To say I grew up wishing I had never been born would be an understatement. I bore an unfathomable hatred towards my parents for bringing me into this wretched world. How could two people be so utterly negligent as to bring another tiny, insignificant life into existence, knowing full well what kind of tortured fate awaited. It was fucking irresponsible.
My attitude changed when I fell in love. For the first time, I came to recognize the value of even the most fleeting moment of happiness in such a cruel world. Every instant shared together was cherished. I felt like I understood something about the meaning of life.
Then there we were, side by side atop a podium, my husband standing taller than anyone in the room (in spirit, at least) and making a case for our lives and all the while I was starting to think I had been right after all. Life was overrated and my parents were ass holes.
“Mr. Chapman,” boomed the voice of Jacob Fitzgerald, a dashing man with salt and pepper hair, from where he leaned casually against the table of board members. “While that was quite a riveting speech, I’m sorry to say I’m not sure I see the relevance. After all, this hearing is about a breach in your contract, yet you seemed to have to turned it into a sermon about Micken rights.”
The table of board members chuckled. I glared at them. Thomas, though, never so much as flinched. He took a defiant step towards the microphone over our head, bent down as far as it would go to pick up our voices.
“This has always been about Micken rights. Gentlemen, you have before you the terms of the original contract, plus the additions made. You can see for yourselves that, given the circumstances, they were quite impossible to fulfill.”
Mr. Fitzgerald pushed himself off the desk and wagged his finger, a small smirk playing across his thin lips. “Now, now, Mr. Chapman, don’t blame the contract. After all, my company provided you and your wife safe housing, a steady income, and access to a fully enclosed Micken community, all we asked for in return was the monthly fee that we had agreed upon. It is not the fault of my company if you did not make it your priority to uphold your end of the agreement.”
“It was also your company that set the pay and the work hours. My pay stubs, as well as my wife’s, are all accounted for. As you can see, given the salary and the amount of hours we were given, it was made mathematically impossible for us to cover rent, utilities, plus the added expenses that were never disclosed in the original contract.”
Mr. Fitzgerald put the palms of his hands together. “The added expenses contribute to the safety of the community. A safety that you inarguably benefit from, if I’m not mistaken. Are you implying that you do not think you and your wife should have to pay for such measures?”
By ‘safety’, he meant that no unauthorized human could enter. But as an added precaution to our wellbeing, no unauthorized Micken could leave, either. Thomas recited the rebuttal he had meticulously rehearsed over the last couple of months, but I knew it was pointless. The outcome of this hearing was decided before we’d ever even signed the damn contract.
It had seemed like paradise. A closed off Micken community under the protection of esteemed businessman Jacob Fitzgerald. We believed in Mr. Fitzgerald. After all, he was one of the main humans in favor for the Micken rights protection act, that Mickens should neither be kept as slaves, nor subject to willful acts of cruelty… except as a punishment for crime. See, it’s quite obvious now that Mr.Fitzgerald had no interest in the welfare of Micken lives. He was simply a very clever business man. By banning dealership of Mickens, while putting in place an organized system that simultaneously exploited Micken labor and incriminated us for future indictment, Mr. Fitzgerald single handily monopolized the entire industry within five years.
We stood quietly, holding each other's hands, as the verdict was delivered. Neither Thomas nor I were surprised when we were found guilty.
“Now I’m not an unfair man,” Mr. Fitzgerald said. “Just one of you shall be penalized, the other is free to go back to work. I don’t see how your sentence can’t be rectified once your debt is paid.”
“Take me, then,” Thomas said.
“That’s very noble of you, Mr. Chapman. Very noble. However, a young, strong man like you… your abilities would be stronger utilized back in the factory, I think. Wouldn’t you rather get to work to get those bills paid off as soon as possible?”
We’d been prepared for this, as well. Female Micken were twenty times the value of males on the market. Since residents of the Micken community had started getting summoned for one bullshit violation after another, the females had been disproportionately rounded up.
Thomas’s hand squeezed mine in a death grip. Although it was too contained for anyone else to notice, I could feel he was shaking. I glanced at him in the corner of my eye, trying to take in everything about him. His chestnut hair, his warm brown eyes that were currently staring straight ahead at the room full of humans that saw us as nothing. I mourned the fact that I would never hear his laugh again.
“Mrs. Chapman,” Mr. Fitzgerald said. “I’ve got a bit more business to finish up here, but if you would be so kind as to accompany my associate, Ms. Green, here, back to my office, I’ll join you there, shortly.
Ms. Green, a statuesque, blonde woman in a tailored blue pencil skirt and blazer, walked towards the podium.
Thomas was shaking even harder now.
“Look at me Thomas,” I whispered.
Thomas turned. His lip was quivering. I pulled him into a hug. He let out a small sob, small enough that they would not notice; we’d vowed never to let them see us break. He wrapped his arms around me and pulled me into him.
“Get out of that place,” I whispered in his ear. “Please. Find a way out.”
Thomas nodded. “And you. Escape, again, the first chance you get. Meet me in the place we should have gone. We will see eachother again.”
“I love you, Thomas Chapman.”
“I love you, Olivia Chapman.”
“How touching,” Ms. Green said nastily. She’d arrived at the podium and looked down at us with a disgustingly sweet, faux smile.
As I turned to meet my fate, Thomas pulled me back and kissed me one last time. It was only broken when two long, manicured nails, each bigger than my entire body, pinched around the back of my dress and pulled me backwards. “Alright, I haven’t got all day,” Ms. Green snapped. She lifted up on the back of my dress, the fabric digging into my neck and armpits, until my feet left the podium. Dangling me at waist level, Ms. Green swiftly turned to walk away. Between the swaying of her massive hips, I got one last glance of my husband, standing alone on the podium and glaring defiantly into the room around him. I tried to capture his image in my mind like a photograph. Something to hold on to, knowing full well I would never see him again.
* * *
The wailing was driving me crazy. The bastard had been scampering around every corner of the cage like a terrified rabbit since I’d been shoved in here. He’d only just fallen to his knees and had since taken to screaming to God to spare us all.
Meanwhile, some other idiot stood over him with a hand on his shoulder, babbling about the sin of Micken and the righteousness of being cleansed at the hands of humans or some shit.
“Rejoice, my brother, for we are blessed!”
“Blessed? Blessed?! For God sake’s, we’re all going to fucking die, man!”
There were about fifteen of us crammed into the cage on Mr. Fizgerald’s desk, so far. Every 20 minutes or so, Ms. Green would enter and shove another doomed soul in with us. I was one of just three females. One sat in a corner by herself, a blank expression on her face. She appeared to be about my age, maybe younger. She might have been quite pretty in another life, and probably very valuable if not for a gruesome scar that split across her face. Her right arm had been torn off at the shoulder, rendering her pretty much worthless. The only thing worse than being sold into slavery was having no worth, whatsoever. The other was a small girl of about ten who seemed to have a couple of screws loose. She kept trying to snuggle up next to me, touching my cheek and, whispering, “Mommy.”
“Would you get out of here, kid?” I finally snapped, shoving her away from me. “I’m not your damn Mommy.” The girl stumbled and plopped down on the ground, burying her face in her knees. It was cruel of me. But I was in a pretty fucking sour mood and didn't have it in me to offer this little tragedy any sympathy. If she hadn't been such a downer I might have welcomed her warmth. They'd made us all strip naked and I was freezing my tits off sitting against the icy metal bar of the cage.
There were 18 of us in total by the time Mr. Fitzgerald came in, followed by Ms. Green typing into an iPad.
Mr. Fitzgerald clapped his hands together, rubbing them up and down. “Alrighty my little friends,” he said, pleasantly. “Thank you all for waiting! Now then, let’s get started with the appraisal, shall we?”
Ms. Green unlatched the cage door. “Out,” she snapped, smacking her hand against the side wall and sending a loud ringing across the bars that caused half of us to throw our hands over our ears.
We filed out one by one and stood in a line along the edge of Mr. Fitzgerald’s desk. I stood between the wailer on my left and a tall black teenage boy on my right. The wailer had quieted down with the arrival of the humans, but he was still shaking like a frightened chihuahua. The two humans towered over us.
“Hmm,” Mr. Fitzgerald said, tapping his chin, thoughtfully. “Not a bad hall.”
“This is the sorriest lot of dumb shits I've ever seen,” Ms. Green said.
“Oh, don't listen to her,” he told us, waving his hand in her direction. “She says that about every batch. You're all going to make me a lot of money.”
They started down on the left end, with a stubby little man whom I’d seen earlier that morning, before the trials started.
“Number 3127, Age 26,” Ms. Green read off the IPad screen. “Previously owned by a Donald Lutz at Lutz Bakery. No wonder he’s such a little fat ass.”
“A Bakery! Good lord what could he possibly have done there?”
“He decorated the cakes.”
“Hmm, fascinating. We can market that. Mark him down for sales, hyphen, cake decorator, hyphen... artist!”
Ms. Green typed away in the iPad and the two of them moved on to the next in line, the one armed girl.
“Yikes,” Mr. Fitzgerald said. “What in christ happened to this one?”
“Number 5298, Age 19. Previously a family pet.”
Mr. Fitzgerald clicked his tongue. “Pity. What the hell am I supposed to do with her in this state.”
“Should I put her down for the breeders? Or Micke-O?” Ms. Green asked. I suppressed a shiver. Miche-O sold Micken for consumption.
Mr. Fitzgerald tapped his chin. “I just hate to see a young female go to waste. Let's bookmark this one. Surely there's some… Specialty organization that would see the value in a one-armed Micka.”
They slowly moved down the line.
When it was my turn, Mr. Fitzgerald lit up. “Oh, I remember this one from the trial. Promising, very promising.”
“Number 6754, Age 24. Unregistered until age 8. Relocated as a third grade class pet for two years before she goes missing and is presumed dead. She's found at age 13, sold as a family pet. Then, get this, three years later the house burns down in a fire.
“There are no survivors, she's once again pronounced dead. She disappears for six years until the passing of the Micken Rights Protection Act, when she applies for housing with your company… And a marriage certificate with Number 3549.”
I felt a pang in the pit of my stomach at the mention of my husband. It was so bizarre to hear the events of my life read off in such a casual couple of sentences.
Mr. Fitzgerald rubbed his chin.
“Hmm, that is quite a colorful history. But such a stunning little thing, isn’t she? Those big green eyes, you could just melt.”
Mr. Fitzgerald’s gargantuan index fingers lowered down to stroke my hair. I suppressed the urge to recoil. Hatred coursed through my body at being assessed like a prized poodle.
“But what are those markings on her side?”
“Looks like a tattoo.”
Mr. Fizgerald leaned closer, his face hovering over all of us, larger than a five story building.
“What is it? A number three?”
Ms. Green pulled a small magnifying glass from her pocket and knelt down close. Her eye, already as tall as my whole body, appeared magnified to three times it's normal size through the lens. I could make out every detail, like blue mountain ranges being sucked into a black hole.
The tip of a long, manicured nail wedged under my right arm, lifting it up to a 90 degree angle. I held it there as she ran the tip of her nail down the length of my torso.
“No wait,” She was so close that her putrid, coffee and yogurt scented breath wafted over us like a hot wind. “They’re scars.”
“What a strange shape, I wonder what could have caused them,” Mr. Fitzgerald continued. “Shame. She was nearly perfect. Still, bookmark this one, too, I think I know just what to do with her.”
Ms. Green’s giant eye began to ascend back into the heavens. But before she could stand all the way up, the Micken on the other side of the wailer suddenly fell to his knees.“Oh mighty Gods!” He hollered. “We are at your command!”
In the corner my eye I saw the kid on my right start turn to and I gave my head a tiny shake, loosely translated to, You just keep your eyes forward, now, and pay no heed to the dead man.
The humans turned their attention to the little idiot on his knees.
“Did you hear that, Ms. Green?” Mr. Fitzgerald said. “See how eager they are to please?”
“Nobody likes a suck up, Jake,” she said. “And wouldn't Goddess be more appropriate?”
“Please, my Goddess, I meant no offense!” The dead man crawled on hands and knees towards the towering woman. “How can I serve you?!”
“See, Susan, he just wants to make you happy,” Mr. Fitzgerald said, nudging Ms. Green with his elbow. “What kind of Goddess would you be to refuse?”
Ms. Green shot him a look, then shifted her gaze back to the little grovelling idiot. She bent down before the desk, so that her face took up our entire range of vision, nearly as wide as the whole row of 18 of us.
“All right you little insect,” she said, so close that her voice sent violent vibrations against my eardrums. Her mouth was directly in front of the dead man, but I was close enough to him that I was level with her molars. My heart pounded but I fought the instinct to back away.
“Go on,” she continued. “Worship me.”
“Yes, my Goddess!” The idiot sounded positively gleeful. “Of course my queen! How may I please you?”
The two giants exchanged amused glances. Mr. Fitzgerald chuckled darkly.
“I want to relish your good reverence.” Ms. Green said.
With that, Ms. Green’s mouth opened wide before us. Thick strands of saliva hung down from the cavernous roof and between her teeth. We could see all the way down her gullet to the back of her throat. The dead man froze. Perhaps this was not what he had in mind.
“Come on, hurry up,” Ms. Green said when he did not more. A hand arced over us and one of her giant nails nudged him forward. “Just a little taste.”
I don’t know if, at some point, the poor dumb fuck realized what was going to happen to him, because once he got shakily to his feet and walked, as if in a trance, towards the gaping maw, I could no longer see his face to see if his delight had turned to horror. Who knows, maybe the idiot wanted to be eaten.
As soon as he climbed over her bottom row of teeth, Ms. Green slowly brought her lips together. She did not bother chewing, but instead, tilted her head back slightly, and swallowed him whole with an audible ‘Gulp’. We watched in silence as her throat muscles stretched and shifted.
Ms. Green ran a tongue along her lips.
“Was his worship to your satisfaction?” Mr. Fitzgerald asked from out of site, somewhere above.
“Hardly,” she said and looked over the reft of us, down to 17. “Anyone else want to join him?”
When no one volunteered, Mr. Fitzgerald said, “Alright, Ms. Green, enough playing around. Let’s get through the rest of these before lunch. You got your snack but I’m still starving.”
Ms. Green rose back to her full height and the two giants moved on to the teenager on my other side: “Number 7154, age 15…”
I don’t recall much of the appraisal after that. The whole time they spoke, I couldn’t seem to keep my eyes off of Ms. Green’s stomach, looming above our heads. Had the man passed out yet, or was he still alive in there? Was he screaming in agony? Or relishing in the pit of fiery hellfire while his sins melted away, along with his flesh.