Horror and Thriller Fiction posted December 21, 2019 Chapters:  ...41 42 -43- 44... 

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A chapter in the book Miscellaneous stories

Baby Food

by CD Richards

The author has placed a warning on this post for violence.

December 25, 2019 — 7:15 AM

Linda Howarth reached under the tree to retrieve the last parcel, a brightly wrapped cube of around six inches on each side, tied with a neat silver bow. “I wonder who this could be for….” She rotated the gift around each axis, but no card was attached. Linda looked quizzically at her husband Tim, who simply gave a faint shrug in return. “Michael, Emily… do either of you know how this got here?” 

“I guess Santa left it, like the others,“ offered four-year-old Michael. Emily, aged two, simply continued playing with her newly acquired My Little Pony toy.

“Well, let’s open it and see if we can figure out who it belongs to, shall we?” Linda discarded the bow and paper in less time than would seem appropriate for an adult, to reveal a very attractive looking wooden box. It was made of what looked like red maple, with a walnut stain, and simple but solid-looking brass hinges and clasp. The corner joints were dovetailed, giving a well-crafted appearance. “Quite lovely!” exclaimed Linda, again glancing towards Tim and receiving the same response.

Opening the lid carefully, in case she should be hit in the head by a spring-powered snake, Linda peered inside, then gently removed a single yellow-tinged piece of paper, quite thick and around four inches square. The edges were discoloured and ragged. “I don’t think this is ordinary paper,” commented Linda. “I’ve seen something similar to this in the museum. It looks like papyrus, and the writing appears to have been done with some sort of carbon-based pigment – it’s almost charcoal black. I don’t know what language it is. Doesn’t look Asian. I’m thinking Middle-Eastern origin… maybe even Hebrew.”

“Let me see.” Tim extended his hand, and Linda placed the object gently into it.

“Be careful, it looks very old”.

Tim took his glasses out of his shirt pocket and put them on. He stared at the paper for a few seconds, then burst into laughter. “I thought we were saving the Christmas beverages for lunch time. You’ve been imbibing in secret! It might be a little faded, but this is quite definitely English, you silly girl. Did you have the paper upside down?” He passed the paper back, shaking his head.

Linda turned her eyes again to the writing. “That’s not funny, Tim!” Once again she handed him the paper.

“Well, it’s a bit weird, but I’m sure I’ve heard these words somewhere before.”

“Oh, sure thing, Alan Turing. What does it say?”

It says, “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.”

“OK, well, very funny.” Linda’s tone sounded mostly perplexed and a little aggravated as she took the paper back from Tim and placed it in the box. “Let’s put it over here, until we’ve found out a bit more about this mysterious present from no one.” She set the box down on the mantle, underneath the wall-mounted oak crucifix. 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

January 4, 2020 — 3:10 PM

“You’re going to have to do something about Number 27.”

Tim Howarth screwed the lid back on the fuel tank of his Massey-Ferguson and lowered the engine cover. “What’s up with her?”

“She’s off her feed, her milk production’s way down and her condition is poor. Grass tetany, I’m guessing. Or ketosis, maybe.”

“Alright, I’ll take a look.”

“Yep, well nothing I can do," announced Tim from the kitchen door. "She’s no use to us whatsoever as she is, and I can’t see it being worth the time and money to try to fix her, with little chance of success. You get her haltered and put her in the head bail. I’ll get the rifle.”

Tim stood about three feet in front of Number 27’s head. He aimed at the middle of her forehead and pulled the trigger. An ugly red stain immediately appeared and she sank to one knee, her body thrashing, rocking the metal bars of the crush. Tim changed position and fired another round into the side of her head. Both knees were now on the ground, and her rear end collapsed against the side bars. Still, her sides heaved, and somehow she managed to emit a hideous vocalisation. Dropping the rifle, Tim raced to the shed, and returned a minute later with a long bladed knife. He slit 27’s throat from ear to ear and a torrent of blood pumped out. Within two or three minutes all movement and sound had stopped.  Tim almost ended up on his butt as he slipped in the pool of gore while removing the deceased animal’s yellow ear tag.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

January 4, 2020 — 8:15 PM

For a reason that wasn’t clear to her, Linda Howarth elected to take the maple wood box down from the mantle and inspect the card. When she did so, the box fell heavily to the floor, but the paper remained firmly in the grasp of her trembling hand. “Tim, look at this! I still can’t make out any of these characters, but I’m sure they’re different, and there’s more of them!”

Tim put down his book and took the yellow, ageing slip from Linda’s outstretched hand. He read aloud from what he observed as perfectly formed English letters: “For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.”

Linda Howarth fainted, but fortunately for the as yet unborn family member she was carrying, landed softly.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

March 19, 2020 — 7:30pm

The blue balloon floated near the ceiling, proudly proclaiming, “It’s a Boy!” Beside it, a bright banner bore congratulations, while the aroma of a brightly coloured floral arrangement joined in to announce the joyous news. Linda Howarth lay on her back, peacefully drifting in and out of consciousness, vaguely aware of the gentle pressure Neal Paul Howarth’s gums were exerting on her left nipple. The bliss of the moment was disturbed by the pleasant voice of Nurse Jenna. “Good evening, Linda. How are you feeling? I see the little one has it all worked out – well done!” She flashed a warm smile at the young woman as she pushed the stand closer.

“I feel amazing. I’m still a bit sore ‘down there’, but, you know, this almost seems to act as a kind of anaesthetic.  I can’t believe how beautiful he is.”

“Aye, that he is. Nurse Evans, would you mind popping over here for a minute and giving me a hand with this?”

As Nurse Jenna picked up Linda’s right arm and placed it beside the railing of her hospital bed, Nurse Evans lifted her left arm from the baby’s head and placed it alongside the other railing. Before a still groggy and confused Linda could get a sentence out, they had finished tightening the leather restraints around  her wrists.

“What’s going on? Why—?”

“Oh, never mind, dear. It’s for your own protection, mainly. We wouldn’t want you harming yourself. That would look bad on our record, too.” Nurse Evans’ smile wasn’t convincing. She moved to the foot of the bed where, after a quick movement, two rope restraints appeared. Shrieking a sequence of partial words that weren’t decipherable, Linda began to thrash, but stopped abruptly when a spluttering noise and a faint cry reminded her of the precious new life that lay on her chest. The nurse quickly had Linda’s ankles secured to the foot of the bed.

Nurse Jenna picked up a plastic object which had been resting on a metal arm attached to the cream-coloured machine. Linda could see that it was made of two clear cones, with an adjustable bar between. Each cone was attached to a transparent tube that fed back into the machine. As nurse Evans lifted baby Neal from Linda’s milk-swollen breast, Nurse Jenna attached the cones and made a quick adjustment to ensure a good fit. 

“What the hell is going on?” demanded Linda, now fully awake and shaking with rage and fear.

"Don’t worry, Linda. This really won’t hurt. In fact, after a few days, you’ll be so glad to see us at the same time every morning and evening…." Nurse Jenna flicked a toggle on the panel of the device. The switch glowed red and Linda became aware of a low-pitched, pulsating hum.

“OH MY GOD! Get this off me and GIVE ME BACK MY BABY!” Linda screamed, as she saw the pearlescent liquid being drawn into the tube and making its way to some unseen reservoir inside the machine.

“I’m sorry dear, we can’t do that. You see, we need the milk more than your baby does.” Nurse Evans explained in a mild, even tone. “You’ve heard of the huge demand overseas for Australian baby formula? Well, I’m afraid research has demonstrated that formula manufactured from cow’s milk whey just isn’t the best thing for little humans. There is a rapidly growing demand for formula produced from human milk. Sure, it’s illegal at the moment, but so was powdered rhino horn at one stage, and this product is going to run rings around that!”

“You’re insane!” My baby will die if he doesn’t feed!”

“No need to concern yourself with that. We will look after him well, and keep him fed on baby formula and synthetic supplements for the next little while. That’s until he is nice and plump at around six to seven weeks, at which time he’ll be baked and served up as a main course in the staff cafeteria. He’ll be delicious with a sprig of Rosemary and some creamy mashed potato. So you see, no wastage. We’ll call him Veal Neal!” Both nurses cackled, as the screaming began in earnest.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

March 19, 2020 — 7:45 PM

With Michael and Emily safely delivered to his sister Shauna’s house, Tim prepared to make his first visit to see his new baby son since he had enjoyed the wonderful experience of helping deliver him. He gathered his wallet and keys, the box of Linda’s favourite liqueur chocolates and the flowers and headed towards the door. On impulse, he turned and strode to the mantle shelf and picked up the box. As he did so, he felt an odd stirring inside, and he could swear it actually grew warmer for a moment. Cradling the other objects in his left elbow, he opened the lid of the box and extracted the papyrus. There, in words which it seems only he could recognise, he found a new inscription:

“…for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”


Merry Christmas? contest entry

* Americans invariably spell it "aging". British usually spell it "ageing", as do Australians, although the American spelling is officially accepted as well. In keeping with my preference for British/Australian spelling, I've used "ageing" for consistency.

Alan Turing is regarded as arguably one of the greatest cryptographers of all time, having invented the machine that broke the German Enigma code during WWII.

In order for a cow to produce milk, it must give birth to a calf. However, none of the male calves and few of the females born on a dairy farm are of any use to the owners. They are seen as a "waste" product and are treated as such. Most will be killed within days of their birth after being appallingly mistreated. They will be housed with barely enough room to stand and lie down (if they are lucky), fed once a day on artificial supplements, and will spend most of their few miserable hours on Earth screaming for their mothers. Slightly luckier ones will become "vealers". After several weeks to a few months of being kept in a cage and never seeing grass or the light of day, they too will be butchered. A few really lucky ones may get to be raised on grass as steers for slaughter at around two years of age to be sold as "beef".

I hope you've enjoyed my horror story, however, in all honesty, I must admit it is nowhere as horrendous and gruesome as the simple everyday truth about what happens in the livestock industry. For those who are inclined to complain my silly little tale is moralistic, I'll just point out much of the best horror writing is.

As long as Man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love. Pythagoras

1850 words (approx.)

Photo by The Dabblist, used under cc 2.0 licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

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