Three years later the infection began to set in. They’d been eating from the maker-machines the whole time. No one was ever hungry. They’d begun to rebuild. The population grew, new life flourished. At first there’d been a lot of talk concerning the maker-machines. How did they work, where did the food come from (nothing comes from nothing), was it safe? The elders forbid anyone touch them until they could decide. There was so much of the other, packaged, food. No need to test the strange maker made stuff. Instead they allowed the dogs and cats to eat it for the first month, left bits out for birds. Watched them, checked their eyes, their teeth, their paws, their excrement, sent scouts to look for dead birds, but nothing went wrong. Their pets lived, no dead birds were found.
That was three years ago. This is now, where four bodies lay on the chapel floor. Father Simon pulls his small black book of prayers from his old satchel. “Let us pray,” he says and those gathered bow their heads. He says a few words, ends with an “Amen” and nods. The doctors light their torches and set to work.
“Father, father,” Benny chases after the lead elder. “Father Simon.”
Simon pauses, turns, takes his hands from behind his back, rubs his face. Still feels the heat from the torches. “Benny. What is it?”
“Why haven’t you told everyone to stop eating the maker food?”
“Why should I?”
Benny scowled. “Isn’t it obvious?”
“Mm, this again. How many others agree with you?”
Benny’s jaw tenses, rolls his shoulders, “No one.”
“Why would this happen now? Not a hint of anything amiss for three full years, Benny. What kind of infection takes that long to grow?”
“I don’t know, but that’s why we should stop eating the maker food. If it is the cause then we should have—”
“Three years. If the maker food is the cause then it’s much too late for all of us. What would we eat if we stopped using the maker-machines?” Father Simon asked, and Benny shrugged. “The doctors are working on finding a cure for the infection.”
“By burning the bodies?”
Father Simon shook his head. “Benny.”
“As long as we have food we have hope. Have you forgotten how it was before we found the maker-machines? We were on the brink of extinction. No food. Ask anyone and I’m sure they’ll tell you they’ll take the chance of infection over the promise of starvation. We need hope, and food—infection or not—gives us hope.”