Aphelion Issue 283, Volume 27
May 2023
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Fresh Meat

by Matthew Spence

Chris had been looking forward to getting some fresh deer meat this season. Armed with crossbows and his faithful and mostly reliable mutt companion, he'd gone to South Carolina's lowland country to see if he could bag some decent game.

He was gone for about four days. When he returned home empty handed on Sunday, his wife (who preferred growing her own food as opposed to hunting it) looked at him with concern. Chris was normally upbeat, but now he was downcast, as if he was afraid of something.

"What is it?" she asked. "What happened, Chris?"

After some more gentle prodding, he finally answered. "You're not gonna believe this," he said. "But I think deer are becoming meat eaters."

"But aren't they vegetarians?" his wife asked.

"Yeah, but on my third night down there, I saw…well, I guess I can tell you, even though it sounds crazy. I came across a pack of young bucks. They were standing over a full-grown doe. At first I thought it might have been killed by bobcats or a bear, but then I saw 'em bending down…they were eating it, like a fresh kill. I can't explain it, but that's what it looked like they were doing-eating a fresh kill. Never saw anything like it before."

Over the course of the hunting season, other reports started coming in, mostly from the East Coast. Deer were seen eating the remains of recently dead animals. At first it was shrugged off as single occurrences, but then somebody caught footage of a deer hunting down another deer, a male chasing a female, goring it to death with its antlers, and then proceeding to eat it.

The footage made the news, creating a media and scientific sensation. The governors of several states warned people to stay away from the newly carnivorous deer, which seemed to attack individually, then return to their herds as if nothing happened. As the deer attacks began to spread to the South and upper Midwest, a team of scientists were dis[patched to the site of the latest kill in northern Michigan.

"It seems to be a hormonal imbalance in the females which is driving the males to attack," Doctor Pratt, the leader of the team, stated at a press conference. "The males sense it as a threat, and attack. We've seen males attack females in other species, but never eat them before…the hunger is something new."

"Does this mean that deer have in face become meat eaters?" one of the reporters asked.

"No, that would require an evolutionary change in their behavior. It seems to be seasonally related. It should pass…but in the meantime, avoiding deer meat is probably best for the time being."

Back at their home, Chris and his wife were watching the news. "I'm sorry, Chris," his wife said. "I know how much you were looking forward to getting fresh meat this year."

"Eh, maybe it's for the best. But I gotta wonder…is this gonna happen to other animals, too?"

Unknown to them, outside their living room windows, a pair of squirrels were fighting over nuts. One of them gained the upper hand, killing the other with a savage bite.

Then it began eating its former rival.

© 2023 Matthew Spence

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