Now Moving Organics
by Alexander Leonard
Don Wallace parked his rig in the loading bay, unbuckled, and disembarked. Five eighteen-wheelers were parked about him. Not ten years ago, the dock would have been filled with at least twenty on any given day. He let out a sigh and walked into the depot, giving his shoulders a stretch. He had just moved a shipment of frozen nu-beef from the farms in Chihuahua to a budding old-style American food chain blossoming in Alberta. Now he was home. And he looked forward to seeing his comrades.
The lobby was empty, as were the hallways. He walked to the mess hall but found no one there. It was as he was crossing the tiled plains towards the Union hall that he began hearing voices. Multiple voices speaking at once. A commotion. He walked in and found a huddle.
‘What’s going on?’ he asked.
No one stirred except Casey, who raised his head and gave Don a look as if to say, ‘You don’t want to know.’ Don approached the scrum and they accommodated his lumbering body. They were watching a video on a tablet that was in projection mode, so more people could see. It looked like a sad picnic, but the news ticker running underneath made it seem important.
‘They did it, Don.’
Don read the ticker. Cronocorp had updated their software to dematerialize flesh, both meat and fruit, and rematerialize it in a different location and in an edible state. His heart sank as his eyes scanned the projection for info. A simple picnic was moved from coast to coast. A turkey sandwich. Tea. Pie. Grapes. If his appetite hadn’t completely dissolved, the spread might have made Don’s mouth water. It had been a while since he’d had non-synthetic fruit.
He broke away from the group and deposited himself on a couch. His mind was racing. When did all this happen? He cursed himself for reading only print media. It left him perpetually out of the loop. Had he subscribed to updates on his device, he may have caught wind of this earlier. And what if he had? What could he have possibly done to stem the rapid technological tide that had consumed the last century?
Determined not to lie completely flaccid while his profession was steamrolled, Don began making his way up the metal staircases and catwalks that lead to their division head’s office. When he walked in, Cole was sitting behind his desk with the screen that took up a sizeable chunk of his west wall turned off. Don made his way to the remote to pull up the news, but Cole spoke before he could reach it.
‘I already know. You’ve got to stop reading print. Do you remember the last time you sent a letter? I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a week ago.’
‘So what do we do?’ Don asked.
‘What do you mean “What do we do?” We get new jobs. We learn a new trade. We’re obsolete, Don. It took shipping companies half a year to integrate teleportation into their businesses when they first came out with it. Now, the infrastructure is already there. My best guess is that we have three months, a quarter of a year, before all the clients we have left start moving digitally.’
It hurt Don to hear Cole this defeated. He looked up to the man. Cole had been around well before digital moving revolutionized — or ruined — the shipping and receiving game. He had driven up and down the continent and always reached his destinations on time and without incident. A perfect track record he had built over decades. Even as a child, he would accompany his father on long hauls.
Cole could see the disappointment on Don’s face and he sincerely felt sorry for him. ‘There’ll be government payouts or something. We won’t be left completely stranded.’
‘I don’t want to lie down and get done over by a bowl of hummus. Is it even safe to eat?’
‘Cronocorp ran tests and shared the results. The government’s gonna follow up, but the food seems to be perfectly sound post-teleportation. None of the particles or whatever get rearranged in the process. Tastes just as good, too, apparently.’
‘I was finished even before this broke. How many stevedores, truckers, couriers lost their livelihoods when they first pulled this? The one bone we got tossed was that they couldn’t teleport bones. Anything organic. But anyone who thought we were safe — and I’m sorry if this includes you Don — was an idiot. But, if you want to rally around this and say something, I know people would get behind you.’
They sat in thought for a moment. Don’s wife was always pushing for him to get a higher position in the union. She believed he had sway among his peers. Admittedly, they usually landed on the water bar he’d suggest on nights they’d go out.
‘Maybe I’ll say something.’
* * *
Excerpt of video transcript for Teleportation Exposed uploaded onto MyView on August 25, 2030 by Steve ‘Truth Nose’ LeRocha.
Truth Nose: Hello and welcome to Truth Nose, where we incessantly sniff out the falsities disseminated by the government. Today is a very special episode because I am joined by Don Wallace. You might’ve heard his name already. For those of you who don’t know, he’s an ex-trucker. And he’s been raising hell on behalf of laid-off movers. Particularly since Cronocorp began teleporting organics. Don, how are you?
Don Wallace: I’ve been better, thanks.
TN: How long were you trucking for?
DW: About twenty years. I started as a teamster on movie sets. But that was a lot of waiting around, which got boring. I switched into shipping, ’cause I liked to be on the road.
TN: You liked to move, so to speak.
TN: How long have you been out of work now?
DW: It’s been four months.
TN: Some would say you were lucky for working even as long as you had been, no? I have a statistic here: over three million people, got thrown on their asses when teleportation was rolled out five years ago. That’s shocking.
DW: It is. Good people. The three million are just truckers on the continent. Then you’ve got the dock workers, the air couriers, train conductors. Honestly, it’s a matter of time before every household’s got a microwave-sized telepod in the damn kitchen. Place an order on your device and boom you get your pizza right there. Goodbye delivery people. Goodbye bike messengers. How long before airlines bite the goddamn dust? Sorry.
TN: No, it’s okay. You’ve every right to be angry. Someone has to stand up for the broken. The government isn’t doing it. We’re letting foreign technologies decimate the work force. And now they’ve routed out the rest of you.
DW: Yeah, this food thing...
TN: Must be a tough one to swallow. Pardon the pun.
DW: It’s not right.
TN: Unfair, you mean?
DW: Yes, but it’s also not right. It’s dangerous.
TN: How so?
DW: I haven’t talked to anyone about this yet.
(Truth Nose leans in.)
DW: My wife has gotten sick. Doctors aren’t sure what it is. They’ve never seen anything like it. Cellular death. But not like necrosis.
TN: Don, are you suggesting what I think you’re suggesting?
DW: I believe teleported foods have made her sick.
TN: This is a very heavy claim.
DW: I know.
TN: Very heavy indeed. Um, where is your wife now?
DW: She’s at home, sick.
TN: Of course. She’s probably too weak to move around much?
TN: She’s probably too sick to speak to anyone herself, I assume.
(Don leans forward, mouth open, but after a thought reclines back in his seat without speaking.)
TN: No, no of course not. When did you first notice something was wrong?
DW: Well after I got laid off, teleported foods were all we could afford. Imports from cheaper parts of the world with fewer regulations already. All the chemicals they pump into the food, they haven’t done enough research into what teleportation does to them. How they interact. So we were eating what we could afford, and after a few months she seemed to be getting weaker. I made sure she stayed in bed and rested, kept her fed, but she was still getting weaker. I thought it was cancer for sure. But I took her to a Medicare center, and they said it wasn’t. I kind of wish it was now.
TN: Who’s the ‘they’ you feel should’ve done more research? Cronocorp?
DW: Cronocorp. The government. The companies who use teleportation. Everyone.
TN: Scary stuff. Do you believe the government knows about the dangers?
DW: I don’t know if I could speak on that.
TN: You don’t have the slightest inclination?
(Don doesn’t move or speak.)
TN: Scary stuff regardless. Are you sure it’s the teleportation?
DW: I don’t really see what else it could be. Nothing else has changed. And the doctors said they haven’t seen anything like this before.
TN: And you haven’t been contacted by anyone from Cronocorp?
DW: No. I haven’t told anyone until now.
TN: I have a feeling you’re about to hear from them.
TN: Does the prospect of that scare you, Don?
DW: Scare me? That’s what I want.
(End of excerpt)
* * *
Copyright © 2019 by Alexander Leonard