Don’t Eat The Steak!!!
Herbert was born on March 25, 2014. His mother died 20 minutes later.
Within just a few years, Herbert grew to be the most respected bovine on Newbury Farm. Plenty of weight…no sign of sickness or disease…destined for the slaughterhouse.
A few more years later, the respected bovine grazes in a field while a gust of wind brings a peculiar cry. Herbert looks up as the front gate opens. His jaw shifts side to side as he meanders toward the threshold of freedom. A bumblebee buzzes across Herbert’s shifting maw—the bulbous creature vanishes within a column of golden sunshine.
Herbert finds himself in a different part of the world. Something fills each chamber of his stomach—a sense of discovery.
He ascends a nearby hill. Wild purple flowers sprout from the ground while crickets perform a scratchy orchestra. Herbert looks over his shoulder: Newbury Farm, about the size of his water trough, is embedded within a sea of wavy grass.
Something lies near a patch of violets.
Flies orbit a sun-baked carcass, its skin tanned like red leather. Herbert wags his tail, then sniffs a shriveled foot. He had his share of nourishment throughout the day, but dessert was never offered.
Herbert gnaws on a few toes, and then excavates an open wound. A crow hops along a patch of dry grass, tilting its head toward Herbert.
“Haaaa…Haaaa…Haaaaaaaaa…” The crow laughs.
“There you are! Come here you big ol’ pain in the ass!” A voice yells.
Farmer Larry bursts out of a wall of overgrown weeds. Herbert licks his chops and turns around, but Farmer Larry grapples his collar.
“Don’t know when to quit, do ya? That’s alright. The feisty ones are the tasty ones.”
A fiery red orb falls below the horizon. Herbert stands inside a wooden prison. He rests his head along the fence as the curtain of night drapes over a fading dusk.
Gregory E. Edmond’s Fine Dining & Eatery opened promptly at 7:30pm. As usual, the line extends beyond Harrow Avenue.
A distinguished couple arrived an hour early and secured their rightful place as first in line. The door opens and a smiling hostess escorts them to their usual table. Raymond already knows what he’s going to order.
Shelia opens a menu. Her eyes swivel while she drags a jeweled-tipped finger down a list of alcoholic beverages. Raymond taps his foot against the table leg.
“My name is Andy. I’ll be your server this evening. How may I take your order?”
Raymond forfeits his menu.
“I’ll have the steak.”
Andy writes the demand on a small pad of paper.
“How would you like your steak prepared, sir?”
Raymond drags his tongue across his lips.
Andy writes down the demand. Shelia continues to drag her fingernail down the menu.
“I’ll have the salad.” She says.
The waiter smirks, and then snatches the menu from her jeweled fingertips. They share a basket of silence as their appetizer.
Chef Igor Bulogori opens a nearby refrigerator. He dips a hand inside, feeling for a cold, fleshy piece of matter. Igor slaps the steak upon a carving board as his nostrils flare. Sweat drips off his forehead and splatters upon a dirty cleaver.
He looks down—a chubby hand covers his mouth. Chef Igor Bulogori leans toward the marbled slab of meat. Green swirls weave between orange fatty, fleshy threads.
“Hey, hey, come on! Come on! We’re 5 orders behind! Hurry up!”
Chef Igor Bulogori throws the steak on a frying pan while red smoke corrodes the kitchen’s greasy atmosphere.
23 Minutes Later
Sheila covers her nose.
“What is that smell?”
Raymond smiles as the waiter swirls a porcelain plate above his head.
“Here you go! I sincerely apologize for the long wait. Do you need refills?” Andy asks.
Raymond frowns at his empty glass of wine.
“Yes, I wouldn’t mind another glass. I know you wouldn’t mind, right honey?”
Sheila shifts her seat while holding her breath.
“I’ll return with a bottle of Felvia De Luna—in the mean time—I present your delicious steak, harvested from the well-respected Newbury Farm.”
The waiter descends an arm and rests the plate on the table. Sheila waves a hand in front of her nose.
“…Are you really going to eat that?”
Raymond picks up a serrated knife.
“Waste not, want not.”
Sheila shakes her head as Raymond’s arm saws back and forth. The tearing of tissue whispers in Sheila’s ear:…eat me…eat me. The knife scratches against the red porcelain plate, cutting off the whispers with a banshee like squeal.
Raymond puts down the knife, then takes off his glasses: aromatic tendrils wiggles their way through his nasal cavern. The black canvas behind Raymond’s eyes pulsate a kaleidoscope of colors, and then they condense into unfamiliar memories.
“Do you want dessert?” He says.
42 Minutes Later
The traffic light on Sweet Pea Lane changed to red a few moments ago. A black Cadillac accelerates through the intersection, swerving around an incoming dump truck.
“Raymond! Slow down! There are police around here. What’s wrong with you?” Sheila says.
Raymond rolls down the window, turns on the radio, then slouches in his seat. Sheila shakes her head as her body compresses against the car door. Raymond whips the black Cadillac around Fort Huddson Street, and then straight down High Vine Avenue.
A cop car sits idle at the end of the block. Sheila smiles.
The black Cadillac rockets through a stop sign. Raymond turns up the radio’s volume.
“…Stay tuned for Thunder Smash’s new hit single: “I’ll break ya“—Freddy “Fast Fingers” will be here all night! Do not turn that dial…”
Raymond changes the station.
“Watch out!” Sheila screams.
The black Cadillac cuts off an elderly jogger, then skids to a stop near a Jaded Dragon Chinese restaurant.
“Get out.” Raymond says.
Some Point in the Future
The black Cadillac parks outside Quick ‘N’ Ready Fill ‘N’ Serve. A few people wearing wide-brimmed cowboy hats huddle near the front counter. They sip on cheap beer and scratch lotto tickets as a small television talks behind a rack of cigarettes.
“Shit! Another dud. God motherfuckin’ damn it! Every time!” One of the cowboys says. He rips apart a piece of glittery cardboard and drinks the rest of his beer.
“I’ll be right back. I need to go make a squeeze.”
The cowboy stumbles out of Quick ‘N’ Ready Fill ‘N’ Serve, then shifts his snakeskin boots toward the public bathroom. The cowboy turns the knob.
He pounds on the door.
“…Hey! Hey! I better not catch anymore of you bastard kids flushing rocks down the toilet! I’ll kill ya! You hear me? I’ll kill ya!”
The door swings open as the cowboy covers his mouth—a dark figure shifts beyond the threshold and into a nearby shadow behind a garbage can. The cowboy dips his head in the bathroom.
The black Cadillac accelerates up a hill and enters the border of Newbury. Raymond pumps the brakes while looking outside the driver side window. A large house sits in the middle of a grassy ocean—delicate lunar light glimmers along wavy dandelions.
The dam inside his mind breaks, flooding Raymond’s skull with foreign memories. He recalls a family playing in the vast yard: twin sisters, each held hands, and danced around a stone bird fountain. Puffy clouds drifted across a blue sky as a soft summer breeze brushed through Raymond’s hair.
He presses the accelerator and continues up the road.
Newbury Farm sits on top of a large hill. Raymond opens a small picketed fence, then proceeds down a cobblestone walkway. Raymond’s instincts drag him toward the back of the house. He stops underneath an open window.
Raymond lifts himself inside.
Darkness smothers. Weighted footsteps thump along the ceiling floorboards. Raymond walks near a couch and up a flight of stairs. A short hallway leads to a closed bedroom door—he opens it—and walks inside.
Farmer Vincent’s eyes open, but they may as well be closed: a sea of darkness fills his room.
“Are you all rested up?” A voice condenses out of the dark. Farmer Vincent presses his back against the bed board.
“You’re not dreaming. I would be afraid if I were you.”
Farmer Vincent tries to move, but his muscles will not obey.
“…Don’t you recognize my voice? Do you still remember me?” The voice asks.
Farmer Vincent doesn’t answer.
“…You know that feeling in your gut? That’s the feeling one gets when they finally realize they fucked with the wrong person—that’s the feeling of regret. Am I wrong?”
Farmer Vincent doesn’t answer.
“…Life always comes full circle. You cheated me out of mine…now it’s time to be cheated out of yours.”
Farmer Vincent and Raymond walk toward a ruinous horse stable.
“Do you know where we’re going?” Raymond asks.
Farmer Vincent wipes his brow.
“Don’t do this. Please. I’m sorry! Patrick—you don’t need to do this.”
Raymond stops and looks up into the sky.
“…Patrick…right. My name was Patrick, wasn’t it? Dead people have no use for names.” Patrick says.
The horse stable is full of spotted hoofed creatures, stuffed inside wooden prison cells. Patrick grabs a rusted chain dangling from the stable’s rafters. A collective moo erupts into utter cacophony.
“Vincent…you took my life on that warm sunny day…don’t try to run away from the inevitable.” Patrick says.
He picks up a pitchfork and stabs Farmer Vincent’s leg.
“…Otherwise…fate will come looking for you.”
Farmer Vincent crawls toward the open horse stable gate. Patrick impales the pitchfork through the ground. He walks toward the rusted chain, and then pulls it further along the rafter. The metal links bite into the rotted wood. Farmer Vincent glances over his shoulder—a red eye glows through a crack in one of the wooden prisons.
“When is the last time they ate?” Patrick asks.
Farmer Vincent reaches for the outside gate.
Patrick rips the pitchfork out of the ground, then drags Farmer Vincent toward the rusted chain. He wraps the links around his wrists, and then pulls the chain tighter. Farmer Vincent dangles on his toes.
He unlocks the prison cell latches—the doors creep open.
“…I think they’re hungry, Vincent. ” Patrick says.
Glowing red eyes float toward Farmer Vincent. A bell jingles as a spotted, furry hide meanders through a shaft of lunar light.
“What? Is this about Cassandra? I want nothing to do with that bitch! Come on! You know that, right? I haven’t seen her since…Monday! She left town…I don’t know where the hell she went, please, Patrick, come on…” Farmer Vincent says.
Patrick leans beside a stack of hay; lunar light falls against his skin. Farmer Vincent squints his eyes.
“Patrick? What happened? Who are you?“
Patrick takes off Raymond’s glasses.
“I don’t know. Who am I?“
Water fills Farmer Vincent’s eyes.
“I’m sorry…you can have the money…take my car! I know you always wanted my car! It’s yours! Take it… I won’t tell anyone… please…”
“Vincent—I’ll tell you what I want.” Patrick says.
“What? Tell me! Anything, come on, Patrick, you know I’m good for it! You can trust me! It’s the money, you want the money, don’t you?” Farmer Vincent says.
Patrick rubs Raymond’s glasses against his sleeve.
“Vincent. I would like to watch you die.”
A cow chews into his ankle—its teeth saw through jeans, a sock, and flesh. A smaller bovine sniffs around Farmer Vincent’s ribs.
“Get away from me! Help! Someone help!” He cries.
The spotted creature nibbles a morsel of lean shoulder muscle. A massive maw reaches out of the dark and rips through Farmer Vincent’s thigh.
Patrick kneels down and whispers in a young bull’s ear:
“Always leave room for dessert.”