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They're Made Out of Corn

Katherine Crighton is a genre writer with over twenty years of experience in SF/F publishing. They've been published by Tor Books, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Nightmare, and a variety of other markets, and are one of the sibling presenters on the No Story Is Sacred podcast, taking apart and putting stories back together again. They also spend their days working for Worcester Polytechnic Institute's Robotics Engineering program (with very many robots). You can contact them through their website at katherinecrighton.com, or via twitter at @c_katherine.
"They're made out of corn."
"Corn?"
"Corn. They're made out of corn."
"Corn? What the hell is corn?"
"Corn. It's a monoculture flora from their planet. They've been growing it for millennia."
"Okay, so they've got corn."
"And they are corn."
"No, they aren't. They're made out of meat. They're kind of famously made out of meat. There was a whole, you know, thing."
"I'm telling you. Corn. Ever been to their planet?"
"That backwater? No thank you."
"Right. But you've met them."
"I mean, sure. They're impossible to ignore. The squelching alone--"
"Sure. Well, then you've met corn."
"Meat!"
"Corn-meat! At most!"
"I'm not a big plant person, but I feel like I would've noticed if they were photosynthesizing."
"They don't. I mean, maybe they do, who knows what they do on their own time, but it's not because they have to. They're still corn. And get this."
"What?"
"They turned themselves into corn. Willingly. Regularly."
"That's insane. And impossible."
"What's the one thing they refuse to give up, even after all the galactic sanctions?"
"Fire."
"Okay, what other thing."
"Wait, wait--do you mean--"
"Bingo."
"Transporters? Those death traps? Seriously?"
"You got it."
"I thought transporters were just, you know, unreliable. Exploded, or lost the meat in transit."
"I'm talking about when the transporters work. It's the whole thing. They oughta be illegal."
"I mean, if the meat wants to blow itself up, that's its business, but that doesn't make them magically turn into corn."
"But it does, okay, it does. Think about it. If you've ever met one of them outside their measly solar system, they had to travel via transporter. Meat can't handle time dilation, it gets all weird. But if they use a transporter, you're not talking to the original meat. That meat gets left behind. Burnt up into sparkly bits. The information whatsit, neural patterns and chemical sequencing, that's what transfers. It all goes FTL, like a comm message."
"So the meat stays behind, and on this end--"
"They get reconstituted. With feedstock atoms. And what are those atoms, say it with me now..."
"Oh no."
"Oh yes. Corn. It's in all their replicators, too. That's why their hydroponics bays are full of the stuff. I think they mulch it."
"Omigod. Corn. They're really, actually made out of corn. They really did that. Do that. To themselves."
"You know how many transporter transfers there are on this station alone? So many."
"I can't believe it."
"Want to know what makes it worse?"
"How. How could it be worse. This is so gross. They just--"
"They eat it."
"What."
"They eat corn. That's why they grow it. It's why they developed it."
"No."
"Yup. Corn chowder. Corn bread. Popped corn. Corn as a side dish, corn as an ingredient, corn turned into syrup and added to the rest of their food as a flavor enhancer. It's--oh, shit, get this--it's a cornucopia for their diet."
"Omigod."
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
"I can't even believe you. In middle of all this, you--you just decide to drop that bomb into the conversation."
"I didn't ask for this gift."
"So the meat... the meat is corn. They choose to be corn. They choose to be food."
"Right. Right. And that's why I'm saying, this is okay."
"It doesn't seem like it should be okay."
"Desperate times. You could almost say that they anticipated this. They already eat themselves, is what I'm saying. Corn eating corn. It just makes sense."
"But they don't exactly advertise the corn thing."
"All I'm saying is, transporter pads are everywhere. Matter can't be destroyed or created. It has to go somewhere, it has to come from something. They have to know it. And they have to know that we know. Sanctions, remember?"
"Ugh, this is depressing. What kind of sentient beings would do that to themselves? Destroy themselves over and over, just to get where they're going a little faster?"
"I mean, they seem to really like corn. And in the end, better them than us. Who knows what's really left of the original meat's thoughts, dreams, loves--information decays, just like everything else. Walking, talking corn. That's all they are, now. And they chose it."
"They chose it. And... well, and at least they're not still meat, not really. Small mercies. You said something about popping them?"
"And chowder, apparently. Lotta options. It all depends on what you want, and what you're willing to do to get it."
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020
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