Every morning—I assumed it was morning, but couldn’t be sure as the only light came from stark fluorescent tubes that were always lit—my horns were clasped and measured with calipers cinched by gloved hands.
‘Growing too slowly…’
The man in the white coat would mutter to himself each time before shuffling away, almost tripping over his too-long trousers, to top up my trough with a bland oily porridge that was served cold and congealed. It was unappetising but I’d eat it all, nothing escaping, not even the irony of all the meals I once snapped and shared with friends as though they’d mattered (the meals that is); the freedoms I’d taken for granted had never been photo worthy. Continue reading →
In the unseen timelines of the mortal trio, that day was marked as the occasion of the light dimming in each of their hearts forevermore, disconnected as they were from the source.
They’d slunk out of the forest triumphant, leaving behind an unrecongnisable world: sacrifices made in the name of gods they didn’t believe in, although flashbacks were tinged with fear of the wrath of those same dieties.
Meanwhile, the sun continued to rise and set, bearing witness to daylight thievery and acts of grace with the same silent intensity.
What got me out of bed and into the booth each morning was the thrill of monitoring ceremonies in the Grand Hall; as a rookie, I’d made the mistake of believing those facing away from the masses were the ones to look out for- I’d zoom in on them and make a concerted effort to track the next 5, 10, 20 years of their lives, although it would prove futile; mulling over milestones in their later years, I returned to the Grand Hall footage where with the fortune of hindsight, I drew a correlation between swimming upstream in old age and free flowing movement at graduation; squint and scan the crowd and you’ll see a distinct yellow aura marking them out, all facing the same direction.
The next phase was tracing their descendants and handing over the dossier to Dr Woodrow, chief geneticist at Project Anadromous, a clandestine government initiative that led to the design of biological prêt-à-porter: subcutaneous cloaks fashioned to enable adaptability for a return to the so-called fresh waters of the wearer’s youth, to breed and die, maintaining population equilibrium- a profitable ‘industry’ that did away with nasty taxes, handout recipients, and threats of litigation- therein the fun stopped, gone were my days of naïve people watching, I became the watched.
Now, trapped by the consequences of my actions, I am stuck in a for-loop, endless iterations of life cycles that never deviate from the tedium of days begun in the murky gravel beds of oxygen limited fresh water, graduating to the stinging spray of brine that stretches to the horizon before I make a begrudging return to natal waters, a sacrificial offering for the next generation, treading softly on finite resources while amassing fortunes for the 0.1 percent who’ve had the fiscal and hence genetic fortune of defying the run.
Woodrow was showing visiting professors around the facility. They were eager to learn all they could, in the quest to increase production of SaltyNectar®, the much sought after finite resource.
Pointing to the subject, Woodrow began to explain his findings:
“EL-AINEDOB150816 is responding well to memory convergence. Synapses effectively returning to previous points of extension, resuming plasticity. Connections have been observed, with neurons firing in response to simulated seasons visible through the ‘window’. Relics have also been left in the mock bedroom, including a basket full of sentimental assortments, such as printed images of people known to the subject, and the shell of a nautilus, held dear to her, according to her file notes, as a treasured memento from her childhood that it is likely to conjure memories- a conjuring nautilus.
“Conjuring nautilus” he repeated. Woodrow liked the sound of these words. He was one of the rare re-births who had the ability to program himself to register small pleasures, in this case resulting in a curious upturn of his lips and crinkles at the corners of his eyes.
One by one, they filed in. Azure dust coating their usual sheen, and joints creaking from the unforgiving strain of extra duties since our unscheduled landing. Nothing that can’t be fixed with a spray of WD-40®, but it’s the corrosive atmosphere that’ll likely be the undoing of the entire fleet; just now when we need them most to get out of this hell hole and return to earth.
A gust of wind against sheathed blades of wheat conducted an orchestra of swooshes and scratches, accompanied by booms of pollen grains crashing as they set sail to germinate or wreak havoc with hay-feverish humans. Like listening to a drum beat from within its hide and metal enclosure, my senses were overstimulated, sound compounded by sight and smell, with the distinct musk of earth and vivid shades of greens, browns and blues swathing field and sky, cognition that made me certain I was me.
SWOOSH, SCRATCH, BOOM, the blades continued to sway. When the tip of one folded back on itself, a lifetime of recognition and knowing came to me. My consciousness had transmigrated.
I was Wheat Leaf.
I held on to my conviction of the worthiness of my sacrifice, to rescue humanity via doses of glutinous products fortified with cognizance, but I had no idea I’d feel and know. As the imposing harvester cut its destructive path on approach, I felt a terror I’d not known in my previous incarnation. It was then I understood the movement of the other blades for what they were, and joined in their screams, a vain attempt to alter our collective fate.
It had to be timed perfectly; the final breath of a soul feeder coinciding with the first light of day. Accelerated transmission of human collective consciousness via wheat fields, using the sun’s rays as a carrier, letting photosynthesis do the rest. Dr Woodrow believed in his technique and the benefits to what remained of the human race, and so had no qualms being among the first of three to go, each lying in their tents till curtain call.
A range of inspirations here for what will be a multi-part story- in part from watching A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Sonya’s Three Line Tales Week Twenty Sixwhich provides the intriguing photograph, and Jane Dougherty’s latest microfiction challenge, but that will be a separate post. Woodrowhas featured in a couple of my stories previously and makes a welcome return here as my sci-fi muse.