Jenny Truman’s family watched in horror, their dinners untouched, as News Channel 3 showed a video of a cow herd slowly circling one of their own. Their eyes were red and leaking as their thick black tongues slathered and foamed in anticipation.
Suddenly the herd charged the fallen Holstein, who disappeared in a mass of heaving bovine flesh. The sounds of ripping skin and violently cracking bones turned Jenny off her hamburger casserole. An udder slammed into the camera, leaving a long streak of blood and trailing flesh across the lens. Jenny's mother pressed a napkin to her mouth and ran for the bathroom. Jenny’s father lamented how this would all impact the beef industry. Luckily, the Truman’s were in the poultry business.
Jenny was feeding the chickens the next day when she saw Mrs. Patchet. The older woman was walking across the field that separated the two family farms. Jenny didn't pay much attention at first; Mrs. Patchet often visited their farm to swap recipes and town gossip with Jenny's mother. As Mrs. Patchet got closer, Jenny saw she was carrying Mr. Patchet in her arms. She worried that Mr. Patchet was sick, or maybe had a heart attack. Then she noticed that his bottom half missing.
“Hogs got him,” Mrs. Patchet groaned over Jenny's screams.
“Bit me bad,” Mr. Patchet moaned in agreement.
His intestines trailed along the front of his wife’s dress like a kite tail. As Mrs. Patchet advanced across the yard with her husband, bits of him were jostled out and fell to the dirt with a wet smack. Jenny wanted to run, but all she could do was keep screaming. When she saw her father came running out of the house with his shotgun, she nearly cried from relief. With two quick blasts, the Patchets’ heads burst like melons loaded with firecrackers.
“Don’t look, honey,” Jenny's father soothed.
He wrapped his arms tight around her and turned Jenny's head away. She didn’t have the heart to tell him it was too late.
Everything went to Hell after that. After pigs, the disease started showing up in sheep. Before long, all the farm animals were infested and turning on humans. The whole country had to go vegetarian, which made Jenny real sore. At only twelve years old, she wasn’t ready to give up hotdogs at ball games or her Uncle Travis’s barbecued ribs. Her mother told her not to be so ungrateful.
“What are you crying about,” she scolded. “Would you rather have good people being turned into zombies just so you can have sausage with your pancakes?”
Jenny figured her mother was right, and tried to get used to things. Thanks to a government grant, her family started growing vegetables. It didn’t pay as well as raising chicken but it sure smelled better. After a year it didn’t even feel so strange to be eating burgers made of flax seed and beans.
That next spring Jenny sat on the front porch and admired the crops planted around the house. Her father had been doing a great job with them; Jenny had never seen anything come up so fast. Sometimes she could swear she heard them growing at night. The farm was sure to make good money this year, maybe even enough to get that new bike.
Jenny crossed her fingers for luck and took another bite of her cucumber sandwich. As she chewed, she watched her baby brother chase fireflies in the yard. Even without meat, he was soft with baby fat. Jenny noticed with growing interest how his pudgy legs jiggled as he raced after the flickering insects. Licking her lips, she pushed herself up and went after him...
Natalie L. Sin is a horror writer living in the Midwest. She has been published in numerous online and print publications, including Necrotic Tissue, Tales of the Zombie War, The Monsters Next Door, and the Northern Haunts anthology (Shroud Publishing). Look for more Sin in the upcoming Zombology II and Devil's Food anthologies. When not writing, She enjoys strong coffee, Hong Kong movies, and Korean boy bands.