🎃 A new short story every day of October 🎃

Mormon Ghost Stories

The Cannibal Cannery

Cover Image for The Cannibal Cannery
Moroni's Ghost
By: Moroni's Ghost

“Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

John 6:53-54

Juan had never even heard of the cannery before it had been announced as the activity for his YSA ward. He’d made an effort to go to all the activities since getting back from his mission to Guatemala a few months ago, so he figured he would attend, even though it was all the way down in Aurora. The trip from Fort Collins took about an hour, but he had lucked out. Maddie had decided to attend as well and had agreed to carpool. Unfortunately his luck had changed when the YSA Bishop had asked him to give Jeremy a ride to the activity too.

Juan had taken Maddie out on a date already, but nothing serious was going on yet. He had hoped this car ride would be a good chance to spend some time together. He’d been wrong about that.

Maddie sat in the passenger seat and Jeremy sat in the back of Juan's car as they made their way to the cannery. He always wore shirts that were extra tight and never went anywhere without his signature wooden sunglasses sitting on top of his head. He bragged constantly about himself and all the nice things he owned. Apparently his dad had paid a pretty penny for those glasses and had had Jeremy’s name etched on the side, though Juan never cared enough to look closely at them.

Jeremy had been trying to make small talk with Maddie all 30 minutes into the drive. It was pretty obvious that he had the hots for her. Juan was a good guy though. He wasn’t butting in and trying to take over the whole conversation from Jeremy. Jeremy was annoying, sure, but at least he was earnest. And it was obvious he had zero chances with Maddie, so Juan just let the conversation play out and listened in.

“So… Maddie… how’s your sister Jess doing?” Jeremy asked.

“Oh she’s fine. She’s doing a summer track at BYU Idaho right now. She doesn’t mind though, she says the summers are way better than the winters. She is trying to switch to the Summer Fall track so she can come back home here in the Winter semester. But no luck there yet.”

“Oh yeah, I went to Idaho in the winter once with my Dad to visit his cousin up there. I thought it was cold here in Denver, but sheesh, up there I froze my balls off!” Jeremy laughed “I’m a summer boy at heart though. Plus the heat gives me an excuse to show off the merchandise.” He flexed his right bicep for Maddie to see. He was sculpted, Juan would give him that.

“I almost went to BYU Idaho” he continued “but I really think that this business I am starting is going to take off. I’m gonna be the next Elon Musk.” He flashed a grin “but don’t worry, I’ll remember you when I’m rich and famous. You too Juan, don’t you worry.” He punched Juan’s arm.

Next Elon Musk, and he doesn’t even have a car, Juan thought, off to a great start.

“Thanks.” Juan said as he rubbed his arm. “What does this business of yours do anyways?”

“It’s a shipping business. Think of like, UPS and Doordash. Instead of having a giant business move your packages along, you have an individual take your package from place A to Z. People are always going everywhere from everywhere already, it's just a matter of getting the right people to take the right things to the right places. The cannery is actually one of our beta customers, all free of course, but they are helping us test the idea by bringing food to local families that need it. It's all a manual scheduling process right now, but they are helping us get some of the kinks out of the process.”

“Huh, that sounds pretty cool man.” Juan said.

Maddie turned to look at Juan. “What do you plan on doing next? Now that you are back?”

“Well, I’ve been putting my portfolio together to apply to some art schools. I applied to a few before my mission, but none of them could delay my enrollment so I have to re-apply. I’m really hoping to get into The California Institute of Arts if I can. I got rejected from them last time, so I am trying to beef up my catalog for my reapplication.”

“Oh wow, that’s really cool.” she said “well, if you ever need someone to give you opinions on your art, I LOVE that sort of thing.” She smiled at Juan for a moment until Jeremy stuck his head in between them.

“Good luck with that buddy. Hope you don’t end up as a starving artist.”


They pulled up to the cannery building. It was bigger than Juan was expecting it to be. The walls were made out of dull gray stone. Three large silos stood behind the building with three smaller ones to the left of them. There were a few scattered buildings around, but overall it felt more isolated than he had thought it would be. They got out of the car and walked into the building. Some of the other YSA from their ward were standing around waiting when they entered. They broke off and chatted with a few of them until finally a senior missionary couple appeared at the front of the room and gathered their attention. They were wearing jeans and button up shirts instead of the regular sunday dress, likely because cannery work was messy. Juan could barely make out the names emblazoned on their black missionary tags from where he was standing. They said Elder and Sister Fleischman.

“Brothers and Sisters!” Elder Fleischman said. “Thank you so much for coming to help us at the cannery today! Because of your efforts here tonight, some of God’s children that would have gone hungry will have a belly full of food. We know it's difficult to focus on spiritual needs until temporal needs are met. We hope tonight can not only help you feel the spirit, but we hope you have a fun time as well. We find many people enjoy their time in the cannery quite a bit! It’s a great activity that involves your spirit and your body. It’s a good workout moving this food all around every day, I can tell you that!”

“And we’d also like to thank Jeremy from your ward for helping us organize this for your YSA group tonight. Thank you Jeremy!” Sister Fleischman added, miming a silent applause with her hands.

Jeremy waved at the small gathering. Juan was even more annoyed now that he had to give him a ride here when he organized this whole thing. What would he have done if Juan wasn’t going?

He brushed it off and then made sure to shuffle closer to Maddie as they followed the Fleischmans down a hallway and into a large, high ceilinged room. The floors were all tile and drains sat along the floor every couple of yards. It smelled and looked like a massive kitchen at the back of a restaurant. The machines were already whirring and the Fleischmans had to speak loudly over some of the machinery as they gave a tour of the room.

They walked them through all the safety protocols, then directed them all to get their aprons, gloves and hairnets on. Tonight they were going to be canning tomato soup, peaches and beef chunks.

A lot of the work had already been started for them, the peaches had been pre skinned and just needed to be sent through the slicing machine and then placed into cans. The beef was pre cooked and just needed to be sealed and heated to the proper temperature. Juan and Jeremy ended up getting stationed at the sealing machine, where the tops of the metal cans were pressed into place. He stood there for the better part of an hour as the cans came through. He got them lined up, placed the lids on, then let the machine do its work of pressing everything into place. All the while Jeremy kept rambling on about his business, how amazing he was and whatever other nonsense happened to make its way across his brain.

Just as his feet were starting to ache, Elder Fleischman approached Jeremy and him.

“Would one of you boys mind coming with me to the back? We actually need to start prepping some more of the beef chunks for the volunteers tomorrow real quick. We are a bit behind our quota and could really use the help to get back on schedule.”

“I’ll do it!” Jeremy said quickly before Juan could say a word. “Put me in coach!”

“Alright! A go getter, love to see it. Follow me back to the meat processing room over here… oh, you’ll want to tuck those glasses into a better spot, it can get messy down there.” He pointed at Jeremy’s sunglasses which he had hung on his apron in order to put his hair net on.

Jeremy sighed, then tucked his sunglasses into his pants pocket and left with Brother Fleischman while Juan continued to work on sealing cans.

After a few minutes, Maddie appeared at his side.

“I asked if I could come work over here with you since Jeremy left.” she said. “I’m sorry you had to listen to him for so long.”

“Jeremy’s a good guy.” Juan replied. “He just loves to hear himself talk, but he’s still a good guy. I had a mission companion for a transfer who was just like that. Really into himself, but in an endearing sort of way.”

“Well I don’t think I could take being Jeremy’s companion.” she said. “I’m glad that you survived that transfer.”

“Oh, I had some worse ones than that.” Juan laughed.

Just then, Elder Fleischman reappeared from the way he had gone with Jeremy and walked back up to Juan.

“Oh good, someone is here helping you. Do you think you could actually take over for him? I think Jeremy and I are going to need a bit more help around the corner.”

“Oh, sure thing.” Juan said. He begrudgingly said goodbye to Maddie after their few short minutes together, then followed Elder Fleischman through a pair of double doors. They walked down the hall and into a different room. This room had a large machine to one side with oversized blades that were spinning around in mesmerizing circles. A short conveyor belt ran towards the blades. Jeremy was nowhere to be found.

“Alright, if you can just wait here for a few seconds, I’ll go grab the forklift to bring in a container full of meat to place in the grinder. I’ll bring it over to the edge of the machine, I just need you to help me position the container so we can easily dump the meat onto the conveyor belt. Sound good?”

Juan nodded.

“Now it gets loud over by the grinder, so you’re gonna need to wear some ear protection and I’ll be wearing some too.” he handed Juan a pair of yellow safety ear muffs. He started to put them on then paused.

“Wait, where did Jeremy go?”

“Oh, he just had to run to the bathroom is all, he should be back to help us dump the meat though.”

Elder Fleischman went through a flap-like door on the other side of the room while Juan walked over and waited by the meat grinder. He stared at the blades as they rhythmically churned. He could see small flecks of meat left over from the last batch still clinging to blades as they went up and down and around. Blood was still visible on edges of the machine as well from slicing and dicing. It was still so fresh looking, as though they had just finished the last batch. Juan thought about how much food this place must be churning out every day.

Finally, Elder Fleischman returned from beyond the flaps, this time atop a forklift. The forklift carried a large white container that apparently was loaded with slabs of beef. Juan stood to the side of the grinder and motioned to Elder Fleischman as he got closer.

“You gotta make sure it is lined up perfectly, otherwise it's a pain to unload and we lose a lot of meat.” Elder Fleischman yelled over the noise. “Stand in front of the conveyor belt so we can get those edges right on the money.”

Juan nervously stepped in front of the forklift instead of to the side of it. As he did so, he saw Sister Fleischman appear entering the room from the corner of his eye.

“Elder Fleischman! We have a problem in the other room! Someone’s cut themselves and contaminated the peaches!”

“What’s that he yelled?”

Juan was distracted by the commotion and didn’t even notice that the forklift was still inching closer to him.

“I said we need your help!” Sister Fleischman yelled.

“What’s wrong?” Elder Fleischman yelled back.

Juan felt the container suddenly pushing him backwards up against the conveyor belt. His feet were still on the ground, but Elder Fleischman must’ve had his hand slightly on the controls of the forklift still.

“Hey! Hey! Wait a second here! Stop the forklift!” The weight of the container had now pinned him against the edge of the conveyor belt. But Elder Fleischman seemed unable to hear his cries. He started waving at Sister Fleischman. He should have been right in her peripheral vision. But she was angled in just a way she must have missed him.

“I said we need your help!” Sister Fleischman yelled exasperated.

Juan felt his feet lift off the floor as his back started to slide along the conveyor belt. He looked up above his head at the set of rotating blades that was now only two feet away from the top of his skull. He screamed as he felt the motion of the forklift continue to propel him slowly along the belt towards the machine. His heart was racing a million miles an hour as he watched the blades draw closer and closer.

Just then, Maddie appeared in the doorway and screamed. Sister Fleischman jumped at the noise and Elder Fleischman immediately stopped the forklift. Maddie ran down to where Juan was pinned under the container as Elder Fleischman started moving in reverse. Juan felt the weight of it leave his chest as Maddie pulled him to a standing position and embraced him in a hug. Then she turned around and stared daggers at the Fleischmans.

“What just happened? Did you not see him?”

Sister Fleischman looked apprehensive. “I was just telling Elder Fleischman about a contamination in the other room is all.”

Elder Fleischman hopped down off the forklift and went over to Juan, grabbing both his shoulders.

“Son, I’m so sorry, why didn’t you say anything? I nearly had you in that meat grinder. Didn’t even realize my hand was still on the gears and moving forward. Maybe I’m getting too old for this job…”

“Maybe you are!” Maddie shot back at him. Juan just stood there in shock for a few moments until finally he returned to his senses. Maddie rubbed his back as he collected himself, then she spoke once more.

“I came to look for you because we were finished up in the other room. Everyone else is heading out.”

Juan nodded, then waved goodbye to the Fleischmans. Maddie escorted him back to entrance and they made their way to his car.

They sat there for a few minutes. Juan finally spoke.

“Have you seen Jeremy?” he asked.

“Oh, no, but he texted me right before I came to look for you, he said he needs to talk to someone else here about his business but he found another ride home so we can go without him.”

“Oh, ok.” Juan said. His brain still didn’t feel like it was functioning properly, so he turned the key of his car without too many other thoughts. He was about to put the car in reverse when he spoke again.

“Did you… see any meat in that container? The one I was stuck under?”

“No, but, I wasn’t looking closely really. There were some other things going on at the time.”

“Did you smell any meat?”

“I don’t remember, I guess not, why?”

“No reason.” Juan said. He finally put the car in reverse and drove away.

*** 5 MONTHS LATER ***

Juan and Maddie stood in Juan’s parent’s kitchen as they were preparing dinner for themselves. They had been dating for a few months now. Ever since the scare at the cannery, Maddie had really started worrying about Juan and it had ended up bringing them closer together.

Jeremy had gone missing that same night and no one had seen him since. Juan and Maddie had given statements to the police. Apparently someone who worked at the cannery had seen Jeremy get into someone else’s car and drive away. But they didn’t know much more than that. If he was being honest with himself, Juan didn’t miss him all that much. But he still felt bad for the guy, whatever had happened to him.

To show her support, Maddie had started ordering food through Jeremy’s delivery service business. Jeremy’s brother and business partner had kept it going throughout Jeremy’s absence. They had just gotten an order earlier that day and were using some of it to cook with.

Juan was busy chopping vegetables when he heard Maddie scream followed by the sound of metal against the tile floor. He looked over to see what was wrong and saw a can of beef chunks laying on the ground, a splattering of meat and juices ran along the floor. Juan walked over to the stove to look into the skillet Maddie had been pouring the meat into and gasped.

Sitting in the pile of meat was a small splintered piece from a pair of sunglass frames with the letters “Je” written on it in gold.

Read another story



Pick a story