EIGHT-NINE, 2.0

With the gust of wind, Autumn had come. It was about time, and made Gina feel immediately hungry.

The wind itself was chilly, invisible, empty. But the smell is what pushed Gina over the edge into believing that seasons had finally changed. That things were going to get better. That her stomach would soon be full again.

The smell was dirty, of sweat and muck, and it felt like a stain was invading her nostrils. She lived downwind from the Farm, and the smell was the best part of her year. Usually, the scent was cheerful and soapy, a clean sensation that washed the senses. This time of year, though, when the Farm was in full harvest, the delicious smell got Gina excited for things to come, and hungry.

The Farm was a DESTINATION, not just a destination. Eight years it’d been there. Eight years since the Invaders had been blown out of the sky. Gina had been barely old enough to read at the time, but she could remember the images vividly, and all of the books were detailed about the event. The ships in the sky, the metallic CLANG of the explosions as dozens of fighter jets fired missiles at the Invaders. When it was later discovered where they had come from, Gina was less interested. She could barely pronounce the name of the planet.

When Gina learned how to speak a few words in their language, she was less interested still. The only excitement she now felt towards the Invaders was the smell at the start of Autumn. During the harvests. The Invaders technology was incredibly strong, everyone knew, but outside their ships the beings were masses of muscle and meat.  A pulpy texture that, it was soon discovered, ripened over summer.

Like fresh fruit, the beings were sent to live in camps that were soon after called Farms, and after several months were harvested to be consumed. They repopulated at such a furious rate, world leaders at first wanted to burn and wipe them out. At the first “Toasting” (as it is now called), the smell was too attractive, and several soldiers ventured a bite. And liked the taste.

At first, Gina didn’t want to eat them. The Invaders spoke a language, after all, and their leaders had taught people how to speak and understand and communicate. The knowledge they provided regarding technology and armor, Universal adaptation, and so on, was undeniably valuable. But the taste was even more desired, and because they were as fertile as rabbits, birthing in half the time a human baby would come out, the Invaders were divided up and Farmed.

Small Farms were preferred, to prevent uprisings and the spread of the truth. The leaders of the Invaders knew nothing of the true nature of the Farms, as they didn’t relate or interact as humans do. They ignored each other, and other than partnerships they pretended that mass groups simply were useless and tiresome. One-on-one was the only method of interaction. Some of them were no doubt already fed members of their own race, and they didn’t hesitate to eat more. The leaders were held up as royalty on earth, and highly protected, thus they were oblivious to the truth.

Gina soon got over the idea of eating another living thing and quickly savored the taste. She was regretful that they weren’t farmed all year, only “in season”, but that made them taste more delicious.

So she was confused when one Invader in particular found her outside of school and talked about his family. “But you don’t have a family,” she stated. It wasn’t a question, but a fact.

“All of them are my family. We feel each other. It’s a big group, like a net. What one thinks and feels, so do the rest of us. I love all of them equally.”

“But do they have names?”

“I have a name, so they must have a name. My name is D’org’arh.”

Gina didn’t try to pronounce it. “Um, so do you like earth?” She wanted to change the subject. She’d started to grow queasy.

“Oh, I like it very much. We all thank you for the hospitality. You’re a Younger, aren’t you?”

“A what?”

“A Younger? A… Keed?” He had trouble speaking the one-syllable word.

“Kid, yes, I’m a kid.”

“You will ripen soon, do not worry.”

Gina looked at D’org’arh, who appeared to be not much older than a kindergartner. “Did you say, ripen?”

“Oh yes, you will ripen and when you do you will be grown into a beautiful Yoomun. Yoomuns are so rare in the Universe. Have you ever left earth?”

“No, it’s not that easy.”

“I will take you off earth one day, for I’ve chosen you. My stomach has not yet expanded, but when I saw you, I felt an ache. That means you and I are bound.”

“Bound, um, for what?”

“Union.”

Gina watched the Invader stroll away, smiling over his shoulder at her every few steps.  That night, she pulled a knife from the kitchen drawer, shoved it into her backpack before bed.

When she arrived at school the next day, no one was there. She hadn’t even seen any cars on the road. She turned on the television and saw blood in a news studio, and other stations were off the air. She ran to leave, but D’org’arh was there in the doorway, blocking her with his mouth open. No, unhinged, like screws had come loose.

It was big enough to consume her.

She pulled out her knife. “All these years…you were just–”

“Waiting for you to ripen. You’re a little fresh, being a Younger still. But I’ll just eat part of you for now, because the day has come early.” And he swiped the knife away, then bit into her.

Gina wept and held on as he carried her upper body from the school, her torso tied in a knot above where her waist used to be. As she bled out she watched as thousands of ships descended to earth to harvest the rest of the Yoomans.

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