by Sam Buntz
At first, the traditional semi-circular silhouette of the taco is visible. But, as the lights come up, you notice something…different.
It’s the coloration: a brilliant orange. Not the natural, beta-carotene-charged orange of a carrot. This is otherworldly—like a glowing tube seen in a cartoon nuclear plant. It’s certainly artificial… therefore, a product of human artifice… therefore, an artifact… therefore, an object of art.
How many man-hours, how many sweat-beads of ingenuity were sunk into this carefully constructed, lab-tested foodstuff? You wonder. All you can say for sure is, “A lot.”
You move closer and notice that the art object has three dimensions. It is stuffed with iceberg lettuce, shredded mild cheddar cheese (a less radioactive shade of orange than the shell), and crumbled institutional beef, technically fit for human consumption. You wish now to move beyond the visual, to experience this taco with your other senses.
You reach out.
You touch it.
You are somewhat like John Hurt curiously approaching an extraterrestrial egg in the first Alien.
Immediately surprised, your hand recoils. Some kind of… substance… has left its traces on your fingers.
Should you lick your fingers? Almost automatically, without thinking, as though conditioned, as though reflexively, you do.
They taste of cheese powder, with a solid streak of umami cutting through. It’s familiar.
The flavor, you recognize, is classic nacho cheese. The original.
You bend over and wipe the remainder of orange umami paste on your socks. There is no napkin.
Against all logic, against perhaps the testimony of your own tastebuds, you decide to eat the whole thing.
The novelty of the object, in addition to its full-bore chemical assault on certain key brain areas (courtesy of the umami cheese powder), compels you. The mere newness of the thing outstrips its goodness. Quality takes a backseat, is rendered irrelevant. The novelty is all.
The aura of two brands, conjoined mystically into one, hovers palpably around the taco. You think you can even feel its energy, its special warmth—a sign of life like the inner heat of a newborn rabbit, nestled in straw.
An image out of your long-forgotten high school English class comes back to haunt you… You can see someone, a male figure at the end of a dock, reaching his arms across the water towards a green light… The artificial brightness of the green light is of the exact same quality as the orange of the taco. There is something almost… lurid about it. Perhaps the bio-luminescent bead that dangles before the jaws of an angler fish has something of the same lurid luminousness. A light leading you on, towards… what?
You eat the taco quickly. So quickly that you don’t even taste it. Scratch that. You don’t eat it so much as consume it, in the fullest sense of the word. You imbibe its brand-name aura and feel the warmth, the light, the life settle in your stomach and spread through all your veins and arteries and nerves, fizzing out of your pores.
And then, like that, it’s gone. The product has been inhaled. It is now being digested, and with digestion, a certain leaden-ness settles in the limbs. Gravity feels like it is pulling you down with more insistence than usual.
Before you collapse into a stupor, you feel like you need dessert. And you recall seeing an ad for a new milkshake containing a multi-colored, ostensibly fruit flavored breakfast cereal, mixed and mashed directly into the shake.
As you drive to Burger King, your education haunts you again. You recall the writings of the renegade priest and archaeologist Pierre Teilhard DeChardin and the work of the psychedelic-apologist Terence McKenna. You read both of these writers on your laptop during an “Introduction to New Media” course in college—not for the course, of course. Just out of a strange personal impulse.
DeChardin theorized that all of creation was moving towards a final moment of Christ Consciousness, when the whole world would become charged with the presence and knowledge of God. DeChardin called this event “The Omega Point” (referencing the Biblical notion that Christ is the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega).
Somewhat later, McKenna, a lover of psychedelic chemicals like psilocybin and DMT, claimed that humanity was advancing towards a point of maximum novelty. Eventually, we would attain a state of infinite novelty, infinite complexity—whatever that might be. Apparently, it involved entering into hyperspace.
These MSG-addled thoughts rise and flow and ebb in the brain. It occurs to you that a Dorito taco is certainly novel. So, of course, is a Fruit Loop milkshake. Yet, this increase in novelty and complexity hardly seems related to the manifestation of Christ… It’s novelty for novelty’s sake. It’s as though we’ve had all the real ideas and are scavenging what’s left—strange ramshackle combos, pieced together like idols made of bones and beads and feathers.
Bugs smash against your window, lazy miniature suicides, as you drive towards Burger King on a humid Sunday.
Yes, there is certainly much novelty in the world. It grows more novel and more complex day by day. The weight of the world, the worry and fret, compounds along with the novelty…
Suddenly, you pull your car onto the shoulder of the road and park. You breathe heavily, on the verge of a panic attack, as traffic streams by.
Wait! Hold on! Everybody… STOP! It’s not there, it’s not ahead of you! It’s somewhere back there, not at the beginning, but before that. Somewhere before time, before the first, “Let there be light.” Everyone! We need to stop! Freeze! Put down that e-cigarette! Put down that taco! Put down that gun!
But the arrow of time, loosed from its quiver, continues to sail into perfect cloudless blue.