Separating the Swine This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

May 25, 2010
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“Get the damn door.” He spoke with force and intolerance. Winter’s blue nights could not compare to such bitterness. The cloaked man knocked again; the others admired the cottage’s triangular farm fields. Light footsteps tapped from behind the entrance; the four at the door huddled closer as a gust from nowhere tore at their cheeks; a pig-like yelp echoed throughout the hills. One side of the door collapsed inward, and artificial sunlight illuminated the terrace.

She was petite woman, her back hunched by the pressures of age. Her unkempt, cobalt gown and the deep, cavernous crevices traced across her face told of adventures long passed and never since returned. One hand held a chipped, porcelain cup – directly from India – its whiteness stained by the contained, murky tea; the other extended to the four in a proper greeting. “Welcome, welcome!” she called to the visitors, the light behind her diminutive structure casting her shadow across their faces. She spoke with a certain vibrance – the kind only found in a woman gripping to her last leg of life in dismay of a collapsing defeat. “Amir, they’re here!” The politeness in her Anglo-Saxon inflection supplemented pleasantly with their ears. She forced a smile as the quartet brushed across her hip and into the fire-heated farmhouse, leaving the porch – and the ranch animals – to bathe in the bitter frost.

The farmhouse’s innards were comparable to its outward appearance – just as orderly, just as proper. The redwood floorboards had been swept minutes prior, and the spotless windows gave a lucid view of the damaged barn as its residents tremored in the cold. Trinkets and trophies littered the shelves that hung across the walls – a medallion from France, a bronzed bull’s head from Spain, and so forth – each placed with care to allude to perfect imperfection. In the calculated middle, a seating setting sat – a black-stained coffee table accompanied by a pair of black-stained armchairs. Four dark bookcases – one on each wall – touted hundreds of pounds of unopened hardbacks. Twelve lights – two rows of six – dangled near the opposing and conjoining walls of the entranceway and painted the room in shades of ashen white – each bulb radiating more than enough vigor to brighten the miniature space unaccompanied. Nothing was out of place; nothing had felt a human’s touch for many, many years. It was robotic, almost. It looked as if no living being had lived in this residence for decades.

The woman turned to the irritated-looking boy sitting upon one of the shadowy armchairs and wordlessly emitted an expectant glance. He looked-up from his novel entitled American Psycho and erected himself to his feet, his eyes rolling counter-clockwise in his head. He extended his opened right hand to the crowd – his opposite hand displaying a raised center finger behind his back.

First to come forward was the tall, pale gentleman. The boy released a half-silent scoff – who is this man to approach me before anyone else? Gaunt, pasty fingers stripped off a Northern fur hat, and the man and bowed before meeting the boy’s tanned hand. Each wordlessly stared into the other’s eyes, gripping harder and harder. The boy tightened his clutch, and the man followed the example; the man made-up for the lost ground, and the boy doubled his force. For many seconds, the combatants gripped, neither showing a sign of ceasefire. Tense veins from both participants bulged from color-conflicting hands. Finally, age bettered the pale gentleman; soreness attacked his elbows, and he released his grip. The boy celebrated with a supercilious roar; the five others turned their heads from him.

Each took a turn to shake the boy’s firm hands – as had become a custom. Three further bellows of victory, and the six gathered around the dark coffee table. Amir sat first – can’t let the others sit before me; his grandmother seized the remaining seat as the travelers dropped to the floor.

Amir stood and spoke before anyone else. For hours, the six discussed – starting from where they ended the previous week and allowing the conversation to change courses at its will. Whenever someone wished to introduce a new issue, he or she would stand; all further discussion would cease, and the parent to the preceding topic would accept the death of his or her child and return to the silent respect of the floor – except for Amir, whose self-elected leadership position gave him the role of Executive Overseer. There were laughs; there were tears. The “Central Six” – the name the group had unanimously chosen at the teenager’s proposal – more-or-less displayed an intimacy no external faction could rival.

By the forth hour, Amir decided an appetite had stricken the household; he volunteered to brave leaving the warmth of the farmhouse to provide for the assembly. Looking upon the triangular fields, he admired their equiangular contours. Every race of beast was separated by precisely seventy-seven and one-seventh feet of fencing – it’s the perfect number, he promised. He had convinced his grandmother an open field would only lead to violence and confusion among the working animals; if she had disagreed with the segregation, he would have built the fences anyway. That’s how things have to be done, he liked to say. Plus, the trinity of the points looks really nice with all those animals crawling around in them.

A chilling gust struck his chest; flakes of snow fell silently upon his artificially-tanned skin. He tugged on the zipper of his jacket, and the bitterness became an indistinct memory. He scanned the field and spotted a lone, rosy swine – its intense emaciation obvious in its exposed nakedness. It stood feebly at the farmhouse’s impenetrably white partitions – chewing at pearly paint chips and shielding itself from further bursts of frigidness. A sinister smirk split the boy’s face.

He chucked the swine by its collar; its skull dented the dark coffee table as shattered shards of porcelain scattered across the room. Triangular splinters burrowed into the pig’s emaciated rear; maroon blood spotted the newly-dusted floor. The six assembled around the beast, each claiming a section as his or her own – one traveler to each limb, the aging woman at the head, and Amir staring intently at the pelvis. The boy reached into the front pocket – Always gotta be ready for the kill when its necessary, he liked to say – and drew a too-sharp blade with its gold-trimmed black handle. The silvery metal resonated with the six white bulbs on either side of the room. Sensing onslaught, the swine swung its limbs wildly in the grasps of the robotic travelers. Escape was impossible in such a weakened state. A single droplet of salted water slid across her parched face as the inhuman steel entered her femininity.

The knife slashed hastily and without reason. Starting from her lower region, it sliced swiftly upward – cutting past the stomach and dissecting one of her seven teats. The travelers intensified their resistance to her futile kicks as the knife segmented her diaphragm. A muddied bubbling inside her esophagus glugged with each expansion of her chest; fragments of pinkish lung dangled from the blade by threads of hardened pus. He cut to her throat and halted, admiring his straight-enough precision. He then pulled the burgundy metal up the front of her neck and split the snout in-two. She had died before the blade passed her chin, but Amir had not yet finished. He punctured a hole near her right arm – piercing muscle and bone. Ruby-tinted bodily fluids erupted from the wound, and seepage ran rampant as he hacked a second division across her chest. He concluded when the lifeless body shuddered briefly as a final puncture tunneled into the central nerve running up the opposite appendage.

Amir and the others stared into the lifeless, glossy eyes of the dissected pig. They reflected the white-washed walls, now a rosy pink as the twelve bulbs – six on each side – refracted luminosity through dripping, sticky emissions. They reflected the travelers – the pinks and whites of their clothing reddened by gummy dampness. They reflected the embedded cross-shaped carving – its ridges of skin chipping bits of scabbed auburn. But mostly, they reflected Amir – the bloodlust in his eyes as he polished the fatal metal with his tongue. The others mutely turned their backs to him in disgust.

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