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The Flesh by Marcus Daley
SUMMARY: A character-oriented story based in the not too distant future.
Seth Warshavsky sighed deeply through the surgical mask covering his face and reached up and adjusted the thin, plastic halo resting on his forehead. His hand hesitated on the handle to his front door while his mind performed a Google Earth search that counted the number of people standing outside his home. There were one hundred and twenty-three people waiting for him to make an appearance. That was four more than a few minutes earlier. Shaking his head with a sense of finality, he opened the door.
A warm, midsummer's breeze swept through the doorway and washed over his face as he looked at the crowd that gathered on his driveway. Seth wasn't comfortable with so many real, breathing people watching him, even though his halo projected a live image of his life since he was a toddler. Yet, it was always unnerving when faced with the human gaze.
Licking his lips and the fresh cotton mask, Seth stepped down the concrete stairs and across the yard toward the street. Even with the cotton mask to protect him from airborne pathogens, Seth didn't like to talk to strangers. Most people felt the same way and didn't say much as he walked, while those nearby stepped out of the way to let him pass. They watched intently, their own halos capturing his every movement. A few people held their halos above their heads when their view was blocked by another onlooker. A few whispers of "excuse me" and "please let me get a shot" were exchanged, but otherwise the crowd was silent.
As he strolled along the sidewalk on the way to the train stop, Seth responded to a question that came to his mind. One of the millions of viewers watching his blog asked if he was afraid of the crowd and wanted to run home. Seth formed a response and placed it in the virtual filing cabinet in his mind without uttering a word. Of course I'm not turning back, thought Seth. This is the last animal a human will ever consume and I get to eat it. ROFL – now back off!
Reaching forward, Seth rested his hand on the train stop sign pole and glanced up into the gray sky. A few weeks earlier he won the opportunity to eat the last cow on the planet. "A Feast of Feasts!" was the tagline that drew his attention to the Google advertisement. The first ten people to perform a million searches in a year would be the grand winners of a dinner with the CEO of NaturBeef, the owner of the last bovine. Seth had never eaten real animal meat before, let alone an animal byproduct. He read everything he could in Wikipedia, but wasn't sure what to expect. A dinner of real meat! ROFL – now back off, laughed Seth inside his head. Let the blogosphere feast on those words, thought Seth as he posted them to his web.
A few onlookers stepped recklessly into the street so they could ostensibly get a clearer view of Seth's face. He grimaced under his cotton mask and tried not to look at them. It only took a moment of staring at the shadowy sky before several complaints registered in his blog.