The magic cow

FictionIssue FourteenIssue Fourteen Fiction

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The Magic Cow

Eric Tian

The cow came in March. By May, it was all over. I must write this down so I, too, do not forget our history.
It started with that merchant, Elrico, and his cart of tools. He always claimed he possessed items of magic. One time he claimed to have something that could create light out of thin air. Another time he said he could turn rock into gold. Yet the most absurd thing was the cow he brought in.
“Drinking this cow’s milk,” he said, “will make you forget your fears.”
Only my father could afford the price. Half the town warned him against it. Elrico’s tools had proven unreliable in the past. The other half begged him for it.
In the end, my father was an adventurous man. When I was a child, he told me:
“Never go to sleep regretting the day. Face life and its consequences like a man.”
The next day, the whole town watched as the cow was led to our front yard. Elrico handed the creature over and left with a solemn bow. My father turned to the crowd.
“Seeing as I am the owner, I will drink its milk first.”
He slowly walked inside our hut and came out with a bowl. The cow stood still, wagging its tail lazily.
When the milking was done, he showed off the full bowl to the town. We all stood watching. Then, in a violent, quick motion, the liquid went down.
Within a week, there was laughter and dancing throughout the night. With the cow, people found their ways out of deep pits of despair. The injured began to run. The old began to dance. The creative began to publish. Great novels and plays were written. There were no fears of judgment, or injury. Our town was injected with a new spirit. People found joy in the smallest of things and long-standing grudges were forgiven.  My father spoke his mind more. There was a breath of freedom.
The more people who saw its effect, the more prized the cow was. My father began to charge a small fee for its milk. It became a local treasure.

The problems began in April. My father began forgetting other things. First, his hat. Then his belt, and there were reports from other families. Little Paula from next door forgetting her own name. Camila from the church became unable to read the Bible. Old Luis coming to class forgetting his tie. He had worn a tie to teach every day for the last 30 years.
By then, nearly everyone had tasted the milk and the early users started coming back for more. The cow was now making a great deal of money. My father quit his job to manage the business. He would sell the milk in bottles. The more you drank, the longer its effect. Or so it seemed.
I never liked the damn cow. I was happy enough as it was without it. But now it has ruined us.
The milk gave birth to criminals. There was more rape, theft, and deceit. Cowards lost their fear of punishment. Wives and husbands had extramarital affairs. It had unlocked a corruption in the wicked and unleashed it to the world. 

When the poorer families could no longer afford the fee, they resorted to stealing. I would hear them milking the cow at midnight. Then over time, they would walk inside and take the bottles from our counter. Sometimes I saw them doing it. There was no fear of repercussions. Such was the nature of the milk. But my father would never realize. He had no fear of death. He only thought of the cow and its milk.
He often offered me a drink. But I always refused. Such is the stubbornness of youth. 

One night I decided it was all too much. I took a rock and sharpened a knife. The cow had to go.
It was dark and the town was quiet. The moon turned away to bear no witness. When I approached, the cow seemed to know what was happening. He still stood in the yard, where Elrico sold him one month ago, staring at me. Its eyes were a dark chestnut. It occurred to me then that this cow was not to blame, that it was merely doing what it was brought here to do. I whispered an apology.
The news spread quickly. The town gathered together once again. For the first time the police acted. Said they would find the criminal. My father, in his panicked state, gave away the rest of the bottles for free. 

The people in their madness resorted to terrible measures. They cut off its skin, then its meat, and when that was all gone, its hoofs, ears, and eyes. They ate them right where the cow lay, with their bare hands. But it did no good. The magic was in the milk. When they realised this, a war broke out. Factions were created; houses were ransacked. The church, it was discovered, stored a huge quantity of bottles in the cellar. Three people died in the confrontation.
The milk ran out in May. When the fears came back violently, it was like a bomb hitting an oasis, for the people forgot what it was like to be afraid, and the thought of being afraid was terrifying. Families with women began milking breasts to find a cure. Children scratched their eyes out. People would writhe like worms.
And then the frenzy eventually died. People adapted to their fears once again. It seemed then that things would be restored. 

Two weeks later, Elrico came to visit again. He and his tools. The town gathered around. He walked in sheepishly, to our front yard. He said:
“Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat this.” He pulled out a black vial. The price was named. All heads turned to my father.
“For your memories.”