It was Harvest Day. Mink had broken out in a cold sweat, the way they always did when this day arrived. The fake marble walls around them gleamed and sparkled, projecting an array of shimmers onto their weary body. The floor was a rink of ice under their bare feet. The air was cold and antiseptic.
The nurses that walked Mink to the operating room were always nice; that somehow made the whole process worse. Mink wanted to go to sleep and wake up next week, a few days after they’d healed and a few days before the whole process started again. Instead, they knew that that was impossible. Instead, they were given only a few hours to work the sickness of anesthesia out of their system before being placed back in their pod, left to drift in and out of sleep with a bottle of painkillers, a bottle of water, and pudding. God, Mink hated the pudding.
This time they took Mink’s eyes. It had been a while since Mink had been left without the ability to see after a Harvest, and, in a drugged stupor in their pod, they slipped in and out of sleep. Already, their empty sockets had begun to itch, signalling new growth. Mink wanted to find the asshole that was wearing their eyes, to say: Those aren’t yours; those are mine. They were never yours to take.
Mink didn’t know if it had been hours or days. The cool air that usually blew in through the vents was curiously absent, replaced by a congested clicking and whirring. The LED overhead lights in their pod were off, replaced by the blue glow of the emergency light system that provided scant pinpricks in the gloom. Cool air leaked in through the gap in the lid of their pod. Disbelieving, Mink pushed it open all the way.
All around them, Mink saw that the other pods were ajar, or in the process of being opened. A figure in dark, layered clothing stood facing the rows upon rows of glorified prison cells, their face covered by dust goggles and a balaclava.
“C’mon! Everyone up!” A cheerful voice husked behind layers of cloth. “Let’s get the hell outta here!”
Confused whispers and groans swept around the room like sparse, blowing snow. Mink was confused, too, but they knew one thing: Trusting friendly strangers landed them in this place, and they would be damned if they made the same mistake twice. They climbed out of their pod, and as soon as their feet hit the ground, they ran.
Mink ignored the friendly voice calling after them. Their steps were frantic, their eyes wildly searching for an exit. A door at the end of the hall with heavenly red letters above it drew Mink there—it was a lighthouse after many years at sea.
Stepping out into a humid, foggy night, Mink paused to breathe in fresh air for the first time in a thousand days, and kept running.