My name is Adalyn. Well, actually it’s 7210-03. That’s my number, my identifier. It’s what I’m known as to the populace that bustles around beyond the walls of the Institute. I’ve never met them. I don’t know what they look like, or what they do all day. All I know about them is that they pay for me to be educated, fed, clothed and taken care of. Also, they plan to Harvest me.
I don’t know when. It’s never a set date. They don’t wait until you hit adulthood and then suddenly deem you ready. I think it has more to do with them, how old they are, how broken they’ve run their bodies. But it’s not my place to speculate their inner musings. They own me. Not in the do-what-I-say-because-I’m-your-master way. More in the I-had-you-brought-into-this-world-so-I-can-live-forever type way.
I wasn’t born. I was created in a lab and grown in a tube until I was too big. I was transferred to a type of tank until I was ready to be ‘born’. I, along with countless others, have been raised inside the walls of the Institute with Healers and Scholars and Teachers to guide us through life until we can be of service to those that had us made.
It’s an honor to be what we are, we’re told.
It’s an honorable achievement to be Harvested, they say.
When one of us is called upon, the Healers and Scholars and Teachers have a ceremony, blessing our souls and wishing us luck on whatever is after life. They purify us and we all gather to celebrate the last night of the chosen’s’ life.
Tonight, we will gather in the Great Room to celebrate my life.
I have been called upon, and I will be Harvested tomorrow.
“Are you nervous?” Amy asked me. We’d been born around the same time – her right after me – so we’d more or less grown up together. She’s 7210-04. I looked over to where she lounged on my bed, her fall of silky blonde hair hanging over the side, brushing the floor.
“Not really.” I answered with a shrug. “It’s what we’re here for. There’s no sense in getting worked up over it.”
Amy frowned at me, her pixie features compressed, “But it’s your life, Adalyn.”
“No.” I corrected. “It’s theirs.”
“Maybe you don’t have to die. Maybe they can just take what they need without killing you.” Amy suggested, sitting up with a tentative smile. She picked at the blanket and I could tell she was trying to keep her emotions at bay.
“You know that isn’t how it works, Amy. After I’ve been Harvested, my body will have no use.” I pushed away from the wall where I’d been resting to sit beside her. “It won’t hurt.” I told her.
“But what if –”
“I won’t feel anything. They’ll use the serum and I won’t even know it’s happening.”
“Will they let you say goodbye?”
“Yes. Tonight we say goodbye.” I reminded her.
“I mean after you’ve been Harvested.”
“That’s not how it works, Amy. It’s going to be just like every other Harvest.”
“But you’re different.”
“No. I’m just like everybody else in here. I was born for a purpose. This purpose.”
“Your people are different.” She insisted. “They’re leaders. They can change the rules.”
“How do you know that?” I asked with a frown. Nobody besides myself and the Scholars, Healers and Teachers were supposed to know who my people were.
She became suddenly intensely interested in the fabric of her sweater. “Just a guess.”
“Alright, I eavesdropped on your meeting the other day.” She threw up her hands. “I can’t just sit by while you get Harvested, Adalyn. That’s asking too much.”
“You shouldn’t have done that.” I chided her. “If anybody finds out that you know, you could get into serious trouble.”
Amy just shrugged. “You can’t go tomorrow.”
“No. Promise me. Promise me that you won’t go.” She gripped my arm between both of her hands, her nails pressing against my skin. “Please.”
I met her baby blue eyes and slowly shook my head. “I can’t promise that. You know as well as I what happens when we resist. It’s either we’re Harvested or we’re Cast Out.”
“You could do it.” Amy assured me. “You’re strong enough to last. You’re smart enough to figure it out.”
“You want me to be Cast Out? That’s worse than dying. It’s shameful. It’s disrespectful.” I pulled my arm from under hers and paced away from my bed. “I can’t not go tomorrow. I was born for this. These people put millions of dollars into me. I was made to be used by them. It would be like showing them this tiny ray of light for the last twenty years and then when they reach out to touch it, snuff it out.”
“They’re going to snuff it out! They’re going to do a whole lot more than just touch your light, Adalyn. They’re going to kill you.”
“And it will be an honor to be of service.”
“I can’t believe you’re going to just accept this. I can’t believe you of all people are just going to calmly walk into a room with a bunch of people who’ve freely admitted to wanting to rip out your organs and then kill you.” She sprung up off my bed and stormed over to the door. “It’s like I don’t even know who you are.”
She slammed the door on her way out, and the sound echoed in my head like a gun shot.
I backed up until my back hit the wall and slowly slid down. My legs were trembling – my entire body was. I lifted a hand and watched in something akin to shock as it waved in front of my eyes. My head rolled back on my neck, and to the side, so that I found myself looking at my reflection in the floor-to-ceiling mirror beside my dresser.
Pale green eyes stared back at me in distress. Short black hair flopped down onto my forehead, my neck. My lips quivered and I pressed them together so that they leeched of all color. I was horrified when tears welled in my eyes and spilled down snow white cheeks. But, I didn’t brush them away. I watched as they trickled down my face, splashed onto my collar bones and then down under the collar of my t-shirt.
I turned away from my reflection, pulled my knees up and pressed my face against them harshly.
Amy was wrong. I wasn’t ‘just accepting this’. I’m horrified at the thought that at this time tomorrow, I won’t exist. By this time tomorrow, my organs will either be in little jars filled with foul smelling liquid or else in the body of somebody else. And me… I’ll be a pile of ash, thrown across the South Lake.
I don’t know how long I sat curled into myself on my bedroom floor. It could have been minutes, but then it could have been hours. I was jolted awake by the sound of someone knocking on my door.
“Adalyn?” It was Healer Saurin. Her kind voice floated through the thick wood.
I stood quickly, brushing my hands against my cheeks to check for any signs of my earlier breakdown. “Yes. Come in.”
Healer Saurin opened the door and smiled kindly at me, her brown eyes carefully searching my face as she stepped into the room. Her light brown hair was coiled into a neat bun at the base of her neck, and she wore the standard simple white slacks and long sleeve shirt of the Healers. She assessed me from behind a pair of wire-rimmed glasses, “How are you?”
“Fine. Thank you.” I linked my hands together behind my back. More from the desire to not let her see me shake than respect. “Has the ceremony started? I lost track of time.”
“No.” She said with a small smile. “I have some news.”
I frowned. “Oh. Alright.”
“Shall we sit?” She gestured to the two comfortable chairs set by a table and record player in the alcove across from my bed.
I nodded and followed her over. I waited until she sat before taking the chair facing the door. “Is there something wrong? I thought all of my tests came back perfect.”
“They did.” She assured me. “You are as healthy as you can possibly be. That’s not why I’m here.”
“Then why are you here?” I asked.
“We received word this morning that Mrs. Rupert would not be calling on you this evening.”
I felt my face freeze. “Why not? Is something wrong? Was she not happy with the results –?”
“Ah, Adalyn. It always amuses me how much you wish to remain perfect.” She laid a warm hand on my knee. I hadn’t realized I’d been shaking until she offered me that lifeline. “It’s ok to not be perfect, you know. But it has nothing to do with you. Mrs. Rupert has decided that she had lived a long enough life and she does not wish to go through another Harvest.”
“But – but I – What am I supposed to do now?” I sputtered. “My entire existence is to provide organs for Mrs. Rupert. Without this my entire existence is pointless.”
Healer Saurin said something but I couldn’t hear her over the roaring in my ears. I pressed a hand to my heart just to keep it from pounding out of my chest. I gasped as my throat closed and black spots appeared in my vision. My skin seemed to ignite and shrivelled up – becoming too small for my bones. I stumbled up from the chair, away from the Healer who was reaching for me, and slammed into the wall.
My legs gave out and I slid to the floor. My head hit the ground and even though there was several inches of plush carpet to cushion the blow, it still sent a stab of pain through me. I cried out as my eyes welled up.
What was I supposed to do now? What is the point anyways? I might as well Cast myself out, live among the trash where I’d just so elegantly been told I belonged. As the black spots in my vision grew, a pair of brown eyes appeared over my face, worry clear in them. I thought it odd that somebody would care for trash.
My last thought before I passed out was that I should have run when Amy told me to.