A heartbeat.

Another.

A third, a fourth.

It’s been a long journey. Endless monotony, on a slow, grinding vehicle, in a little metal box with the people I’ve come to call my friends. We didn’t talk, but there’s a sense of comradery that comes with being trapped in a confined space with the same people for so long. When your nose has forgotten their unwashed stench, when you’ve stopped fighting them for food and just sort of dully shared. Friendly? Perhaps not. But friends.

The sides of the box fall open, and a harsh fluorescent light comes buzzing in.

Except for once, we had never left that box, unless it was to be transferred between it and others. Those transfers had barely counted, shunted as we were down long corridors of dark machinery. But that one time, we had stood for a time in a blank black room, while spotlights glared and cameras whirred. We did not know who watched the cameras, but we understood the mechanical voice that gave a crackling mutter of acceptance when we were done.

Some of us weep. Some pray. Some, like myself, just stand there and watch. Watch the big machines all around us, whirring, roaring, pounding, spinning. Watch, and listen. Because faintly, over the sounds of that endless factory, are screams.

We grew up in places not so different from that little box. None of us remember much of it, other than a haze of half-silvered mirrors and glaring blue light. That light would come on, there would be food, and then it would go off again. Over and over, in endless loop. Until we were chosen.

The machines take us. They restrain us, cut us apart, bleed us out. They collect our blood and distill it, slice our meat from our bones, crush those bones down into meal. They process us, grind us, blend chemicals into our flesh that they couldn’t while we were alive. They wrap us in paper and plastic, send us down chugging conveyors with the others that came here beside us.

And far away, in a brighter place, a child turns up his nose at the slab of grilled meat on his plate.



Written by StalkerShrike
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