#FridayFlash: Now Hiring: Canine Farming Technician

Now Hiring: Canine Farming Technician

by Tony Noland

"It's... not quite what I expected."

The Operations Manager paused and looked at Henrique Marcos. "I thought you said you grew up on a canine farm."

"I did. My parent had a small operation in Florida. We ran about two hundred."

"Two hundred? Pssht," he snorted, "small is right. We've got two hundred head in this rack alone."

"Yes, I can see that. The heads, I mean. We just had... y'know, the whole body. This is just a little... well, like I said, it's not quite what I expected."

Mr. Daniels, the Manager, flicked on all the work lights and they walked into the room. Stacked floor to ceiling and swaying gently on movable shelves, row after row of human heads were secured onto steel trays, held in place with wide steel straps cinched tight over their eyes. Masses of tubes and wires were stapled onto the glistening gobbets of neck flesh at the base of each one. A large rod made of teflon-coated steel was pushed back against the molars and bolted in place, effectively holding the jaws wide apart. Every one of the pale, drawn faces twitched, making unfathomable expressions.

On this rack, every head had gaping, bleeding holes where their canines used to be.

Henrique said, "Are they... alive?" As soon as he asked the question, regretted it. "I mean, of course they're undead, I know how it all works, but I've never seen it done this way. It's just... I don't quite understand..."

"Look, kid. The operations manual you got during orientation should have explained all of this. Didn't the HR guys show you the videos?"

"I saw the safety videos and the ones about records management, HazMat regulations compliance and one about cultural sensitivity, but -"

"Oh, yeah, the cultural sensitivity thing is important. We've got some Catholics on staff who get pretty touchy on the subject of immortal souls."

"- but the file for the facilities overview video was messed up. The HR guy said I could come back and watch it another time."

"Yeah, well, don't bother. I can give it to you in a nutshell." Mr. Daniels stepped closer to one of the trays and waved a hand at the head. "OK, we keep vampires so we can extract their canines, right?"

"Sure, it's the basis of Immortality Serum."

"Right. Now, back in the old days, canine farmers would keep the vampires staked in place to a board, yank the canines out every week or so and send them off to be processed into the Serum. For little mom and pop operations like you grew up on, two hundred was about as many as you could handle, right?"

"I guess so."

"OK, so this is modern, scientific management, what the hippies call industrial farming." He took a pen from his pocket and pointed at the wet, pulsing, flesh around the grayish-pink vertebrae. "What do you see, Henrique? Or rather, what *don't* you see?"

Not wishing to be made a fool of, Henrique paused to look, then gave the obvious answer. "Um... a body?"

"Exactly! Turns out, the heads don't need to be attached to the body for the canines to regrow. They just need a source of blood and some means of pumping it through their system. Ordinarily, that would be their heart, but here, it's all pumps and tubing."

"But where's the body?"

"They're stored at a facility outside of Tuscon. The head maintains a psychic link to the body, so you can't just get rid of it. However, if you let the body flail around for a while, it uses up its reserve of energy. Then you can let it dry out, which helps the head to calm down, too. You gather up the bodies and stack them like cordwood out in the desert. The first HBS farms had a real problem with the heads going dormant, but the electrostim wiring fixed that."


"Head-Body Separation. Increases the efficiency of production by a factor of a thousand or more over the old board-and-blood canine farming."

"We used cow blood back home."

Daniels shook his head. "Not here. Synthetic hemoglobin suspended in a saline matrix. Without a body attached, they don't need much in the way of nutrition, just enough calcium oxalate to keep the teeth growing. Yep, we've got around twenty thousand head in this facility, producing about a hundred and sixty thousand teeth a month. And we're not even the company's biggest canine farm, not by a long shot."

Henrique whistled. "That's amazing. It would have taken us years to do that kind of production."

"Not only that, scientific farming yields a higher grade Immortality Serum. No matter what the hippies in the Local Serum movement say, the fact is, you can't supply the Serum needs of nineteen billion people without this kind of production efficiency. And I'll tell you something else, Henrique." Daniels leaned in close, as though confiding a state secret. "The company has big plans for us here."


"Yep. We're going to be testing a new kind of synthetic hemoglobin, one based on a gamma subunit. If everything goes as the R & D guys hope, it'll make a new kind of Serum, one that will let people go outside during the day."

"You're kidding!"

"Nope. Just think of it: for the first time in over two hundred years, people will be able to withstand sunlight again while still enjoying the benefits of the Immortality Serum." Daniels hooked his thumbs in his belt loops and thrust his chest out. "God, it's a great time to be alive!"


My thanks to @thefourpartland and @MarcNash for the prompts "Days came to a strange end" and "canines", respectively.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.


  1. It is funny the sense of morals and emotional baggage we bring to the stories we read. When I saw Canine my first thought went to dogs. So when he talked about racks of head, i was thinking this was like that Internet legend of the Soviets keeping a dog head alive through pumps. Interesting that I am far more comfortable with human heads placed on racks for the harvesting of their teeth than I am with dogs, eh?

    Maybe because humans, even when they are limited, still have choice and free will? I don't know but that was what sturck me initially. Turning the Vampires into just another commodity was brilliant, and I loved the line about "Stacking the bodies like cordwood out in the desert"

    I didn't think it was too guresome at all (especially once I realized it wasn't dogs) and did enjoy the commentary on our own farming industries.

  2. Abso-freaking-lutely FANTASTIC premise, T-dawg. You've really outdone yourself here... yeah. still gobsmacked. Just too awesome. And of course I wonder how it will all go horribly wrong.

  3. Being all too intimately acquainted with industrial-style chicken ranching, you've captured both the high and low points with this one. Harvesting vampire fangs for immortality serum… what a concept!

    Unlike Monica, I don't have to wonder how it could go horribly wrong — as I said, I'm too well-acquainted with that kind of thing. Besides writing, I've also done electrical work, plumbing (water and gas lines), furnace repair, and cleaning up after mass die-offs…

  4. Tony, you do a fantastic job of cramming in a lot of stuff in a small space, all while being fluid.

    Very well done, and lots of good twists and turns, plus you saved the best for last.

  5. Brilliant concept here. Like Paul, I was thinking dogs at first, so that was a nice curve. And surely you didn't just write this from the prompt you received this morning?

  6. @ D. Paul: You know, the interpretation of "canines" as "dogs" didn't occur to me until you mentioned it. Weird.

    @ Monica: Abso-freaking-lutely FANTASTIC premise, T-dawg. So you liked it, then? 8-) Thanks, Mon!

    @ FARfetched: I'm glad to get the take of someone who's seen a modern chicken house. Yes, definitely a mixed bag. I'm glad you like the concept of the "all natural" source of the Immortality Serum. Yes, any system that relies on twenty thousand tubing connections to work is bound to fail at some point. It's just a question of how bad it'll be...

    @ Michael: Why, thank you! Brevity and compactness of storytelling are a hallmark of flash fiction, one of the reasons I like this format so much.

    @ Chuck: Thanks, I'm glad you liked it! And surely you didn't just write this from the prompt you received this morning? Yes, I did, as a matter of fact. I hadn't thought up an story idea yet, so those prompts were just the thing. Why?

  7. Captivating and horrible simultaneously. Really pinpoints the selfishness of humans, and how callous they can be when it's something they want. Abuse the sentient so long as the majority are served.

  8. Eeek! How horrible! But fascinating at the same time. Really great concept. I was thinking dogs at the beginning, too.

  9. Delisiously bizarre. Canine farms, not really what I had pictured.

    Hmm, immortality or the outdoors. Tough call.

  10. Whoa! This was strange and fascinating. Great concept and the canine farm you've created around it is thrilling and creepy.

  11. Indeed - I'm waiting for chapter 2 when things go horribly wrong. Sounds like they've got it all figured out ;-) Great concept, Tony - interesting take on those prompts.

  12. Positively brilliant Tony. This was one of the most original vampire stories EVER. Hats off to you!

  13. That's weird. In a good sense, I mean. I think?

    That's one original concept Tony. Amazing, really! I'm still working my mind around it. O.o

    Have you thought of writing a longer piece with this concept? Like "when it all goes wrong" and/or introducing human society with no contact with the sun? I'm sure curious to learn more.

  14. I followed the procedure and found it painlessly entertaining. I enjoyed how sparse the narration was, and chuckled at the lone tab here and there. I don't think it's essentially the most-messed-up-anything, for though certainly gruesome, they're quite professional about it.

  15. This was an intriguing bit of story telling with a fun premise. This is definitely one of my favorites.

  16. Great story, Tony!

    I, too, initially thought dogs when I saw "canine". When I got to the end, I started to wonder if there'd be any market for an "organic" labeled Serum. You know, for the health-conscious immortals.

  17. I should have known that you'd take a whole new slant on the idea of vampires! Part of me thought of the human bodies being milked for blood in Daybreakers, but I like this idea better, of the humans "milking" the vampires for what they need. Excellent work, sir.

  18. OMG what an awesome world you've built in this short excerpt. The characters are so real - small town farmer Joe meets corporate techy. Awesome.


  19. @ Raven: Thank you! There's a deep, deep vein of rationalization here.

    @ storytreasury: I'm glad you liked it!

    @ Laurita: No, no dogs here. I tend to think that humanity was presented with the chance to be immortal, and took it without thinking of the consequences.

    @ laradunning: Thanks!

    @ PJ: Ah, it's when people have everything figured out that the worst things happen...

    @ Carrie: Why, thank you, Carrie! I appreciate that, especially coming from you! Tell Xan he's got nothing to worry about, OK?

    @ Mari: I'm going to say that confusing and engrossing is a good place to begin with a story. I really just wrote this off the cuff, as I do with most stories. Given the response, though, I've though a bit about how it might continue.

    @ John: Thanks for the analysis, John. Nobody does gruesome like large corporations.

    @ antisocialbutterflie: Thanks I'm glad you liked it!

    @ thirteenthdimension: Heh, "organic" Serum. Will have to think about that.

    @ Icy: Thanks, Icy! Interesting, I hadn't thought of the complete reversal of "Daybreakers". I haven't seen it, though I want to. Funny how the mind works.

    @ Donna: I'm glad you liked it, thanks for reading!


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