She leaned towards the monitor, rubbed her eyes, and blinked hard.
She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. The creature ran back and forth in a panicked frenzy, sending sprays of straw and dirt everywhere. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw something else – something far more unsettling.
Flora was sick of the endless stream of politics and drama that inundated her social accounts.
It might have been amusing at one point, even interesting. But now it was stressful and unpleasant. She needed something simple. One live stream promised just that. It was the last thing anyone would choose … a big ‘ol pig.
The one-view camera showed a big sow named Ethel.
The large pig wandered back and forth in her pen, shoving her nose into the ground or rolling over for a quick nap. It was the epitome of boring … it was perfect! Flora skimmed through the site details and noticed something surprising.
The hairy swine was due to have piglets in a few months.
Flora grinned as she imagined tiny pink babes oinking everywhere. The wholesome channel was the break she needed. She could already feel the stress melting away. She had no idea that things were about to take a startling turn.
Ethel rolled off her back and started another lazy circle around her pen.
But she suddenly turned around. Her round nose sniffed along the ground and into the hay pile in the corner. She scraped her trotter into the mess and plowed her body forward. Was something in there?
She watched the strange behavior with a mix of interest and concern.
Suddenly, Ethel scooted back, scraped her feet like a bull then rammed head-first into the pile again. The pen boards shook and overhead light swung wildly. What flora saw next would send her into a panic.
She wasn’t a farmer. She had no idea what was normal behavior.
All she knew was that something seemed very wrong. Maybe Ethel was about to give birth? Maybe there was a rat in the pen? Maybe it was something worse! The swine charged again. Dust shook from the rafters. Straw sprayed everywhere.
Big Ethel moved to the other side of the pen. The next run into the hay pile was the last one Flora would witness.
The final crash pulled down the overhead light, knocked over the food trough, and cracked several slats of wood. The pig didn’t move.
Flora gasped and grabbed the monitor. What just happened?!
And as if things couldn’t get any crazier, she spotted a wisp of grey just off to the side of the camera frame. It swirled into the air like wisps from a cigarette. Red, yellow, and orange flickers appeared in the background. “Oh my god,” she whispered.
The light that Ethel had knocked down was a heating lamp – that had sparked the hay into flames.
The fire started as a small poof of light then suddenly roared across the pile. The sow scurried out from the death trap – clearly in distress. Flora looked at the view count. She was the only one watching! No one appeared.
No farmers rushed in with water buckets. The flames grew higher. Flora grabbed her phone.
There was contact information at the bottom of the screen. Ring, ring, ring. No answer. She tried again. Nothing. Ethel ran terrified circles in her enclosure. There was only one more thing she could do.
Flora dialed 911. It was insane. She was two states away.
The operator picked up and she quickly gave the information. What they said next made her jaw drop to the floor. In an annoyed voice, the other end warned her that prank calls to the emergency switchboard were illegal.
She hung up, feeling the tears build. Was she going to have to watch this poor animal die?
All she could do was type over and over again in the chat window and pray there was a notification bell on the farmer’s end. Just as the flames reached the ceiling, the door burst open.
Two men ran into the pen. One sprayed down the fire with an extinguisher while the other held and comforted Ethel.
Minutes later Flora got a message. It had worked! They had heard her insistent message “beeps” and learned of the danger. But there was one more surprise coming.
The farmers were so thankful she had saved their life-long friend, the offered for her to come out and visit.
They were also going to name the first piglet after her. Flora leaned back into her chair and let out a long sigh of relief. Maybe next time, a live steam of flowers growing would be safer to watch.