The Reluctant Cannibal

John Tinney

                           

I wake up on a meat hook surrounded by pieces of the dead. A family replete with butchers, practical jokers and psychos, and I insist on being different. Serves me right, I suppose. I’m a glutton for punishment and not for meat. I don’t even like the killing part. The time I saw Uncle Leathermask sticking a chainsaw in that hysterical blonde guy from Kilwinning still haunts me. It’s just a shame my family doesn’t believe in PTSD or hemophobia.

I can’t even tell what’s human and what’s animal. My family doesn’t do time for distinction. "So much to kill and so little time" is what granda used to say. He’ll be down there now looking up at us. What nature didn’t create, he made sure to nurture. Everything was game. But not to me. I can’t bear it. I close my eyes again and pray for release, but this place hides from God and divine intervention. Only the devil visits our farm in Stranraer.

Lumbering footsteps approach the meat locker. It’s Uncle Leathermask. No one moves like him or casually turns on a chainsaw for ambience. I can hear the demented whooping of Cousin Inbred behind him. The door flies open. I open one eye and see two butchers aprons covered in blood.

‘There’s the sensitive wan — the wee pussy.’

Cousin Inbred always reinforces the need for us to widen our gene pool. Uncle Leathermask comes up to my face and tilts his head to the side. For a man with a repulsive mask, his icy-blue eyes are the envy of everyone. It’s just a shame he’s practically mute and an irredeemable, homicidal lunatic.

‘Couldnae kill,’ he says. I hang corrected. ‘Couldnae eat human flesh. And noo he wants tae be a vegetarian! We’re no vegetarians!’

‘Aye, we eat meat,’ Cousin Inbred says. ‘Meat!’ Guy was born without the capability of an indoor voice.

‘Aw ah said was we’ll live longer. And it’s better for the environment if we don’t eat aw these people and animals aw the time. The emissions fae dairy farming is a major contributor tae global warming. Have you no noticed how much hotter it’s getting here?’

‘So?’ Uncle Leathermask says. ‘The heat slows doon the prey.’

‘But if we have mair greens and a plant-based diet, there’s a good chance we’ll live longer. Then we can still keep luring bait and…’ I can hardly bring myself to say it. ‘Killing.’

‘You’re no one ae us,’ Cousin Inbred says. ‘You a weirdo! Kill him, Unc! Before he tries tae escape again!’

‘If you let me get ma phone, ah’ll show you the literature.’

Uncle Leathermask pulls out his blood-spattered iPhone 8.

‘Show me then. And nae funny business or your face will be oan ma plate.’

‘Do it, Unc!’

Leathermask slaps Cousin Inbred’s face. And not before time.

‘Can you get me aff the hook first? It’s a bit restricting.’

I’ve never been so happy to put my feet on the floor. What a shit life I’ve led. I give my uncle’s phone a long overdue wipe with a Kleenex and conjure the basis of my arguments against cannibalism and eating meat. It doesn’t take long before he’s flailing around insanely with his trusty chainsaw. This is what you call the proper motivation.

Watch me run through this wasteland with a chainsaw-wielding maniac and a meat hook-carrying cousin inches from my skinny posterior. Survival has a way of keeping you on your toes.

‘Where is he, Unc?’

I watch the chainsaw come down on Cousin Inbred’s troglodyte face. I consider myself a pacifist, which is difficult under the circumstances, but that was probably for the best. The last thing we needed was Cousin Inbred pro-creating and perpetuating that Habsburg jaw.

Uncle Leathermask goes sawing through hedges instead of walking around them and keeps looking for me, a flashlight attached to the saw illuminating the ground before him. Subtlety has never been the family’s strong suit. He’s just lucky we don’t have a neighbourhood watch, or else we’d have been rumbled a long time ago.

I can hear the mouth-breathing above the sputtering chainsaw. I’m Stranraer’s next corpse unless I become death, the destroyer of worlds.

‘Here, veggie veggie!’

This is Stranraer’s worst uncle at his playful, verbose best. He only gets talkative during the hunt; then he reverts to a Buddhist monk without the trivial pacifism. I know I can’t hide up this tree forever, especially when my uncle and my cousins are having a kickabout in the next few hours with the head of that last victim.

Uncle Leathermask sniffs the air right beneath me. The guy is half Pitbull, and I’m half bacon. My stomach does a double somersault dismount and completes a dodgy fart on landing. We make eye contact—so much blue, so much terror.

‘Come down, nephew!’ Like calling me nephew will make me forget he’s a serial killer armed with a chainsaw.

 

I naturally refuse, and he doesn’t take it too well. I listen to the hellish sounds of a tree-hugger’s nightmare as my abominable uncle sets about my favourite tree with a chainsaw. I am without choice. I pull granda’s Luger from my pocket and drop it. Shit. Uncle Leathermask’s demented laughing dies with the chainsaw meeting the tree. The tree wobbles and threatens to topple. It’s time to act. I leap towards the luger, and everything goes darker than Cousin Inbred’s internet history.

I come back online surrounded by mutilated…parts.

‘Dinnae try tae get aff this hook,’ Uncle Leathermask says. ‘Granda wants you tae keep the family goan.’

Granda’s been dead for a while, but it’s not beyond the realms that my uncle has a direct line to him in Hell.

‘But…’

‘But nuthin. If it were up tae me, you’d be stew, but you’re the pet project, and my granda wants you to be a cannibal come hell or high water.’

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John Tinney is a Glaswegian writer. You can find some of his work in 404 INK Literary Magazine, Every Day Fiction, Razur Cuts Magazine and other venues. Can be found on Twitter @johntinney888 and medium.com/@johntinney88