“Lance, would you please get the ax for me? It’s getting close to dinnertime and I need to get Little Johnny ready for the roaster.”
Lance looked up from his crossword. “All right, Suzanne, just let me finish this last little section.”
Suzanne scowled. “Okay, but hurry it up. He’s gonna take a good hour to cook and I still have to get him ready to go in the oven. We won’t be eating until after 7:30 at this rate.”
“Okay, dammit! Just a minute.” Lance stood abruptly and stormed out the back door, slamming the kitchen door behind him.
Almost as quickly as he left, he was back in the kitchen. “Here,” he said, thrusting the ax in Suzanne’s direction. “Anything else before I get back to my crossword?”
“Well, yes. You could go find Little Johnny for me. He’s probably on the swings.”
Lance sighed a long, woe-is-me sigh. “Sometimes, I wish we’d just buy our meat at the store. Some folks do, you know.”
Suzanne’s face flushed and the volume of her voice increased two-fold. “Yeah, and we do, too! Most of the time. But you know as well as I do that we don’t always have a choice!”
Suzanne drew a file along the blade of the ax, putting as sharp an edge on the tool as she could. As she tested the edge to ensure it was razor-sharp, she watched her husband go back out the door in search of her youngest son.
Familial cannibalism had been one of the hardest things Suzanne had to get used to when she entered the New Realm. Where she had come from, the only cannibalism was in stories or textbooks about a time long since passed. In her old environment, no one ate human flesh any more, especially one’s own progeny. But things were different in the New Realm. In the New Realm, cannibalism was as common as ice cream on a slice of pie. In fact, in the New Realm, people who refused to practice cannibalism were treated like pariahs. They could be imprisoned if their failure to conform put the social order at risk.
The New Realm arose, in a convoluted, roundabout way, from New Malthusian Theory. New Malthusian Theory espoused the position that human population must be self-limiting. That translated into a limit of two children per heterosexual couple reaching puberty. There were plenty of exceptions, with prior approval, but most people just got used to the idea that, if they had more than two children, those beyond two would become nutritional supplements before their thirteenth birthdays.
Suzanne, unlike the vast majority of other New Realm denizens, did not grow up in the New Realm. She was born and reared an Originalist, a child of the Old Realm. Her entry into the New Realm was the result of an accident in which the two parallel dimensions of the Milky Way galaxy collided for a split second. The chances of such a collision, in which the dimensions could take place at just the right time and location to result in dimensional travel, were about one hundred trillion to one. But, like the lottery, somebody has to win that experience. So it was with Suzanne.
“Johnny, get out of those clothes and come get in the sink. I’ve got to wash you up.” Suzanne eyed her youngest son, ready to repeat herself as she so often had to do to get him to do as he was told. But Johnny immediately began to disrobe, dropping his clothes on the kitchen floor.
“Johnny, what have I told you about putting your clothes away?”
“Yes, ma’am,” the boy replied, stooping to pick up his shirt off the floor. “Can I just hang them off the back of the chair?”
“Yes, that will be fine. Just hurry up, son.”
Johnny dutifully took off all his clothes and hung them on the back of a kitchen chair. He put his shoes on the chair seat and stuffed his socks in them.
Suzanne picked up the nude six-year-old and sat him in the warm water in the big farmhouse sink. The boy giggled and said, “It’s warm!”
“Yes, it is. That’s to wash off all that little-boy dirt from your little-boy body!” Suzanne laughed as she scrubbed the boy with a sponge.
When she was satisfied he was sufficiently clean, she rinsed him off with the sprayer head, picked him up, and set him down in a plastic clothes basket, filled with towels, on the floor. “Dry yourself off real good!”
When the boy was dry, she picked him up again and took him to the preparation sink on the other side of the kitchen. On the counter, next to the sink, sat a contraption that looked a little like a combination of a guillotine without a blade and a set of stocks. She placed Johnny face down, his neck in what would have been the guillotine’s neck hole and his arms in the stocks. “Okay, Johnny, get comfortable.”
Though her face didn’t betray it, Suzanne’s guts were in knots. She hated beheading her children. It didn’t matter how many she had done before, it was always hard to do it to another one. But that was just part of living in the New Realm.
At 7:30, Suzanne pulled the roasting pans out of the oven. [All right. This will have to wait. I’m not quite yet able to write about carving the meat for dinner. Maybe this doesn’t have to be quite so graphic.]