I drove into the dead-end and turned off the engine. Total silence. The eerie call of ravens was the only sign of life. That slaughterhouse wasn’t visible from the parking lot. I got out and searched for the grim finale. The sweat gushed into my buttock as I walked under the burning sun. A barking dog ran towards me, and the firehose went all out. Luckily, the boss heard the noise. He instantly showed who’s in charge. Sit. Sit! Good boy. Man’s best friend obeyed the order. Perhaps I’ll follow his loyal example soon enough. After all, my rank as a migrant worker was just as low. Or probably lower without a job. Now that’s totally unacceptable. A healthy young man should work. Working from home, working hard, working honestly, working illegally, working overtime. Working, working for work, working anyhow. Anyone who doesn’t work is a lazy, useless loser. That’s definitely a no-no! Come on, work for your pennies! So here we were. Two pals stood face to face with each other. One with more blood on his hands than the other.
Our Half-hearted chitchat was short. All faked interest ceased as the tour commenced. It went quick. A little too quick. My questions were mostly welcomed by impatient postures, frowns or irritated glances. His answers had a biting, mocking tone. Sometimes I didn’t even get a response. How awkward. Something grabbed me by the throat. I thought I would enter the familiar. Wrong. Appearances can be deceiving. This isn’t a halal-hall but an execution-hut. A place where – thankfully – fewer animals are rushed through, which makes it even more disturbing. Slaughtering with a few pair of hands instead of hundreds makes a difference. You can’t merge in the crowd in here. Changing positions or shifting responsibilities are not possible. I visioned how I stunned cows and then blow their brains out. A shocking bang and a dim thud. A fountain of blood, dirty walls, a ceasing heartbeat and a cooling corpse. Forget about catching your breath. A blood-curdling race against the clock of decay has just begun. Emotional gibberish and mistakes are banned. Oh no… Never again!
“You look so sad. This is it… did you expect something else?”
“I used to work in another slaughterhouse. I know the deal.”
“That isn’t a slaughterhouse but a big conveyer belt. Here we’re doing a trade.”
“I’m not a beginner. I’ve know-how about slaughtering. Everything can be learned.”
* He looks at me with burning eyes
“Yeah, that’s why you get a chance. Simply because I can’t find anyone else. You can start next week.”
We shook hands and I walked off. I shook my head in the car. What a mad joke. Working in that meat factory to acquire a visa extension is one thing. Just out of love for a woman and human imperfection, you know. Catching such a virus can happen. But what happened next went even beyond my fantasy. The corona-madness erupted. A Chinese far-from-my-bed show turned out to be contagious export. What remained on the news for months suddenly became part of daily life. Gathering bans. Travel restrictions. Panic buying. Fierce discussions and questionable rabble-rousing. Mass stress and layoffs. Tugs-of-war over toilet paper and market-driven scams. Even Western Australia (a barely affected area) didn’t avoid this insanity all together. The previously unthinkable happened. All sorts of surreal nonsense became ‘the new reality’, and no one knew for how long. Or what awaited the masses. Canceled flights, border closures, more bureaucracy and hassle. The clock of this global shit-show was ticking on uncertainty. I knew enough once the regional travel bans were announced. I resigned and moved in with my Chinese girlfriend. Rather unemployed but together, then separated for an indefinite time.
I crashed on the couch and looked outside. I considered doing it. There is little to choose from in this remote and sparsely populated area. Especially once the inbound recession hits. The food industry remains a certainty. Suddenly I laughed. The fact that I was seriously opting for that killer job was just mental. I faced an absurd dilemma after renouncing that industry. This could be a game of the supreme being, if he exists. If only I believed in him. Or her. It. Something. No idea if this was a test. It didn’t matter since I’d made up my mind. You know what… hell no. Over my dead body! The devil’s bargain really goes too far. Get fucked if this is supposed to be good citizenship. I’d rather be a picky yet ‘poorer’ migrant. Sanity has its price.
I shared the good news at the dining table. She was happy for me. She also believed that everything will be alright. I nodded in agreement. No worries. The machine can’t stand still forever. Sooner or later, we’ll make up for the missed damage. Breathe a sigh of relief during this collective break. Staying at home is no disgrace. It’s allowed for now. No, it’s compulsory. We have to so an invisible enemy can be defeated. Watch out: he’s lurking everywhere. Join the war rhetoric and do what’s needed. Stay at home for national security. And don’t crave the ‘never returning’ normality of the past. Alright, fine. I’ll stay in Down Under. Watching the true shit-show from a distance isn’t too bad. I’ll hang around and enjoy this memorable staycation. One which will be dedicated to the essence. One of appreciation for the essence of passions, close relationships and simply being. One of utter consciousness. If that becomes the new norm, then I embrace it wholeheartedly. No worries – at – all.
I hope that 2020 will be a tipping year in a positive way, but that is far from clear yet.