This story is by Colleen M Johnson and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The ability to see my death is made simple by an itty-bitty implant of a digital countdown into the delicate lining of my inner eyelids; a costly upgrade. A part of me wonders if it’s just part of the illusion of the easy death lie.
I never did like liars. Did my best to live a good life, a solid one. Upstanding citizen, and all that crap. Meaningless now it seems.
Head heavy, mouth dry, on my back, staring up at the empty sky. Mind blank, hooded eyes, pain moves like torrents through every vein, jumping from one frayed nerve to the next. Engulfing me in a miasma of appalling agony.
A copper taste fills my mouth. It reminds me of something. The memory slightly eases my pain as I drift, mentally, into the past.
On a rare visit with my grandma, she shared with me her collection of little metal discs. She said that they once were used as currency.
I plucked up the shiniest one and popped it into my mouth. I rolled it around with my tongue. When I bite down on the tiny disc, it hurt my teeth and I spit it out. I watched as it bounced off my Grandma’s hard faux wooden floor. My fist went to my mouth when I saw that it had left a mark. Fearing that my Grandma would be upset, I began to cry. She folded me up in her strong arms and rocked me gently until I stopped crying.
I’ve always believed that her death was painless. But now, I can’t help but doubt everything.
Death was supposed to be easy. With current technology, every human, starting at the age of sixteen, was given an ironclad guarantee of a painless, easy passing from this world onward.
Tagged, marked, photographed and tattooed. Processed like cattle. Storage facilities filled with endless vials of blood. DNA on file for the world to tinker with. All in exchange for the sweet promise of a painless death.
Fools. Every single human living in the domes; faceless puppeteers pulling at our strings. It’s only now, as I lie teetering between worlds, that I understand that society hasn’t changed. The people in charge always mislead those like me. A sucker for a promise.
The tinted dome blocks out the radiant stars I know hover in the sky above my shattered body. All our cities are domed, as humans striped the planet of its very life sources too long ago for me to ever have tasted the fresh air of what used to be the natural environment of Earth.
Tall, white windmills crowd the landscape around me. Neither wood or glass, they’re made from something just as fake as the air my lungs are drawing in and releasing. The wind that ruffles my long dark hair is created by these silent sentinels.
Alone, out at the edge of my city’s dome, I want to scream and cry at the injustices of the heavy lies I banked my life on. To wail about how cruel death truly is. A waste of energy.
“When you plan with Go Easy, you shall not fear death!” The company’s slogan rambles through my sluggish mind.
Time is getting smaller just as I lose feeling in my extremities.
The pain is quickly intertwined with an influx of fear. A raging horror that the bots that service the windmills surrounding me, my final resting place, will find me before my precious few minutes of life run out.
Machines created for the sole purpose of keeping these fields of skeletons free from any type of clutter. Am I the only clutter to be seen?
My eyes scan the area I lie in. I’m surrounded by endless rows of wind producing white skeletons continuously waving their arms.
Terror, bright, white, races through my altered bloodstream. Why haven’t the stupid Nanos eased me on to the next world? Why am I suffering when I’ve been promised an easy release?
My mind circles around questions I cannot answer. How did I get here? What happened to me that I now lie like a tossed away doll, sprawled on my back, limbs twisted at terrible angles? Why was I dumped here, alive yet dying? The wind refuses to whisper its secrets in my ears.
My name is Joanna Clark. I’m twenty-four. I work as a receiver of information in the communications district. I’m engaged to Thomas Hanson.
Lifting my hands up, I frown. My marquise diamond engagement ring is absent. I’m slightly aware of my sapphire blue lace dress fluttering at my wrists. It was for our engagement party. The last place I remember being before waking up here.
The face of my fiancée comes to mind. His beautiful green eyes fringed with dark lashes. We had the rest of our lives already thought out. We’d marry in six months, under artificial sunlight to simulate a summer wedding. Our honeymoon was to be at a resort in another city. A treat from both our families. We’d have one child exactly two years after our marriage.
Could Thomas have anything to do with my premature death? The pain coursing through me is too blinding. It stops my mind from forming questions.
The sudden roar of the work bots brings fresh tears to my dry eyes. My nails dig into the dirt around me. I press so hard, they break. The smell of copper teases my mind.
The ground moves beneath me, turning my thoughts to dust as two, tall, silver metal giants approach me. They flank me, one on each side. My eyes shift between them. This wasn’t what I expected. I thought they’d stay in their massive vehicle and mow me over. Instead, they study me. A communications device crackles from their chests.
“Hello?” My throat spasms with each letter I speak.
“The company has been monitoring you.”
Drawing air into my lungs, is like sucking on a deformed straw.
“Where’s…death…paid for?” I wheeze. It feels as if burning coals were being shoved down my throat.
“Your organs hold the key to immortality.”
“Use…blood…file!” My throat seizes closed.
When I get no answer, I clench my fists.
The robot on my right holds a device over my body. A blue light scans me from head to toe.
“Sir, one-hundred percent functional. Anomaly confirmed. Beginning harvest.”
“Harv…?” The half-formed word rattles from my lungs.
If I could scream, my lungs would burst. Tears stream from the corners of my eyes. The fear of pain and death wage war in my mind.
I watch, eyes wide open, mouth agape as the bot on my left holds a red laser light over my body, splitting open my dress straight down the middle. I weakly lift my hands to protect what is left of myself.
My flesh shivers. Huge goosebumps break out all over my body. The giants move their robotic hands. I hear dreadful whirring sounds as they transform into weapons of death. “No harm!” I manage to rasp. I sound less human by the second.
Then I get it. They’re just another lie.
One bot turns me on my side and the other plunges a fist into the soft flesh of my lower back, twice in rapid succession.
A strangled cry is pulled from my throat. My limbs spasm, blood and urine mix beneath me.
The movements are so swift. Still, my brain cannot take the pain. My consciousness fades, perfectly in tune to the slowing beat of my heart.
Dignity shredded, I’m flipped over and perforated through the stomach as my liver is stolen. With my mind moving like sludge, my body has soared over its limit for pain. Its threshold for fear burst like fruit dropped from the roof. It can’t function without those organs. Am I still breathing? I can’t tell.
Blink. The last second is blurry.
One machine plows through my chest and for a fraction of a moment, I see my heart grasped in its hand, bright red blood dripping down the shiny metal.
“Harvest complete, sir.”
“Incinerate!” The voice demands from the bot’s speaker on its chest.
I blink. 120.00. My brain feels electric.
“Incineration confirmed, sir. Com out.”
I hear static. I blink again. It’s as if I’m awakening from a deep slumber.
“Stand now, Hybrid.” The silver giants demand together.
“My counter is rapidly increasing.” I say as I rise on rubber legs to my feet. I peer at the gaping holes in my torso. As I watch, my new, silvery blue skin is knitting itself closed.
The two robots speak in unison once more, “Hybrid, you have no limits. Let us show you the real world.”