Short Story


cannibalism

dietary shifts spark evolutions

Path to the Next Adaptation

Rio Del Montana

 Capitalist wars lead to apocalyptic conditions.  Fraught humans ritualize Donner style dietary practices.  As conditions ease, the new food custom is reformed from families, to community farms to corporate farms.  Awakening and revolt apex in genetic change, moving humans forward by taking them back to their primal natural way.

WWIV detonated once Amerika’s heavily fortified economy buckled to People vs. Profiteers clashes, essentially collapsing status stratification barriers. The fall of the ‘free’ market had a greater impact than the fall of the ‘terrorist’ bombs of earlier wars. Elitists eked out enough hegemonic power to identify this period in skoolbooks as The Greatest Depression, as if this hardship was more severe, more significant, than the undocumented ceaseless silent suffering of the historically marginalized others (especially if they dwelled atop land containing highly valued ‘resources’, but generally folks darker than white skin, tribal peoples, Pagans, Gypsies, refuges, migrators, non-English speakers, improper English speakers like Ebonics speakers, children, prisoners, etc.)

Throughout the century before the first bomb hit the homeland, humans were transformed into machine-like consumers. Clandestine enculturation from the right in the name of ‘the free market’, and from the left in the name of ‘the common good’, methodologically eradicated useful innate instincts and compassionate impulses. Remaining organic surroundings were transformed into a human-made material savannah. Networks of asphalt streets, slapdash domiciles and shopping centers selling slave-made shipped synthetic goods spanned sea to sea.

Vanishing nature, catastrophic to almost all species, was rationalized by macho media personalities assigned the capitalist duty of clearing the collective conscience. Humans’ God-given duty to dominate it. Civilization’s destiny to simply use it for consumption & profit. Ever increasing symptoms of knocking the natural world out of whack – disappearing glaciers, drowning islands, Mega- hurricanes, flooding, drought, etc., were described as usual weather patterns where pragmatically possible, or if need be, re-assigned to the fault of the others. God’s retribution on a society that tolerates unwed sex. Or, staged by Islamo-fascist secret cells still lingering from WWIII.

As forests and fields malformed into lawns and concrete, all humans, lastly rural humans living off the land, became cogs, mostly low-income worker cogs, propelling forward the capitalist culture wheel. In the few remaining walled-off narrow bluffs reserved for the ever-shrinking elite, practicing skills needed to survive in and live with nature became a guided hobby.

Mainstream Amerika’s mind instilled the account of the Donner expedition tragedy, the only significant event of survival deemed ‘common knowledge’, thus mandatory teaching to every student, at least in the ‘good’ skools. During this wartime of greatest hardship, Amerikans turned to this only-known survival lesson. Donner expedition on a grand scale.

With the transportation system dismantled, grocery stores became refuge warehouses resembling the scene of the historic Hurricane Katrina’s convention center. Except now the suffering went forever unanswered due to justified ‘realities of war.’ Absent food supplies and conventional eating customs, masses of humans suddenly faced primal survival conditions activating boundless human die off.

Pets served as the initial stopgap to starvation. Millions of simultaneous discussions on the least painful ways to kill an animal. Millions of lamenting, grotesque gulps. Great epiphanies inspired from this tribulation, from intimate encounters with the psychology of eating. Actualizations so powerful they were destined to be realized, some day.

Tasting little difference between tissues of their pet animals and tissues of farm animals of their past, humans now vowed they would have not eaten animals in the days when ‘meat’ was plentiful had they recognized reality. Simple logic: All animals share key characteristics that make them all creatures with perceptions, awareness, connections, and emotions. That is the essence of animal. Human animals and all nonhuman animals are equally entitled to this classification, animal. Are not all sentient creatures worthy of compassion? Humans would convert to vegan now if not for this barren setting, no longer ripe for lavish options of their day, and far removed from the natural landscape of the earliest herbivore human ancestors.

Of the few remaining pet dogs some were selectively chosen by astute owners to take on a new role, adapting to these Donner times with instinctive understanding of the future value of aggressive dogs that sic on command. These owners went hungry and spared their dogs, training them to become weapons to both get food and keep their owners from becoming food. With the inevitable ebb of bountiful ammo, guard dog owners became the next dominant faction.

Pets, as in animals used for traditional pet purposes, vanished quicker than the dinosaurs had, but unlike the disappearance of dinosaurs this was no mystery how. Every surviving human knew exactly how. The explanation was juice on their lips and zest in their gate. Experiences of pet butchery, the sensation of flesh of loved animals on the tongue, between the teeth, and down the throat jaded the way to conceiving fellow humans as potential BBQ fodder.

To overcome cultural conditioning and ease the mind’s anxiety over the reality of clenching teeth into human flesh, especially flesh of friends and family, justifications and civilized rituals emerged. Uncle Jim’s sure signs of slipping, sporadic tremors and slurred speech, cued his kin to begin planning the Mercy. As he exchanged knowing glances with loved ones, his concern over neurological changes was eclipsed by fear of his fate. His fret spiraled as they noticed his efforts to conceal symptoms.

Being that Mercy happened during the sleeping hours – the easiest way for all involved – Jim refused to sleep on the plastic sheet now spread out on his sleeping sack, obviously there to contain the Mercy’s splatter. Instead, he snuck out long before sleeping hours began, wandering about, finally sleeping between various dumpsters in dark alleys, and on cold nights if he was lucky, with the guard dog in the shed corner. It was the only way he could rest his body, if only for a while. His mind never found rest again.

While political, military and corporate elite feasted in bunkers designed for such times, each night the family hunted for Uncle Jim. As hunger pains burned holes in stomach cavities, the mute family tension finally broke in a hail of emotional onslaught. It’s your turn, but you’re being selfish. After all we did for you, how could you let us suffer? You show disrespect for the new tradition!

Surely, with Uncle Jim’s bad behavior, the famished family was entitled to alter the Mercy ritual. In a synchronized attack, they crept up and grabbed him from behind. He gave it his all, but didn’t even have the strength to shake his foot loose from the little one. The family held his head tight on the backyard stump as he accepted defeat in a final relax. It was over in six heartbeats.

The family began salivating, though the meal would be hours away. The neighbors, also salivating, gazed over the rusted chain-link fence as the guard dog barked them back. The little one hurried to light the fire, as the family sawed Uncle Jim up into sections fit for skewer.

From the war’s beginning, Donner-style desperation established innovative family customs as human culture evolved. Families reconfigured into packs. Time inched forward.

Realizing increased survival odds in greater numbers, humans banned together not just in family units, but in what corporations once branded as subversive units, communities.

Organized networks formed to effectively and humanely slaughter the dysfunctionals, and fairly distribute this and other food product. When a human developed a defect, like a neurological disorder such as Uncle Jim’s, a paranoid anxiety, or a lame leg, she was brought before a commission to formally determine her level of functioning and level of use to the community. Those found irreparably ‘dysfunctional’ were hauled to farm.

Families were relieved of the burden of carrying out the killings themselves. Sleeping Mercy – and backyard slaughter for the resistors – was replaced with placid goodbyes next to cargo trucks in front of homes or refuge centers. Families didn’t mind sharing the meat now because they knew they, like everyone, received their equitable share from the farm. And perhaps most importantly they no longer envisioned a face attached to each bite.

So it went with stories of Mercy, then stories of goodbyes. Stories of backyard slaughter were locked tight in secret family memories, never uttered. War receded, generations passed and secret memories of family slaughter faded, vanished. Dysfunctional human animals and all nonhuman animals became ever more acceptable as food.

The transition from survival eating to plentiful food paralleled the sporadic return of state capitalism. Earlier epiphanies on animal realities and notions of adopting a plant diet were minimized, attributed to stressful circumstances. There had been enough changes; this change would be reserved. Harrowing goodbyes and community farming lingered and took root as a cultural norm. Incorporating newly created culinary customs, civilization proceeded, embedding into everyday life the practice of farming off dysfunctional humans for meat.

With humans’ willing participation, to question what had become ordinary practice would be to questions the principles of society as a whole. The practice remained intact, largely unquestioned, passed generation to generation, culture to culture. As national boundaries dissolved into community networks, certain blessed animals reclaimed their status as precious pets, while identifying dysfunctional humans, cows, pigs, chicken and fish as food product became an ingrained practice worldwide.

Some humans deeply devoted to issues of ‘truth and justice’ rejected life in community with its merciless customs, instead opting for recluse lives. A few humans, blithely labeled ‘bleeding hearts’, who gathered in protest were swatted away by corporate police like annoying flies.

The only way to affect real change was through activists breaking into farms, releasing as many animals as possible, and setting up secret sanctuaries to live their lives outside society’s margins in seclusion. Some progress was made to this end, until farmers complained to their representatives about wasted product and lost profit. The Despotic Law passed making farm theft a high crime punishable by slaughter. After the first few activists were publicly clubbed & roasted, liberation efforts virtually ceased.

Within seven generations of the war’s end, humans were as desensitized to farming human animals as they had been to pre-war farming of other animals. In grocery store fresh meat aisles leg of lamb sat next to the hip of human. To reduce obesity, baseball game hot dogs were replaced with lean ‘juicy dogs’, 100% de-skinned and de-boned human fingers. As expressways re-populated with commerce, long metal trucks reappeared with air vents through which nearby drivers glimpsed society’s rejects, the dysfunctionals, hauled to farm.

In the community farm barn, between the pigpen and chicken roost situated the human pad. The enclosure with a hay floor was bordered by chain link fence, electric barbed wire atop (humans were more prone to escape). All farm animals were fed a blend of corn meal mush with an assortment of vegetable & reject meat scrap, infused with large quantities of antibiotics to prevent death before slaughter. As show of recognition that human animals still outranked other animals, dysfunctionals’ name initials were tattooed onto the back of their hands to establish a record of the end of their life.

Upon arrival at the farm, after a quick blood screening for transmissible diseases (to ensure a safe food supply), the first procedure was injection with succinylcholine to temporarily paralyze throat muscles during a procedure to snip off humans’ vocal cords. This procedure began on community farms when workers’ wives and children conversed with, which led them to become friends with, human farm animals.

These relationship connections created an intense emotional climate prone to boundary crossing. Wives organized escapes. Children strongly resisted (at times successfully) the slaughter of their human farm friends. Vocal cord snipping virtually halted these forbidden friendships, which community leaders and clergymen agreed was proscribed in the bible, citing numerous scriptures as evidence.

Dyfunctionals’ socialization in community farm pads resembled that of monkeys in zoos. There were relationships, some stronger than others, and an organized hierarchy. Most were elderly, but they went quickly to slaughter while they still had some meat on their bones. The ones that remained the longest were the younger mentally and physically defective ones.

B.J., an old lame robust woman with cheeks so plump and high they drew up the corners of her mouth like she was always smiling, was once the matriarch of a family of proud veterans. One autumn morning, in the master bedroom of the brick ranch with a tall pole displaying an Amerikan flag waving in the cool breeze, B.J. woke up unable to talk or to move one side of her body. When her retired husband realized she wasn’t just sleeping in late when he attempted to rouse her, he called an ambulance, then the children.

The scene at the hospital was tragic as the doctor reviewed test results – stroke with little hope of substantial improvement. The commission decisively ruled her fate.  The family mourned around B.J.’s bed. They couldn’t hold back the tears as they recounted their favorite memories with her, said words of praise and gratitude, but choked back words of goodbye.

Every member of the family was there when the hospital staff disconnected B.J. from the machines, took off her hospital gown, and rolled her naked down the hallway to the cargo bay. Two men in uniform transferred her onto the back of the truck as her family waved goodbye with tears rolling down. She coiled the half side of her body she still controlled into a fetal position on the metal floor as the truck made several more pickups, with one urban hospital virtually filling the truck to capacity.

The truck pulled into the gravel drive, backed up next to the barn and sounded the horn. Now the truck engine silent, the sounds of human cargo arose. Deep sobs. Mourning groans. Hopeless whispers of plans to escape and live out free lives in the woods. Finally, the back door opened bringing in blinding sunlight. Two men in overalls reached in, grabbing whatever body part they touched first, pulling humans out one at a time, corralling them into a fenced-in waiting station, some standing, most sitting, B.J. lying where she was placed. Their mouths were swabbed. The one that didn’t pass the swab test was taken into a cooler, with resistance. The closed door didn’t fully mute the screams.

One at a time the dysfunctionals were steered into a small metal building. B.J. was one of the last. The two men took one arm each, dragged her into the building and laid her onto the cold concrete floor. A man in a white coat gave her a shot in the arm she could no longer feel. After a couple minutes her body went limp, and her hearing sharpened. With a steady hand the man in the white coat opened her mouth, reached deep in her throat and adeptly snipped her vocal cords. The letters “B.J.” were tattooed on the back of her hand. A woman bagged her, forcing her to breath until she showed signs of movement.

The two men dragged her into the barn and left her just inside the gate of the busy human pad. She made eye contact with the female human next to her.  Immediate bond. They slept warm cuddled up to keep one another. But B.J. was old and lame. After a couple days she was dragged to slaughter.

A month later, her family stood beneath their flag to memorialize their beloved matriarch. They sat down at the long picnic table next to the grill and said a solemn prayer. They talked of hopes that B.J. somehow found mercy, as they unknowingly chewed on their matriarch’s roasted muscle.

It was easier for humans to numb sympathetic impulses remaining intentionally ignorant of the suffering, of the details of the final moments of the creatures that became portioned slabs on plates. But what eradicated any remaining smidgen of sympathy of the dysfunctionals was the shift from the community farm to the corporate farm.

In corporate-owned farms humans were crammed into huge pads of dirt floor entrenched with human waste enclosed in tall metal walls. Dysfunctionals were so close in proximity that fights commonly broke out. This bad behavior resulted in a new processing routine.

Upon arrival, tightly supervised hard working low-income laborers lopped off dysfunctionals’ hands, and yanked out their front teeth (back teeth were left for chewing food to plump up for sale). All farm animals were fed corn meal powder chunks with a bit of various animal gizzards, ligaments, cartilage and hoofs mixed in. A random series of numbers and letters branded onto the buttocks as unique identifiers tracked movement of product through the food producing system.

The inter-human culture in the pads had no supportive relationships; it was every creature for herself. If animals weren’t crazy when they first arrived, they became so shortly thereafter. Animals developed nervous tics particular to their species. Humans pulled out their hair with their wrist nubs as they frantically rocked back & forth, taking warped comfort in pain as their bodies collided in rhythm.

14 CHU 3, a small wild child with matted hair haphazardly darted through the crowded pad racing for food and scraping the water trough with his toenails taking confused comfort in making random noise. He was born the precious baby of a caring professional couple. After years of trying to conceive with no success, they went to doctors and were given injections that both made the couple’s dream come true, and turned their dream into a nightmare.

When 14CHU3 started growing in the womb, one of the injected chemicals that manufactured his life also altered his genetic makeup. His synthetic mutation was not immediately apparent upon birth, but after several years of warmth and love, little growths started appearing on his back. A doctor removed the growths, but they kept reappearing and spread to his neck and head, larger and uglier.

Doctors said it wouldn’t help to remove them anymore because they’d just keep coming back. It would have been a waste of medical resources to continue futile treatment. They recommended farming him off. The couple wouldn’t have it.  Fearing referral to the commission they stopped taking their precious one to doctors.

As his tumors continued growing, people started to point and whisper. Skoolmates teased him ruthlessly, and even the one child who was willing to be his friend made him keep their friendship secret. The skool called 14CHU3’s parents in to explain that his presence had become a ‘distraction from the education process’, so they could no long ‘accept his enrollment’.

Applications to other skools resulted in rejection after rejection. His mother quit her job to skool him at home. The family sold their suburban house and downsized to a loft in the seedier park of the city. Staying inside almost all the time, they found comfort in both seclusion and anonymity. They covered the growths best they could the rare occasions they left their isolation.

Extended family members withdrew from the trio. Some came right out declaring it would be best for everyone to follow the doctors’ advice. Family ties severed. Motivated by self-described ‘relistic love’, 14CHU3’s grandmother was the one who made the anonymous inescapable call to the State Department of Human Affairs.

Officials showed up the next morning to do ‘what’s best for everyone’, to take him to the place civilized society deemed most appropriate for cases like his, the corporate farm. At the tender age of seven, he was peeled from his sobbing mother’s arms and stuck in the back of a truck.

After his muscles were paralyzed and his vocal cords snipped, his front teeth were yanked. With tourniquets constricting blood flow in both arms, his hands hacked off, veins cauterized, and wrists wounds tightly bandaged. He was flipped over and ‘14CHU3’ branded on his buttocks. He woke up dizzy from agonizing pain, touched on all sides by other humans in the packed urine and feces-ridden pad. He impulsively moaned in pain and started to say ‘ouch’, but no sound could come out.

He reached out to find comfort from the humans around him, but every ounce of compassion these humans had upon arrival was displaced by insanity. Every motivation, every behavior, was based on feral survival instincts. Away from his parents love, it didn’t take long for 14CHU3 to loose himself and become a child beast.

After a full farm season he had seen many especially older humans of the kind he used to know come in, become like the others, and get hauled away. One day he was in his daily routine of beating the others at picking up food chunks with his wrist nubs when he scuffled with a crazed middle-aged woman.

As they spar back and forth, he glared into her eyes. He didn’t recognize the eyes of the woman who once looked lovingly into his as he suckled her breast, the eyes of the woman who fell into a deep depression after her son was stripped from her, the eyes of the woman whose husband called the officials to take her away in the same truck her son once rode.

Though most stories of these others went unheard, a few inciting stories seeped out of hiding into collective consciousness. Communal movements to confront the horrific realities, to realize a moral truth, to create a just society for all animals and the earth itself, led to global uprising. When that was quashed, another. Each reached closer to not just enlightenment, but a physical change on humans’ atomic level, a genetic adaptation.

In the end despotic punishments had a converse affect – exactly identifying the enemy as a trait within the human species itself – weaving a sense of clarity and strength into the movement. A series of increasingly victorious old-style People vs. Profiteers uprisings melded into communal actions toward completion of this evolutionary step, discarding a once dominant gene that was no longer working for humans, and never worked for the world. One World restored.

It was written that the People prevailed, that they collectively removed their blinders to perceive their appalling reality, and their minds and lives were simultaneously devastated and liberated.  Though humans designed a plan to evolve themselves into creatures of compassion, the genetic adaptation had already materialized. Humans everywhere had great remorse and motivation to change and make amends. There were no trials, no retributions. Alternatively, the “most important action” was taken, a change to a plant based diet, and thereby a change in their entire way of life.

Humans were now on the cusp, reaching back through generations to the ways of their earliest hominid ancestors. Earth was ready for abundant diverse life to emerge anew.  The adapted humans’ place in the re-emerging natural world would soon unfold.

throw a buck at this meme bukster    

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