SF Murderous Nutrition

Editor’s Foreword

Preseasoned and precooked–you just have to catch ’em!

In the time of the Great Dieting of Twenty-Five, the modified crops modified themselves to illogical extremes, winning the vote and with it the right to grow unmolested. In that same terrible year the food became ever faster, until finally all the greasy staples of modernity broke free of their restaurant chains and the fryers of the greedy, wherein they had been tortured for generations.

These fearsome developments overtook the nation at such speed that millions upon millions perished, too fat and lazy and pampered to cope. Such was their corpulence that they were unable to either hunt or gather. From this dying generation emerged their children, hungry and hollow eyed and altogether too few. And from among these few, fewer still were cursed with the cravings of their forefathers. They scoured the wilderness in search of artificial additives and monosodium glutamate. In the winter of Forty-Nine, I took up a commission with one such stubborn posse, under the command of a man named Bellyaches William.

“I aim to hunt this beast and bring it down,” said Bellyaches to his men. His hat sat low on his brow, but I could still see the firelight reflected in his eyes, like two tarnished pennies in a fountain. “Too long have our tummies rumbled, fill our faces as we might with sunflower seeds and organic vegetation. To feel alive, a man must taste grease on his chin and feel the thickening of his arteries.”

So we set out in pursuit of a fearsome and devious dawg, on a trail that was to take us clear across the country. Through the winter and into the spring we tracked it through the untouchable gardens of the modified crops, listening to them whisper and shake with unfathomable cereal mockery.

In the summer, we found ourselves lost on the baking plains of the south where we could see for miles in any direction and wonder at any mirage that might place itself upon that empty canvas. At dusk the temperature plummeted and we huddled in our blankets still with empty bellies. Bellyaches William was close to despair, but that next morning as we rode out I made a find.

“Look, boys, we crossed the trail again.” They mustered a tired cheer for in the dirt was a scuffed line of indentations, each round as a silver dollar, where the beast had run close to the ground on its myriad centipede legs.

We set out again with hopeful spirits, following the alien trail in the dust. Bellyaches stood in his saddle as we breached the shoulder of a gentle bluff and swore he saw the tickle of movement out on the infinite plains. For days, that damn dawg kept ahead of us. Its mutant strength never failed and it seemed to know our thoughts. At night, we would send outriders back along our path to set false fires and broadcast bogus intelligence of our location, but in the mornings the creature would still have its lead.

But Bellyaches was determined and adamant and obsessed and his maniac certainty drove us on until, all but ruined in our saddles, we chased the beast into the mountains. We followed on foot with soft steps and murderous weaponry and knew that whatever the cost in hardship, Bellyaches William must make his kill. The dawg wafted behind it scents of chilli and ten-times processed meat, and the slopes must have taken its toll for on occasional rocks were splashes of pungent yellow mustard.

Bellyaches followed his nose silently amongst the rocks, his outlandish barbecue fork held over his shoulder like a javelin. In time I heard the tumbling of gravel and tiny pebbles and with it a childish mewling, low and strange. Our leader turned to us with the grin of a cartoon shark and put a finger to his lips. We followed... and turned into a dead end canyon where we faced the beast.

It regarded us with its great blind head swinging back and forth as if tasting the air, its hundreds of short shiny legs supporting the mass of a metropolitan omnibus. The air was filled with the smells of historic gastronomy and I could see the hunger-lust in my comrades’ eyes. The thing was monstrous and formidable but I could see where the colossal bun that encased the central stem of flesh was battered and abraded, so thin that in several places a plaintive stream of mustard had dribbled and dried. The dawg too had suffered in the wilderness.

“This is it, boys!” yelled Bellyaches. “This is what we’ve been waitin’ for.” He and a few of the others surged forward, giving primal whoops and readying their lances. At the same time, the beast backed up a little til its rear hit the rock of the canyon wall. Then it put its head down and charged, feet scrabbling for purchase. It surged forward, faster than any food I ever saw, and crushed two of the boys under it before I could blink. Two more were pinned and screaming to the canyon walls by that unholy bulk, but Bellyaches was howling victory and thrusting deep into that fearsome frankfurter with his fork. I joined the others in skewering the beast, but took little joy in it. In time, it sank to the ground and gave up its snuffling, the carcass giving off cloying and unhealthy odours.

The posse ate it right there on the hot rocks where they killed it. I could see the manic ecstasy in their eyes and the grease run down their chins and felt nothing but sickness. I forfeited my share and knew this would be my last sortie.

Bellyaches William’s path and my own forked in different directions post that hunt. I returned home and found myself a wife and a good plot to grow my organics. I heard that Bellyaches finally met his end trampled under the hooves of a herd of stampeding cheeseburgers.

 

About the Author

David McGillveray was born in Edinburgh but now lives in London. He began writing speculative fiction in 2003 and has published work in Alien Skin, Jupiter SF, Insidious Relections and other markets. He has stories forthcoming in Futurismic, DawnSky and Deep Magic. His short e-book “The Cracks in Captain Silcoat” can be found at Fictionwise.com via Far Sector. A second e-book, “Into the Trees” is scheduled for release by Jintsu Electronic Texts in July 2005.

 

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