This is an extract from the second chapter of Vore, a novel. It is a dystopian satire set in London and rural Wales in the near future. Following several crises in the farming industry, most people now eat lab-grown meat, which is cheaper and more widely available. In-vitro meat growing technology is also being used in more sinister ways. The extract follows James, the farmer, on his illicit meat delivery round.
James parked the truck at the top of the street near a row of boarded-up shops, and walked with the chicken back down to Anne’s. He’d put it in a carrier bag, and was glad there was no one around to be nosy about what he was holding. As he stopped outside her house, he was assaulted by a feeling of déjà vu. He felt sure that this was the exact same house she’d grown up in. That house had definitely had a red door like this one. But he couldn’t be sure. These streets all looked pretty much the same to him, always had, satellite dishes sprouting like mushrooms from each small terraced house. Most times the younger ones moved away as soon as they could, but the older people stayed on. Probably there were some of them who had nowhere else to go, but he knew Anne stayed here because she was lazy. A few years ago she’d divorced her husband Davie, and with all the alimony she’d screwed out of him she hadn’t worked a day since. She’d told him once that finding out about that eighteen year-old secretary from Swansea was the best thing that had happened to her in years.
James’ stomach was tying itself in knots as he rang the doorbell. He’d last seen Anne about six months ago, at someone’s birthday do down the Oak. Had ended up next to her, squashed into the corner as her thigh pressed up against his, whilst she, pissed up as usual, had kept on trying to bite his ear. Everyone had been laughing and it had been one of those moments where he’d had to try and laugh along too, else he would have looked like a prick, and the joke would have been on him. Standing outside the door now he could hear the muffled sound of music, and several female voices shouting to each other over it. She was entertaining. That was just great. Most of her mates were harpies, women just waiting to sink their claws into him.
He took a deep breath and rang the doorbell again, keeping his finger pressed down on the buzzer until he heard the music stop and footsteps moving rapidly toward the door. Anne flung it open, and James stiffened as she wrapped her arms round him in a hug that pressed her tits up against his chest. When she pulled away he noticed her face was caked in foundation, the orange powder clinging to the pale down on her cheeks. There was an uneven blue smear on each of her eyelids too. Her mate should have told her about that, but Anne wasn’t the type of woman who’d really give a shit.
‘James! Finally! I’ve been waitin’ for you,’ she told him fondly. ‘Come in, love, come in.’
They walked down the small front hallway and into the lounge, where Anne ushered him onto a black pleather sofa. There was a sinewy woman with short bleached hair sitting on the chair opposite, who leant forward when he came in.
‘Now who’s this, then?’
Anne sat down next to James and wrapped a sturdy arm around his shoulder.
‘This is my friend James, Gladys,’ she said, loading the word ‘friend’ with significance. ‘Nice looking boyo, isn’t he?’
Gladys lent forward.
‘Bit of a scruffbag. But he’s got some lovely blue eyes on him.’
‘He’s ripped under that horrible shirt,’ Anne said, running her hand over his stomach and then withdrawing it before James had a chance to push it away himself.
The two women cackled. James, trying to avoid Anne’s eye, looked at the coffee table and saw on it a bottle of white wine that was almost empty, and two glasses, one with a scarlet imprint of lips on one side.
‘Well, alright then love,’ Gladys said as she staggered to her feet and drained her wine. ‘I’ll leave you two alone. You should give him a bit of that nice salami I bought over for you. Way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.’
‘And the way to a woman’s moady is through her stomach too,’ Anne replied, causing the two women to go off into fits of uncontrollable laughter.
‘Not hers, though,’ she continued to James a minute or two later, once Gladys had left the room. ‘That woman bloody lives on nutroshakes. Hasn’t eaten solids in weeks. Great for me though, because her man works in a deli in Cardiff, and he’s always bringin’ treats back for her, which she just gives to me. Glass of wine, love?’
‘I can’t. I have to get back. So here’s your chicken.’
She took it off him, and he tried not to flinch as their fingertips touched.
‘I’ll put it in the fridge. Gladys bought me a treat over that you must try. It’s a taster, all the way from London. The deli doesn’t stock it yet.’
‘I’m not hungry,’ James said, even as his stomach rumbled and betrayed him. There hadn’t been much time for lunch.
Anne raised an eyebrow.
‘I’m gettin’ you a snack. Wait here. I’ll be back now. And there’s no need to look so scared, James. I don’t bite… unless you want me to, of course.’
Picking up the chicken, she left the room before he could protest. If she had paid him already he would have got out of there in an instant, but as she hadn’t he’d have to wait. It was daft of him to get so wound up anyway—Anne was harmless really, he’d known her for years. Still, James moved as far into the corner of the sofa as he could, pulling a cushion onto his lap. It was beige, with a cross-eyed Scottie dog embroidered onto it and a mustard yellow border that clashed with the turquoise walls. A bloody ugly cushion, even worse than those fluffy zebra print ones on the other sofa. Perhaps it had sentimental value.
‘What you doin’ with Mr Peep’s cushion?’ she asked, coming back into the room with a baguette, a cured sausage, and a knife.
‘My Mam’s dog. She keeps a cushion over here for when she comes round with him, so’s he doesn’t leak on the sofa.’
James put the cushion down hurriedly, and Anne snorted.
‘You’re a bit of a prude for a farm boy.’
When James didn’t reply she sat down next to him, emptied the last of the wine into her glass, and began hacking at the baguette. After cutting some uneven slices of bread she moved onto the salami, slicing off the tip before making a second incision. A thin slice of meat curled away from the steel edge of the blade. Anne cut several more before taking a sliver of it off the plate, throwing her head back and lowering it into her mouth. Sighing happily, she began to chew noisily. James watched and tried not to shudder. He hated watching people eat, especially someone who chewed with their mouth open, like she was.
‘Now you,’ she said when she’d finished.
James knew she’d keep on at him until he did. He put a slice of salami onto the baguette and took a bite.
‘Nice?’ she asked.
‘Can’t taste much. Just bread.’
‘Eat it by itself.’
The taste was pleasant enough—slightly too dry, but salty and well-seasoned.
‘Is this neomeat?’ he asked her. ‘I thought you weren’t into that.’
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘But this is different. This is special.’
She was looking at him with an odd expression on her face, almost smugly, as if by eating the salami he’d unwittingly agreed to something. It put him on edge.
‘What?’ he asked, swallowing the mouthful and taking another slice.
‘Do you like Silvio Gomez?’ Anne asked.
Silvio Gomez was a Spanish actor. Even James had heard of him.
‘Um, yeah? Why?’
‘Do you remember that scene from the Culling Fields?’
‘Which scene?’ James asked, although he knew the one she was talking about. The one on all the adverts, of the actor topless on the beach, his body tanning slowly in the sun as sweat ran down the grooves of his enviable six-pack.
‘Oh forget it, it’s a girl thing,’ she said.
‘Why are we talking about Silvio Gomez anyway?’
‘Because you’re eatin’ him, love.’
James stared at her, confused.
‘What the hell are you talking about?’
‘Neomeat isn’t just made from clonin’ animal cells now,’ she replied. ‘They can use cells from humans too. This is the latest thing—celebrity salami.’
James gagged and spat the mouthful onto the plate. The two of them looked at the small deposit of masticated human cells, rising from the pale china surface like a small red island.
‘Anne,’ he said faintly, looking at the salami. ‘Exactly what part of his body is this made from?’
‘Oh, don’t worry, you eejit. They use muscle cells. From his legs and stomach, it said on the packet. And paprika, and green peppercorns.’
‘Jesus. It’s not that. It’s just, it’s just… cannibalism.’
‘No it isn’t,’ she replied. ‘It’s not really his body though, is it? It’s just pretend.’
‘But why would I want to pretend to eat Silvio Gomez? Or any celebrity for that matter?’
‘Wouldn’t you want to “eat” out Candira Flattista?’
‘Maybe. But not ground up into a little sausage, like.’
She laughed at him.
‘It’s not going to kill you. Have another slice and a glass of wine.’
James felt himself beginning to get angry. What the fuck was wrong with people? Had they started eating each other because they were bored, or were they just sick in the head? There had been something on the radio about that yesterday—a vore fetishist accused of murdering a prostitute so that he could eat her. The suspect had been taken in for questioning but they hadn’t been saying anything new about it this morning. James had always thought that vore was just an internet fantasy thing, but he was being proven wrong. Anne wasn’t the murdering type, but perhaps eating the celebrity salami was a vore-type fetish to her. All the more reason to get away as soon as possible.
‘No thanks,’ he told her, as he got to his feet. ‘Let’s settle up and I’ll be off.’
Anne got up too. She reached into her jeans pocket and handed him some notes.
‘There’s your money.’
She took a step forward, so they were inches away. The orange line of her foundation stood out against the pale freckly skin of her neck. James tried not to flinch as she slid her arm round him and placed her hand on the small of his back. Through the thin cotton of his shirt he felt the heat of her palm. James took it away, gently.
‘Sorry, Anne. I can’t.’
‘Why’s that then?’ she asked.
‘I’m seeing someone.’
He wasn’t really lying. He’d met a nice woman recently; Tezzie, she was called.
‘You’re a dark horse. Anyone I know?’
‘No, I don’t think so.’
‘She’s not from round here.’
‘Well, she’s a lucky lady. Bet you give her great meat deals.’
‘She’s a vegetarian,’ James replied.
Anne cracked up.
‘Good luck with that one,’ she managed to gasp through her paroxysms of laughter.