Welcome to NaNoWriMo, where I - and thousands of other plucky souls - try to write a 50,000 word novel in a month.
You are reading "Tales of the Algorithm". A compendium of near-future sci-fi stories. Each chapter is a stand-alone adventure set a few days from now.
Everything you read is possible - there's no magic, just sufficiently advanced technology. Think of them as technological campfire horror stories.
Your feedback on each story is very much appreciated.
And so, let's crack on with...
"Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels." Sally could feel the slice of chocolate cake threatening her. This mantra was solid and battle-tested. Sally's willpower was stronger than any triple-chocolate cake with fudge sauce and rainbow sprinkles.
"Nothing tastes as good as..." Within an instant the entire slice of cake had vanished. Sally didn't consciously remember eating it but, nevertheless, the plate was now bare. Not a crumb remained. Her parents sat beaming at the other end of the table. The relief on her mother's pudgy face was the last thing Sally wanted to see.
"Would you like another slice?" Asked her father, his jowls wobbling as he spoke.
"No!" Screamed Sally. But the next slice of cake vanished even quicker than the first. As did the next one. The beautiful taste of calorific chocolate filled her mouth. She was so disappointed in herself. "May I be excused, please?"
Without waiting for an answer she fled the table and its traitorous temptations, stormed up the stairs and into the bathroom. Her body automatically knelt at the toilet and she felt the comforting presence of her fingers tickling the back of her throat while she waited for relief. And waited. And waited.
There was a gentle knock on the door, "Sally," came her father's raspy voice - exhausted from climbing a dozen stairs, "Sally, the doctor talked about this. Remember? It won't work."
Sally didn't think she had an eating disorder. She was a perfectly normal girl with perfectly normal friends and a perfectly normal obsession with being perfectly normal. But her genetics had cursed her to go through life on "fat mode". And so Sally took perfectly normal precautions to prevent any unsightly body-fat from appearing. She starved and purged and stared at motivational photos of skeletal women. There was nothing wrong with that. Everyone did it. If you wanted to be perfect, that was the price you had to pay. It was all going well until she fainted in the school toilets. A teacher discovered her head-first in the bowl and Sally's parents were urged to take action.
Vorex was the new miracle drug for anorexics, bulimics, and anyone who didn't fit in with society's ideas of what healthy eating was. It was a triple compound. The first traitor was a form of protein derived from Synsepalum Dulcificum which made food taste delicious; unnaturally so. Imagine the food you hate the most - Brussel sprouts in tripe with an anchovy glaze - this little bitch of a protein would make it taste like heaven. If heaven were covered in icing sugar and whipped cream. You thought MSG was tasty? This was MSG on steroids.
Second was a powerful anti-emetic. You could have shoved your whole hand down your throat and nothing would come back up. You could be gaining a dozen unwanted kilograms from too much chocolate cake and there was nothing you could do to convince your body to reject it. The drug literally stripped you of your ability to control your body.
But the final compound was the worst. It utterly destroyed your willpower. It made you ravenous. You could offer someone the choice between a million quid in cash or a packet of ready-salted crisps and they wouldn't even hesitate. Those crisps would be devoured in a flash. Vorex was the embodiment of Satan. There was nothing a patient could do to resist temptation, nothing they could do to remediate their mistakes, and they would love every bastard mouthful.
And so Sally's wretched parents fattened her up. A pill every morning that forced her to eat a disgusting "normal" breakfast, and another to make her force down second helpings of shepherd's pie for dinner. Sally was a good girl at heart, thought her parents, so they trusted her to take her lunchtime pill at school.
Fuck that! She set up an underground trading ring with the fatsos on Semaglutide. Their corpulent flesh quivered in excitement at the thought of being able to gobble more pies and gladly handed over the pills their parents had foisted on them. Sally sighed with relief at being able to get through the afternoon without feeling like a disgusting failure. It was win-win. A little secret between friends.
Vorex was the future. And Vorex was a problem. A celebrity chef found a black-market supplier of the drug and liberally sprinkled it on his tiny but ultra-expensive morsels. Critics and customers alike raved at how delicious the food was - and so moreish! - without realising they were being chemically altered. Competitive eating shows became spectacular - with drug addled contestants so hungry they could literally eat a horse. The Mukbangers of the early part of the century seemed quaint in comparison. Nowadays, you could watch a skinny slip of a girl devour a hundred doughnuts in an hour and come back for more.
Aged 17, Sally ran away from home and found a surgeon who was prepared to say she was Gillick competent. In an unobtrusive clinic in the outskirts of town, Sally's fat was drained out of her body. Puncture wounds decorated the skin on her thunder thighs, jelly belly, and flabby arse. Each painful jab taking her one step closer to her target weight. Each slimy bag of visceral fat being exorcised like the malevolent demon it was.
Sally's blubber was particularly high grade; a purity which only increased its value. Just as whale oil powered the industrial revolution in the 19th century, so human oil became the lubricant of the 21st century's economic engine. Human oil was a reasonably reliable source. There were peaks and troughs in its production, with "get beach body ready" advertising campaigns run when supplies were low. Obviously it was much more ethical than other sources of oil; people freely consented to its extraction. In many ways, said the pundits on TV, human oil was vegan.
Even better, most people paid for the procedure! The bags of fat were a waste product which surgeons were paid to collect and were then free to sell on. The price was just too good to ignore. Vast fortunes were made, people were skinny, and industry leapt forward. What wasn't to like?
In her own little way, Sadly helped cause the war.
The vast oil fields were no longer profitable and it was hard to retrain oil-workers into liposuction technicians. Countries who had previously relied on the income from their fossil fuels struggled to adapt to the new world. As economies collapsed, social order broke down, and regional scuffles broke out. A desperate populace protested in vain and, before the year was out, war began to devour the innocent.
The pharmaceutical company behind Vorex rejected all claims that their compound was responsible for the situation. But, in private, the board felt a certain moral responsibility to end the war. They got their top men working on it. They needed to find a way to keep the people fat, happy, and peaceful. They failed.
In a filthy, rat infested trench, Sally huddled in a corner. Nominally on guard, but mostly trying to look awake while she slept standing. Her previous eating disorder hadn't ruled her out of mandatory national service, and the rage she still carried towards her parents was easily channelled at a foreign enemy. Her rifle was heavy in her hands, the backpack was heavy on her shoulders, and the death of her friends was heavy on her soul. Now that she was yomping for kilometres every day her flabby frame was lean and taut. Where there had been podge, there was now a respectable amount of muscle. She was almost at peace with her new body. She ate for fuel, nothing more.
A thunder-crack shook her from the half-sleep so beloved by night-watchmen. No, not thunder, a shell. Gas! Gas seeping down through the frigid night air. A hazy yellow smear descending and bringing with it the terrifying wail of sirens. Sally had drilled for this a thousand times, but her tired fingers just couldn't unclasp the mask in time. The nebulised Vorex penetrated her lungs and infused her bloodstream with its poison. The hunger pangs started immediately with an intensity that made Sally gasp, which only drew more of the compound into her.
The nightmare of having her willpower subverted was nothing new. But this hunger was unfamiliar. An anonymous squaddie stood over her, his features obscured by his gas mask. "Private! Your mask! Are you OK?"
Sally stared at him with a vacant smile playing on her cyanotic lips. Beneath his drab uniform lay the unmistakable bulge of powerful muscles. He looked perfect. He looked fit and healthy and, above all, he looked delicious. What harm would it do, thought Sally, to take just a little bite? She plunged her bayonet into his ribcage, just as her instructors had taught her. She carefully sliced his flesh and brought it to her lips. It smelled irresistible. A little voice inside her was screaming something about how nothing could taste as good as being skinny felt. But that voice was a lie. How could anything feel better than satisfying her cravings?
From all around her came the chomping sounds of the war ending.
I'd love your feedback on each chapter. Do you like the style of writing? Was the plot interesting? Did you guess the twist? Please stick a note in the comments to motivate me.