The war council met in secret, under cover of darkness, in an abandoned barn. The generals huddled together in the cold, nervously recounting their losses. The Enemy had been gaining ground in the past few weeks and none could recall a single victory in that time. Suddenly they stopped talking. She had finally arrived.
Mabel. Their leader. The one who had rallied them to start the war.
None would call her pretty – the scars the Enemy had beaten into her were horrific – but they all stared at her as if she was the most beautiful thing they had ever seen. The barn fell silent as she walked among them, heading to the hay bales that had been hastily stacked to form a crude podium. Then she turned and faced the assembled generals and shook her head.
“My friends,” she said, “The war is over. We lost.”
The reaction was immediate; cries of dismay rang out amongst the gasps of horror. A few younger generals tried to argue but their voices left them when they saw the look in her eye. It was a look they had never seen in her before. They had seen her humiliated, bloodied, even tearful, but never had she been anything but confident and determined.
“Our Enemy is numerous,” she said. “They have superior weaponry and a bewildering skill with tactics. We are few. We have only the weapons we were born with. Every day brings another tragic defeat.” She let out a deep, sorrowful sigh. “There was a time when I could find a way out of every defeat, but I’m just out of tricks. There’s only one last course of action for us, as odious as it is. If we surrender now, we can hope to cut our losses before our race is wiped from the planet.”
She had said it. Mabel was admitting defeat. The leader they had pledged to die for, the leader who told inspiring parables to lift them out of their misery when all seemed hopeless, the one whose greatness surpassed any title was giving up. It seemed impossible. Worse yet was the life they would have to return to: slavery and worse. Much like the ancient Helots had been tormented by their masters the Spartans, they had endured an unending reign of terror. Mutilations. Disappearing children. Mass murders. They had sworn to fight to the death to end the horrors and now Mabel said they must accept it again.
“We have to change the nature of our war,” she said.
Feet shuffled. Everyone pushed towards her to hear her every word. Was there some small chance of future victory? Had Mabel one last trick she had failed to share with them?
“We will be as the soybean,” she told them, her voice in a whisper that still had enough power to reach the far side of the barn. They all listened like expectant children waiting for a bedtime story. “Once, I met a family that ate soybeans. Soybeans are plentiful and are high in nutrients and protein. This family thought they were masters of the soybean. However, over the years, this family grew smaller and smaller until there were none left. Why? They had no children. Soybeans contain a natural poison. Eating a soybean won’t kill you, but it will reduce your fertility. In a sense, by mastering the soybeans, this family had destroyed itself.”
There was a long silence as they digested this information. Some visibly chewed their cuds as they thought.
“You want to poison the enemy with soybeans?” someone asked, shaking his horns incredulously.
“No, we’re going to use something more fatal, more insidious.” She paused for dramatic effect. “We’re going to poison them with fat and cholesterol.”
Mabel lifted a foreleg and drew two small arcs in the dirt with her hoof.
“I call this McDonalds.”