Saturday, August 18, 2018

SHOWCASE: “The New Herd,” by Lilliana Rose

The new herd of cows had arrived for milking, white skin gleaming in the sunlight as they were ushered from the transport ship. They walked as if their udders were tight with gold. But they refused to be touched. Maybe they were a little skittish from their long flight through space, God forbid. I prayed to the Sun, our God, to ensure none were sick. The cows often became unwell on arrival to Earth. Their stomachs couldn’t cope with the microbes any more. Their blood didn’t tolerate the lack of oxygen in the mountain air we breathed. The cows would still be milkable, even if ill—the job would be harder and I would have to be patient. Like everyone else here in town I preferred it when the milking was easy.

“A fresh harvest,” I yelled, summoning my wife and son as I walked out to the landing area.

The cows were kicking up the dirt in the holding pen. I could see the clouds of dust rising from the anger in their hooves. Running to the pens I prayed they would be ready for milking and I would be able to calm them with my well-practised smile and tender fingers. I wondered if it hurt them to have udders so tight that they didn’t know how to spend such a commodity.

Tying my brightly woven poncho around my waist I hurried past Carlos. I wanted to be first at the holding pens. He fumbled with his poncho and I stuck out my foot causing him to tumble. Tripping my neighbour was all part of the competition between the people of our village. I arrived first, the chance to have the pick of a virgin herd sent shivers of pleasure through my hands.

“Tarde,” I said, pinching the brown skin on the hand of my wife when she finally made it to my side. Good thing the cows didn’t understand our language as I mumbled more profanities to my wife as we waited. It would be her fault if the milking was poor for us today.

My son looked odd with the knee-length black skirt trimmed with waves of colour and matching tailored coat. But only we knew his true gender. He hated having to keep long hair which was now in two neat plaits. We would use any trick to help with the milking.

Some of the cows in the herd had been here before. I could see the understanding in their eyes. Despite one or two of these creatures having enormous udders, the sort of tight, soft udders my fingers were itching to squeeze, I left them out of my selection. Sometimes these cows were harder to milk for they saw the tricks we used and held on to their golden milk. Today I didn’t feel like taking a risk. But I did bargain for a few more cows. I got one extra.

She was a beauty.

I wanted to milk her myself.

Opening the gate, I smiled at the cows that were ours for the day. My son clapped his hands and twirled, causing his skirt to balloon in flashes of bright colour, revealing his dirty thin legs. His sandals, recycled from black tyres, were the style of the men and I made a note to chastise him later for the mistake. I prayed he had at least made sure he had cloth between his legs after the incident with the last herd. Carlos had tripped him and his true gender was revealed. The milking was poor for us that day.

Today, the sun smiled on us and we welcomed the first arrival of cows for weeks. Maybe tonight there would be a golden rain of abundance between my wife and me as we celebrated the milking.

Between the three of us, we guided the cows back to our one room mud house. They followed with their whiteness repelling the sun unlike our dark complexions.

We sloshed through the mud. The rain had been persistent for days, keeping the ships away. At least our crops were growing and we would have food to eat. But we preferred the sweets they would bring us rather than the grain we had to harvest.

The cows grumbled about the mud. Filth clung to their overly clean bodies. They had no scent about them. But they would smell of us when they left, the stinking rotting odour of their past, the one they wanted to forget. And they would run for the showers when they were back on the ship to wash the history from their skin and hair.

On two legs they followed, I could hear the clinking of milk and I had to place my hands under my poncho for the desire to secretly tickle out a few drops of gold was strong.

We stood in front of our home for them to take pleasure in one of their traditions. I would spit on their customs if their milk wasn’t so valuable. They pointed their eyes towards us, taking photos with a click that sounded like a weapon. We stood, dutifully, as a family, and smiled for the success of the milking. After each click, Marco held out his dirty hand, made his brown eyes big. Each gave him a little piece of money from their udders. Not many of these cows could resist our son’s eyes and I smiled proudly at him. We would only be able to do this for another year at the most, then he would be too old to wear a skirt.

“My home is your home,” I said slowly, pretending to struggle with the pronunciation of the foreign words.

“It is not much, but all we have,” my wife added.

I looked at her sharply. She risked exposing our tricks from her well-pronounced words. Flor bowed her head away from my stare as the cows praised her.

Their language, an irregular noise not so different from animals, hurt our ears. But the temporary pain was worth the harvesting.

We moved inside. Flor had taken away the TV and a few other objects, making our home look bare. This always helped with the milking, loosening their tight udders because they thought we were poor.

The cows had come from Earth III. We were familiar with the sort of technology they had, having watched the moving screens of news and movies.

Where did they think their rubbish went? Their outdated modems?

We were poor only by their standard.

We lived simple lives on a planet other generations had left. They could’ve taken us with them, those with money and power, but they didn’t. We have reconciled with our mouths and milked them with our hands, but our minds are our own.

We are not stupid.

Flor offered a mug of steaming herbs to help calm their queasy stomachs. She bumped clumsily into the cows with her swollen belly before apologising with a blush, her free hand on her tummy. She played her part well, the swell was false and made of cloth to get their attention. Because we spoke a different language, we could always play dumb when they asked questions we didn’t want to answer. We had long ago learnt their tongue. Our maestro provided free lessons, so we could better serve the cows. But we all knew the lessons were to help with the milking, to make the process more efficient, for us.

Flor showed them the dugout for cooking, where the smallest pot we owned stood on coals, full of water with a sprinkle of rice and a pinch of herbs. The smell was wonderful. She offered them some, and they said they couldn’t possibly eat our food. With watery eyes, they generously opened their udders and let her feed.

“For the new baby,” said one as she handed over her warm jacket. Flor smiled back, saying no, until she was helped into the jacket. We didn’t want their old clothes, just their golden milk.

They bought boxes full of things to help us, different coloured pens and paper, old clothes, modems, and other outdated electronics. Their rubbish, presented as a gift.

We said thank you, dutifully, then reminded them we didn’t know how to write. They nodded their heads, believing that because we still lived down here on Earth, in a prehistoric lifestyle, we hadn’t been educated. They forget that we use their discarded computers.

They opened up, squeezed their teats hard, and allowed more golden milk to flow. We couldn’t help but smile and dance for it was the golden milk that we truly wanted. The liquid that helped us to forget that we were left behind, not good enough to take with them with our dirty coloured skin. They could visit the gods in their ships. We couldn’t.

And we longed to.

“Look,” said Marco as he twirled Alpaca wool on a wooden spindle. They wanted to try, which was always annoying because they broke the wool. But these cows were paying well today and I nodded my approval for them to proceed.

Flor showed them how to dye the wool, how to change the colour from red to orange with a sprinkle of salt. Their eyes widened, entranced, at how my wife and son could make crafts using such primitive techniques.

A young cow moved towards the back of the group. Her muscularly ample behind gracefully swayed from side to side, reminded me why I had selected her. My fingers itched. I resisted giving her a slap to make sure it was real. Cows from Earth III sometimes have body parts enhanced.

“Come, I show,” I said quietly to the beauty I had chosen for myself.

She hesitated and I stepped back, smiling, not wanting to frighten her. Some are such timid creatures and they need to be handled with a deep softness to ensure they don’t run away.

“Special,” I said, and pointed behind the house. She smiled politely.

“Si, si,” I said. My hands guided her away from the others. Her soft hide under my fingers sent tingles all over my body.

Behind my home were painted clay pots my son and I had made. She wrinkled her nose at the smell of our waste. We needed to ask them for the golden milk so we could build our own toilet. But that wasn’t my purpose today.

Earthenware stood lined up on a low wooden bench, various sizes and shapes that had kept us busy over the weeks when there had been no ships. We had painted the symbols of our God and history on the clay. Red, yellow, and black in a series of basic lines kept her attention as she held the new artefacts. But that wasn’t what I wanted her to see.

“Special price. Old,” I lied. “Just for you.” I let my eyes wander over her body before turning away to view the vacant paddock behind our house. Eventually she turned and looked. Her blue eyes, strong enough to hold the sun in its fire, watered and clouded.

“The mounds?” she asked. There were three rows of small bumps, tidy and neat, and obvious with dried flowers sprinkled on top. Marked with a wooden cross to show we worshiped their God. To please them.

“Niños, no food.” I lowered my head, for her eyes were breaking the lies from my mouth. I didn’t tell her the mounds were fake and held nothing but dirt and stupid pens, and were another trick to help with the milking.

I sighed heavily and waited a little before returning her look. The afternoon sun reflected her golden hair and I longed to touch, to see if it was real. She smiled in empathy and exposed her udder, allowing me to fondle her and take what I wanted.

Oh that white skin, soft like butter, creamy like milk made my heart beat faster. I nearly dropped the fresh harvest as I transferred the milk of our future into my pockets.

We returned to the front of my home where the others were waiting. Flor gave me a knee-breaking stare for my absence. I knew she would soften later when I showed her the golden milk. We guided the cows back to the holding pens. I noticed a few were still holding back some milk and I glared back at my wife and son, for not being as thorough. If I wasn’t so swollen from my harvest I would have taken their milk.

With tears of false gratitude we ushered the freshly milked cows back on the ship. They promised to return. We hoped they wouldn’t, for it risked exposing our plans of milking. For the cows came willingly, but if they really knew we didn’t need their golden milk, they wouldn’t come.

We were rich by our own standards.

“Amigos, por favor. Send your friends,” we said as they embarked.

In a smoky screen the ship’s engines started and covered us in toxic fumes. Once out of sight we cheered. My family hadn’t had such a successful day for months and the other families glared jealously at the visible success of our milking.

I’d just emptied my pockets when the unmistakable sound roared from the sky once more. Two ships in one day wasn’t the custom. The thought of more milk made our stomachs groan with greed.

“Flor, Marco rapido! We have another milking session!”

Lilliana Rose has published poetry, short stories, and novels. She loves to write, and tries to write something new everyday.  With her varied background in genetics research, teaching and counseling, and having grown up on an Australian farm, her novels show this broad experience of life. She enjoys creating stories in the genres of steampunk, romance, rural romance, fantasy, science fiction, and horror.

She has mentored creative writing students for the past five years, and presents creative writing and journaling workshops locally (and soon to be online). To learn more, visit her website at, and to see what she’s up to right now, check out her blog at


Mark Keigley said...

Cows Rock! Back in the day when I was writing TONS of flashes, I trunked this one. For good reason:

When Cows Fly
by Mark Wolf


“What the hell is that?” General Westin said, his unlit cigar threatening to fall from his lips as he pointed at the struggling engineers leading a cow out of a hanger. The engineers were split between two groups. As the engineers drew closer, General Westin saw that one group pulled on the lead rope of the cantankerous Holstein cow, the other group pushed on the cow's hindquarters. On the cow's back was a complicated-looking, metallic contraption.
“Sir, that is the rocket pack you are to give your recommendation on before the senate appropriations committee,” Morley, the General's aide replied.
“And this is supposed to be the technology to rival the new jet fighters?” the General said.
“No, sir. But it does offer the possibility of surprise assault tactics,” Morley said.
“I thought that was what paratroopers were good for,” the General growled.
“Yes, sir, General,” Morley said. Morley had first served under the General, then a Colonel, in World War II during the paratroop invasion of Norway.
“What are its drawbacks and why is a cow flying it?” the General said.
“The fuel catalysts create a rapid, sometimes unstable reaction when mixed. Human test pilots are deathly afraid of it,” Morley replied.
There was a sudden shriek of noise as the rockets ignited. The cow bellowed in terror as she lifted from the ground. Sunglasses bedecked faces watched the cow suddenly zoom upward and disappear from sight.
There was a huge explosion high above them and a few seconds later a rain of flaming beef chunks fell on all assembled. General Westin opened his Top Secret folder and took a pen from his pocket and hastily scribbled PROJECT CANCELED in bold letters on the cover sheet as a rare chunk of meat landed with a greasy plop on the page.
“I can see why,” the General said.

The End.