessly shared pictures of your genitalia across your social media accounts and recorded their metadata on the blockchain. All the kids were using it and you could even follow your favorite celebrities. The company was valued at six billion dollars only two years into its operation and was due any day for a successful initial public offering.

The rain rapped ceaselessly on the floor to ceiling windows of DKPK Tower in downtown Los Angeles. In order to drown out the sound of the rain, HR had doubled the volume of the Top 40 tracks they usually played in order to keep the office productive. A crooning voice sang about the joys of mixing opioid analgesics with alcohol from loudspeakers in the office ceiling.

J.C. checked the clock on his computer. He had only fifteen minutes before lunch. Because of the high cost of food, lunch was often the only meal people ate. Lunch had climbed in status from a forgettable midday meal to a celebratory affair the likes of which were once only witnessed on holidays. Everybody had lunch together at DKPK and shared what they brought that day in a daily company potlatch.

It was a mandatory company policy to attend the potlatch and share the food you brought with your co-workers. Most days, you could get your hands on half a potato or a sizable portion of black beans. The founder of DKPK, when he was around, would often contribute a small freshwater fish to the potlatch—a delicacy in those days as much of the fish available came brined and canned.

DKPK’s founder was wealthy beyond your wildest dreams. He had it all: luxury cars, luxury boats, and luxury homes. He started DKPK on a small loan of ten million dollars from his father, an infamous securities attorney implicated for insider trading. DKPK was built from the ground up and was living proof that just about anyone could become rich in America with enough hard work and determination.

The office loudspeaker cut into the rather lively top 40 song that was playing—a raucous number about the presumably large size of the singer’s own penis—and sounded the bell for lunch. Everybody got up from their desks and walked to the floor’s conference room to begin the potlatch. The potlatch began to take shape with innumerable containers of beans, lentils, and starchy vegetables appearing on the table.

Two punch bowls were placed on a nearby counter by HR, one containing a fizzy syrupy drink and the other a creamy white liquid that resembled cow’s milk. Fresh water, a rapidly dwindling resource in those days, was reserved primarily for the large multi-national beverage companies who could afford it. It didn’t make sense for a company to sell straight water, when it could inject cheap vegetable-derived oils and carbon dioxide gas into it and charge ten times as much. Besides, most people found water tasteless and were happy to support the companies whose familiar brands were paraded on TV every single day.

Sid, a boisterous H-1B software developer from Bangalore, walked into the conference room gripping a giant metal vat. Sid was a favorite at DKPK due to his comedic vibe. Though all his jokes centered on him taking pretend offense to things people said while accusing them of being bigoted, the office found his humor endlessly amusing. Sid placed the metal vat in the center of the table and opened the lid.

The vat contained thousands of small steamed crickets clumped together like re-fried beans. J.C.’s co-workers lit up in delight. Crickets and other small insects had become the protein of the future just as the experts had predicted. They were inexpensive to produce, could be raised indoors, and provided a valuable source of protein to a malnourished population. Seeing as meat was outside the price range of most people, insects had become a staple.

J.C. hated insects and refused to eat them. He still remembered the days when people ate meat regularly and knew somewhere in his heart that they had all been duped. The rich people dined on beef, lamb, and all sorts of exotic meats every single day. He saw them in the fancy restaurants he walked by, shoveling pieces of flesh into their greedy mouths while discussing their latest vacations to islands he couldn’t pronounce. He believed that it wasn’t that meat was rare or expensive, but rather the rich had tricked the population into eating insects so they could keep it all for themselves.

J.C. got himself a plate of potatoes and beans and eyed Sid nervously as he went around the room ladling a heaping pile of mashed crickets onto his co-worker’s plates. J.C.’s co-workers loved insects and considered them a sustainable solution to the agriculture problems of the freezing nation. Sid soon arrived in front of J.C., vat of crickets and ladle in hand.

“None for me today. Sorry, Sid.”

“Oh, you’re the new guy here I see.”

A few co-workers who overheard their conversation chuckled.

“Yeah, I just started last week. But I’m good for now. I have enough food on my plate.”

“Well, you can never have too much food these days. Here have some.”

J.C. shifted his weight and stared at the ladle before him. Before he could speak again, Sid plopped a ladleful of mashed crickets over the food on his plate. J.C. resigned and thanked him as Sid continued his rounds.

Lunch proceeded, but J.C. stood there staring at the amorphous abomination covering the food on his plate. He couldn’t just get a new plate, because it was forbidden to waste food, but he couldn’t eat the crickets out of principle. The conference room began to clear out when a few people noticed the pile of crickets on his plate.

“What? You’re too good to eat bugs?” one corpulent woman remarked.

“Yeah, what gives man? You weren’t thinking about wasting all that food?” a bearded man commented.

Sid chimed in, “I think he doesn’t respect my culture.”

The remaining co-workers laughed, and J.C. cast his eyes down onto his plate.

“You know, insects represent a lean, eco-friendly, and sustainable source of protein”, another added.

“Insects are the protein of the future. Didn’t they teach you that in school?” said another.

“Over two billion people around the world eat insects. You can too,”, a third replied.

“The UN stated that eating more insects”, a thin, spectacled man commented, “could even help fight world hunger!”

“No, I think he’s just racist”, joked Sid.

The conference room roared in laughter and J.C. hunched his shoulders.

“Come on, new guy. Eat the cricket”, urged Sid.

“Yeah, eat the cricket!” the corpulent woman cheered.

The conference room erupted into a manic chant.

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

His co-workers morphed into a frightful, faceless mob. They cheered and hollered at J.C. He didn’t recognize anyone anymore. He hesitated and their chanting grew ever more forceful. They seemed to be foaming at the mouth and their eyes looked sinister and wild. More people entered the conference room and joined the chant. It seemed the entire office was staring at him.

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

His head spinning and his vision blurring, J.C. grew nauseated. The people before him didn’t even look human anymore. They had mutated into a pulsating, screeching mass of flesh. The mass undulated and screamed at him. The sound was deafening. His ears began to ring louder and louder.

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

“Eat the cricket!”

The plate fell to the floor, shattering into countless pieces. The roar of the crowd stopped. Silence overtook the conference room. Nobody moved or said a word.

J.C.’s heart pounded fiercely in his chest. His heart felt like it was about to break out from his body. His co-workers stared at him as a great cat stares down its prey.

“I see how it is, new guy”, leered Sid.

Sid knelt and gathered up the sharp pieces of ceramic strewn across the floor.

The conference room was dead silent save for the sound of Sid picking up the mess J.C. had made. The dozens of co-workers who had joined in on the chant stood motionless. They glared at J.C.

“What are we going to do for food now?” asked the corpulent woman.

The corpulent woman was the head of HR for the engineering floor. She was a petty woman who liked nothing more than to find ways to hurt those who had wronged the company. It was a fatal mistake to get on her bad side.

“Look, J.C. You just wasted all this food. How are you going to pay us back?”

“I’m sorry. I don’t know. I don’t have extra food with this economy and all…”

Sid finished picking up the pieces of the plate and brandishing a menacing ceramic shard in one hand remarked, “I guess we’ll have to eat you instead.”

J.C. laughed but stopped abruptly when he noticed no one in the room was laughing with him.

Their faces were stern. Intensity radiated like a bonfire from their eyes. The conference room fell silent once again.

One by one, J.C.’s co-workers walked to the counter where the ceramic shards where placed and picked up a piece. In disbelief, J.C. frantically scanned the room for the door while his co-workers formed a semi-circle encircling his position.

The mob stood there in silence, gripping each a cruel dagger-like piece of ceramic in their hand. J.C. froze into place. There were dozens of them, with whom just a moment ago he was enjoying lunch. He didn’t recognize anyone anymore. These weren’t his co-workers. They weren’t even people.

The semi-circle tightened around J.C. The mob inched closer, footstep by footstep, until J.C. could no longer see the above their heads.

2 Comments on “The Cricket”

  1. Thank God that by then we will have Impossible Cricker 2.0™, and it will taste just like fresh soy meat.

    Sad to see the rest of J.C presumably die. The dick pics app as part of the blockchain was genius also, nice one Faceberg.

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