Friday, 8 May 2009

THE SQUEALING OF THE SWINE

We knew it would happen. Those of us who pay attention to such things. I knew it would happen. The only question was when.

And so we prepared. We were always prepared, and they, people like you perhaps, thought us all fools for our cautious ways. Paranoid, you said we were. Some of you called us psychotic and stupid, hicks, halfwits, and my, how you laughed.

Well, well.

Are you laughing now?

I doubt it.

Most of you are dead.

But I take no pleasure in your misfortunes or the misfortunes that may have befallen your loved ones. It gives me no comfort. Perhaps you will listen to us in future. Should this happen again. And it will happen again. Mark these words. Or something similar, some variation on another strain. The same strain? Yes.

I had spent thousands, tens of thousands over the years reinforcing the house, the stronghold as I began to call it during the onslaught, to ensure it was bugproof. And that it could not be breached by any poor, desperate soul who may have been infected. Or, more importantly and most probably, a mob of souls. Angry souls. I had built, as a necessary backup, a bunker in the yard. Beneath the earth. I had stocked it well. That, and the central stronghold, the house, contained all those things that one could consider essential to one’s survival. In the short term, and the long term. It was the long term that mattered most, though.

There were not many of us who did this. Who went to these lengths. We were not a “group” or a “force” or a “unit” of any kind. We were scattered throughout the country with little, if any, ability to communicate with each other. We were not going to stand as one, for to do so would be a fatal error. If one became infected, there would be nothing to stop the spread among the others.

And so, as individuals, did we take our stand and vow to resist, to fight to the bitter end if need be.

And we had no guns.

Goddammit.

Howard, that bastard.
He took our guns away. 1996, 1997, I think it was. Cheap political ploy, a stunt that was. I never liked Howard. Pissweak, he was. To take a man’s gun. What type of “man” would do this to another? A coward, that’s what type. A girl.

And so, we stocked what we could in the way of knives, bats, power tools, whatever we thought may help us through the darkest days we knew were coming, whatever we could lay our hands on. Some improvised.

We didn’t really have much time.

And then, time ran out.

People dropped like flies. A cough, a sneeze, that was all it took. Within minutes, the disease would tear its way through the most able-bodied of men and women and reduce them to shuddering lumps of virus-ridden flesh and, in hours, death would take them. The children went the quickest, a small mercy, to be spared the prolonged agony afforded the strong and the capable.

In two weeks, eight million had died.

In three weeks, forty seven million.

In four weeks, two billion.

The world went to rubble.

Yet, through it all, I, and those like me, prevailed. We stood our ground, defended our territory, made ourselves deaf to the entreaties of those who tried to worm their way through our defences and take advantage of our stocks, our supplies, of food, of drugs, of anything that we had because we had had the intelligence, the foresight, to prepare for this exact moment in advance of the moment coming.

The fools. The poor, poor fools.

By the time it had become clear to those in charge, supposedly in charge I should say, that the human race were facing such an implacable, invisible foe the likes of which had never been encountered before, a confusion of so-called “advice” tumbled from their lips, “do this”, “do that”, “don’t do this”, and so on and so forth. None of it added up. One piece of advice contradicted another, one “expert” clashed with this other “expert”, one minute it was a call for calm, the next, some piece of information caused thousands to panic.

I ignored it all. I knew, people like me knew, what we needed to do to survive. We had our own code to follow and we weren’t going to throw that overboard on the say so of some fucking politician, some bureaucrat, some statistician.

They had never listened to us. Damned if we were going to listen to them now.

Ludicrous, yes? That one third of the world’s population would be decimated because a bunch of goddamned pigs got the fucking sniffles.

Well, no, not ludicrous. Not at all. Probable, that’s what it was. And it was probability that we, people like myself, concerned ourselves with.

Listen …

They told us to stock up on dry goods. Rice, pasta, beans and such. Stupid. You need water to cook these things, precious water, and you’d have to be a fool to waste such a resource on the preparation of a bowl of fucking pasta. I had 100 eight-gallon drums of water stocked. It was for drinking. Not cooking, that’s for sure. What was I, Jamie fucking Oliver? No.

I stocked tin foods, frozen, stuff you could microwave (we all had generators and we all made sure to have enough fuel to run them indefinitely) and if water were needed for its preparation, it would be only a minimal amount, a half cup perhaps.

I had 200 cans of goddamned baked beans. Among other things. Jesus, did I ever get sick of fucking beans.

But those damn things saved my life one night.

Listen …

When it seemed the worst of the plague had played itself out, as we knew it would eventually for that is the manner of such things, I went to the fortified observation deck of my stronghold. I could see, in the distance, smoke, small fires, nothing unusual in that. There were no emergency services anymore and so, when a fire started, it just burnt itself out. God only knows how many poor souls got caught in them. If it wasn’t the sickness that got you, it was a fire, or starvation, or, in the worst cases, some bastard stuck you in the ribs ‘cause you had what they wanted.

Law and order? Not anymore. Not in this gutted new world.

But that night, I heard a rising sound in the near distance. A sound I hadn’t heard before and it seemed, to my ears, like the sound of some strange new mob and not at all human.

I quieted my breathing, deep, slow breaths and focused my hearing, trying to identify this noise.

What fresh new hell was this?

I had a long, large carving knife at hand. I had a heavy, six-pronged fork, its tines fashioned (by myself) to the sharpest tips I could manage. I had a pocket knife.

Downstairs, power tools. If I needed them, I could have them to hand in 26 seconds flat from where I stood. I left nothing to chance.

The sound grew louder. It seemed to be coming straight for me. Still, I couldn’t quite make it out. What the fuck was that?

My stomach growled, my bowels seemed to shift. From fear? No. I’d been eating goddamned beans for the last two weeks now, twice a day. I hadn’t shit in a fortnight. I’d deal with it later. After this thing, whatever it was, was dealt with first.

And just then, I saw them. The things that had been making that sound. And yes, they were coming straight for me, straight for the stronghold. Hundreds of them.

PIGS!

Goddammit.

All of them gone feral and looking for a kill. This was no random mob of brainless animals. They knew what they wanted and they were working as a group, a gang, to get it.

And what they wanted was me.

I felt my stomach groan again, louder this time, longer, a massive shudder went through my bowels and then, that’s when it struck me.

What I had to do.

They got closer. Fast.

Not close enough, though. Not yet.

Hold.

Hold.

Hold.

Hold.

They were one metre from the front wall of the stronghold. And that was when I blew the whole lot of the oinking little fuckers to hell.

I turned my back on them.

Dropped my trousers.

Shifted my arse over the side of the deck.

Grabbed the cigarette lighter from my pocket. Flicked it to life. Held the flame to my anus.

And let nature take its course.

The methane that had built up in my body the last two weeks would’ve gassed a small country. My anus flapped like a bust balloon for what seemed like an hour, and the flames lit up the night sky and obscured the stars, the roar of the fire drowning out the squealing of the swine below me.

Nothing sweeter than the smell of crackling in the morning. The smell, that sweet pork smell. Smells like victory.

And that’s what it was. Victory.

When the plague was over, or rather, the worst of it was over, I told others of my tale of survival. They called me a hero.

And when the world was stable enough that some forms of manufacturing could resume, some forms of commerce, the people at Heinz, they called me, they said they were repackaging their most popular product, renaming it.

Victory Beans.

In ham sauce.

They put my picture on the label.

Goddamn, if that didn’t make me swell up with pride.

I wished the old folks could’ve been around to see it, but, fortunately, they had passed several years before the plague hit.

One thing for sure, they didn’t raise no
nancy boy, no sir.

They raised a man.

Damn right they did.

Illustration courtesy of c N m © 2009 c N m. All rights reserved. Reproduced with kind permission. Ta very much.

4 comments:

Ross Sharp said...

And before anyone inquires, yes, I am very much aware of Max Brooks, and kudos to him.

c N m said...

Max Brooks finally delivered his copy for the Victory Beanz billboard ad;

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3363/3512150592_f933004377_o.jpg

As you know, many survivors are tearing down the billboards to build houses. We at the agency think it would it be a good idea if you were to post the poster in this post for posterity.

Toaf said...

Enjoyable. You nut.

Ross Sharp said...

Your wish is my command c N m.

Posterity shall be duly served.