Vegan Publishers was recently approached by Philip Downs, an author with a story that sends a powerful message. We are proud to share this creative piece with our readers. Inspired by the battle to prevent the expansion of CAFO’s and the cruel world of intensive animal farming, this story is both a fairytale and a warning of what can happen when greed and animal exploitation dominates life as we know it. The illustrated book from which this is taken, “All that Remains – Children’s Stories for Grown-ups,” consists of a sequence of 12 fables, linked by a common theme of living happily, sustainably and in harmony with nature.
The Ghost Camera
The day was fair, the sky was blue and clear, and all was well with the world.
The scientist with her long white coat and her long white hair, walked briskly down the long white corridors of the medical research centre and out into the gardens.
Beyond the high white walls lay a big city, and beyond the city lay green hills and fields and farms, and further beyond lay mountains and cliffs and the sea. But this meant nothing to her, as all the scientist could think about was the liquid in the test tube in her hand. She held it up to the light and smiled.
Ten years of research, of tests and trials, of frustrating failures and surprising successes – all of which had led to this one moment.
The scientist was about to change the world.
This formula, once injected into the bloodstream of any animal would increase the metabolism a hundredfold – and they would become the most efficient food machines imaginable. Sheep, pigs, cows, chickens, goats – all would grow up in days rather than months. Milk and eggs would pour out of them, their muscles would double in size, meat would be as easy to harvest as picking wildflowers from a meadow. Farms and dairies would double, triple, quadruple their productivity. Human hunger and starvation – the curse of her overpopulated planet – would be at an end.
And that moment, when she turned to go back indoors, ready to announce her success, was the moment when she saw the stranger. He was striding across the lawn with a large box in his hands. His smart black suit betrayed no hint of what his purpose or profession might be. He stopped in front of her.
“Miss Sally Bannerman?” he asked.
“Good morning. My name is Creeks. Edward Creeks. I am a solicitor from the city firm of Creeks and Son, and I have a parcel to deliver to you.”
“Oh?” she said, pocketing the test tube and taking hold of the box.
He continued, “My client entrusted this into the care of our firm in 1910 with specific instructions to pass into it your custody at this very moment, in this exact location.”
“But that’s over a century ago!” Sally exclaimed. “Who is….I mean, who was this client of yours? And how on earth did he know where I’d be?”
Creeks replied, “If you would just sign for the parcel – there is a letter inside that explains everything. And should you yourself require my services in the future, please don’t hesitate to call. My card.”
She signed, took the card, and he bowed slightly, turned on his heel and left.
Somewhat bewildered by this unexpected intrusion into her private moment of triumph, she sat down on a nearby bench, and opened the box. Inside, carefully packed up in tightly wadded tissue paper, lay an old-fashioned camera, several rolls of film, and a plain envelope, yellowed with age.
On it was written:
‘To Miss Sally Bannerman – Please read immediately’
Feeling a little shaky, she removed the letter and began to read. This is what it said:
Dear Miss Bannerman,
Since, as you are a lady of science and, I imagine, not prone to flights of fancy, I know it will be difficult to convince you of the veracity of my extraordinary story. To that end, I will state the facts as simply and concisely as I can, and leave you to examine and use my camera in order to prove what I tell you is true.
Please – I beg you – do not reveal the results of your recent research until you are quite sure that either I am mad, or that you can stand the guilt of what you are about to unleash.
By the time you read these words, I will have been dead for decades, so I have no way of knowing what your reaction will be for I have only seen one possible future. I hope and pray that you will change that future.
I, like yourself, am a scientist – an inventor, a meddler in mechanics and physics. All my life I have worked in factories and laboratories, helping to keep the wheels of industry turning with my innovations and inventions. But at home, in my studio, I work on marvels. I construct impossible objects. I turn dreams and foolish notions into reality.
What you now hold in your hands is a camera that I invented – a camera that photographs the future. The dial on the top turns in increments towards the far distant years yet to come, and the shutter opens its mechanical eye and burns that image onto the film.
As I said – impossible objects are my speciality. But nothing ever worked as wonderfully as this.
I tested it on myself by photographing my reflection in a mirror and saw myself grow old and disappear. Wondering about the limits of its reach into the future, I took a roll of film of the view down into the valley from my garden where there lies a small farmhouse. When I developed the photographs in my darkroom, what I saw on them horrified me beyond words.
By sheer chance I had chosen the exact spot where the small farm near my house would flourish and grow into a huge industrialized concern. I saw that, a hundred years hence, the tiny cow sheds would become monstrous; the greenery would disappear under grey metal bunkers; and tall fences would spring up and block it all from view.
Intrigued and horrified by this, I moved down into the farmyards and took more photographs. Walls were no barrier to me, I was merely acting as a ghost observing from the distant past, recording the far-flung future.
And what I saw was a nightmare.
Back in my darkroom, the photographs showed industrialized torture – cows and pigs and chickens in metal boxes stretching as far as the eye could see, concrete and metal bars pressing them in, the floors flooded with their waste. And as I moved the camera dial further into the future, the low sheds became factories and grew upwards and outwards, became a multi-storey city of imprisoned creatures, crushed and brutalised and exploited. Kept in the dark. Filled up with chemicals. Impregnated, fattened, birthed, milked, shot, rendered, replaced. A never ending cycle of pain and fear.
And this, Miss Bannerman, is all due to you.
I have spent a lifetime finding you. I used my invention to track you down, by trial and error and luck and persistence. I captured images of newspapers, and of what you call ‘television’ and ‘computer’ screens. I matched up faces and names, travelled to your city to find the Government laboratories, and finally, after years and years, found you here, now.
This is where it all starts.
I have just developed a photograph of you standing in this very garden, holding the test tube up to the light. And I have seen that once this formula is released to the world, it will spread like a plague, resulting in disease resistant meat – fast growing, easily cultivated and with the horror of its origins just as easily hidden from the ignorant and uncaring gaze of the public. But I have been inside these massive farms, these so-called ‘mega-dairies’, and the vast underground abattoirs the size of small towns. I have seen lakes of blood, mountains of wool and skin, and rivers – deep and wide – running with rendered flesh…
I have devoted my life to finding you. At this moment in time you are innocent. In the blink of an eye you will be guilty. And a billion billion creatures will be sentenced to live and die because of you.
I am now an old man. I have waited until my final years to write this so that I can push the camera to its limits, to turn the dial as far into the future as it will go, and I have seen no improvement in this story. Please take the camera to the location on the reverse of this letter, and use your name and profession to gain access to the farm. In your era I believe it will be still be a rural smallholding in a beautiful wooded valley, with its future as yet undecided. Use the rolls of film provided, turn the dial full circle and photograph everything.
The photographic prints I enclose with this letter show all that I have described to you and more – I know that this fantastical story will require proof. But, more than this, I need you to push further into the future than is possible for me, and to see the truth for yourself. Only then can you decide what it is that you must do.
I am not a religious man, but I am praying to any and every god that you will show more humanity than I have witnessed in the world yet to come. I am doing this because I cannot live without some small hope that we can one day evolve into a kinder, more compassionate race of people.
Sally Bannerman, you can be a part of that evolution – if you choose to.
(Please would you be good enough to return this camera to the solicitor when you are done. It is my brother’s company and is highly respected in my time, and I hope that they will still be so in yours.)
Sally carefully folded up the letter and put it away. Her face was white with shock. The photos contained within did indeed show black and white images of the horrors he had written of, and the very last one was of the garden where she now sat. In it she saw herself holding up the test tube to the sky and smiling.
Looking at this photo now, Sally no longer smiled.
Speaking to no-one, she left the garden, left the office, left the city, and took a long drive to the distant farm, following Cornelius’ directions to the letter. She parked on a hillside just by the ruins of a cottage, now overgrown with moss and ivy. The rusted nameplate on the single remaining wall was barely legible, but she could just about make out the words ‘Creeks Cottage’.
Taking the camera and a few rolls of film, she marched off down to the farm in the valley with her Government badge and her white lab coat folded over her arm…
Of course, after developing the film, she saw all that Cornelius Creeks had described. And much more. Much worse. And she threw away her formula and her research, and destroyed all evidence of her experiments. And, returning to the box containing Cornelius’ letter and camera, she found that both his and her own photographs now showed only a small farm, and then simply green fields and a small house. And then no house.
The future had been rewritten.
And for years, the world survived very well without Sally’s invented formula. Other scientists in other lands found other solutions to the problem of hunger, and fed the population in much kinder ways.
And for the rest of her life, to make sure this never happened again, Doctor Sally Bannerman travelled all around, photographing landscapes with the camera dial fully turned to the furthest possible future date. It was a random approach that relied on luck, but she knew that, like Cornelius, she had to try.
And when, one day she spotted, with horror, the monstrous factories rising up once again, she acted immediately. She saw animal factories like gigantic black fortresses lying on the vast plains of the west, and she used the camera to step inside, where she found something worse than ever before.
The photograph showed a huge sea of skin and hooves, beaks and claws and tails, all protruding from one enormous, shapeless mass. For in this new future, mankind had seemingly dispensed with individual animals and now grew their meat in one vast hybrid of all animals. Milk and muscle, udders and wings, and huge sunken pits full of thrashing tongues and clusters of eggs.
It took years, but Sally found the man responsible, pinpointed the moment he held his test tube to the light, and wrote him a long letter. She packed up the camera in a sturdy box, along with her photos and plenty of unused film. She made her way to the city and located the firm of solicitors she required, using the business card given to her by Mr.Edward Creeks many years before.
Although now white-haired and bespectacled, he still wore the same smart black suit, and he recognised the elderly lady as soon as she walked into his office.
“Hello Miss Bannerman,” he said, standing up to take her hand and offering her a seat. “How nice to see you again. Now I am able to carry out the next part of my commission.”
He took a small envelope from his desk drawer and handed it to her.
“My great, great grandad’s brother – the eccentric and ever-mysterious Cornelius – requested that you should be given this if ever you brought the camera back, having followed his instructions. You did actually follow them, I take it?”
“Oh yes,” she replied. “In fact, I wish you to continue the commission, if you would. Though neither you nor I will live to see it fulfilled, I’m afraid. I would like you to take this camera and my letter, and deliver it to this particular man one hundred years from now. Here is the exact location, date, and time.”
Sally handed him a card with the information clearly inscribed upon it.
“We will both be dust and ash by then, but Cornelius’ camera will live on, keeping its eye fixed firmly upon us all – thank God.”
As she spoke, she opened the envelope given to her by Edward. Inside was a single black and white photograph of an old man with a large, bushy beard and very piercing eyes. He was standing in a cluttered library, surrounded by parts of machinery and large leatherbound books, with numerous charts pinned to the wall at his side.
On the desk in front of him was a large pile of photographic prints, and in his hands he held one of them, facing it towards the camera. It had evidently been enlarged so that the viewer could see it clearly, and Sally was not at all surprised to see that it showed a view of a valley and a small farm. By the ruins of an ivy-covered wall there was a car, and standing by the car with her back to the viewer was a woman with long white hair and a white lab coat folded over her arm. Sally smiled in recognition and turned the print over. On the back, in faded blue ink were written the words:
‘See how I hold you in my hands? Now you hold me in yours. From across the gap of time we changed the world.’
And In the far distant future, when Sally Bannerman is nothing but dust, a man in a white coat will open a sturdy wooden box and remove from it an old-fashioned camera, followed by a letter. This letter, yellowed with age, begins with the words:
‘Dear Doctor Kreeb – please read this immediately…’
About The Author
Born in 1970 in Malvern, Worcestershire in the U.K., Philip spent almost his entire life painting and drawing, except for a brief period during primary school days of wanting to be either a dustbin man or a magician. Luckily he decided to pursue his calling as an artist, and gained a degree in illustration at Leicester Polytechnic in 1992, moved from the city to the countryside, and changed his lifestyle from vegetarian to vegan. He has spent the intervening years refining and exploring his chosen craft by learning how to process the experiences of everyday life through his Art. All this inspiration and emotion has ended up on paper and canvas, forming a visual diary of his life – which has now overflowed into poetry and novels too (see the links page of www.philipdownsart.co.uk). His work is highly personal, steadily evolving, and has recently become focused in the project ‘All That Remains’ (www.blurb.co.uk/b/4207417-all-that-remains) which has grown from the original illustrated novel into an ongoing collection of songs, music videos and paintings. This project forms the culmination of all of his vegan ethics and values, which have been steadily growing since starting work at the animal rights/health charity ‘Viva!’ (www.viva.org.uk) in 2005. Since that life-changing career choice, he has decided to use his skills to promote a healthier, more compassionate life, to educate those who are eager to learn, and to leave behind beautiful words and images which, to the best of his ability, are a guide to a better, kinder world.