“The Ore Harvester” Dark Science Fiction by Joe Jablonski

Two Blue Flashes of an Index Finger was the last of his kind, the sole survivor of an isolated culture inhabiting a wasteland of a planet.

He lived in the barren ruins of a dead civilization, scavenging what little food he could find.

Here, nothing else moved or breathed.

Everything left was covered in fungal growth and rot. Particle clouds filled the atmosphere. The jagged silhouettes of decommissioned ore harvesters towered high in the distance.

Two Blue flashes of an Index Finger dropped to his knees in front of a dugout crater. An interconnected root system writhed just below the surface. Spores drifted within a blue liquid inside.

Two Blue Flashes of an Index Finger ripped a cluster free with long, boneless fingers. A skin flap, stretched cheek to cheek, retracted down exposing a small mouth filled with bone straws for teeth.

As he fed, a doll made from his brother’s corpse watched with mirrors placed within its eye sockets. The cracks in its skull whistled in the early morning breeze.

Two Blue Flashes of an Index Finger gestured back with limp fingers twisting and flashing various colors.

A turquoise pinky twist paired with blinking red thumbs meant “good morning.”

This was an adaptation bred into his kind as way to communicate over deafening sound of countless ore harvesters screaming in unison back when they were at peak production.

Two Blue Flashes of an Index Finger laughed at a joke his brother’s fingers never told, and when back to chewing on fungal roots, never noticing the drone overhead scanning then planet below.

Pretending was a coping mechanism.

Two Blue Flashes of an Index Finger didn’t know how to be alone.

He was nineteen when the last of the ore harvesters shut down. Colonists across the planet started dying soon after without warnings or goodbyes.

Two Blue Flashes of an Index Finger could only watch in horror and confusion as friends and neighbors dropped dead all around him without cause.

Thirty generations of clones generally altered to inhabit and mine this specific planet wiped out in hours.

Two Blue Flashes of an Index Finger’s brother was one of the last to die.

Two Blue Flashes of an Index Finger held his remains for days after, waiting and praying for a death of his very own, one that would never come.

The following years would be ones of silence and remorse.

Everyday Two Blue Flashes of an Index Finger hoped it would be his last.

His kind wasn’t allowed to kill themselves.

***

The sphere appeared at dawn.

It started with a flash. A crackle of energy. An expanding singularity.

Two Blue Flashes of an Index Finger woke in a daze. Limp. Naked. Spores dripped from the skin flap covering his mouth. His brother’s corpse was close, its eye mirrors reflecting the dull glow of a spacecraft.

A silent signal was emitted.

Two Blue Flashes of an Index Finger approached against his will, mindlessly reaching out. A single finger grazed the surface.

A blink and he was inside.

The sphere interior was bright. Smooth. There were consoles and lights inside, all set at a forty-five-degree angle.

But something was off. A tone knocked inside Two Blue Flashes of an Index Finger’s head. It was hard to move; hard to think.

He dropped to his knees, scratching at his ears. It was more discomfort than pain. A soft pressure that throbbed in sync with forbidden vibrations.

The tone was steady and relentless. Like water torture.

Suddenly, a hologram of a woman appeared.

Two Blue Flashes of an Index Finger froze. She was a color he’d never seen. Large flaps protruded from either side of her head. Two plum sacks surrounded her mouth slit.

Two Blue Flashes of an Index Finger bowed nervously, his boneless fingers rapidly flashing and forming various shapes.

A purple thumb in the shape of a square meant “hello.”

Yellow middle fingers steepled together meant “what do you want?”

The woman cut him off with a gesture and spoke sounds he’d never heard but was engineered to understand.

She said he was a loose end she was there to correct. A witness. A genetic disease.

A beam shot from the wall.

Two Blue Flashes of an Index Finger was paralyzed within. A tiny drone tipped with a needle emerged from the center console and floated towards him.

A blood sample was taken. The woman thanked two Blue Flashes of an Index Finger for his contribution. She promised him what was next would be quick.

A looped ring finger with orange thumbs meant he knew he was fucked.

The hologram clicked off. A lullaby of atonal bells softly played from somewhere unseen.

Now that the planet’s resources were depleted, his existence no longer served the company any benefit.

Two Blue Flashes of an Index Finger pounded on the walls. Panicked. Defiant. There were no cracks. No escape.

The song filled the room, a cacophony echoing loudly from all directions slowly lulling him into submission.

Above his head a light flashed a countdown.

Two Flashes of an Index Finger’s eyes became heavy. The lullaby’s vibrations were all consuming. It calmed him. It convinced him this was where he belonged. It reminded him this was exactly wanted.

That gas filling the sphere made sure he wouldn’t feel a thing.

Two Blue Flashes of an Index Finger took a final breath and slipped into a painless void. He’d never know about the mutation that allowed him to survive the purge. Or how his genetic sample would be used to prevent the possibility of a similar adaptations in future batches of cloned harvest workers.

The ignition went off without a hitch.

Outside the ship, his brother’s eye mirrors reflected a spacecraft on fire seconds before collapsing back into a singularity.

The company would make sure no one would ever know the atrocities and sacrifices they committed to keep their investors happy.

This was just one defunct resource planet among thousands.

Profits had never been higher.


Joe writes out of Charlotte, NC. His work has been published in around 60 markets including Fiction on the Web, Literally Stories, and Liquid Imagination, as well as being twice nominated for the pushcart prize. You can check out his blog at jablonskijoe.blogspot.com.


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