My considerable belly sat empty and complained loudly. For the fifth time, I opened my desk file drawer, which I use to hold my lunch instead of files. Nope, still empty…like my gut.
Another sigh of frustration and it’s off to the vending machine. I have to cross the building, passing down its length and into the inventory floor. Past the cubicles separated from the noisy open area with glass and steel walls from the late 60s. Down the low-ceiling hallway and into the warehouse floor lunchroom.
Beyond the soda machine is a refrigerated carousel machine. Sandwiches, bowls of Ramen Noodle soup, bananas best suited to scientific experiments, yogurt containers and a few containers of milk stare out, lifeless in the cold lighting.
The same machine has a second containment unit, and in it are ice cream sandwiches, frozen low-calorie entrees of indeterminate age and origin, a few bags of Hot Pocket snacks. Nothing, as usual, suitable to my low-carb diet.
Then I spot it. Near the bottom of the machine, almost obscured in the device holding it up.
A package of frozen Buffalo Chicken Wings. Score!
Three bucks?! Are you kidding me? That’s robbery!
The kick from my innards lets me know I have no choice in the matter. Blob has spoken. Blob is my gut, if you don’t know. And he’s not about to let me off the hook. Another sigh and I go exchange a fin for Sakagawea dollars at the squat, iron mafia boss known as the change machine, then plunk them into the bottomless money pit. The steel and plastic demon swallowed my money and belched a hollow laugh I could swear I heard audibly. I punch the number pad and there’s a scream of tormented mechanical servos and machinery.
A moment later, the package flutters to bang and lie dead-bird still in the bowels of the vending machine, cold and lifeless again after the brief exchange.
I reach in and pull out my prize. It’s cold as Alaskan glacier ice, and just a little harder.
It’s not a brand I recognize either, but beggars can’t be choosey. I mosey back over to my more familiar, less industrial lunchroom and pop the plastic wrapper off the package. Out comes the black plastic tub, about an inch deep, and tumbling around in it is the….
Well. I’m not sure “food” is the right word to use for this, but what I’m supposed to ingest lies there hard and cold. A smattering of orange lichen crusts the surface of each between patches of towering ice crystals. The pocked Mars surface is brittle and rough.
I sigh again, toss the little tub into the microwave and set the timer, then sit down to wait.
That’s not chicken.
Then… what the hell IS it?!
Possibilities ricocheted off my brain.
Game hen. Smaller than a chicken, but still poultry. This is small… too small for a chicken. Not any chicken I’ve ever seen, anyway.
No, not game hen. It’s too expensive. ‘Course, this DID just set me back three bucks.
Squab. Not unheard of, but… still. Isn’t squab a delicacy, and raised for food? This isn’t some filthy dirt-bird from Central Park.
N-no… no. There are health laws, food inspectors, FDA regulations. Lawyers if someone gets sick. No. Can’t be.
Too small for seagull, thank God.
What is it?
Quail? Can it be something tiny like a quail?
Blackbirds are tiny too. Starlings. Four and twenty, baked in a–
No, it has to be chicken. It has to be.
Another sniff and the timer goes off. I pop the black microwave’s door open and a sick thought wafts out on the steam ghost which springs toward my face, causing me to shrink and recoil.
The sounds of typing and phone conversations muffled my muttering as I went back to my desk, staring intently at the vibrant, unnatural orange and tan puddling in the plastic tub. My last thought sent a shiver down my spine and rattled the voodoo-bones in their coffin.
Copyright 2011 DarcKnyt, All rights reserved