What if I told you I know what hell is. What if I told you I was in hell right now. Would you even listen? Probably not. You don’t even notice me sitting here, chained here, watching you. The others? They’re watching you too. Now, I don’t know if they know what I know. I don’t even know if they think. Had you asked me twenty years ago, I would have said hell no, they don’t think. They’re too stupid. Ask me now though.
I don’t know how long I have been chained in this so-called house. More like a box…more like a dog house. Half my body in, half my body out. But I do know how long you plan to keep me here. Four months. If I’m lucky, you’ll be impatient like the last person and let me out after three. I could only be so lucky.
Yes, sir! I will bow my head, and step back as you fill my food. I know. I know. One wrong move and you’ll slam my head with that metal bucket you hold. And that blow to my skull will be painful. I’ve felt it before. So many times before. Even when I was sure to not move, to not even breathe when that bucket was near me, it would still come down and hit me with a loud crack, followed by the soundwaves of that metal traveling through my skull just because the holder was having a bad day. Because it was too hot out that day. Or because the smell of our shit and piss was extra strong on that day. I don’t know if today is one of those days, I don’t smell our excrement anymore. So I will sit here, quiet, while you pour that slop in front of my vulnerable, tender face. And I will pray to the God that has turned his back on me to please take pity on my soul. For I am truly sorry for all I have done in the past. Please God, forgive me.
I know you. I was you. I was powerful once too. Shit, to hold the power of who lives and who dies in your own two hands? That’s some amazing feeling right there. I know, you pretend like it’s just a job. You do it for the money, right? It has nothing to do with the feeling you get when you raise that bucket above our heads and watch with laughter in your eyes as we cower to you, anticipating the pain to come. Sometimes you pull back though. You spare us the pain, but only the pain. You don’t spare our dignity that you took in that moment. Always making sure we know who is boss. Always making sure we know we are less than. Because that makes you more than. I know. I was you.
I want to die. And I want to stay dead. I did die. I had a heart attack at fifty-five. Twenty years ago. They said my arteries were clogged. I had a wonderful life, so I thought. My husband and I owned the largest dairy farm our side of the state. Business was good. We had the best machinery money could buy to milk those ladies. We also had the best insemination practices…they took almost every time. That meant extra money from the veal industry. Life was good. Money was good.
Apparently I overlooked number six in the Ten Commandments though: Thou shalt not kill. I’m sure it didn’t help any that we also slaughtered those babies and their expired moms on the Sabbath day as well. I should have known better.
The last thing I remember from that life was hearing my daughter crying for me to hang on. Then it went black. I felt nothing for a minute. Then I saw a light. It was beautiful and I wanted nothing more than to go to it. As I entered into it, I felt myself dangle down, cold and wet. I tried to see, but everything was a blur. Then my body hit something hard. I felt a gentle touch. It was the most welcoming feeling in the world. I wondered if it was an angle. It gently caressed my body everywhere. And once it stroked my face, I could smell the earth. It smelled dirty and green and wonderful. And then I could see clearly. The blur was removed as something rough and wet dragged across my eyes. I could see sky. Beautiful blue sky with the occasional white puff strategically placed. I struggled to stand, and as I did so, I turned my head to see who this beautiful angel was. To my disbelief it was a cow. Surprisingly I wasn’t disturbed, or disgusted. I loved her. It was an automatic love. And instantly I regretted the enslavement that I did for years with animals like this beautiful cow who stood before me, continuing to brush me with her tongue. I think she loved me too.
I heard footsteps pushing through the grass. And before I could turn to see who was coming, my body was lifted and flung into a rusted wheel barrow as though I was nothing more than a heavy bag of manure. My thin, soft bones felt as though they were hit with baseball bats. I could see the anguish in the cow’s eyes as she began to yell for me and follow this man as he threw me into a truck. I yelled, I cried. But I knew no one would listen. Sadly, I was familiar with what was happening and I knew what would come next. I knew because I was that farmer once. And as terrified as I was for myself, I felt so much worse for the cow, my new mother. Her heart would break and she would literally call for me for days. Maybe even weeks. And no one would listen.
I was tied to a chain and left in a tiny dog-style house for four long months. Veal is tender because when it’s alive, it’s not permitted to move…ever. That’s trick of the trade number one. I was fed a meal that was deficient in many nutrients. I would also be plagued with extreme stomach upset and diarrhea every day because of that diet. But because of that diet, I would taste better. That’s trick of the trade number two. I would occasionally be beat for no reason. Thankfully I would only have to endure this cruelty for four months. Final trick of the trade: kill them young, while the meat is still as tender as butter.
I could not wait for that reincarnated life to be over.
But after four months, after I was pushed into a truck with ten other four-month old calves and driven to the slaughter house. After we all stood in line watching the one in front of us get their throat slit. After receiving a blunt hit to my own head. After having my own throat slit and then my skin pulled and sliced from me before I bled out…before I was even dead. After all that, I traveled to another light. I thought, Thank you God, as I traveled to a new light. That light was beautiful and I felt peace. Finally, I felt peace. It was finally over. Then I felt cold and wet before hitting the ground. I felt a loving caress and found myself in love with another beautiful cow only to endure the whole four month hellish process again. Hell-ish. There is no “ish” about this. It took me five reincarnations into this same situation before I realized this was hell. This is hell. For twenty years I have endured the life of a baby calve, held against my will and slaughtered over and over and over again.
So you, with that bucket in your hand and power raging from your eyes, you will soon be here too. Hell is real and it is more karmic than you could ever imagine.
Written by Sheryl Marasi
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