Chewed Up

My apologies. I have to go dark again.

I appreciate anyone under nineteen may not be able to understand how bad the Haircut was. Now that you can dispatch a turniphead in your back garden, and worry more about your roses than your mortality, it is hard to know why anyone cared. If you are reading this on one of the hundreds of planets without a hint of the undead, the feasibility of billions of casualties must be preposterous. Especially when even this amount of deaths is meaningless when compared to the size of the universe. There’s nothing new in thoughts like this.

We had someone in the bar last night who had been a co-pilot on one of the big grain ships. Now retired, he stopped in for a quick glass of vino before a trip across to the Scar to his holiday home.

He was happy to tell me his story. Only after he left did I realise I hadn’t got his name. But his tale sums up how bad the Haircut got.

‘We were shipping over two thousand tons of wheat. All checked and rechecked for parsnipheads, but that’s a hell of a lot of wheat to look through. Every so often you get a mangled head that managed to survive the process,and snuck through. Nothing too serious.

On that journey, we had seven. The odds of that astronomical.

Journey times were shorter in those days. We travelled without a pit stop for nine months. For all nine of those months, twenty fours hours a day, those heads are chewing. Not eating our charge, but crunching down on each kernel with their teeth, and swallowing down to a stomach that was not there. Those teeth gnashing in the dark all that time.

Upon arrival, we opened the container doors. Usually the most satisfying roar of cascading grain followed. This time a sodden, half masticated porridge splodged on the airlock floor.

About forty percent was salvageable. But who is going to take a chance on the rest?They had waited on that delivery for nine months. How does a planet that far out cope without grain?’

This is why we keep food under the floorboards. Settlers that far out knew they were in for a rough time, but they cannot have prepped for that.

I never take Buber for granted.

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