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Cured Meat
The Nouveau Americana rippled into existence decades after the Americans landed on Mars. In those days, there was little else to eat but human meat. At first, "I’m above this" was a sentiment shared by most, then thought by none. Arguments came down to the value of flesh. Some fought to represent the diversity of the human spectrum: lengths of intestines were taken from just as many wealthy men as from poor men, Ukrainian women were stuffed with ground, vagabond meat taken from African women, and most meat was seasoned with the salt extracted from teenage sweat or a delicate sauce strained from elderly blood. 

All savored the pertinence of flesh, as it became crucial that every discussion revolved around meat. Hence the particular occasion, when modest proposals followed the accident that killed a young boy. The councilmen disagreed on what to do with the child’s body. Traditional law dictated that meat not go to waste, and that the child would be consumed. But seeing as the mother was present, and it was her son that died, the council asked her for her opinion.

Her marriage was consummated before she knew better. She could not grieve when her son, the perfect product to an unhappy arrangement, had died in the accident. The window glass shattered and tore into him, and she watched her only child with pity because his life had amounted to nothing. She wished desperately for maternal instinct to kick in but felt numbness instead of sorrow. Behind her, another child sobbed loudly while his stomach growled. Don’t dally, she thought, as she cut open her son with a knife and sliced a filet of meat.

"Take some. There’s not much else," she said, "I will start a fire."

One of the fathers hesitated, but he led his family to kneel by the boy’s side. They uttered a quick prayer. His wife could not stop her tears. But they cut.

Soon, the rest of the families picked him apart. They cooked him in the fire, took care to pick the bones clean, to waste as little of his life as possible. When they had finished, the families mourned. The now-skeletal son’s mother stood over the fire, warming her hands, and she turned to them and refused their condolences.

"To eat is to survive. To maintain our diverse population, we sacrifice ourselves," she offered sardonically. A couple of people chuckled at the silliness of the thought.

Consuming meat cured loneliness, they all knew, and picking flesh off the bone brought them closer to the warring home they abandoned.
Ivy Li
Published in Issue 39