Short Story: Recycled

Blake sometimes wondered why the company required them to work in such a sterile environment, considering what they did. Before entering, they were required to bathe, ensuring no contaminates would enter the facility. Then they put on a sterile one-piece jumpsuit which covered them from the neck down to their feet. White rubber boots were then fitted,  then a headpiece which left only the eyes exposed. The last thing put on were a pair of goggles. Gloves were put on at the work station.

At eight every morning, Blake, along with her work partner Jensen, walked to their station. They waited until five after before the system came to life. They worked from a control panel, in front of which stood a sealed chamber of reinforced concrete and two-inch shatterproof safety glass. There was no way in, and theoretically no way for anything to get out, which made the safety requirements all the more puzzling.

“Another day,” Jensen said flatly,

“…another group recycled,” Blake whispered. Pushing a button, a door on the ceiling opened up, and something fell in, a broken tangle of limbs of what used to be a woman. A pair of robotic arms pushed the corpse onto the conveyor where the body was moved into view, in front of the pair.

“Oh, the joys of harvesting,” Jensen said in a bored drawl. “Imagine, one day we’ll be on the other side of this glass.”

“And cracking jokes about it, no doubt.”

Jensen grunted as he used a joystick to control a robotic arm. Meticulously, they removed every stitch of clothing, which in the corpses cases was a thin hospital gown. The subject, a young woman in her early twenties, lay there as Jensen eyed her hungrily. “You know, I’d totally do her, you know, if she was still alive.”

“You’d do her dead, no doubt. That’s probably why they’re on that side of the wall and we’re on this side.”

“That’s a bit out there, even for me. Still, what would it be like to screw a stiff?”

“I think maybe you need a new job, looking at live specimens.”

“Live girls fight back,” Jensen joked. “But even if I wanted to, what else am I qualified to do? We’re stuck here, you know?”

“I know,” Blake moaned. The corpse moved along the conveyor belt until it rested in front of her. Another body, this time of an elderly man fell through the opening, and came to rest in front of Jensen. Blake studied the girl carefully, removing any metal from her, earrings, tooth filling, and the like. She studied an x-ray to see if any metal rods or screws had been implanted.

A few minutes later, with only a few rings and one gold filling placed in a sealed bag, she injected the body with a liquid desiccant, to aid in drying out the body. With a push of another button, the girl’s body was pushed off onto a cart. The process was repeated until the cart held ten bodies, and then carted off to the drying room, where the bodies fluids were collected, purified, and then introduced back into the water supply.

“You know,” Blake spoke up again after almost an hour of absolute silence, “that we used to bury the dead.”

“Why the hell would we do that?” Jensen replied. “Seems like a waste of resources to me.”

“I think it’s fascinating,” Blake countered. “We once respected the remains of our loved ones.”

“What’s the point?”

“The point? The bodies would rot away and rejoin with the Earth. I think it’s a romantic notion.”

“Romantic my ass. This way is more efficient, and has the added benefit of not polluting the environment. We collect everything there is to collect, water, minerals, and whatever chemicals. All pathogens are destroyed. All that’s left is pure, clean materials that we can use to build our future.”

“And the fact that we may be consuming our loved ones doesn’t bother you?

“You’re being such a woman, B. Too emotional and melodramatic. We’re nothing but a matrix of organic compounds blundering about the world, mucking along until such a time that we’re called to be culled. It’s no big deal.”

“No big deal?” Blake asked incredulously. “It’s a big deal! We’re more than the sum of our parts, and our ancestors understood that. Now? We’re just a resource in potentia. A resource only to be harvested upon our death. Reduces the meaning of life to nil.”

“There is no inherent meaning to life, B,” Jensen argued as he striped another corpse. “We live, we die, and then that’s that. There is no hereafter, no afterlife. Those who believe otherwise are blind fools.”

“Are they?” Blake responded. “I’m not so sure anymore. If this is all there is, existence is pretty bleak.”

“That I can’t argue with.”

“Finally, something we agree with.”

The day remained uneventful until almost two. A body fell through the opening and promptly stood up. ” Oh look,” Jensen said gleefully. “I forgot about him.”

“Another execution?” Blake moaned. “Why aren’t they killed before they get here?”

“Why waste the resource?” Jensen pushed a couple of buttons, and then with the joystick aimed and fired a projectile into the condemned. It injected him with the liquid desiccant and within moments he fell to the ground, dehydration rapidly disabling him. Jensen proceeded to strip him of his clothing before Blake took over, removing all metallic objects from his body. The condemned shook, trying to break free, but the desiccant left him unable to use his muscles.

“Such a shame to torture him this way.” Blake protested feebly.

Jensen grunted. “Then he shouldn’t have done whatever it was he was found guilty of doing.

At three, they began disinfecting the chamber, and by fifteen til four, they were back in the changing area, their jumpsuits stripped and placed in the chutes that led to an incinerator. By four-thirty, they both had showered and dressed in their own clothes and headed home. Tomorrow they would begin to disassemble the dried remains of today’s batch, feeding the massive grinder which would pulverize the remains into dust, before placing the dust into the kilns to be fired, dried, and sterilized before shipping to the next facility to process and refine into useable materials.

As Blake sat down and pulled out a biscuit to snack on, she shuddered and wondered if she was eating the remains of someone she had harvested. There was no way to know, but the thought creeped her out as she took a bite. If I’m eating someone, she thought, at least they’re delicious.

Short Stories

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The long week ahead

Today is Friday, and this is my last day off until next Saturday. I hate working long stretches. Hell, I hate working, period. No, let’s be positive. I have a job. It pays me a pathetic wage, but at least it’s in a currency that (still) has some intrinsic value attached to it. Tomorrow I’ll get off at a reasonable time, and I’m positive I hate working, period.

See? Who says I’m always negative? Silly people. Joking aside, I will have to work seven days, but then when I get off next Friday, I’ll be leaving immediately to Corpus Christi, a  mere 654 miles (1052 km) away. That’s in no way exhausting. I think I need a nap.

Next Saturday, the family is getting together to celebrate my Grandmother’s birthday, so in spite of my whining, it’s actually worth it. She’s my last grandparent still alive. It would be nice to see her while I still have the opportunity.

I think we take family for granted, especially when they are involved with our lives. We get used to their being there, stalwart and true, the rock upon which a family is founded. Once they pass, it’s amazing how quickly the family goes their separate ways, each becoming the patriarchs and matriarchs of their respective clans.

Just think about the history they have, our grandparents, and great-grandparents, if you are lucky enough to still have any yet living. What have they witnessed? What were their lives like before they settled down? What family history do they know that will go to the grave once they pass?

I don’t want to come across as depressed, but it’s just a thought that crossed my mind. It’s scary how fast time flies by, and it seems to speed up with each passing year. I swear, I still feel like I should be in my twenties, but that old man staring back at me in the mirror likes to remind me that I’m not. I hate you, old man!

No point worrying about what will happen. Instead, come next Saturday, we will celebrate what we still have. Yes, we have suffered heartbreaks, losing members of our family. It’s both a joy and a curse to belong to a large family. My grandmother had fourteen children, and has lived to bury three. It’s sad, but we have to continue living in the present.


Short story – Harvest Moon

Happy Friday! I’ve been lazy all week. I never got around to posting anything on Wednesday, and it feels as though I’m no doing anything today. Too bummed I suppose. So instead I decided to put up this short story I wrote. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

“You’re so going to get me in trouble,” Evie whispered, before leaning out and kissing the boy standing outside her bedroom window.

“Only if you don’t keep your voice down,” Bryce whispered in return. Evie grinned as she jumped out her window, falling into his arms. She gave Bryce a quick kiss before she took his hand and ran down the driveway, toward his car. She jumped in while Bryce walked around to the driver’s side.

“Hurry, before we’re caught! I’m supposed to be in bed.”

“Calm down,” he said. The boy slowly pulled out, trying not to make too much noise as he stepped on the accelerator. Once he put a few blocks between them and the house, he relaxed and revved up his engine. A relaxed smile replaced the anxious look on his face as he sighed in relief. He’d have to bring her back and help sneak her back in, but in the meantime they had hours to enjoy together.

Bryce followed the road until he hit Highway 11. He then headed out-of-town for a few miles before turning down a dusty county road. After about a quarter-mile, he pulled off into a copse of trees. He knew that they’d be fully hidden from view, miles from the nearest house. The night was dark as the stars were hidden behind a veil of clouds. Bryce turned off the lights to the car and shut off the engine. The only light to be seen came from the harvest moon that had found a break in the clouds.

“Finally,” Evie purred as she jumped onto Bryce, straddling him, kissing him, and slowly grinding against him. He took no time in trying to bring her closer, the sweet vanilla scent of her perfume making him temporarily dizzy. In the pale moon light, Evie seemed to glow, giving her an almost angelic quality.

She paused to catch her breath, then slowly began to undo her top. “I’m tired of waiting. Please, let’s do this tonight,” she pleaded.

Bryce grew silent and swallowed hard, his mouth becoming dry. He wanted her more than anything, but still it would be their first time, and he would have preferred a more appropriate setting. Unfortunately, Evie was not the kind of girl who suffered rejection very well, and he knew that if he didn’t do this soon, she’d dump him and find someone who would.

“I love you, Evie,” he said. “If you really want this, I’ll do it.”

“And I love you, too, baby,” she squealed, delighted by his response. “I only need you. I promise, I’m yours forever.” She said the last words as she crossed her heart. Bryce relaxed a bit, accepting her declaration of love. He only wanted her. Too bad he was only sixteen and she fifteen. They would have to wait to make it official and get married, but at least tonight they would consummate their love.

Being young and agile, they crawled over the seats to get to the back seat with ease. Evie impatiently pulled Bryce on top of her, but they had only gotten as far as kissing each other. For all their desire to finally make love, they did feel a certain amount of reluctance. They realized that it would be a big step in their journey towards adulthood.

It didn’t take long before their hormones and excitement overpowered their sense of fear and trepidation. Instinct took over as they found a rhythm. Bryce began to pull his shirt off when a loud thump brought them back to reality. “What’s that?” She whispered, fearing that her parents had found them, glad that they were still dressed.

“I don’t know,” Bryce replied, his voice a little shaky but trying to sound braver than he felt. “Let me check it out, but it’s probably nothing.” He bent down and gave her a kiss before he reached over the seat to open the driver’s side door. He stepped out of the car and walked towards the back. Evie waited, embracing herself out of fear. She then heard him ask, his voice drenched in fear, “Who – who are you? Wha – what do you want?”

She didn’t hear an answer. All she could hear was a struggle breaking out between her boyfriend and some unknown stranger. It didn’t go on for very long before she heard him cry out in pain.

“Bryce!” Evie shouted, shaking uncontrollably in the back seat, frozen in fear.

“GET OUT OF HERE!” Her boyfriend barked, the pain evident in the way he struggled to shout. “RUN!” He tried to defend himself against an unknown attacker as Evie got out of the car. She immediately saw the cold gleam of steel before it disappeared. The next thing she heard was Bryce’s muffled cry, then the sound of death rattling in his throat.

Panicking, she screamed. She turned to flee, but a hand grabbed her by the hair and pulled her back. She lost her balance, hitting her head on the rear bumper as she fell, ending up on her back, completely dazed. Evie struggled to keep her eyes open as she tried to focus on her attacker. Finally, through her tears, she managed to see who had attacked them, the old druggie that lived outside of town.

“Help! Someone, anybody, help!” She continued to scream hysterically, but the old man only smiled his toothless grin. He then brandished his knife and slashed her throat before stabbing her in the gut.

She cried out in pain, afraid that the end had come.


Moon (Photo credit: shahbasharat)

Evelyn’s eyes flew open in terror. She sprang out of bed and gasped for air, drenched in a cold sweat. Beside her, her husband slept unaware of the nightmare that tormented his wife.

“It was only a dream. It was only a dream,” she chanted over and over again, trying to dispel the vivid images. The flashes were more than mere memory. She didn’t just remember that night, she had been there again. Twenty years later and she found herself there, reliving the horror as she had every year since that fateful night.

After catching her breath, she rolled out of bed and glided silently out the room. She paused for a moment and took a look at her reflection in the hallway mirror. The same girl who had snuck out of her parent’s house so many years ago stared back at her. Evelyn placed her hand absentmindedly on her abdomen and found the puncture wound where the old pervert had stabbed her. In the mirror, she could see the fresh gash on her neck where the old pervert had slashed her viciously.

She looked away and turned to go out the front door, passing the room where her teenaged daughter slept. A trouble maker, as she had been before the attack. Her daughter was a spitting image of her once wayward mother. She turned her back on her daughter, glad that she wouldn’t have to deal with her at the moment.

In the next room, her son sleep peacefully. He resembled his father, in looks and in behavior. He had the same temperament, easy, laid-back, and respectful. He never gave anyone any trouble, but he had no discernible personality. Her son was a blank slate, empty and passionless. She sometimes forgot that she had a son. She felt nothing for him, like she felt nothing for his father.

Finally, Evelyn walked out into the dark night. A blanket of clouds hid the stars from view, but she didn’t need them. She never did. Evelyn could make the walk in her sleep. She walked down the driveway, towards Highway 11. As far as she lived from the highway, it took her no time at all to find her way. Once again, she had made her way back to the copse of trees where she had been attacked. This was where she had witnessed Bryce die.

She walked alone, and stopped inches from where they had parked the car. Then through the darkness she saw it. She turned and walked forward, still in her nightgown and barefoot, inching ever closer. The glow of an iridescent form, lying motionless on the ground, appeared as though it had been summoned. She walked slowly, almost reverently, towards what she knew to be the corpse of her young, would-be lover.

It began to stir. Then without warning he sat up, and his blazing eyes locked onto hers. His eyes were terrible to behold, but she could not look away. His burning eyes would not release her gaze. She remained under his spell, locked by the sadness and the angelic beauty that death had bestowed on him. Then the instant he blinked, the illusion was broken, and Bryce smiled. “I wondered if you’d come tonight.”

“Like I had a choice,” Evelyn replied in a reverent tone. “You summoned me from the beyond. I heard the call and here I am.”

“The beyond,” he spat bitterly, the angelic expession replaced with one of bitterness and contempt. “I’m nowhere. Neither here nor there. Neither alive nor dead. Not of this world nor the next. I’m cursed to stay here, your prisoner in death as I would have been in life.”

“Don’t say that, please,” Evie protested, her voice wavering, tired of the decades old argument. “You can go. You’re free, so why stay?”

“You promised you’d be mine forever,” he reminded his old girlfriend. “Now, I’m afraid, I’m yours. I’m bound to you until you leave this fragile life. My soul is bound to yours. My blood mingled with your blood the moment his knife entered your flesh. I saw it all. I waited for you to cross over to me, but you never came,” he finished sadly. “You never came.”

“You wanted me to die?” She asked as she had asked every year.

“No,” he shook his head innocently, “never, but I do want you with me. I need you with me to move on. That’s why I call you.”

“You know I can’t.”

“But you still showed up,” Bryce smiled triumphantly. “You can’t escape your destiny, although you seem determined to prolong it for some stupid reason. Why? What’s so important that you have to stay behind?”

“I’m married,” she said angrily, but not meeting his gaze. “And I have two beautiful children.”

“You hate your husband,” Bryce’s spirit answered sarcastically. “You only married him because he was the opposite of me. He’s boring, predictable, and safe; he’s everything that I never was. You hoped that you could exorcise me, but instead you’ve brought me in even closer. Your very being calls out to me, too. You keep me here, bound to you.”

“And my children?”

“You daughter causes you nothing but pain. She’s you, and you hate her for it. She reminds you of everything you gave up, everything you rejected trying to get rid of me. You’re jealous of her, and you hate yourself for it.”

“And my son?”

“He’s your husband,” he said coldly.

She turned away from him, not wanting him so see her pain. She wanted to run, but she knew she could never escape him. The truth of his words cut her, but the truth was inescapable. She hated her life. Had she married someone adventurous, perhaps she could have moved on. Maybe if she had found someone she could love, Bryce could cross over and finally be at peace. She felt trapped, trapped by destiny, by truth, and her life’s choices. No matter the truth, she had responsibilities that she could not abandon.

“We don’t have much time you know,” the pale young ghost stated. He turned to where he had been murdered twenty years before. She followed, and could see the faint outline of where his blood had spilled.

“Did it hurt?” Evie wondered out loud.

“It did at first,” the ghost of Bryce admitted, with a shrug, “but only for a little while. Then the pain faded away suddenly, and I felt a warm peace take its place. Then everything turned black before the dazzle of some unearthly sphere blinded me. I was banished almost immediately, and I floated away and found myself here, to wait for you to join me.”

“Why didn’t you keep going then?” She asked, this time directly at him.

“I didn’t want to leave you alone,” he replied, taken aback by the question. “Until the last ties that bind me to mortal life are severed, I’m trapped her. I thought it was obvious. I’m now forced to wait for you so we could cross over together. I’m still waiting for you, you know?”

“I know,” she sighed. “I wish I could help you move on, but it’s not my time.”

“Your time came then, too,” he responded matter-of-factly. “That’s why you show up every harvest moon. All you have to do is to let go.” He held his hand out, inviting her to him. She smiled and tried to hold his hand, but couldn’t. “As long as you remain tethered to life we cannot be together. Why you choose your tortured life, I’ll never know.”

“It’s not so easy,” she cried. “I can’t leave mom alone. I won’t put her through that kind of loss again. She almost lost me once, and now I’m all she has left.”

“And what of my parents!” Bryce exploded. “They lost a son, but I still had the good sense to leave. They got over it.”

“I know, but I’m here, and I won’t do it to her. Not yet. I’m not ready to go.”

“I’ll drop it, but it’s not easy being stranded here in between life and death. Is this limbo or is this purgatory?”

“I don’t know,” she whispered. She turned and saw where she had been attacked and winced. The wounds physically healed, but she still carried them inside, a permanent part of her psyche. “They finally executed your murder,” she said casually.

“So? He scoffed. “He can no longer touch me here.” He saw her face fall and closed his eyes, overcome with understanding. “Ah? He could still hurt you, couldn’t he?”

“I saw him put down,” she said barely above a whisper, but he heard it clearly. “He looked at me, leered at me, defiling me all over again. He didn’t want me to die, you know. He wanted to screw with me, and he did until the end. He took my gift to you, and he took you from me, and left me to live a tortured life. I’m glad he’s finally dead.”

Bryce said nothing. He sat down on a fallen tree and stared at the dark sky. “I’ve sat here for twenty years, waiting for you to give up. I hate coming in second to that sorry excuse of a husband.”

“Second? You are my first, my true one and only. I don’t love him, not like I love you, but I can’t just die. I’m alive, and I have to live. If you truly loved me, you would let me live.”

“Then live! Stop coming here, but you know you can’t. You’re life ended when mine did. Why can’t you just accept it and come with me.” He stood up and walked up to her. “Go back to your life then, if that’s what you honestly want. What’s a lifetime when compared to eternity. Live your life, but don’t waste it. Embrace your passion and stop living a life that isn’t yours to live. Maybe you got a temporary reprieve, but you’re living on borrowed time. Maybe you have the choice to go or stay at the moment, but soon you won’t get to decide.”

“I love you. I’m yours forever.”

“As long as you’re his, I can’t be yours,” he sighed, ” but I love you, too.” He looked towards the horizon. “The sun is about to rise. It’s time for you to go if that’s what you want. I guess I’ll sleep for another year and hope that you’ll be ready then.”

He walked away, not giving her a chance to say anything, and faded from view, his light extinguished for another year. All she could see now was the failing light of the harvest moon leading her to where Bryce’s light had faded, beckoning her home.

She turned instead towards her house and instantly found herself in her bedroom. She looked down at her husband and regretted ever going out with the bore. Beside him, she saw her thirty-five year old self sleeping fitfully. She could see the faint lines around her eyes and her mouth, and a few gray hairs above her ear. She could see the scar of where her throat had been slashed. More importantly, she could see the ghost of her fifteen year old self yearning to be set free.

She froze, for the first time unsure of what to do. As much as she gripped, she still loved her children. Could she actually abandon them? And her husband? He had done the best he could do. He gave her everything he she asked for, everything she needed. She wanted for nothing, except perhaps some excitement every now and then. For all her complaints, she loved him, too, in a way.

She stood there, unable to make up her mind. She knew she had to decide before the sun broke over the horizon. Already the night sky began to give way to the telling hues of dawn. She had mere moments to decide, knowing that if she stayed she would enlist for another year. If she left, it would be over, and she would finally be able to rest.

She looked at herself asleep in bed and then out the window. The night slowly receded. She closed her eyes, trying to make up her mind, willing herself to come to a decision. She didn’t know what to do until the final moment before dawn broke.

The rooster began to crow in the distance. Evie opened her eyes. She had made her decision.