In this secluded town, fresh meat is held in high regard. In this value lies Darren's livelihood, both in keeping his slaughtering business afloat and in ways he is yet to discover. But the meaty tradition is dying. Old farms have long since been replaced by the twisted urban experiments of the government. And this government run by BEARS works in mostly inefficient and confounding ways. Since the BEARS increased activity, the town has floundered in many ways. Having mysteriously lost its water, the once ritzy harbor is now a quagmire littered with rusting ocean liners. Increased taxes have put the townsfolk on edge, in addition to the increasingly weird and specific changes forced upon their daily life. Paw to fist, a battle for the control of the land rages between the BEARS and a good ol' boy known as the Tycoon. From his ebony tower the Tycoon searches for something, systematically acquiring and razing the outlying buildings in town. And Darren's store is next. In the struggle to save MEATLAND, Darren discovers that his connection to the town is deeper than anyone knew.
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“Did anyone see you come in?” Said a whisper behind the
“Um yeah, they let me in. This is a secure mental asylum and all.”
“You may now retract the curtain. The pull cord is to the right
next to the microphone they use to listen to my mind. Do you hear what
I’m thinking now you dicks? Hahahaha. Yeah I think things worse
than what I say.”
I looked over to the cord. Next to it was a light switch. With one movement,
I slid the curtain, compressing it with a swoosh against the wall. My
father had grown since last visit, I didn’t know how it was possible.
He was barely fitting on the bed, a significant portion of his legs
and belly were spilling over the edge and piled on the floor. He was
clutching a tattered shoe box in him arms like a baby. Except the rolls
of his fat were kind of puckering and sucking it into his body.
“Oh my god!”
“Yes, my son? Snort.You can never be too careful. They first moment
they get they’re going to come in and steal Charlie here.”
He looked protectively at the box. He then turned his piercing peppercorn
eyes to meet mine. His expression became more serious.
“Charlie is a box. Would you like to say hello?”
“No thanks. Dad, you are not looking very good.”
He leaned in close to me, or at least I could tell he was trying to.
His voice was barely a whisper.
“That’s all part of the plan. A couple more months and I’ll
swallow this rotten place whole. I’m busting out of here. The
problem with the whole rolling down the hill plan is that I was thinking
too small. Literally. Soon no wall will stop me. I will become the wall.
I will swallow everything. I will eat my way out of here. See, I even
started on the wall over there. Speaking of that, there’s my scratching
broom over there next to my hams, could you use it to give my itches
a good beating?”
I went over the soggy chewed up corner of the room. The oily wooden
broom was on the floor, next two unwrapped hams and something that looked
like a bloody finger. I picked up the broom and began to move it back
and forth against his flopping back.
“Dad, where is Medra today? Doesn’t she normally scratch
There was a pause. My dad licked his lips while closing his eyes loosely.
“Dad?” This was going nowhere.
“Dad, I came here because I was thinking again about mom. Can’t
you tell me anything about her?”
He looked at me with agitation and anger.
“Do not try to find her, son. She is best left forgotten. If you
see her, run. Don’t let me know you’ve seen her either.
You keep asking what she looks like; you have forgotten already. But
it doesn’t matter anyway cause she certainly doesn’t look
like that anymore. In fact, what she looked like before wasn’t
who she really was anyway. With all of those intentions left unchecked
you’d probably piss yourself if you ever looked directly into
“You make her sound like some kind of monster.”
“Just run away.” His tone indicated that our conversation
David just notices his father was now in silhouette against the window.
He was less sitting than piled in the corner of his room, food wrappers
and buzzing scraps radiating from his bed. It looked entirely possible
that this blackhole of a man could consume the whole asylym if he wanted
to, which seemed to be the plan. But now his father seemed lost in some
distance memory. He looked dignified for a moment, staring out the window
and down the hill into the distant view of the sooty town.
“What are you thinking about Dad?”
The blackhole didn’t shift his view. He licked his lips, knocking
a few soggy crumbs onto his shirt. His voice was moist.
“Just be glad you can run away. I have to grow now. You may protract
the secrecy curtain and go.”
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“Listen Johnny, what do you think
happens when you die?”
“I don’t know, I guess you either just die or you go to
wherever people believe they go.”
“Ok, but regardless what happens to the person’s body?”
“Well they either burn it or bury it.”
“Why is there a rush to get rid of the body, you suppose? Have
you ever seen a dead person Johnny–it’s kind of scary
because you know the thing is a person, but it is so unperson like.
It is just a big chunk of meat.”
“It’s humbling to see someone become something. We take
our lives for granted by worrying so much about petty things. Our
death is just as inevitable as that cow’s, but the cow doesn’t
trick itself into thinking it can keep itself from dying. Sure, it
may fear dying when I walk up to it with my knife, but it doesn’t
live its life trying to fight against its own mortality. So why the
hell did I spend so much energy thinking about pointless problems
today like finding a better job?”
“Don’t you want the time you have here to be the happiest
it can be?”
“And I achieve that by worrying all the damn time?”
“No, but maybe you can be happier if you put yourself into a
“But I don’t think it ever does get better, at least becoming
free from worry. Sure, I could get a better job, but I guarantee I’d
find something else that bugs me. This worrying is just a distraction
from the bigger picture.”
“What is the bigger picture?”
“I don’t know, I don’t even know if there is one,
The noonday sun was barely casting shadows
on the buildings cowering thousands of feet below. The rooftops were
blasted white and glistening. The city had only been seen by a few
from this view. The map reveals features hidden from street level.
It’s focal point: the sprawling black acreage of Allmart. From
this view, the cars look like ants. They are festering and moving,
sticking to certain paths, moving with a mix of chaos and regularity
helping each other find the way. The people were so small that their
crowds only registered as a darker haze against the throbbing pavement.
The whole thing feels vaguely cancerous.
I am sitting in the Tycoon’s office in a wooden chair that is
surprisingly small for the dimensions of the room. The desk alone
is nearly as wide as my whole house, just not as tall. Behind it,
though now facing away from me is the Tycoon. He looks like a bull
stuffed in a suit. The white heavy cloth is pulled tight against his
back, the folds arcing and pinching to clarify his twist to fetch
a cigar from a shelf. His breathing makes the whole trapezoidal mass
of his shoulder heave up and down. All I could think is that he occupies
the space in such a total way that you almost regard him as a boulder
or a wall. My mind just doesn’t register people that size.
The stark office feels as large and foreboding as the woods at night.
The ceiling towers high and dark overhead. A single pinpoint of light
gradates the color of the vertically striped wall paper and focuses
on the desk. Long shadows are shot outwards like spokes of a bicycle.
You would expect a room this cavernous to echo, but it doesn’t,
not at all. It’s lack of echo is perhaps the creepiest thing
of all about the whole thing. I can hear the Tycoon’s breathing
clearly. It is mucous and forced. I see that he is now facing me,
his face black except for the tip of his nose pushing past the edge
of the hat’s shadow. There’s a glowing dot of his cigar.
It’s like some volcanic cold sore.
“Progress my boy! Plain and simple. We are moving to a more
developed and modern condition. We are moving to a better place.”
“I know what progress means---“
“Hold your horses, son. I’m talking here. And what I’m
saying is that people got better things to do than bloody their hands
slittin’ cow necks and chopping up their own meat. I can see
what your thinking, fresh meat is a good thing. It’s what people
here have been always doin’, it’s good exercise, it connects
you with the land and the animals, it makes you appreciate things.
And most important, the meat just tastes good. I understand this.
But think of it as giving people a lot of convenience for sacrificing
a couple of those things. People would rather be laughing and going
to the parades or the store rather than spending a whole morning arms
deep in blood and guts if you ask me. Which you did earlier, I might
add. Har har. And it doesn’t matter what I think, cause I got
studies I been doing for the past three years that tell me what the
people want. Kids don’t care a flying fart, excuse my language,
about where the meat comes from. You see the meat they serve at school.
I’m a meat expert and even I don’t know where the BEARS
get that stuff. I don’t even think it’s beef. Listen,
I can see your little pout over there. Son, I’m just doing what
they want. They don’t want to think about that stuff. Our heritage
is violent and gruesome and we can move beyond it. People can move
on to better, more noble things. People are still gunna be slaughtering
their own animals. I can’t stop them. I don’t want to
stop them. They are always gunna be gour-a-may appetites that one
loved for and carefully slaughtered meat. But over time people aren’t
gunna mind. And think about all the cool room people while have in
their backyards now. Strip out the pens and tethers and milk pumps
and hay bales and feed bins and the grass will perk right up lickety
split cause of the fertilizer for all those years, and people can
go hang outside safe in their own property. And this time, the only
shit their houses will smell like is their own.
“I said hold on, son. I know I’m putting you out of business
by all this ultimately. See, but I need your store to go under right
now. I am a big man, but I am not a patient man. So I would advise
you go ahead and accept my offer for the store. Two reasons really:
1) because it will be worthless eventually , and 2) because you don’t
have a choice. In a week, that building is mine whether you play along
or not. And it’s going to be a lot easier for you if you play
“But why is Meatland so important you?”
“Meatland isn’t important to me. It is important to you.
You hang on to it even though its making less money and not really
fun anymore. You are in a sick relationship boy, can’t you see
that? Dump that whore of a store (HA!), she’s bringing you down.
Your store is reflected of your esteem. Don’t be pathetic. Your
store is such as small piece to this whole plan of mine, but I do
need it. I can’t tell you why though. Trade secrets and all.
Don’t think that because I can’t tell you means that there
is some big important reason for me needing it. My lawyers would bust
my butt if they saw me going around telling everyone secrets like
a gossip that deep down just desperately wants friends. I don’t
want to tell people. I don’t have to.”
“That store is my life. I can’t just part with it.”
“You keep trying to force this meeting into a dialogue. This
isn’t a dialogue son. You heard me a minute ago, this whole
thing is way beyond your control right now. You wanted to meet with
me. I said okay because I didn’t have anything better to do
today and I hoped that we could shove this whole thing off both our
plates. But I didn’t have this meeting to talk to you. See the
envelope on the corner of the desk there? That’s full of cash
and all of the legal document for the buying of your store. All I
need from you is a deed and a couple signatures. In fact, there’s
a notarized copy of the deed in there already so I don’t even
need the original. Now I am handing you this pen. It’s quite
an expensive pen. Use it to sign the paper’s over there. Take
the money. You will never see me again.
The Tycoon help out the pen within my reach. His arm was a tree trunk,
birch, his hand was chapped and windblown looking. The pen looked
like it was made of tusk.
“I will think about it.”
“Suit yourself. My secretary will show you to the elevator.”