Featured Fiction
// Scott Moraes

The chill pushed people towards the flames. The chill, and the sheer sight of near-whole creatures crisping up above the fire (it was customary to remove the head, hands, and feet, and consign them to other uses). These creatures were not unlike themselves, but this thought was quickly aborted. As a collective activity, this sort of celebration was still on trial, its participants torn between shame and necessity, between the memories of a better time and the bleak visions of a hopelessly sick future.

A wise old man, aware of the reluctance of some, spoke to the crowd:

“There was a time when we would squeeze a lemon and then toss it, wasting the locked aroma of its zest. We would sacrifice our fellow animals the pigs, the cows, the chickens, the sheep, and toss away their heads, their feet, their innards, all perfectly edible. With our culturally inherited disgust, we wasted more than we saved. Men killed men almost as a sport, and then fed the bodies to the dirt.”
Indoors, in the kitchen, a cauldron lies in wait, filled with stock, simmering for hours with vegetables, roasted bones, and the least desirable pieces of the carcasses. That stock would later be strained and thickened with blood, which is kept a secret: chefs are always in need of secrets and people have irrational aversions which refrain experimentation. Without experimentation, this generation is on a backwards-suicidal course.

“We have reduced the once thriving kingdoms of the oceans to a wasteland fogged with our rubble. If we have prevailed on this planet it is because we have sucked the life out of everything we touched. However, through the darkest chapters, and through the brighter ones as well, we've come to accept that all gods share the same root and we have agreed to retire them all and lay down our arms,” the old man continued.

“We've accepted the varieties of gene, of pigment of skin, the balanced importance of genres. We've retrieved the long forgotten habits of our ancestors – the wise ones, not the wasteful ones – and we've taken up the traditions of oral narrative, folk music, and collective celebration. We must confront and accept the absurdity of our path. If we are unhappy with the outcome of our race, we may resent it but we must recognize we ended up here through no fault of our own. We must blame the ones who have come before us, learn from their mistakes, and educate the ones that will remain after we're gone.”
The kids pay close attention and are mostly open-minded about the new traditions. Children accept whatever they're told; it took nothing but silence to eradicate God, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny from their culture of fantasies.

Farther away, a group of young women debate whether they should pay the premium price for the jewel in the crown. The fires are fed to indulge the pyromaniacs. The sounds of fiddles and guitars remind all that this is not a faraway land in a faraway time.

“In the past it was called by derogatory names. We shall call it for what it is: nature, the food chain, and survival of the fittest. If we subject some of our own to this horrible but necessary fate, sometimes for no other reason but that they had made themselves visibly plumper, we must as well admit: Savages we may be, but we are a product of our past. Savages we have been for thousands of years, and perhaps will remain so until we wane, but we have reached a high state of civilization, for we welcome the shame of our deeds and continuously wish they could be otherwise.”

Once the formal proclamation was over, people took to forming new bonds and refreshing old friendships. Behind bushes their everlasting primal instincts found release; in the unlocked mysteries of the skies they found premises for large stretches of imagination; fashion, customs, languages, just like the stars, are always shifting: we are forced to dance to the music.

All seemed at peace with reality. There was but one young boy visibly disturbed amidst the festivities. Having found the camp where the captives were held, he fell in love with a plump girl, and his humour suffered when he realized that he could not change her fate. He decided to forgo the feast and only drink the blood-thickened gravy, which he found delicious. Although he did not know it, part of his lover would now be part of him. He sat by himself on a rock, resenting the fact that humans could not lay eggs.

//Scott Moraes, writer
// Graphics by Britta Bacchus

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