The sounds of swooshing and pumping encapsulated the atmosphere in which Crop inhabited. Maybe he had dreamt it all. Leech, the factory, The Drip. Maybe it wasn’t real, but what he was hearing at that moment was. It was all real. Like a deja vu known all too well. Crop opened his eyes to view the source of the comfortable noise. Though, they were comfortable to only a crop.
Tubes and vials, going every which way, attached to his flesh. All coming together and running into one hunk metal fastened to his back. With each contraction and subsequent expansion of the plungers, he could feel the suction beneath the tissue, sucking out every last drop. Crop traced the tubes with his vision, trying to reverse engineer the contraption in his mind.
“I’m quite surprised you slept that long.” A man in a white lab coat said from behind a thick pane of glass. His voice was old and muffled, but he looked middle-aged. “I’d expected you to be bursting with energy.” He found himself humorous.
“Wha…” Crop still creeping up from the blackness of unconsciousness. “What is this? Get me out of this.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that, friend.” The man in the lab coat said as he entered the room Crop was positioned. “But what I can do is answer your question.” He approached Crop and shined a piercing light into his eyes, before checking his heart beat.
Crop looked around the room, as the man examined him. It looked like a command center for a knock off space opera, but rusted and damp. Plungers plunged, lights blinked, and the man talked.
“This machine right here…” He placed his hand around Crop, but the only thing shown love was the system on Crop’s back. “This is my creation.” He pointed out the door towards the lower level of the building. “You see all of them down there?”
Just like that, it dawned on Crop. He was back at the factory, and this was The Cultivator. The one he had seen in his dreams, and when he escaped.
“You see them? You are one of them. One of the many crops that we farm here everyday, and all over the District as a matter of fact.” The man spun Crop back around to face him. “Hundreds…thousands of crops everyday, making life possible through Intravenous Incubation.”
“That doesn’t explain why I’m hooked up to this fucking machine, strapped into these shackels.” Crop was getting impatient.
“Now…you see them?” The Cultivator pointed to the guards posted by the door. The Sentinels. “They’re our first line of defense! Our law and order! They have to deal with stresses that no man can imagine,” He spoke of the Sentinels with such high regard. “They shouldn’t have to wait for the next Drip to relieve some of that stress…that’s where this comes in.” He gave the machine a pat. “This is the CIIM, Continual Intravenous Incubation Mechanism. This tube right here…” He held the tube fastened to Crop’s left arm. “This tube takes the blood out, and this one…” He moved to the tube inserted into the inside of Crops right bicep. “This one puts new blood in. Out with the old, in with the new…a continual Drip, if you will.”
“But why am I here, and why is it hooked up to me?”
“Well, you broke out of here.” He stood up and walked to one of the control panels, fidgeting with switches. “I don’t know how you broke out of here, but we found you, and now you’re here. And seeing as how you belong to us, we grew you after all, The Upper Echelon allowed me to use you as my…” He stared blankly. “Personal guinea pig.”
“Get me the fuck out of here!” Crop said while frantically trying to rip the hoses from his arms.
The Sentinels, alerted, took a step forward.
The Cultivator raised his hand towards them. “It’s alright, fellas.” He turned to Crop. “Now…listen, the testing isn’t finished. Once it’s finished, we’ll get you out of these shackles.”
“Well, how much longer?!” He had no choice, but to comply and wait.
“Oh, about a day left of testing. If there are any adverse effects of recycling blood that quickly, we should know by then.” The Cultivator approached Crop from behind. “Until then, I’ll need my peace and quiet.” He pierced Crop’s neck with a thick needle, and he slumped over.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The sunlight through the truck window was like a shock blast to the abysses that were Crop’s pupils. His eyes dilated fully like black holes in the depths of the universe. He lay, strapped in position, in the back of a bread truck. Now, he was the delivery.
A hand slid open the grate to the main cab. “I guess you could say there’s…been some bad blood between us.” The Cultivator said. The driver grunted happily as he said it. “Not all blood mixes well, as I’m sure you’re figuring out right now.”
Excruciating pain swept through Crops body, like his insides wanted out. The feeling of an incompatible lifeblood coursing through one’s veins is not something to be wished on the worst of enemies. Crop’s arteries felt like earthworms tunneling through his flesh, as if they were searching for the surface. His heart pounded with a ferociousness as it was force-fed another human’s crimson. He yelled, involuntarily.
“Like oil and water.”
Some bumps in the road jostled the whole vehicle. The Cultivator braced himself before speaking again.
“I’d like to thank you for your cooperation in the testing of CIIM. It went quite well and we’ll be rolling it out soon. Which means, I don’t really have a use for you anymore and I can’t really just hook you back up at the factory.”
Between screeching and screaming Crop managed to utter a few words. “What did you do to me?” He wilted in pain.
“Another experiment, I guess you could say. Though, I already know what the outcome will be.” The Cultivator looked forwards towards the winding road.
The road was a mixture of poorly filled potholes and eroded asphalt, tossing the bread truck. It was a gloomy, damp morning and the clouds had just started to roll in. They lowered to fog level as the truck entered the forest.
Trees piercing the top of the fog like hairs from the epidermis. Every now and then a gust of wind would blow by, swaying the tops which would rip the calm surface of the fog and sling a mixture of leaves and bark off to fall into the mist below.
The man interrupted the silence and daze that Crop was trying to enjoy in that moment.
“The Crest has given me more, let’s call it, creative freedom. And, just like any freedom, if it is not exercised then it is in jeopardy.”
The bumps in the road became more spread out as the truck came to a rolling stop. The vehicle was parked in an alleyway somewhere deep in The Byways. The only sound was the tapping performance of the rain dropping from the tin roof inches from the top of the bread truck.
This performance was overshadowed and cut short by the slamming of the driver side door. The Sentinel had exited. The crunching of broken up asphalt panned from left to right as the guard made his way to the back of the truck. The Cultivator followed. The slam of his door sent splashes of collected rain drops off the side of the truck like a flash flood. The latches of the back door echoed through the compartment as they were undone.
Crop was undone as well. His insides now felt like they were ripping their way out of his flesh. The burning felt like he was no longer fastened in the back of a mere bread truck, but now chained to a stake in some form of dark age martyrdom. Maybe the latter wasn’t too far off. Crop’s veins felt like moving worms, the tips of them like needles trying to pierce their way out.
If this is what life is like, take me back. He thought.
But it was too late to be brought back to the old factory. The truck door slid open, like that of a garage. Metal sections retracting into the slits above Crop’s head. The Sentinel grabbed him, Crop nearly limp like a ragdoll.
“You’ve been a pain in the precinct’s ass.” The guard said, his mask muffling his voice.
Crop thrown against the pavement, his body splashing in the micro puddles of the morning mist. He was nearly paralyzed from pain at this point. His joints refused to function under the intense pressure that only the transfusion of incompatible blood could apply. A medical procedure gone wrong, or in this case gone horribly right.
“Now now, stand down. It’s been a lucrative asset to us and CIIM. Thanks to this crop, we will be able to outfit the whole force in due time. Just like any crop, he has been harvested. And what remains shall be disposed of.”
The white lab coat swayed in the breeze as he stood over Crop as if he were to say Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!, but he didn’t have to. His statue stance and marble complexion left nothing to the imagination.
“I’ll let The Crest know of the successes achieved here. I’ll let him know of your tenacity in acquiring the crop.” The Cultivator outstretched his hand to the shoulder of the Sentinel. “The Upper Echelon will recognize you, I’m sure of it.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Without saying another word, the two separated to their respective sides of the truck. The monstrosity swaying on its suspension like a pendulum as each climbed into the cab.
Crop spread out on the concrete, his shallow breaths creating ripples in the centimeter deep water that his face laid in. The tires slung pebbles into his back as the vehicle sped away into the winding alleys of The Byways.