the blood did not always separate the two farms.
There was a time when the fields were bright and alive,
an endless plane of gold undisturbed by anything that didn't
belong. Every farmhouse stood valorous beside its blooming
gardens, even the sparrows would sit on the roof of the barn
admiring the vastness of the land. The southern winds
whispered through the wheat like an ancient lullaby.
That time ended with the blood. No one outside Hallow
Planes knew exactly where it came from, except those who were present
during the tragedy of course, and no matter
how cruel the earth became over the years the blood never
washed away. Like a blackened vein it stretched north for
one mile, ominous, forever scarring the land.
And every morning, Scotty The Seagull cruised above the
blood embracing the current, feeling the coolness against his
face. He loved spring. The winds were strong and fresh from
winter, and when the air zipped across his ashy feathers he
lifted his head and glided to the clouds.
To everyone outside Hallow Planes, Scotty looked like your average,
dumpster-loving seagull, but at close
inspection he was no ordinary seagull at all. He had largerthan-normal
eyes (for a seagull anyway), a few missing tail feathers,
and he'd acquired a reputation of sorts. Not a bad
reputation. Just one that labeled him a wisecracking
birdbrain, which made him feel very proud indeed. Not all
birds can be talented in wisecracking, it's something
you're born with he would always say, and he felt fortunate to be a
master at it.
He swooped down from the clouds and looked west of
The Blood Mile at the beaten farmhouse, wondering if
it would ever be saved from its misery.
This farmhouse slumped like an outsider, aged and forgotten. Weeds
reached up and around the slanted porch that fell to the
right, just a few more years and it would take it whole,
devouring every brick and every window.
The tractor outside the barn, although tarnished, had never been
sparked, and it too was imprisoned by the mob of pointy
greens. But there was a clearing from the back of the barn to
the perished garden. From there the ghost of a
oncehanging sign rattled the two chains that hung from a post. It
had been years since the place had a name.
This farm had become a nostalgic memory and
a memory is only nostalgic
when something good is gone. Scotty shrugged and continued east of The Blood Mile
where tractors plowed the fields spreading manure under a
clear and brilliant sky while the combines separated the
straw from the chaff and the chaff from the grains.
This place had, in fact, a name.
A stunning assemblage of fields, pristine service areas,
storage rooms and offices formed the gloriously overblown
and massive Farelli Poultry Farm. Mounted above a glass
double-door entrance was a white, yellow and red sign of
Frank Farelli holding an egg with the happiest
chick breaking out of its shell. In bold letters the words Trust in
Farelli hung just below the sign on two shiny chains. It told
people that this was a safe place; that the citizens of Hallow
Planes could rely on the quality of this farm.
Like many times before, Scotty landed on the
ledge of Farelli's sign glaring at Frank's animated face. He knew it
wasn't his real face because the real Frank had crooked teeth
and hardly ever smiled. The real Frank had less hair on the
top of his head, two chins and creases around his spinachcoloured eyes. In fact, everything about the sign was
downright disturbing. So, he plucked three feathers from his
behind, lathered them with spit and slammed them against
the first "T" in the word Trust until the entire letter was
covered. He pulled back to admire his work and wondered
why he didn't do this sooner. "Much, much better," he said.
"Rust in Farelli! You bet!"
When he was done scolding and spitting against the sign,
he swooped around the building to an opening in the wall.
There he joined Charlie, another seagull visiting
"Has Eighty-Four hatched yet?" asked Scotty.
"Nah, not yet. Poor little chick don't wanna come out
and I don't blame it." Charlie pecked the itch under his
wing and surveyed the room jammed with swift machines.
Hundreds of eggs wiggled and hatched on shiny metal
tables where twenty-three Farelli workers in thick white lab
coats separated each chick by gender and launched them down their
appropriate tunnels- females went to The
Rotisserie Room, males went to The Grinder. Both rooms
were as frightening as their names.
Number Eighty-Four took his time. "Been twenty-five
days," reminded Scotty.
"Maybe it's a dud."
"Nah, I see it wigglin' and peckin'. I've had my eye on it.
It's a shame this chick don't have a chance because from the
looks of it we have a fighter."
"Fighter? It's too scared to even hatch out of its shell!
It's a real chicken, all right. I'm surprised Mr. Pig-Face
hasn't done 'way with it."
"Oh he will." And to both their surprise, Number
Eighty-Four cracked the top of his shell. Scotty and Charlie
cawed in unison, almost falling off the ledge.
The chick shook the goo off his feathers, his black pupils
adjusting to the fluorescent lights that screamed down at
him, then that dreadful hand came and launched him down
"Oh there he goes!" said Scotty, falling back and swooping one story down to another opening in the wall.
Charlie followed and they both watched Number Eighty-Four crash on a
mountain of other newborn chicks, some bleeding and
broken from the fall. Then the claw came and the chick's
legs sprung back dodging and shaking. It snapped above
him, beside him and in front of him, unable to pluck the
agile chick off the other chicks- until another claw came
from behind and launched him on a belt, and he began to
"Well, whaddaya know?" said Charlie. "Eighty-Four's
an athlete. I can respect that."
Number Eighty-Four was quite the athlete.
In fact, he pushed himself up to the top of the belt while all the other chicks
slapped him silly trying to push him down. But
Eighty-Four made it on top, and that's when
he saw The Grinder screaming ahead— cracking,
grinding, and splattering.
"I can't look!" said Charlie, covering his face with his
The rip-roaring tornado of crushed bone and guts
squealed as Eighty-Four moved faster and faster, and when
all the cries and tweets vanished within The Grinder's teeth,
a chicken leg smacked him in the gull and ejected him off
the belt. This was the first time this ever happened. In fact,
Frank knew to build a tall enough wall around the belt for
unfortunate situations like this. God forbid some chick tried
to escape. But there he was, in a moldy corner, alive, panting
"Caaack!" yelped Scotty, whacking Charlie across the
head. "We gotta live one!" He dove inside the room,
landing in front of the trembling bird. "Nice to be alive,
ain't it?" he chuckled. "Don't know what took ya so long
but ya just won me ten fresh worms and a two-nest suite in
Florida. Charlie and I had a bet, ya see, of how long it would take for
you to hatch—" He looked back and gasped.
"Hop on my back before Mr. Pig-Face Farelli comes to—" And
before he could get another word in, a black sneaker
knocked the wind out of Scotty, sending him against the
The chick backed away looking up at young Luke Farelli.
His fair skin barely touched by time gleamed with sweat,
brown hair parted to the side, and unlike Frank his father,
his eyes shimmered like a rising South Pacific wave in the sun.
"Whoa...you're so small..." whispered Luke, and he
placed the chick inside his red backpack.
Scotty lay in a corner, seeing doubles, hearing Charlie's
uncontrollable cackle from
the opening. He hated his cackle.
In fact, he hated
everyone's cackle except his own, so he
sprang to his feet about to give Charlie a swift whack across
the head when a gigantic, beast of a man bulldozed by.
Scotty jumped back and pressed himself against the wall
until his skull hurt.
Frank Farelli loomed over Scotty and
Luke with his
enormous body. "How in God's name did you get in here,
boy?" He growled. "You ain't supposed to be here. Let's
go!" He grabbed a fistful of Luke's shirt collar and dragged
him down the hall, Luke's sneakers screeching against the
concrete floor until the door slammed shut behind them.
"The chick's a goner," said Charlie falling back, spreading his wings and gliding over the tractors.
Scotty jumped forward, tripping, smacking, coughing his
way back to the opening and he looked back into fields.
Charlie was long gone now, heading to the Great Iron City
for another dumpster raid. Then, Scotty looked down at the
never-ending slaughter. Tweets fired out like bullets from
The Grinder, machines humming and clamping all together
creating one mind-splitting song he couldn't understand.
He knew not to stare too long; he knew not to let this
massacre get to him. As beautiful as the world pirouetted
around him, this was yet another reminder of the darkness
that dwelled in places unknown, vicious places adorned
with bright lights, shiny glass and clean brick, a most clever
disguise, indeed. He shook all this away, shook his head and
his entire body until every creepy-crawling thought
evaporated, and he fell back with the wind.
Through the slaughter room and a
warehouse, over a
cobblestone path and into a high-rise building, Luke
followed his father down a stark white hallway clearly
designed for the insane. Portraits of animated chickens with
goofy eyes and feathers hung behind clear glass on the walls
that seemed to go on forever. The tiles glittered in the light
as if they were walking on broken glass, and a medicinal
stench lingered in the air that made him wonder what really
went on behind each door.
Frank stopped in front of the cafeteria entrance and
turned to his son. "I'll be three minutes and then I'll take
you home. Eat whatever you like. Just don't touch the blue
box in the fridge. Stay far away from that." Then he
disappeared around the corner.
Luke settled on a round table and sat down. He looked
back to make sure no one was around and pulled the zipper
of his backpack open to find Number Eighty-Four beaming
up at him, sandwiched between a bundle of pencils an awful
anchovy and ham sandwich.
Luke smiled and placed the chick on the table. "You look
funny," he said, running his fingers along the chick's
Just like Scotty, Number Eighty-Four was no ordinary
bird. He'd been born with a rare feather disorder that would
conceal his comb with wisps of vertical feathers. But of
course, he didn't know that just yet.
"I hope you and Bridget get along." Bridget was Luke's
German Shepherd, and she was known to get-along with
every cat, dog and bird (with the exception of a few devious
mice) in town. "You could ride her back all day long..." he
imagined, and then looked over to his schoolbook. Mark
Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer had become
his favourite book. Not because he had to read it for school, or
because it was popular, but because it was his inspiration on
becoming a pirate—gold teeth and all. When Tom and
Huck ran off to the island in the Mississippi River, he
realized that would be his escape plan too. He'd make sure
to thank Mrs. Picklebottom for giving him the book, and
send a letter to Twain himself for coming up with the idea.
Becoming a pirate in the Mississippi River was perfect
because being the son of Frank Farelli wasn't easy. In fact,
Frank had a set of very specific rules and curfews (mostly for
academic purposes) for his son, which included getting
honours in Business and Mathematics. But Luke despised
both subjects, and did horribly on his tests. Who needs
business training when someone has dreams of becoming a
"I'll call you Sawyer." The name clicked, it felt right, and
Luke smiled again.
"I'll take you with me, and we'd have all
kinds of adventures. I'll teach you how to build a boat and
how to fly a kite." When he heard shuffling outside the
cafeteria, he shoved Sawyer inside the backpack—closer to
the terrifying anchovy sandwich.
Frank walked in with the same hard frown Luke had
grown to expect. "It's best you forget whatever you saw
here today." He glared down at his son picking the dirt from
under his fingernail with the tip of his car key. "It's
dangerous and not suitable for children. You understand?"
"Why are you killing all those chickens like that? And
some chickens looked weird...like freak show weird. What
are you doing to them?"
Frank raised his eyebrows and placed his pudgy hand on
Luke's head. "God gave us chickens to eat, boy. I just make
"Forget about it! You hear me? If you know what's good
for ya, you'll keep your mouth shut." The blood vessels
brightened against his cheeks, jaw clenched.
Luke bowed his head. "Or what?" he whispered under
"Don't test me, boy. Let's go home."
But home didn't feel like home yet. He missed the farmhouse, but they had to demolish it to expand the business.
Now he lived in the city and went to an awful school
infested with snobby rich kids who all praised his father for
his humane ways and delicious chicken wings. Frank was
definitely a celebrity in the city, and while Luke was
somewhat proud of his dad, he now wondered if that sick
slaughter room would change everyone's perception.
He got up from the chair, slung the backpack around his
shoulder and followed his father out the door and into the
backseat of a Mercedes.
Huck would hide Sawyer in the tree house, he thought
staring out the window, clouds creeping over the sun and
wiping the field of its gold.
Meanwhile, Sawyer waited inside the pocket, barely alive,
the red world quivering, darkening and potent with a foul
odour as pieces of lettuce, ham and mayonnaise brushed
against his feathers. He tucked his face into his breast and
held his breath.
As the Mercedes thundered down the long, desolate
road, the anchovy tickled Sawyer's throat. And like a string
of Morse code, uncontrollable tweeting burst out of his
mouth. He flailed in all directions trying to stop his beak
from opening, face swelling, throat scratching until a light
tore through and Frank's burning pupils deepened above
"Luke! What's this?" growled Frank.
"I'm taking him with us! He's mine!" Luke reached for
his backpack but Frank wrapped his fingers around
Sawyer's body, almost squeezing his insides out through his
eyes, and launched him out the window.
"No!" Luke slammed his fist against his father's headrest
and turned to the back window. The chick soared through
the air and crash-landed on the gravel.
Sawyer rose to his feet, while Luke's face disappeared
over the road. Then the silence came, and the world grew
heavier and heavier around him.