vMeat with a Soul

The latest instalment of Sven Johnson’s Future Imperfect is part of the Superstruct project.

Future Imperfect - Sven Johnson

Still aboard his one-way ‘cruise’, future-Sven gets caught in between food shortages, cultured meat… and vegan griefers.


Dinner tonight was utter bedlam.

Strand a group of displaced, multiethnic, multicultural, multireligious, multi-everything passengers on a poorly restored merchant vessel anchored and isolated a short distance off the coast of the land of milk and honey, and you’ll find that expiration-overdue military rations won’t be especially appreciated.

Label these rations with supply corp marketing approved military-jingoistic names like “Mega-Protein Bacon Bacon Burger Buffet” or “Chunky Chicken 3-Cheese Enchilada and Bombastic Bean Delight with Power Carbs” and the looks on these passengers faces is nothing if not suspicious. Throw “cultured meat” into the pot and things get messy. Add a dash of vegan griefing and you invite chaos.

If not for the fact we’re running low on food and people are hungry, most passengers would refuse to eat this stuff outright based on smell alone. For whatever reason – and very likely because the food reeks to high hell – some have already gone on hunger strike; as if the cruise line gave a damn. People on this ship aren’t round-trip fare.

Fact is, no one wants to go back to whatever it is they left behind – wherever that was – so the hunger strikes don’t last long. Besides, going without food for only two days doesn’t signal to anyone the stakes are all that high anyway. The adults have figured out it was all for show; can’t let the kids think you scarfed some culturally prohibited food item without at least some token sign of resistance.


Tonight started off like most meals: passengers gathered in the mess hall and workers distributed the MREs. We’d gone through the earlier batch from the supply ship, so tonight we got the stuff dropped off by the helo.

On the menu: “Mighty Meaty Masala dosa with Teriyaki Noodles, Fries and Coleslaw” (expiration: Jan 2015). Only four years past its due date, which – if you’d bothered to notice the “cultured meat” line item in the package’s list of ingredients – probably made you stop and wonder what lab-grown meat turns into after its expiration date. Would it, like, make a move on the coleslaw and try to survive?

I might ask those questions, but most people were too hungry to bother reading the ingredients even if they could. And among the most eager people to partake in tonight’s culinary surprise, as it turned out, were the former hunger-strikers; the ones with mostly pseudo-ethical or faux religious reasons for not eating the earlier MREs. Most can’t read English or Spanish, so short of bothering to ask for a translation beforehand, they didn’t know any better and were probably happy to keep it that way. Beats explaining things to those pesky kids.

As I was completing my survey of the package’s ingredients and preparing to ingest what I was sure would be something intolerable, some of the fringe passengers finished the main course. You can always tell when they move between the different portions; there’s a pause in activity, some hushed discussion, and then a frenzy of ripping and tearing as they dive into the next portion of the meal.

About the time I pulled the self-heating tab, some of them paused again. And again… until finally they began cracking open their last morsel: fortune cookies.

Then another pause.

Only this time I heard concerned murmurs from one corner of the mess hall. Some of the passengers started picking up their discarded packaging and tried to make some sense out of the foreign words confronting them. And then, like a lit match in a gas-filled room, the scene exploded.


It was the first and only time the ship went into a full security alert. And I was impressed.

Guns out.

Passengers handcuffed.

Grown men wailing.

Women sobbing.

Kids staring in confusion.

And all because every fortune cookie said “I had a soul”.

Score one for the vegan griefers.


Sven JohnsonSven Johnson is an unrooted freelance designer increasingly working at the intersection of tangible and virtual goods. His background is varied and includes a fair amount of travel, a pair of undergraduate degrees and a stint with the U.S. military. He’s a passionate wannabe filmmaker, a once-upon-a-time underground comix creator, and – when facilities are available – an enthusiastic ceramicist who is currently attempting to assemble a transmedia, transreality open-source narrative in what remains of his lifetime.

[Future Imperfect header based on an image by Kaunokainen.]