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“Hey, Chris, these two caught a huge boar. Give ‘em a nice spot, will ya?”

I know that everyone in the garrison calls them hunters, but I didn’t actually expect them to hunt things. I thought it was just a politer way to say scavenger. “Yeah, sure.” Luckily, one of the better cells in the prison was freed up since the inhabitant became an infected. Lucky for the two hunters, not the one that turned, poor bastard.

“I’ll take them,” Jen said. She grabbed the ropes tied around the two hunters’ wrists and led them inside the prison. The metal gates creaked when she opened the cell doors, and they creaked again when they closed. “For tonight’s dinner, I’ll bring you two an extra-large piece.”

One of the hunters laughed. “Just for tonight? Do you know how much work it took to haul it back here alive?”

“Chris.” The man who brought the two hunters to the prison, Jacob, gestured towards me. “We’re a bit short on hands; can you help us slaughter the boar?”

I looked at Jen, and she nodded. “I’ll be fine,” she said. And it seemed like she would. None of the people inside the cells had shown any signs of turning today.

“Alright, let’s go.” I followed Jacob to the center of the garrison, the location of the bonfire and kitchens. “I’ve never slaughtered a boar before. Not sure how much help I’ll be.”

Jacob grinned. “Is that so? I guess you’ll be learning a lot today.” He put his hand to his mouth and raised his voice. “Chris here has never slaughtered a boar before. What do you guys think?”

There were four men standing by the bonfire, next to the boar which was lying on its side. They were standing in the shade of a large tree, and they raised their heads at Jacob’s voice. “It’s his first time? You ever skinned an animal before?”

Does peeling a banana count? Probably not. “I haven’t.”

“That’s fine. We’ll do the hard part; all you have to do is follow our instructions.”

I wonder if I’m actually needed. How many people does it take to slaughter a boar anyway? But if they asked for help, then there’s something for me to do. It doesn’t hurt to find out the process for the future, in case these chefs die or turn. I don’t think they’ve left behind any instructions on butchering a pig, and it’s not like the internet exists anymore to search things up.

“Alright, the first thing you do when you butcher an animal is stun it,” one of the men said and lifted a bat. “Wait, actually, wash your hands first, Chris. You’ve killed a lot of infected recently. Your hands might be bloody. There’s sanitizer in the kitchen, and bring a bucket while you’re at it.”

The kitchen is at the center of the garrison. It occupies the most important spot since it’s the most important building. Without food and water, a community collapses within days. Instead of working together, people will fight for what few resources are left. It makes sense for the kitchen to be as far away from the infected as possible. After sanitizing my hands and finding a bucket, I went back to the bonfire. The boar was limp, evidently having been struck on the head by the bat in the man’s hand. A trickle of blood ran down its forehead. There was also a rope tied around its hindlegs.

“Bring the bucket over. We’re going to lift the boar, and I’m going to stick it. Make sure the blood doesn’t spill onto the ground.”

Three men grabbed the boar and maneuvered it between them, lifting it into the air. Jacob grabbed the rope that was tied to the boar’s legs and tossed it over one of the large tree’s branches. He tied it to the trunk, and the three men let go, suspending the boar in the air. The man with the knife steadied the boar and positioned the knife near the boar’s neck. He stabbed. Like a fountain, blood poured out, and I moved the bucket underneath the flow. “How long does this usually take?”

“An hour or two,” the man with the knife said. He wiped it down before putting it into a case. “But this boar’s pretty small, maybe half an hour is enough.”

“Did you really need me here? All I did was move a bucket.” I feel a bit useless—like they gave me a job out of pity. I should take notes on the process at least.

“It’s not like you had anything else to do, right?” the man asked and shrugged. “Besides, it’s good to have people around in case something happens.”

When the boar finished bleeding forty minutes later, the men took it down from the tree and rolled it onto its back. The man with the knife gestured towards its chest. “Normally, we’d wash it down and trim the hairs off. The dirt can contaminate the meat. But we don’t really have the luxury of water. If you’re careful, you can skin it without washing, but you have to be pretty experienced.” He crouched next to the boar and tugged on its leg, extending it away from its body. With a flourish, he cut around the hoof and made an incision stretching towards the boar’s groin. He repeated the process for the other legs before making a long cut down from its neck to its butt. The other three men pulled out knives as well, and the four men pried and tugged on the skin, slipping their knives in occasionally.

“Squeamish?” Jacob asked, nudging me.

“Not really.” The smell isn’t even that bad. It’s pleasant compared to the inside of the prison. “But it really seems like they don’t need me.”

“I’ll be honest,” Jacob said and placed his hand on my shoulder. “They really don’t need you here. I just wanted to see how you’d react. Your face is always so stiff, you know?”

Is it? With the zombie apocalypse going on, there really hasn’t been a good time to smile. When was the last time I smiled anyway?

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Virlyce

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