It’s hard to ignore five hundred pounds of rotting meat, but I was the only one who could smell it, and at first it wasn’t the smell, it was the RUSTLE behind two plain, white double doors that appeared at the hallway’s dead end. I’d never seen them before…
So I asked my boss, “New doors? The corporate overlords hiding something in there?” But I really didn’t care, I just thought management should have told us. After all, over the loudspeaker system they’re always blaring mission statements about how we’re ‘feeding the world,’ and whether we need to get to the sub-levels due to storm activity … But back to the point, it was really BAD, BAD, BAD because my boss just looked at me and said, “What doors?” – and I said, “Never mind,” and the next day the doors were still there and I heard the rustling!
I thought the worst things: a trussed-up human—a vampire bat—a mouse with a veiny tumor escaped from the labs? I called maintenance, they sent a robot with jangling keys and a broom. We both turned toward the dead end, “I don’t understand,” the bot kept saying.
The next morning, I opened the double doors:
A shallow closet, and on the floor, a tiny, pale pink piglet scampering in frantic circles on printer paper—ugh, ugh, ugh—I slammed the door, this was some joke! Sick! The bots’ algorithms were off!
But two more people said to me, “What doors?”
So I was crying when I got my car on Sub 7 and, while the car drove, I booked some appointments, went to them—and got offers of MRIs, which I accepted, and offers of antipsychotics, which I declined—and I thought, “it’s only this one thing—a piglet in a little closet—and if you’re afraid you’re crazy, doesn’t that mean you’re not?”
I ignored the rustling for days, it went quiet, and I opened the doors and saw a gray carcass. A week later, I heard SQUEALS so I went IMMEDIATELY to the doors and saw the dead piglet there and a new live one, too, tiny and staring at me … I closed the door, left it in the dark. Sorry, little squirt. I listened to the squeals all day, thought about them all night, brought a pint of cream and a teacup to work the next day, muttering as I filled the teacup, “Hope you like it!”
Later I checked on it and saw that the new piglet had tipped over the teacup, torn up the carcass, and was licking spots in the carpet—animals are disgusting!—so I righted the teacup, poured the rest of the cream, and it became my daily chore, the cream for the piglet. Feces grossly proliferated, and I ignored that situation until, finally, I put them and the dead piglet into a black plastic bag and threw it out.
Faster than it should have, the piglet became a pig. I looked close enough to know that it was a girl pig. She would grunt appreciatively when I appeared; I gave her salad from the cafeteria, even though it was too good for a pig, the lettuce is always crisp and fresh. I wasn’t sure of the ethics of feeding it fatty, good-sized bacon bits. But she ate up everything, she was growing, growing, growing, and I couldn’t feed her enough to stop the SQUEALING. She began throwing herself against the door.
No one commented on these sounds and this chilled my insides, I just kept thinking, this will eventually run its course, like a cold.
A few more weeks and the pig grew into a hog with gray blotchy skin, so big she could barely move in the closet, so heavy her legs shook when she stood up. She moaned for food, company, freedom. I didn’t care, I just wanted it to stop. I came up with a plan:
I stopped feeding her.
After two weeks of no food, no cream, I opened the door, saw the hog sprawled dead, said, “Thank God,” closed the door.
And then the decay stench was worse than the SQUEALS, so I did a bad thing, when I heard coworkers joking, enjoying themselves, impervious to the rot. I yanked the fire alarm—maybe new people, firemen, somebody, would investigate! But what happened was a meeting with my boss and a human resources manager, someone had seen me pull the alarm, and they were more concerned than angry, they just wanted to know what was wrong. “Bad day,” I said; “Take some time off,” they said. And I considered my options while sitting in the company apartment, and things finally got back to normal except for this:
Every day I bought heavy cream, until it lined every space of my fridge, and then … I heard a rustling … it became SQUEALS…
I opened up the drawer beneath the oven where my roasting pan and cookie sheets should be, and saw:
Ten pink piglets squirming around each other.
I thought of my soup pot, could do one at a time—no! I went to the fridge, got a pint of cream, and poured it into the drawer: a stream of gloppy liquid splashing over the wiggling pink bodies; I emptied it and started the next. The piglets made happy sounds, I dumped cream until bodies were splashing in a pool of pale, sweet-smelling yellow. They lapped it up, and their noses blew bubbles. Cream leaked all over my floor, I slammed the drawer shut, and from behind the metal, I kept hearing SQUEALS, no it’s not going to stop, but I know what I need to do.
Marilee grew up in the Midwest and studied English at the University of Minnesota. She currently lives in Washington, DC. Her other short stories have most recently appeared in Cleaver, The Colored Lens, Metaphorosis and The Saturday Evening Post.