Content warning Animal abuse, death, murder

The abattoir is the only place I’ve ever worked. I naturally fell into this job, following in my father’s footsteps. I had never really given it any thought to pursue a different line of work — until recently.

Being a slaughterhouse worker means honest and rewarding work: you’ve got a job to do, and you do it. I don’t know what it’s like for other jobs, but this one’s simple and straightforward. Though there is one thing, but really only one thing, that I’m not particularly fond of, and that is how society looks down on us, as if we’ve got a screw loose, or as if we are sadists. We’re fine, really.

People would prefer to pretend we don’t exist, yet simultaneously expect steaks and smoked bacon and pulled pork sandwiches while refusing to acknowledge where it came from. We’re the ones who get that tasty meat on your plate.

Abattoirs aren’t cruel places. I care — we all care — about what we slaughter: we minimise pain and distress. A bolt gun to the forehead will fairly reliably turn the brain to mush and instantly render the animal unconscious and then we bleed the animal until it dies. I’ve been doing this job for years and I’m convinced that this is as good as it gets.

You can tell that I feel compelled to justify my line of work to you, but I hope you understand why.

Most people aren’t cut out for working in this environment though. Many people last just a day, less than a day, the moment they vomit often being the clue that they need to find their luck elsewhere.

To me, though, the smell of warm blood, the smell of iron in the air is so familiar that it feels almost like home.

That’s not to say that there is blood everywhere at the time. The abattoir is a clean place — it has to be — and I quite enjoy the cleaning: bring everything back to its original shiny state, spick-and-span. Washing it all away is relaxing, cathartic even.

Doing the same thing every day, knowing that plenty of people depend on the fruits of your labor, is rewarding and it keeps me going. You might think of the repetitiveness as boring, but it is what I like. I am good at what I do, and I don’t need a challenge.

Our regular pattern got shaken up a little a few months ago. A peculiar newcomer had arrived then, a newcomer named Tom. He stood out because he seemed to fit in as if he had prepared his entire life for this job, not showing any sign of distress or shock after seeing — presumably for the first time — what happens inside the walls of a slaughterhouse. He had not worked anywhere else before, but his manner was that of someone with years, decades of experience. He was quick to pick up the work, too. I was assigned to him and given the duty to show him the ropes, but I had barely anything to teach him that he wasn’t already thoroughly familiar with.

I liked Tom for his confidence and experience, but there was something more: he had a particular charm — and yes, I can imagine your chuckle at the concept of “abattoir worker charm” — a charm that confused me greatly. My mind pictured him as an old friend, long lost, reunited after a decade. Tom had quickly taken me in his grip. Without being consciously aware, I agreed to just about anything he asked; before I knew it, he was, with my own unintentional blessing, working machinery that I hadn’t even trained him on.

Tom was only the first of a bunch of peculiar newcomers. All the newcomers after Tom were peculiar, each in their own way but all rather similar: they were all charming, though none as much as Tom himself. All of them were particularly competent even though none of them, Tom included, had any prior experience working in abattoirs. I was supposed to train them, but they were already intimately familiar with all the machinery and all the processes; there was nothing for me to do.

The newcomers integrated quickly and did their job splendidly and everything was fine for months. That changed on one Monday morning though. That particular morning, a handful of the newcomers — I know I keep calling them newcomers even though they’ve now been around for quite a while — were waiting for me at the entrance of the building. They greeted me, together, practically in unison. They told me that Tom was waiting for me, and ushered me through a few doors where I ended up in a queue with my other coworkers. I asked the person in front of me, whom I did not recognise, what was going on, whether they also were here at Tom’s request, but they kept their silence, staring straight ahead.

There was just silence, and once every few minutes the line would advance. I couldn’t see what was ahead of me, as the line curved through this unfamiliar narrow space, the walls being just far apart enough to let a person through. After half an hour or so, I was near the head of the queue: there was just the person in front of me, and beyond that an empty room. This is when I recognised Tom, walking up to the person in front of me, putting a bolt gun against their forehead and firing. They collapsed instantly, and I stood there, frozen to the ground, unable to comprehend what had happened. I kept standing there, not able to move a muscle, as I watched the person get dragged off. Then Tom came to me, bolt gun in hand.

It took me all my strength and willpower but I broke free from my paralysis, punched the bolt gun out of Tom’s hand and pushed my way into the first door I could find. I ran through unfamiliar hallways but eventually found a door marked EXIT, which I bashed open with my shoulders, being out of the building at last, and kept on running until I was far, far away.

You must think of me as mad by now, that I made this story up. But I can assure you that I am telling the truth as it happened. My regular coworkers, all of them, have been reported missing. I’ve attached a map on which I’ve marked the location of the abattoir, and a handful of photos that I took a while after the incident. It took me courage to go back to that place, but I’ve observed it for hours on end, from a safe distance of course, and nobody comes in or out of that building anymore. There are delivery drivers, bringing cattle and pigs, and taking away packaged meat.

As for me, I am glad — lucky, more like — that I escaped. I’ve been without work for a while now, but need to find a job so that I can continue to sustain myself financially.

Perhaps, this time a job in a different field.