There Is Me

by Jonathan Crossley

 

     Sigurvegari, or Sigur for short, didn’t think he was that different from his fellow farm animals. Agoraphobia was hip now, right? But hey, everyone in the barn had quirks. Rabbit didn’t enjoy milk, Horse hated breath mints, and the pigs couldn’t stand the noise of their own footsteps. Sigur also wasn’t one with words, so when he conversed with the pigs and compared carrots Rabbit, he would write down his thoughts on a little pieces of paper and slide them through the mesh wire. He even gave the horse some diet tips. She was trying to gain seven pounds before the big show next month.
     Once a day, the farmer and his children would come into the barn and pour birdfeed into the troughs. The humans always talked about borings things: taxes, property values, or when they had guests over, the weather. Sigur thought that they were so bland and white that they probably learned what skeet was from a David Foster Wallace essay. But one day, the farmer and his family didn’t come, the troughs were not filled with food, and no one was informed about the weather in Polk County.
     “I bet it’s raining,” said Horse. “That, or we’re the only living things left.” She flung back her mane and tried to smile, but the flies on her nostrils forbid it. And they say laughter is a victory.
     “Yeah. It was probably a meteor or a tsunami or an intergalactic death ray that turns cows into disco dancers,” said the pigs in unison.
     Sigur pushed a piece of paper out of pen. Horse picked it up and read it aloud. “Maybe they’re just on vacation.”
     Everyone shared a chuckle. They say that laughter is a victory.
     Sigur wondered why he was the only animal with a name. He came to two conclusions: either he didn’t know who he was and needed a reminder or the humans just didn’t want to eat him. The choice between being someone’s dinner or not having an identity was something that Sigur didn’t really want to ponder. He would rather drift; have the answer occupy the same weird temporal space usually reserved for the murders featured on the local news. Tragedies that are real enough, but exist at an arm’s length, for if anyone were to truly engage them, the world would suddenly demand too much of you.
     Two days passed. Three days. Four days. No farmers came. Horse even admitted to having a dream where the barn doors would swing open and the farmer would fill the troughs with a combination of gruel, racehorse meat, and the leftovers from the previous night’s meal. Cannibalism use to bother the old girl, but that was a different life.
     “We should do something,” said Rabbit as he starred at the barn wall. Over time, the other animals had adjusted to Rabbits love of red painted wood. Yet, the occasional debate would still break out over if he was a genius or just brain dead.
     “Like what?” said Horse.
     A piece of parchment flew out of Sigur’s hutch. The paper hit Horse’s foot, but the stallion either didn’t feel the impact or ignored it. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
     “A race,” said Rabbit. “The winner gets the rest of the food.”
     “But I would need a head start,” said Horse.
     “Never. Remember back in ’96?”
     “Have you seen your feet? Their…”
     “My feet? Your legs look like tires.”
     “We’ll all die in here, and it’s because of you,” said Rabbit. Even he was unsure about whom he was talking to.
     “Me? You have a giant’s appetite.”goat
     “I’m not fat. You take that back. You take that back right now.”
     Sigur stomped his foot against the bottom of his hutch and the barn fell quiet. He extended a paw and pointed toward the piece of paper that lay on the floor.
     A pig wondered over to the piece of parchment and read it.
     “An election,” said the pig. We’ll have a vote. And the animal with the most votes gets to decide what we do next. Ok?”
     None of the other animals raised a complaint. They were all too busy fantasizing about the act of winning, about all the power and satisfaction and comfort and overall better life that would come with winning.
     The election would be held in three days time and Sigur spent the vast majority of that time trying to figure out how to get the rest of the farm animals to like him. He read the biographies of famous politicians, magazine columns that advised people on how to sound intelligent at parties, and dummy guides to how to make people do what you want. Sigur counted his lucky stars that all this reading material lined the bottom of his hutch. And to think, he had once relieved himself on such quality material.
     Sigur could hear the rest of the animals practicing their speeches. Rabbit promised carrots and backrubs and questioned horse’s sexuality. The pigs told tales of midget strippers and undermined Rabbit’s leadership credentials with stories about the walls. Horse called the pigs inbred and critiqued their speech patterns in an essay she entitled To Squeak is to Lie. Sigur didn’t know why he suddenly hated his fellow candidates, but somewhere inside of him, in a place he could only describe as a depth, he felt as though he had been told to.
     Election day arrived and the animals agreed to a meager banquet. As they shared the few apples that remained, Horse stood up to delivered her speech.
     “Remember the age of food? Remember when we could pick boulder-sized apples off of the trees? I can return us to that. Let me return us to that.”
     “Lies!” said Rabbit. “This is her stallion magic at play. Just look at that mane.”
     All the animals looked at the mane, and for a moment, felt an anxiety, a deep urge to return to an era where apples were of dangerous size, an era none of them really remembered.
     “But the rabbit never provided food to anyone,” said the pigs. “Look, our graph has all the information necessary. Pig #1 and Pig #5 held up a color-coated chart that detailed, in mathematical objectivity, that Rabbit may, on every other Tuesday, be an evil incarnate.
     Enough was enough, through Rabbit. Integrity had to spared, even at the end of the world, so he bit Horse, who in return broke the pig’s graph, which culminated in an act of retaliation that left Rabbit with a scratched eye and some missing fur.
     Sigur stopped munching on his carrot. Be it the violent headspace or the smell of blood in the air, he realized he could no longer drift. Passivity, he realized, was why he had a name – so, no matter all the choices he ran from, the decisions he didn’t make, his being would stay.
     The brawl continued, but Sigur undid the little latch on his cage anyway. He knew that they knew nothing of the world, that the whole apocalypse thing was just an attempt to make sense of why there were now so scared and violent and alone. So he scampered up the mesh wiring, stood on his hind legs, and screeched.
     All the animals stopped. It was irrational and the only thing that had made sense in days.

 
Like Phil Collins, Jonathan Crossley can’t help but quote himself.