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 →
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.
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.
It’s Week 9! The penultimate trip in this series! I’ll have to line up the series reunion tour soon, and re-post each one*.
When I began this blog, I was on maternity leave and needed a space carved out in my life for something that was creative (outside of the little bundle I had a part in creating) and just mine. I decided to do a 30-day writing challenge and stuck to it for the most part, with the exception of about a one week break due to an unexpected calamity at around the twenty-something day mark. On most days, I’d find a prompt in the morning, then ponder on it over the course of the day while breastfeeding, cooking, changing nappies, cleaning etc, allowing the seeds to germinate in my unconscious mind. Then I’d seize moments when my baby slept, and write, sometimes at awkward angles if he was asleep in my arms. Discovering the world through motherhood and exploring my writing through the blogging world made me feel like I was truly living the dream. Well, there was not much time for any other kind of dreaming through those sleep deprived days!
This week’s journey takes us to day seven of that 30-day challenge, by which time I’d warmed up, getting some dud posts out of the way. On day seven, I chanced upon Steven Savage’s incredible random prompt generator that took me where I had never gone with a story- into the realms of Science Fiction! As a result, Dr Stephen Woodrow entered my world- eminent scientist working within the system to subvert it for the greater good. Dr Woodrow went on to feature in another more recent story, set in a different place and time, but with the same rebellious spirit. If you follow the prompt generator link, you’ll notice it also features a fusion food generator- proceed at your own risk! Oyster banana dumpling anyone? On the other hand, curried tomato chickpea on chips doesn’t sound like a bad idea.
Light up your bunsen burner, and click on the image to be transported through the tumbleweed. Beware of flammables and shady characters!
If you want to read other posts in the series, you can find them under menu item ‘travel through the tumbleweed.’
Dr Stephen Woodrow, eminent research specialist into human genetic mutations, was indispensable to the government. Standing in his laboratory, he felt the walls closing in on him, heavy with the weight of awards, various degrees and his most prized accolade, the university pendant for outstanding contribution to human advancement in completion of his PhD in human chimera diagnostics. Looking at the pendant, sparkling as the flicker of the fluorescent bulb refracted from its surface, he felt a gnawing anxiety that he could no longer excuse away. As chief scientist with the Genetic Verification Department, he was responsible for the fates of many, who on being diagnosed as not of optimal genetic lineage, would be quarantined and at best sterilized, at worst killed. The money was lucrative, sure, and the prestige had been enough to win the approval of his harshest critic, his mother, but he had become increasingly attuned to the suffering that he was sufficiently removed from in his sterile laboratory with its heady smell of agar and formaldehyde. Higgins was due to arrive soon to check on the progress of the Trugene Diagnostic Kit, a kind of litmus test that was to be used as a quick first step in assessing citizens’ eligibility for resource allocation- electricity, gas, water, to their homes. It was all dependent on the outcomes of their genetic make up, and the quicker people could be culled at this stage, the more efficiently more than a half dozen government departments could run. Higgins, as the head of the Ministry of Genetics and Human Advancement, the umbrella Ministry under which the Genetic Verification Department sat, held a lot of sway in the direction of research. He himself had once been the head scientist of the Department and had passed the baton onto Woodrow. The pressure was now on Woodrow to develop a commercially viable test. Continue reading →