Never assume it is safe to enter a grocery store after taking hallucinogens. You may make it to the automatic doors without anyone noticing how long you pause before entering. You may even fight the desire to spin around and watch the door magically close behind you, thus giving yourself away and perhaps causing a concerned manager to annunciate loudly in your direction. But, you will not escape the cereal aisle.
You may happen upon it immediately, marching towards the freezer section to obtain some ice cream and then catching a hint of its siren song as you pass. Or you may spend a good hour assessing the skin that covers an orange first. (Are those pores? you may find yourself wondering. Does it sweat? Am I sweating?) It doesn’t matter how it happens. You will eventually arrive at the cereal aisle.
At first, it will seem benign. You may even be looking for cereal. But then, something will change. You will realize you are combing a vast prairie of fortified possibilities. You are wading through sticky promises of strong bones, smooth digestion, and mind-bending taste. You are being offered a quality-functioning liver, magnificently-pliable tendons, a new heart in fancy cardboard boxes. On sale! You will consider whether your organs are in need of an upgrade. It begins.
B-vitamins. Potassium. Calcium. Manganese. Iron. Titanium. You will no longer be sure if these are substances which belong in your body. In fact, in fact, you are going to be quite sure you have survived for years without uranium-enriched chocolate squares. Quite sure.
The shelves will now have begun to climb higher and higher in order to offer you more! More what? More shapes for one. Chocolate circles, chocolate squares, chocolate faces, letters, and astrological signs. You turn to your left and your right. You look down the lengths of the aisle, but its ends are nothing more than coupon-clipped assumptions stretching farther and farther away from you, because what if you don’t like chocolate? What if God forbid you are bored with chocolate? What about honey? What about nutty? What about day-glo fruit replicant?
It will now become more and more obvious to you that the amount of breakfast possibilities is actually infinite, that the factories and machines and human beings who produce these boxed breakfast items must in fact take up every last acre of land, may in fact be stationed on the Moon and Mars, for how else would we assure the great American populace that they will have an ample supply of breakfast food to choose from. The cereals themselves, the corn and rice, the wheat and oat, must be grown and processed, you are going to realize, and then treated with nine different sugary combinations, molded into seventeen different shapes, dyed to fifty-two different glow-in-the-dark colors, (how else will we find them at night?) stuffed in sixty-six different boxes, each appliquéd with a different smile blasting bright breakfast bliss. Oh, but don’t stop there. No, don’t stop there, because now you are going to see the names, the slogans, the bold-faced type, the plastered faces of maniacal and sucrose-addicted cartoon animals, harmless in their monochromatic simplicity, terrifying in their wild-eyed promises. Proselytizing? Yes, proselytizing with the outstretched candy-filled hand of a child molester, brimming with anticipation, future gains, and dental visits, all of this under the shameless florescent glare of the supermarket.
Carts pushed by old ladies, carts carrying babies (babies, for christsakes!) will wheel past you. You will probably be having a panic attack at this point as you imagine the rotors and pistons, the clunks and whirs of the machines working day and night to churn out our Breakfast Choices! Is it possible that humans only exist in order to make their own breakfast? you will worry as your heart slams against your ribs. Is this the point, the purpose, the pasteurized, calcified, magical mantra we’ve all been seeking?
It is just you and the cereal aisle. The cereal aisle! An entire aisle dedicated solely to cereals! The black, thick-drawn eyebrows on the cavity-laden bunny will narrow. The eyeballs on the honey-licking bear will squint. The hairs will raise on the back of the cardboard tiger. You are going to be swallowed. You cannot escape.
The almond-raisin panic will be all around you now. Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day, you will insist defiantly. It can’t be. It’s not even real food. It’s just sugar and food coloring. But, nothing you can say or do can stop what has already begun. The incomprehensible energy the human race has spent in denying this truth, in inventing more fiber-stuffed guarantees, in reordering our brains to demand a screaming confusion of Monday morning abundance is too great. It will swallow you, and this leaves two possibilities.
You may become the first human to be cereal-killed. Or else, you will walk out of the store, with or without paying, pushing a cart full of cereal boxes, worried only that you have forgotten the milk.