Harvesters

I sold six months of my life for a bowl of soup and one night out of the rain.

Harvesters run day and night, three hundred and sixty five days a year. Sign on the dotted line or make your mark, stare into the little black box and they do the rest. Don’t ask me how it is done because they never tell you. The life they take is sold on for a profit and there are long waiting lists. The rich will live forever on their stolen essence, not caring where it comes from, and why should they worry? Celebrities from A list right through to Z, gangsters, porn stars and the business elite—anyone with enough money to pay for extra time in this world.

When you are down in the gutter: that is the only thing left to sell. My last friend in this stinking world traded six months last week. It turns out his clock was only set for six months and three days but harvesters never give refunds. Nobody came to his funeral. He didn’t have one, unless you counted the clean up machines that collect any unclaimed dead. Goodbye mate, you were always there for me, but I let you down. Should have tried to talk you out of it, tell you that the soup was awful and the bed a stained mattress with a 5am turn out. Would you have even listened to me? This one is for you.

—§—

He was smartly dressed. They always are; an expensive suit and tie, polished real-leather shoes, manicured and smelling of money. I knew a shark when I met one. Not the one who took what life Barton had left but close enough.

“Do you want to do business or not?” he snapped and I cringed away from him. All an act, but I did not have to try hard, thinking how it had been. A fifteen year old kid, half-dead with cold who just wanted a dry place to sleep.

“It doesn’t hurt,” he said, more pleasant when it looked like he would get his own way.

He never got a chance to use the black box because I hit him first. He went down with a stunned expression that lingered into unconsciousness. He came to a few seconds later, tied to a chair in a rubbish choked back-alley.

“It doesn’t hurt,” I put the black box in front of his face. He squeezed his eyes shut, knowing what was coming, but I stuck a gun in his ear and he opened them again. I realized too late that the device was set for twenty years instead of six months—his mistake, not mine. Of course there was pain. Anyone who claims harvesting is painless has never had it done to them. He would have done it to me without a second thought, claimed his commission and gone on to the next poor bastard. Instead, he lost two decades and that seemed like justice. I left him on his knees in a puddle of filthy water, staring at a face he no longer recognized.

I had business elsewhere, the palm-top from his pocket storing contact details and locations of every Harvester in the city. It would be easy enough to find them, given time, and now I had all the time in the world.

Ω

R. S Pyne works as a Research Technician in Cardiff University, doing messy things with deep sea mud. Previous work has appeared in: Albedo One, Neo-opsis, Pen Cambria, Delivered, The Orphan Leaf Review, Tainted - Tales of Terror and the Supernatural (print anthology, edited by Aaron Polson, Strange Publications, October 2008) and many other publications.