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Davey moved towards the door of the nearest warehouse.
He frowned as he noticed the legend; ‘Free raynj,’ on a crudely painted sign above the entrance.
There was a guard on duty, but he seemed to be idly picking at a spot on his arm.
Davey reckoned he could probably get to the door without being seen, but didn’t want to take the risk.
He found a small rock by his feet and hurled it into the grassy area near the fake cow which had annoyed him so much.
The guard didn’t even flinch, didn’t look up from squeezing the large, inflamed white head on his arm.
In fairness, the noises of the animals coming over the speakers were loud as hell over here, so the guard may not have been that bad at his job.
Davey got close enough to see the spot rupture, to see a thick gobbet of pus burst from the wound, followed out by a small flow of blood.
He saw the guard’s triumphant smile, then saw him begin the search for the next target.
Judging by the state of his arms, it wouldn’t be long before he found it.
Davey crept by on the other side of the doorway, ready to dive into action, but the guard didn’t stop his inspection of his arm.
The next spot ruptured in a rush of blood and pus and this time Davey heard the Grim’s impressed grunt.
As he passed, undetected, through the door, an unspeakably vile smell hit his nose with the force of a heavyweight’s jab.
It was as effective as any guard dog and was almost strong enough to make him turn back.
In the shadows of the entranceway, the cow sounds still blared, echoing ominously around the metal walkways above him.
He moved in a little, trying to let his eyes adjust to the darkness.
The stench of stale shit and the ammonia of a thousand spent bladders stuck in his throat.
He saw a Grim off to his right, at the base of one of the black metal stairways.
Like his colleague outside, he was absorbed in his own little world, reading a battered and well-thumbed – and, Davey noticed with a grim shudder, slightly stuck together – porn magazine.
His left hand was shaking as it held the magazine open on the centrefold, the rest of the pages hanging around it like some obscene cocoon.
His right hand was hidden, but Davey knew what it was doing.
The Grim’s eyes were half-lidded, rolled back in his head a little.
He was breathing heavily.
Davey didn’t want to watch any longer, and didn’t want to wait for the Grim to become more alert, so he kept low and moved in.
As he moved further into the shadows, the lowing sounds of cattle from the loudspeakers slowly faded, replaced by a hellish cacophony of screams and wails.
He peered through the mesh fencing at the edge of the perimeter and saw hundreds of naked men, women and children running around inside a circular enclosure.
They were spattered with blood and shit.
Some of the adults were rutting in the puddles of liquid filth that stained the dirt floor.
There was no joy in the act; it was just something to pass the time, exactly like the guard Grim with his dog-eared porn mag.
Others were fighting; punching, gouging, biting.
Sprays of blood came off one man as two others dived on him and began to dig into his flesh with their jagged, yellowing teeth.
Directly in front of Davey, a woman with a heavily distended belly and thick, matted black hair wandered over to the fences.
As she neared, Davey saw her pale flesh and the dirty hand marks on her body and face.
She turned her back to him and squatted without any measure of shame.
The pungent stench of urine became slightly stronger as her bladder emptied itself onto the floor, splashing up onto her feet and ankles.
She bent slightly more and thick coils of shit splattered into the puddle of urine around her feet.
She made no attempt to clean herself.
The stench made Davey’s stomach heave.
One of the males was seemingly undeterred by the smell and approached the female, his groin stiff and quaking.
The female leant down and offered her rear to him.
Davey turned away as he knew what was coming.
He looked back to the fighting men.
One of the guards was wading into the fray, swinging a stout black stick which sprayed sparks from its glowing tip.
The two aggressors backed away, teeth bared like those of wild dogs.
Their body language suggested they were submissive but ready to attack if he dropped his guard.
Other Grims were watching from the upper walkway, their rifles pointing down into the enclosure.
They whistled to let the cattle know they were there.
The aggressors looked up, and saw the guns aimed at them.
Hissing, they bared their teeth and slunk away to hide among their kin.
It saddened and sickened Davey to see humanity being treated like this, but there was something strangely captivating about it too.
He found he couldn’t take his eyes off the bizarre scenes.
The guard moved in, his stance one of caution and awareness.
Some of the other human cattle approached him, keeping a safe distance as he swung his strange, sparking weapon in a semi-circle.
They backed up slightly, their teeth bared.
The guard bent down, touched a finger to the gushing throat of the fallen man – Davey wasn’t exactly sure why he did this; even from his hiding place it was obvious by the thick trails of dark gore coursing out of the bite wounds in the man’s throat that he was a goner – and waited for a few seconds.
He looked up to his colleagues, pulled his thumb across his throat from ear to ear and nodded.
Then he slung the dead man over his shoulder and carried him out of the gates.
A few brave souls among the cattle charged at the gate.
Gunshots blared over the screams and curses and hissed threats.
Bullets hit the ground beneath the herd’s feet.
They reacted like stunned cattle and retreated, trembling and shaking.
The gate to the enclosure slammed shut.
Some of the men and women – and, heartbreakingly, a small boy – ran to the gates and began to shake them on their hinges, wailing at the top of their lungs.
The sounds chilled Davey’s blood, as he realised that this could, in the blink of an eye, be him if things went south.
For a few seconds, he felt certain that he’d rather die than be reduced to this.
But he knew his burning desire for vengeance would carry him through just about anything.
He watched the guard shove the dead man’s body into a wheelbarrow and set off towards the warehouse exit.
The cattle were still storming the gates, trying to climb, slam and batter their way out of their enclosure.
The wrought iron fences were a good ten feet high, with murderous barbs on the top of them, and they slanted back on themselves, presumably to dissuade anyone trying to escape them.
Still, a few of the cattle tried it.
The scenes were of mass disobedience.
It was obvious that humanity did not take well to being treated like cattle.
A blur of activity on the upper deck drew Davey’s eye.
Some of the herd noticed too.
A number of them stopped and looked up at the walkway, looks of hungry longing on their faces like those of dogs about to be fed.
One of the guards whistled loudly, slammed the butt of his gun into the railings.
At this, every head in the enclosure snapped round to look in their direction.
The effect made Davey’s skin crawl.
The guard began throwing handfuls of what Davey assumed was food down into the enclosure and the ensuing scenes made pretty much everything else he’d seen in this brutal world seem tame.
It was all out war for the scraps that had been thrown into the enclosure.
Davey had seen enough.
The warehouse was huge and he could hear more screams from further within, so it seemed obvious there were more of these enclosures in here.
More of the hapless bastards locked up like cattle.
He moved towards the gate.
The guard who’d been absorbed in the porn mag was gone, presumably up on the upper deck now to keep an eye on the feeding times.
Davey moved outside again, trying to shield his eyes from the glare.
The guard who’d been picking his spots was gone, but there were a few sprays of matter and blood on the wall near where he’d been.
When he’d been much younger, Davey would have been repulsed by this, but it was nothing compared to what he had just seen in the warehouse.
Or would see in the next.
Next chapter is here