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.