The Free-Range Dead

Prompt Day #75: It’s late night at the local diner. Two characters are eating breakfast. One discovers something strange in the eggs. A plate shatters in the back kitchen. Write this scene.


The Free-Range Dead

                “It’s so great to be back in the states” Jackie said looking over the menu.

“Oh God yes! I’ve had about all the beans and rice I could eat.” Leslie rolled her eyes. It had been a long two months in the jungles of Honduras. As midwives working with physician volunteers, they’d seen their share of poverty and its effect on health.

“Well, we’re back in the land of plenty, do you want a breakfast appetizer or are you going straight for the omelet?” Jackie asked her. It was three in the morning in the middle of nowhere. They had flown into this little airport in the bayou of Louisiana and were scheduled to catch a plane to Houston at 8:15. Both were starving and had set out immediately to find an open diner near the airport. In the small town, there weren’t many options. They settled on a mom and pop joint operating out of an old trailer that had been covered in wood to resemble a log cabin.  The sign proclaimed “Farm to Table! Free range chickens out back, you can’t find fresher eggs than these!” They’d giggled a little at the ignorance of the Farm to Table concept here, but farm fresh eggs sounded too good to pass up.

“What can I get ya, Darlin’” The waitress, who appeared to have stepped out of the fifties, asked Leslie.

“I would love a three egg omelet with Swiss cheese, mushrooms and spinach. And a coke please, a big one. I haven’t had a soda in 2 whole months.” She said grinning mischievously.

“How ‘bout you, Hon, you know what you want yet?” She turned her attention to Jackie. God Lord, Leslie thought, she even has an extra pen stuffed into her bee-hive.

“I’m gonna have a stack of pancakes and a side of bacon…and you know what, a side of sausage too. And I’ll have a coffee and a coke too.” Jackie laughed like a school girl gossiping about her crush.

“Ok, you two, be back in two shakes of a lamb’s tail with those drinks.” The waitress said and bounded off to the kitchen.

“She’s quaint” Jackie said shaking her head.

The food was out before their coffee had even cooled off enough to drink. Then again, thought Leslie, we are the only ones here right now. Jackie dove into her pancakes. Leslie who would be the first to admit it, was OCD. She chopped her omelet up into tiny pieces until it resembled a breakfast scramble. She stacked her toast and sat it on the upper right side of her plate. Now, she thought, time to dig in.

Jackie was on her second sausage link when she saw something strange on Leslie’s fork. Jackie dropped her meat and reached out for Leslie’s wrist.

“Wait a sec.” She said. Leslie chomped her mouth closed in surprise. “What is that?” Without even a moment’s hesitation she stuck her fingers into the food on Leslie’s fork and began to pick through it. She pinched something that looked to Leslie like a shred of un-melted cheese and pulled. The end of it had a little black mark.

“What is it?” Leslie asked as Jackie laid it down on the table to further examine it.

“It kinda looks like a maggot” Jackie said grimacing.

“Oh no, I think I’m gonna be sick” Leslie gagged.

“Leslie, let me see your fork.” She grabbed it out of her hand and began fishing through her chopped up eggs. “Here’s another one. They were probably on the spinach. You know how fast that goes bad. Ugh, well, in some cultures they are a delicacy.” She said to a now very green colored Leslie.

“I’m seriously sick! Why couldn’t you…” but she didn’t get to finish the thought. There was a scream followed by a crash of breaking plates. Jackie and Leslie, nurses at the core, jumped up immediately, forgetting about the sautéed larvae on the plate.

“Oh My God! Kill it, Chuck, kill it!” They heard their waitress yell. More clattering noises from the back and then a man’s high pitched scream. The girls knew that sound well, it was the sound of a man in extreme pain. They both took off around the counter without speaking.

Their waitress stood against the back wall of the kitchen with a large cleaver held in both hands. The cook lay on the floor. His white shirt stained with blood, his hair was clotted with the stuff. Broken eggs and egg shells littered the floor around him and squirming around within the yellow pools were masses of wriggling maggots.

“What the fuck?” Jackie said taking in the scene

“They’re out there, they…there’s….they attacked him.” The waitress pointed at the man on the floor. “He was carrying more eggs in and they followed right behind him.” The waitress stuttered, still holding the cleaver against her chest.

“Who? Did you know them? How many were there? Leslie, call the police.” Jackie said snapping Leslie out of the trance she was in watching the writhing grubs in their bright yellow slime. She got up to grab the phone and paused.

“What do I tell them?” Jackie was bent over the head of the cook, examining his scalp wounds.

“What did they attack him with? He has small puncture wounds all over his head. I think a couple broke through his skull.” She held up a finger covered in a grey-colored pudding.

“Shit” Leslie said and dialed 911.

“They flogged him. You know, with their beaks. They were crazy, I never seen nothin’ like it. They followed him in. He swung at ‘em with this” she held the cleaver out but continued to clutch it with both white-knuckled hands. “He took one’s wing clean off. I think he fell on it. But it just kept going like nothin’ happened. They’ll be back. They ain’t right, and look at them eggs, Chuck had ‘em in his hands. He dropped ‘em when the chickens started at him. Those maggots were inside the eggs. Inside! How did that happen, unless there are maggots inside the hen that laid ‘em?”. She was talking faster now, going in to shock Jackie suspected. She certainly wasn’t making sense. Leslie held the phone away from her mouth.

“Is she saying he was attacked by chickens?” She asked Jackie.

“That’s what it sounds like.” Jackie said wiping the grey matter on her jeans. Just then, before she could stand up, the chickens returned. The backdoor, which was really just a bent up screen door that never shut properly, banged open and five chickens came waddling in. Their feathers were dirty and clotted with mud and blood. One’s head lolled off to the side at an impossible angle, another was missing its right wing. A couple had large areas of skin exposed where feathers had been plucked or fallen out. All five came at Jackie, clucking and cawing like nothing Leslie had ever heard. Before Leslie could get to her, the chickens had pecked Jackie’s eyes out. She was screaming. The waitress was flinging the cleaver about wildly. Leslie yelled at her to stop but the panic in her eyes told Leslie she would never hear her.

“This is 911 what’s your emergency” the phone, hanging against the wall by its cord said. Leslie lunged for it but slipped in the egg yolk and fell just as the waitress brought the cleaver down. It stuck with a thunk in Leslie’s skull who fell face first into the writhing goo.

The chickens turned their attention to the now weaponless waitress. She stood in shock, never moving as the zombie-fowl pecked at her eyes, lips, ears and finally her skull. Her knees buckled and she slid down the wall, her barnyard lobotomy complete. The chickens nibbled at the brains that slowly trickled out the numerous holes in her forehead. When they grew bored of it, they supped on the worms feeding on what might have been their young.

Jackie lay silent on the floor having lost consciousness when she lost her sight. The tickle of a grub against her cheek and the sirens of approaching emergency personnel brought her back from her sensory deprivation. She could not see but she could hear the clicking of bird feet on the kitchen floor and the occasional wet sounds of them feeding on brains. She lay still waiting for the police, wishing she could warn them, trusting that their guns could do the job that the cleaver couldn’t but mostly just waiting for an end, one way or another, just waiting.