Langdon Farm. The thistles grow wild in the grass around the gate. A few barren trees hang loose in the wind. Local sheep graze around the area. The farm is an old one. It has seen renaissance and decadence of tradition many times over. The stone walled main house is attached to the pig pen, and there remains a small stable for a horse, though the horses are long dead. There is wilderness on all sides. Before Scott, this was horrid, unlovable, drenched Scottish mess. Since Scott, this is what you would call unspoilt, unwavering, lovely Scottish atmosphere. Either way, it was wet. The rain fell slowly and the mist hung around your feet like the midges which hung lovingly around open skin. Such was life, at Langdon Farm.
Down in the outskirts of Langdon Farm is the spot where the old farmer Williams dropped dead of fright. Why it happened is only a superstition by now, the actual event had occurred some twenty years before I was even born. I tend to the farm now, and although it is not nearly as successful as it once was thanks in no small part to the “Foot and Mouth” crisis, we still remain in business thanks to the success of our thriving pig population. Yes, we live on sending animals to the slaughterhouse, but then, everything has its place on the food chain.
But you do not care about the pig business today (and shame!) Quite clearly you are only interested in what happened to that old farmer so long ago.
This farm is the old farmer’s legacy. Frank Williams bought the acres of land when he was twenty-two years of age, and sought about creating the most successful pig farm in the area.
And he farmed many Pigs. And felt nothing as gave them away to the slaughter. Until Pi came along.
The old man felt differently for Pi, for Pi was not your normal pig. Even, as a piglet he was different: the kid had a sort of spiritual aura about him. Williams often recalled how in giving birth Pi’s mother delivered him breathless, and how the little thing came to life in his hands, eyes widened, snout piercing and full of gratitude. From that moment on, Pi became the farm favourite. The old man treated him as a pet, he would look into the innocent creatures’ eyes and all the burdens in the world would lift off his ageing shoulders. Not for sale was this pig, you can get sausages from any one, but a Pi was priceless. As Pi grew older, the farmer took to feeding the pig in the house and taking it on walks around the farm. Everyone knew Farmer Williams and Pi, the old man and the pig who had formed such a strong bond.
But then came the market boom, hitting directly after another Foot and Mouth outbreak. Pi was lucky, he had stayed free of the disease, a lot of his brothers were not so lucky. Lucky, until the man from the abattoir came.
“You know the rules, we need ten pigs and you don’t even have eight! It’s the end of the line for your business!”
Pi trotted into the room.
“What’s that?” said the abattoir man.
“It’s Pi” said the farmer.
“I’ll tell you what.” Said the man, “If you let us have that pig I’ll cut my losses on the tenth.”
The farmer looked in horror at the suggestion. “No, not Pi, take anyone but Pi.”
“We need pigs; your family sheep won’t help the bacon demand! It’s that pig or your livelihood.”
The farmer’s heart sank as he looked at the little pig, its tail slipping on the floor and its snout smelling the new man curiously.
“Take him then” said Williams.
The man picked up Pi, who screamed in surprise and fought against the arm but the abattoir man was too strong. Pi screamed and screamed the very confines of Hell out: he knew where this man was going; he could smell the blood on his overalls. The old farmer tried to look away, but caught Pi’s eye. The small pig gave him a pitiful look, which swiftly turned into a grotesque facsimile of a grimace etched upon his tiny face, his snout ridged and his eyes blood red. Williams knew that Pi knew he had been betrayed, and what's worse, the pig’s eyes were angry and unforgiving. And then the abattoir man left, and Pi was gone.
And then one day Farmer Williams died. It is said that he had a heart attack, brought upon by an ignorance of angina in those days and his own stubbornness. This is far from the case. The man died of fright! Right in the North end he was, moving towards the farm, when a roar like nothing out of heaven or hell stopped him in his tracks. Turning, he caught a glimpse of the sight that would bring him to an end. The raging furious beast with eyes of flame and speed of vengeance, riding towards him across the field. Its essence screaming with the agony of a thousand pigs put to death; this was no mere little piggy. It was Pi, back to exact retribution on the master who betrayed him. And as the pig ran into Williams, the old man’s heart gave out, hurt by the very pet he had hurt in turn.
It never stopped me. I still farm the pigs. It is a way to survive. But my favourite one is the only one I have ever grown attached to. Here he is, scowling away in the corner, terrified. He doesn’t like people. He doesn’t like me, do you, Williams? Look at him, scurrying away into the shadows. Unlike me, however, he knows that this time will be no betrayal, for I look on him not as a pet but as a service. And one day, one day when you least expect it, you’ll be taking the same trip I took down the road, to the abattoir, my little piggy. Enjoy this second chance at life, pig. God knows I certainly am.
Yes, we live on sending animals to the slaughterhouse, but then again, everything has its place on the food chain. Eventually.
"The Old Man and the Pig"Michael S. Collins is a member of GSFWC (the Glasgow Strange-Fiction Writers Circle). He has been published in several countries (including Literature E-zine websites, ad writing for Bob Furnell) and does book review for magazines such as The Fortean Times.
Copyright: © 2010 Michael S. Collins
Copyright: © 2010 Michael S. Collins
His short fiction has appeared in magazines such as Aesthetica, Clockwise Cat, The Short Humour Site, MicroHorror, TBD, and was included in the DemonMinds anthology in 2008.