Everything stank of chicken shit and everything tasted of chicken shit. Tom needed the money and even though the pay rate was well below what it should be, he needed something to pay for his booze and weed. Plus , he couldn’t argue, with his police record, and what he was doing was illegal. But it’s a job, it’s money. When the guy came asking in the pub if i fancied a job, cash in hand, no references, they jumped at the chance. transport there and back, cash at the end of everyday. No Job Centre interference, so still get the dole. Perfect. The six of them jumped at the chance. Funnily enough, though Tom, I haven’t seen John this morning. Probably got so stoned after the overtime he put in last night. Lucky bugger.
When they first turned up to farm, they thought it would be salad picking or some such. However they were all bundled into a covered trailer, driven slowly by the tractor to god knows where. the farmer explained we were to feed and clean up, spray down the battery hens kept in the massive warehouse. apparently someone said it was illegal and he got told to fuck off then. He went back on the trailer, never saw him again. Tom couldn’t give a shit. Just fucking chickens, horrible beady eyed things They don’t call em fowl for nothing, the farmer said.
Each of the warehouses had numbers, and Tom looked after number 9. This was his sixth or seventh week and even though he hated it, they paid him on the nose every week, no delays. He still had not got used to the smell and it seemed to take longer and longer to wash it off afterwards. He had a quick brew and started changing into his ‘ contamination suit’ as he called it. It always reminded him of a horror movie he’d seen. Every day the suits and wellingtons were ready for him, white, sparkling and shiny. And everyday they came back covered in mud, sawdust, blood and chicken shit. It seemed to stick worse as the day went on. Once the day was finished it all went in a big plastic bin to be taken away and washed, but tom thought, probably burnt. He was always surprised how clean the farm seemed. Most farms he seemed to visit had various piles of useless crap knocking about the yard, but not here.
He zipped the suit up, pulled the wellies on , then the gloves, making sure they were sealed at the wrist. He then put the breathing mask on. They had been told never to take it off in the chicken rooms. “ The air will shred your lungs and the parasites ‘i’ll eat what’s left if they get in there!!” The farmer had said when he first arrived. He was right. The rooms were thick with chicken dust, like a bird fog. He never wanted that stuff in his lungs. The spray pump was already prepared as usual. He pulled it onto his back, adjusting the harness to make it comfortable. He pumped the side handle, to build up pressure for the adjustable spray lance, and tried the trigger to test it. A fine spray of unknown chemicals fired into the air.
He pulled back the plastic dividers and and gently opened the door to his allotted chicken house. The room was about 20 feet long and 10 foot wide. every single bit of floor space was filled with pale white chickens. He gently pushed some aside with his foot so he could enter and closed the door behind him. Bright , hot neon lights burned and hummed. Dust particles floated thick in the air and the noise of the chickens constant clucking and squawking was almost deafening. Because there was no natural light, everything seemed to have an orange glow , including the poor chickens. Some had feathers, some had hardly any, victims of the bigger birds attacks on the weakest, creating the pecking order”. Some limped, some just sat on the floor as the others scrambled over them. Ankle deep in chicken soup ben always thought, no sign of his feet as they seemed to swarm around him. he hated the way they all turned to look at him when he entered the room. 1000 plus red beady eyes all staring in his direction. Something about it really creeped him out.
He gave the side handle another few pumps to build pressure and started spraying the chickens liberally. The fine spray covered floated in the air , coating chickens . lights and ben. Feathers stuck to him as he started his walk from one side of the cabin to the other, trying as carefully as he could to push them out of his way as he walked around. Som jumped up at him and it always made him jump when they screeched so loudly. He turned round once he had reached on end of the room He started the spray gun again but nothing happened. He checked the nozzle with his free hand, momentarily losing concentration on his surroundings.
That’s when felt the crunch under his foot. Then the awful shriek.
Ben looked up to the roof. “Shit” he muttered under his breath. He then looked at his feet and slowly lifted his foot to see a broken, bloody body of a almost featherless chicken. It was one of the weak ones, and small bones punctured out of its body , small smeared drops of blood.on its pale prickly skin. It lay twitching and blinking, its head at a weird angle. It seemed to be trying to to cluck, but blood pooled out of its mouth onto the sawdust covered floor. It was still alive, barely and Ben knew what he had to do. “Sorry pal” he said as he raised his foot to stamp on its head.
Before he had chance, though, he realised, it had gone quiet apart from a couple of clicks here and there. The chicks all seemed to look at the dying body on the floor. Then, a couple of the chickens pecked at Ben’s raised wellington. The noise seemed to rise slowly, louder and louder. Then, without any warning masses of the feathered creatures launched themselves at the broken bird on the floor. Ben stood back,as they ripped into the corpse, shredding it as it screeched and they screeched . feather flew in the air, chickens jumped on top of each other , fighting to get to the fresh meat in a feeding frenzy. Blood and bone and innards flew around , the sawdust underneath becoming soaked in the birds remains. It was all over in what seemed like seconds to Ben, as he looked on horrified. He remembered the former telling them that chickens were cannibals now. How they would eat any one of the other chickens if possible. They would pretty much eat anything they put in front of them, but the loved mice and worms and each other the best, the farmer had joked.
The chickens scratched and clawed at each other until the only evidence any animal had been on the ground was lumps of clotted , pink sawdust, crimson splattered feathers and small red chunks hanging off Ben’s wellington. The birds then settled down into the usual hum and clucking, as if nothing at happened.
Ben shivered to himself. “ fucking things” he said to himself, still not quite able to forget the noise of the screeching, dying chicken from his head. He continued on , spraying the birds , up and down the hangar, especially careful this time not to stand on any of the creatures. The occasional bird pecked at the remains stuck to his boot, excitedly clucking, but he half pushed , half kicked them out of the way with a series of “fuck offs” and extra dose of spray.
The spray pack was getting lighter and Ben could tell he had been in the place too long now. His extra care had taken up time and spray solution . He found himself at the far end of the hangar, realising he would have to walk back now and fill up again. Normally, one session would do, but time had got away with him thanks to the chicken crushing incident. Not that the farmers gave a shit about dead chickens, but they would be pissed if he went back for another refill. Bollocks to it , he thought, I’ll get away with it today. He started walking back to the exit, chickens watching and moving like a feathered soup around his feet. He sprayed in small spurts as he walked back, feeling the air in the canister as he emptied it.
Losing concentration and just eager to get out, he managed to pump the gun a bit too much and got his rubber glove caught in the trigger.”Ow! Shit!” he yelped as it pinched the skin under the glove. He grabbed the trigger with his free hand and tried to get his hand released but the trigger jammed. He could feel it cutting into his hand. “Bloody thing!” He exclaimed through gritted teeth.
The chickens looked on. Quietly clucking.
In his temper to get the gun unstuck from his hand he didn’t see the sticky sawdust remains from the previous chicken massacre. As he kicked some of the chickens away, concentrating on his hand , his boot stood on some slimey intestinal remains and he slipped, feet in the air and slamming into the ground with a bang. sawdust and feathers plumbed into the air, creating a gritty cloud.
The chickens turned heads and red eyes. Cluck. Cluck.
Ben sat up with a start, creating another cloud of feathery dust. His goggles were covered in a fine layer of sawdust and he pulled them up. His mask had come off and he had sawdust on one side of his face. “Urgh, oww, aggg” he coughed and spat the grime out of his mouth. He then realised that the gun had come free from his hand , tearing the glove and cutting a deep gouge into the bottom of his hand. Blood trickled down his sleeve, shocking him at first due to the contrast against the white suit.
The birds clucked. Moved. Heads twitching. Eyes blinking.
As Ben tried to get up. one of the birds pecked at his bloody hand. “ Fuck off” he shouted, and punched it away.
Another chicken went for his hand. Then a couple more. He started pushing them and kicking them out of the way. But more birds started pecking at his hands and his other hand. Then his legs. Then his arms. More beaks stated pinching at his suit. As he tried to get up, the white mass seemed to swarm towards him. Some jumped at him as he waved his arms about, suddenly the feathered soup started digging into the rubber of his boots hundreds of beaks pecking holes through the rubber. They stabbed at his bleeding hand. They stabbed at his other hand. The blood stirring them up now. As Ben tried in vain to reach the exit he slipped again, landing on his chest, crushing birds beneath him, they screeched and pecked furiously at him, his suit slowly turning pink from the hundreds of tiny pin pricks from razor sharp beaks and claws. The screeching filled Ben’s ears as the birds swarmed all over him , the thick white mass digging , clawing , screeching gouging deeper into his flesh. he tried to scream but his mouth was full of sawdust and feathers and he just choked as the bird’s weight crushed him to the ground. He could feel his back, cold for a moment as the birds ripped his clothes, then searing agonising pain as the dug deeper and deeper into his soft flesh. The the sawdust under him seemed to grow darker and darker as blood soaked up from his ripped up body. He tried in vain to lift his head and reach the door , opening his mouth to scream. But a chicken grabbed his tongue with its beak, pulling at it like a worm, inviting more birds to stab and scratch until it was a bloody pulp. They punched holes in his cheeks and ripped at his hair, pulling and twisting it around in a screaming, feeding frenzy.
His body in tatters as they dug to the bone, he watched them fight over red chunks, pain overcoming him, blood soaking his face. He lifted his head as the birds finally covered his pulped bloody body before he drowned in pink feathers and sticky sawdust. He looked at one of the birds, its red eyes blinking, head twitching from side to side. He finally succumbed as the pain became too much, just as the bird punctured his eyeballs in a furious repeated peck.
They don’t call them fowl for nothing was his last thought as everything went deep red.