Cannibal sunrise. Perverts pissing in the showers and jay walkers thumbing for the soap in the scum coated sinkholes of a new tomorrow. Those absolute bastards who didn’t pay their TV license on time, falling in line to scrub the sin from their skin. Men and women claw back at what little humanity is left. Forging families through open doors inside four walls. Trapped. Children schooled through iron stripes. New born babies burst from toilet bowl births. They strut straight into prison whites and wiggle away up the groaning girder catwalk for their inaugural mug shot. One foot two inches. Portrait of a savage. Side on and slumped. Prop that degenerate fucker up with the broom handle. Porridge made from straw and glass and hot irons branding the long arm of the law on their ass.
I hate my job. I hate doing this to these people. It’s a shanty town behind those bars. But I have to eat. I need my scratch. I’m buck-beaked and bloody all of the time. Man, I’m battery bred myself. Shit, how low can we get? People are just born into their cells and I was just hatched into my coop. It seems we are responsible for our own ancestry after all. This is my legacy. This is their heritage. I’m eyeballing some poor dirt-caked kid right now. He’s licking his lips looking at me through the mesh. They all do at that age. A little bit of meat on the side with their garbage cakes. Real meat, not human. No... Pipe dreams pal. It won’t happen. Their are laws and procedures in place to prevent it. Trust me, I have rights now. My kind fought really fucking hard for them too. A lady drags the kid away by the scruff of it’s neck. She winks at me. Yeah right. Can’t we all just get along?
BERNK-BERNK-BERNK. My shift is starting. The silver cog turns and the fresh-enough grain drops into my plastic tray. The weight of it pushes the tray to the floor. CLUCK-CLUCK. I am straight over. Boy, oh boy i’m hungry! The inmates gather below me pushing up to the steel bars. Don’t get too close, it’ll take your arm off when the hinges pop. They’re groaning. Zombies. Fucking zombies. I’m pecking at the corn grounds. The weight of the corn depleting. The plastic tray winding back up the winch. It’s at the top now. BERNK-BERNK. The gate below slides across. The criminals push through. Falling on all fours and crawling to the trough at the other end of the small room. Phase two will begin shortly.
They’ve had their fill just about. Some of them are scraping the rim with their nails. Sucking their fingers. Others have wandered back to their box beds in the first room. BERNK-FIVE-BERNK-FOUR-Those by the trough vacate the container-BERNK-THREE-A skinny prick with a grim ribcage desperately scoops-BERNK-He must be losing his mind-TWO-BERNK-He’s done. He turns and tumbles toward the open door-ONE-DOOMPH. He’s through... Chancing it though. The sprinklers turn on now. A mist of acid rain sprays out across the empty room. I’m looking at the clock. I turn and head to my straw box perch and fall asleep.
A cold gust wakes me up. My feathers bristle as it brushes past my back and overhead. The door behind me is open now. Phase two has begun. The room to my right is empty. They’re all outside, shitting and stretching. I look directly down through the mesh. The scales are tipped. I watch the little egg I just laid bobbling along through the glass pipe which frames the gate. Bon voyage little egg. I don’t know how long I was dozing for so I don’t know how long they’ve got left out there. I can’t wait to clock off. I can’t bare to watch them when the lights go down. Plus, I’m banking on getting some Cock down the watering hole tonight. BERNK-FIVE-BERNK-BLAH- Back inside they go. Clambering. Acid rain. Again. That’s it for the day. Let em stew... I’m done. Barbaric, some of them. Not all. I don’t like to stereotype, but humans truly are the worst.
I’m down my local with the other girls. It’s called ‘The Colonel’ and that passes for irony in this world. It’s a members only club. The door is an old cat flap with a magnetic pass system. We all have membership and we all work at that prison together. Yes, since that fateful day when my plumage turned from yellow to brown I’ve been clucking on the clock down town. Johnny the Cock is in the corner looking damn fine. He’s cornered some chicks and is shouting ‘COCK OR DOODLE-DOO?’ at them, which is a trick question because which ever one you pick he just gives you the same thing. I hope he presents me with such an offer before the night is done. The cat flap darkens and the youngsters amongst us skeeter away to the straw strewn perches which line the walls. We stand our ground. We’ve been around this town long enough to know how it always goes down. In comes Jimmy the Cock. He’s a bigger Cock than Johnny.
Silence. Jimmy struts over to me. ‘COCK OR DOODLE DOO?’ he screams in my face. Johnny is straight over breaking up my group, squaring up to Jimmy. He scratches the floor with his claw. Jimmy stands a good two inches taller than Johnny, more girth too. He’s feeling cocky. He caws out across The Colonel. Silence. Johnny looks up at Jimmy with a cockeyed stare. They scratch the floor again and begin to circle. Johnny pecks first and draws blood. Jimmy goes for the eyes. We duck out of the way as they ruffle their feathers and get nasty. The night is ruined. Fucking Cocks. We make a swift exit and head home.
On the walk back our talk turns to work, as it always does. There’s talk of a grain shortage and the prison board sees it as an opportunity to enforce rationing. Supposedly the pigs on the top floor are authorizing it, but Jackie seems to think it’s the humans in resources. There’s talk of unionizing. I’m on board with that. We’ll see...
BERNK-Onwards. Poor souls. It’s a new day and some scoundrel is shouting something at me, but I’m not really paying attention. I think they’re asking for help. It’s best not to get involved though. It’s easy to develop empathy and understanding for people in need if you listen to them. Makes my job much harder. I need my job. Gobble gobble. Oh wait, that’s turkeys. Fuck off. Don’t judge me. You don’t know what it’s like. BERNK-BERNK-BERNK. The grain is depleted. It’s noticeable. Very much so. I catch Jackie’s eye across the way. She’s manning the gate opposite to me in block B. She jerks her head to the side and then continues eating.
They don’t seem to realize that if they drain the grain our eggs will shrink. If our eggs don’t weigh enough they won’t tip the scales. If the scales don’t tip, the doors won’t open and the prisoners won’t get their exercise time, which would be illegal. To be honest, they’ll probably just write a law that denies inmates the right to fresh air and open space. At least it’d mean less work for me and the girls... OH SHIT. They’ll cut my fucking hours. It wouldn’t be enough to pay the rent. Half my grain. Ovulating out of sync with pale thin lays. We need to do it. Organize and unionize. The time has come.
Movement! We took a list of demands to the board. Now we wait and see. No pain, no grain. That’s our motto. They have twenty four hours to comply or we walk. BERNK-But for now, i’m still on shift. Even though I take no pride in my work whatsoever, I need to pay my bills and get my fill and lay my eggs. They’re at the gate again. Waiting for the trough. So thin, all scarred and bruised. I don’t really notice the smell. I shit wherever I want too so it’s fine. Their’s does smell worse than mine but that’s just the way it is.
The pigs upstairs tried to meet us half way on our list of demands. We’ve walked. Good luck finding ducks who’ll work for half scratch and a zero hour contract. Monkeys can’t lay eggs can they? The sheer greed of it. They’ve made a big mistake but I’ll be fine. My track record in the world of work is impeccable so i’m sure I’ll fall into something soon enough. The air smells so sweet. I don’t miss that place at all. The mess of grey faces merging into xylophone torsos. Styrofoam bed frames and dial-toneless calls home to no one at the broken phones in the hacked up hallways of hocked up blood. Troughs of brown nothing. Visiting hours meant coughing out wraps of crack so they cut them. It was one less job for me. Now i’m free, i’m happy. Something will come along soon enough.
BERNK-BERNK-BERNK-How I miss that sound. My tummy is grumbling again. They’ve cut the power in my apartment. All the girls are struggling. No one has found a job. I heard a bleak rumour from Joan that Jill scrambled her own period in a pan the other day. That was her breakfast. Cannibal sunrise. I feigned disgust when she told me, but in all truth i’d be doing the same if I were able to lay... I think the stress has taken it’s toll. It’s getting darker. The Colonel is getting a bit rough. Blood splattered Cocks dead against the walls. Chicklets picking at their giblets. Scrambled eggs for brains. Our community has lost all infrastructure since we walked out on our trade. Guarding the prison was our industry for generations and now we’re looking lost. They’ve out sourced the work to the vultures. They’re looming overhead waiting for the captives to keel over and corpse.
Johnny the Cock is running a business crushing cracked shells in with some beak he cut himself. He’s got a gerbil trojan-horsing it past customs at the airport, but he swears the gerbil is a rat. He’s asked me to shift the gear for him. I’ve hit rock bottom and I need the work. The wraps slide down my gullet with ease amidst the mountains of scratch I now have access to. It comes out the other end easy enough. The work is fine, it’s just the risk...
That gerbil was a rat. They followed me to the spot. The pinned me up against the wall and shook my tail feathers. Me and Johnny had a hatchling due but they crushed that fumbling for blow. They’re sending me to the slammer. The same slammer in which I once worked. The same grey faces, no longer on the other side. Licking their lips. Running their cutlery up and down the bars like ten engines revving from inside clapped out cars. They’ll put me on a spit. I won’t know where to sit. Some of them are alright... Aw, shit. My great grandmother fought on the picket for the chicken rights. Now, here I am the first hen amongst men, to go to jail. The evolution will be southern fried.