Food in the future is not all it's cracked up to be...
THE MEAT IS PLENTIFUL HERE
The small, one-story brick building on the corner of Ferguson and Third Street had been abandoned for so long that only a few of the neighborhood old timers really remembered what it was to begin with. Some of them thought it was a butcher shop at one time, having gone the way the rest of them did when a new strain of Mad Cow disease decimated the beef industry in the year two thousand, thirteen. Beer cans and whiskey bottles now guarded the exterior, while used condoms and dirty needles inhabited the interior.
It was a vermin’s paradise, both animal and human.
Which is why so many heads were scratched and eyebrows were raised when one day, late in October of two thousand, thirty-four, people began cleaning the place up. None of the locals knew who they were, and nobody asked. And by the middle of December, the building itself started to look better. It was painted, remodeled, and refurbished.
And then, on January second, the sign went up:
Simple and to the point. But completely out of place in this day and age.
Dale and Angie Farnsworth lived a few doors down and across the street on Ferguson. They’d been married for twelve years, but their relationship was far from perfect; a year earlier Angie had caught her husband in bed with their neighbor, Connie. She went ballistic and wanted to end it right then, but Dale swore it wouldn’t happen again. Reluctantly, she decided to give him one more chance.
Sitting at their kitchen table and drinking their morning coffee, they were the first ones to see the sign go up, and also the first ones to investigate.
The two of them walked in and approached the graying old man behind the new Formica counter. He was wearing an apron with blood smeared on it from top to bottom and writing something down in a notebook.
“Excuse me,” Dale asked. “What type of meat are you selling? Venison? Fowl? Canine? It’s all legal, right?”
The man stopped writing and looked up at the couple.
“Yes, yes,” he said. “Meat. All kinds. All legal.”
His accent was obvious, but unknown. Behind him, a set of double doors swung open and another man poked his head out. As soon as he saw Dale and Angie he smiled a wide smile, then let the doors swing closed and went back to whatever it was he was doing back there.
An uncomfortable silence hovered in the room for a few seconds. Then Angie asked, “Where do you get it? I mean, it’s pretty rare to see a place that sells meat since Mad Cow Thirteen.”
It was a legitimate question. While most of the world’s cattle were either put down or sent to virtual bovine leprosy colonies to study the disease, other animals had to become the meat of choice. And as the planet’s population rocketed sky high, so did the consumption of those animals. By twenty, twenty-six, if they weren’t on the Endangered Species list or already extinct, the price became outrageous. Even cat was close to seventy dollars a pound, and vegetarians walked around with their noses held high.
The old man, who had gone back to scribbling in his notebook, either didn’t hear the question, or didn’t want to answer it.
“Sir? Did you hear me?” Angie asked again.
Without looking up, the man said, “Here. The meat is plentiful. Here.” Then he closed his notebook, turned, and strode through the double doors into the back room.
That night, over a dinner of spaghetti without meatballs, the couple discussed their visit to the new ‘business’.
“I think he’s full of shit,” Angie said of the old man. “There ain’t no meat in this town. And even if there was, I didn’t see any price list.”
“Maybe he’s getting it through the black market,” Dale replied around a mouthful of noodles.
“In this little shithole town? Give me a break.” Angie twirled some of her own noodles on her fork. “Did you ever see that movie, ‘Soylent Green’? It was about the government selling this new high-energy food. It took the country by storm. Everyone was buying it. Turns out at the end that it was made from people.”
Dale laughed and almost choked. “Yeah. That was pretty cool.”
“It’s not funny, Dale.”
“What do you think, Angie? You really think that little foreign dude is selling human burger? Hell, next you’ll be saying he’s from another planet and he’s here ‘to serve man’.”
“Fuck you!” Angie yelled. She stood up and stomped out of the kitchen without finishing her meal.
And she was completely gone by the time Dale finished his.
The next day the old man in the new store was putting a fresh apron on when his telephone rang.
He asked a question.
He scribbled something down in his notebook…
And hung up.
That afternoon Connie was making tomato soup when her telephone rang.
She said Hello, No, Are you sure, Oh, yes, baby, I’ll be waiting…
And hung up.
Three hours later, after a passionate and long awaited session of love making, the two of them sat at the kitchen table with two empty plates in front of them.
“That was delicious, Connie. It’s been so long since I’ve had that.”
“Thanks,” she replied. “But are you talking about the meat or me?”
“Ha ha. Both. You know, I still can’t believe that guy at the meat market gave me such a deal.”
“Well, why wouldn’t he?” Connie said. “Look what he got out of it. I’ll bet he’ll make a fortune on those testicles.”
“So true,” Angie said, “so true.”
(Retitled as 'The Meat Market' and published in the October, 2013 issue of TWISTED DREAMS)