The Risks of Empathy, A Novella
On October 16, 2159, after much discussion and heated debate, Selling Inc. began broadcasting a new series of Total Experiences. In all, there were ten Experiences in the set.
Rita had become something of a TE junky. She was spending much less time at the bar these days and figured that to be a good thing, if only for the savings. Now she simply drank alone at home with the TE. She had experienced all the “Falling in Love” series many times each. She learned that she liked surfing and skydiving. She had tried one or two of the sex experiences, but other than for an occasional change, she could take them or leave them. She figured it must be her age.
Every time a new Experience was announced, Rita was quick to give it a go. She liked to think of herself as adventuresome. Of course, her adventures all took place in her gray apartment from her worn recliner. But no matter, when she had her TE turned on, she was someone else, somewhere wonderful.
She was a cow. By her side was the most perfect creature in the world, her calf. Licking him was heaven. He smelled like nothing she had smelled before, and she simply could not get enough of his sweet aroma into her cool wet nostrils. She looked up and around her and all she could see were other cows with their own calves and green grass and blue sky and she felt the deepest contentment she had ever known.
A sound grew in her ear. Looking over her shoulder she saw a thing that made her quiver with fear. The thing had others with it. She could think only of her calf. She bellowed loudly to tell the other cows and moved to be between the things and her baby.
Soon they were all around her and the other cows, pushing and yelling. She was afraid and could hear the fear in her calf as he began crying loudly. Soon all the calves and cows were yelling and the fear was everywhere. They hurried this way and that trying to keep the new calves from being accidentally stepped on and then they were all trapped.
They put something on her calf’s neck and pulled him away. Her anger was strong and she tried to protect him, but they hurt her and were much stronger. She could hear him crying and she kept calling to him. Her pain and worry and fear and bravery were overwhelming.
The man in the dark sweater appeared and said, “If you would like to experience being a cow again, press replay.”
Rita pressed the stop button, was back alone in her gray apartment, remembered that she had a quarter pound of ground round in the cabinet over the hot plate and, shaking, vomited the entire contents of her stomach.
Sarah called Dave and the kids, Jimmy and Amanda, to dinner.
As everyone took their place at the table, Sarah asked Jimmy, “How was school today sweetheart?”
“What’s that?” said Amanda as she sat down at her place across from Jimmy.
“That’s your mom’s famous stuffed pork chops, young lady,” answered her father. I seem to remember you eating two of them last time we had ‘em. Eh Jimmy?”
Dave looked over at his son who seemed to be almost as white as the tablecloth.
“What’s wrong Jim?”
“Where do you get pork chops?” asked Amanda.
“Well honey,” said her mom, “I get them down at Republix market. The butcher always cuts them extra thick for me. You remember Mr. Johnson. I think you were there with me last week when I bought them. Why sure you were. Don’t you remember?”
“I know where you bought them, mom. Where do pork chops come from, though?”
“Oh!” chuckled Dave. “You mean what part of the pig are the chops. They’re kind of near the ribs, aren’t they Sarah?”
At this both Jimmy and Amanda stood up and began shouting almost at once about how horrible it was that they had killed a pig and didn’t they know how scared the pig was and how could they do this and then they both ran into Amanda’s room and Dave and Sarah could hear them still yelling and crying and simply carrying on.
“Now what do you suppose has gotten in to them?” said Dave looking with confusion toward his wife.