The Arm Farm - 6
6. Peace and Disco
Chris burst through the barn’s double doors and into the sweltering heat of the small parking lot. The sudden cacophony of sounds that accompanied the real world was overwhelming. In the distance, a bird cried. The field of bags rustled in the afternoon breeze. Chris looked out at them, still unable to comprehend what was happening beneath the dirt. How many people were suspended beneath Art’s innocent-looking farm?
The sharp pain in his arm brought him back to reality. Blood dripped off his now soaked shirt, swallowed greedily by the dry gravel. “Megan?” he called, weakly. It was hard to string words together. Probably a mix of blood loss and shock. “Megan!” he shouted. Chris’s eyes darted around wildly, looking for the car. It wasn’t there. Five minutes. His own words rung in his ears. If I’m not back in five minutes.
It was impossible to tell how long he had been beneath the barn. The sun was still high in the sky, but the car, containing Megan, and his only escape, was gone. Soon, Art would come marching out of the barn doors, covered in blood, and finish the job. Chris sank to his knees, overcome by the agony of his broken body and hopelessness. This is how it ends. He raised his eyes to the sky, looking into the bright blue of it all. At least it was a beautiful day.
“You look worse for wear.”
Chris spun around, regretting the sudden movement immediately. Pain lanced out from his wound, and the violent turning of the world brought on intense nausea. Before he could reply to the voice, Chris vomited. He looked down at the mixture, happy to see that there wasn’t any blood in it. At least some things are still working right. His vision wavered, but he pushed his head up to look at the speaker. It had been a woman’s voice.
Megan was standing at the edge of the barn, leaning in the shadows. “Oh, Chris.” She looked down at him with a mixture of pity and remorse.
“Megan.” It felt good to say her name. She hadn’t left after all. “Where’s the car?” The words blended in a slurry.
Megan winced and took a step towards him. “I’m afraid the car’s in a ditch at the edge of the property.”
“No, no, no, Megan. I need to get to a hospital, now.” If the pool slowly accumulating at his knees was any indication, he didn’t have long.
“Yes, I’d say you definitely need medical attention.”
Chris looked to her stance and realized something was concealed behind her back. “What’s that?” The sense of dread was back in him, numbed by his body’s attempts to mute the extreme assault it was enduring. There wasn’t much time left for argument, and he suddenly felt he had made a critical mistake. Megan wasn’t acting right. She’s hiding something.
“Chris, why couldn’t you have just listened to me? If we walked away, this wouldn’t have been an issue.” From behind her back, she pulled out a small black weapon like the one Art had been carrying.
Chris raised his hands. “Megan, what are you—"
Megan leveled the rifle and pulled the trigger. There was no thunder, only a soft hiss. Chris didn’t feel the pain, but he did sense an impact and sudden pressure in his left leg. Moving slowly, he looked down to see a dart sticking out of his thigh. The already cloudy world grew increasingly dark, shrinking until Megan was standing in a last tunnel of light. “Why?” he asked, the words echoing as though he’d spoken them in a cave.
“You were a fighter. I’ve always—”
Her words cut out, and the light from the world faded completely. Chris hung, suspended in darkness for a moment, and then disappeared into the ether.
The air was warm on Chris’s fingertips. He could feel the soft whisper of a breeze caressing his bare skin. It was a beautiful, calming feeling. The hot sun baked his skin, bringing back memories of summer afternoons spent running around outside. His body was warm, suspended in the wonderful moment. He smelled the air, getting a hint of fresh-cut grass and recently tilled earth. A firm pressure around his forearm prevented any attempt to block what was no doubt bright sun. He tried again, feeling suddenly stuck. Whatever was holding his arm wouldn’t budge an inch.
Where am I? Memories came slowly to him, like they were hundreds of years old. He saw a red barn in the middle of nowhere and a field full of plastic bags, a glowing blue light beneath the soil. He tried to move his arm again. Nothing. Moving didn’t cause pain, but he suspected if he kept trying, it might. Liquid swirled around his legs as he kicked, trying to get a sense of his surroundings. Oh no. The pods. He remembered the pods, and the people submerged in them.
Please, no. Maybe he had been in a car accident and he was restrained to stop him from hurting himself. The barn was just some gruesome story his mind had concocted to soften the blow of the truth. Slowly, Chris opened his eyes. Murky liquid spread out before him, looking out over a field of hanging sacks. Blue light pulsed, revealing two figures standing on a catwalk a few feet away. Art was bandaged but standing straight and looking relatively unharmed. Megan stood behind him.
“I hope you’re comfortable in there.” Art shrugged. “It is the least I can do after all.”
Chris tried to reply, but the tube snaking out of his mouth caught the words before they could form.
Megan stepped forward and her eyes softened with genuine sympathy. “Better if you don’t talk. I really am sorry, Chris. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. We had different plans for you, better plans.” Regret was plain on her face. “But you had to go off and play hero. I suppose it’s what you’re bred to do.”
Electricity arched behind her, catching another pod and bursting it. The warm goo fell into the chasm, leaving the person inside dangling from the ceiling.
“I think that’s our cue to go.” Art put a hand on Megan’s shoulder.
The naked man kicked and writhed, but the restraint on his arm kept him firmly in place. Liquid dripped in slow rivulets off his body, making no sound as it fell.
“I’ll give you something that will make all this a little easier.” Art pulled out a hand terminal and typed quickly.
Chris felt a release of cool solution flowing down his throat.
A black tentacle snaked out of the gloom, reaching up toward the ceiling. Dim electricity crackled with its every move.
“Goodbye, Chris.” Megan gave him a little wave and turned around. There was sorrow in it, but not much.
The tentacle wrapped around the struggling man and yanked. His arm separated at the restraining cuff with a gout of blood.
Chris looked on with curiosity and calm. He knew he should feel fear, but whatever Art had given him prevented it. He watched as the man was pulled down into the darkness. Seconds before he disappeared, a crackle of lightning illuminated the pit in stark, white light. A pair of bright red eyes looked up from a massive head covered in squirming appendages. Its dark, grey-green skin reflected the light only for a moment but quickly camouflaged with the darkness. The creature made a deep, sonorous sound that vibrated the room and then fell silent.
The light faded, not just from the pit, but from the world around Chris. He felt suddenly very tired. There was nothing he could do to fight, so why was he trying? Above, disco music started up, and he imagined Art and Megan dancing to it. He twitched, a reminder of the old fear and anger rising momentarily, but then drifted off into a dreamless sleep beyond worry or time. In a way, it was peace.
I hope you enjoyed Chris's bizarre journey! This is one of those strange ideas I had to get to paper, to get it out of my brain. Eventually, it's going to be printed in a collection from Aberrant Literature, but no idea when that is due to COVID. Thanks for reading.