“As Jac swung open the heavy front door, an aroma of blood and flesh seized his unprepared nostrils. He slightly winced but he knew the smell was promising. The more rural the town, the better the meat, he decided. Fresh meat from the outskirts of Wales.”
Editor’s note: This is a wonderfully creepy horror story that may be disturbing to younger readers.
As Jac swung open the heavy front door, an aroma of blood and flesh seized his unprepared nostrils. He slightly winced but he knew the smell was promising. The more rural the town, the better the meat, he decided. Fresh meat from the outskirts of Wales.
Jac examined the place. Before him, there was a counter display case with bright lights shining on glistening meat behind glass. The shelves weren’t full, but the slabs were large, damp like morning dew and appetizing even in its raw state. A small radio sat atop the glass counter that played Christmas Welsh opera from barley caught radio signals. The place looked to be aging with uneven and beaten tiled flooring but it “had character” like the barber shop your father has been to for the past four decades. Jac’s eyes met a hunk of a man that stood behind the counter. He had broad shoulders and a wide torso with rolls of fat you could see through his apron that was stained from the aftermath of which needs no explanation. He had a roughly shaved beard with slits from his razor littered across his neck and cheeks. He had droopy ears that had heard decades worth of squeals and wide eyes that had seen a lifetime’s worth of struggles and intestines. However, he wore a small smile when his eyes meant Jac’s.
“Dine in or take out?” he said.
“Dine in,” replied Jac.
The butcher laid out his hand pointing to a high stool in front of the glass case. Jac awkwardly walked over and sat on the stool. His weight slightly pushed down the seat, making the already giant butcher tower over him even more. Next to the glass case, the smell of flesh and blood was stronger. Jac shuddered as he wondered what smelling the intense smell of fresh meat all day would do to someone.
“We only have pork today,” said the Butcher with a voice as cold as a pond in December.
“Fine by me,” said Jac.
“Five and a half pound sterling for a cut.”
Jac reached into his winter coat pocket, took out the money, and placed it onto the awaiting leathery hands that laid before him. The butcher then placed it into his apron pocket, looked down, and took out a butcher knife, and a large slab of meat from the glass case. He put it onto a cutting board and cut. The knife slid through the slab so effortlessly like a scissor slicing tissue paper or a needle piercing skin. Jac began to grin. Welsh pork was a must-have, of course, every Welsh man or woman knew that. Oh, so flavorful and covered in fat too, not too little and not too much.
The butcher laid the large slice of meat onto the grill behind the counter. It sizzled loudly even without oil and overpowered the opera playing from the radio. Jac felt his tongue roll around his wet mouth, his twitching eyes fixed upon the browning meat.
A minute or two went by which, to Jac, felt like thirty seconds. The butcher took out an old porcelain plate and placed the meat onto it, pulling the plate across the counter toward the eagerly awaiting customer.
“Thank you,” said Jac as he immediately dug into the meat.
He stuffed a big portion into his mouth and began to chew. It wasn’t tender but it didn’t matter. Each time Jac took a bite, a flood of juices filled his mouth. It tasted as fresh as it gets, a little under done if anything.
“Do you like it?” asked the butcher.
“I — It’s great. Really great,” said Jac through a mouth as stuffed as a goose inflated with apple stuffing.
“Fresh is the key really.”
The butcher turned off the radio. An uncomfortable silence filled the shop interrupted only by Jac’s loud and childish chewing noises.
“Fine pork is best in silence,” said the butcher.
“Agreed,” said Jac as he swallowed.
“Say, do you know about vegans?”
“Few in the Welsh countryside but still existent. No harm in it. I just think it’s wrong.”
“Yep,” said Jac, a bit confused about the sudden change in conversation.
“It really is quite silly. I’m telling you from life experience that cows and pigs are stupid. Incompetent organisms really. Can’t tell night from day, and even if the animals were a bit smarter, they’re providing me a business right?”
“Of course. We’ve been eating animals for as long as we’ve existed. Some people just don’t see the greater good in things. Sure, it’s the death of an organism, but hell, it’s keeping me alive. What’s a few lives if it keeps business aflowing?”
“The only animal I can second guess about killing is monkeys. Chimps. Some attributes of the chimp are smarter than some attributes of the human.”
“Well, I think it’s the ability to lose empathy when needed for survival. Many humans lack that and it makes the chimp in some ways better at surviving than the human.”
“How bout this, a chimp’s diet is mostly based on fruit and insects. Chimps go out of their way to get the fruit and the insects,” said the butcher as his voice started to grow playful. “But, let’s say that there’s a sudden decrease in insects. Let’s say that the fruit that their diet is based on starts growing elsewhere. The chimp realizes the only source of food that could keep himself alive is his fellow chimp. What do you think he should do?”
“E-eat the… chimp?” said Jac with an empty mouth.
“Exactly. Eat the chimp. The chimpanzee does not think twice about eating one of his kind when needed. He knows that one in the end will survive and that one will be him. With empathy, the chimp will die, but without it, the chimp will thrive. How about another example?”
“I — I… I don’t… ” said Jac as he laid down his fork.
The butcher leaned towards him.
“Let’s say there’s a man in the meat business. He’s known around the neighborhood but the winter months come and business comes to a sudden halt. He’s not making enough money to afford the number of cows and pigs that he needs.”
Jac wanted to get up and dash out of the shop, but his muscles couldn’t move, like he was tightly stitched to his seat.
“Then the man realizes,” said the butcher as his eyes widened and a twisted smile grew across his face, “that the perfect solution has been sitting right across from him all along.”
In a swift motion his arms reached out to Jac’s neck and squeezed. He grabbed the rusted butcher knife and Jac realized why the meat wasn’t tender.