homemade rosemary garlic hummus with pepper roasted white bean and rainbow bell peppers and baby carrots
grilled apple sage vegan sausage
sauteed kale with onion
goat cheese stuffed dates
the issue: education and schooling, and mental/emotional/physical health through the lense of food
character: a body of students (particularly siblings, or a young couple) misdiagnosed for institutional gain in a culture where synthesized food yields a hyper creativity amongst youth.
setting: in detroit 2045, food is distributed through feeding stations in institutions in highly resourced area. the food is delicious and designed to generate hyper-creativity when people are young, and then shifts down to just being a sustenance pill that creates obedience as they age. childhoods are shorter, and then there is a period where they are free to create and do anything they want, but they are closely monitored by the military. there are deserviced areas popularly known as hot mess zones where some people are trying out alternatives in food and education.
backdrop: advanced technology that knows who you are and shapes food and access for you, increased and profound social control, a system that appears to benefit everyone
the conflict: there is a group of radical farmers/elders known as the 67ers who are reclaiming the work of farming and cooking. outside of those radical people there are parents whose kids are rejecting the food, experiencing hunger as an allergic reaction.
It is the year 2045 AD in Future City Detroit, April:
Ma’one is only twelve years old but sometimes she feels older, the middle child
of six siblings. Her parents are from the “other age” where they called themselves
Maybe Ma’one has their DNA, brilliant, full of questions about everything and
everybody. She has always enjoyed the ‘ol stories and traditions, especially
around and about food, the long life, what her folks call “the key to life”.
But, life is different in the Future City Detroit. the people of the “other age”
said they had failed and all their hope now lies within the young people and their
visions. Yet, Ma’one knows that the youth are different, too. She often asks
herself, why are we so different? What is it? The other children tell her it is in the
food. The food?
The “other agers” called 67’ers, tell the stories of how the food industry controlled
by the chemical and oil corporations changed everything. They created the seeds,
everyone had to purchase their seeds from them and the prices were outrageous,
farmers couldn’t make a dime, could barely eat themselves. All kinds of health
problems arose and no one seemed to know why. But they figured it out!
The 67’ers didn’t see it coming soon enough, even though some were running
around and telling people to watch the food, they’re trying to kill us. But, you
know how it is when everyone is drinking the Kool-Aid and just don’t want to hear
what may be the ‘truth’, so they escaped and went underground and slowly others
began to prepare to disappear.
The conscious 67’ers tried to warn others with little success, people were just to far
gone, they said and the truth was no longer honored. That was the way the world
had changed, no integrity, morals or ethics, it was a very troubling time. The only
hope that remained with them was placed in the struggle.
So, here I am a product of the struggle, me, my older brother and three younger
sisters, all five of us. We were home-schooled and home fed, unlike so many of
our other friends who ate from the food stations in the Hot Mess Zones. And the
water is rationed to them, too. We were taught how to capture, treat and purify our
water, a lesson from our elders.
In Go Zone 1 where we live and work, we play with the other children but they are
different. Ma’one often wonders why? Some of her best mates go to the HMZ
1 home to people with more of everything, they say, to eat and school with the
children there. They are different.
It is a time of great advancement of civilization. We are told to believe but we are
not sure. In fact, most days we are not sure whom to believe. Ma’one is ashamed
because she says that sometimes she has questions about her parents.
This life seems not quite settling to her, in the gut, something seems out of step,
maybe wrong. Her minds tells her to be patient, she is almost 15 years of age, the
age in which everything will change.
Fifteen, oh I can’t wait. Her friends tell her about their experiences in Techie
Town where she will be welcomed by all the cool trekker B’s and allowed to
allow her creativity to flow wild. Then she will be able to go deep inside herself
and find the answers she has been seeking so long, the questions of life, living,
spaces and places. What does life really mean? Do I get a chance to choose?
Who am I? What is in store for me on this journey, and what does it look like?
Just to think about this freedom makes her toes curl.
The next day, a Thursday, Ma’one is in the courtyard of the GZ1 and hears the
children talking about the other children that go to the HMZS for feeding. They
are different and they are getting sick and no one knows why.
Something is happening, I can feel it and I need to know.
They sound the alert! Future City Detroit is on alert! There is an account of
children that are exhibiting signs of some type of illness. Many say it is a mental
health outbreak, something called ADHD Syndrome and they don’t understand
where it is coming from.
Ma’one knows what she must do, find one of the 67’ers and they will tell her what
is happening and she will listen to their words.
Auron stood looking down over the toilet.
What was happening?
Was she going to throw up?
What was this feeling in her stomach?
It seemed to be emanating from her stomach like a slight aching feeling. The muscles
pulled tensely up into her mid body. Her throat felt constricted and her mouth tight.
“Mom, I’m trying to throw up. Nothing is happening.”
Julieta Townsley rushes into the bathroom, a cup of water in her hand along with
some of her own sustenance pills.
“Here—drink this, take these.”
Auron looks up from the toilet bowl, confused, exasperated.
She turns as her mother holds her arms and guides her to sit on the toilet.
“Here, eat this.”
She takes the pills and drinks the water.
“Your father has a friend who services the feeding stations. He’s gone to meet him at
the school to get extra rations. He’ll be back soon,” she said with a panicked voice.
‘Oh baby, it’s going to be okay. We’ll have some more rations soon.”
The front door slammed open—
“Honey, Auron, I’m back. I’ve got the stuff.”
All three run to the coffee table where Mike Townsley dumped out a bag of rations.
Packages of all different shades of brown and beige filling the table and some even
falling onto the floor.
“Okay Auron, take some.”
Auron eagerly, willingly gets down onto her knees in front of the coffee table. She
grabs for the closest ration package and starts eating. She keeps putting ration after
ration into her mouth, eating and eating—the material sliding down her throat.
“It still feels the same.”
Her parents look at her with concern. Shaking, Julieta gets down on her knees beside
Auron. “It’s okay, honey. You can do it.” She pulls back Auron’s hair so she can eat
faster without restraint.
“Mike, why isn’t she feeling better?”
Soberly, Mike looks at his little girl. “Her body is rejecting the food.”
“I don’t know what’s happening, but she seems to be having some sort of physical
reaction to it.” Exasperated, Mike stands, looking outside at the trees in the
backyard. He takes a deep breath and heads out back, needing some space to think.
As he shuts the back porch door, a breeze wisps past. He stands a moment, looking
up at the trees. He remembers when Detroit had trees everywhere when he was
young. Now he’s lucky to have two trees in his backyard. Living on the edge of the
hyper resourced zone helps—some nature still seeps into your surroundings.
Mike hears his neighbor Beroka sharpening his tools in his yard next door.
“Good evening,” Beroka calls to Mike over the fence.
Mike just looks over at the fence where the call can from.
“How’s it going tonight?” Beroka calls out again.
“Not good,” Mike says as he walks towards the fence.
“Auron is not well. She is having some sort of reaction to her rations. She feels light-
headed and has this tense, pulling feeling throughout her stomach and chest. We’re
not sure what’s wrong. We’re doing everything we can think of. Julieta gave her
some of her substance pills. I was able to get her extra rations. She’s inside eating
Beroka’s hands come to a stand still. He walks silently to the gate. Mike sees him
approaching and walks to meet him, his hands in his pockets.
Beroka looks directly into Mike’s eyes.
“The same thing happened to Shani two years ago. Her body is rejecting the
food….The feeling she is feeling is hunger.”
“What? Hunger—what’s that?”
“Think back to when we were young, before the feeding stations were our only food
source. Remember the feeling you had in your stomach when dinner was a little
late—when your parents didn’t get dinner going as soon as usual? That was hunger
we felt. Auron is experiencing it on an even more extreme level.”
“That hunger is being felt because her body is rejecting the satisfaction chemicals
that are put into our food now. That’s actually the state that a lot of use would feel if
those pacifying chemicals weren’t received in our bodies. We were petrified when
Shani had his reaction.”
“What! What did you all do?”
Well—there is another way.”
“What—what is it? We’ll do anything. Auron needs help. She’s not well.”
“Get Auron and Julieta, and come with me.”
Mike goes inside and gets Auron and Julieta, and they all get into Beroka’s car—
Auron taking deep breaths, not sure how to accept the sensations all over her body.
They drive in silence.
Beroka pulls the car off the main road and down an old service drive that leads into
one of the city’s hot mess zones…
“What? Where are we going? We can’t go in here,” Mike says.
“Do you want relief for Auron or not?” Beroka replies.
As they head into a heavily wooded area, it is as if the trees open up for them. They
continue along under the canopy of trees. Wild animals roam about; there are so
many of them.
As they get to an opening in the trees, an expansive cove opens up before them.
Inside, rows and row of green things are growing out of the soil.
“What is all this?” Auron asks.
Beroka replies, “It’s an underground farm. It’s a place for alternative feeding that
was started by the 67ers and has been in existence ever since…It’s real food.”
my name is sireen. i am a detroiter, the year is 2045, and i think i should log this story here in case my chance to tell it passes.
i was seven when i first tasted real food.
my mother was a single mom, she was something called a 67er. she died in the birth of her first and only child, me. i grew up with my uncles pete and chris, who had a loving home and adored me, but didn’t much care for bucking the system. as far as i could remember, food hurt.
the feeding station in our enclave was a classic 4120, from 2020 when the city was divided. it was early AI, and as soon as i came home from the hospital my uncle pete had taken me over to the station and pressed my finger into its reader. the station was at the dining hall, which had once been someone’s house. all the enclaves were like that – gathered around a renovated abandoned building that was a community space – gathering, sacred rituals, movies. my uncles said it was dangerous to go out into detroit. we stayed in our enclave – as far as i knew them most people did.
and most nights the community gathered there to eat around each other.
schools were at the intersections of multiple enclaves – i went to the cass school hub, where four enclaves met. i got to school through the tunnel system – above ground in the summer, below in the winter. i loved summer – i loved seeing the outside world through the clouded security glass.
when i started school i had to do the same thing with the school station – log in with my fingerprint to get my food allotment. same basic meals over and again – though it seemed really tasty to me back then, i remember i could never get enough. i’d eat and eat, and then hurt and hurt.
the stations were smart, they cared for us, they knew what we needed. at least that’s what my uncles taught me – that’s what all the kids learned. so my baby food had a high balance of potassium to account for my mother’s resistance to taking the approved prenatal vitamin intake. i now know there was also a variety of preservatives and mood altering prescriptions to help me sleep through the night and be calm, be obedient.
as a baby my stomach was often upset and my uncles just chalked it up to me being sensitive/ they joked about it, blamed it on my mama being so radical about not eating processed food. they thought it would pass, but it didn’t.
when i started to eat the solid food dispensed from the the station, it hurt so much. my skin broke out, i was constantly in the bathroom. it wasn’t unusual after my school lunch period for me to be laid up in the nurse’s pod, curled around my swollen belly.
my uncles finally started doing some research to see if anything could be done about it. i remember them fighting for a while, and this is when i remember them becoming distinct to me – not just a couple, solid and aligned on everything, but two people with their own opinions.
uncle pete wanted to reach out to some of my mother’s old friends, to see the 67ers were still active. uncle chris said that was dangerous and anyway they were some “crazy militia types” and anything they said couldn’t be trusted.
uncle pete won the argument after three days of silence, sucking teeth and upturned chins. i learned a lot about negotiation from watching them fight and make up.
uncle pete was the one who found darshan, one of my mother’s lovers from the old days. i laid down in my room peeking under the door at the men gathered in my living room when darshan came to visit for the first time. he said he wasn’t officially a 67er himself, but he knew them and could get us in touch. he pulled out a small package from his bag and set it on the table, leaving his fingers over it in almost a caress.
my uncle chris looked at it with something i would now call cynicism and trepidation. at the time i thought he must be a very silly man. uncle pete’s face was unreadable.
“before we take this step – before i put you all at serious risk by putting you in touch with them – we should have her try this.” darshan tapped the package.
my uncles looked at each other. uncle’s pete’s eyebrows went up, the way he asked questions without his mouth.
“where did you get it?” uncle chris had his polite voice on, which meant he was not pleased with this idea.
“i wouldn’t do anything to hurt the child. this comes from the 67ers. they grow their own food – they eat this stuff, i eat it as often as i can get it. they hacked a food station to create meals from the food they grow. this is real broccoli and brussels sprouts, brown rice they are growing in underground paddies, with a carrot ginger dressing.”
uncle pete looked at uncle chris briefly and then got up and came in my direction. i scrambled back from the door and barely got a minibot in my hand to simulate playing. he didn’t buy, and just gave me a little smile, opening the door for me to exit.
i slid the top of the package off and immediately smelled a difference. this food didn/t smell like it came from the stations at all – those foods had similar smells that made me think of meat, cheese. this smelled different – sharp, warm.
my uncle pete handed my a fork – i hadn’t noticed him run into the kitchen. uncle chris was mostly watching uncle pete – and this darshan fellow was all big brown eyes under gray hair, softly watching me.
i took the first bite. it was outstanding. the textures of the vegetables against the rice – the slick weight of the dressing over everything, the sweetness. i ate the whole package of food. i felt full. i felt no pain.
that was how we became radical. that was when we began to go underground.
Me: How do you know she’s ready?
Her: Because we fed her family and watcher her carefully last night. Plus her mother
gave us full access to her DNA stamp.
Me: Yeah, they’ve been more than willing to help for years now.
Her: Have you alerted the others?
Me: No not yet, I wanted to speak to you before getting the farmers excited.
With that kind of information, I know we have to move with all the grace in the
They’ve become so sensitive lately, and to be fair, we all have been, knowing that the
time was near.
So how do we announce this without bringing unwanted attention to Unifarm? We
need to protect our crops and they’ve been looking for excuses to cross our borders.
Damn, I can’t believe we’re finally here.
She’s the first person to have survived for an entire 15 years on our food alone.
So now that she’s aged out of the alternative school, we can start grooming her
for the next steps right?
Wow, wow, wow. The farmer’s will be happy to see how this work has finally paid
But I have to be honest, I almost fear that knowing how successful their food is will
encourage a certain kind of falling off.
You think so?
No not really, but we’ve been the only ones to maintain our humanity, which means
we are susceptible to experiencing a range of emotions, arrogance included.
You really think that’s possible?
Yes and No. I know how important it is for them to see that the vision can actually be
fulfilled. Hope is contagious, but it can also fool you into thinking there is less to do.
Ok, so let’s get started.
First we call a community meeting and share that we’ve completed phase one of the
new social identity project.
So we’re gearing up for phase two then huh?
Phase two is to call a meeting for all the recruiters and drivers, they’ll have travel to
the homes of the other families and collect DNA stamps for analysis. We’ll need to
get to them before Detroit’s nutrition manager catches on.
Phase three is to collect the children who tested positively and transport them back
to the farms. We’ll have to make sure our administrative offices have the support
they need to see this through.
And finally, Phase four, we’ll launch our skill testing sites so that we can accurately
place the children in their respective farm families.
I can taste our new world. This is justice.
And to think, three years from now we’ll be able to announce that Detroit’s urban
depopulation myth, was a cover up for our farming operation, a local repatriation of
So this is it. with the collective rebellious spirits of our farmers, we’ve been able to
create an underground world supplying alternative feeding station with nutritious,
spirit calming food. Brain food, true brain food.
Mission accomplished, one beet at a time.
In the Irradiated Field
Field of ashes where
new births bloom
through layers of metallized silt,
of vine, hand-sized plumbs,
fire-veined melons and
greens the lengths of ferns.
We have never touched life
so wild and strange, branches
that appear to be pulsing, but no,
our own hearts simply beat apace with the thrill
of a world beyond our wall of screens.
In the field we
were never told existed,
the arms of strangers enwrap us in welcome,
ask us: have you eaten?
And we say yes but
not like this,
our eyes feasting
on terraces of plant rows in colors
we have no names for.
Here, we are told, Join us
In this place we thought wasteland.
Beyond the barbed wire
boundary of train-line and tower.
Here, we sit around a square of wood
and use our hands to commune,
tasting for the first time
a flavor that stings, swells
into a chain of tiny percussions
causing us to shake our heads and
laugh, for the first time, full.
opening scene: a mom opening up a letter from Common Core Academy. it says, “congratulations, Nettles has been accepted into the next incoming class of fresh people.”
Nettles is at the dining room table in a small two-bedroom apartment eating breakfast. Their view overlooks an open pasture and in the distance is a walled off area monitored by drones that look like owls. the area is non-descript, has an air of mystery except for the letters hmz. Nettles looks out curiously and wonders what’s beyond. You get the impression that Nettles is a particularly gifted child.
the mom goes on to read the letter. it says, “if you wish to enroll Nettles into CCA, please schedule an appointment to have them tested for placement.” the mom immediately phones the school by waving their hand over a bracelet on their wrist. an automated system answers. it looks like a human face but it’s actually an artificial interface. the face of the AI matches the face on a well designed but awkwardly placed billboard right next to the closed off area. in big bold letters, it says, “Opportunity Detroit”.
mom and Nettles leave their apartment building that is surrounded by forest of trees. they wait at a transit stop with others on their way to the city. everyone is wearing the same clothes. they’re unitards that go all the way up to their necks. some folks have interesting accessories that look like they’ve been designed by the same company.
the transpo arrives to take them to the city where the school is located. it has glittery advertising that masks the shape of the vehicle.
next scene: admissions counselors office. the admissions counselor reads to Nettles mom the test results. they are off the charts. they’ve never had anyone score that high since the Original 67er. the admissions counselor points to a statue erected in honor of the Original 67er in the courtyard. the counselor goes on to brag about all the great things that Nettles can achieve at CCA as a student and will accomplish great prestige with their stamp of approval.
the counselor takes Nettles and their mom through the hallways of the school past several classrooms where students are learning quantum physics, space travel, experimental mysticism. that class is only open to the elite students. Nettles peers into that room and noticed how focused the children seem…almost robot like. they seem to lack emotions or empathy for their tasks.
Nettles mom turns to them and says, “you love it here! i know you’ll make me proud! i got to go to find work. the counselor told me about an opening at the farm nearby down the street from the school. i’ll pick you up after school”. Nettles mom kisses them goodbye and leaves Nettles at the door with the counselor. Little does Nettles know that is the last time they ever sees their mom.
Nettles is placed in the elite class with the other children and is given a “uniform”. as the counselor walks out the room, they are greeted by one of the employees saying, “the feeding station is prepped with the new formula”. the counselor seems pleased by this and continues to gaze on into the classroom where Nettles is in.
next scene: lunchtime. Nettles is in line for the feeding station. Nettles is given a paper with their name on it and is instructed to feed it into the feeding station. The feeding station has a screen on it. a face appears and greets Nettles. it is knowledgeable about what Nettles did throughout the morning and says, “You need to keep your energy up. You’re going to need it in the afternoon. You have a test coming up!”
Nettles looks up with a surprised look like they weren’t expecting that and odded out by the strangely friendly feeding station. Nettles examines the “food” and cringes at how strange it looks. they’re cubes of different colors that have CCA molded into their geometric looking shapes. Nettles sniffs the cubes and says, “hmmm. smells like chicken pot pie! my favorite!”
next scene: Nettles participating in a reflex test. there is a drone like the owl perched upon the walls of the walled off area. it is flying erratically around the room disorientating Nettles. one of the children in the earlier elite class is not impressed at all and strikes the owl drone with a weapon that they were seen earlier testing. the child turns to Nettles and says, “welcome to CCA. my name is Mai Wa. nice to meet you.”
Nettles takes an immediate liking to Mai Wa and does a double-take at what Mai Wa’s weapon did to the drone owl. Nettles sees Mai Wa leave out of the class so they skip immediately towards the door not to be left alone.
They’ve taken me and Ben to the clinic half a dozen times now. My parents are convinced we’re anorexic, or bulimic. “What was the point of moving here?” they yell. “We pulled strings to be located where the services are still decent. And you don’t take advantage! You don’t eat, and if you do, you get rid of it right away–I don’t know how you manage it, but that must be what’s going on. You have to eat! Besides, don’t you want to? When I was your age I loved food. Pretty soon you’ll be sorry you didn’t enjoy it while you could.”
But we do eat. We can’t get enough. At the station I go back for seconds, and sometimes if there’s food left after that, they’ll give it to us. Other days my friends get seconds and give them to me and Ben. I don’t know why we’re so hungry all the time.
Randy used to be like be like that too, but he stopped coming to school. I don’t think they left town, but I haven’t seem him around. He lives near the south woods. His sister’s still in school, she’s in the Math & Music club. They’re getting ready for a group performance we’ll all play in it, the whole school’s gonna jam, and the math & music kids will mentalcast it.
After the train passed, the woman went back to picking leaves. They were growing right up the fence, big fat juicy grape leaves. She was putting them in a basket. After we watched for a while, we went up to her and saw there were different kinds of fruits and leaves in there.
“What do you do with those?”
“Here,” she said, reaching around in the basket and handing us each something on a stem. “Try it.”
It wasn’t like the food at the stations. It took the edge off my hunger. We talked with the woman for a while. Her name was Amy. She invited us to her place.
Amy lives in the south woods. First thing we noticed was a bunch of people playing in the dirt. Amy said they were actually working, and what they were doing would help make good food. This was surprising. She said the food in the stations is specially made to make kids smart, but not all kids can digest it, like us. We would do better with food that comes out of the ground. Most kids eat the special food until they’re about 24, then they get old people jobs and eat the same kind of stuff our parents do. But there were old people working in the fields, and they said they eat what they grow. Amy invited us to eat a meal with them, and afterwards I felt full for the first time in years.