Short Stories

livestock-384628_640Moo by Eden Langlands

“…to believe in dreams is a manifestation of insanity.”- Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
(1971)

It’s the end of the world as we know it…and I feel fine. Or as the song goes – but I feel less than fine. I feel hungry, thirsty, dirty and totally pissed off.

My life now was all about taking care of the every whim of fucking cow. When I say cow, I don’t actually mean the precious Jenny – although, she would qualify. I actually mean an honest to goodness black and white bovine. But it was just another body to add to my collection of useless travelling companions.

My feet were killing me and hands were raw from pulling on the rope that was tied around the cow’s neck, as a makeshift lead. I tugged the wretched cow to move, as I scratched at the rash that was developing on my chest, but got no satisfaction from either. I was sure the rash was getting itchier, but luckily not spreading.

I trudged forward on the broken tarmac of what used to be road, carefully stepping over the loose parts. In the new “post some dumb ass hit the button and blew it up” of a world, a sprained ankle meant death.

I was always anti-social and mostly a grumpy bitch – so the end of the world really didn’t do anything to improve my mood. It just meant I could finally get away with my bad behaviour. Tact and politeness sort of went out the window when you had to fight for food and shit in a hole in the ground.

Mike called out and said it was time to rest. Sweeter words I had not heard in a long time. I found an old water pipe sticking out of the ground and secured the cow’s lead to it. After all, we can’t have the stupid animal wandering off. I never bothered to name the cow. It was always cow, In my disdain, I thought I was more than justified to seethe the word cow every time I said it.

I found a nice place to hunker down for the night and was joined by Mike. Wordlessly, he sat down next to me, and got as close to me as he possibly could without actually touching me. I liked Mike – a lot. I wanted to grab him and kiss him, rip his clothes off and ride him like a mechanical bull. I wanted to scream with ecstasy and wild abandon, like you’d seen on those crappy films channel five use to show late at night. Why not? I asked myself. Who cares about propriety any more, it is the end of the world. If I wanted to be a raging slut, now was as good of a time as any. I chuckled out loud as I thought to myself “Who cares about my reputation or what they think?”, they will probably be dead by winter. But I did nothing.

Mike heard and smiled at me. He asked if I wanted to share what I found so funny. I looked into his smiling eyes, his shining with the light of heaven eyes, his lovely wonderful golden flecked eyes that melted my heart, and told him to “Fuck off”.

 

I surveyed my camp of stragglers and imbeciles. There were five others, Mike- you already know. That bitch Jenny – you know her type, pretty, precious, screams when she breaks a fingernail. Then there was John. John was besotted with Jenny. He was a few years younger than Jenny but to look at him – you knew he was all man. That didn’t stop Jenny flirting with Mike. She was the kind of girl that wasn’t content with one bloke – she wanted them all. That just left the two whining kids we picked up. I didnt want them – but I was out voted. It was my plan to sell them on as slaves if we ever found any other survivors, or eat them- if I got desperate enough.

I waited until I heard the soft deep breaths of sleep, before I touched Mike. I took his hand in mine and stroked it softly. It was the only time I could bear to show him any affection without breaking down into tears. I knew Mike before. Before – it is such a funny word to describe something that doesn’t exist any more and never would again. Before – someone panicked, when it clearly says Dont panic. Before – we had hope.

I was millimetres away from stealing a sleepy kiss from Mike’s lips when that fucking cow farted. I felt it blow in my hair and the stench was enough to send anyone’s gag reflex going. The moment was gone and I was filled with rage once again, because of that cow. Even saying the word cow out loud these days made my eye twitch and my rash burn.

I got up from where I was sitting and placed my coat over Mike. I looked around the world we inherited and thought “God, what a shite-hole”. Then again this town was always was a shite-hole. Part of me thought the almost total annihilation was a bit of an improvement. Took care of the chav problem at least.

My mind wandered to that day- The end and the beginning. We didn’t know who dropped the bombs. It all happened too quickly, and when it was over who ever could answer those questions were crispy critters. That was three months ago, but it felt like three years ago. We were lucky as it goes, a bomb didn’t directly drop on us. Our town was destroyed by some sort of tornado that travelled up from the south moments after a bomb blew up London.

I was in Leicester that day. I was in the comic book store Mike worked in. Usually I would be there at least three times a week. I never really talked to him and he never really talked to me either. I guess we were both those shy invisible people that no one noticed – not even by other invisibles. I guess if life had continued normally, I would have never really noticed Mike. He is one of those people when you first meet him, you dont think anything of his looks but when you do know him, he becomes beautiful.

That comic book store saved our lives. Henry, Mike’s boss, was really into the zombie apocalypse and made a sort of ” if the shit hits the fan” shelter in the basement. It was because Henry’s extreme paranoia and uncanny spidey senses that found us running for the back room towards the basement staircase, as soon as the first bomb dropped. Of course, we all thought it was an earthquake – But who ever heard of an earthquake in Leicester? King’s buried in car parks – yes, but earthquakes? Hmm, using that reasoning of the chain of bizarre things that no one would think would happen in Leicester, did happen in Leicester. Thereby- making an earthquake a totally legitimate event. Oh fuck it- earthquake yadda yadda yadda- segway to Henry screaming it is the zombie apocalypse everyone running into the basement. Ironically, everyone in the shop did. A few months ago, if some one screamed zombie apocalypse people would be running out of the shop to get away from the loon.

At that time there was seven of us. Mike, Henry, Josh who worked there – John, Jenny, Dave and myself were customers. Jenny wouldnt know a graphic novel from a take away menu. She was only there because of Josh. He apparently was some sort of local lothario with Bieber-esque qualities that turned the pre-teen population into erst-while Josh stalkers. Which of course makes Josh’s dying word’s of “Don’t tell my Dad I’m gay” so much more ironic.

After three days in the basement, Henry started to go a bit mental. He said he could hear footsteps up stairs and that it was zombies. There was no arguing with him. He wanted to go upstairs, it was his place, so there was nothing anyone could do to stop him. Henry went up first, a few minutes later Josh and Dave followed.

Henry must have cracked under the pressure, because as Josh and Dave came shuffling out of the back room, blinded by the sunlight- Henry mistook them for zombies. He shot them both with his very illegal Romanian shot gun. Henry had never fired a gun before in his life. He did not anticipate the sheer power of the gun’s kick back, and was impaled on the sliver of glass that was left of the shop window. By the time we made it up – everyone was dead and Josh was dying.

We then did what years of reading and watching Sci-fi films told us to do – get out of the city. Jenny spent most of the journey hysterical, crying over Josh and the loss of her hair straighteners. John consoled her as best as he could, but I thought she needed was a really good slap. Not because she was hysterical, mainly because she annoyed the fuck out of me.

Once we made it to the countryside,  we found the little boy and girl. I assumed they were brother and sister – I never bothered ask them that or their names. I could say that it was a defence mechanism. In a world on the brink of collapse, getting too close to people and then losing them – is so heart breaking that you put up a wall to protect yourself. Yeah, I could say that – but the truth is, I just didn’t give a shit.

I heard one of them crying in their sleep once. I really wanted to kick it, but instead I gave it the last of the Mars bars. See, I’m not a total bitch. I was saving that chocolate for a treat for Mike. Hearing the child whimper like that only reminded me of the soundless sobs and howls I exhale when I think no one is watching.

Shortly after we found the children, we happened upon the other burden – the flatulent one – the destroyer of my peace of mind – the cow. When we first found the cow it was like Christmas. Jenny and the kids jumped up and down signing a song about all the milk they will drink. They continued their song even when I pointed out that the cow was male. Clearly, that meant nothing to her because she answered Don’t be sexist, it is a cow and cows equal milk.

After forty minutes and a very involved diagram they finally grasped the fact that the cow will never produce milk. Since none of them was ever around any type of livestock before. I resisted the urge to show Jenny which part she could milk. I thought it would have been cruel and Mike would have thought less of me for doing so. Still, it didn’t stop me from sniggering at the thought of it for days.

 

I thought it was strange to find a fully grown male Holstein-Friesian wandering around. I assumed it was someone’s pet because those kinds of cows were usually turned into veal or killed for their rennet. They didn’t even use those cows to breed; that is how worthless they are.

Now the group consisted of lovely Mike, Jenny, John, a boy, a girl (I think) and a cow- All useless. No one knows how to do anything to survive. It is like their Mummy’s did everything for them their whole life. I was raised on a farm- I, at least had some sort of rudimentary knowledge of what the fuck to do next.

Before the cow came to be a further burden upon me, I used to imagine before sleep that it was just Mike and me. It was wonderful, we were a couple and he loved me. I didn’t have the courage to ask him how he felt about me, in case the answer was something like “Well, you will do because the only other girl in the world is taken by John”. I didn’t think my heart could take that sort of rejection, knowing how much I secretly loved Mike.

After the cow came – everything became about the fucking the cow. That is when the weird dreams started and the rash formed. Every once and a while, I would look at the rash and think I could see some sort of pattern forming. Then I thought maybe I just picked up ringworm from the cow.

I told Mike about the dreams and he believed me; and when he told the others, they believed me as well. The only person who didn’t believe – was me. The dream always starts out the same. There is a man talking to me and I can only hear him in my head. He tells me that the fate of humanity rests in my hands, and I have to take the cow to this lab in Northumberland.

The cow had to be mated with another cow at the lab and the offspring produced by the two cows, will be the saviour of human race. While everyone else in the group believed in the quest and wanted to start off for Northumberland immediately- I was the only one asking questions and doubting my own sanity. The first clue that something was a bit squirrelly was the fact that the other cow was called Nimbus 3 and was of alien extraction. Right now, you and I are both saying Nimbus 3, wasn’t that the name of Harry Potter’s Quidditch broom? and I’m not even going to get into the concept of alien cows.

I guessed for the group, the cow offered hope and Northumberland was sort of a religious pilgrimage. By taking the cow, their lives now had purpose. On the journey North, I became more and more withdrawn. The dreams became more intense. I was often left to ponder how this emaciated cow would save man kind. Was it a sacred cow like in India or some sort of messiah with black and white spots?

I didn’t know any more and I stopped asking questions. Even if we made it in one piece and the cows mated – how could it save the human race if we were probably all that was left of it? Helpful would be eating the fucking thing not touring it around the North-East of England. But in the end, even I had to accept the only escape was madness and went along with it all.

The Journey took months when it should have taken days. We all were sick from lack of food and clean water. When our gums started to bleed and our teeth started falling out, I knew it was radiation poisoning. Then it was only a matter of time. One of the children died. I dont know which one. I didnt look, I just helped bury it.

It was when I was digging that Mike noticed the rash. It had been a few days since I last looked. When he brought it to my attention, you could clearly see a cow shape, with a head at both ends and a ying and yang symbol in the middle. With in minutes I became a cow Prophet. Marching north to our mutual deaths was totally justified, because we were all going to be saved by an alien cow Jesus.

We reached the border Northumberland and the dreams dried up. You would have thought they could rash me a map – because that would have been helpful. With no idea where to go next, we did whatever a group of Xbox playing slacker would do – nothing. We sat down and did zilch. For days we waited for the dreams, or a voice, or even the cow to fart instructions. But nothing happened.

I waited for Mike to make a move but that never happened either. Seventy years of teen age boys telling teenage girls that the Russians could drop bombs and why die a virgin worked. Now the world ended, I just wanted to know why I couldnt get laid. In the end, the radiation sickness made us too weak to care. Mike and I cuddled up together in a tight embrace and waited for death. That is when I had the final dream.

The dream told us to go to a farm a few miles away. As exhausted as we were, the news that our endeavour would almost be at an end and we will be shortly saved; reinvigorated us completely. We almost skipped happily (well as much as you could skip with an bandy legged cow and rickets) to the farm as the sun set. I couldn’t help but feel like we were off the see the wizard on the yellow brick road.

The farm was in total darkness by the time we arrived. We looked at each other in despair. We all wondered if it was the right place. No one wanted to jinx it, so rather than speak our suspicions – we stood there slack jawed and listened to the cow fart. We waited and nothing happened. It was in that moment when I was about to give up, flood lights from the farmhouse beamed directly at us.

Stunned and relieved we shielded our eyes and tried to make out the figures running towards us. It was confusing and disorienting being rushed at by a small army of men in haz-mat suits. They shouted things at us but we couldn’t understand what they were saying. Then it all went dark.

I don’t know how long I was unconscious for but I heard voices. I assumed it was Doctors’,” because one said I think it is ready for testing now. The bits and pieces I over-heard were about the successful mating of the cows, and the news of a calf. I wondered how they would test the calf – Blood, urine, Rorschach?

I started to come out the drug haze I was in. Blurry eyed – I looked around and assumed I was in a hospital. I tried to move but I found I was tied down. In my panic, I craned my neck up as much as I could and I saw Mike in the bed across from me. He also was trying to look me. I saw him mouth something but I couldnt figure out what he was trying to say. I hoped it was I love you., but as panic overtook my body it realised it was probably “It’s us”.

I said” It’s us” over and over in my head and then it dawned on me, they were going to be doing the tests on us. I felt someone above me as they started to wheel me away into another room. I looked up at the man in terror. He looked down at me with a smile and said “Don’t worry little pig. This is going to really hurt”.

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