With heavy feet, I step into the room trembling in fear. I don’t take my eyes off the shoat for one second. He stays sat on the floor with an innocent look on his face. He almost smiles as I get closer. I finally reach the bodies, and kneel down into the pool of blood they’re lying in. I put my hand to the male tech’s neck, then the female’s. Neither have a pulse. Did they know about this already? Is that why they were so frightened just carrying him in here?
Panacea’s still frozen on her knees in the doorway.
“They’re both gone.” I tell her.
I crawl on my hands and knees through the blood closer and closers towards the baby. That’s all he is, a baby. I repeat in my head as I reach out my hands to lift him up.
“Don’t touch him Chinatsu!”
I shush her. I cradle him in my arms and rock him back and forth. I wipe the blood off the black bristles surrounding his snout with a nearby rag. He doesn’t make a fuss. Not too long after, his eyes close as he drifts off into a dream. Do mammalians even dream?
I gently lay him down onto the bed and walk backward until I feel a stool behind me, and sit down to take a breather.
“We need to call someone.”
“Anyone! He is obviously a danger.”
“The question is, to who? He obviously hasn’t hurt his family or their personnel. Maybe he’s only a danger to humans. We can’t call anyone.”
“This needs to be reported.”
“What does? That the General’s son is a ferocious, carnivorous killer? That’ll only create chaos on the ranch, and bring unwanted attention from enemy ranches. They’ll either see this as a threat or a weakness on the General’s part. Remember what you taught me? The less they know the better.”
“I didn’t know you actually listened to me.”
“General Romano is the only one who needs to know about this. Although, I’m sure he does already.”
“Then what do we say happened to them when people realize they’re dead? That they just went missing? With how strict the mammalians keep track of all human inventories, no one would ever believe they just disappeared without someone knowing as to why. And who is going to help us clean up this mess?”
“The same one who made it… I’ve got an idea.”
I grab the shoat and place him back on the floor, caressing him to let him know that he’s okay. I cautiously walk all the way back to the doorway where Panacea stood and drag her out of the room. I immediately shut both doors and lock them with a heavy chain.
“What are you doing?!”
“Don’t you trust me?”
“No, no I do not!”
“Well trust me this time!”
I puffed and slid my back down against the door until I reached the floor.
“We can’t let anyone in here for the rest of the night. Get comfy.”
“Comfy? Comfort is a mammalian privilege. I’ll just gather a bunch of cotton balls and put them in a sack and pretend they’re a pillow.”
But Panacea’s words began to fade into each other as I drifted into sleep. You would imagine it’d be difficult to sleep after witnessing a gruesome scene like that. However, I did it with some ease. And for the first time in a long time, there are no nightmares. There aren’t any sweet dreams either, but there are no nightmares.
At some point Panacea eventually fades out muttering to herself about mammalian privilege and questioning my plan for the night. She didn’t have any better ideas, so this had to work.
My eyes pop open into darkness. It takes time for them to adjust to the lighting, and when they do, I stare at the clock. It’s 3 am. My sense of time passing has never been close to accurate. It feels as if I’ve slept for days. Maybe because it’s the first time I’ve truly slept in forever. I look to my side to find Panacea asleep on the floor next to me, with a sack full of cotton balls. She wasn’t kidding.
I question if I should wake her before I open the doors not knowing what I might find behind them. My plan either worked, or I’m about to be a piglet’s entrée. He could just be waiting for me to unlock the chains around the door handles. If my plan failed, maybe it will be better Panacea’s eaten in her sleep and doesn’t see it coming.
I take a deep breath, unravel the chains, and push the doors open. They creak announcing my presence to the little monster in the room. I look around and see the floor spotless. There are no lifeless bodies, no pools of blood, no chunks of flesh scattered around. It looks as if nothing ever happened. So much so I question if I had imagined the whole event. Then, that is when I see the baby run out from behind the bed, he coughs up a tooth; a human tooth.
It did happen. How did such a small creature consume two adult humans by himself in a matter of a couple of hours? I guess there still is a lot we don’t know about the mammalians after all. What else are they capable of that they’ve been keeping secret from us?
I run out of the room almost forgetting to put the chain back on the door handles. Doing so, I create enough of a ruckus to wake Panacea. She stirs and sees me dart down the hall straight towards the exit.
“Where are you going?! Don’t leave me here with that creature!”
She screams after me.
But it’s too late. I’m already running through the dead grass fields past every coop, every mill until I reach the start of a steep hill. I look up to see a softly lit manor.
I run up one of the two outdoor spiral staircases and bust through the main doors. I can’t help but notice the cleanliness and open space in the foyer. There are beautiful engravings of ancient gods and goddess swine in the pillars and busts of their ancestors. It seems so excessive, but I try not to let myself become distracted.
I march down a seemingly endless hall until I approach the two Tamworth guards posted by Romano’s office door. Their ginger hair perfectly combed to one side and their pale red uniforms ironed without a wrinkle in sight. Their beady black eyes don’t shift an inch in my direction as I stand assertively with my hands on my hip. They are completely unfazed by my demanding demeanor.
“Eh hem” I cough. Still nothing, “I need an audience with the General”
They look at each other and then look away into the distance once more not making any eye contact with me whatsoever.
“I do not care if it is 3 am, I’m requesting an audience in regards to his son.”
They look at each other when one whispers into the other’s ear something inaudible to my human ears. That’s when they reluctantly open the doors. I march in to see the General by his fireplace with his hooves behind his back and the orange glow of the burning wood light up his face in an otherwise dim office.
“How did you dispose of the bodies?”
He asks in an unwavering voice.
“You knew this would happen, didn’t you? Why… why did you let this happen?! Two innocent workers died last night.”
“You mean two junkies who have been stealing much-needed medicine from the med barn right from under your nose to soothe their disgusting and disturbing addictions. Yes, I knew this would happen. It’s why I instructed that your mentor made sure no patients were allowed in the building. It takes blood off the hands of one less brownred soldier.”
“You’re right, now the blood’s on the hands of your own shoat. Great parenting! How is that any better?”
“Being a parent involves plenty sacrifice. I would have thought you would understand that given your past tragedies.”
He knows what happened to my mother.
“How do you know what happened to my mother?”
“You think you’re the only worker who lost their parent as a humanlet? You’re not. It’s more common than you think. You would notice if you weren’t so humanly selfish. Not only that, I make it my business to know all the details about whoever handles my affairs or my piglets. And of course… I’m the one who ordered her Euthanization.”
I can’t handle this, all this anger building up inside me.
“At least look me in the eye if you’re going to talk about my mother!”
Tears began to well up in my eyes.
“Do you… well then do you know what happened to my father?”
“I probably know what happened to him, but I would know if he was your father or not.”
“How would you not know? You just said you know all the details of who you employ.”
“I’ve just now come to realize that you humans are the wheels of a machine of which you have no clue how it operates. When your kind reaches a certain age, you’re no longer as… fertile. We need to make sure we have an abundance of humans to keep the ranches alive before the older workers die off. We’ll send dozens of males to mate with a human female to assure pregnancy by a certain date. There’s no time for miscalculation. I’m sure I have records somewhere of who your mother mated with, but it’s a long list and most of them are likely already dead. Brownreds usually produce the strongest offspring but are the least likely to be alive to raise them. It isn’t uncommon for most humanlets to be fatherless. It’s a strange circle of life.”
“You make it that way.”
“You’re absolutely correct.”
“I am? I mean- I know I am.”
“You cannot create without destroying in the process. We all just have to come to terms with the fact. My conscience is clear. I sleep at night.”
“Well, I don’t. And to answer your question; your son disposed of the bodies. Or should I say, consumed them; every last bit of flesh and bone. Now can you answer my question? How?”
“If I knew myself, do you think I would have a human female, fully clothed, alive, in my office speaking so freely, disrespecting me as you have tonight?”
He had a point. I bow apologetically.
“I’m sorry. I just don’t understand why you think me out of every vet in the unit would be able to help you. I’m one of the least experienced after all.”
“Meaning you’re young, you aren’t set in your ways and can still be… trained.”
He had another point.
“What happened to Ricci’s parents?”
“They, unfortunately, were the first ones to discover Aiguo’s… special abilities yesterday morning. They’re in the same place as those two techs now.”
“Preparing for the next life?”
“Aiguo’s digestive tract.”
Oh goodness. I wonder if Ricci’s found out his parents are gone yet. He isn’t tough enough to handle that type of loss. I don’t think anyone is, but especially not Ricci.
“You have the makings of an exquisite veterinarian. A true game-changer.”
“Or your son’s next victim.”
“That very well may be true. However, as I stated the evening before, you don’t have a choice in the matter. Your fate is decided for you. I believe opportunities for better lifestyles should be offered to you humans based on your individual IQs, not because you’re cute and obedient, although, that does help. You’re going to be released from your duties caring for other humans as well as mammalians. Your primary concern will be for Aiguo. Soon enough you’ll come to terms with your new reality. Tonight’s your last night sleeping in that coop. You will be given a room here so you can always be available to my son 24/7. Understood?”
I nod my head, because what else can I do?
“In order for you to be allowed in and out of restricted areas freely with no interference, and as your way of swearing blind obedience to my rule, you’ll need to be marked as mine. You will not be for sale to other ranchers. You will not be able to associate with other humans unless to complete the tasks I’ve requested of you… It’s time for your branding.”
Before I could even refuse, the General squeals a sequence of unsettling, shrill sounds towards the guards outside the door. I’m unsure of what’s occurring until I see the same two ginger Tamworth charge in and grab both my arms.
“Hey, let go of me!” I yell, but they maintain their tight grasps.
That is when I see a third swine enter the room. I’ve never seen him before, but I’ve heard the stories. He’s round and shorter than any of the other ranchers. His face is small and his black eyes are almost hidden by his dark brown hair; so hidden you wouldn’t be able to see his soul… if he even has one. In his all-black uniform, he stepped towards me slowly, with an iron rod he passed me, the guards, and the General until he reached the fireplace. He stared into it as if he saw God in the midst of the flames. You could see the reflection of the fire in his dark eyes. He didn’t have a soul after all.
After a moment, he stuck the iron rod in the fire and waited. Anticipating what was to come; I panicked and began desperately trying to escape the grips of the guards. I struggled and struggled but it was no use. I knew now that all the stories were true. The Kunekune exists! It’s said they almost became extinct long ago because of humans crossbreeding them, but they survived.
The Kunekune walks up to me, examines me from head to toe, and then motions to the guards to turn me around. They do forcibly. My back is now to him and I am completely vulnerable. Suddenly I feel the guards lift my uniform up leaving my back completely exposed.
Within seconds, I feel the most excruciating pain I have ever felt in my life. I try to scream, but no sound is able to escape my throat. Like a volcano erupting from my lower back. I could smell my own skin frying and I could hear it sizzling. He keeps the rod steady to my body until the pain becomes so unbearable, I black out and fall limp into the Tamsworths’ arms no longer able to resist.