Pictures of Food
I don’t remember what food tastes like. I don’t even remember having a mouth. I look at pictures of food and try to remember.
In my thousand-year watch I am alone. Well, not if you include the hundreds of sleepers who ride as cargo. It’s my job to maintain a human perspective on the ship’s affairs while they slumber. They call me the Servitor.
My speakers belch out the words, “Athena, where are we going?” I haven’t thought of our destination in decades. We are floating in the dark void of space, guided by a single star that seems to recede as we approach.
The ship’s computer chirps, “Hubble Epsilon 17B. The star system contains three Earth-like planets as well as two gas giants. In addition, a large asteroid belt…”
I interrupt her. “And how long until we get there?”
“23 cycles,” the computer says.
No idea how long a cycle is.
I return my camera-eye to the large screen in front of me. Pail, ovoid halves with yellow foam and green flecks. Deviled eggs with chives. I try to remember what it would feel like to say “deviled eggs,” but I’m drawing a blank.
The next image appears on the screen. Some kind of arthropods in a yellow paste. Shrimp and cheese grits. What flavors would this evoke if I could eat it now? No idea.
I used to be human. Maybe I still am. I’ve been running diagnostics, reviewing risk assessments, and approving ship’s actions for a long time. If I concentrate hard enough, then I can still remember the contours of my face in a mirror. It’s easier to browse the network encyclopedia food section.
A shadow of memory is trying to rise in me. I had hoped that viewing these images would help. I want to remember the richness of my senses. This body of metal and plastic seems like all I’ve ever known. Part of me rebels against it, but I feel that part fading even as I try to seize hold of it.
A round, whitish, reddish disk with smaller red circles. Pepperoni pizza. I can almost taste it. Then it’s gone.
I go down a long hallway to the observatory deck. I look out at the unmoving stars. I stand there until my energy supply dwindles to nothing. Fade to black.
I open my eyes and try to focus. The hatch opens and a cold blast of air jolts me awake. I sit up, blinking.
“Your Servitor has malfunctioned,” a robotic voice sings. It’s Athena, the ship’s computer.
“The Servitor malfunctioned,” I repeat.
“Yes, sir,” Athena says. “Please come to the neural station so we can scan you and deploy the image to a new model.”
I get up from my pod. I’m shivering. I approach the food dispenser in the lab. “Deviled eggs,” I say. The box whirs to life and drops a white tube into my hand. I squeeze the gel into my mouth. It’s delicious. Tastes just like deviled eggs.
The computer scans my mind and transfers an image of me into the Servitor. It will continue to do my job for centuries. I return to my pod and descend back into unconsciousness.