Spaceman Number 10 and Fast Food

 The only reason I found out we were all going to die was because I fell in love pretty much as soon as I saw the mid-length bright red skirt and long blonde hair swirl across the restaurant. Then meander lithely around the tables picking up cartons, bags and boxes and spray the red surfaces of the chrome tables while zipping around like a whirlwind. Within moments the place was pristine and ready for the next influx of diners who, as I watched, were already pouring through the doors to queue at the ordering screens and flick through menu options.
      I had a seat in the corner way down towards the back. The place displayed an ambience of desirability. The lighting just right. Long tubes strategically placed within the high ceilings gave the perfect illumination. Big windows but positioned so there was no blinding light. Plenty of tables but spaced evenly giving a sense of openness. Background music played but it was what I would describe as happy sounds. Almost soothing. Perhaps even beguiling.
      People laughed as they sat. Happily went to collect their selections when their number flashed on the big screen above a wide hatch in the end wall. Maybe a burger and fries. Meat or chicken or even veggie these days. Perhaps chicken nuggets with a cold, sugar filled drink. In fact an array of delicious calorie packed food all with a distinctive addictive taste. Fast food, a great way to feed the masses cheap tasty food, no doubt about that.
      The people next to me had only momentarily stood when the girl whizzed my way. She smiled. Mostly with her eyes and that’s what did it. If it had been her intention to reel me in it had certainly worked. But, within a flash she was gone leaving me in a kind of limbo. I watched her disappear through the door out back wondering if she would return before I finished my coffee. But it was hot. I could drag it out a while yet.
      Staring at the huge company logo on the wall behind the ordering screens I noticed in the bottom corner a small identification mark. I had seen it before on several other similar chains’ advertising banners. Maybe there was mutual ownership. The food was certainly similar and with the same addictive taste.
      Where was the girl? I know it might sound stupid but I had that odd feeling you sometimes get when someone is missed. I lifted the paper cup and realised it was empty. Maybe if I stood and made a move. Sure enough within a few seconds the kitchen door banged. A table in the next aisle was also freeing up. That was clearly her first destination. Just moments later she was coming my way. I stepped in front of her. She stopped. Stared into my face mesmerising me. Unable to think of a more suitable pick-up speech, I simply said, “Hi, what’s your name?” Now, having smiled at me the way she had originally, you would have thought she would be responsive. But she just smiled again in exactly the same way then kind of barged past to pick up my cup and spray the table and away she went back through the rear door.
      I shrugged with this weird feeling. Something seemed odd. In the few years since the rise of fast food outlets I’d never really thought about it before. Just like anyone, I came in, ordered remotely, minimal human contact, ate and away. Just as the title implies, quickly. I glanced around. Saw people all happily munching. Their one common trait. They were all plump. Podgy smiling faces all around. People who a few years ago had probably been quite slim were now looking, what some might describe, a healthy weight. I stared down to where my waist used to be and realised the truth. People were putting on lots of flab.
      The rear door slammed and there she was heading in the opposite direction without even a cursory glance my way. A brief appearance and she disappeared out back again. Resolved to make some sort of proper contact I eased my way to the door. Glanced through the round glass window positioned above the red capitals of the ‘STAFF ONLY’ sign. Seeing no one I pushed and entered a narrow, bright corridor with the kitchen to the right. People diligently preparing orders. Men and women, well, actually not much older than boys and girls. Blondes, brunettes, guys with dark hair. Some ginger. Working methodically with what I thought were kind of robotic movements. The thing was whilst they all appeared different there was a certain similarity about them. I did not see the girl though. She might even have looked different to these guys but I wasn’t sure.
      Strange, I thought, but dismissed it as just coincidental and wandered down the corridor towards a firmly shut door. With some difficulty I pulled it open. Propped it with my foot as I stared into a small square room. Empty except for benches around the walls. Above the seating, about one metre up the walls, plug sockets with short cables dangling were spaced maybe one metre apart.
      In the middle of the bench on the far wall sat my blonde. She stared at me with almost blank eyes. She looked all in. Slowly, as I watched, she gripped the cable on her right-hand side, raised her arm, swept back her hair and pushed what looked like a USB plug into a port behind her ear. A red light immediately shone from beneath the wall socket and she closed her eyes. Above her head a sign said, Spaceman Number 10. I swung my gaze around the room at several other girls who were all plugged in. The same sign above them but with numbers ranging from one to twenty. Like the kitchen staff they were all similar, that is, except for a multitude of different hair colours and styles.
      There was a noise. A loud click. A girl in the corner suddenly opened her eyes as the red light next to her turned to green. She stared straight at me and a loud screeching came from her open mouth. Before I could run two strong arms grabbed me from behind and held me in a grip of immense strength. In quite some pain I was half dragged through the kitchen to a room with no windows where a woman in white overalls and silver hair sat behind a big metal desk. On her lapel I noticed the same small identification mark I’d seen on the logo. One chair in front under a very bright, white light. Next to her were two men wearing grey tailored suits. The man who held me pushed me into the chair and moved to stand next to the door. He also wore a grey suit. All three were identical but, as with the others, they had three different hair styles and colours.
 
The interrogation did not last long. Then a few things were explained, one being that there was no need for any drastic measures. That was a relief I can tell you. I was not going to be terminated was the way the lady put it. A few years ago it would have been essential, she had said, but not now. She said there was no need. They were now one hundred percent ready and it was way too late to do anything about it. It was, she indicated, all about how much power we didn’t have. By comparison to them, zero, she said and laughed but this time cruelly. Anyway, she also said, all morsels would be needed and that I found very confusing. I asked her if she was real and she smiled and said she was, although not human. She said what I was seeing was a disguise that masked her true appearance from our shabby, insignificant little world. Then I was shown the backdoor.
      Did I try to make what I had found out known? Of course I did. I tried the papers and emailed governments. No response. I think they thought me mad. The military were next but they were a no go for sure. Too hush, hush and all that. In the end I gave up, resigned to accept the fate the world had inadvertently brought upon itself. I say inadvertently but really it was because of the dumbest actions by some of the most brilliant people. A very common fault of humanity. The most intelligent are continually doing the dumbest things.
In this case the so-called space scientists and their obsession with contacting extraterrestrial life. Sending messages off into space to who knows where. They didn’t have a clue. It was, we were told, essential to make contact with whoever or whatever was out there. The most stupid thing: the welcome messages. I imagined invitations. ‘Hi, if you’re about, stop off here for a cuppa. We can have a natter on your way through and talk about mutual benefits. You know, we’ve got so much to offer’.
      Really, that was just plain stupid. After all, you only have to ask yourself one simple question: why would anyone who has the ability to travel through hyperspace think there’s anything we can offer them? They should have thought about it. Our history is almost exclusively one of war and conquest. Why would visitors from space be any different? The subjugation of the inferior comes to mind. 
      Were the scientists told? Maybe, but there’s a problem, space scientists are intellectuals. One thing you can’t do with such people is contradict them. Their views are sacrosanct. A blinkered self indulgent approach that actually played right into the hands of one particular race of space travellers. Superbeings who are constantly on the move, scanning space with their little crystal sets, or whatever is their equivalent, picking up a constant stream of messages. Random but interesting messages especially to a group of intergalactic entrepreneurs continually on the lookout for locations to expand their outlets along the well trodden paths of the space highways.
      Why were governments not more aware as populations slowly became nicely plump and tender? The answer was, of course, the creatures were super sneaky. But sneaky infers their operation might be undercover, of a clandestine nature. Perhaps a slow, slow deliberate infiltration. But it was not and that’s where they were so damn clever. Where’s the best place to hide something? In full view we are regularly told. And there you have it. The sneaky bastards operated right out there for all to see. And we did see it. Everyone did and what is more a pretty high percentage of the world’s population unwittingly and quite regularly were more than happy to be complicit.
      And there lies the main reason for our leaders’ complacency. Although, probably the sneakiest thing of all. The little, well actually they are not so little, in fact they are huge and wobbly and always ravenous after a long space trip. But anyway, the creeps had ensured their operation was so financially beneficial that it was impossible to attempt any sort of reform. 
      Sure governments advertised, spread health warnings about obesity, but who listens to government claptrap these days. Especially when it’s so cheap and easy for people to fuel their addiction. Equally importantly could chancellors manage their budgets without the assistance of all those tax bucks the fast food chains so cleverly produced. In short, the creatures the idiot space scientists hoped to welcome with open arms had been slowly organising probably the biggest roadside diner in the universe. And now it was too late. The inescapable fact was we have all been fattened up sufficiently and now it’s time to start serving.
 

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