In the future, every productive consumer in society will own a pig, but they will not be kept as pets nor farm animals. They'll—well, you'll see. Enjoy. -the ed
Out of loneliness, maybe desperation, I started talking to the pig — what I wasn’t expecting was for the pig to start talking back. Yeah, I know — my first thought was the same: batshit. But I DeepScanned my brain and found no traces of mental illness or hallucinations or nothing. Surprised me too. The poor thing died before anyone else could hear it speak, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Its name was Bob, just another one of those transwine. I’ve purchased about ten of these mattress-sized suckers in my lifetime. They take up half the backyard, eating like ravenous insects, but I don’t pay for their feed, so who cares. My miniature GMO crops can hardly keep up, but I’m very dependent on these pigs. That’s because they’re specially bred for organ harvesting.
It’s all the rage, these days. You can now treat your body however you want and it’ll never matter. Can you believe people used to have to balance their diet, avoid carcinogens, exercise? Can you believe people used to waste so much time just trying to stay healthy?
Can you believe people used to die?
After harvesting my tenth hog, replacing my gallbladder, left lung, and appendix, I had a replacement boar delivered and ate some bacon. The new transwine was a little smaller than the rest, maybe the size of an overweight sheep dog, but it happily made himself at home in the muddy little pen where I kept the others.
It’s technically illegal to name the animal, but I guess it makes sense if you don’t want to grow attached to something you’re going to slaughter for gut parts. I fed my hog some GMO cornmeal, injected him with a dose of antibiotics and made sure it wasn’t sick. In its lazy, wrinkled eyes — almost human-like, I thought — I saw an expression of dimwitted confusion, a hint of vacant despair. I wondered if I could use its eye to replace my own, should I get glaucoma or something. Would mess with my perception of color? I’d have to check the manual.
Lighting another cig, I went back inside and had the plasmawave cook up some lab-grown buffalo wings, three bacon cheeseburgers, plus some deep-fried cheesecake. I drank five microbrewed ales and half a box of wine. I cracked into my third box of cigarettes while letting myself sink into the couch, glancing over at the LoveDoll before deciding it wasn’t worth the effort. Outside, I could hear the hog rooting around in the sty, making a guttural noise like a fat, laughing Buddha.
‘Heh heh heh,’ it whined. I wondered if it could detect the reek the others left behind.
Some sort of android machine in the corner performs organ transplants or blood transfusions or whatever while I watch video gaming tournaments through my eyelid screens. Thanks to powerful opioids I don’t feel a thing. During the next few days of recovery, I may be a little groggy — but then again, I’m always groggy. I barely notice it. Even if I get leukemia or diabetes, it’s just a few days before I’m back to being me.
Actually, now that I think of it, I’m not sure how much of me is pig and how much of me is me anymore.
Like many young adults in Generation Zero, I am paid by The Central Authority to remain unemployed. The delicate balance of the NuEconomy is better off with me receiving a monthly stipend without contributing labor. Technically, it’s illegal for me to work at all. I am a one-way street, the Ultra-Consumer, and perhaps, if you have time to read this blog, you are also a Zero like me.
It’s certainly a comfortable living and I can’t complain. But I get bored easily, which is likely why I drink heavily. The booze is free, anyway, delivered to my doorstep like milk once was. I drink from the moment I wake to the moment I pass out on the couch with my TruViz screens streaming ads and viral videos directly into my eyeballs.
I smoke three, maybe four packs a day. I’m grateful they reversed the statutes outlawing cigarettes. The tumors are worth it. I can feel the gravel-sized clumps growing amongst my alveoli. The small pressure points when I breath give relief like popping a zit. The release is almost orgasmic. OK, maybe I’m a little fat. It’s not like I’m dating anyone at the moment. Instead, I 3D-printed one of those TruLife LoveDolls.
Of course, the increased ultraviolet exposure and the extreme level of radiation in the air only seems to accelerate how often I trapeze between cancer-ridden living and death. I’ve gotten Stage III urothelial carcinoma six times this past year alone, but big deal. That’s what the MalScourer is for.
It’s a device implanted in my neck which somehow uses nanotechnology to constantly monitor my health. It’s constantly beeping about super viruses and bacterial infections and other crap, but that’s why I take daily doses of vaccines and antibiotics. I’m never sick for longer than a few hours. Which reminds me: the talking pig.
Fast forward through a few weeks of all-night gaming, trash TV and adult website browsing in an endless drunken fugue — it all blurs together, anyway — and I noticed the new transwine wasn’t doing too well. It hadn’t eaten any of its GMO soy feed and was lying on its side, making some sort of snoring or humming sound. I’d kept the warranty on this one, so I wasn’t worried about it dying or whatever, but earlier that day, my MalScourer had detected early stages of tumors in my chest and bones.
The bones would be grown in some East Asian lab and shipped overnight, but the ‘atrial myxoma’ in my heart — whatever that means — had me a tad concerned. It was benign, the MalScourer told me, but it would still mean I would need a new ticker.
I went outside, my first dose of sunlight in over a month, and using a rake, I poked at the pig a bit. It hobbled up on all fours, wheezing and slobbering, its drooling jowls swinging the way salt-water taffy is strung on hooks. I pushed the trough of food at the pig. It groaned and jabbed its snout up at me.
‘Well, whaddya want then?’ I asked.
It sniffled and slavered and then I’m pretty sure — I’m positive — I heard it say, ‘Slop.’
I froze. It spoke? I listened closer. The pig repeated itself. ‘Slop, slop, slop.’
‘Slop?’ I asked. The transwine seemed to nod.
‘Slop,’ the pig said. ‘Slop, slop, slop.’
What else could I do? Scooping up the rotting food in the trough, I went inside and dug around in the mountain of Amazon boxes for a blender. I threw it all together, slapped the button and made it whir, returning to the yard with a sloshing cup full of ‘slop.’
The hog gobbled it all so fast I wasn’t sure I had poured everything out. It soon stopped eating, staggered to the back of the stall and fell over with a satisfied slump.
The following day, the pig wouldn’t touch the slop. So I asked it again, ‘What do you want?’
Seeming to lick its lips, I heard squeals and grunts and the word ‘Corn.’
‘Corn?’ I asked. The pig echoed the word. ‘Corn, corn, corn.’
So I went to the garden, fed it fresh corn, not that ground up mealy bullshit, and it ate it greedily.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. This is some clever confirmation bias shit. The pig didn’t ask for a plate of deviled eggs or an ice cream sundae. But I wasn’t concerned with that at the time. For all I knew, its singular-word vocabulary was just evidence that it was still learning how to speak.
How was it speaking? I had theories, but no answers. This was a genetically modified animal, specifically bred to be as human-like as possible without crossing any ethical tripwires. It was smart, but not human smart. I had no idea what was going on in its chopped-and-screwed DNA, but the idea that it might have, I dunno, evolved speech characteristics or something didn’t seem so outlandish in a decade where thyroids are grown like tomatoes.
The MalScourer updated my cancer score. Stage II. I was sleeping eighteen hours a day again and when the high doses of oxycodone wore off, it hurt to walk. The tumors in my chest had spread to my lungs and throat, expanding like self-inflating lifejackets. I didn’t have much time.
When my replacement bones arrived, I quickly inserted them into the surgery bot. A few hours later, I turned off my eyelid screens and examined the railroad track of stitches running up both sides of my legs. I felt almost as good as new.
I began to notice other things the pig would say. It was often hard to make out its limited, beasty vernacular amongst the regular grumbles and snorts, but I did hear things like ‘stop’ (when I took its food away), ‘good’ (whenever I fed it), and ‘hey’ (when I went outside to smoke). It would repeat the words three times whenever prompted, but I never heard it say anything remotely English unless the situation called for it.
Once I asked the hog how it was feeling. ‘Hot, hot, hot.’ I rubbed it down with a wet rag and it stopped saying hot. ‘Good, good, good.’ I stood up, rubbing my eyes.
‘I’m losing it,’ I said.
‘Bob, Bob, Bob,’ the pig responded.
‘Bob?’ I said. ‘That’s my name.’
‘Bob, Bob, Bob.’
I felt a pang of guilt. This poor thing didn’t even have a name.
‘What do you want to be called?’ I whispered, hoping the Central Authority wouldn’t overhear through their microphones everywhere.
‘Bob, Bob, Bob.’
‘You can’t have the same name as me,’ I said.
‘Bob, Bob, Bob…’
I considered contacting the Medical Authority, the highly expensive, non-automated healthcare system. But I dealt with them years ago and the bureaucratic, cold-toned nature of their prognosis made me uncomfortable. If I’m going to have a clammy digit rooting around in my anus, I’d rather it be robotic.
But if these hallucinations — what else could they be? — were caught manifesting, I’d lose my lucrative position as a non-employee and get tossed into a mental rehabilitation center. I would lose access to porn, cartoons, booze and everything else wonderful and modern and distracting about my life, until my brain was slowly restored and rebuilt. I assume they use some kind of neuron wipe. Who knows, maybe they’d even force me to read books.
Plus, I realized that I had broken the law by naming the animal. Surely this would come back to bite me in the ass. No, I couldn’t turn myself in.
The only thing I could do was order another boar, but when I tried, the system gave a system error. ‘Sorry,’ a robotic voice chimed from the monitor. ‘You cannot order a transwine before the other transwine is depleted.’ I sat on the couch, feeling resigned.
Slurping from a bottle of vodka, I checked the MalScourer, which was on silent, flashing furiously. How had I muted it? Drunk, probably. I turned it on. It updated my cancer score to Stage IV, apparently missing a few tumor sites. It gave me just a few days left to live.
I went back to the yard, to where Bob was sitting in his own shit, staring at the wall with a depthless, catatonic gaze. I sat down next to Bob, right in the manure and I wrapped my arm around his big, beefy neck.
‘Bob, Bob, Bob,’ he said.
‘I know, buddy,’ I replied. I sat there for a long, long time, both of us, just waiting.