“Tools are tools, and meat is meat,” Hirah said over her shoulder. She carefully set out the saw, pick, handful of knives and ceramic bowl on top of the clean white cloth. Everything in easy reach on a side table.
“I disagree-” Anaiah said.
“Obviously. But you only just ran out of food.” Hirah cut off the discussion. They stood on either side of the large kitchen table, a deer carcass between them. The silence hung between them as they glared at each other.
Hirah spoke first. “You gonna help me with this meat or not?”
“I’ll help, but this isn’t what I’m concerned about,” Anaiah said with a motion over the deer.
“I know your concerns, voiced them before, haven’t you. Been here two days and been outraged the whole time.” Hirah picked up the sharpest knife and began to skin the deer.
“I’m trained as a doctor, and I know the risks better than anyone else,” Anaiah pulled the fur in just the right way, with just enough tension to be of help. The job took half the time.
“Tools are tools, and meat is meat.”
“No.” Hirah said and slammed the knife down on the white cloth, left a smudge of old blood behind as she turned toward Anaiah. “You’re wrong. Morals change in crisis. Survival becomes more important than ethics. I’m sorry but hunger rules us all. If there is meat, if it is salvageable, and won’t make us sick, we eat it, we preserve it. End of story.”
“Eating any meat might mean short term satiation at the cost of long term survival. Eating…” she paused and swallowed the words she was about to use. “Eating all meat available will lead to a deteriorating populace. It’ll start with mood shifts, presents like anxiety and depression, loss of interest. Fear of new faces, new things.”
“That’s the times we live in, not necessarily our food sources.” Hirah picked up the knife again and began work on the innards.
“Speech will become slurred, hard to understand. I saw at least three members of your community with slurred speech yesterday. They can become mute, lose the ability to read, frustration in the loss of function.”
Hirah nodded she was listening, and considering what Anaiah said.
“Forgetfulness, disorientation, loss of everyday skills, repeating words, unsteady while walking, gate interruption. I’ve noticed every single one of these symptoms in your population, plus more. Some become completely dependant on others for even simple tasks like using the toilet. I’m right, aren’t I?” Anaiah’s eyes shone as she spoke, hopeful to make it Hirah understand.
Hirah nodded, and drew a heavy sigh. She continued to work on the deer, expert cuts and a pile of meat formed on a separate table. “What about blindness, and tremors?”
“Symptoms of Prion disease. The more your group eats… all meat… the more it will spread through them.” Anaiah’s voice trembled as she spoke, still unable to voice the terrible truth.
“I thought having a doctor would help, but stopping hunger is the real problem?” Hirah said.
“Mommy?” a little voice called through the canvas flap door.
“What is it Ginger?” Hirah said. And wiped her hands clean, went outside, Anaiah followed.
A group of ten little kids, no more than 6 years old, and a girl with pig tails stood in front of them, as if their leader.
“Mommy, we’re hungry.” The little girl’s eyes glowed, and for a moment Anaiah wanted to run, to scream, to get away from the glow. But the little girl gazed at Anaiah, and all was forgotten.
Hirah and Anaiah headed back in to finish work on the deer. They spoke in unison, “Tools are tools, and meat is meat.”