For The Love of Chicken
by D.D.H. Lee
“Chicken Francaise, Shrimp Alfredo, Beef stir fry, Haggis, Tuna Noodle Casserole…” Marty fingered the laminated gloss of the menu as his eyes pawed over the countless items and the credit cost that was next to it in the sort of diner you would expect a fellow like him to frequent on a lunch hour: sanitary but not at all unpleasant with a sort of retro feeling that came from the bubble lines in the booth seats and the chrome smoothed over edges that reflected everything in strange obscure lines.
Marty fancied himself the connoisseur of foods. He could tell the difference between fish and chips from the diner next to the transit terminal by London to ones made in Chicago at the “best” fish and chips place there to the same dish made as a Friday blue special in Skye colony. But he never was a fan of fish and chips, nor could he tell which one was best, though he could tell differences within them.
“Did you know that there were people whose job was to actually just taste people’s food?” Marty had a look of bewildered joy at the thought of that. His friends, of course, always liked to keep his head back to earth.
“I think it was originally to make sure someone didn’t poison the king’s food; would you like to end up eating poison by accident?” Josh preferred correcting him.
“If you ask me, it sounds like that is why the Old World is so primitive. Did you know that in ancient times people would use animals as slaves?” Mariah was a woman that liked to remind him to appreciate the time now as compared to those “good old days” that Marty liked to think of so much.
“She’s got a point, Marty old pal,” he sipped the orange twist tea to dampen his tongue a slight bit before continuing “Those old times aren’t as hot as you think they were.”
“Yeah? Well then what’s so great about now? Did you know the last guy I had to headjob? He kept pounding my box like it was going to make life go any faster; almost broke my interface entirely.”
Mariah looked him over with her green-gray eyes shifting curiously towards him “Didn’t you tell us this story five times over today?”
“If my credit goes belly up, don’t blame me for it then. Are we all ready to order?” They both nodded in reply “Good, then let’s order.” He pressed the inconspicuous red “Call” button that rested against the rim of the diner window. Without much time, a female voice appeared to greet them through a holographic frame that formed from the liquid crystal inside the window. In solid white, letters formed proclaiming the name of the diner on the top like letterhead.
“Caesar Salad,” said Josh almost in a business like fashion. The words appeared on the black screen in fancy but legible script to confirm the order.
“Cheeseburger platter, no tomatoes please.” In response to Mariah’s order, it scripted up the order as “ChBurger plat, no tmt” for the sake of saving space on the black window screen.
Marty smiled “May I have a chicken sandwich platter with extra mayo on it, please?” The screen complied and Marty pressed the confirm button. Promptly, it gave the estimated time it would take for the food to come, “3 min 14sec” and then promptly faded into the clear window as they began to pay it no mind.
“Were you trying to hit on the program, Mart?” Mariah giggled and her finger took a playful poke at him, which his hand brushed away as his fingers took to strumming against the shale gray rounded square table.
“I still have memories about that guy mistreating the instruments. Now I know why cabs tend to look so busted up sometimes after seeing that. I should have gotten him arrested for the feedback he gave the system and the migraine that I got from it.” He clenched his head, feigning the pain almost in a recall of the prescription medication he had to get from the medical diagnostic machine.
“You know what you need?” Josh said as he pointed the fork at him.
“Aside from a jar of painkillers?”
“-you need to remember it’s your birthday. What do you want anyway?”
The expression Marty held now changed to surprise. Not a fake surprise but an actual surprise; for all the time that happened, he had forgotten that his birthday was coming in a few days.
“Maybe he wants us to find him a girlfriend,” said Mariah with a malicious grin as he watched Marty almost jump back from the booth he sat in “Oh, you didn’t like the last girl we sent you with?”
“I liked the fact that she didn’t kill me immediately when I insulted her father by accident, but aside from that… No.” He took another sigh, which was to be expected from a fellow that liked to sigh a lot, and replaced the menus into the holster next to the edge of the table. He clicked the order button to check and found out that the order was already being sent to them. His eyes turned to the vinyl-covered door with a porthole window that led to the kitchen and saw it swing inward with a treaded table scooting towards them, the food steaming hot as it continued to journey towards them. Finally, it stopped with a polite “Caution food is hot” in its plastic warnings. Josh, who was closest to the plates, took each and began to distribute them to the appropriate person. After the third dish was taken, the table crawled back into the sliding door that went to the kitchen.
They left the diner, Marty sighing “I don’t think the food here is that great. Hey, you know what I missed? The chicken sandwiches they had back in Ander’s colony, at that shack not too far from the stadium.” His friends gave an idle nod, the same idle nod that they learned awhile back just to avoid going into drawn-out arguments with them since food did not make them in a mood to argue too much “I could go for another new type of taste of a chicken sandwich.” At that point, he stopped for a bit and then continued with the pace of his friends.
“-so you’re telling me that we should go help you make a chicken sandwich for your birthday?” Mariah rolled her dark eyes back and pushed her knuckles into her hips, looking at Marty with a sort of “what-the-hell-are-you-thinking?” sort of look that reflected the appearance in her eyes.
“Sure, what could be so wrong with that?” This was, in Mariah’s opinion, one of the most nonsensical things he had ever asked. Ever since you were born it was taught to you to never take the life of any living creature that moved and breathed. It was a fineable law; children that were found to kill bugs at a young age were quickly sent to schools to rehabilitate them. Adults found killing animals were fined an exorbitant fee of up to 15,000 credits and readjustments of their job accessibility, usually into something of a lower status. Cooking was like putting one sin on top of another; no one ever needed to cook and it wasn’t encouraged since the companies did the cooking for you: the only thing people were technically allowed to cook were the century old MRE’s that you had to put water on to heat; currently they were selling online for thousands of credits from cooking fanatics that still reveled in the spectacle of getting their food the old-fashioned way nd some old-timers that didn’t think the system provided the people with real food. From what both of them knew even without the knowledge of cooking, though, they knew that century-old food would taste terrible.
“Okay, so maybe it’s a little risky.”
“A LITTLE?!” She would have stamped her foot at that moment in anger if she didn’t feel that she made her point already.
“…no wait, it could be done,” said Josh. He was silent all through the conversation until now. She covered her forehead with her hand and sighed in disbelief. Her friends were going to become murderers.
“I know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong. We don’t have to kill an animal.”
They blinked in surprise.
“All animals have a natural life span, right? We can just wait for one to die from natural causes.” He slapped his hands together in satisfaction.
“Do you mean we have to find one that dies from disease? Do we have to pink one that died from Ebola?” Marty’s tongue immediately took a look of disgust.
“They don’t all die from disease you know.” Josh shook his head and replied, “Some of them die from old age.”
At this, they all stared at each other.
Yosemite Mountain National Preserve. Mount Rushmore, Old Faithful, and several thousand species of plants and animals made it an ecosystem living in harmonic balance. The history books said that this was once a national park, which was why it was so abundant and untouched, even though they said that most of the surrounding land was eventually donated away when it became an animal Preservation. In the Audi Quattro Deuce, the three sat in their car by the road to look about as they were told, and went with binoculars around to look for the wild chickens that were said to roam around here.
“I see one! I see one!” Marty pointed up as he looked through the binoculars.
Josh didn’t need to look up to reply “Chickens don’t fly, Marty; it’s probably a pigeon or a falcon or vulture or something.”
“Do you think they’d taste good in a sandwich?”
Mariah nearly jumped out of her chair as she was hearing this I’m in a car with murderers, murderers… but she just tried to give an uneasy smile to them so that they might not think of killing her like the barbaric people that used to kill animals and then people. The past was a very primitive time. All thoughts stopped though when she finally pointed to the side of the car in exclamation at seeing it “Look! Look! A CHICKEN!”
Sure enough, they turned… and saw a three-striped black and tan brown chipmunk bending over to nibble on an acorn.
There was a dead silence that began to spread through the car for those five seconds before the two began to break out in hysterics at what they saw. Mariah just crossed her arms and mumbled about how they all look the same.
“I don’t think we’re going to find a chicken at this rate.” The two, Mariah and Josh, were lying back in their seat, tired and beginning to wonder why they were sitting around for the past several hours. Marty, however, was ever-vigilant for the elusive flightless bird. At this point, however, he sighed and opened his door. The others looked at him as though he was crazy.
“What are you doing?!”
He looked to them as he was halfway out “If I can’t find an old chicken, then I’m going to look for one myself.” He turned away and began to walk into the woods.
“Should we follow him?” inquired Mariah.
“And get lost? No.”
Hours passed again. It was dark, deathly dark, and the two waited. Several rangers already drove past them checking on them since it was late and they were still parked by the road. “Looking at the night wildlife” was the excuse they had to give them, and several minutes of pointers at looking for these things was what he said.
“Maybe… we should call him lost.”
“But if we do that, then they’re going to find out what happened and we’ll be marked as criminals.” Mariah sighed when she heard that because she knew as well, but the risk of their dead friend was weighing heavily upon them.
“Damn it, I am lost…” Marty was smart enough to bring one of those flashlights for his keyring, but was foolish enough to believe that he was going to get enough light out of them to keep himself knowing where he was. On one bright side, he knew that he was not completely in the dark, but on the darker note, he was literally lost. Actually he knew that before it was really dark; it was when he found himself unable to find a road or the car that he knew that he was lost, and that frightened him enough to make him stand still until it started to go into sunset and he knew that he might die in these woods forever.
He was completely unable to find anything available that could be identified by him except trees, plants, and bugs; so many bugs! All of them swarmed over his key flashlight and he almost felt compelled to swat them away with his hand until he remembered that he was already going to be charged as a loiterer for getting out of his car in a national preserve. He felt his arms begin to wobble; his legs were weak enough to tell him something; that from continuing to trudge through the woodlands in the darkening night had made him need to use the bathroom.
He looked around and then unzipped his pants and started to pour golden showers. As he turned, he then froze in his tracks. The sound of the trickle of water was only heavy in his ear as he saw the cockled head and plumage of a fat brown and tan bird that just walked around on its legs. Behind it was a number of other birds like it, though they lacked the prominent comb on its top. The sound of clucks and bocks filled his ears slowly as soon as he began to finish his urination. The big bird stared at him with one eye, one curious dark red eye of crimson. The talons it had began to scrape against the ground and it started to scream a carooning howl…
“Hey, do you hear something?”
“…” Josh stopped holding still and replied “Nope… maybe you’re just shaky.”
“I guess… do you think he’s okay?”
“Marty? I’m sure he’s fine.”
He ran like there was no tomorrow for him.
It took him five minutes before he realized that he was still unzippered and tried to pull his fly up while keeping his legs going as fast as possible. The dreaded chicken was howling for him like a demonic creature from the beyond: several times he thought he outrun the creature and took to stopping and catching his breath only to find out that the thing was following him from behind with flapping wings and that loud battle cry of death that it was giving him. It wanted his blood, and he didn’t know what to do except sob for his unfound corpse in the deep forest of Yosemite…
“No, wait, I definitely heard something.”
“Yeah, same here, I- hey, do you see that light?”
“Yeah, I see it! It’s Marty, he’s alive! He’s… …running?”
They looked in awe at Marty as he was running from the small angry flightless bird that was up to his ankles and screaming bloody terror towards him.
“Quick, unlock the door!” Mariah complied and hit the autolock, stirring the disturbed air with the click noise. Marty went for the latch and started to pull in one quick gesture for the door to open… but it was locked.
“OPEN!!!” They could see he was starting to well up and cry as he turned to see the demon bird bullrushing towards him with talons beaks and all.
“You pressed the autolock the wrong way!” Josh was keeping his eyes fixed on the killer chicken all the while.
“I know I know!” She went for it again and the clicking noise came up. Marty tried, but it didn’t work again. The bird was getting dangerously close.
“Stop pressing lock!”
“Stop holding the latch up!” Mariah replied to Marty in frustration. He looked and found out that he forgot to let go of the latch in fear.
He turned and saw the bird about to peck into his leg and revolted back and ran around the car and then away, the little bird giving hot pursuit both under the car and behind him.
“Okay, I unlocked it!” Mariah opened a window to tell him.
“CLOSE THAT WINDOW!” He was afraid the chicken would follow him into the car and, while there was still three feet of distance between the bird, his hand pulled the latch, opened the door, and took his entire legs inside, slamming the door behind him and saving him from the menace of the dreaded bird.
“That thing is a monster! Our ancestors must have been gods to have eaten such a ferocious creature!” They nodded and stared at the blood-eyed bird as it stared at them. They did not notice the car that immediately came by and ran over it, the hood of the car punching the bird back several feet into the ground as it drove by, the wailing siren of a police car in hot pursuit behind it.
The three peered close to the window, Marty still panting to catch his breath as he stared at the limp bird lying on the road.
“…you think that it’s actually…” he refused to say it. He did not even want to say it, not at all.
“-…dead?” Marty gulped an extra heaping of air, partially to catch his breath, partially to confirm that he was still suffering from the escape.
They waited and continued to stare at the fearsome beast lying still on the road.
One hour later, Josh unlocked the door “I think it’s dead.”
Marty grabbed his arm before his friend could open the
door “It could be a trick! You don’t know how sneaky these animals are! That
thing could be waiting for us to unsuspectingly open the door and then jump in
and kill us all!”
They waited another hour staring at the bird before Marty finally nodded for them to go out, but not before grabbing a tire iron under his chair and stood outside the door of his car in a defensive position.
Josh stalked… step by step… the darkness of the road reflecting against his eyes and the glare of the moon as he carefully treaded towards the lying chicken. He got close, then turned to his friends and they nodded. He reached for a stick with some distance that was nearby and then took some consideration of the size of the stick, but then looked back to the chicken and kept it. His arm reached close and slowly, the stick was almost brushing at the chicken… and quickly poked it.
The others jumped back, Marty got the tire iron out and was ready to smash it with it in defense of his friends in case they were going to die! …but the creature stood still. The three friends looked at each other and nodded.
The mighty creature was dead.
They grimly took the chicken, and then dropped it to wipe off the blood on their hands from the dead beast. They tried again, but dropped it again, afraid of the evidence of the blood.
“Do you have anything to clean this blood off with?”
“I have some water,” Josh said.
“Forget the water, I think I’m going to need some bleach!”
He started to sweat profusely as Josh handed him a dark plastic garbage bag and then said “Put it in with this, so you won’t touch it.” Marty nodded and carefully covered the lips of the bag over the limp body… and then quickly pushed it in, grimacing at the terrible sound it made as it slumped into the bottom of the bag, quickly tying the bag behind him.
The body was thrown into the trunk and they began to drive home, still worried about the event at hand.
“You-you don’t think anyone was watching, do you?” Marty kept his eyes on the road as he was driving, but it was easy to see he was still very nervous.
“Of course not!” Mariah tried to laugh, to convince him and, truthfully, herself as well. It was not doing a very good job for either of them, and Josh was still pale with silence that lasted halfway through the trip until they began to reach to the city outskirts when one of them realized something.
“Where do we put the body?” Heads turned towards each other, staring with worried looks.
“My freezer’s broken,” Josh’s voice was a little broken into a sweat as he reached for a packet of gum to chew on; the broken voice would not have been as tell-tale as the chewing, a visible sign among any others that he was truly nervous for once.
Mariah looked at Marty and groaned “If you even think about putting that thing into my fridge…”
He sighed and looked back to the trunk where the carcass was stored. Cooking was obviously a very hard thing.
“Police!” They banged at his door at an abrupt four in the morning and the first thing that came to his mind was the garbage bag that was in his freezer.
He didn’t answer the door immediately but instead took the frozen carcass and looked around in haste for a place that would be suitable for him to toss the body in. Visions of rehabilitation camp and the creative thoughts a police officer could have with him ran through his mind quickly in provocative ways where they could find that carcass.
Under the cabinet? Too convenient. Trash? No, they search that first in the dramas. Fridge second. I need to look carefully, but where? When his eyes spotted the closet to his bedroom, he quickly tossed it under a pile of shoes and coats and made sure that it was hidden underneath all the boxes and then looked at it again to rearrange it again to make sure. The door knocked harder and he took a deep breath of air… and then walked slowly to the door and hope for the best.
“Yes?” There were three officers standing outside his door in the hallway, one of them was holding his nightstick that was close to his belt almost as though he was prepared to hurt him.
“Good morning sir, sorry to bother you but may we come in?”
He hesitated a half second before nodding and letting them come in, turning on the light to his living room to take a seat. The three immediately followed suit on the couch.
“Martin Grinwell, we have some questions for you that we would like you to answer for us.”
“Before you ask, would you like some tea?” He needed to calm down, he was acting too stiff before them and that would buy him some time.
“No, no, this won’t take long at all.”
“Oh, but I’m sorry… it’s early and I can’t remember most of the things just from waking up.” Please please please buy it…
“Oh, well in that case, please do so.” They continued to stare at him as he left the room, their eyes burning into them and he knew it. He knew they were looking for the chicken, for his murdered victim for his meal. As long as they did not ask to look around. As long as-
“It’s a nice kitchen you got here,” Marty’s eyes would have popped out if he didn’t stop himself as he saw one of the officers come in.
“-thank you,” Marty blurted back, trying to feign embarrassment.
“I just wanted to ask if you could make another cup, I think I could go for a cup of tea right now.”
“Oh, oh, sure!” He gave his most plastic smile and then turned to get on the drink machine and order some tea with his hurried fingers. It was a few seconds later that a tray with some hot porcelain cups of Earl Grey came to him from the sliding panels of the drink machine. He quickly took it shaking hands and all and walked back, trying to still himself and not make the tray seem too cantankerous with the tremors. He continued to smile the plastic smile.
As he placed the tray onto the table, the officer immediately replied, “I’m sorry, I wanted some sugar with that… is that all right?” Marty gave a still nod, but then he shuddered when the man got up “It’s okay, I’ll get it myself. Where is it?”
“-it’s all right, I’ll get it myself” he almost shouted it. He didn’t want to shout it as he looked at them, and as they looked at him, peacefully, almost… sternly, almost as though they were judging him. He stepped into the kitchen, heaved a deep breath, and then returned with a vessel of sugar “One lump or two?”
“Two please,” he said with a very fake looking smile. He complied droningly and then took to his seat to sip the liquid and hope they wouldn’t search the house, wouldn’t take him over to talk, wouldn’t ask him-“
“As you can assume, mister Grinwell, we’re not here for some social meeting. We’re here to question you about an incident that happened the other night.”
“Oh?” He tried to seem surprised as he said it and tried to remember the looks of shock and surprise the people he saw had as they looked at him when he was doing headjobs where he could take note their expressions. He managed to remember it at one time a long time ago and it was this near-death moment that made him remember this short term past. The images of rehabilitation camp were heavy in the air.
“Yes, it involved your car being in Yosemite Reserve last night.” He said last night almost as though it was something in the past. It was only a few hours ago that he took that dead body of a chicken and stuffed it into a freezer to prevent it from spoiling.
The other officer leaned into the chair a bit; it looked like he was busy trying to repose himself into a more comfortable position “We want to know what happened, Martin.” He yawned.
The other one looked at him shiftily “No need to play stupid, mister Grinwell: we know you were there at the scene in you licensed black Audi Quattro, plate registration and all. Now, tell us.”
The relaxing one was leaning back “We’re not going to hurt you, Martin… we just want the truth about what happened there.”
There was a slight shaking in his hand.
“The… truth…?” He did not want to say… he did not want to say… if they were going to explore his house, then he would, but he was not going to tell them that the chicken’s body was here, HERE! He bent over and started to cough in gagging motion a bit. He was going to be a goner.
“It’s okay, Martin… we know this has probably been your first.”
He shook his head. Even if he was going to be convicted for lying, he was not going to admit it.
“No? You mean you’ve animal deaths before?”
“Mister Grinwell, we understand your record shows that you may have a 20% chance of showing callous regard towards this event, but you do not have to fake it for us. It’s obvious that this event must have been traumatic for you. Still, we need you to bear witness for the sake of putting a criminal in jail.”
His eyes shot open and he was still for a moment. Trying to remember how people looked when they felt disgusted, he squinted his eyes and coughed again, looking up to the officers.
The good cop officer patted him on the back thoughtfully “It’s all right, Martin. We hate to impose on good citizens like yourself, but we need this testimony recorded to help convict a felon.
Martin looked at the good cop, saw his smile behind the helmet, and smiled with a hint of tears on his face and nodded.
“That was scary.” The three sat in Marty’s room. Apparently, they all encountered the three policemen and each of them had nearly told a tale they would have regretted. Mariah held a martini in her hand, taking liquor for once in her life just to ease her memories, and even Josh was clutching at some ale in a fisted stein.
“But we made it at least. We still have to cook the thing.”
“Oh, you have got to be kidding me!” Mariah shot up from the couch when she pronounced it, almost spilling the drink if a droplet of it did not forewarn her finger as it escaped the glass. Although she saved her drink, she did not change her tone “We almost were rehabilitated just for carrying that dead thing with us!”
“Don’t you believe in luck?” Marty replied with a smile.
“Don’t you believe in pushing it too far?” she said snidely.
Josh just nodded aimlessly and took another drink.
Marty pointed to the freezer “Look, all we have to do now is just cook it. How hard could that be?” His friend would have objected, but then she stopped herself and nodded.
When Marty opened the freezer, he removed the bag and opened it carefully, wincing at the sight of frost-stained blood lining the inside of the bag and then at the limp frozen body of the hellbringer chicken.
“Okay, all we need to do is to pour water on it, right?” They nodded at Marty.
“Actually, maybe that’s not a great idea. It’s obvious that cooking is an old art, right?”
They nodded at Josh’s rhetorical question “-then it might require more effort.”
“Do you mean…?”
“Yes. We will have to let it warm over slightly before we can pour water over it.”
Thankfully, Marty had a heater to defrost any frozen food he had, so he took the sack and then tried to push it into the box.
“It won’t fit!”
“Try to cram it in!” he heard back.
He looked at the bag, and then at the heater… and then forced the bag in. With an unhealthy crunch from the bag, it went inside.
“You know guys, I’m feeling very unhealthy about this idea…”
“It was your idea!” Mariah’s voice filled the room and he could not help but unconsciously wince at hearing it. He reluctantly set the bag to defrost. Defrosted, the bag began to sag.
Marty took a cup, filled it with water from the sink, looked at it and then removed some of the water to make sure he got just enough (he heard that those old MREs never required a lot of water, just a quarter cup). After some looking, he poured out a little and then went to the sink to pour in a little more. Finally satisfied with the outcome, he poured the contents over the bird and watching in revulsion and interest.
“Maybe you didn’t put in enough water,” Josh suggested.
He tried again, this time with another half-cup of water. Nothing happened.
He took a cup of water and then poured it in. The only thing that was happening was the blood on the bottom of the bag was getting thin. He looked in and gagged himself as badly as he did at four in the morning and dry heaved into the sink.
“There’s… got to be another way,” he said before rushing to the bathroom.
“…so we need to not only make a fire, but to burn it in one as well?” Mariah was already starting to show excessive distaste at this outcome. If it wasn’t for Josh having access to the old library archives, they would not have known about the cookbook that they kept in there, away from anyone to see except for the exclusively lucky few.
“What did we do to the poor chicken to have it deserve this sort of fate? I already killed it!”
“You didn’t kill it,” Josh said as he shook his head (the cookbook was almost disastrous for his morale) “Someone else did.”
“Yeah, but… but I made it go into the road and…” he started to point and cry at the body inside the bag.
“Enough whining! It should be all right once you pluck the thing of feathers.”
Mariah shuddered “I’m not touching that thing if I have to pull off it’s feathers! That’s disgusting!”
Marty snickered “Hey, would you rather eat a mouthful of feathers?”
“I’m not the one eating it, you are, remember?”
“Well I don’t want to eat a mouthful of feathers.”
“Okay then… you pluck it.”
Marty looked at his past foe, shuddered, and then touched a sopping wet feather before he felt the slick soaked sensation it carried and he started to gasp to himself with the words “It’s like pulling my own hair, it’s like pulling my own hair, it’s like pulling my own hair…” After repeating the mantra enough, he felt ready, though his hands were shaking, he went for a feather, pressed his fingers into it, and then pulled with a tug.
The tug wasn’t enough. His eyes were still closed, so he tried a harder tug. No good. He squinted, and then pulled with full force!
When he opened his eyes, his blood-touched fingers were holding a feather.
“Hey, it’s not as bad as I thought it was!” He said it with a gleam of joy in his eye. Mariah took another trip to the bathroom to clean her mouth.
Five hundred and twenty three feathers later, Marty announced, “Okay, it’s plucked clean…” Pride filled his voice, and his friends looked at him with worry. “What?”
“You sound like… you like it.”
“Well it wasn’t that bad when you get used to it.”
“You can get used to pulling out hair from a corpse?” Mariah shivered.
“Well, yeah, I guess so… but anyway,” he wanted to change the subject; he already felt bad for the naked chicken “do we cook it now?”
Josh then cut in “Um, sorry to tell you this, but it’s far from done.”
“Err… no? What now then?”
“We need to… clean it.”
“Clean it? Do we do it with soap or without?”
“Errr… it doesn’t say it in that way…”
Josh pressed his mouth to Marty’s ear. His eyes shot into huge dishes in reaction.
“You’re kidding me!!” Josh shook his head.
“If they call it cleaning it, then why do we have to do… that to it?”
“You got me, but you know what Marty, old boy?”
“You’re on your own here.”
“Wait! I don’t know a thing about anatomy! You do, mister med school! Help me out here!”
Josh gave a reluctant look at the pale skinned bird and then at Marty.
“Okay, I’ll help, but you have to cut off the head yourself.”
“I have to do WHAT?!”
“That’s part of the ‘cleaning.”
“But… I don’t want to decapitate it!”
“Would you rather be… eating its head?”
Marty shot a glance into the body and then shivered at the glassy stare it gave him.
“Okay, okay, I’ll do it! But… one question.”
“How do I do it?”
“I asked Mariah to get me a knife from a restaurant.”
“Aren’t they illegal? And will it be sharp enough?”
“I told her to get a steak knife.”
“But… but this is a chicken!”
“Wouldn’t we be insulting the poor thing? Do they have a chicken knife for this thing? Or a cleaning knife?”
“I looked around, and they had knives for butter, bread, and steak, but no chicken.”
“How rude. Poor bird.” He patted the clammy white and slightly blued skin of the chicken body. Josh began to question how disturbing this was.
Two hours later, Mariah entered the door, fell to the couch, and panted for her life “I… got a steak knife… whew!” She wiped her forehead of sweat “I almost thought the police would arrest me for carrying this around.”
“Guess we were lucky then. Uhhh, I think you might want to go to the bedroom right now though.”
“Don’t ask, just go!” She wordlessly complied.
The “cleaning” was a careful surgical procedure. Wearing rubber gloves and facemasks, they began to operate on the chicken.
“Should we apply antiseptic on it?”
Josh looked at him through the facemask, thought for a moment, and then shook his head. Josh took the steak knife and began the operation…
“Ewww, it’s all red and bloody!”
“…just… just try to bear it.”
“But… but… I’m not reaching in for that!”
“Don’t look at me, I’m just the medical advisor, remember?”
“…okay… but I wonder.”
“I wonder where the water goes in the chicken to cook it.”
“We’re going to burn it, remember?”
“Ewww, I forgot! Thanks a lot for reminding me, Josh.”
“Just shut up and reach in, you’re trying my patience.”
Marty nodded, looked at the open orifice, and then reached in, carefully began to grab inside, and started to pull.
“I’m sorry, oh noble chicken.”
He tugged, but it wouldn’t let go.
“It won’t let go.”
“You have to pull harder.”
“But won’t I tear out pieces of it?”
“The book said it was okay.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure, now pull!”
His hand tugged back harder, but it still wouldn’t let go. Three tries later, it still would not let go. Finally, he sighed, whispered “I’m sorry, noble chicken” and then tugged at full force, spilling out several of the insides around everywhere aside from his rubber gloved hand. Marty stared wide-eyed.
“Okay, don’t panic yet, Marty… don’t panic.”
“How…? How can I not panic?” He stared at the stains that ran everywhere.
“We can wipe them out. Try not to panic, Marty.” Josh already started the unceremonious wiping, hastily taking a tissue and starting to rub out the blood.
“Don’t, don’t the police have that stuff that can detect blood particles even after you wipe them away? I, I, I’m doomed!” He fell to his knees “They’ll put me in the papers.. ‘Man commits gross murders in his house of horrors’… I’m doomed, Josh, doomed!”
“Don’t worry, we’ll get everything done all right.”
Marty looked at him but then at the blood stains “Nothing can get rid of that.”
“I know of ways to get rid of it,” Josh lied.
He turned to Josh and then the stains again and then at Josh again, eyes hopeful “Really…?”
“Of course,” Josh lied again.
Marty began to take an ecstatic look and gripped Josh tightly screaming “Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou.”
Josh blushed and hoped that he wouldn’t be considered part of the crime if the police found the truth.
When Mariah was allowed back into the room, they already “cleaned” and unheaded the bird. The evidence was in the garbage bag.
“Now… how are we going to cook this thing?”
They looked at each other.
“We can’t cook it here… we need a fire or something, it says.”
“Fires are outlawed and I don’t know a thing on how to make a fire.”
“I remember reading about fire making.”
“Yeah?” The two looked at the erudite Josh with amazement.
“We’re going to need three things: tinder, kindling, and wood.”
“What’s tinder and what’s kindling?”
“It’s a type of wood.”
Mariah shook her head in disbelief “You have to use different types of wood just to start a fire? I suppose the next thing you’re going to say is that they taught little children to do this.”
“Will a chair do? I think I can find an old one.”
“No, we’ll have to do it another way. Come on, we’re going back to the park.”
They had to park the Audi in a special deep part of the woods. “We’re going to have to walk the rest of the way. This part of the woods is cut off from people to see since it’s dangerous for normal folks.”
“Dangerous? You mean like attack chickens?” Marty looked around the woods warily, still remembering the attack.
“No, they just say that to prevent people from going deeper into these woods. They don’t want to spend more on patrollers, so they just cut off the rest of the area from the world.”
“Wait, but what about us?”
“What about you?”
“Won’t we be unable to cross?”
She pointed up “There’s a satellite tracer, but I have clearance through this area for me and two associates.”
Marty sighed in relief “Remind me to be happy I know someone like you,” he said it with a gay smile.
“Just remember this when my birthday comes up,” she remarked “-you know, in case I ask for something this illegal from you.” Before Marty could reply, she then retorted, “be glad that I won’t.” And then gestured them ahead with a hand as they walked through the packed dirt and roots.
After an hour of walking, Mariah stopped at a clearing of trees and rocks “This was an old campfire ground back when it was legal to do that sort of thing. Is this all right?” she said it to Josh, who was busy looking it over somnolently.
“Yeah, I think we can do something here.”
“Excellent!” Marty said as he clapped his hands together. He lugged the featherless, decapitated, pale, cold, and clammy body of another garbage bag. The other one was inside that bag, which he hoped to bury in a grave to honor the fallen chicken.
Josh double-checked the area some more and then looked to the sky “Okay, no rain… we should be able to get a fire going.”
“Good, you can go get this special wood for that fire,” Marty said.
“Oh no, don’t expect me to do all the work,” Josh said as he pointed an accusing finger towards Marty “This may be your birthday present, but I’m going to need help on this.”
He grimaced a look of disgust at his friend “But I had to ‘clean’ the thing!”
“I still need your help,” Josh said.
Mariah added, “Yeah, and besides, washing it with soap isn’t exactly something!”
They passed a look at Mariah and then back to each other. Marty sighed and then nodded, skulking behind Josh as they walked to the woods.
They returned with several branches and Josh removed a piece of paper with instructions and began to make a wooden teepee with the instructions. When he was finished with it, he tore it up and put it into the bottom lining of the teepee along with some cotton.
“So is the fire made yet or what?” Marty said, looking at the three.
“Hold on, this takes proper timing.” Josh reached inside his pockets, and removed a set of stones and began to rub them against each other near the teepee. Marty and Mariah watched in awe at him… until an hour passed and they didn’t think he could do it.
“Oh come on, do you expect someone inexperienced to get it like clockwork?” Josh finally resigned and sat on one of the stones. Mariah took the stones, struck them against each other with a heavy rubbing, which produced sparks that ate at the cotton hungrily, creating a flame.
“Just like in the movies!” She said with a smile. Josh gave her a polite glare to complement her toothy grin.
“Okay, can we cook the thing now?” Marty said with excitement.
“No no, we have to wait for the fire to get nice and ready for it.”
“And how soon will that be?”
Josh looked at the fire with a studious eye and concluded, “It depends, how much dry wood can you get me?”
“Not a lot,” he grumbled.
“Then not for a lot of time,” Josh said it with a straight face, and that was what scared Marty the most.
Three armfuls of wood later, Josh finally gave the conclusion he wanted to hear “It’s ready.” Unfortunately for Marty, as he looked into the fire, he was disappointed.
“There’s no fire here, there’s only coals.”
“We just need coals,” Josh said as he poked into the fire like the books told him awhile back.
“Okay then we just put it on a stick and let it roast and it will become a sandwich?”
“You wanted to turn it into a sandwich?” Josh shifted his eyes.
“Of course! That was what I asked for you from the beginning! Why do you think I brought a bun with me?” He patted his jacket pocket, heavy with what obviously must have been a large bread roll.
“Ummm…” Josh looked into the fire “Give it an hour or so to roast.”
“Won’t it be night then?” Marty said, pointing to the sunrise; they spent their afternoon trying to get this to work.
“It’s not like you haven’t had a chicken sandwich for dinner before.”
So, he took the body of the dead fowl and, grimacing, put it into a stick, remembering the cavity inside the chicken once contained stuff
“Do we really have to burn it?” Josh nodded and Marty sighed, put the stick to hang above the coals, and watched it as it was exposed to the fire.
“Poor chicken…” he said with a sigh.
“Remember, it wasn’t our fault entirely,” Mariah added “-birthday boy.”
59 minutes and 34 seconds later, the strange pale white bird began to take a golden tan. It took only 15 minutes before Marty noted how the bird went from the smell of death to the familiar smell that he remembered. It took only 32 seconds after that that Marty began to constantly pester Josh constantly by going “Is it done yet?” as though it would magically force the chicken to become done.
When it was done, however, Marty could not help but note “It doesn’t look anything like the dishes in the diner. Shouldn’t they be patty-shaped?”
“Perhaps they made them into patties?”
The lip gesture Marty made was of instant disgust “Don’t tell me we have to do that to this…!”
“No, no, it should be all right. Where’s the steak knife?”
Mariah fumbled around and finally handed the shining blade into his palm. He hefted it carefully and then took a stick and stabbed it into the bird. Marty yowled back a bit, but Josh kept himself still as he began to then slice off pieces of the dead fowl. The steam and the smell that accompanied it soon reached their noses and they could not help but feel hunger.
“Okay, Marty, give me your bread.” He gave the bun, somewhat mashed from the journey, and handed it open-faced to Josh, who then topped it with a chunk of the dead bird. They watched as Marty looked at the chunk of flesh from the bird and gave his grin as he looked to the others… and then paused.
“Should I say a speech?”
Almost automatically, they shook their heads and pushed their fingers at him “JUST EAT IT” cried out into the air.
He looked at the sandwich, at the others, and then he reached his head closer, sniffed at the aromatic scent emanating through to his face, and then… bit into it.
It was five seconds later that a chunk of the chicken piece was flung through the air as he spat it out.
“Tasteless,” he said as he wiped the chewed remains from his lips.
The others blinked, and then out of curiosity, Josh and Mariah took a bit and chewed.
“You’re right… almost no flavor. Plus, this meat, why is it so chewy? Chicken sandwiches usually are softer in texture. This one’s like biting into old jerky.”
They looked at each other, and then to the fire that had the sweating chicken.
“We spent a week to figure this out,” Marty said.
“Maybe we should have spent another week finding stuff like oyster sauce?” Josh remarked.
“This is the worst chicken sandwich I ever had… Why did I kill such a noble creature?”
“You didn’t kill it, it was an accident! An accident, remember?”
In the end, the two of them put the chicken to the fire and gave it a proper funeral with the garbage bags. Marty was on his knees, staring into the fire and the charcoal thing that was the chicken.
“He would have wanted it this way…” He said quietly. Mariah’s eyes gave a shifting look of bewilderment towards her friend.
“How would you know?”
“We were like kin after that moment. When he was after me, he wanted to secretly show me the meaning of his life before he was dead. Now I understand.”
“No, I mean, how did you know it was a man?”
He would have made a lengthy remark by then, but then Josh put his hand up “Do you her something?”
Mariah then stood up “OH MY GOD! I FORGOT!”
She pointed up. The sound became louder and soon the sky began to fill with helicopters, their searchlights prodding through the high trees for a sight of the fire.
Marty and the others soon took in the direction of where they remembered the car was. The helicopters began to search some more and spread their lights all over the sight of the fire in a hurry.
“At this rate, they’ll catch us!”
“Does this mean we’re going to be rehabilitated?”
“Shut up, both of you! We can escape them!”
Through the trees they ran in the night, without any lights except the glare of searchlights trailing behind them for someone. Marty continued to run, remembering how they would rehabilitate people like him, murderers and arsonists in those dreaded camps. Unfortunately, the more he thought about it, the more he didn’t see the root in front of his foot and tripped hard into the dirt. He closed his eyes as he got splashed with leaves and debris.
He could still hear the sound of the helicopter chopping away.
“THIS IS THE NATURAL RESERVE COMMISSION. YOU ARE TRESPASSING ON GOVERNMENT LAND. COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS IN THE SPOTLIGHT.”
“Marty, where is he? Where is he?” The more Josh looked around, the more frightened he became as they were running. The Audi was hidden by leaves that the Reserve commission didn’t see from their spotlight, and Mariah had at least told them of a safe spot where cars would not see their car without having too much trouble.
“I don’t know, I don’t know! Come on, we have to go!” Mariah shrieked.
“What do you mean we have to go?” Josh was trying hard to keep his voice low, even though the sound of the helicopter was really making it hard to hear “It’s your fault Marty is going to get caught.” They reached the car, and Josh stopped in front of her.
“MY fault?” Mariah was still running and reached for the door of the car, opening it and ready to close it as soon as she was done correcting him “Look, he survived a good night out there once in the wilderness, so I’m sure he’ll probably be all right.”
Josh, looked to the side and then saw the searchlight get a little farther from the fire and closer to them “Should we leave though?”
“Just get in the car!”
Josh looked back for a moment, and then got in the car, closed the door, and began to start the car “Okay, but if he needs to be bailed, then it is going to come out of your credit.”
“Just go! They won’t see the car if we leave now!”
Marty was trapped. Stuck in the dark, the searchlights of a helicopter buzzing around, and his ankle was dreadfully sore. Nothing could have made it worse.
And then he saw them.
Not one, not two, no; an entire group of the dreaded feathery hellions, strutting closer, slowly, carefully with their thick-nailed talons, their unblinking eyes turning to look at him as they stalked him with beaks high like pointed swords. Chickens; an entire flock of chickens.
If I get caught by the police, it means rehabilitation in the camps, but if I lay here the chickens will come upon me and wreak revenge on me…
Marty started to cry.
“I REPEAT: THIS IS THE NATURAL RESERVE COMMISSION-“
No! I will get out of this! I won’t die by chickens, I’ll just-
He couldn’t move, flinching angrily when he tried to stand up. His ankle was too sore.
He continued to cry.
The fearsome beasts began to gather around him, look over him, watching him and staring with accusations in their faces. Marty was lost for words. He could not swat them away, not while they wielded those sharp orange beaks that could poke out his eyes without a notice, let alone his weak human arms. No man could be strong enough against a wild beast, let alone one of these monsters. Maybe when the police came to look upon this grisly scene, this terrible scene that was in his mind of a dead flesh-mangled corpse, they would not at least blame Josh and Mariah for this. Then again, as he thought of it, he wished Mariah would have gotten blamed since she never told him.
They began to stomp over him and he lay on the ground, sobbing quietly against the sound of a helicopter. Underneath the beasts as they stepped over him, he could feel their sharp claws already begin to bite into the back of his body, as they attempted to dig their sharp blade-like claws into his body to tear into his flesh. The feeling forced a squeal out of Marty until he heard the sound of people approaching and the sound of their radios in the air; the police. Marty closed his eyes, looked down, and began to chant to himself.
Please, merciful chickens, if you wish to take revenge, at least give me a quick death. I did not mean to kill your wonderful and mighty friend! I-
Then one of the dreaded beasts clucked in mockery. He could hear the men walk in the direction towards him, ready to get him. Ready to get him! The chickens had planned their sadistic scheme from the beginning to make him suffer under slow torture under their clever plans and he was all too willing an idiot to have fallen into it.
Marty froze. A flashlight went to his face, half-covered in dirt. He could hear a voice.
“Oh no… Hey Lloyd, call for backup! …sir, are you all right? Can you hear me?!”
“I-I-I-” Marty was lost for words. He was frightened to death, surrounded by the birds of death, and now to bring his wounded body to a camp.
“Settle down sir, just calm down. We’ll get an expert here to help you.” He could hear the man scream “Get backup fast!”
One of the chickens took another step onto his shoulder and forced a terrible squeal out of his body.
“Hold on! Hold on! We’ll get you to a hospital as quickly as possible.”
Then came the feeling of orange beaks stabbing into his back, the cruel monsters scooping at his flesh with their death claws and now lancing him repeatedly with their spear-like bills. He cried again, but the pain was too much and he fell over into the dirt.
When he woke up, he was in the bed of a hospital around clean white walls in a windowless room. He was caught.
No, no! I’m going to be rehabilitated! The thoughts of rehabilitation began to scare him again. A nurse walked in holding a clipboard, trying to smile at him because he was obviously worried.
“Marty Grinwell?” He nodded immediately in reaction and the nurse sighed in relief “Are you all right?”
“The police sent you here immediately after getting an animal specialist to get those wild creatures away from you. Are you sure you are okay? I can get you an injection of painkillers if it’s necessary.”
Marty shook his head, trying to smile, but was confused.
“Are the police still here?”
The nurse gave him a smile and looked over a crystal screen that monitored him by the wall, explaining several statistics on it “Will you be all right? Your heart rate looks like you must still be suffering from trauma.”
The nurse nodded “Yes, I see. I will inform the officers about this.”
Marty almost jumped up “No, please, it’s okay!”
He smiled back at Marty for a moment “Do not worry, Marty. They will get those troublemakers that did this to you.”
The truth of it was no one would have believed that the murderer and arsonist that commited the crime would also have been found on the ground covered in chickens and dirt. The local news reported it as evidence of a possible cult that tortures animals and people in their ancient evil cooking rituals, and a Marty Grinwell was found as one of these victims, perhaps chosen because of his recent trips to the Natural Reserves, where he most likely was an unwilling victim of this act of “animal cannibalism,” from his dental findings in his mouth. After all, who would have wanted to killed an animal just to eat it, especially a man who had obviously been dragged there from some terrible group of men and then left to be pecked to death by a flock of wild animals that had gathered around him to eat breadcrumbs stuffed around his clothes? A warning was set on the Natural Reserve Commission and patrols were set on higher alert to reflect this. Even the police would now be on the lookout for any strange people coming into the wilderness. They never asked Marty though, as the psychiatric nurse said that he was still suffering from possible Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and possibly had forgotten the entire event. Even worse, resurfacing the thoughts may have sent him into a deeper trauma. He was safe, although even he didn’t know what had happened until he saw it on the News.
“This was YOUR fault,” Marty said as he glared at Mariah. His back itched from all the bandages that covered his wounds of honor, but he tried to pay no attention to it.
“It was your idea, birthday boy.” Mariah looked away as they sat in the diner they always did, before she got curious and had to ask “How did you survive those chickens?”
Marty smiled “They must have recognized me as someone that repented, and came to me to help me in my time of need.” He sighed “One day, I’ll write about the nobility of those wonderful birds.”
Mariah shifted her eyes “Didn’t they come to you for that bread?”
“No way! Nothing has a better sense of smell than us humans!” Marty sat back and sighed with a smile “It was probably because they cared and hoped to teach me their ways and wished that I would learn from them.”
Mariah smiled, “Yeah, like to never eat a chicken sandwich again?”
Marty then touched his heart and crossed his fingers “I swear to honor those noble creatures as long as I live.” His head stood up for a moment “Oh, here’s Josh.”
“Hey guys,” he took a seat and looked at them happily “I did some more research on this event and came up with some revelations that were amazing!”
They looked at him, blinking before he continued.
“Turns out that some time a century ago, they banned the cooking of any animal. They said that there was a new food processing plant that made any sort of meal out of wheat germ and kelp. ‘Less tendons, more texture’ as they said. After the next couple of years, they just shipped all the supplies to these diners and all they do is cook them. Pretty interesting, huh?”
The two blinked at Josh, who still seemed subtly impressed with himself for finding out that tidbit of information. They both sighed.
Her head in the air, Mariah remarked, “Marty, if you even think of doing this again…”
Marty turned to the window, scratched at his bandaged back, and ordered a chicken sandwich.