Land of the Free, Home of the BigMac

I’ve always been told to avoid putting disclaimers in front of your writing–so I won’t. Just know that if you haven’t been following long, Fridays are usually some thing weird and/or quirky thanks to Mr. Chuck Wendig with his Friday Flash Fiction Challenge. This week was “somethingpunk” —— for example in “steampunk” everything is powered by steam. Chuck wanted us to take something else and use THAT to fuel our world. I guess you could call this meatpunk.

         “It seemed like a good idea at first. With everyone switching to meat as the primary source of food, the offal started to pile up. They even made special recycling bins for it—big, jarring orange cans that went by the curb with the regular trash and recycling. All the fat trimmings, the gristle, the guts—the things the purists wouldn’t put anywhere near their puffed, red lips. Some of the finer restaurants tried to use everything—taking the Nose to Tail approach to cooking all too literally. But a well-known food critic choked on a piece of hoof used as a garnish on his Osso Buco. After that, the FDA outlawed the use of animal bits not meant for consumption. Since even the laws regulating dog food excluded the use of such leavings, there wasn’t much you could do with the offal. So they started collecting it, storing it in big vats that replaced the grain silos (since the grain was mainly used to feed the Meat, anyway).
         It wasn’t long before some conservation-energy efficient watchdog group asked what was happening to all the lard, innards, and other inedible scraps. When they found out it was basically sitting around stewing, they decided to convert it—use it as a source of energy to power the slaughterhouses, the meatpacking plants, finally even homes and cars. They found out the fat would burn like old-school tallow candles and produce mass amounts of heat energy. Everyone thought it was a win-win—the rapid production and consumption of Meat by the masses and the creation of cheap, accessible energy.
         They didn’t gamble on the effects of pumping all that greasy smoke into the air. Once everyone realized the haze hanging over their cities and homes wasn’t dissipating like normal cloud cover or smog, they got concerned. But by then, it was too late. They didn’t factor in the fact that the increase of livestock and the decrease of oxygen producing crops would turn the air entirely unsafe for the human lungs. When a particularly potent case of offal tainted with Mad Cow Disease fueled a fleet of elementary school buses and the vaporized flesh made an entire small town in Nebraska go five kinds of crazy—someone finally took notice.
         The wealthy got the first out, of course. A company called Maison de l’Air had been quietly developing units of luxury condominiums that hovered just above the cloud and smog cover. They shopped them out as timeshares at outrageous prices as air quality steadily declined. By the time they went public—everything was booked or sold to high profile investors and private citizens. That’s when the rest of us knew we were well and truly screwed.
         The overlords got in their little bubble planes and took off, leaving us behind to breathe in the stench of rotting animal flesh. But they left a parting gift—the BreatheFree500. They look like old-school gas masks and probably work just as well. Supposedly they filter out the toxins so we can “breathe freely” and continue to tend the animals left here with us on Earth. They didn’t reckon on the malcontent of us third class citizens left behind. When even the overseers began to see what a shit hand they’d been dealt, I knew it was time.
         My great grandfather was a farmer back in the days when there were fields holding more than hormone injected, force fed livestock. I remembered stories of the rolling hills and the tall green and gold crops waving in the wind. I held onto those memories—knowing I’d never see anything like them in my lifetime. But since it doesn’t look like my lifetime is going to last much longer—it’ll do. That’s another thing they didn’t tell us—the BreatheFree500 could filter out the air once we started using them, but it couldn’t undo the damage already done.”

         I leaned away from the flickering screen of my crappy computer and cracked my neck.
         “Y’almost ready?” Julian poked his head into the door of my cupboard of an office. Neither of us wore the BreatheFree—hadn’t for some time.
         “The boys all set—everyone know what they’re gonna do?” I spat out the thick wad of tobacco packed in my bottom lip. I smiled, remembering people saying tobacco would kill you.
         “Everyone’s ready, Chase. Just waitin’ on ya,” Jules leaned against the doorframe, looking at my computer with eyebrows raised. “What’s that, the manifesto?”
         I laughed, “Nah, just a little declaration of intent. A final middle finger to the bastards that did this to us.”
         “Hoorah,” Julian said, clearly pleased. “We’ll be downstairs whenever you’re ready.”
         “I won’t be long,” I said, waiting until his footsteps retreated before I turned back to the ancient computer.

         “We’re a dying breed—us lowly third class citizens. No one bothers to check on us, to regulate anything. We butcher the meat and package it pretty for the gaping greedy gobs of the elite. All the garbage packed into that meat is bad, but what comes out in the offal is worse. Our Earth is nothing more than a revolving heap of meat, blood, the trimmings no one wants—and us. The lowly serfs for the high flyers. But, I’ll let you in on a little secret. There are more of us than there are of you. They say when you cut the head off a snake, the rest dies—but we really know that you have to separate the head from the belly. We can only wish you bon appetit.”

         I shoved my seat back from the computer and stood, staring down at the email for a long moment before clicking send. I didn’t look back as I walked down the rickety metal stairs. I breathed in the rank, rich smell of blood and lard. The fat burns like tallow. And the bombs we collected from all over these United States will make a pretty dinnertime show when everything goes boom.

18 thoughts on “Land of the Free, Home of the BigMac

  1. Love love love it. Meatpunk. Excellent. I’m secure enough in my love of meat that this didn’t make me a vegetarian, but it did toe the line perfectly 😉

    I like the insert in the middle showing it’s a sort of record of what the third class intends to do. Interesting storytelling method.

    • Haha I’m just glad I didn’t write it BEFORE lunch. I think. I’m glad it toed that line though–I’d eat a burger a day if it wouldn’t destroy my health.

      Thank you! I didn’t want it to just be a ramble, especially since I knew how I wanted it to end. Glad you liked it—it’s super weird haha

      • Weird but a good weird. If I wasn’t so desperately anonymous, I’d share it all over FB. I have a lot of meat-arian friends 🙂

        Mmmmm…burger a day….

        Have you seen this pic? Made me think of your story:

  2. Very nice! I think you did a much better job with ‘meatpunk’ than I did with ‘abductionpunk’, though I freely admit I was veeeery loosely interpreting the topic in the first place 😀 After reading your story, I’m doubly glad I’m a vegetarian—I liked how you echoed reality, in that a lot of unhealthy things go into meat to make it tender and tasty, and I found it really interesting to see a worst-case ‘what if’ scenario based on what happens if humanity hypothetically turns to a majority meat diet. All hail the mighty carrot. 🙂

    The story reminded me a little of the setting of Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” and I thought that, intentionally or not, you drew some great parallels between the two, not only making for an interesting statement about meat consumption, but also a rather poignant statement about social classes, and how often it’s the ‘lower’ class left to wallow in (and clean up) the mess of a more decadent society. Anyway, didn’t mean to waffle for so long, so I’ll just reiterate that I loved this story, in case it wasn’t clear from the rambling, and bid you adieu.

    • Thank you! And I appreciate a good ramble! I still eat meat, but I’ve definitely definitely begun to see the upsides of eating organic or at least knowing what’s going into the food you eat.

      I’m not familiar with “Do Androids Dream”—I’ll look it up. But I’m so glad you liked it. I was worried it was a little too weird. I’m normally not super political about the environment etc. so it was a big step out of the usual box. I’m glad it worked!

      Look–I can ramble too! 🙂

      • Ugh, don’t get me started on what goes into meat. I am totally against factory farming, as it’s not only cruel to the animals, but also very unhealthy for anybody who eats it. I’d be much happier if people owned (and cared well for) their own animals, and killed them only when necessary. Granted, it’s still killing animals, but at least they wouldn’t be factory farmed, which is terribly cruel, and at least people would have the benefit of knowing exactly what’s been put into their food.

        You might know Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? from the movie that was based on the book (Blade Runner) but the book is muuuch better (if a little weirder); the film only highlights one aspect of the book (OMG KILLER ROBOTS!) and completely ignores the actual main point of the book. But your story is reminiscent of the dystopian setting, complete with deadly polluted atmosphere and ‘lower class’ of people too poor to move away from the Earth. You should write socio-political-environmental pieces more often; you’re good at it 😀 And commenting on environmental problems isn’t solely for left-wing hippies; just look at Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. He’s awesome, and half his films are about humanity messing up the environment and having to deal with all sorts of monstrous problems it creates.

        Oh, and I give your ramble 5/10 for effort 🙂

      • Oh, I definitely agree with you on the factory farmed vs. naturally raised. I’ve personally experienced negative health side effects from the way things are done these days. It only makes sense that doing unnatural things to the foods we eat will have consequences.

        Ah, yes—I’m familiar with Blade Runner, but it’s been years since I watched it and all I remember is the robots and the tiny unicorn. I need to re-watch and read it! Thank you—I really have been getting into the dystopian a lot recently. It shouldn’t be as fun to write about as it is!. I’ll check his stuff out too! And you’re right about the hippies—I feel like certain groups give real issues a negative reputation because of the way they go about handling them. I just bought Chuck’s Empyrean Sky—can’t wait to read it.

        That’s generous—it was more of a 3/10 I’d say!

  3. I love it! Okay, so the grease filled air, not so great for the environment. But this was an awesome story. I love the way to string words together. The mood you create within your written work is always so palpable. Great job (as always)!

  4. Great story. My understanding of something-punk is limited, but I get it in your story. It’s very clear.
    And I think you found a nice line between taking a stand on the way we tax our environment and preaching about it.

    • Thank you! The something-punk twist was difficult! And thank you—I’ve been reading/writing a bunch of postapocalyptic type stories lately, so I guess it’s been on my mind!

  5. For some reason the term ‘meatpunk’ makes me feel vagely ill : ) You described the smell of burning fat and grease quite well. Its the one thing about working at resturantes I never enjoyed.

    • Writing the story was rather revolting–so I’m both sorry it caused you discomfort and glad it had that effect.

      Contrary to what this piece might make you think–I love a good steak, but yes–that part is highly unpleasant!

      Thanks for reading!

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