The vegetarians -Short story

The trip to the Azores was more than I had expected. I chose the Flores island because tectonically speaking, they are part of America. For a European, there’s nothing farther from the hustle of everyday life. The islands are in between two worlds; they are one of the last corners unspoiled by civilization. The goal was simply to escape the world for a couple of months, but I ended up staying longer. Life can change all of a sudden and in the simplest way. I was swimming in a volcano crater when I met the vegetarians. I’m sorry to call them that, but they’re a homogeneous group whose common feature is that they have an aversion to killing animals. They aren’t hippies or anything, but it’s evident in their skin; they looked so healthy and glowing with energy that I was compelled to ask them what their secret was. I’m sure a life without any stress, swimming inside volcanoes, has something to do with it, but I felt there was something more to it.

I can’t explain the sensation with precision, but I felt there was something supernatural in their vitality and good humor; maybe some fountain of energy in some hidden place of the island. They laughed when I told them this, but then Pedro explained to me that it was all about harmony. “We’re simply living up to our evolutionary potentials,” he said. “Men are not supposed to eat animals because there’s assimilation with everything we eat. By eating vegetables we assimilate their magnificent properties: Photosynthesis and a wonderful capacity for growth and regeneration. But we can gain nothing from eating animals, and specially mammals, because we’re simply the most evolved animal. By assimilating their bodies we only regress in the normal evolution of our species, which consists in the preponderance of the brain over any other organ. Each animal has evolved some special ability, but there’s only a limited amount of genetic capacity in animals. It would surprise you to hear this, but most plants have more DNA than humans, which basically means they have more capacity for evolution. If humans wanted to evolve into gorilla like forms, they’d have to give up brain capacity, but a plant, on the other hand, has a lot of latent genetic power ready to be exploited. The only reason why plants haven’t taken over the world is because they don’t want to. They are selfless beings, completely in harmony with their environment, but they’re really powerful. There’s much to be learned from them.”

I was fascinated by Pedro’s words. Believe me, it’s not the same reading something like this on the Internet than hearing it from a demigod like person. Pedro’s features are very sensual; he looks always ready to film a romantic scene in a movie. But the whole group is like that. I was thunderstruck by Cintia the first time I saw her. She’s actually not my type; she has wide hips and is too short, but her skin and features are so luscious that I can barely keep myself from showering her with kisses every time she speaks to me. I accepted gladly their invitation to dinner that day we met and there’s not a day I haven’t dined with them since. Their food is delicious, but it may just be the product of harmony, as they say. Back in England I wouldn’t find such a diet appealing. It’s too sweet and it has not enough fat or carbohydrates in it. But in this whether it tastes perfect. I’m amazed at my new found capacity for sweet things, or my secret sweet tooth, as I call it. Back home I detested mangoes, ananas and other tropical fruits because of their sweetness. I loved kiwi, though; it seemed to be the exception. But now all these fruits taste like kiwi, that is, I find all fruits appetizing. Another thing I wouldn’t have dreamt of in England is eating so much salad. These people seem to prefer raw vegetables and my eating habits wouldn’t allow me to accept a salad as a whole meal before, but now I look forward to it every time I dine with them.

It’s been a year since I came here, and I already feel the inner changes. Not only I’m in a better mood than living in that gloomy island of mine, but I’m also more focused. A day starts early in the morning, just after sunrise, and it has full hours, plenty of activity and excitement. It’s as if I have tapped into my latent energy source. There’s just one small detail; nothing to worry about; just a remnant of my debauched past. I have an acute but short lived craving for meat once in a while. As I’ve mentioned earlier, food that had never had much appeal to me before has now bloomed on my palate. My tongue, previously desensitized by salt and fat, now perceives all the nuances of taste; all the hues of flavor. Now meat takes a whole new meaning to me. The memory of it consolidates in my taste buds, becoming metallic, rancid, pungent and slightly sour-sweet. Opposite to the common belief that vegetarians can’t endure the taste of meat, I feel it like the ultimate meal, like a grossly rich banquet in which there are potatoes and cauliflower smeared with chocolate, dipped into a tomato sauce sprinkled with cinnamon, parsley, garlic and ginger, with fried strawberries and oranges on the side. It’s disgustingly enticing, like a sexy woman at a funeral.

However, I think it’s only a withdrawal symptom, which will fade away with time, once my palate gets more educated and these odd cravings stop. I don’t mind them either; they’re an amusing fantasy, like abstract paintings hanging on the walls of my gustatory imagination. Yesterday I asked Pedro whether some of them had these fits of bizarre gluttony, and I was surprised to hear that it’s an instinctive reaction they all feel all the time. “We’re just animals after all,” he said, “and as much as we wish to evolve there are still some vestiges of the brutal in us. Even those of us who’ve never touched pork or beef in their lives have appetite for it from time to time. Our imagination, as well as our evolutionary memory, craves for reminders of the past. It’s called regression and it makes us feel safe and satiated when we take it in small doses, although it numbs us into lethargy if we just give in to it all the time. We’re omnivorous, which means we can ingest everything around us. But we’re by no means carnivorous creatures. We can’t digest raw meat, but some ancestor roasted an animal long time ago and we got a taste for the flesh of other sentient beings. But this is just a deviation. Truly carnivorous creatures have violent and short lives, full of impulse and very slow in evolution. The lives of carnivorous creatures are like planes flying nowhere and crashing all the time. The excess of emotions that meat gives us is detrimental to our cognitive development, which is the only way to evolve. Our cognition, in turn, develops our empathy and sensitivity, but it’s never the other way round. We humans have grown out of the purely emotional phase of cognition and we’ve become rational beings. Only by analyzing our emotions can we grow more, and the only way of analyzing them is taking care of not having more than we can cope with.”

After this conversation with Pedro I felt a deep relief. Knowing that the craving for meat is not a defect is reassuring. I therefore shared with him my fantasies, the images of honey pigs with watermelon juice for blood and pie crust for skin. Pedro surprised me again this time by knowing everything about animal breeding and what the best food was to yield the tenderest and tastiest meat. “We’re not mindless fanatics,” he said to me. “We don’t look the other way; we make informed decisions.” And then he proceeded to explain to me the Spanish method of breeding pigs for ham. I learned that the best quality comes from pigs fed exclusively on acorns and olives. “It’s like a good cognac,” he told me, “in which you combine the flavor which the grapevine drew from the ground with the flavor which the oak tree has accumulated through years of exposure to the sun. The only fault in ham is that we also take in the toxins created by this lower animal, together with its base emotions.”

I must say that Pedro managed to talk me out of my cravings with his wisdom. But it wasn’t only in the gastronomic sphere that I made progress. When I shared with him my feelings for Cintia, he taught me to look at it from a vegetarian point of view. Sex is not about devouring flesh, as in the case of meat eaters, but about subtly taking in all the nutrients that every organism emanates. Cintia’s beauty wasn’t an itch that I needed to scratch anymore but a genuine source of pleasure; just like smelling a flower. Love making among these people was sedate. The rapports I saw between couples was a harmonious exchange of energy till their bodies and spirits became entangled. These made them more resilient to external factors and even more emotionally stable than before. Now a single emotion sufficed for two people, so they became more lighthearted than ever. As I mentioned, they are not hippies, who confuse debauchery with peace of mind. These people are monogamous because they don’t need to renovate partners to rekindle their sexuality. Their desire is never blunted because they don’t consume but they share vital energy. This desire evolved naturally with Cintia. As I mentioned, she wasn’t my type, but there must have been something pragmatic that attracted me to her. She was the only single person in the group who wasn’t too old to arouse desire on me. I was drawn to her naturally, as a Bedouin to an oasis, and she was open to my advances. There’s no such thing as incompatibility among these people. Everyone is compatible with everyone else, but they choose only one person for their sexual journey and it’s all about circumstances rather than sexual fantasies, preference, and other vices which are so pervasive among meat eaters. Everyone is attractive in a vegetarian society and there are no excesses, so everyone is nice. I’m very happy with Cintia.

They’ve been preparing me for an initiation ritual for a month now. It’s a diet based only on sweet fruits. I yearn for some chard or spinach, but I follow the diet contientiously. The ritual will be simply a meal in which I will become a permanent part of their group. It’s an engagement I’m happy to fulfill with all my heart. Pedro explained to me that this sugar-based diet is meant to give me an excessive amount of productive energy which I will share with others during the meal. It will be a communion in which I’m the key element. This is not to be done frequently because sugar is like alcohol for a vegetarian and drunkenness is not a desirable state of mind. But they recognize their humanity and they’re happy to indulge this base instinct to welcome me to their group. I feel the excess of energy running through my veins and I must confess it pleases me. Maybe that’s the problem with it. It’s an inebriating sensation and it will eventually become addictive if I don’t cease. And Cintia is having some collateral effects; she is more excited than usual and there’s a stronger bloom in her. But we arrive to the day of the meal and I’m happy to give up this diet to have a more balanced one. We arrive to the place of the feast. The table is strewn with green vegetables of all kind and salads. There are no fruits or anything sweet. I see now that the ritual is some sort of purification in which I get rid of my excess of energies. Cintia leads me to a tub in the kitchen area and asks me to strip and get inside. The water is warm but they turn on the heater and it starts getting hot. They add honey, fruits and spices to the water, and it becomes irresistibly fragrant. I lay back and close my eyes and my mouth involuntarily opens. I’m swallowing the delicious brew and a stupor overcomes me. I feel pleasantly drunk and the heat boiling my skin is like a warm cover in a cold winter night. Pedro speaks, but his words sound far away. I listen to him say: “We’ve got the taste for flesh and it’s a strong remnant of our past. Communion with animals is too detrimental, so this is just a natural step in our feeding habits. You’ve been purified of animal toxins by becoming vegetarian and you’ve been filled with vegetal energy this last month. Your human toxins have been reduced to a minimum during your stay with us and now we’re ready to enjoy of all the flavor and energy which you’ve accumulated through the years. You’re the best cognac.”

I’m too immersed in a sensation of vegetative pleasure. I feel like a plant must feel when it gives out its nourishment to become a delicious soup. I don’t lose consciousness, but my human senses are turned off. I’m not my body anymore; I’ve left to become this broil which will be ingested by the whole group. I’m glad of making this ultimate contribution to vegetarianism.

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