A Morbid Tale by Jessica Marie Baumgartner
Old age plagues my body. I am stiff, sensitive, and rotting.
I stomp through my own shit to reach my feeding trough. The wood beams creak under the weight of my body and I lean forward to poke around molded piles of leftover food. My clouded vision makes everything run together. I close my eyes ignoring the pain in my stomach. It increases with each slurp and I think back over my long life.
I remember how she saved me. Loneliness increased under a looming fear of death, until I met her. The farm had always been a place of fear for pigs like me, but she weaved her web to call attention to my worth. In her eyes I was a creature worth saving.
Never once did she plea to be rescued from the engulfing embrace of the end. Did she know something I didn’t? It seemed so easy for her to let go.
Maybe she understood the struggle of survival. She saved me and I loved her for it, but now I loathe my existence. The ache in my bones is unbearable. My hooves are cracked like the paint on the barn. “Ouch!” I stumble against a beam and a splinter pierces my skin.
“Are you hurt?” Estelle asks.
“Leave me be.” The lasting generations of spiders have too much spirit. I don’t bother to make friends anymore. The sows that touched my heart are all gone. My piglets have been butchered and eaten. Most of the animals I knew in my youth are dead.
Estelle is the only one who continues to talk to me. Blood sucking creatures all need a distraction from their heinous acts and that’s all I am. It’s all I ever was.
She slides down a spindle of thread. “Let me sing you a song.”
“Save it for your next victim. I’ve heard every spider’s song. You are no different. You’ll leave me. They all leave me.”
She ignores my grunting and hums a melody. My legs give out beneath me. My chin smacks the ground so hard I refuse to move. Her song does not sooth the pain, but it does remind me of my younger days.
I once frolicked in manure, kicked up my heels in the sweep of a strong breeze. There were conversations to be had, new animals to make acquaintance. The warmth of love wrapped itself around me in the shape of new birth, but it was severed with the turn of each season. “I would have rather been butchered,” I cry out.
Estelle falls silent. She drops low enough to swing against my ear. Her little legs make my heart pound against my ribcage. She climbs over my cheek to perch on my nose and stares at me. “I wish I could make you feel better.”
“Why?” I grunt.
“Because you’re my friend.”
I glare at her youthful smile. “I have witnessed births and slaughter. The farmer promised I would live, nothing more. I am still alive; if this can be called living. I wake, I eat, I vomit, and sleep.”
“You were gifted a full life. When the chill of winter strikes, my body will shrivel. I will die. No one can save me.”
“No one can save any of us.” I snort “Your ancestor merely prolonged the inevitable.”
“Because it was your wish and she loved you.”
I find the strength to roll over, hoping to shake her off me. She redirects her steps and rests on my cheek. I sigh and wince at the prickles that rise with the breath. “I hate her now.”
I blink at Estelle. She has never contradicted me before. “Soon I’ll follow, but it doesn’t frighten me.”
“It should.” A tear slides from my eye.
“I would rather enjoy what time I have than lamenting what I lost.”
“You are young.”
She slides off my face and releases a string to lower herself to the ground. “Maybe I am young, but I am not as foolish as some.” She glances back at me before she leaves. “I will never have the luxury of growing old. You were given a wondrous gift and you have squandered it.”
“Your predecessor would never have spoken to me so.” I feel the lie burn in my throat, but Estelle has gone. I force myself to my feet. “Wait.”
She scurries up the wall of the barn and stops.
“You have been good to me.” The tears pour down my cheeks like the day my best friend died.
“Sometimes friendship is all we have.” She nods.
I offer her a smile. The love in my heart seems to warm all my senses. Her blurry figure comes into sight and I heave my body against the wood frame, crushing the life out of her. “It is better this way.” I sob. “Best to die full of hope than rotting in misery.”
Jessica is the author of the Embracing Entropy Series (the 1st book of which, won a Summer Indie Book Award), Siren’s Snare, Tale of Two Bookends, and My Family Is Different. Her stories have been featured by publications such as “Everyday Fiction,” “The Lorelei Signal,” “Fiction on the Web,” and many others. Check her out at www.jessicamariebaumgartner.com