Richard G. Epstein
MY LIFE AS A SOWShort Story
The last thing I can remember is getting hoisted, the machines used to hoist me a lot, and being dipped into a vat of boiling water. Of course, at that point, I was already dead, at least according to the legal definition, so, perhaps I should start from the beginning instead of at the end.
The first thing I can remember is my tiny metallic pen, which is called a farrowing crate, and the machines, the ubiquitous machines, grinding away day and night. I remember faintly, when I was just a little piglet, how the machines used to descend into my pen, dispensing this tasty fluid from things that looked like rubber tubes.
From that very first memory until my untimely death, I never saw another being of my kind, another pig, close up. The only time I ever got to see other pigs was when they hoisted me, usually to take me to the platform, that I shall describe later. When they hoisted me I could see tiny pig pens arrayed in an endless pattern in every direction. Each pen contained a pig, insofar as I could tell. The pens extended as far as the eye could see. But, I never got to see the other pigs real close, because they always hoisted me up pretty high.
From the time that I first became aware of my existence until my final end I only saw two other mammals, other than the pigs who were my constant, if anonymous, companions. And I only saw these two exotic creatures for a briefest moment of time. I am not sure what they were, but they were peculiar in that they walked on two legs. They wore some kind of artificial coverings, but their skin seemed to be pink, like mine. But, more about that later.
Sometimes I wish I weren't so damn intelligent. Living in an environment like this, with all of those ubiquitous machines, one wonders what it's all about. I spent most of my lifetime wondering, what is this all about? I think the wondering only made my situation worse. It would have been better to just accept reality for what it is.
It became obvious to me that some kind of intelligence was behind it all. Only some kind of intelligence could have built all of those machines with their predictable behavior. There had to be some kind of intelligence behind all of this, but that didn't mean that my life had to have some kind of purpose. What was it all about? Why did I have this sad and boring existence?
I was confined to my farrowing crate, so I never got a chance to see what my legs could really do. They seemed to want to wander and go places, but the only time I got to go places was when I got hoisted.
Those machines used to hoist me a lot in order to take me to this platform that I mentioned. All of a sudden these metal arms would grab me around my torso. They would hoist me up and take me by means of an elevated system of conveyor belts to this platform. That's when I got to see the immensity of the space in which I lived, and the tens of thousands of pigs in this vast array of pens and farrowing crates.
They would hoist me and then place me on this platform that would shake back and forth a bit and then, after a few seconds, they would hoist me, yet again, and I would be on my way back to my farrowing crate. I haven't been able to figure out what that platform was about.
I did notice, however, that the amount of food that I received would sometimes change after I had been placed on that platform. Once, I deliberately tried to eat less from the slop that passed by in the moving trench in front of my pen. I mean, it's not healthy to put on too much weight. The next thing I knew, after I got hoisted, and after they placed me on that platform, they started to feed me with a vengeance. The machines caught me in their grip, opened my mouth with their metal jaws, and forced me to eat until I was much fatter than I had ever been before.
So, I decided not the play any games. Obviously, the intelligence that was behind my existence wanted me to get fat, for some reason unknown to me, and, out of a sense of duty, more than anything else, I decided to eat as much as I could from that point on. I just got fatter and fatter, but I never had to go through the humiliation of being force fed ever again.
When I had gotten quite large, something extraordinary happened. I was hoisted and this metal arm that had this funny looking device on its end, inserted itself into one of my private parts, one of those parts that I had always been rather shy about. Then, it squirted something into me and I have never been able to figure it out. As you can tell, there's a lot about my life that is really quite mysterious, when you get right down to it.
This happened to me seven times and I must say that by the fifth time, I had come to the conclusion that this procedure was getting old, but the machines, even though they obviously had intelligence, didn't seem to have much compassion or feeling.
In any event, almost like clockwork, several weeks after that machine would insert this fluid into me, this great commotion would start in my abdominal area. I would feel real sick, and the commotion down there would just get worse and worse week after week. Here's where the machines might have had a little compassion, because just about when I thought the pain was getting intolerable, they would hoist me and place this big metal basket under me and whatever it was within me that was causing all of the pain and the commotion in there would be expelled from by body and deposited in those metal baskets.
At about this time they started to hook up my teats to a kind of sucking device. I realized that my body was producing a fluid that the machines evidently needed in order to function properly.
It was just before the fourth time that I was hoisted in this manner, I mean the fourth time before I was injected with that fluid, that I saw these two erect pigs, the two exotic creatures that I mentioned before. One of them was almost six feet tall. He had dark hair and was wearing this blue artificial material. The other one was smaller, I would say about three and a half or four feet tall, and his hair was lighter. He was also wearing this blue material and gigantic yellow rubbery things on his feet. In fact, the larger one was also wearing big yellow rubbery things on his feet.
I was enthralled with these exotic looking creatures. Of course, I did not realize at that time that this would be my one and only encounter with their kind. But, what happened was I heard the smaller one ask the larger one, "Dad, is it true that this will all be mine some day?" Then, I heard the larger one tell the smaller one, "Son, it's time that you learned about the facts of life. It's time that you learned about the birds and the bees. Now, watch this!"
Which reminds me, that I do remember seeing a bird or two flying through the rafters of this huge space that we were in, but none ever came close enough for me to get a good look. I also saw a bee or two, but they didn't make much of an impression. But flies I do remember. They were all over and I remember them fondly, but before I tell you about the flies, let me finish the story about those two erect pigs that visited me.
Just seconds after the large one told the small one "Now, watch this!", I was hoisted and I got one of those injections. It was really humiliating. I'm not sure why, but there was something dehumanizing about it. The large one seemed to be explaining something to the smaller one, and the larger one kept on pointing in my direction. You should have seen the look on the smaller one's face. You would think that he had seen a ghost! Then, the two erect pigs just disappeared as suddenly as they had appeared.
Yes, but the flies provided me with the greatest pleasure that I had in my life - exercise. Exercise took the form of twitching my muscles so as to chase the flies away. I could do this for hours on end, sometimes to humorous effect. Afterwards, I felt so exhausted, but it was a good kind of exhaustion, if you know what I mean. So, I remember the flies fondly. If it weren't for the flies I don't think I would have enjoyed much pleasure in my life at all.
Of course, there was the river to contemplate. My holding pen had slats at the bottom so that when I relieved myself the urine and fecal matter would fall through the slats and splash into this immense river than ran under the space that we pigs lived in. This is the one thing that we pigs all had in common - the river than ran beneath us. It gave me comfort to think that some other pig could see this same river upstream, and some other pig could see it downstream. I am sure they felt the same way that I did. It gave us a sense of unity.
Sometimes I wondered where this great river of crud was going. It always moved in the same direction. It just seemed reasonable that it all had to end up somewhere, but my imagination just couldn't come up with any sensible explanation.
I never figured out the purpose of my existence, which is sad. The only truth that I knew for certain was that the machines wanted me to get fat, I mean real fat, so fat that it was uncomfortable. But why? Why should a machine care if I am fat or thin? I never figured it out.
Something about this whole pig business just isn't kosher.
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