(16, continued from above) Diana marched out of the building. The tractor’s engine roared to life. Miranda slowly exhaled, shivering. The remaining workers returned to their duties. Two picked up one of the tubs, slid its lid off, and hoisted it over the first trough: fresh pudding oozed out, overflowing the trough. The others followed suit. The fat bodies in the stalls began to stir. They flopped onto all fours and crawled toward the troughs, licking their lips and grunting with excitement. Beside Miranda, Tabatha lurched forward with a huff and raced—as much as her bulk could race—toward the closest trough. Miranda grimaced. The workers were still in the room, tidying up. She cautiously got to her hands and knees and set off with a plodding crawl. Her belly, given how so much of her weight settled in her sides, didn’t reach the floor like so many others, but it wobbled and swung as she moved. She felt her thighs jiggle behind her and her lovehandles bounced side to side. She could feel one of the workers staring at her. Catching up with the corpulent crowd, she pushed herself between two of the chattel, lowered her face into the trough, and pretended to eat. The sounds of gulping, grunting, and groaning surrounded her. Something closed around her neck: a metal collar. A chain tightened and someone hauled Miranda away from the trough. She cried out and scrabbled at the collar, but found herself too paralyzed by panic—or too overwhelmed by the intoxicating aroma of the pudding—to resist its pull. One of the blindfolded men held her leash. Once she’d gotten her bearings, he pulled up the slack and led her across the room, leaning against her weight. Miranda coughed and twisted, but found herself following along like a reluctant dog. He dragged her into an empty stall and pushed down on her flanks until she sat. The blindfolded woman clomped over and set down a deep bowl of pudding. “You’re behind,” she said, nudging the bowl with her foot. “You need to catch up or your offering will be refused.” Miranda gaped. The pudding oozed over the lip of the bowl. She glanced across the room; Bridget’s pile of blankets remained still. The woman placed her hand on the back of Miranda’s head. After a moment she began to press down, pushing Miranda’s face into the bowl. Miranda winced. The flavor of the pudding hit her tongue and she shuddered. Before she could stop herself she was slurping it down, drinking as greedily as anyone at the troughs. The man and woman stood beside her for a few minutes, watching until she’d worked her way through half the bowl. Miranda paused to belch and massage her flooded belly for a moment. When she dropped her face back into the bowl for more, they finally walked away. She shut her eyes and lapped up more pudding. A shape filled her vision: a jagged pyramid, a colossal temple, rising up from an arid plain. A new hand pulled her from the bowl. Miranda swallowed one last mouthful and wiped pudding from her eyes. Bridget’s face filled her vision. “You okay?” Miranda belched. “What?” Bridget glanced over her shoulder. “They’re gone. They all left.” “Oh. Mmph.” Miranda glanced down at the bowl and winced at how little pudding remained. “Yeah. Um. Okay, right, let’s go.” She staggered to her feet. Bridget helped her up and offered her her clothes. Miranda struggled with the blouse for half a minute, only to throw it away and wrap herself in one of the horse blankets. They stumbled out into the pasture and started toward the road, but froze. Miranda stiffened; Bridget’s grip tightened around her arm. The field was covered with hundreds of crows. As Miranda and Bridget gaped, the birds stopping milling and fluttering about and turned, in unison, to stare back at them. One of the birds, somewhere in the center of the flock, let out a plaintive caw. A rifle cocked behind Miranda’s ear and a hand seized the collar around her neck.