The bovinity of evil
Sarah lay awake in bed, flipping through a collection of short stories on her tablet.
She had come north with her family for a weekend in a white, rural rental house west of Petaluma. The AirBnb blurb had enticed her. Once used solely as a dairy farm, the family had branched out, renting the main house for family getaways and weddings. The property even starred in a Netflix Christmas movie.
The vacation was just what Sarah needed, a sample of the life she may have had if she’d chosen to leave the city at the start of the pandemic. Her office could have been a cabin in Tahoe or maybe a country home in southern Sonoma County. Instead, they had stayed in the city, witnessing the ever-evolving case study of staggering inequality.
The drive north had been lovely. Rejuvenated by weeks of rain, the rolling hills were a lush shade of green, spotted as always with cows grazing peacefully. That is, with one exception. As the family drove their Tesla to the rental house, a cow, brown and docile-looking, lunged at the vehicle. The car beeped a warning, but the animal soon faded into their rearview mirror.
What stuck with Sarah was the animal’s expression. Hours later, she was convinced that she had caught a look of pure hatred in its large eyes as they drove away. Luckily, the children in the backseat were distracted, gurgling about some sheep they had seen.
Suddenly, a scream wrested Sarah from her thoughts. Rushing to the children’s room down the hall, she found Charlie and Betty standing with their backs to the wall, staring at the window. A pair of black and white holsteins had forced their front legs into the room. They stood silently as the shattered glass and blood on their heads glistened in the moonlight.
“Run!” Sarah exclaimed, pulling the children into the hallway. She slammed the door shut and ran back to her bedroom. Her husband, Greg, groggily coming awake, gave her a confused look as she hurriedly told him about the cows.
She didn’t need to explain for long, however. From the window by the bed, there came a gentle, yet insistent series of bumping sounds. In the low light, the family registered a half dozen cows silently jostling with each other as they attempted to break through the glass pane.
Out of instinct, Sarah grabbed her cellphone, switching on the camera to film the half-ton beasts, while Greg tried to calm their screaming children. As she adjusted her camera, Sarah noticed dozens of Twitter notifications.
#TheCows was trending. Transported out of the bedroom, Sarah scrolled in horror through hundreds of images of cows, marching down city streets, crushing cars with their considerable mass and trampling humans.
“It’s not only here; it’s everywhere,” she whispered to no one in particular.