Thursday, May 9, 2019

5/9/19

Compost
By Joe Jablonski


John sat on the cold, sterile floor of his makeshift testing chamber trying to ignore the three tiny carrots sprouting from the flesh of his forearm. The room smelled of decay, an overpowering stench coming from the remains of his former roommate.

He looked over to the now shapeless mound of flesh just feet away. It's skin was leprous with the decaying pods of what was once the beginning of hundreds of thriving potatoes. That mounds name was Blake in another life. He died screaming and covered in ruptures. The pool of dried liquid now surrounding him was more compost than blood.

That was what counted as three days ago on this ship. They hadn’t even bothered to collect his remains.

It’d been two weeks since John had been brought into this room. His memory faded more with each injection he received. There were only small recollections left of his former life: his spot as a navigator on the generation ship, the announcement that the soil from the ships grow rooms had become barren, the famine and panic that followed. The memories ended with a glimpse of a bloody knife in his hand partially obscuring the vague outline of a body.

The door to his room opened with a familiar swoosh. Two figures entered. Their faces were hidden behind medical masks and they wore loose hanging white scrubs. A team of hazmat workers followed closely behind.

One of the scrubbed figures spoke as what was left of the mound formerly known as Blake was sucked up into a tube. The voice was muffled. It spoke of Blake’s rejection to the gene splicing.

The other masked figure grabbed John’s arm and quickly slid in a small syringe just above his wrist. Razors filled his bloodstream as she squeezed the plunger. She then turned and spoke to the other. The words were incoherent to John, but the satisfaction they conveyed was unmistakable.

***

Only the mission matters...

John awoke thinking of the phrase that had been drilled into his brain since birth. He was strangely numb and slow to notice he was impaled in a large green room topping the generation ship. Light burned his eyes. He closed them in defiance of blue giant visible past the clear static force field shielding him from space. It felt hot on his head. What was left of his skin tingled with the joys of photosynthesis.

He forced one eye open at barely a squint and took in his surroundings. Hundreds of his brethren surrounded him in endless rows of scarecrows ready to be harvested and shitting fresh nutrients onto a renewed soil. He knew the numbers lost in these trials would be bred back in only a few generations if the experiments worked.

As his vision faded, he looked down to see a vine of what looked like green beans hanging from his belly button. That was new, as was the baby corn sprouting from his feet. What was once arms were now pineapples. His hair was a luscious mane of basil.

John was in full bloom.

***

Hours passed, maybe days. John was immobile and desperate. All he had left was the recounting of his crime and following conviction playing and replaying in his head. It was the same flash of actions echoed within the minds of all the of test subjects. All-consuming memories as implanted as the oversized cabbage dangling from an open wound in his chest.

The realization hit like a curb stomp. He was completely expendable, as were the rest. The remaining masses would live on guilt free never knowing of the innocence or sacrifice of those sentenced to his fate.

They wanted him to believe he deserved this.

Anger overwhelmed him. He wanted to hate the ones who decided his uselessness. He wanted lash out at the unfairness of it all. He wanted to burn the entire ship to the ground. But a steady hum as dull as a flatline played in the back of his mind, keeping him sedated and accepting of his new place in life. Behind the hum were the whispers of indoctrination.

Only the mission mattered.


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I have stories in around 50 markets including K-Zine and Liquid Imagination.

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