Technological advancements has allowed humanity to join the stars under a single civilization known as The Society. We left out violent nature behind, continuing to deepen our understanding of ourselves and the universe. The Society’s bold progression fails to identify the ghosts of our past.
Harvesters is July’s flash fiction that brings readers into a sci-fi horror where readers are joining a worker in The Society. Enjoy the story in written word, audio, artwork and soundscape.
We were on the trawler vessel heading to the harvest world. Just like any other job. I managed the equipment in the docking bay while we were on route. Two others in our unit joined me. We herded the cattle once they had been harvested from the ground squad. I never thought much about the job. My father did this before me, and now this was my role in The Society. That’s all there was to it. The Society keeps things structured. They ensure humanity’s survival by improving our wellbeing. So why mess with a good thing?
The trawler vessel rocked side to side as the ceiling lights flashed – a sign we were entering the atmosphere. I held onto the emergency handlebar with my right hand, awaiting the oncoming catch. My two other comrades did as well. The adrenaline. Every time it hit me. I knew what was coming. The ground squad would bring the cattle here. They always acted up. Our unit had to be extremely focused on coordinating the safety of everyone on the ship.
The ship stabilized its motion. My grip relaxed on the handle as we entered the atmosphere of the planet. I eyed six head-to-toed armoured units –the ground squad – marching into the shuttlecraft, holding their pulse cannons. The craft’s door closed up once the last of the units entered. The ship lifted off the ground as the trawler vessel opened the docking door.
A question entered my mind – what was the ground like? The ground squad knew. From my knowledge in school, I knew it was infested with disease, rubble, and pollution. Wildlife doesn’t survive there, except for the cattle. They seem to flourish, luckily for us. The cattle were vital to The Society. Their biological makeup is a crucial component of our scientific progression. Their genetics help us understand ours and improve our own DNA.
The shuttlecraft roared as it zoomed out of the trawler vessel and exited into the grey-cloud covered atmosphere, disappearing into the distance. The harvest had begun. Other than the foggy sky, once I did get another view of the plant. I knew it was blue and brown when I saw it from the cockpit. That is all I’ve seen. I had to return to my station shortly after as we were entering the orbit. It was probably for the better.
Now, I waited for the ground squad to return. My left hand clutched the black electro-spear I held, waiting to shock any cattle that acted out in the cages. It made my heart race thinking about the potential action. They had hands. They could operate basic tools. As much as my curiosity about the planet torments the back of my mind, I know I wouldn’t want to be in the ground squad, gathering the beasts. They’re dangerous if not harvested carefully. I’ve seen the footage in school. The paintings. The portrayal in media. Their hair is riddled with filth and their nature violent. As much as I’d like to be a part of the ground squad and partake in harvesting some of the cattle, I can accept my duty in The Society.
The ground squad didn’t take long to come back to the trawler vessel. The docking station remained open for the duration of the departure. The intercom erupted, with the pilot’s distorted voice coming through the speakers saying, “ground squad arrival. Shepherds initiate.”
The lights above turned blue. The other two shepherds marched forward. I followed directly after them as the shuttlecraft came into view. The craft carefully landed itself back into the trawler vessel as the docking door moved upward to its closed position.
“Positions!” shouted the shepherd to my left – our squad leader.
I held my spear with both hands as the shuttle landed down. The engines underneath the craft turned off, leaving us in a moment of silence. The back of the ship hissed, and the hatch moved upward. Three ground squad members were on each side of the interior with a large steel crate in the center. It levitated off the ground. Small holes wrapped around the middle of the cage, underneath the semi-translucent forcefield surrounding the container. The ground squad marched forward, and the cage hovered ahead with the unit. Groaning echoed from inside the cage. Snarls and roars. They were in there. Angry. Hateful.
A dark silhouette appeared from behind the last ground squad member. The motion was too fast for me to know what it was. The black blob was crouching. It moved closer. There wasn’t supposed to be a seventh squad member. That was cattle.
“Free run!” I shouted while rushing forward.
“Free run!” shouted the other shepherds, joining me in the pursuit.
The ground squad spun around, raising their pulse cannons. The three on the opposite side hurried around the cage to face the threat. The other three fired, missing the silhouette by a fraction. The plasmablasts soared past the being, highlighting a humanoid creature standing upright wearing pants. Muscular arms ended in five-fingered hands, holding a pistol. The being fired the weapon at the closest ground squad unit. The scene lit up as the bullet ripped through the gun’s chamber and into the chest of our comrade.
Time slowed down as I ran. My motion was in autopilot. My mind was left in disarray, seeing the scowling face of the cattle in full light. The beige dirt-covered skin. Two eyes. Blue irises. Long black hair. It was human.
The cattle fired again, missing the next ground squad in front of him. They fired back. One of the pulse cannons’ plasma blasts hit him in the chest, throwing him back. The two shepherds and I arrived directly in front of the cattle. Our squad leader lunged his electro-spear at the being’s chest, causing his entire system to jolt and fall down lifeless.
I stared down at the cattle. At least I thought it was. No. It couldn’t be. I was looking down at a fellow human. Sure, the physique was less toned, and he was slightly smaller. That aside, it was undoubtfully human. An unmodified version.