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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

Farm Life
by Jerry W. Crews

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Bessie the cow silently chewed her cud as she watched the rest of the herd lazily approach for the morning grazing. She loved being with the other cows, especially at feeding time. Someone always had some juicy piece of gossip to share about life on the farm.

"Hello, ladies!" shouted Bessie as she struggled to keep her cud securely in her mouth. "The best grass is over here!"

"Well, good morning, Miss Bessie," replied Dorothy as she waddled over to her friend. "You'll never guess what I heard this morning."

"Girl, come over here and tell me all about it," laughed an eager Bessie.

"I don't know why you waste your time on such nonsense," snorted the cow named Gertrude. "The stories you girls tell are never true. It seems to me you'd have better manners than that."

"Oh look who's got their udder in a knot this morning," barked an irritated Dorothy. "You know you don't have to listen if you don't want to."

"That's right, Gertrude," agreed Bessie. "There's plenty of pasture elsewhere if you don't want our company."

"I didn't say I didn't want to listen," offered a chastised Gertrude. "I just said you ought to have better sense than tell some of the stories you do."

"Well, everyday I see you go over and tell that big Brahma bull the same stories that we've told you," bristled Dorothy.

"I'm only making conversation, that's all," puffed Gertrude. "He's a lonely bull and I'm just trying to cheer him up."

"Oh-hhh," laughed Dorothy and Bessie together. "Gertie's got a cru-ush! Gertie's got a cru-ush!"

"You two stop that now," ordered Gertrude. "If you're going to tell your story, Dorothy, then I suggest you start telling it."

"Well you'll never guess what I heard," started Dorothy as she cleared her throat. Bessie and Gertrude moved closer so they could hear every word.

"Now I have this from a very reliable source," whispered Dorothy as she glanced around to make sure no one else was listening. "I've been told that a certain cow has the hots for a certain Brahma bull!"

All three cows looked at each other for a moment. Finally, Bessie and Dorothy burst into the biggest laugh they had in weeks.

"Oh, you're just a riot!" fumed Gertrude. "I'll not put up with your silly ways anymore!"

With that she turned and trotted toward the barn. When the two cows begged her to come back she just held her head higher and kept walking.

"Well, you really got under her skin," observed Bessie as she watched Gertrude disappear behind a shed.

"Oh, she deserves it," declared Dorothy. "Sometimes I get tired of her high and mighty ways. The way she acts you'd think she was the Queen cow around here."

"She does have her moments," reflected Bessie. "But she's got a good heart."

"I know she does," agreed Dorothy. "But anyway, let me tell you what I really heard."

"Please, I've been waiting all morning," offered an anxious Bessie.

"The word around the stables is that more of us are moving out," declared Dorothy. "The Two Legs are getting all of us together and sending some away."

"Are you sure about this?" inquired Bessie.

"I'm as sure as I ever am," replied Dorothy. "They moved the horses to make room for all us cows."

"Well, I'm not too worried," assured Bessie. "The last two times the Two Legs sent some cows away, it wasn't any of us who had to go."

"Yeah, but that was when we were younger," protested Dorothy. "If you remember it's always been the older stock that leaves."

"And we are the older ones now," reflected Bessie. "You know, I've never paid much attention to the goings-on of the Two Legs."

"I haven't really done so either," confessed Dorothy. "But maybe we should have."

"It's just that they're always there in the background," mused Bessie. "I go for the longest time not even noticing them."

"Well, I think they definitely are looking at us," offered Dorothy. "Where do you think they'll send us?"

"I don't know," replied Bessie. "But I do know that no cow has ever come back."

"Maybe it's a bigger and greener pasture," mused Dorothy as she took a mouthful of grass.

"It could be," reflected Bessie. "Though I'd be hard pressed to think of any place that would better than this farm."

"Well they've got something planned," observed Dorothy.

"I wish I could talk with the Two Legs and find out what they're planning to do," mused Bessie. "I can't imagine them trying to harm us."

"I know," agreed Dorothy. "The times I've seen them they have always taken care of us. They've never tried to hurt us."

The two cows' conversation was cut short when Gertrude come trotting from the barn. She took a moment to catch her breath and then told Bessie and Dorothy that she had heard the most terrible news.

"That's right," offered Gertrude. "It's the talk of the barn. The Two Legs are sending us away to die!"

"I don't believe it," objected Bessie. "They would never do that."

"Who in the world is spreading such rumors?" questioned Dorothy.

"Well, I heard it from Max," declared Gertrude.

"Max?" shouted Bessie. "Why he's the biggest liar in the whole barn!"

"Why in the world would you believe a lying pig like him?" smirked a disgusted Dorothy. "He's as crooked as his tail!"

"Well, just because he's a pig doesn't mean he's not telling the truth," huffed Gertrude. "Besides, the chickens are backing up his story."

"How would they know?" smirked a doubtful Dorothy.

"Well, it seems that some of them were moved out, but for some reason, they were brought back," explained Gertrude.

"What does that prove?" gushed Bessie.

"It seems the ones that came back can tell stories of hearing chickens screaming in terror," revealed Gertrude. "One of them even claims to have seen the dead bodies!"

"I don't know about all this," mused Bessie. "Why would the Two Legs do that to us when they pretty much leave us alone on the farm?"

"I don't have an answer for that," offered Gertrude. "All I know is what Max and the chickens are saying."

"Yeah, but most of them are so gullible," reflected Bessie. "Though nobody can say for sure whether it's true or not."

"Well, I've made up my mind," declared Gertrude. "I'm going to leave."

"Leave?" responded a shocked Bessie. "Where could you go?"

"I'm going over the fence," offered a confident Gertrude. "I'll find another pasture where there's no Two Legs to bother me."

"Over the fence?" pondered Bessie. "I've never thought of going over the fence. The farm has always had what I needed."

"I know," agreed Dorothy. "We've got this big wide pasture."

"And the comforts of the barn," added Bessie. "Why would we want anything more?"

"Well, there's always something else out there," mused Gertrude as she looked off into the distance. "And I'm going to go out there and find another place."

"I just don't know," reflected Bessie.

"I know I can find a greener pasture," beamed a wishful Gertrude. "One that has apple trees, and pear trees, and all the hay I want to eat. A happy place where there are no Two Legs."

"We kinda have all that here," offered Bessie. "Except we've got Two Legs here."

"But haven't you ever wondered about what's on the other side of the fence?" asked a wistful Gertrude.

"I have many times," revealed Dorothy.

"I know I've felt like I was in a cage or something," offered Gertrude.

"I've never really had those kinds of feelings," remarked Bessie. "The only thing I've wished for is to be able to talk to the Two Legs."

"Well, I'm not going to be like some rat in a cage no more," declared Gertrude. "Tomorrow I'm going jump the fence and find a new farm. Are any of you with me?"

"I'm not going to try it," replied Bessie. "I'll take my chances here."

"And what about you, Dorothy?" inquired Gertrude.

"I really don't know," pondered Dorothy. "I think I'll wait and see if you make it. If you do, then I'll probably be right behind you."

"Well, you two do what you want," said a confident Gertrude. "But by this time tomorrow, I'm going to be on a new farm!"

With that said, Gertrude turned and trotted toward the barn swinging her tail with a newfound confidence. Bessie and Dorothy watched her disappear into the distance.

"I guess I have a lot of things to think about tonight," mused Dorothy. "I just don't know what to do."

"Please just don't do anything foolish," pleaded Bessie. "You're my best friend on the farm."

"Oh, I'll be careful," replied Dorothy. "Speaking of being careful, look at that storm coming our way."

"It does look like it's going to be a bad one," agreed Bessie.

"In that case, I'm going to head to the barn," revealed Dorothy as she turned to leave. "Are you coming?"

"I'm going to have to eat a little more," declared Bessie. "I've been talking so much I haven't ate enough. And you know how my stomachs get if I don't eat."

"Oh, yes, you're right," laughed Dorothy. "If your stomachs get to rumbling it'll keep half the barn awake all night."

"You go on and I'll be there in a little while," offered Bessie.

"OK. Just don't stay out too long in this storm," requested Dorothy as she was heading toward the safety of the barn.

Bessie started eating as fast as she could. The storm crept closer as she was finishing her meal. Out of nowhere a bolt of lightning struck nearby. Bessie let out a loud "moo" and backed under a large maple oak tree for shelter. Suddenly, the sky let loose with the heaviest rain she had seen in a long time. The wind started blowing at a fierce pace and before long large balls of hail were falling. Bessie was frightened and moved even closer to the tree hoping the leaves and limbs would protect her from the onslaught. She realized that she should have gone to the barn with Dorothy and the other cows. But now it was too late for that. Then, all of a sudden, the storm subsided just as quickly as it had formed. Bessie sighed with relief when the hail stopped and the wind died.

She was about to start toward the barn when another bolt of lightning came out of the sky, and this time, it struck the tree she was standing under. The lightning hit the tree like a giant ax and split it down the middle. Bessie screamed as loud as she could. The massive electrical charge ran through the tree and entered the ground spreading in all directions. She was in mid-scream when the charge hit her. The hair on her back stood on its end and she felt as if her hooves were on fire. With a violent shudder Bessie collapsed to the ground and lay motionless.

It seemed like hours before she gained enough sense about her to start breathing again. With a loud gasp she sucked in air as fast as she could. Her eyes were rolling around in her head and there was a loud ringing in her ears. Bessie shook her head trying to return her senses back to normal. With a grunt she raised her head and sat up while the world went spinning by in her head. Slowly, everything stopped gyrating and her eyes began to focus again. The ringing in her ears subsided and she raised herself to her feet. She looked at her hooves and saw little wisps of smoke rising from them. With a snort she shook herself and tried to walk. As she started to sway she stopped and tried to balance herself as she almost fell to her knees. Slowly and deliberately she staggered back to the barn. All the animals watched as she came inside the shed, but no one spoke to her. The rumor of cows being sent away to die had spread throughout the barn. An eerie silence of acceptance of the impending doom had settled upon everyone.

As the sun was setting in the west, Bessie positioned herself on the floor and closed her eyes to sleep. She hoped she would feel better in the morning. As she was drifting off to sleep she was startled to hear voices. Bessie opened her eyes and looked around the barn to see who was talking and disturbing her rest. All of her fellow animals were asleep, but yet, Bessie could clearly hear someone talking. She pulled herself to her feet and looked through the boards of the barn to find the ones talking when they should be sleeping. Bessie could not believe her eyes when she saw the Two Legs talking. There were two of them and she could clearly hear their words. Imagining this was a dream, she violently shook her head to wake herself. Not only could she hear the Two Legs speaking, but she was able to understand most of what they were saying. After recovering from the initial shock of what had happened, she leaned forward against the boards so she could hear what was being said.

Farmer Bob and his handyman Luke stopped near the barn. They continued their conversation that they had started in the house.

"I don't know, Boss," pondered Luke as he scratched his chin. "I still think you might want to go and see old Doc Henson. I'm sure he's got something in his black bag that would help you."

"Oh, I'm not too worried about it," reflected Farmer Bob. "After all, it only happens every once in a while."

"Yeah, but a fella shouldn't have to go around seeing things," offered Luke. "Before long he might get to feeling like he's gone crazy or something. Not to say that you're crazy, Boss!"

"Well, I'll tell you, Luke. There's been times when the feeling is so strong that I'd easily believe I've gone loony," laughed Farmer Bob. "I swear, this morning, I just kept seeing it out of the corner of my eye."

"And you couldn't make out what it was?" inquired Luke.

"No, not at all," revealed Farmer Bob. "The closest thing I can describe it to you is, like a moving shadow."

"Hmmm, that surely is strange," mused Luke.

"It's like I suddenly see out of the side of my eye a shadow moving," continued Farmer Bob. "I'll turn as quick as I can to catch a glimpse of it, but it's always gone when I do."

"That is just one of the weirdest things I have ever heard," reflected Luke. "I'm telling you, Boss, it ain't gonna hurt you none to go and get checked out. Better find what's wrong now instead of later."

"Well, ok, if it'll make you feel better," agreed Farmer Bob. "I'll go the day after tomorrow."

"Yeah, we're gonna be pretty busy tomorrow," observed Luke. "How many head you think we gonna ship out?"

"You gotta figure at least a couple hundred," declared Farmer Bob. "We've got all the cows we need locked up in the barn."

"We've done pretty good for a small farm," reflected Luke.

"Yeah, you're right, Luke," agreed Farmer Bob. "The only way we could have done more was to become one of them big cattle ranches. I just don't want to get that big. Too much work."

Bessie swallowed hard as her eyes grew big at what she was hearing.

"You know, Boss, I was thinking. Would it be OK if we kept one of them and butchered her here?" asked a hopeful Luke.

"Why, Luke, you looking forward to a nice juicy steak?" smiled Farmer Bob.

"Not only a nice juicy steak, Boss, but a great big whopping juicy steak," laughed Luke. "I've done got the cow picked out."

"All right then," declared Farmer Bob. "We might as well treat ourselves. We've done a lot of hard work this year, so a little party would be good for all the hands."

"A party would be good for me, too, Boss," smiled Luke.

"But first things first," demanded Farmer Bob. "We've got to get this herd to the slaughterhouse. After that, there'll be plenty of time to party down."

"No problem, Boss."

Bessie watched as the Two Legs moved away from the barn and out of hearing distance. A chill spread down her body as she slowly comprehended what had been said. She had not wanted to believe that the rumors could be true, but now she had heard it with her own ears. She lay down and tried to sleep, but all she could think of was what was going to happen when the sun came up. What could she do, if anything, to save herself and the rest of the herd from being sent to the slaughterhouse? Slowly, she drifted off to a fretful slumber.

Bessie was awakened by the sound of the rooster's crowing as the sun's first beams penetrated the darkness and filled the barn with light. She had hoped that something would happen and the morning would never come. Now she was faced with the possibility of this being her last day alive.

Farmer Bob, Luke and all the farm hands arrived shortly after sunrise and started assembling the fence and gates that would lead the livestock to the railroad trains and eventually to the meat packing plant. By midmorning they were ready to start loading the cattle onto the train. Luke and the farm hands started the cows moving through the gates until they reached the railroad where they were loaded onto individual cars. Farmer Bob supervised the operation and kept count of the head of cattle as they passed through the gates.

Luke came riding his horse up to Farmer Bob and interrupted the head count. "Sorry, Boss, but we've got a cow that tried to jump the fence," he explained as he jumped off his horse.

"Did she make it?" asked Farmer Bob.

"Halfway," laughed Luke. "The poor things straddling the fence with one half of her on one side and the other half on the other side."

"You think you can get her off without hurting her?" inquired Farmer Bob as he tried to pick up the head count again.

"Yeah, no problem," replied Luke. "Besides, this is the one I had picked out for our party."

"You sure picked a good one, didn't you?" laughed Farmer Bob. Their laughter was interrupted by a farm hand shouting at them.

"What did you say?" yelled Farmer Bob above the sound of the mooing cows.

"There's a cow that won't come out of her stall," replied the farm hand.

"Have you tried putting the feed bag on her?" asked Farmer Bob.

"Yeah, we did," came the reply. "She done laid down and we can't budge her!"

"All right, I'll take care of it," yelled Farmer Bob. He turned to Luke and said, "You go get that one off the fence and meet me in the barn. It'll probably take both of us to get this one on her feet."

Luke mounted his horse and rode off to bring the stray cow back. Farmer Bob made his way into the barn and came upon the stall where Bessie was lying. He tugged on her rope but she would not move. Farmer Bob tried to tempt her with some feed but Bessie had made up her mind that she was not going to get up on her feet. She knew if she stood up she was surely going to be made to march to the train cars. Though she did not fully understand everything that was happening she did realize that a trip to the train was a trip to her end.

"What's wrong with you girl?" asked a frustrated Farmer Bob. "You're not sick. Why won't you get up on your feet?"

Bessie continued lying on the stall's floor, looking at Farmer Bob and chewing her cud. Farmer Bob walked over to the barn door and grabbed a whip. He came back to Bessie's stall and raised the whip to strike her.

"I didn't want to have to do this girl," declared Farmer Bob. "But you've given me no choice."

"What-you-do, Two Legs?"

Farmer Bob stopped in mid-swing and looked to see who was talking to him. There was no one near him except the cow. He scratched his ear with his finger and slowly shook his head. Raising the whip again, he prepared to strike her.


With a perplexed look on his face, Farmer Bob dropped the whip to his side and again looked around to see who was talking. In the distance he saw Luke leading the stray cow back to her stall.

"What did you say, Luke?" yelled Farmer Bob.

"I ain't said nothing, Boss," Luke yelled back.

"I could have swore somebody was talking to me," explained Farmer Bob. "Now I'm hearing things, too!"

"You OK, Boss?" yelled a concerned Luke.

"Yeah, don't worry about it," replied Farmer Bob. "I'm gonna get this cow on her feet."

Farmer Bob turned his attention to Bessie and raised the whip again, "All right, you stubborn heifer, get on your feet!"


Farmer Bob slowly dropped the whip to the ground. With his mouth wide open in disbelief, he darted his eyes back and forth to see if anyone else was watching him and the cow. He was certain he saw the cow's mouth move as the words were spoken.

"Cow, were you talking to me?" asked an astonished Farmer Bob.

"Two Legs-not-kill-Bessie!"

"Your name is Bessie?" pondered Farmer Bob. "I never knew you had a name."

"Me-Bessie. You-Two Legs."

"Two Legs?!?"

"You-Two Legs-like-chicken."

"Hmmm, two Legs," smiled Farmer Bob. "Yeah, I guess that's right. I've got two legs. But most of the folks around here call me Farmer Bob."

"Farmer Bob-why-kill-Bessie?"

"I don't want to, I mean, uh, well, it's just something we do," stammered Farmer Bob. "It's just that we, uh, we need food."


"Yeah, well, no, not now," replied a perplexed Farmer Bob. "Uh, this is a cattle farm. That's what we do. I don't know how else to explain it. Besides, we stun you first, so you won't feel it when you, uh, well, die."

"Bessie-not-eat-Farmer Bob."

"Well, I guess that is true," pondered Farmer Bob as he scratched his chin. "I just always thought cows were too dumb to know what was happening."

"Farmer Bob-feed-Bessie."

"Yeah, that's true, too," agreed Farmer Bob. "We feed you and raise you until you're big enough to, uh, well, slaughter."


"Look! I'm not used to talking with a cow," explained Farmer Bob as he wiped the sweat from his brow. "You stay here in your stall. I've got to think this over."

Farmer Bob turned and in a half trot headed toward his house. "Leave that one in her stall," he muttered to Luke as he rushed by him. Bursting through the door of his home, he headed straight to the bathroom and filled the sink with water. His hands were shaking as he splashed the cool water onto his face. Closing his eyes he submerged his hands in the water and tried to relax as his thoughts ran wild. An alarm clock on the side of the basin, still plugged to the electrical outlet, slid off its pedestal and with a bang fell into the water. Farmer Bob shook violently as the electrical energy flowed through his body. It seemed forever before the breaker kicked out and stopped the tortuous flow. With a gasp, Farmer Bob buckled over and fell to the floor.

After a few minutes, he started regaining his senses and was able to finally raise to a sitting position. He smiled when he saw the heel of his boots smoking from the impact of the electricity. Slowly, he gathered himself and stood on his feet. With the ringing in his ears subsiding, he made his way to the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water.

The water felt good and helped cool his parched throat. As he was setting the glass down on the cabinet, out of the corner of his eye, he saw something move. Swiftly turning he came face to face with a shadow creature. It was one of the weirdest things Farmer Bob had ever seen. The creature looked exactly like a shadow on a wall. Only this shadow was definitely moving.

"Hey! Who, uh, what are you?" yelled Farmer Bob. At the sound of his voice, the shadow creature stopped moving and turned to look at Farmer Bob.

"You're talking!"

"That's right, I'm talking to you!" Farmer Bob said louder than he meant. "I keep seeing you in my house. What are you doing here?"

"Essence cannot talk. How can you?"

"I don't know nothing about no ‘Essence'," declared Farmer Bob. "But by God I can talk and I want to know what you're doing."

"This is my farm. You live on it."

"What do you mean this is your farm?" gasped Farmer Bob. "This is my farm and you're trespassing on it."

From outside the farmhouse came a loud crashing sound. The shadow creature was joined by two other shadows and they quickly moved out of the house. Farmer Bob followed them to the edge of the highway where an automobile had crashed into a power pole. The driver was staggering around outside the vehicle. In one swift moment, the shadow creatures attacked the driver, throwing him to the ground. While two of them held him down, the other one covered his face. Farmer Bob watched in horror as the young man struggled to breathe but could not find his breath with the shadow creature lying on him.

"Hey, let him go!" yelled Farmer Bob. The shadow creatures ignored his plea and before long, the young man ceased his struggle. One of the creatures reached inside the man and proceeded to extract a green aurora from him. Once the green had been fully pulled from the man, the shadow creature turned and rose into the sky. Another of the creatures turned and moved toward the farmhouse leaving one of the shadows with Farmer Bob and the corpse.

"What are you doing?" demanded an angry Farmer Bob.

"We're gathering Essence."

"Essence?" yelled Farmer Bob. "You killed that boy!"

"He was a stray. He refused to die in the crash."

"Yeah, he didn't die in the crash," exclaimed an exasperated Farmer Bob. "But you killed him anyway!"

"We needed the Essence for food."

"Wait a minute," said a startled Farmer Bob. "You eat that stuff?"

"Yes. That's why we have this farm."

"This is not your farm," bristled Farmer Bob. "This is my farm! You got this whole earth. You don't need my farm."

"Earth is a farm. This is Farm Earth."

"What?" cried Farmer Bob.

"We raise you on this farm so we can harvest Essence to feed our people on our home world."

"You eat us?" Farmer Bob asked in disbelief.

"That's what a farm is for. We feed you. We give you all that you need to live and when you're ready, then we harvest you."

"I can't believe it," pondered Farmer Bob. "I refuse to believe it."

"I am telling you the truth. Every year we harvest over fifty million Essences. To you it looks like an accident. Just like what happened with this Essence and his motor vehicle. We do it that way so you are more willing to accept death. Besides, it makes it easier to extract the Essence of life."

"Wait a minute," declared Farmer Bob. "I know for a fact that not everybody dies in some accident. Thousands of people die naturally or from old age."

"Yes, that is true. We need many of you to breed so we must let you live until you have replenished your population. Over the centuries we have continued to let you increase because we have to get this farm operating at its optimum level."

"So you kill some of us and let others die naturally?" muttered Farmer Bob.

"Actually, we kill all of you. If we did not you would live far longer than would be acceptable. We use all types of means to harvest you. Wars, famines, disease, violence, and yes, what you consider old age. As I said earlier, this helps you remain calm when it is your time to be harvested. If you could see what we were doing, you would be frightened so much at harvest time that it would ruin the purity of the Essence. We cannot allow that to happen."

Farmer Bob looked back at his farmhouse and then toward the barn. The reality of what he had learned left him cold to his bones.

"So, are you going to kill me?" asked a somber Farmer Bob.

"It is not your time."

"So, what's going stop me from warning all my people about what you're doing?" smirked Farmer Bob.

"They will not believe you."

The shadow creature turned and swiftly moved to the farmhouse. Farmer Bob stood looking at the lifeless body of the young man. He pulled a cell phone from his pocket and called 911 for assistance.

After giving the police an account of the accident, Farmer Bob hardly moved or spoke as the paramedics loaded the corpse into the ambulance and drove away. When the wrecker left with the crushed vehicle, Farmer Bob walked toward the barn. Bessie was standing in her stall munching on a stack of hay. At the sight of Farmer Bob walking toward her, she backed against the wall. He petted her on the forehead and then sat down on the floor. The two looked at each other without saying a word.

Finally, Farmer Bob broke the silence, "Bessie, life is a weird thing."


Farmer Bob burst out laughing, "I guess I like my farm, too. I'm like you. I really don't have much choice."

"Farmer Bob-kill-Bessie?"

"No, I'm not gonna kill you," replied Farmer Bob as he stared off into the distance. "But I have to be truthful with you. We're gonna keep eating cows. There's no way to stop it."


"Well, you go ahead and do that if you want to," observed Farmer Bob as he stood up on his feet. "They won't believe you."

Farmer Bob walked out of the barn as the sun was setting in the western sky. He knew that for him, nothing would ever be the same. Taking a long deep breath he slowly exhaled as he swatted a mosquito away from his arm. Night was quickly coming and before long it would give way to a new day. A totally different day. Yes, tomorrow would come. It would definitely be different for him and Bessie, and yet, it would still be just another day of farm life.

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