Dead Hope: A Thanksgiving Tale by Maitreya Tindall

It was raining, dark rain clouds covered the gloomy sky, Raindrops pounded in the tiny coop’s roof like nails. I shifted uncomfortably in the straw. I lifted my head drowsily as my vision cleared. I glanced around. My friends lay snoozing in the straw shuffling towards each other for warmth. Suddenly, something cold and wet splattered on my head. “Ugh not another leak!” I groaned. Sitting up, I shivered. I guess I should wake up the rest of the coop I thought wearily. I dragged myself out of the comfy straw bed and walked to the coop door glancing through the thick barbed wire. I sighed. Longing swelled in my chest. Longing to feel the wind through my hair and the grass touching my feet instead of the rough dry shed around. I turned around regretfully. Well, there’s no use thinking about it now.

Once I had awakened my friends, we all huddled in groups murmuring excitedly to one another as we waited impatiently for our feeder to come and deliver us scraps. “What do you think it’ll be today?” I asked Raya excitedly, “Maybe they’ll give us some moldy bread as a treat today!” Raya exclaimed happily, “Or maybe some hard raisins!” Finn piped in. The chattering was suddenly interrupted by the creak of the coop door opening “The feeders here!” Jack said. A large turkey wearing a messy button-up shirt, some filthy jeans, and a straw sun hat entered the coop with a black dirty bucket filled with all sorts of leftovers. Behind him stood a turkey I had never seen before, wearing a black trenchcoat and carrying a shiny black suitcase.

The feeder turkey started gobbling at him. Confusion buzzed around the coop. What’s this guy doing here? we all wondered. The feeder turkey shushed us, as the business turkey took a step forward. The feeder turkey murmured something else to him. The business turkey squinted its eyes and seemed to be examining us. Then it gobbled something to the feeder and pointed a wing at George. Ah? What does this bozo want with George? I wondered. The feeder turkey nodded his head, knelt down, picked up George, and handed him to the business turkey. Then he poured the bucket of slop and left the coop with George and the strange business turkey.

Before I had the chance to say something or even process what had just happened, Sid spoke up: “Don’t worry, they are probably just taking him to check for fleas or something. Now, let’s go eat some slop!, he said excitedly, and ran over to the pile, which was already swarmed with humans. Raya followed. I hesitated. Would George really be OK?, I thought nervously. I dismissed this thought. He’s probably fine, I reassured myself, heading towards the slop pile. Suddenly I froze in my tracks as I heard a screech. The other human around me gasped, as we all realized at the same time who the screech belonged to: George!

Confusion filled my mind, as I wondered where these turkeys were taking me. Out of curiosity, I licked the business turkey who is carrying me. I spat out feathers. Ugh! I thought in disgust, wrinkling my nose. The business turkey growled and gobbled irritably to the feeder turkey. The feeder turkey answered hastily and shot me a piercing glare. I shuffled, embarrassed. We emerged into a large, dusty pit. Blood splattered the walls. I gasped as I saw a pair of shackles. The feeder grabbed me roughly and took a hold of my legs, turning me upside down, struggling. But it was no use. I gasped as I saw the feeder take out a sharp brown blade. Noooo!! I can’t die. Not now. As I closed my eyes, I felt almost a cooling sensation through my neck. Suddenly I felt warm blood gush down my neck. “I, I’d been cut? It was so fast! And weightless.” A tingling feeling swirled all around me. I’m going to die, I thought, in this hazy state. My life flashed before my eyes in an instant. All my memories. Thin, Sid, Raya, my coop mates. I hope they don’t meet the same fate I have.

“George!” I screeched in horror. His terrified scream rang through my ears. Cheer panic blocked out my thoughts. I charged towards the spiky barbed wire and slammed my fists into it, spewing my blood everywhere. “George!” I yelled, desperately trying to spot him. But he was nowhere in sight. “George!” I thought, weakly slamming my fists against the barbed wire, in a feeble attempt to make a dent. “Sid, stop!” Raya’s voice came from behind me. Suddenly I felt hands on my shoulders. She yanked me back. “It’s no use. The wire it’s designed to keep us here, and besides, you are hurting yourself! Look down at your fists,” she scolded. I looked down at my hands. My knuckles were covered in blood. Deep gashes ran down them. I watched my blood trickle down my palm and fall onto the hard, dusty coop floor. I didn’t care. George had been killed. I could feel it. Loss and despair weighed down on me. No!… George!… He was too young to die!

The ages in the coop ranged from four to twelve. I was eleven and George was only six! Suddenly my despair was replaced with fiery rage. How dare they kill George! What had they done to him?! And in that moment a thought filled my mind: What about us? Would we all meet the same fate as George? To be brutally murdered in the hands of those terrible turkeys?

Laura, one of the humans, eyes widened: “We have to escape!” Her voice was edged with panic. “The rest of us can’t die, not like George!” Suddenly a voice spoke: “There’s a rumor I heard that every year, when the leaves turn golden, a certain coop of humans is selected and sold to turkeys. They are killed and eaten by the turkeys in some kind of ritual they call Thanksgiving. It was one of the older humans, a twelve years old named Ash, which would soon be transported to a different coop, due to the fact that he was almost thirteen. “What?!” I squeaked in horror. “You knew this the whole time and didn’t warn us?” “Well, I figured I would be moved out of this coop by the time it was our turn”, Ash shrugged. “So, you were just planning on abandoning us here?” My horror turned into anger. “How could you just-” Raya interrupted me. “Stop! We have bigger problems to deal with right now, like how in the name of God are we gonna get out of here!”

Suddenly an idea sparked in my head. “Wait… What if we can dig underneath the wire?” Raya’s eyes widened. “That could actually work! Sid, you are a genius! But we have to have everyone’s help. Even the toddlers. We’ll be digging with our hands against almost stone hard dry ground” I fretted. “I think we can do that. In total, we have twelve humans in this coop. Ages differ. We can all dig in the same area, creating a hole under the barbed wall, so we can all escape.” “All right!” One of the eight year olds, Mia, preached: “Let’s do this!” We gathered everyone up and explained the plan. “Clear as much earth as possible from under the gate before it turns dark. Then we can rest and keep going in the morning. We’ll cover up the hole with straw before we go to bed, so the feeder won’t get suspicious” I said confidently. “All right!”, Ash confirmed. “Let’s get started!” “Who is the leader here, you or me?”, I grumbled under my breath. Raya shoved me.

After a few hours of working I started to get discouraged. We were hardly making a dent in the rock hard dry earth. I stopped. My hands ached from digging and my nails were coated with dirt. At this rate it will take weeks to finish, weeks that we don’t have.

Another idea. “Ash!”, I called. “Yeah, what is it?, he called back. “I have an idea, come over here!”, I exclaimed excitedly. “Are you sure about this?” Ash fretted. “Ash, I am completely confident”, I said as I grabbed onto the side of the barrel with drinking water. “You ready?”, I asked Ash. “Ready as I’ll ever be”, Ash gulped. “One, two, three!” Grunting, we heaved the barrel water over and watched it spill all over the dry cracked soil. “It’s not really absorbing”, Raya observed. “I’m sure by tomorrow it’ll be. It’s cold at night, so it shouldn’t dry up. Tomorrow we will start bright and early. The ground will be nice and soft,” I said in a confident tone. But deep down, I was still worried that it might take several days to clear a gap big enough for all of us to pass under the gate.

That night my thoughts swirled around me, keeping me awake. I sighed as I looked up at the glistening stars. I wonder if George was up there. A lump hardened in my throat. We have to escape, for him, to let him know his death was not in vain. Emotion flared in my chest. At the same time, determination hardened in my stomach. Once more, I looked up at the endless stars and made a promise. A promise that I’d make sure everyone made it out, safe and sound.

The next day went well. No more turkeys came to slaughter us. We made much progress on the hole. The water had worked and the soil had become much softer and easier to scoop out. However, it had to be able to fit eleven and twelve years old kids. Everything was going perfectly until one obstacle changed it all. My heart skipped a beat the second I felt my fingers touch that rock. No matter how we tried, we couldn’t get the rock out.

Days passed in a terrible blood splattered blur. Finn, Marco, Mia, Ray, Hazel, Conner, gone. All dead. I watched in horror as my friends disappeared one by one, slaughtered by the merciless turkeys, who didn’t bat an eye as they lifted their blades. All just for their greedy stomachs. Never once thinking of the precious lives that had been lost. Just to fill themselves and throw out the leftovers. More death: Bruno, Marc, Jack. Three of us left: me, Ash, and Raya. Our heads hang low, as we scraped continuously against the hard rock with our bruised, blistered hands, grieving for all our lost friends, no, family. They were like family to us. Pain and grief chained us down as we scraped the stone.

The next day we got up. Hardly speaking, we waited for the feeder to come and deliver us our slop. It’s not like we had the appetite to eat anymore but we didn’t want him to catch us digging. We sat together, yet each in their own world of despair for our fallen brothers and sisters. That’s when it happened, the day I hit rock bottom.

As the feeder turkey came in with the black bucket of slop, there stood a turkey behind him, wearing a large coat. He stepped in. I waited in blunt sorrow for him to point at one of us. I didn’t care if I died anymore. He raised his fat wing and pointed at Ash. Ash didn’t waver as she was picked up. Cold grief trickled down my back as I waited for them to leave. But they didn’t. What do they want now? I thought bluntly. Time slowed down as I watched him raise his wing once more. What?! I thought in panic. He’s picking two?! Please, pick me, I begged silently. Not Raya, please not Raya.

I watched in horror as Raya was picked up. No! She was my best friend. I loved her more than anything else. No! Don’t touch her! I suddenly sprang into action. I leapt out and bit the feeder, who was holding Raya. It squawked in pain as my teeth sank into his leg. It sent me reeling with one powerful kick to the nose. Sparklers went off in my head as everything faded into darkness.

As I woke I glanced around at the completely empty coop. That’s when everything that had happened hit me like a bat to the stomach. Indescribable loneliness and despair washed over me. I will be next, I thought wearily. Good. Then I can join them, I thought numbly.

Suddenly something caught my eye: the door! It was open! The feeder had forgotten to lock it! I ran towards it, my head spinning from standing up. I rushed through the shed door. I-I was out! I’d gotten out! I didn’t waste a second. The feeder could be back at any second. I ran and ran through the pounding rain. I sobbed as I ran. Everyone… Everyone I have ever loved is dead. I am so sorry, George! In the end I wasn’t able to save them… I couldn’t. Pure agony pierced my heart. How could the turkeys do this?! How could they so mindlessly take away lives like it’s nothing? Precious lives! If the tables were turned, we’d never do this to turkeys!

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