|'Death on a Cow' - artwork by Daniel Grant Newton|
I've got two cool things to share with you for the price of one. Oh, you're not paying? Well, this is awkward. :-/
Anyway, today you can enjoy both my new drawing to your left, aptly called 'Death on a Cow'... because it is a picture of Death. Riding a cow. In the Countryside. Naturally.
And the short story (below) that relates to that picture. Yep, I drew this picture to complement my story... even though at no stage do I describe Death riding a cow in the actual story. But you never know, it could've happened, if you read between the lines.
I hope you enjoy!
Daniel Grant Newton
The Something That Fell From The Sky
By Daniel Grant Newton
It came from the sky.
There was no flash, or clap of thunder.
It just plopped down in amongst the daisies with less sound than the buzzing bees it scattered.
It glowed momentarily, and if you had equipment that could measure sounds below that of human perception, you would see that it did in fact make a sound too for a few moments.
But whatever it was, this UFO - Unidentified Falling Object, had run out of battery or fuel or whatever energy source it ran on. Or perhaps died if it had been alive. For there has never been anything like it on Earth before or since.
However, as it faded away, something strange happened. One of the daisies beside the object gave a little quiver.
If you had seen the movement you no doubt would’ve decided that the wind must’ve caught it. But then it gave a shake. A definite shake. And then it stretched down its petal head to the ground, before stretching it toward the sky that seemed to shimmer in the heat.
Its petal head moved about blindly, for it did not have eyes, and its leafy arms patted at the flowers by its side.
A gate swung open with a creak and a clatter as it hit the fence. Through the open gate plodded a cow.
The cow moved towards the strange lifeless object and began pulling up the flowers and chewing on them. Her heavy jaw moving in a circular motion as she had her daily graze.
Then, out of the blue, came a squeak.
The cows glazed eyes came alive, and it froze.
“Murderer,” came a little voice.
The cow’s tail and eyes flicked back and forth in unison, but it did not continue to chew.
“Every day you come here and slaughter more of my kind without a second thought,” came the voice.
The cow’s ears twitched, trying to locate the owner of the wispy voice.
“Where are you?” mooed the cow.
“Down here!” It was the little daisy that had become animated.
“How can you communicate? Daisies can’t moo.”
“Some warm, humming object fell down beside me, and as its warmth and humming faded away, I realised I could speak and move.”
“I see,” said the cow, deciding against challenging this theory because there was no better explanation she could muster. “And now you would like to use that little voice you have gained to stop me eating you.”
“Precisely,” said the flower, straightening its stem.
“Well, you are still a daisy, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t eat you.”
“You shouldn’t eat any of us daisies,” the flower retorted, two leaves mimicking hands on hips.
The cow chuckled softly, assaulting the air with its stale breath. “And why is that?”
“Because daisies are living things that grow and feel pain.”
The cow shook her meaty head. “But daisies are not really alive. You do not feel the longing for a friend, the excitement of fresh grass, the grief of losing a calf. You do not have personalities, or anything that could differentiate you from the next daisy.
“You just grow and die. You don’t wander the paddocks, enjoying the sun on your hide and appreciating the mountain ranges about you.”
And before the flower had a chance to give a rebuttal, the cow pulled the flower from the earth and added it to the flowers grinding under her back teeth.
The cow continued to graze and gaze at the distant hills from under her long eyelashes, until she heard a familiar voice. It was the human, and she could understand the human’s voice.
Her head craned around to see the human approaching her.
The human was young, with long brunette hair tied in a bun, jeans that clung to her slender legs, and a flannelette top tied in a knot at the bottom.
“Alright Cassie,” said the human cradling her rifle, “you’re going to be dinner tonight.”
“Excuse me, Suzie!” the cow exclaimed, sending the human tumbling backwards. “Did you say I’m going to be dinner, or I’m going to join you for dinner?”
The human cocked her head to the side. “You… you just spoke… in my head. I must be going crazy.”
“No, it is quite okay, I was shocked when the flower spoke to me.”
“How are you..?”
“I don’t know really,” said the cow turning her body around to face the human. “But I came upon a flower who spoke to me. The flower said it was able to speak to me after a strange object fell from the sky. Then when I ate the flower, the ability to talk to other creatures was passed on to me.”
The human massaged her chin with her dirty slender hands, and after a few moments of consideration, leapt to her feet and dusted off her pants. “You don’t feel sick or anything, do you? Just smarter, right?”
“I don’t feel sick or smarter, I can just communicate with everything around me. Well, anything that had the brains to communicate. Only that one flower could talk.”
“I guess we can still eat you then,” said the human raising her gun to the cow’s snout.
“Hold on! Hold on! Hold on!” the cow pleaded. “I thought we had a bond, a kinship, an understanding. I fed you my milk like you were one of my young. You were there for me when my own young were taken. You found me new pastures to eat, and knew I loved eating daisies.”
“We do have a relationship, but now it is time for you to become beef: beef pie, beef lasagne, beef and cheese, beef curry, steak and chips, the meat in a hamburger, and so on.”
“You… you can’t eat me… I’m a cow. I’m a living thing,” protested the cow, and it then occurred to the cow that the flower had tried defending its life in a similar fashion.
“Humans eat cows. That’s the way it goes,” the human shrugged, before cocking her shotgun.
“But cows feel emotions, we have societies with leaders, we explore the fields appreciating the sun and the mountains, we grow and breathe and think.”
The human wiped a bead of sweat slithering down her forehead from her mousy hair, and then decided to humour the cow. “Cow brains are just clusters of instincts that wander aimlessly in a small stretch of grass with no awareness of yourself or any individual identity.
“Humans are different. We explore this entire planet on machines we have made, go to the very depths of the ocean, and can even land on the moon.
“We build cities, create art, change the environment around us, learn and build on this knowledge, and create experiences for ourselves you could not even comprehend.
“We also create ourselves. We have different cultures, beliefs, ways of life, can recognise ourselves as ourselves in a mirror, and importantly don’t have to follow our primal instincts if we want.”
That night the human and her male offspring ate the cow with a delicious helping of gravy, peas and potato mash. The human recounted most of the story of that day to her offspring, but was interrupted by a bright light seeping through the blinds.
“Is somebody here?” asked the small male from the table, as the fully grown female opened up a gap in the blinds and squinted through the window.
“It’s not a car, Tommy,” she responded. “It looks like an alien space craft or something.”
Outside in the frosty grass a small figure wandered the field, and behind the figure was a large craft with bright lights that lit the grass in an eery rainbow of colours.
The figure’s skin was silky and shiny, and its large eyes glistened in the moonlight.
“Hey Alien! You looking to mutilate my cattle or just draw crop circles?” asked the female human, a shot gun in one hand, and the other hand ensuring Tommy was still shadowing her.
The alien cocked its head to the side. “I’m looking for my food source. It fell from my ship, and I located it here. I must find it.”
The human woman sighed quietly, let her boy come out from behind her and lowered her gun. “I haven’t seen any alien food around here, not that I know what you eat.”
The extraterrestrial nodded. “You can’t see my food. It doesn’t have a physical form. But it was here.” He picked up a piece of the object that had fallen from the sky. “It was trapped in this container ready for me to consume.”
The female human swallowed a lump forming in her throat.
The alien paused to note this curious mannerism, before continuing. “I must find it because this food source is incredible rare in the universe, but the only thing that can nourish my body. Once I have consumed it however, I can continue my explorations for 1,000 of this planet’s rotations of the sun before needing more nourishment.”
“Well, if it has escaped,” started the female human, “it’s probably long gone now. It could be anywhere.”
“You are right,” called back the alien, entering his spaceship and searching for equipment. “This food source is of simple mind, but it has fantastic survival instincts. It can become invisible to our eyes and can hide in living organisms. Mind you, it cannot exit an organism it is hiding in, so to use your earthly expression, that strategy ‘paints itself into a corner’.”
The little alien returned with a tiny device in its nimble webbed fingers. “Ah, my device says the food source is hiding in your bodies. What luck! No more need for searching.”
“If you think you are going to operate on me and Tommy you got another thing coming E.T.,” warned the female human, raising her gun and peering at the little being. “I can shoot a rabbit through the brains from 100 yards, you’ll be no sweat.”
“I’m not going to extract the creature, that would be impossible. It has infused itself to your DNA. No doubt why you are speaking in my language and why your skin looks so healthy.” The alien glided forward a few paces. “I’m going to have to eat you.”
“Like hell you are,” she retorted, firing a shot at the being. However instead of killing the alien, the bullet lost any forward momentum about three metres from the creature, and harmlessly fell to the ground.
The human female gasped and fired again with the same result. And again and again.
“Run Tommy,” she screamed, but neither could make their legs work. Their feet were firmly planted to the ground.
“You can’t eat us,” said the human male. “We’re humans. We’re just like you. We’re living things.”
“Well, I suppose you could be described as ‘living’, in a very rudimentary sense,” responded the alien pacing back and forth. “And to be honest, your physical shell will be just waste in my body, but I need to eat the food source. No way around it.”
The human female held up a shaky hand. “Wait. Humans are intelligent self-aware beings like you. We feel emotions and innovate. We explore our world and learn. We change our environment, and build great cities.”
The alien tossed its head from side to side weighing up the female human’s argument. “You’re not really intelligent, self-aware, emotional beings really though.
“You are mainly following your mental programming. Programming created through mirroring your society, your parents, your peers. Very little of what you do is consciously decided upon. In fact, most of you are not self-aware enough to challenge even one of your beliefs, habits or patterns of thought. You are more like prehistoric robots.
“And you are not explorers either. A handful of you fly to the nearest rock circling your planet and suddenly you mean something in a universe that expands infinite light years. That is less than a drop in the cosmic ocean. My race hop between stars faster than you can buy your food supply at the local shop.
“As for learning, what good is learning when you just use it to find better ways to gratify your most primal instincts. Besides, your technology is incredibly primitive. I may not have even recognised you had tools if I hadn’t noticed all the pollution and radiation on my scanners when I first visited your planet.”
The two humans were about to argue further, but before they could they were vaporised into golden specs that streamed into the aliens open mouth.
The alien turned to return to his spaceship when he saw something in the corner of his eye and so he turned sharply.
There, in the field, stood a tall semi-translucent figure wearing a hooded robe that fluttered as if was blown by a wind the alien could not feel.
“I have no quarrel with you earthling, go away and I shall not vaporise you,” said the alien, but the figure did not move. “Go away I say.”
“Curious,” spoke the figure in a deep distorted voice, “you speak the language of the angels, yet you are still in mortal flesh.”
The alien grinned. “Our race has disproved your beliefs of angels and Gods millennia ago, human. If your planet is lucky enough to evolve further, perhaps you will too one day.”
“I am no human, nor do I have a physical form,” said the figure leaning against the fence. “I am Death, and I have come for you.”
The alien snorted. “Firstly, I do not believe death has a form, physical or otherwise. Secondly, my race cured the last disease centuries ago, and so I can only possibly die of starvation. However, as you no doubt just witnessed, I am fed.”
“It has been one too many millennia of travelling the Universe for you, Mocha Nef-tav, and your soul must shed your physical form. Personally I do not see why physical beings fear me so much. I am your guide and welcoming party for the next adventure in your life.”
“How… how do you know my name?” asked the alien, his voice beginning to quiver.
“I am the manifestation of death. I know the name of everyone about to transition,” spoke the figure.
The alien shakily held out a device. “I do not like your game, whatever you are, but I’m about to vaporise you if you…”
And with that the alien decided to not take chances and fired at the being. The blast however went straight through the figure as if he were not there.
“What technology was that?” cried the alien. “Are you a hologram?”
Death knelt down and picked up a rock and studied the rock for a moment in his fingers. Then he threw the rock and it hit the alien square in the head.
“Ouch!” yelled the alien, rubbing his head. “How did you get that simple rock through my shield? I’ve not been hurt for over four thousand years.”
“There is a beauty in nature and simplicity,” responded Death, although not really answering the alien’s question. “Anyway, that blood coming from your head looks nasty, I’d tell you to get it checked, but you know, too late.”
“There is no blood coming from my head,” the alien growled, putting a webbed hand to his forehead and then lowering it to check it wasn’t covered in black blood.
“Your spirit doesn’t bleed, Mocha Nef-tav,” chuckled Death, “I mean your physical body.”
It became very quiet all of a sudden, as if all the grasshoppers had disappeared and the wind ceased to ruffle the branches of trees.
The alien turned slowly to see his body splayed over the moist grass. It looked a shade bluer than it should, and its eyes stared blankly at the stars from where it had originated.
“Turns out,” started Death, “the human male was carrying a disease your medical scientists had not yet identified, and your body was too old and tired to fight it. Plus you got hit in the head really hard with the rock I threw, which sort of put the nail in the proverbial coffin.
“Although, to be honest, your death comes when death is called, so one way or another, you were going to die tonight.”
The alien fell over his body and clasped at it. “No, I cannot die. I’m meant to live forever. I’m a living thing.”
“Not anymore you aren’t,” chuckled Death, turning his back and moving toward the barn across a couple of paddocks.
The alien chased after Death to protest, leaving his body to be covered in the heavy but sparse drops of rain that had begun to fall. “I can’t die. There are not many of my race left thanks to the diminishing food supply, and we bring so much to the universe.
“We are the most advanced race of anything that probably ever was. We travel through wormholes, between stars, terraform planets so life can evolve, are masters of our body, prevent intergalactic wars, splice DNA to create new lifeforms, have tapped into the collective consciousness…”
“Great, so you’ve lived a happy life here and done some stuff, now you get to travel through time, dimensions and planes of existence as well as space; be part of the ever-expanding infinite universal consciousness; master your soul and unlock its power; promote the evolution of the multiverse; and other such things that marvel those who have just emerged from the physical into the non-physical.”
Death stopped and turned back to the alien as they entered the barn and came to a kombi van adorned with paintings of flowers and peace signs. “You will realise in one moment of absolute clarity that each life is fleeting and insignificant, and yet each life is the most important thing that ever was. Like my sweet ride?”
“What is that?” asked the alien, following Death’s finger to the van.
“Oh right, you’re not from around here. It’s a vehicle I picked up in the late 60s. I would change it, but it has more seats than a car so I can pick up more souls at once, and kind of says: ‘death ain’t that bad, dude’. Plus I just love flowers. They’re so complex, you know?” responded Death running a hand across its pealing paint job. “Hop in.”
The alien cautiously stepped in and saw the two humans he had eaten in one of the front seats to the right. They were both giggling and playing a game with each other’s hands.
Behind them was a cow sitting upright, licking its lips and overlooking the game the humans were playing.
Seated in the front seats to the left was the daisy and misty mass the alien assumed was the spirit of his food source. They seemed to be communicating with each other, but without faces, it was hard to see how they felt about all this.
The alien cautiously nestled into the seat behind the flower and the misty mass next to a butterfly that whispered responses so quietly to any question it was posed the alien could not hear a thing it said.
Death squeezed into the van’s driver’s seat and made the engine purr with his keys. “Alright you lot, everybody got your seat belts on.” He paused a beat for everybody to notice there were no seat belts. “Just kidding, you’re all dead. No need for seat belts.
“Said that joke once though, and made a little one cry. He’d died in a car crash. Gave him one of my fairy lollipops.” He opened his glovebox and an avalanche of individually packaged lollipops tumbled out. “So, swings and roundabouts.”
“Lollipops?” asked the little human, a crinkle forming on his spiritual brow.
“Yeah, where do you reckon sugar comes from, lad? Heaven, that’s where,” answered Death, popping a lollipop in his own mouth and handing the boy enough lollipops to be handed out to everyone in the van. “Now let’s put the pedal to the nonphysical metal!”
And with that the van launched forward and zoomed out the barn doors and into the night sky. Stars and galaxies whizzed past, and everyone, including the alien, was captivated by what was outside their window.
Suddenly, however, the van was halted by a bouncy net that was strung from two massive totem poles.
Death stuck his head out the window and a spirit wearing red fury slippers and a dressing gown approached the vehicle.
“Hey, what’s with the spirit web, lady?”
“I was knitting more time and space for the living,” she responded with distain. “I have a real job to do.”
“These vans don’t fly themselves, lady. Now let us through.”
“Fine,” she mumbled, “but if you create another Dark Ages in the 18th Century it is not my fault.”
And with that the van jerked forward once more and whizzed past more stars and solar systems, until finally it slowed to a halt in front of a glowing portal that was almost too bright to look at.
Death turned around. “That my friends is the end of our journey. That light is like a big spiritual bath that will wash you clean of any physical attachment, pain or belief that you picked up in the physical world, and return you to your true spiritual self. When you’re done, you’ll see that you’re all the same in the spirit world.
“But don’t feel like you need to walk right in there. You can take your time, because once you’ve been cleansed of lack there is no going back.
“In the meantime, you are welcome to sit around outside and contemplate life or whatever you mortals do. Anyway, I better go, there’s a war breaking out in the planet Goggi so I might be quite busy.”
The passenger spirits all exited the van in a single line and watched the van speed off with a puff of smoke and a grind of the gears as the hyperdrive was initiated.
The flower, the cow and the misty mass all meandered towards the light and disappeared without breaking their stroll. The butterfly floated and flittered about a few steps behind them, before too entering the light.
The two humans and the alien however decided to sit down and peer into the expansive shimmering pool of light. They exchanged stories from their life for some time.
The alien told of the many worlds and cultures he’d seen, and the adventures he’d had. As the female human had only gone to London once, and most of her stories tended to be about waking up in various locations after a big night out or having maybe seen a celebrity at the town’s bank, she tended to embellish a little to keep the alien interested.
Strangely though, the alien appeared to be enchanted by the stories, particularly the parts she almost left out for fear they’d bore him.
Eventually however the young human stood and put out his hand to his mother. His mother hesitantly took his hand and stood up too. She looked down at the alien.
The alien took a deep breath, and also stood. He gave one look back at the starry universe he had travelled for so long and grown to know so well.
Then, all three of them ventured into the light together.
- The End -