At the supermarket, she surveys the produce: a human infant, vacuum-packed, at its use-by date. She presses its cheek. Colourless flesh dimples. The infant’s face is tight against the plastic, eyes cloudy, nose flattened, lips pushed into a grimace, as though tasting sour milk. There are bruises and remnants of damp hair. Tiny, wrinkled hands. It has been machine-gutted, sex organs removed. She grunts. The carcass is smaller than she wanted, shriveled, but she could add vegetables, maybe cook extra turnips, give her mate the meatiest portion. Besides, it’s the last pack and reduced for a quick sale.
‘Excuse me, are you having that?’ Another shopper, pot-bellied, gold ring glinting in her snout, lays painted nails on the pack. ‘It will do for the slow cooker.’
Ah, the slow cooker. Why hadn’t she thought of that? She could simmer the head for extra flavour. Her mate is partial to flavour.
She quickly puts the pack in her trolley. ‘Yes, I’m taking it. Sorry.’ She cannot go home with nothing.
A sudden diversion. A shelf-stacker with new stock. She sees that this infant-meat is fresher, plumper, and she squeals in anticipation. Now the reduced pack in her trolley seems insulting and she casts it out, turning to the new meat, squeezing the flesh. Reddish-brown fluid glides beneath plastic. There is colour in the infant’s cheeks. She finds the most succulent pack and makes the switch.
Wheeling her trolley to the checkout, she relaxes and glances back. The rival shopper has also loaded her trolley and is now at the ready-meal section. Choosing skinless breasts.
Cheryl Powell is a Worcestershire writer specialising in short fiction: flash, micros and other tiny stories. Her work has been published in Coffin Bell, Litro, Spelk, Reflex Fiction, Disturbing the Beast and The Mechanics Institute Review and performed by actors at the Liars’ League, Hong Kong.