The Arm Farm [Part 2 of 2]
Sorry, this took longer than expected to write, but I hope you enjoy it! Link to Part 1 for those who haven't read it.
Where it All Falls Apart
As Art rattled through the list of customizations that would make up his new arm, Chris’s misgivings remained. He had felt the crops and seen the muscles flex beneath the skin, but there was still a nagging feeling that things weren’t right. He smelled the air, taking in the strange scent again. There was also the strange feeling he got walking through the fields, like a thousand eyes were watching.
Megan and Art continued to babble about details, and Chris turned his gaze to the arm poking out of the dirt. It looked like a normal arm, albeit a little smaller than his own. Despite himself, he imagined what it would be like. The thought of a prosthetic that wasn’t bulky and limited to clunky grasping actions brought a smile to his face.
“See?” said Art. “There it is. That’s why I do it.” He pointed to Chris. “I’ve seen that smile more than a few times, and trust me, it’s only going to grow when we attach this bad boy in a few months’ time.” Art bent down and put a tag around one of the hand’s fingers, marking it as sold. He then replaced the opaque bag around it. “Got to keep it in prime condition.” He winked.
“Thank you so much for your help.” Megan grabbed Chris’s good hand.
“Yes, thank you,” mumbled Chris, distracted.
Art beamed at them, as if waiting for more, but the conversation hung in silence. Eventually, he broke it. “Now for the ugly bit.” He chuckled. “We’ve got to discuss payment. Why don’t we head on over to my office and we can iron out the details and send you folks on your way.”
“Of course. Wouldn’t be a business if you couldn’t make a living.” Chris was thankful for an opportunity to get out of the fields. “How much are we talk--” Chris stopped mid-sentence.
A high-pitched wail cut across the farm.
“What was that?” His heart beat hard against his ribcage and he odd smell of the fields grew stronger.
A flicker of annoyance crossed Art’s face. “Probably one of those damned buzzard hawks trying to get at the fields again. I’ll go handle it and meet you back at the barn.” Without time for argument, Art stalked off in the direction the sound had come from.
When he was out of earshot, Megan said: “That didn’t sound like a buzzard hawk.”
“No, it didn’t.” Chris’s suspicion rose again. He looked down at the field of bags stretching out in all directions and felt his stomach turn. It’s too good to be true, called a clear voice in his head. Any optimism he had felt was replaced by melancholy and fear. “I think we should leave.”
Megan looked like she might protest, but then nodded silently. Her eyes followed Art as he went behind the big barn and out of sight.
Chris felt terror rising from the fields around them. There was an unwelcome feeling in the air that hadn’t been there a moment earlier. “Let’s go. Straight to the car, don’t stop.” Together, they started walking in the direction of the barn. Another wail cut across the fields, more distinct this time, almost like there were words in it.
“Chris, what is that?”
From behind the barn, a man burst out into the sunlight, completely naked, head shaved, and missing one arm. Blood ran down his back in rivulets. He wailed again, this time, the words becoming more audible. “Help me!” He staggered toward the fields, but a gunshot rang out from behind him. It had been silenced, but Chris recognized the sound immediately. There was a puff of red mist from the man’s head, and he fell forward into the dirt.
“Oh fuck,” he said aloud, old instincts kicking in. “Get to the car Megan. Get it started.”
“I’m not going to—”
He cut her off. “Get to the car, get it started, and if I’m not there in five minutes, take off and get help.”
Megan’s eyes were wide.
“I’m not asking.” Chris ran towards the barn, not looking back.
He reached the shadow of the structure, just as Art’s squat figure walked out of the double doors, approaching the man in the field. The humor was gone from his face, and his white beard was stained red. At his side, he held a rifle. They weren’t going to stand a chance driving through an open field if he was taking pot shots with it. Art looked around, no doubt searching for them and swore aloud.
Chris used the opportunity to sneak into the barn. Without a weapon of his own, the only option was surprise. Inside, the fluorescent lights provided no sense of cover. He moved quickly, using the low tables to hide from view. At the end of the room, he spied a set of stairs heading below the main floor.
The door to the barn opened with a bang that echoed. “Chris, you in here?” It was Art. His voice straddled the line between a friendly salesman and murderous rage. “You weren’t supposed to see that, I’m sorry.” There was genuine regret in his voice. “Come on out and we can talk about this. Maybe get you a discount if you don’t go running your mouth.”
Chris knew a lie when he heard one and pressed on silently to the stairs. The steps led down a concrete hallway that sloped out towards the fields. Maybe there’s an exit. He descended, trying desperately to make as little noise as possible.
“Come on now, Chris. There’s nowhere for you to go in here. I know that, you know that.” A hint of frustration rose in Art’s voice. “Come out and we can talk about this.”
Chris was on the final step toward the landing when he made his mistake. Too focused on Art’s voice, he stopped paying attention. The final stair was slick with a gelatinous substance and he slipped on it, stumbling toward the opposite wall. He crashed into it with a muted thump, but an alarm bell blared and red lights spun on either side of him. He looked back in dismay to see a small line of red laser across the bottom step. “Shit.”
“Don’t go down there, Chris!” Art’s footsteps pounded on the floor above him.
Chris looked down the hallway leading away from the steps, now filled with flashing red lights, and took off at a run. He could hear Art’s footsteps on the stairs behind him and knew his chances were growing slimmer by the moment. With every ounce of energy he had left, he ran. His lungs and legs burned with each step, but Art did not catch up, and no gunshots rang out.
After a few hundred meters, the tunnel opened into a massive antechamber with dim blue lighting that stretched on as far as the eye could see. Catwalks extended into the gloom, suspended over a black pit with no bottom. It took Chris a second to notice that the light was coming from blue sacks hanging from the ceiling. Some sagged down to be level with the catwalk while others were smaller and more difficult to make out.
He was about to run toward them when one of the pods closest to him caught his attention. Inside, he could see a figure sitting in a jelly-like substance. Her arms were raised to the ceiling where they were swallowed up by darkness. What the hell?
“I told you, you weren’t supposed to see this,” whispered Art.
Chris felt a sharp pain in the back of his head and the world went black.
Chris awoke to a strange warmness surrounding him on all sides. Liquid sloshed as he tried to stretch his limbs, and he kept his eyes firmly shut. It was all just a bad dream, he hoped, knowing the truth. His movements were slow, as if he were encased in molasses. Despite the latent memory of something terrifying, Chris felt comfortable, like he had just woken from a relaxing, deep sleep.
A muted thumping sound carried through the world like someone was drumming on his temples. “Wakey, wakey,” said a distant voice.
Chris opened his eyes and found his vision cloudy. There was a rasp through a metal tube connected at his mouth as he inhaled. Looking down, he saw it extended from his mouth and up towards the ceiling. He tried to pull at it, but his arm was stuck. Dirt crumbled around his wrist and his fingertips brushed the edge of a plastic bag.
“Stop struggling,” came Art’s voice from outside.
Chris looked forward and could see the man, albeit hazily, through the side of the pod he was in.
“Yes, that’s right, you remember me, don’t you?”
Chris tried to scream, but it was swallowed by the tube at his mouth.
“Look, I told you not to come down here. We could have made a deal. Lucky for you, you still had one good arm, or you wouldn’t have been any use to me.” He made a gesture of pointing a gun at his own temple and pulling the trigger.
Anger coursed hot through Chris’s veins and he kicked his feet, hoping to burst the bubble beneath him.
“Now, don’t do that.” Art rapped on the side of the pod. “It’s a long drop, and you’d probably just hang there for a bit before your arm ripped out of your socket. It’d be a waste, and a painful way to go.”
Chris looked up at his arm again.
“Yes, I think you’re coming to understand. Now, you just sit there quietly and when the time comes to harvest, I’ll make sure it’s quick.” Then, as if feeling the slightest tinge of sympathy, he added: “I’m giving you some good drugs through that hose in your mouth, should keep you peaceful for the time being.”
Red lights flashed and Chris heard alarms muffled by the pod.
“My lucky day,” said Art. “That’ll be your wife, the curious devil.”
Chris shook violently, trying to wrench his arm free.
“Don’t worry, hers will sell quick, she won’t have to be here long.” Art fiddled with a dial next to Chris’s pod and he felt cold liquid running down the back of his throat. The world went immediately fuzzy and then faded to black.