Something flickered at the edge of Phils vision, a shadow whipping past. He snapped around to stare at the machinery behind him, but beyond the wire grille there was only black.
Sliding off his stool, he worked around the mammoth metal to look behind.
The cow at the trough hadn't moved. It stood in a languid state, it's head resting in the bales of hay, not aware of where it was.
It's tongue lolled gently from one corner of its mouth.
Phil reached out to stroke the cow, his hand gliding down its soft, cold skin.
Looking past its head he could see its stomach had been split from throat to sternum. The sack of organs and guts still hung from the inside of the poor creature, awaiting removal.
Breathing shallow through his nose, Phil tried to mask the rotten stench of offal, blood and shit that permeated the stall, but to no avail. His nose was filled with the scent of death.
Guiding his hand down the cows neck, Phil felt an unexpected wave of sympathy wash over him. It may have been his job and someone had to do it, but it didn't help him sleep at night.
Putting his forehead on the side of the cows head he whispered "gods speed".
"you looking for God in the wrong place fleshbag"
Phil jumped at the voice, glancing around there was no-one there. Turning back to the cow Phil watched as one of the stomachs escaped the organ sack and slapped wetly onto the ground underneath.
"trying to figure out how I work boy?"
Phil took a step back and looked past the cow. There was nothing there.
"I'm here fleshbag, look at me, look at what you've done"
Phils face paled as he watched the cows jaw move to create the words he was hearing.
"what did I ever do to you meatball? Why would you hurt me like this?"
"this can't be real, it can't be true" Phil whispered as he stepped back into the machinery behind him.
"it's true bloodsack, it's real."
"but how? Why?"
"you killed me! Ripped me open and left me hanging here to die. I was still breathing when you walked away you fucker"
"but you're dead, and you're a cow!"
"and you killed me. It's time for you to reap what you sow. I have a gift for you Phil"
"a gift? From a dead cow? What the fuck is going on here?"
"the gift of killing Phil. All day long you blow our brains out and get us with your cruel curved knives. For you it's a job, but for us it's the end. We see its coming, we try to avoid it where we can but in the end we must all go the diamond pasture in the sky. But before I leave I want you to know what we know and feel what we feel"
"what do you mean?" Phil stepped towards the cow.
"we want you to be the killer you are. We can't control out future but we can yours. This isn't a gift of flesh or leather. This is a gift of bovine anger, our internal turmoil you were unaware of."
"but I don't want it" Phil stammered
"Killing is an act of self-realization Phil, it shows a man his true nature, and when you know this, fleshbag, the petty world they tie you to flakes away, and your true self is revealed"
"you do not get a choice in this Phil. Your path has been chosen. Accept it"
"no" Phil screamed as he turned to run, slipping on a pool of blood he fell and cracked his head off the trough.
"now is your time meatball, and out time for retribution"
The cows head lowered until it was over Phils shallow breathing mouth. It's neck started to convulse and throb. If the cow was alive it would have been hacking and coughing, but instead it's throat heaved in a hypnotic rhythm. A deep red clot rolled over the cows lolling tongue, slurping and slapping it's way down its length. Reaching the end it made the small drop into Phils mouth with a dull thud. Slipping past his teeth it worked it's way deep into Phils throat.
Phils body twitched and spasmed as the clot worked it's way deep into his system.
Sitting bolt upright Phil gagged and choked as it wormed into his nerves.
His eyes glazed as his face went from pale white to a dark purple.
A blank expression crossed his face. Phil stood slowly, as if his legs weren't his own. Standing, he turned to face the cow.
"good meatball." the cow slurred "now go! Kill our murderers. Be my hand of vengeance"
Picking a curved, serrated gutting knife off the magnetic block on the wall, Phil walked out the door and off into the slaughterhouse. The screams followed soon after.
"delicious" the cow whispered as it's head lolled back to its chest.