Los Querubines del Mar (pt 1)

They were beautiful.

I watched their tiny, lifeless bodies glide by endlessly.

One corpse would have been sad; two would have been tragic.

Thousands were nothing.

Technically speaking, I knew from the beginning what I was getting myself into.  I had knowingly applied and consented to work at the processing plant.  I knew that “harvesting” the tiny aquatic creatures meant killing them and I knew that it was our responsibility, as employees at the plant, to cut them into pieces and put those pieces into bags and label those bags with packing dates and subspecies before shipping them off in huge, frozen crates.

Inflated to twice my size in my two sweatshirts and raingear, I had known what I was looking at when I watched the fillets glide by on the conveyor belt.  I would reach out a gloved hand and turn them so that they all faced one direction, small end to the right, large end to the left.  They looked like featureless, pink fish swimming down the blue river of the conveyor belt.  Their near-animation had been comical then.  I had stifled many a sick chuckle as I watched the flesh writhe inanimately as the conveyor belt jolted or twisted underneath the perpetual train of meat.

I had washed and vacuumed blood off their decapitated corpses without a second thought.  I had pulled organs out of their bodies and separated the bright egg sacs from those organs without thinking about what I was doing.  I had put frozen pieces of them into plastic bags and put stickers on those, denoting what piece of the creature could be found inside.

None of it had meant anything.  Those were only tiny pieces of an already destroyed whole, baby steps in a larger-than-me process.

Meaningless.

Now they had eyes.

I had been moved up the line and now I had to see them whole.

They had tiny, dimpled arms and cheeks.  Their small, slack faces stared blindly into mine, over my shoulder, or at the hordes of their deceased brothers and sisters, who pillowed each other’s limp bodies, as they came rolling down the conveyor belt from the boats to the front of the line where I waited for them.

Some of their eyes were filled with blood, like helpless, frustrated tears that would never fall.  Every once in a while an eyeball rolled, bodiless, down the steel slide to my left, before its owner made it to me.  A few of them had mismatched eyes, still stuck in their sockets, stunningly bright and a reminder of their former individuality.

After half a day of moving the miniscule, chubby bodies through the soap scum and into the halving machine I locked myself in a bathroom stall and tried not to cry.

Humanoid is not human.

That had been their final verdict.  It might have been different, but the tiny, flawless bodies were more than just beautiful, they were valuable.  The omnipotent “they”, with its consumer and profit driven mind, decided that the pros of mass consumption outweighed the cons of mass destruction.

Los Querubines del Mar, named as such because they resembled tiny cherubic mermaids, were a delicacy and a miracle.

Their tails were healthier than any earthly fish and the meat quite literally melted on a human tongue like chocolate.  On top of that, every part of their bodies was useful.  Their bones, although tiny, rivaled ivory in popularity, beauty and price.  Their skin was tanned and turned into outrageously expensive wallets and shoes.  A small society of jewelers had discovered a process that solidified the tiny eyes and turned them into semi-precious stones.  The uses people discovered for each part of those tiny bodies were as many as they were disgusting.

Worst of all, we found that their blood cured every disease of the body.  Their brain fluid cured every disease of the mind.

Los Querubines del Mar were our key to immortality, perfection and wealth.

Eventually, even PETA shut its collective mouth.  How could it not when cancer, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, rabies, schizophrenia, depression, PTSD, blindness and every other plague humankind has ever had to suffer through was destroyed?

When Querbies, as they came to be called, were first put to use, I even heard of a man who, in an outrageous leap of faith, used his entire life savings to buy a liter of Querby blood.  His left leg had been amputated when he was a child to save his life from leukemia.  Every day he took a tiny dropper of the blood and faithfully massaged it into his stump.  It took a long time, but somehow the limb, 26 years gone, grew back.  It shone with an aquamarine hue, but it grew back, strong and sturdy as though it had never been gone.

That was all in the beginning, though.

Things are beginning to change.

(I started writing this story when I was working in a fish processing plant in Cordova, AK.  I am hoping to complete the story soon and submit it to the L. Ron Hubbard Writer’s of the Future contest/scholarship thing.)

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3 Responses to Los Querubines del Mar (pt 1)

  1. tof lee says:

    you’re a gifted story teller. great imagery. you had me thinking this was an actual job you mentioned mermaids 🙂

  2. Erica Elan Nelson says:

    Looking forward to the rest…

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