Spring 2024

Grainlent Cyclic

By Nicholas Y. Shi

Newscaster: The search for the kidnapped leaders of the eight largest Food Conglomerates has entered its third day and there has been no significant progress made. Three days ago the leaders of the Conglomerates gathered at the International Gourmet Committee Headquarters for the Annual International Food Supplier’s Summit. What should have been a celebration of the many accomplishments of the food industry last year and the outlook of the industry in the year to come soon turned to chaos as an unknown perpetrator disguised as catering service set off a gas attack and went on to kidnap the leaders. 

It is unknown if this individual had any accomplices.

Local authorities have teamed up with foreign intelligence to track down this perpetrator and rescue the eight leaders. There have currently been no ransoms issued, and the overall lack of leads has stumped the authorities. The FBI has issued a $500,000 bounty to anyone who could provide leads regarding the case. 

We are joined here today with the senior board member and temporary CEO of the Grainlent corporation Mrs. Joanna Masile to discuss the potential ramifications of this current situa—

I am starving. 

I need to write something to distract from the raging void inside myself, but it is not going well. After an hour of pondering how to start, all I landed on was to remind myself of my current torment with the very first sentence. I struggle not for a lack of things to say, but rather because there’s simply too much to say, too many conflicting opinions swirling inside my head to sort out. 

I am not a smart man, and the predicament I’m in, the ill-advised actions that led to the action I will be forced to make in moments time, is a testament to that fact. Though if I may say in my own defense, hunger does that to a person. The torment of an empty stomach did not allow for pondering through all ramifications.

The choices I made are in the past and I can’t change that. The choice I make in the next moments will determine whether what I am writing now is the words of a criminal or a deplorable human feeding on the pits of society’s moral fiber.

So let me begin. This is my confession.

When I graduated with a Social Science degree after debating the morality of everyday activities and the necessity of standing up for what you believe in for four years, the job market did not open up to me even with me being top of the class and renowned for my work ethics. It was something that I anticipated but still wasn’t fully prepared for. It had always been my plan to spend a year trying to figure out my next steps. But even after that one year, I wasn’t any closer to an answer.

The city I grew up in is famous for its beer production. It is common knowledge there that no matter what your education, Mascourt Beer is every resident’s eternal safety net, the last defense against job insecurity. 

So I applied for a position in the factory and got it. It was only supposed to be a layover job, something I did while I searched for a cause that I could devote my life to.

I may have asked for much more than I could handle if my current state is any testament.

There’s a conventional wisdom that if you like a certain food, don’t work for its manufacturers. 

I expected the worst on my first day at the factory but was pleasantly surprised. The factory was spotless and cleaned thoroughly every day. The workers’ hygiene was inspected before they entered the production space, and floor managers constantly surveyed the place to make sure no worker was doing anything that could be considered unhygienic.

The job also came with several perks. I was employee of the month for 12 months in a row. That landed me a raise and an invitation to an industry-wide renowned alcoholic beverages convention.

There I got the chance to taste the finest beer, referred to by industry veterans as “the Grain of God.” It was smooth and strong but never overpowering. The moment I had it, I knew every beer I would have for the rest of my life would pale in comparison. 

I also met some people there who were developing this new type of wine made from animal blood, which was also a highlight of the night. 

The wine can be made of blood from any animal, tastes rich imbued with a sense of fruitful wonder, without even a hint of gaminess. 

I have the recipe for it. Perhaps I should try making it later. All it would take is fresh blood and one day’s worth of fermentation. Which I will have plenty of after I gut the meat supply I have stored next door. Just writing about it conjures the sweetness back to my tongue.

Yes, I should do it.

My career path at Mascourt continued to brighten. I was happy, making good money, and developed a close relationship with my supervisors. One day, my supervisor asked me to bring his files to the meeting room (it was a product meeting that they have every week). But I noticed that the files contained a report with the words “additional meeting agenda” written in red letters at the top. 

I skimmed the file while I walked to the meeting room. I didn’t understand a single sentence or any of the charts and data. All I was able to gather at the time was that the report was regarding something called “kronome.”

I looked the word up online and nothing came up in public databases. The issue quickly slipped my mind.

Then one day I would host a dinner party with some friends from university and a colleague I met at the convention. I roasted a duck and used the blood to make the special wine. We all loved the meal. The wine suited the duck well, balancing out the fat, and layered upon the flavors.

My colleague got drunk really fast. And that was when the word “kronome” came up again.

I can hear my meat supply making a fuss in the next room. They probably soiled themselves. Cleaning them will be a hassle. I can already foresee the mess it will be to gut and bleed them, but that taste I can so vividly remember will be worth the effort. 

I definitely should do it.

I don’t remember how “kronome” was brought up, I just remember how quickly my friend, a chemist, turned pale.

She revealed to me and my other friend, who had a criminal investigation degree, that “kronome” was a man-made substance that only came into existence in the last few years. And more importantly, it was toxic.

I didn’t quite know how to process that information. More than anything, I just wanted to know everything I could about it, especially why it was on a meeting agenda at Mascourt. 

We devised a plan. 

When people say that drunkenness makes people spill the truth, that is accurate to what happened next. I listened in stunned silence as my friends extracted every bit of information they could from my shitfaced colleague.

Kronome is a largely untraceable substance that can cause long-term health defects if taken semi-regularly. But at the same time, it is utterly addictive. Beer companies have been experimenting on taste testers with how much of the substance they could add into beer so that the effects are long-term and therefore can’t be traced back to the beer and still maintain its addictiveness. 

Many taste testers have lost organ functions from the experiments, not just at our company but every beer company.

This experimentation was a corporate mandate from Grainlent, who owned us all.

I can’t put into words the mental damage this did to me. To know that the company whose factory I passed by every morning on my way to primary school—who sponsored every town festival and parade where we all gathered to dance and sing and stuff ourselves full of fried food—was involved. It was a sadness and betrayal and anguish that is beyond my literary capabilities to express.

At that moment I knew I must do something to save Mascourt. Save our town’s pride. 

The three of us started building a case against Grainlent and Mascourt in the hopes that it will be the start of a whole wave of investigations that will put an end to all of this. I snuck into my supervisor’s office and photographed the documents; we rigged the whole meeting room and recorded everything. And quickly gathered enough evidence to build a significant case.

Or so we thought.

The kronome case was deemed to be a non-issue by the court as well as the law enforcement.    

The taste testers had signed a contract, you see, with a liability release form tagged on at the end. Some vague allusions to “minor potential side effects,” and they have signed away their right to health and morality. Any charges that could be brought up were dropped, and nobody wanted to investigate the case any further. 

I received a call from my criminal investigator friend after. He simply said four words: “Friends in high places.”

We didn’t give up. This was my cause. 

The three of us looked further into Grainlent and found that this wasn’t the first time something like this had happened. Moreover, it wasn’t just Grainlent. All eight of the food industry giants that encompass every food product on the market have had some sort of history with ethics violations. From less than clean drinking water that saved a good deal of processing cost, to molded bread remade into “fresh” cupcakes, to juice cleanses that lead to malnutrition and eating disorders. And those were the below-average cases on a scale of zero to moral bankruptcy. The list of cases is so long it’s enough to fill the pages of War and Peace

The eight conglomerates have never missed out on a chance to profit off of twisting the notion of consumer safety into nonexistence. And they never received anything more than a slap on the wrist.

All these cases were tucked away, receiving light and vague reporting that underplayed the atrocity. What outrage was there quickly got lost in the 24-hour news cycle. Even the loudest critiques faded eventually. The three of us weren’t able to achieve anything different.

We decided to protest with our wallets, boycotting the Big Eight’s products. We even gathered a bit of support before we realized it was futile. 

The Big Eight owned every bit of food product on the market, processed or unprocessed, even if their logo wasn’t printed on the packaging. They owned the creation and production. Even the farms belonged to them.

I tried to start my own farm to produce my own food. It was next to impossible to find fertile soil that the Big Eight hadn’t bought out. Even when I finally did, I employed sustainable farming methods so the soil can remain fertile. Then lawyers showed up at my door because the methods I employed had been patented and cannot be used without permission from the patent holders —The Big Eight.

It was then that we realized just how far these conglomerates’ influence reached, how integral they were to our basic human functions, and thereby just how untouchable they were.

Those who supported us dispersed in front of this immovable behemoth. My friends eventually left as well. Only I didn’t give up. 

I hunted to survive. Everywhere I went would be people who chased me away. The hunting ground situation was like that of the fertile soil. The Big Eight controlled most of them. I hunt their animals, they file claims for stolen property, they get reimbursements, they benefit from my rebellion.

In the end, I realized that there is only one food source free from the Big Eight control. The only thing they couldn’t regulate. LIVE HUMANS.

(Dead ones were another story, I suggest not looking too hard into your dog’s favorite food or the meat pies and sausages that were always on sale.)

However, desperate as I was, my conscience would not allow me to survive feasting on just anybody. That was four days ago when I came to this conclusion: I must eat the people who created this system. I will dine on the Big Eight’s leadership. 

This is the justice they deserve. This is my bomb. My last weapon to disrupt the behemoth.

I will start with the head of Grainlent, a fat man. I will barbeque him, fry him, smoke him. The wine made from his blood will go great with his fatty meat. I will salt his flesh with sea salt, and flavor him with pepper, garlic, vinega—

I just threw up. I needed to move on from that train of thought. I thought I was finally at a place where I am capable of stomaching the idea. 

Guess I was wrong.

I didn’t have too much time to think before taking action. Writing this is the longest I’ve had to think about what I have done. I acted rashly. The summit happened too close to when I made my decision. But there’s no going back now, my meat supplies are next door. All eight of them. It’s been three days since I abducted them, a month since I stopped eating anything touched by their influence. 

Either I eat them, or I die. The only choices I have.

I have not written my hunger away. My stomach’s agony is beginning to affect my head. The last few sentences have been difficult. What decision I make will have to be made very soon.

But regardless of what decision, it is sure to be foolish. I hope I was able to explain my cause, and if you who read this hold an ounce of empathy or understanding for my actions, I implore you: 

Pass on the rantings of this starving man.

Joanna Masile: We are sad and grief-stricken by the current circumstances. We will do everything we can to save our kidnapped leaders and bring whatever heinous being is behind this abduction to justice. And we ask for the people’s assistance to achieve this. Please call in if you have any tips that could help solve the case.

But fear not. We are also dedicated to bringing food to your dinner table. The people will not be made to suffer any consequences from the heinous villain’s actions. I speak for all eight companies that make up the global food supply chain: we have systems in place for emergency situations and we are doing everything we can to make sure every facet in the food industry continues to run smoothly.

It will be business as usual.

Nicholas Y. Shi (he/they) is a man who after a moment of enlightenment inside his bathroom, realized that writing about his troubles is much more productive than silently screaming them at the bathroom mirror. Aspiring novelist, webcomic artist, and blogger, he is willing to explore multiple avenues to tell the stories he wants to tell. But don’t worry, his works don’t only consist of the rantings of a human thing barely functioning under the pressures of adulthood. Only four out of five of them are.  https://llsianprofo.wordpress.com/

Spring 2024