Thursday, October 31, 2013

TUMC (A Short Story)

I thought I would write a Halloween short story for today, but kind of ended up going in a different direction, a nightmarish version of the present. This is a work of fiction with no relation to my "udder" blog, The Udder Side

The Udder Milk Corporation

I don't remember when it started, but it seemed like everyone was using it. The Udder Milk was the brand that everybody drank, put in their coffee, and cooked with. The commercials I remember vividly between cartoons when I was a kid. They had a sing song nursery rhyme appeal, "Don't forget your Udder Milk, Udder Milk, Udder Milk. Be sure and drink your Udder Milk for a fine day." I think one of the fast food restaurants started carrying it and that's how it caught on. That's how they get you, they get you as kids. "It is easier to teach a young person than change an old one," is a quote from Britt Pollman, an influential food blogger/critic and maybe the Ellsworth Toohey of his day, but I'll get back to him later.

Soon after the initial wave of The Udder Milk the second wave came. There was The Udder Milk Ice Cream and The Udder Milk Cheese, and all kinds of products. The final wave was the rest of the food spectrum with The Udder Milk Meat and The Udder Milk Microwave Meals and such. Britt Pollman was the one that challenged the government to make The Udder Milk products staples of the school lunches. Arguing that it was in the best interest for the health of the nation, as well as the environment, he used his bully pull pit of editorials, blog posts, and speaking engagements to petition the USDA to make the change for a better world. Eventually, he turned first the public and then government officials onto the idea. 

If I knew then what I know now I would be scared to death of that man. Others were at the time, and they earned the nickname "The Natural Nuts." The Nuts were actually the people that were behind Pollman in his previous endeavors, but they thought this was too far and some protested, but the media was behind Pollman and drowned them out. Their worst fears came true when the federal government took control of The Udder Milk Cooperation and began distributing the products to the people needing food subsidies and forcing it on restaurants to be a part of a healthy menu. The Nuts were far from crazy.

I would have never known any of this had I not been assigned the case of the murder of Dr. Heif R. Sun, a pediatrician and researcher. As one of the homicide detectives at the NYPD I, Bob Thorn, was the man for the job. Who knew when I left my cubicle that day I would be headed down the rabbit hole?

The crime scene was no different than the hundreds I'd worked before. Dr. Sun had taken a .45 through the chest, bled out on the floor, and died. He had been working alone at his office, researching what I now know to be his greatest work, when his tragic end came. We could find nothing missing from the office or from his person. He still had his wallet with cash inside and his top tier smart phone. I had the crime scene unit check for prints and anything else they could find and I took his laptop back to the station for inspection.

The laptop itself was a dead end, however when I used it to access a cloud account I found the motherload. Dr. Sun had been studying a terrible phenomena that had begun in the last two generations. Kids started getting broken bones, their hormones became unregulated causing the obvious problems plus those associated the thyroid, which helps to regulate your body. It was happening for every adult, too.That's what brought on the pills according to his research. Vitality in a bottle was how they was marketed. Long life through science. Everyone took a daily dosage of vitality pills to be healthy and those that didn't paid the price. The connection Dr. Sun had found with the pills was still out of reach for me.

There was another folder on his cloud file that I couldn't decipher so I Skyped a professor friend of mine, Sole Roth, to see what he could make of it. I watched his eyes grow wide with awe as he scanned the folder. "I don't believe it," he murmured.

"What is it?" At the time I believed it would be the key to help me solve the murder, but I had no idea of the further implications.

Roth's eyes moved left to right and back again as he continued reading. "I can't be sure," he stammered and wiped the forming sweat off his forehead with the back of his shirt sleeve. "You have to go to The Udder Milk factory outside town. Now! Wait-" and I saw him clicking his mouse and he cursed the screen. "Gone! The files are gone. Someone has erased them. You have to go investigate before it is too late, Bob."

Before I could get up one of the CSI guys came and told me they found a match on a print from Dr. Sun's crime scene. The perp was Jack Deeds, a two time loser with a long line of offenses including assault and a murder rap he got off on a technicality. A beat cop alerted them that he had been spotted going in a local dive bar. I made sure I had my department issued piece and headed for the door.

I recognized the bar when it came into view. Alcohol wasn't the only thing you could get inside, we had busted it more than once for selling non government approved food items. The black market existed in full for food if you had the cash. Deeds sat at the bar engrossed in his glass of brown, murky liquid. I pulled my gun and badge out and called, "Jack Deeds. I'm Detective Bob Thorn, NYPD. I need to talk to you."

He tried to run. I like it when they do that. Normally.

I took a step to stop him when I was tripped by a big guy at the closest table. "I don't like cops," the fat drunk told me and laughed.

My first inclination was to bash his bald head with the side of my firearm, but the thought of Deeds getting away and another assault mark on my record deterred me. I jumped the bar counter following the commotion Deeds made and went out the back door after him. It opened to an alley with a chain link fence on the backside that Deeds was trying desperately to climb. His clumsiness allowed me to claim the distance between us and I grabbed his ankle and slung him to the ground. 

Holding the gun on him squarely I asked, "Why did you shoot Dr. Sun?"

Deeds rubbed his left shoulder and squirmed back against the brick wall of one of the surrounding buildings. He didn't answer.

I pushed closer. "Did someone pay you to kill him?"

"Britt Pollman," he sneered, "but you'll never prove it."

My cellphone rang. "Yeah?" I answered still holding the gun steady. It was the chief. The only reason the chief called was for bad news. And usually it was very bad for you if he was calling.

"Bob, we just got a call in about your friend, Sole Roth. He's been found dead outside his apartment building."

That's when it sank in that I was on to something big. It doesn't matter how big the fish is you've got on the line if you can't keep it there. I knew I had nothing to tell the chief. Yet. If Sole had been murdered for what he found out on that cloud folder I could only assume I would be next. Then I knew I had to do what he told me. I had to go to The Udder Milk factory.

"Chief, I'm leaving Jack Deeds handcuffed in an alley at 31st and Trenton. I have a lead that can't wait." I didn't wait for his reply, I simply hung up. Then I noticed Deeds slumped to the ground. I kicked him slightly in the ribs and he didn't move. Foam started running down the side of his mouth. I checked his pulse and found none. He'd rather die than talk. This fish was gone.

It took fifty-five minutes to get through afternoon traffic and out of town. Tall buildings to small apartments and communities to barren land, and I realized I'd never paid much attention to life outside the city. I gazed down at the bottle of vitality pills I kept in the cup holder. What had Dr. Sun and Sole figured out that was worth killing them? I was due my next round of pills, but I didn't take them and put my eyes back to the road.

I parked the cruiser on the side of the road and hid in the bushes. Large tractor trailer trucks with the Udder Milk logo emblazoned on the side were going in out and out of the factory. Timing myself, I ran to one as it slowed at a yield sign, and with the cover of the fading sun I managed to catch hold of a bar on the underside of one trailer and pull myself up. I let out a long breath at my accomplishment and held on for dear life as the truck entered the factory gates.

It pulled around to the far side of the facility and backed up to a truck dock. I scampered down and crouched low to the shadows, making my way to a doorway. Stairs led me up and inside a maze of hallways and doors. Footsteps echoed behind a door beside me and I froze with nowhere to hide without making a sound. I pressed myself into a doorway as a man exited a room and stared at a tablet as he went the other way. I finally let out a breath when he stepped inside an elevator and the doors closed. 

Eventually I found way to an office overlooking the factory floor. The puzzle pieces snapped together in my mind slowly as I saw what was happening. The trucks were unloading the harvest to bins. The bins emptied onto long conveyor belts to be transformed into mush and juice. All was being packaged into The Udder Milk cartons and packaging. There was no milk. There was no meat. There were only beans. Beans. Beans. And beans.

"The Udder Milk is soy!" I cried.


I videoed the factory and uploaded it to YouTube.

It went viral within hours.

I was never able to find the evidence to connect the murders back to Britt Pullman, but he fell from grace as the masses learned the truth of how they had been duped. People were dumping all the soy products of The Udder Milk Corporation in the streets and setting them on fire. The government did an about face and began importing real milk and meat products until a home grown industry could be rebuilt. A real healthy diet came back for the first time in generations. The vitality pills, which were only needed to counteract the bad effects of the soy diet, were discarded.

As for me, I never knew real chocolate milk and cheeseburgers could taste so good.

Thanks for reading my dairy take on Soylent Green. If you enjoyed this then please check out my book, No Signal.

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