My brain, my soul, my body, connected. The final jolt enters my system and pushes a surge of movement through my numb wires. My eyelids click open breaking the muted silence. The dull buzzing ever present, yet ignored by my hardware. The metal ceiling glares at me, a reminder of the cell I’m kept in.

It is in my best interest to move before the warning shock is delivered to my system, so I swiftly sit up. I miss the feeling of my blonde hair falling softly against my face like gentle snowfall

Tracing the long steel cord that slithers from the floor into my chest, I grit my teeth and grip the handles producing from my heart. I yank, which releases the cold barbed prongs from my metal sockets. No matter how many times I do this, the sharp feeling of being sliced open never leaves. If I could, I would taste blood in my mouth. The sensation leaves as quickly as it came, and I’m left to my quiet breaths in the cold room.

No blankets to push off, I swing my legs over the side of my steel cot. They make a slight clang as they tap the metal floor. I stand up, expressing the full gears and mechanics which make up my muscles. It feels good, like stretching from a run. I used to run. The wind flowing through my hair, my feet pounding the concrete. I suppose that’s the reason I’m here now.

The room, my pod, contains only 4 things. My cot, the charging cord which slinks from the floor, a door, and a mirror. I do not need my old human necessities. Why the mirror? you may ask. Cruel humor. So that every day, every morning, we have to walk past our reflections and accept that this is who we now are. That we belong to them.

Taking a few tentative steps, I enter the mirrors gaze. There I am. There’s my legs, the wires and gears hidden by large metal plates. The metal plates all over my body are sculpted to appear like my old human body. There’s my curved torso; my arms, my neck, my head, and my face. However, my face is still my own. The face that looked back when I was still alive, but placed over my mechanics like a mask. This, a couple of loose organs and the foundation of my brain are the only things left of me, the real me. Not the cybernetic slave or the reminder of the future, the ghost of the past from when humanity still ruled. I breathe in out of habit and turn away. The mirror does the trick.

As the door slides open, I turn into the dimly lit hall. All doors are open which means the other pods along from me are empty. Lateness has followed me beyond the grave.

A singular voice echoes through the cold steel hall, its emotionless and dead. The hall is filled with rows and rows of perfectly aligned toy soldiers waiting for their masters request. I join the ranks, third row from the front, four along. I wait for the objective to loop once again.

“Sector 4B, you’re patrol is excavating the outer layer of the city amongst the third pipe. Find the worthy, kill the worthless.”

It repeats twice more then the wall to our right slides open. Sunlight streams in but is drowned out by the shadows that race out into the world. Death has been released, and death is hungry to please.

The underground riddle of pipes and sewers left over from the Nastys now holds the sufferers. The ones who escaped the takeover and the new life, who prefer to scuttle among the ruins of the past and obey their own free will. They are the vermin of the land, our job is to erase the ones who do not fit the suitable bracket which deserve a place in our society, and to capture the elite to join our ranks.

I slip into the open pothole without making a sound. Dropping down into the murky waters below, I sink to the bottom. My feet anchor me into the soft sludge, while my night vision keeps it clear as day. The co-ordinates click into place and instinctively my legs follow. My goal is to infiltrate the back while my fellow comrades flank from the front. You might even call me an assassin of some sorts.

As I reach the target my sensors tell me that life, proper life is around 20 meters away hiding in a gap in the wall to my right. The remnants of my lungs fill with air and slowly I rise to the surface. I break the calm water, barely a ripple. The air down here is pungent and dirty. I can see the entrance to the secret room, a slight variation in the age of brickwork. I can hear their heartbeats, a young woman and an infant. As I step out of the water, a bullet carelessly pings off my leg. Faster than humanly possible I grasp the attacker’s throat and shove him against the wall. He gasps and struggles but it is no use. Peering into his eyes, his life, his ambitions, his soul pours out. The young man has spirit, bravery. When we break this, he will most likely belong the elite such as myself. Stabbing a needle into his bone white flesh, his eyes widen and then go blank. I release him and he crumples to the rotten ground, the patrol will pick him up later. My attention goes back to the room. No need to find the true entrance, I make my own. Smashing my fist into the wall, It evaporates. A scream follows and as the dust clears, a woman lies huddled against the cold brick. She wears rags, her skin just as pale white. Her blonder hair twisted and glued against her face. She clutches a bundle, I catch a small white face in a twisted cry, a tuft of blonde hair. Finally her face. Her deep brown eyes filled with desperation, fear withering her young face. My young face when I was captured. The realization dawns on us both, but my mask is unable to convey it.

“Maddie?!” She screams.

The young woman is my sister, the baby in her arms my niece.


Join the conversation! 3 Comments

  1. This is a tremendous piece of work. You have captured a sense of dulled, bitter acceptance in your description and you’ve avoided the tendency in pieces like this to be too heavy-handed in your description. Instead you offer fragments of physical detail along with the more impressionistic experiences of the main protagonist. You’ve used a tight first person which is both suited to this piece and to the genre at large. Your use of other devices of the genre, like neologism, is equally restrained – and is all the better for it.

    The areas for consideration:

    1) There are some transient mechanical errors (get the irony) – especially in spelling of homophones like there, they’re and their.

    2) I wonder if you might consider first describing the physical appearance of your character as they look at themselves in the mirror. Just to further enhance the ‘present continuous’ stream of consciousness nature of the piece. I don’t want you to ruin the carefully crafted point about the mirror’s purpose, but it might be worth exploring.

    3) Definitely give this to a colleague to read. They’ll have some useful observations to make.


  2. The last phases of your writing of this piece should focus on the subtler details. Focus on matters of tense and viewpoint: for example, in the first paragraph you write:

    My brain, my soul, my body, connected. The final jolt entering my system and pushing a surge of movement through my numb wires. Eyelids click open breaking the muted silence.

    Which phases through three different tenses – I think it would be wise for you to made a decision on which tense works best and tighten up your work to fit that tense. My opinion would be present/present continuous, but it’s your call.


  3. Achievement Achievement with Merit Achievement with Excellence
    Produce a selection of fluent and coherent writing which develops, sustains, and structures ideas. Produce a selection of fluent and coherent writing which develops, sustains, and structures ideas and is convincing. Produce a selection of fluent and coherent writing which develops, sustains, and structures ideas and commands attention.

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