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In the Garden of Rusting Gods by Patrick Freivald

In the Garden of Rusting Gods by Patrick Freivald

Author:Patrick Freivald [Freivald, Patrick]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Barking Deer Press
Published: 2019-09-12T04:00:00+00:00


TWELVE KILOS

Bright red blood squirted between blazing orange polyfiber strips, and Darren’s stomach growled. He twisted the mop again and cursed every droplet that escaped the bucket, destined for the rusted metal grate in the floor. Two, maybe three milliliters spilled per job. Sixteen jobs a day, seven days a week didn’t add up to much, but it did add up. A liter a month might move his family to a higher level, farther from the heat of the core. But this month he wouldn’t even keep his family from the tithe, and he had no one to blame but himself.

Jacelyn heaved the last body onto the autoloader and wiped her red-stained hands on its shirt. He hid his envy. Damned meaters never had to worry about spillage. Meat wouldn’t flop down the drain, wouldn’t soak into clothes and mops and hair. One, maybe two meaters a month didn’t buy out their tithe. A life of luxury.

The body flopped over onto its back, and Darren sighed as he recognized its face. Hal couldn’t have been more than sixteen, and he and Darren’s daughter Felicity had been friends of a sort. A kid that sloppy never should have been a harvester in the first place; lost a kidney last week, a good six feet of intestines the month before, and that’s no way to buy out. A matter of time, this.

His stomach rumbled again.

Jacelyn’s smile distracted him from his reverie, rotted teeth behind pale lips in a face that might once have been pretty. It held more pity than scorn, and he didn’t need a meater’s sympathies, no matter how well intentioned. Sure, blooding came hard, harder still to those with mouths to feed, but an honest day’s work took effort, and let it never be said he didn’t try his best. To break her gaze he pulled his lunch from his pocket, tore open the pouch, and squeezed the gelatinous contents into his mouth. The vegetal, hydroponic slime drowned out the iron tang of blood-stench for two gulps.

His muscles strained as he lifted the bucket onto the hover lift, and he held his breath in anticipation as he swiped his finger across the bar code. He knew, but he didn’t want to.

“Thirty-nine point four kilograms,” the mechanical voice read, dispassionate in its pronouncement. The lift disappeared into the ceiling and he turned around, shoulders slumped. The priest emerged from the wall, a tangle of wires and tubes in a parody of humanoid form, three yellow glass eyes glowing too bright from clusters of internal LEDs.

He bowed his head in fear and shame, and shivered as the cold metal fingers ran through his hair. It took his mother’s voice, as it always did, but none of her tone. “Blooder Darren, your monthly tithe is fourteen thousand four hundred kilograms. The counters tally fourteen thousand three hundred eighty-eight kilograms. Do you acknowledge the discrepancy?”

He licked his chapped lips. “There weren’t enough bodies brought—”

“Do you acknowledge the discrepancy?”

“I do,” he blurted.

“And you accept the responsibility of failure?”

“I do.



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