Jacob was a eighty percenter. He wore a blue ribbon that designated his social consciousness level number in bold with letters. 87 percent, it proclaimed. It rested upon his natural fiber coat—made from organic cotton and not animal parts. He remembered the day he purchased it—and watched his rating jump to 81, and rewarding him with a blue ribbon. Jacob wasn't planning on staying at 87 percent. He had just purchased an antique, a precious stone, which was nestled in a velvet pouch in his pocket. He was reassured because the sins committed by it's production had been atoned by priests who regarded hot beverages as impious.
Since his coat was cotton it wouldn't hold up well in the rain. He purchased oil gently harvested from minks to rub on it, giving it a musky odor that gave him a distinctive scent. But that was okay, natural smells were perfectly acceptable. Sometimes the rich and famous would practice changing how they smelled by what they ate. A popular singer had recently claimed to smell like popcorn, a feat she managed by eating only shellfish. Jacob earned more positive points for the mink oil when he ordered it in small batches delivered once per week, as it meant more delivery people were employed. At first it began to pile up but then he decided to eat it. He was sure the government would eventually add a flavoring agent to it rendering it inedible.
He looked through the window at the various party foods, each displayed with a price inflated by sin taxes. Many of the more openly decadent ones had a different number—the weight that each would bear against one's social conscious level. Jacob knew that he was going to have to pay tonight—in money or anti points, probably both, but it was a big night and he was prepared to spend. He entered the store.
Inside was a vast array of exotic food and liquor. Unlike other stores, this one was run by the state, who carefully inspected and taxed each product before offering them for sale. One cooler contained cheeses made from animal's milk, high in fat. Their cholesterol gave them a high anti rating. Next to it was a cooler filled with fermented beverages, each one having a low anti rating. With alcohol, though, the anti rating goes up exponentially based on the volume bought, making larger purchases prohibitive. Being convicted of driving while drunk was an automatic 90 percent loss.
The aisles were stocked with many decadent items including various dried fishes and refined grains. One row was dedicated to drinks made from corn, while another was for snack foods made with starches and oil. Most people these days enjoyed their sodas sweetened with aspartame but the occasional old person would lament the passing of something called 'high fructose corn syrup.' Jacob strolled by the rows of shiny plastic bottles to the rows of baked goods.
Here were found creations made by processed wheat, a substance that was so versatile it once was used for building material. One could purchase bags of refined flower for use at home or take advantage of the premade cakes and cookies The smell of freshly baked bread drew Jacob in as he watched a shopgirl place the freshly baked loaves upon the rack. He looked with envy at her bold red ribbon and number 91.
Jacob wondered if she had earned her status by serving the country through the military or religion. She looked too young to have been already discharged from the military, and he didn't see any overt signs of her being a member of one of the service based religions which sent missionaries to convince people to eat only raw food in the less sophisticated countries around the world.
He didn't know that she had earned her prime status by donating bone marrow for cultivation. She opted for a painful harvesting procedures rather then give up a kidney. After all there was a reason why you had two. Her husband had also recently earned his prime status by donating blood—he got extra points because he had a genetic trait that made his blood resistant to malaria. They spent their evenings locked in passion hoping to achieve that formal status of family which enabled them great tax discounts and points allowances. Her life was not without tragedy for her younger brother was currently unscorable due to using racial epithets in an effort to be a socially edgy performance artist.
He selected a loaf of fresh bread and a cheese spread flavored with lobster, an animal product considered acceptable due to it's body vs. brain ratio. That didn't matter—there were still the occasional oddball activist that would protest crustacean consumption by claiming that science could use radiation treatments and nerve grafting to giving them bigger brains, and therefore a pathway to sentience. He took his selections to the front of the store to check out.
There a girl with a green ribbon took his card. Her ribbon didn't have a number because anyone under eighty was considered substandard. It was the eighty percenters who could date, and when reaching the upper numbers, marry. But you had to have a red ribbon to reproduce.
“We have a special today.” She said as she swiped the card that assaulted his credit rating. “Fresh caviar. Have you ever had it?” She asked.
“I did once, at a party. It was kind of salty.” He remembered that party, a spread of delicacies provided by his employer as a reward for a company victory. Companies held permits that allowed them to serve decadent foods under strict guidelines. “The anti points on it are horrible, though.”
“That's just it. They found a way to harvest them without killing the fish. They use anesthesia.”
“I don't like the way that anesthetized meat tastes. Most chicken tastes heavily of Sodium Pentothal. I hate that taste. I prefer my chicken hypnotized—when I have the money, of course.”
“Even meat without cholesterol still has fat.” She eyed his purchases. “Twin loaves. Must be some party. Sure you don't want any of the caviar?” So Jacob bought some, secure that the high price would be repaid by Emily's gratitude when he brought them to her party. He wouldn't tell anyone that the fish had been anesthetized and see if they could tell the difference.
Jacob thought about Emily as he walked to her condo. Her rating was 89, and she also had the privilege of marriage. Her left hand bore a ring of soft metal indicating her promise to abstain from sex and therefore permitted to retain her reproductive organs. Jacob and Emily had been dating for almost a year and he was ready to marry her, but it had taken a long time to raise the money to adorn her ring with a socially acceptable stone of great value.
He met Mary at the steps of Emily's building. Mary also bore a blue ribbon, but her number was only eighty four, and she was not able to be wedded. At least her status allowed her to date, and she was with her current boyfriend Jake. “Oooh, twin loaves.” Mary said. “I'm gonna carb up tonight!” Everyone laughed at her mimicking of a joke making the rounds in media outlets.
Emily loved the cheese spread and fresh bread, which still felt warm from the oven. He then took her to a quiet corner of the kitchen and presented her with the box containing the caviar. It looked suspiciously like a gift box for a precious stone but she recognized the fish right away. “Oh Jacob. You shouldn't have. Can you afford it?”
“It's not a big deal.” He lied. “I got a bonus last week.”
“But the anti-points. This has to be at least a hundred points. Surely your number will go down. I thought you wanted to have children.” Tears began to well up in her eyes.
“It's okay. That's not a problem.” He reassured her.
“It's not black market, isn't it? I don't want to take a chance at being poisoned.” It was common for the government to release tainted contraband to test the compliance of the population. “I thought I could trust you.”
So Jacob had to explain to her about the eggs were gently harvested and how the additional labor reduced the anti points even further. “They even leave some in to develop.” He concluded.
The caviar was a great hit at the party and everyone was eying Jacob's ribbon, as if the number would go down while they ate the salted eggs. Jacob regaled in their amazement and no one ever guessed that the eggs had been produced under anesthesia.
Later, while drinking a beer on another guest's points, Jake talked to Jacob about the latest medical breakthrough. “I think I'm going to try it.” Jake said. “It sounds like it should work. It'll be years before I can make it to 85.” His number was 81, and destined to stay there for quite some time due to an unfortunate arrangement at a impromptu pigroast in college. “I can't wait that long.”
“But it seems so extreme.” Jacob said.
“But they'll keep them hyperfreezed.” Jake said. “And they've been able to reattach them at over 99 percent. I can take pills to make up for the hormones. And there would be zero chance for pregnancy.”
”It's legal?” Jacob asked.
“One hundred percent.” Said Jake.
“But what if they can't put them back—if you're that fraction of a percent?”
“Then they can put in an alternate pair.” Jake said.
After the guests left, Jacob and Emily greedily ate the remaining potato chips left and washed it down with leftover champagne. The gleaming 89 on her ribbon competed with her robust breasts. “I have some news.” Emily said. “Next week I hit the ten thousand hour mark.” Emily had been working diligently to raise her social conscious level by listening to compassionate radio, a broadcast of wholesome stories for wholesome lifestyles. Combined with her work organizing protests against pesticides it would raise her to over 90 percent.
“Hm.” Jacob said. “I think I know what to do about that.” He thrust his hand into his pocket and brought fourth the other box that had been nestled in his jacket.
She saw the fish on the box. “Oh Jacob, this isn't more caviar?” But it wasn't. Inside was a dusky precious stone, carefully cut by ancestors that no one could rightfully claim. She kissed him then and they wished to make love right then but had to wait until Jacob had donated enough blood. So they held hands and watched the sunrise instead.