Oh no, please no, thought Tessa as she ran toward the smoking warehouse, not the chicks.
Tess dropped the key while fumbling with the office door. I’ve only had this job for three weeks, I get to deal with this? O’Malley won’t be back until Thursday. Fire alarm pullbox, hope it…good, alarm works. How far away is the nearest fire station, ten minutes maybe? Damn, I need to see about the chicks. Call 911, phoned in…the chicks!
Grab an extinguisher, Tess dashed through the offices and into the main warehouse. O’Malley’s weird little chicks are back here, where’s the fire? No sign of any fire yet.
As usual, she felt the chicks before reaching the cages. A faint, warm tickle glowed at the back of her mind, a feeling of peace and serenity. To Tessa, the chicks always felt pleasant and happy, like Home.
She’d been “introduced” to her first Weird Chick on her second day working for O’Malley. In between phone calls, it hopped up on her desk. She didn’t start at its sudden appearance, or freak out about how odd it looked—and it felt—friendly? It felt friendly at her, and Tessa felt the smile growing across her face as she reached out to pick it up.
Weird Chicks aren’t baby chickens. Tessa’s still not sure exactly what they are. Imagine a cue ball, about half size. Call it an inch, maybe inch and a half across and all warm and fleshy, slightly cooler than human skin. No eyes or ears or any features at all, no limbs—a flesh ball. It doesn’t look cute, but it somehow manages to be cute anyway.
O’Malley keeps silent on the subject of what they are or where they came from. But he has confirmed the chicks are immature. Which implies an older, “chicken/rooster” equivalent?
They are protein, absolutely, and they do taste exactly like chicken. They don’t even seem reluctant about being dinner. They line up in orderly rows for harvesting, and roll directly into the grinder, or the oven, or into the processing plant.
The chicks all gathered against the north wall of their cages, decidedly odd chick behavior. Tessa turned to look north, and saw the smoke billowing around the stairway doors.
“Time to make a run for it, guys,” she said, opening the cages.
The chicks didn’t run away from the fire. They ran toward it.
Tessa watched as the chicks rolled as a mass to the stairwell doors, and gathered against them. She felt the wave of emotion that the chicks were feeling now… Expectancy? Readiness?
Without understanding why, Tessa opened the door. A wave of heat and dense smoke rolled up out of the stairwell.
A thousand Weird Chicks poured downstairs like lemmings.
The distinct odor of fried chicken pervaded O’Malley’s for months. The firefighter could not explain where the mass of cooked meat in the stairway came from, but it smothered the fire.
485 words. Inspired by this week’s Finish That Thought (3-9) prompt (and challenge).