I am alive. Soles of my feet are wet with fresh dew. The sun beams a pale yellow over the horizon. The dull light bathes my outstretched hands. My hands creased with callouses; the tips white with a new skin, old blisters fade into tanned lines.
I smell the aroma of rising vapour from the thermos. Bitter ground kava beans mixed with fresh creamy milk. I can taste the melted sugar on my tongue. The wind from the east tugging the tight knot of my hair.
I hear a sound from behind and I turn. The landscape, a matted green with low curves stretched out, pans and jitters behind me. A tanned domed structure with an open door materialises.
She stands, dressed in woollen greys, one arm outstretched. Her auburn hair twisting down to her shoulder. Her emerald eyes look quizzical as she holds a dark green box.
She calls me, “Sam, you forgot your lunch!”
A melodious wave crashes on the edges of my memory. Shaking, I take steps towards her. The world jitters in stops and starts, skipping frames. The touch of her warm skin on my lips, the taste of raspberries, the feeling of home. She is gone. The domed building with her.
Somewhere familiar. Pressing the rubber casing of keys on a pad. The machine stirs, releasing a sweet toxic smell. Wheels rotate below me, digging trenches. Cracking the black rock with their weight. Anxious metal sounds, whirring blades shredding long green stalks.
There is a distant boom to the north. Fog descending in towers, flooding the arable plains. The spiral silicon tendril of a cord stretching into the canvas of stars. The silhouette of a city hovering overhead. A starship. The memory’s motion captured in still shots. Too early for traders to come for the harvest goods. Too large a ship for the curious. The ship disappears, its purpose dims as a concern of mine. Back to watching my machine work.
The scene shifts again. Standing in line, the smell of acidic vapours and dried sweat. Ahead of me, a diminutive stocky man. He turns around, his face creased with resignation. I shuffle forward, remembering the woman with the lunchbox. My stomach tightens.
The world changes again. Streaks of blue light. Another line, me at the front this time. Collecting folded clothes, brown and green poly-blended fabrics. Two weapons, a rifle and a pistol; a heavy pack. The boy speaking to me is younger than my son. Telling me to collect my rations and radiation medicines. “Every four hours, don’t forget.”
Remembering the plum cheeks of my boy, I hesitate too long and I am told to move on. I’m holding up the line. There is yelling in my direction but it’s not directed at me. Rushing feet, drilled for this moment. Our time has come.
Watching the boys in the transport harnesses, I know them well now. Too young, their threads tied too soon. Each of us takes a final look out the ramp as the plane uplifts. We will never see this world again. This world we called home. Too much excitement to be afraid now. That will come later.
I am fury. The hard press of the trigger under my finger.
I am white knuckles of rage. I unleashed a primal scream, abandoned in the maelstrom.
I am beyond fear. I hear my brothers scream, echoing my own. Readiness, our unit is ready. Life in front of life.
I am the phalanx. Flashes of orange light, shrapnel shredding ligaments and bone.
Soon we’ll be dead. The trigger is soft with the constant pressure. Short controlled bursts. The tidal wave engulfs us. The faces of the enemy, ashen death masks with rubberised implants like vines. Their faces with their extinguished lights. My training is long-forgotten.
“Almost out of ammo,” did I say this? I watch as the wave expands, each fallen child added to the enemy. I save my final bullets. I will not become them.
The memory evaporates. Blackness, stillness, quiet.
I am alive. Soles of my feet baked with dry mud. Watching a distant maroon orb set on the horizon. Contented, walking the path assigned to me. My nostrils excited by stewing meat. Her lips welcome me home but there is no sound. Putting my lunchbox on the counter. She wraps her arms around me. The clunk of a wooden spoon rebounding on the tiled floor. Spinning her in a hug, my grease stained fingers tear off a bit of the bread on the counter. Dipping the morsel into the stew, she kisses me as I chew.
Remembering, sitting on a stool. My head tilted, eyes dreaming, words motoring through the day’s events. Words drifting. Meaning fading, like my name.
“It is going to be a good year,” she says. She straddles me, resting her head on my shoulder. Crossed, firm hands stroking my back.
“It is going to be a good year”, I tell her.
The room is empty, I am alone. The room is gone.
Standing, the pressing metallic pincers on my eyes. There is no horror to it. My arms bolted to a frame. No feeling of legs or torso or mouth. Nothing to flex, to test. Green glyphs spiral in my vision.
I am a precision instrument. I am dead and I am alive, My arteries choked with contaminants: human blood cells.
She towers above me, her arms hydraulic metal pistons with attached precision tools. Her head a grey sphere beaming blue spotlights. She hovers, darts and dashes around me. She engulfs me.
I am her harvest.