Ginger's heart was still pounding when she woke from the dream - so real that she thought she was in another dream as she struggled to open her half-closed eyes. After sobering for a while, she took a good hard look to see if it was her bedroom, and tried to move her legs if they could touch the floor. Yes, it was no doubt the reality and the universe she inherited. Not a parallel universe and not another self she entered into.
It was an awful dream. Predictions about our world's future already sounded harrowing, but what she experienced in her dream was far worse. People were living inside an enormous dome, much bigger than the one mentioned in Stephen King's novel, without white clouds and blue sky. It was all smog and grey outside the dome and no horizon could be seen. The place inside was like the city she lived, with buildings, roads, shops and public buses loaded with people. When looked around there were no other cars, except the policing vehicles patrolling the streets. There were no trees, no birds, no animals nor old people. People got their food in specific food shops, and the only food available was meat burger without the bun. Ginger noticed the people on the street were only children, adolescent, matured men and women, they looked cold and their faces no emotion. There were not too many fat persons in sight, for once the authority discovered a person overweight, he or she would be sent to the energy factory, cycling full time to generate electricity.
Ginger had a hard time recognizing her city, which deemed familiar and yet strange. Where were her parents and where was her home? She wandered from one street to another, everything seemed to be in a loop. It was almost dusk when she spotted a huge, windowless concrete building, a group of people was lining up at the entrance. After all the walking she was taken by thirst and hunger and the first instinct was food. She approached a woman with red hair in the line and asked timidly if they were lining up for food.
"Lining up for food? You idiot, where on earth did you come from? We are lining up to be the food! You hardly look like you're forty, so keep off the line and mind your own precious years, miss!"
Ginger was stunned to get an reaction like this, and equally struck by the words lining up to be the food. "What does it mean to be the food? And what has it got to do with being forty."
"Hey Ginger!" While taken a step back from the woman who shouted at her, she heard someone called from across the street. It was her friend Rosemary. They went to the same collegiate high school years ago and were still good friends. Rosemary crossed the street, eyeing her with a straight face. Moment later she said with a resentful voice, "Where have you been and why are you lining up in the Forties? We still have years to go before the great cause."
"What do you mean Rosie? I don't understand. Everything seems like a dream and I'm confused to what I'm doing and where I'm going. What is the Forties? I am getting hungry and was just asking this woman if they're lining up for food…"
"You are indeed very strange! You vanished for a while and no one knows where you've gone. Abducted by the Aliens? Did you have a brainwash? You don't know where to eat?" Rosemary spoke with such harsh tone that frightened Ginger, who remembered her friend as a soft spoken person. As they were walking, Ginger begged Rosemary to tell her the missing parts, assuming that she was indeed abducted by the Aliens, and part of her memories deleted. The Forties, explained Rosemary impatiently, was a sacred cause. When a person reached forty, he or she had to sacrifice their bodies to be manufactured into food, and consumed by younger humans. This was a scheme developed by Big Brain, or Big Data, that humans must adopt if they were to survive and multiply. After the long period of END DAYS there were no other living things, animals, insects nor plants existed except the human species and viruses. Humans had to feed on each other to survive.
Big Brain possessed deep-life algorithm. This selfless act demanded respect to and from, all humanity. It became the law that the image of each sacrificed or used person be archived in collective memory - behind the armored walls and massive cast iron vault doors of the Central Memorial Bank, where families can visit anytime to pay their respects. The plan seemed so reasonable, logical and beneficial to the human race. What most people, including Rosemary, didn't know was the conspiracy to enforce Forty. The authority had been injecting humans with a suppressive agent to eliminate their fear and resistance, so when the time came, they would surrender their bodies accordingly with no will to fight.
"Oh my God!" cried Ginger, "My parents must have gone into the food."
"Let's go to have a burger, I'm hungry." said Rosemary coldly. Her face looked remote and emotionless like a statue carved out of stone.