As Bob Rorwick tore some more meat off his rib bone with his yellowed teeth, adding more grease and sauce to his sweaty chin, I was once again reminded how much I despised this man. He eats like a rabid dog—ripping instead of chewing, spilling from an open mouth as he masticates every bit of flavor from the pig flesh before he swallows—it’s as if he has a complete disregard to any form of dining etiquette. I’ve seen starved wolves with more tact. The boss was out of town, so it was just him and I, making me more uncomfortable than usual. And then he decided to entertain me with one of his oh so clever jokes.
“Ya’ know pigs aren’t all that different from humans—biologically, at least.” He smiled as he gnawed on a rib bone, sucking every bit of gristle off. “It’s true. They eat pretty much everything too.” He took another bite of meat and continued, “In fact, if a man dies in a pig pen, they’ll eat ’im. It’s true.” His lips curled into a smile. “Though, I suppose there’s nothin’ wrong with eatin’ a human. Killing: sure. But if a man’s dead, all yer doin’ is eatin’ flesh. Human’s just another animal, after all.” He took another bite of the meat. “Ya’ know, I suppose—push came to shove—I could eat somebody. Just another animal after all.” He stared right at me in silence, grinding away at that flesh with his molars, with a slight smile on his face. I just gave him a blank stare, then he erupted in a big guffaw, shaking himself all the way down to his substantial gut. “Come on, man; I’m just messin’. Course I wouldn’t eat no human. Lighten up, will ya’?” Then he laughed some more, spitting flecks of meat from his mouth. “Yer face was priceless though. Wish I had a camera.” Then he just kept on laughing. After that, the uncouth dolt picked his teeth with the last rib bone.
These types of jokes weren’t uncommon for Bob. He always loved to make people uncomfortable, to frighten people, to say anything that would take every bit of air out of the room. It didn’t matter if it was one of his increasingly common insinuations of murder or cannibalism, or if it was the latest bigoted or racist joke he heard from his fellow rednecks at the bar, he just got a kick out of seeing people squirm. He was the first person to laugh at a Holocaust or slavery joke, and was always eager to pass it on. And I felt more and more each day, that it wasn’t just a twisted sense of humor; there was something deeply wrong with Bob. There was some sort of genetic flaw, or something in his life made him screwy. But I knew deep down that something about him was off. And I couldn’t help the feeling that he was in some way going to cause some profound change in my life, and I knew it would be for the worse. And I have to say, I always hate it when I’m right.
I didn’t like him from the get-go. His nicotine-stained fingers and teeth, the rancid stench of body odor, and his shaved head and wild beard, was an immediate turn off. My immediate thought was that he was some skin-head neo-Nazi, and I still don’t feel that I was that far off.
I needed work and found an ad for work on an animal farm. We would have to feed the animals, raise them and then eventually slaughter them for sale on the market. I met with Viktor, a Bulgarian immigrant who bought this farm, and he introduced me to who I would be working with—Bob Rorwick—and Bob immediately antagonized Viktor. Viktor barked back at Bob and they argued until Viktor eventually shrugged it off and left. Bob then mimicked Viktor’s accent, and then made some unsavory comments about immigrants. I don’t know if he was expecting me to join in the fun but, when I didn’t laugh or even respond, it didn’t stop Bob from laughing hard in delight of his own mockery. I knew then I wasn’t going to get along well with this man. But it just kept on getting worse.
Slaughtering animals was part of the job. We needed to sell them to make our pay—it was necessary after all—but when Bob would do it, there would always be a large grin plastered on his face.
It was as if he would get off from it. The removal of the cow’s or pig’s or chicken’s guts and vital organs looked like an aphrodisiac for Bob. When an animal was slaughtered, there was a slight change in his face. It was like some sick climax he was only slightly trying to hide. And since it was only the three of us in that small place, and many times Viktor was out, I would become increasingly unnerved.
He would only take breaks from that murderous euphoric look when he begrudgingly had to do the tedious tasks like feeding the animals, or when he just had to tell me the latest lynching joke, or what he wanted to do to ‘this chick at the bar.’ And then he’d watch me wince, as if enjoying my discomfort, and then say, “I’m just messin’ with ya’. Relax. It’s just a joke.”
On top of that, doing the work we do, I’ve always come to believe that one would eventually become sick of meat. After seeing the slaughter of these animals, I largely decreased my meat intake. But everyday Bob would bring in pork or beef or whatever other animal he just murdered the day before. And the look he had as he consumed that meat was too reminiscent of the same look he had when he slaughtered and gutted the animals for my liking. The look of ecstasy was too primal, too depraved; his expression looked downright lecherous.
I don’t try to feign bravery. The man scared me. I saw dangerous potential in what he was capable of.
I’ve always believed that anyone can do anything, no matter how horrible, under the right circumstances. Some people need less of a shove than others, but anyone can crack. And, once again, I hate it when I’m right.
I didn’t give it much thought when he mentioned that talk about how pigs will eat anything, and how eating humans isn’t all that different from eating pigs, but two days later, with our boss gone for four days to go to a funeral for a family member in Bulgaria that he apparently mentioned to Bob, but certainly not me, Bob decided to make another one of his oh so clever jokes, in the same vein of the last one.
Just using his hands and teeth to devour the leftover spiral cut ham, Bob says, “Ya’ know, back in the times of the old west when law and order was sort of a every man for himself thing, people used to get rid of their victims they killed by dropping them in pig pens. The pigs’d eat ’em: bones, cartilage, and all.” That sick smile would be on his face. “Pigs eat anything, after all.”
Now, something started to gnaw at me. I felt a sick feeling, and a thought crept into my head that I didn’t like. Bob didn’t get along with anyone—and he especially didn’t get along with Viktor. But I figured this was just that sicko having some fun at my expense as usual. It couldn’t be anything more, could it?
Five days pass, and three of those days have included him mentioning some comment about pigs eating humans. How they’ll eat the bones and all. Pigs eat anything, after all. When I would get home, I would try calling Viktor. I tried three times and it was always the same. His phone just kept ringing until it went to voicemail. All I needed was some sort of contact to temper my anxiety. I just needed to hear his voice, so I’d get this gnawing suspicion out of my head. Bob was not a good man. That much can’t be disputed. But come on? What I was thinking sounded crazy. That’s paranoid thinking.
But each day I’d come in, Bob would make some comment on what pigs will eat. And each night I’d come home, and call Viktor only to listen to the phone ring and ring and ring until it would go to voicemail. The voicemail was full, but the phone wasn’t dead. It didn’t seem to make sense. Five days turned into a week. One week turned into two. And still the predicament stayed the same; nothing changed.
Then one day after Bob went on about how pigs can completely eliminate anything they eat—how they can devour any animal, even a human, without even leaving the slightest trace—he then follows it up with, “Have ya’ heard from Viktor?” And the coy smile he had on his face brought a shiver through my body that, from Bob’s subsequent delight, made it clear was physically evident.
When I’d go home, I’d hear Bob’s conversations. His new obsession. The one about the pigs. The one how they’ll eat anything—bones and all.
Each night I slept less and less. Each day, I tried to rationalize that Bob wasn’t that crazy. He’s a scumbag, but not a murderer. But he was there in my nightmares. Even in the few hours I could get some shuteye, he was there to torment me and wake me once more.
I started hearing him when I was alone. “Pigs eat anything, after all.” Then I’d whip around expecting him to be there, but I’d face an empty room. When I would almost drift asleep: “I’m just messin’ with ya’.” And I’d bolt upright in a cold sweat with the concept of sleep now a fantasy.
I’m not a superstitious man. I’ve never believed in ghosts in all my life. But even without the belief in ghosts or spirits or supernatural horrors, I am now sure that one could still definitely be haunted.
One day I walked into work. Bob got there early, and he was elbow deep in a cow on a hook removing its guts. He gave a casual “Hi,” and then started talking about some ‘chick’ he met with ‘a rack like a porn star’ and ‘an ass so tight it could pick up a dime,’ and I casually went about my business.
Anxious, I decided to give Viktor a call. Once again: voicemail. But this time, I thought I heard something. I didn’t know if it was just my sleep-deprived mind making things up, but I could’ve sworn I heard something. So, I dialed him again.
That’s when I knew I heard a faint noise. I walked in the direction of that noise, and heard it coming from Viktor’s office. I knew we were not supposed to go in there, but I figured this would be a valid reason.
When I entered, I saw Viktor’s phone vibrating on the desk attached to his charger. Behind me, I heard footsteps approach until they stopped only a foot or two away from me. I could hear Bob’s raspy breath, strained and shortened from a lifetime of smoking, and could even feel the moist hot air on the back of my neck on every one of Bob’s exhales. The halitosis of poor hygiene, cigarettes and animal flesh filled my nostrils.
“Bob,” I said without turning around. “Why would Viktor leave his phone here?”
Bob didn’t seem fazed, “I don’t know; I guess he forgot it.”
I glanced around the office. All that was there was his phone, a computer, a letter opener, a lamp, and some papers.
I took a deep breath. “Then how did he call you to let you know he was leaving the country for a funeral?”
“He called me on his house phone,” Bob said. “I don’t know why he left his phone. Maybe he was in a hurry.”
The more explanations he gave, the more the pieces didn’t seem to fit. And the more the pieces didn’t fit, the more the knot in my stomach tightened
I took another deep breath, stretching out the inhale and exhale as long as I could to give myself some time to think. “Bob, I want you to be honest.”
I could hear the smirk in Bob’s voice. “Alright, ya’ got me. I killed him.” I turned and saw the cow guts on his arms, coating his gloved hands all the way beyond his elbows, as his face wore that disgusting twisted smile. “And now, I guess I’ve got to cover my tracks.” That sick grin smeared across his remorseless face widened further. My veins turned to ice as what I kept telling myself as paranoid thinking was confirmed. I felt nauseous as I noticed that sick twinkle in his eye—the same look he had every time he slaughtered or gutted another animal. That almost lecherous look. “Sorry. Nothing personal.”
The color ran from my face, and I was frozen still. It wasn’t until he let out a hysterical, maniacal laugh that I was finally able to move. I didn’t have much time, so I acted quicker than I thought. I grabbed the only thing I thought that could help me—the letter opener—and plunged it as deep as I could into his gut. Before I knew what I was doing, I hit him with it three more times, as quick and as deep as I could.
When I let go, he stumbled back, his lips trembling. He tried to speak, but he was in shock. Then the words came, “I was… I was just… I was just messin’ with ya’. Just messin’.”
He fell backward onto the floor, with his head hitting the floor with a loud crack. Still he was muttering, “I was just… just messin’. Just messin’ around.”
He twitched for a long time. I didn’t know what to do. I knew it was self-defense, and of course I knew seeing someone die would be hard, but it took so long for him to die. I leaned against the wall and stared at him, as the minutes passed by and he’d continue to twitch and try to say words. Finally, he stopped breathing. He stopped twitching; his chest stopped giving those horrifying short breaths. And he stopped trying to speak.
I was paralyzed with fear. I had no clue what I should do. I didn’t know if I should call the cops, if I should run, if I should try to hide the body, if I should call a friend for help or advice, so I did nothing.
I just sat there, staring at the empty shell of a body. The blood stopped flowing from him, and his eyes were glazed over and gazed at nothing somewhere above.
As I sat there doing nothing in my horrified state, the hours passed. My shift had ended. It was nighttime. I should have gone home hours ago if this was a regular day at work. But I just sat there, staring blankly at what once was Bob Rorwick.
That’s when my phone rang, waking me from the long trance I had been in. I looked at the phone and saw Viktor’s home phone number.
I answered and did my best impression to act like everything was normal. Viktor told me how he had forgotten his cellphone at the office and asked if on my next day in I could pick it up for him and drop it off at his house. I told him sure. He told me about how he had a hectic few weeks with his family in Bulgaria—his family doesn’t handle death well—and asked if Bob and I could handle a few more days on our own while he took some time off to relax. I told him sure. He asked if we ran into any problems while he was away. I told him no. He said good and then apologized for the inconvenience. I told him no worries. We could handle a couple more days. I told him to take all the time he needs. Then he said goodbye and I said the same.
I then put my phone on the ground, staring at this body in front of me, now realizing that I didn’t kill out of self-defense; I murdered. And who would believe me if I told the truth? I realized then that I had no other option besides to turn myself in and throw myself at the mercy of the courts. Maybe I’d get lucky and get an insanity plea.
There was no way out of this. They’d find the body. They’d find my prints. I had no chance.
And then, just as soon as everything seemed at its darkest and bleakest, the answer to my problems popped in my head just like that.
Pigs eat anything, after all.
Originally from Levittown, New York, Liam Moran now resides in the suburbs of Chicago. His interests include reading, writing, psychology, philosophy, and occasionally trying to get some respite from life’s monotony by getting a few drinks with some friends while, if the season is right, watching some football despite the pain he feels as the Buffalo Bills continue to disappoint. He enjoys writing morally ambiguous or semi-unhinged characters, and believes that characters that aren’t so black and white make for a better story and are more relatable to the reader. His novel, Saving Fiction, is available on Amazon, and you can follow him on his Facebook page @LiamMoranAuthor or at amazon.com/author/liammoran.