“How’s he doing?” The woman asked.
“Still asleep.” The man examined Crop’s vitals.
“His body must be exhausted from the bad transfusion.”
“Exhausted, but recovering. I spent most of the night just ridding his body of the blood,” The man said as he motioned to stacks of blood bags. “Who would do this to someone?”
“Noah, you should get some sleep. You look terrible. I’ll take it from here,” The woman flipped through a stack of medical reports. “What’s this?”
“I told the clinic over on the East side that we could take a patient for them. They don’t have any room.”
“What happened?” The woman looked through the file.
“The Sentinels came to extract the child, but the woman wouldn’t accept. She has some blunt force trauma to the head. They should be bringing her over in a couple of days.”
“I’ll prep the other room,” Her actions said this was a regular occurrence, for the Sentinels to extract a child. But her face said it occurred way too often. “In the meantime, I’ll finish up checking his vitals,” She rubbed Noah’s back. “I’m serious, go get some rest.”
Noah, exhausted, reluctantly gathered up his jacket and backpack and headed for the door.
The mist fell on the tin roof, gathering into droplets of water hitting his head as he opened the plywood door to the clinic. Noah quickly slung his hood on.
“Naomi, if you need anyth…”
“I know, I’ll radio you.” She grinned.
As the night went on, Naomi continued to monitor Crop and provide periodical blood transfusions of her own blood. The mist turned to a continuous drizzle now, the white noise from the tin roof was a weight on her eyelids.
A clap of thunder woke Crop up, half expecting to still be laying on the asphalt. To his surprise he was in a halfway decent bed, an amalgamation of a single couch cushion, a stack of folded blankets, and a rolled up sleeping bag for his pillow. This was all laid upon the foundation of an old ripped up military cot, but it was the best bed Crop had slept on.
“Hey, you’re finally awake!” Naomi said, almost dozed off herself.
“Where am I?”
“Southwest district of The Byways. I’m Naomi, by the way. We were never able to get your name.” She gave Crop a paper cup of cold water.
“I don’t think I have a name.” He rose up in his bed and drank.
“You don’t know your own name?” She flipped through his file, looking for a record of concussion symptoms. “Well, where are you from?”
“I came from the factory.”
“So, it’s true?” Naomi sat up in her seat. “No one’s ever made it out of a factory, at least not that I remember. How did you end up here?” She heated up some soup and gave it to Crop.
Crop sat up in his makeshift bed and told her the whole ordeal in between sips of hot soup. It had a broth base with chunks of entrails, onions, and radishes. He was so hungry that he didn’t mind the entrails.
“Well, if you don’t have a name, I’m going to call you Isaac,” She said, as if no wasn’t an answer she would accept. “It was my father’s name.”
“Isaac it is,” Anything was better than being called Crop, he thought. “What brings you out here?” He said before blowing on his soup. “Do you run this hospital?”
“I wouldn’t really call it a hospital, it’s more of a clinic,” Even that was a generous description. “My twin brother, Noah, and I run the place. When we were around eight, back when the world was just starting to go to shit, my parents were chosen in The Polling,” She got up and started making herself some soup. “Our parents were devastated, obviously, but me and my brother didn’t really understand the full extent of what that meant. But, they were mostly chosen because The Upper Echelon found out we were twins,” She sat down and blew on her soup. “Twins don’t exactly fit into Family Planning.”
“I heard about Family Planning.” Crop said curiously.
“That’s how you ended up in that factory. Somewhere down the line the world got too crowded. Family Planning was The UE’s way of solving that issue. The only problem is it involved The Polling, and…,” She took a sip of her soup. “Well, you have to keep the population down, that’s where Family Planning comes in. Restrict the amount of reproduction happening.”
“But where do the factories come in? Where do I come in?”
“The factories are filled with people’s babies, just like you, plucked from their homes every fifteen years. That’s where the crops come from, that’s where the blood comes from…,” She sat her bowl down, spoon clinking on the porcelain. “That’s where The Drip comes from.”
Crop, now Isaac, sat for nearly half an hour listening to Naomi tell him of the inner workings of the world. How he was a love child of greed and selfishness. Raised by machines in the name of immortality. So that those in The UE could live and he could die. Isaac, a renewable source of life, but at what cost?
Scanners outside flew past the clinic door. Surveillance drones patrolling the alleyways, every face seen probably in some database somewhere up in the Cloud City. Floating by the heads of pedestrians, every now and then having to duck their heads to miss them. Peering into shops and houses, always listening. And now they were outside the clinic door.
Isaac could feel the tension on Naomi. But even then, nothing could contain her resentment for the state of the world and how it affected her.
“I built this place to help people, to do my part in the place that raised me.” She got up and put her ear to the door before returning to her chair. “But every day it gets worse, and we are literally just bandaging an open wound. I want to do something more, and I want you to help me.” She whispered, but the whisper was fierce.
“I don’t know anything about this world.” Isaac said. “How would I be able to help?”
“You don’t know about this world, but you know about their world.” Noami twirled the IV cable in her fingers. “I want you to lead me to the factory.”
“Why in the fuck would I go back there?” Isaac whispered, but his was more concerned. He had only just shed his Crop name.
“I’ve got some other people around The Byways that want to help too, but I can’t go on letting those people stay there.”
Isaac had just gotten out of the factory and had no desire to return, but if he had a chance to free more people from that endless sleep, he would. He nodded in agreement.
“Good.” Naomi sighed as she rose up out of her chair. “A couple of us are meeting tomorrow night to talk about the plan. I sleep in there in the other room. You can stay here and get some rest. I’ve got to go out, but I’ll be back later.”
Naomi peaked out of the clinic door. The scanners were gone, somewhere deep in the maze of The Byways. As she opened the door, the sound of rain poured into the room as if itself were tangible. She slid out of the cracked door, a sliver of fluorescent light leaked in like a sunbeam in that dark space. Isaac could hear the splashes fade until they sounded no different than raindrops.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
That night, The Byways went to sleep before Isaac did. The rain was even kind enough to tuck itself in, the clear skies letting the moon illuminate the alleyways. The sporadic cricket chirps fascinated Isaac, only stopping when a scanner hovered overhead. The quiet humming had a certain cozy feel to them. Disrupting the dead silence of the night just enough to make a man forget about his thoughts. Red light peeped through the cracks underneath the clinic door as the scanners patrolled the main street. Isaac counted the blinking patterns like sheep as he fell asleep.