(or Where’s the Beef?)
Monday morning blur of reactionary tabloid headlines:
‘OBAMA PREPARES FOR WAR ON IRAN … US President Declares Last Straw for Ahmadinejad Regime …’
‘HUMAN-ANIMAL HYBRID EXPERIMENT MET WITH REVULSION … Officials and Public Alike Voice Disgust at Human-Cattle Embryos …’
Between vexed fingers my scissors yawn, steel jaws ravenous for mischief. Brittle newsprint pages yield like the Bill of Rights. Shifting the fragments out of sequence reveals alternative narratives latent and lurking:
‘WAR ON IRAN MET WITH REVULSION … OBAMA PREPARES EXPERIMENT ON Disgust at Ahmadinejad Regime … US President Declares IRAN Human-Cattle … Disgust at IRAN US President HYBRID Regime … HUMAN-ANIMAL Declares Last Straw for WAR ON REVULSION … OBAMA PREPARES Public FOR WAR EXPERIMENT … Human-Cattle Officials MET WITH Public … HYBRID President Declares Disgust at WAR … Last Straw FOR REVULSION … Last Straw FOR WAR Regime …’
Ink seeps blackly from mutilated pages. Black blood coalescing into cosmic effigies of crows; black eyes blacker than the hearts of burned out stars, ageless eyes surveying these narratives in their endless, repetitive permutations. Black scissor-beaks lash at the threads of time. Black wings have endured these drab skies before. Black talons will wrench new narratives from the wreckage. Erasing repetitions. Balancing the black ledgers. Smothering imperialist fires in black feathered flags. Corvid wingbeats thunder beyond time, maintaining the pulses of wild-eyed hybrid Angels …
Blood-stained cuttings pepper the collage of the universe. The Angels traverse the ever-fluctuating time tracks enmeshed there; sailing upon the winds of memory and dream; alighting on the wayward reveries of browbeaten labourers, the warm wet illicit fantasies of feverish adolescents, the jarring psycho-narratives of the institutionalised merging at crucial junctures, frontiers where information, techniques, equipment and weapons are exchanged …
Anti-hybrid campaigners can be heard through the vortex barking in the ugly Neanderthal voices of white supremacists: “What?! You mean this presents the possibility that my children, my descendents may turn out to be different from my good holy self?! By God, I just won’t allow it!”
The mission is referred to as Operation: Bovine X. Corvid infiltrators brave the rigid psyches of government agents and medical scientists, black wings strafing fortified encampments, the landscape cold and perilous.
Successful espionages are announced with full-throated chorus in the shells of industrial ruins, old forgotten nursery rhymes drifting upon cool remote estuaries …
There was a piper had a cow,
And he had naught to give her;
He pulled out his pipes and played her a tune,
And bade the cow consider.
The cow considered very well,
And gave the piper a penny,
And bade him play the other tune,
“Corn rigs are bonny.”
Bovine X has been smuggled through the impossible route of a billion torn time tracks. Bovine X is a biochemical viral agent containing the genetic formula for a successful Human-Cattle Hybrid. The formula is administered in the manner of an airborne virus, causing instant hybrid mutation upon contact with the human nervous system.
Heavy clouds mourn above bitter estuary air … Time regards itself morbidly in frozen river waters … Black squadrons fringe the horizon, corvid legions committed to garrisons of shadow …
This is the frontline. Battle formations drawn. The black ledger flipped open. Checks and balances commence … The heavy page flipping open at our first appointment …
February 18, 1998. The United States perches once more on the precarious edge of war with Iraq. The Clinton administration has expressly refused to entertain a peaceful resolution to the standoff. Dubious polls conducted by the mainstream media assert that public opinion is largely supportive of the President, albeit tentatively. Across the globe other heads of state and prominent political and cultural figures voice their opposition to the White House’s hard line, but their protests dissolve into empty air. As is to be expected, domestic reportage of the subject is conducted with a notable slant towards support for the government. Though a few voices of dissent are permitted, these are carefully screened and sheared down to minor soundbites devoid of context.
The Clinton administration has permitted CNN to arrange and broadcast a ‘Town Meeting’ at Ohio State University with the looming war its principal subject. The network has issued six thousand tickets for this ‘public’ event and has implemented a strict monitoring regime in order to avoid problematic contributions by dissenters. A meticulously devised affair, it is publicised as a chance to “include the public” in discussions of the Iraq crisis.
Enter the Secretary of State, the Defense Secretary, and the National Security Advisor. They are introduced with customary pomp, their participation described as a means to ‘clarify’ the administration’s official position on Iraq and to field predicted questions from a handpicked audience comprised mainly of government loyalists. This pantomime has been orchestrated to its minutest detail. There are to be no slip-ups, no surprises, nothing unforeseen.
Hybrid revolutionaries prowl among the public throng; young men and women with sharp intelligent faces and feral eyes softly glowing with an insurrectionist spark. Specially prepared capsules of Bovine X are tucked neatly into wallets, pockets, hairclips and wristbands. Each insurrectionist transmits their own peculiar animal scent; a low musk smell which invades the nostrils and tickles the taste buds of the crowd. The effect, almost subliminal at first, is one of primal arousal. Glands swell, skins prickle with electric anticipation, the hairs on the backs of necks standing rigid in gradually escalating hostility towards the podium until even the most forgiving of Clinton loyalists finds themselves entertaining thoughts of mutiny.
A few of them carry Dictaphones or voice recorders which they now activate, relaying recordings of vicious canine snarls and the wails of distressed cattle. These recordings are set at a frequency which bypasses the conscious ear and invades the nerve centres, setting the teeth on edge with aggression and anguish. By the time the speakers have approached the microphone, the crowd is abuzz with tension. A murmur of disquiet circulates the hall, swelling steadily until jeers and hoots of derision can be heard. Sporadic at first, these cries of discord soon increase in regularity and volume until the speakers are all but drowned out, their rehearsed responses falling flat and ineffectual against this spontaneous barrage. The government has been caught with its pants down on live television.
A clean-cut white man in a freshly pressed shirt and tie approaches the microphone. He is young and lean with alert intelligent eyes and an Ivy League air about him.
“I have a question for the Secretary of State.” The jeers and hoots fall hushed for a moment as the man’s voice echoes through the hall. “Why bomb Iraq when other countries have committed similar violations? Turkey for example has bombed Kurdish citizens. Saudi Arabia has tortured political and religious dissidents. Why does the US apply different standards of justice to these countries?”
The Secretary of State hesitates, her face contorting with the stricken expression of a chastened infant. She clears her throat and fumbles with the microphone, floundering gracelessly as she interrogates her ill-prepared wits for a suitable rejoinder. With her eventual response she delivers an unwitting signal to the assembled saboteurs. Her indignant tones mask the muted clicks as scores of capsules are broken between nimble fingers, sending imperceptible vapours of Bovine X drifting and curling among the crowd and up towards the podium. The concoction creeps into open mouths and nostrils, attaching itself to waiting nervous systems …
“Let me say that when there are problems such as you have described, we point them out and make very clear our opposition to them. But there is no-one who has done to his people or to his neighbours what Saddam Hussein has done or what he is thinking about doing…”An invisible haze of Bovine X enters the Secretary of State’s open mouth, its misty tendrils reaching in to attach themselves to nerves and neurons, precipitating mutation. “I think the record will show that Saddam Hussein has produced weapons of mass destruction which he is clearly not collecting for his own personal pleasure but in order to mmmmooooooooooo! …”
The woman’s composure disintegrates into shock and confusion. She brings an abrupt hand to her mouth, instinctively muting the deep animal noises erupting unconsciously from her throat. A quiescence falls over the crowd. Saboteurs snicker quietly into their complicit breasts.
The man in the white shirt grins widely and emits a loud “Mmmmmmooooooooooooo!” in return. Sections of the crowd begin to laugh wildly, sending a Mexican wave of joviality through the assembly. Many hoots and chuckles tail off into low bovine moans. The Secretary of State looks to her two colleagues. The men shrug, strained expressions and tense postures betraying their unease. The Defense Secretary scratches feverishly at the crown of his head with one clawed fist. Gathering herself, the Secretary of State clears her throat and endeavours to continue:
“The point is, Saddam is quantitatively and qualitatively different from every [cough] brutal dictator that has appeared recently and we are [cough, cough] very concerned about him specifically and what his plans mmmmooooooooooo-ight be.”
The man in the white shirt, eyes burning now with animal fire, leans back into the microphone. “What do you have to say about dictators in countries like Indonesia, whom we sell weapons to, yet they are slaughtering people in East Timor? What do you have to say about Israel, who is slaughtering Palestinians and has imposed martial law? What do you have to say about that?”
The crowd is now united behind the man in the white shirt, emanating a chorus of guttural hums from their mutating throats. The walls, ceiling and floors vibrate with the frequency which can be felt in the belly like a primordial command.
“Those are our allies. Why do we sell weapons to these countries? Why do we support them? Why do we bomb Iraq when they make similar problemmmmmoooooooooooooo!?”
The vast room erupts in cheers and bestial cries of triumph as the Secretary of State coughs into a handkerchief, attempting to muffle the cattle-like groans escaping involuntarily from her own lungs. The Defense Secretary tears at a spot on his scalp where a pointed ridge of bone can now be seen to protrude from the broken skin.
“There are various, uh … examples of [cough] things which are, uh … not [cough] not right in this world and the United [cough] States is trying …” The wild roar of the crowd drowns out this feeble rhetoric, but the Secretary of State struggles to continue. “I really am surprised that, uh … people [cough] feel it is necessary to defend Saddammmmooooooooooossein [cough] when what we ought to be thinking about is how to mmmmooooooooooo-ake sure that he does not develop weapons of mmmmooooooooooo-ass destruction …”
The white-shirted gentleman moves in for the kill.
“I am not defending Saddam Hussein. I’m not defending him in the least. What I’m saying is that there needs to be consistent application of US foreign policy. We cannot support people who are committing the same violations because they are political allies. That is not acceptable. We cannot violate UN resolutions when it is convenient to us! You are not answering my question, Madammmmmoooooooooooooooooooo!!”
The crowd roars and bellows, heavy stamping feet thundering upon the floor, eyes aglow with noble animal vigour. The Secretary of State, a desperate hand clamped around her pulsing throat, makes a final desperate attempt to preserve her authority as it slips hopelessly between her fingers.
“I suggest to you that you study carefully what American foreign policy is … [cough] what exactly we have said about the [cough] cases that you have mmmmmmooooooooooooo-entioned … [cough] I suggest … [cough] I suggest to you that …” She brings a hand to her forehead, mopping her brow of the ignominious sweat that has formed there.
Suddenly the Defense Secretary can be heard to emit a deep inhuman bleat as he stands caressing the stubby horns of bone which have materialised upon his crown. A swishing tail springs out from the pants of the National Security Advisor who reacts with detached surprise:
“My … now that’s a doozy.”
A dark nugget of manure plummets from between his legs to form a steaming dumpling at his feet.
The Secretary of State labours to continue.
“I suggest to you that …” A long, broad bovine tongue emerges from within her open mouth to lick the stinging sweat from her cheeks as the stony expression collapses and a wild honesty illuminates the eyes, “I suggest to you that it is all a sham! A sham! The entire case for war is a charade, a fraud! Stop us! For the love of god, overthrow us and bring some decency to the world! Stop the façade! I tell you the whole thing’s a shammmmmmooooooooooooooooo!!!!!”
This declaration is transmitted through CNN cameras and beamed across the TV screens of the world. Networks tremble and mainframes fizzle and spark. A phosphorescent glow lights up the dreary skies … Animal bleats and yells resounding from the cities, plains and deserts … Stars quiver and twist into luminous hieroglyphics, the declaration banner of a hybrid world free from time …
The repressive police states of the world strike at the bovine revolution with inexorable viciousness. From remote slate skies corvid eyes survey the violence unfolding; flames flashing mutedly in disparate corners of the planet like the blasts of a welder’s torch glimpsed through foundry smoke.
Desperate voices in the Pentagon and MI5:
“The threat posed by universal mutation is quite severe. Within a short time we could see the whole populace adopting the psychological impulses of cattle.”
“Meaning what exactly?”
“Well, we’d see an increase in individuals turning their attention from external trifles, reassessing their values to focus instead on a more measured and rational outlook.”
“What?! We can’t have people minding their own damn business like that. How on earth will they be coerced into distrusting their fellow man and ratting on their neighbours, goddammit?! This whole development poses a monumental threat to the American way of life! We cannot allow this sickness to spread. We must be prepared to make heavy sacrifices if we are to prevent falling into a world carved in the image of stinking fucking cows!”
BRITISH PRIME MINISTER:
“Cattle … Of all the creatures. So damn docile … so instinctively autonomous.”
BRITISH DEFENCE SECRETARY:
“My God, can you imagine such horror?”
“I want the former Secretary of State and the rest of the infected rounded up and sent to the abattoir immediately. We’re taking no chances here!”
Previously unrealised levels of tolerance and progressive ideas sweep the populations of the developed world. Riot police engage pro-bovine dissidents in street battles. Those expected of possessing bovine DNA are annexed to offshore farms where international standards of humane treatment do not apply.
BRITISH HOME SECRETARY:
“I am tired of these perpetual calls by bleeding heart liberals for us to adhere to the Geneva Convention. Firstly, these subjects are livestock and nothing more. Each one is no more a prisoner than your own pet guinea pig. Where there is no humanity, there shall be no recognition of human rights.”
On the streets of London, armed police offers are ordered to shoot on sight those of the slightest bovine appearance. The blood of civilians stains pavements, concourses and tube trains.
AMBITIOUS GOVERNMENT MINISTER:
“I didn’t get where I am today by turning my back on a lucrative opportunity. Four ministerial positions I’ve worked my way through in as many years and each one has been a valuable stepping stone towards cabinet. Why you can see my work everywhere; in the increasingly privatised healthcare system; in the government’s freshly draconian policies towards the unemployed; in newly imposed conditions to make those council house-dwelling cattle a little more thankful for the privilege of a bloody barn roof over their heads! Every problem this noble government faces is but an opportunity for me … I mean for the country to exploit, and this current bovine crisis is no exception. I hereby announce a new government project devised in tandem with the leading multinational fast food chains which shall see an effective depletion of the bovine population while also producing an increased supply of meat goods for our friendly corporate partners. I shall establish a network of Metropolitan Slaughter Squads charged with the task of taking down these vile beasts and delivering the meat to our compliant friends in the fast food industry. I think we can all agree that this is a fair and reasonable way forward, and also offers a much-needed boost to our economy. Our financial sector’s bonuses have to come from somewhere. If people wish to maintain their right to mutate then they must also expect to serve society responsibly as a source of nutrition. It is what I like to call a ‘something-for-something culture’. Now fetch me a gunsmith, I’d like to discuss my own custom-designed slaughter tool …”
Battles rage as the mutation floods and transforms the landscape as inexorably as an oil spill. With research into a vaccine for the airborne virus proving fruitless, the authorities soon find rising pro-bovine dissent within their own ranks.
METROPLOLITAN POLICE COMMISSIONER:
“It is us or them, kill or be killed … You think I’m exaggerating the threat?”
HIGH PROFILE NETWORK NEWS REPORTER:
“I think there is no threat!”
Throng of TV journalists and newspaper hacks united in animal roars of protest. The Commissioner is drowned out in the din, his screams of rage muffled as the reporters strip his helpless form of uniform and badge.
“Our choice is a terrible one but clear. Either we find a way to reverse this mutation or we take out this whole shithouse in a nuke blast.”
“Well a goodly patriotic sort like myself has no issue with that. If saving my country means taking it and the rest of the world out in a mushroom cloud, I’ll gladly sign up. Just give me five for a last ditch jack-off over Old Glory and I’m good to go, Jack.”
“You cannot destroy the animals! The newly United Women of the World will not allow it!”
“You make me sick, Doctor!”
AUSTRALIAN MEDIA ENTREPRENEUR AND UBIQUITOUS TYCOON:
“Mister President, we cannot limit or end biologic experimentation, it is one of the biggest industries on Planet Neolibera. It would surely bring ruin to our social and financial system.”
“That’s a small disaster compared to what might come … A reign of tranquillity and agenda-free honesty under the cattle … And that time is almost here!”
As Bovine X rides the air above each town and city, the symptoms of mutation vary widely in intensity and character. While certain subjects succumb immediately to physical transformations, in others the changes begin more subtly with shifts in temperament and character towards openness and transparent sincerity.
INTERNATIONAL SPORTING SUPERSTAR:
“When shall we get married, honey?”
“As soon as we can … What’s the matter, dear?”
INTERNATIONAL SPORTING SUPERSTAR:
“I … I don’t know. I just feel … there’s something you should know.”
“Well don’t keep me in suspenders, my dear. Although the whole world knows how good I look in those …”
INTERNATIONAL SPORTING SUPERSTAR:
“See, the thing is … I don’t love you. Actually I couldn’t give a spare ten grand for your anorexic hide. But it’s the game, sweetheart, and we’re both players. A big shot like me has to be photographed with some high profile skirt on his arm. Might as well be you.”
“You beast! How could you?”
INTERNATIONAL SPORTING SUPERSTAR:
“Relax, baby. We’re both in it to win it. At least your mug was the one HELLO and OK splashed all over their red carpet specials, which is more than can be said for the bevy of musty sluts I’ve been hosing behind your bony back.”
Exasperated woman at the confessional booth.
“Speak, my child.”
PRIM MIDDLE CLASS HOUSEWIFE:
“Forgive me Father for I have sinned. I did the most ghastly thing, something a parent should never do … I told my little boys that there is no Santa Claus.”
“Well my dear, that is indeed a sin. But I’m sure …”
PRIM MIDDLE CLASS HOUSEWIFE:
“But that’s not all! I even told them that the Bible is a book of fairy stories, inferior in every respect to those collected by the Grimms. And I told them that there is no god and that the only reason I make us attend Mass is due to my own insecurity about being an utterly ineffectual human being who is so empty, so possessed by self-loathing, and so utterly terrified of taking responsibility for my own life that I’d rather offload it into the arms of a fictitious sky-daddy!”
“Oh cheer up, love. Could be worse. I’ve knuckled off some downright immaculate erections to both your boys at least a hundred times apiece, which I’m sure makes this rather an awkward moment for both of us, hmm?”
This wave of honesty storms the commercial centres and financial institutions of the planet. Garish billboards harangue the landscape with revolutionary advertising slogans;
“This product is of an acceptably average standard!”
“This is, all things considered, a thoroughly adequate sanitary towel!”
“A toilet paper fully capable of enhancing rectal hygiene … with a slight possibility of chafing for those with sensitive skin!”
“You are of course paying for the car, not the sexy young model who, frankly, would be unlikely to take a second glance at your flabby, grey-haired carcass so tragically entrenched in its laughable midlife crisis!”…
Incidents of public violence become increasingly sporadic before finally sputtering out completely. The repressive administrations and institutions of the planet crumble from within. Dictators and despots announce free elections. New political parties emerge, urging the populace; “Do not vote for us. Govern yourselves. Chew the cud. Or not. The choice is yours.”
In a modest ceremony the first bovine President of the United States is sworn in. The dark-suited figure approaches the podium; huge misshapen head swaying heavily above the starched collar, dark eyes awash with a dreamy nobility, the immaculate horns reflecting fathomless blue skies. On television screens across the planet an audience of billions watches eagerly as the President leans into the microphone to deliver the declaration of a new world order:
From the roof of the vine-enshrouded, moss-grown White House a dark squadron of crows soars in arrowhead formation, black wings beating to the rhythm of revolutionary anthems, feathers encoded with glad tidings for the Angels.
Checks and balances continue … The heavy page flipping open at our next appointment …
– Craig Woods