September 23, 2023

The Engineered Food Creature Also Gazes Into You

Man After Man, Dougal Dixon
Blandford Press (UK), 1990

An alien city winds across the landscape, newly built roads and buildings spiraling out from the coastline. It looks unfinished, like these newcomers are only beginning their work. If so, this is probably your best chance to do some snooping around, figure out why they’re here and if they have anything worth pilfering. 

You make your way through the half-built blocks, exploring the largely empty streets. You spot a work crew trudging your way and duck into the nearest building, a hanger-sized dome. It is dark inside, so it takes a few minutes for your eyes to adjust. You turn, stumble backwards as you almost run into a giant face, find yourself looking into a pair of massive, glassy eyes. You take another step back and realize you’re looking at not one, but dozens of enormous, unnervingly human faces, wires and tubes snaking into soft bodies. 

We’re going to pre-game the most food centric of American holidays with one of the most horrific creations of the imagination of speculative anthropologist extraordinaire Dougal Dixon: the Engineered Food Creature. 

This pile of fat and flesh is… well, exactly what it sounds like. According to Dixon, mankind is destined to leave Earth to explore the stars and, over the course of five million years, become a parasitic species that goes from planet to planet, stripping it of its resources and moving on. Having long forgotten where they came from, our terrible descendants will one day roll back up to Earth and mold the remaining terrestrial humans to suit their needs. The Engineered Food Creature is just the grossest example. 

These poor lumps have been bred to be giant, living meat farms, pumped full of chemical nutrients and flesh harvested when needed. Since they’re basically just building-sized veal, their limbs are practically vestigial, too small and atrophied to move their giant bodies. It’s unclear if they have any awareness of their situation, if they’re conscious or sentient at all. 

If you were to encounter the good ‘ole EFC in a campaign, they probably won’t be the big bad–especially given that they aren’t the most mobile of creatures. No, the threat this misshapen remnant of humanity poses is an existential one, an awful manifestation of humanity’s unchecked aspirations for supremacy, our steady ascendance to become a species that bends the world to their whim without pausing to consider what is lost along the way. Who among your party would be first to exploit the rest of you to survive–not just cannibalize your body to survive an extreme situation, but turn your entire being into a resource to be mined, to be used to fulfill their whims. 

Is it you? 

Do you have it in you to strip your companions down for parts, to use them to fuel the unrelenting march of progress? 

As you gaze into the abyss, gentle adventurer, what gazes back? 

The Engineered Food Creature is doomed to die out when our spacebound descendents finish stripping the earth of its resources and move on to the next planet, leaving behind a partially terraformed world, empty cities, and swaths of destruction, hopefully without full awareness of its terrible life. But you, having faced this awful monument to the horrors of progress, will have to live with the knowledge of who you really are until the end of your days. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

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