Disclaimer: this is not a true story. It’s an assignment for one of my classes. Genre: sci-fi (sort of). Compulsory element: creepy hallway. Enjoy.
The Craingris Picker
She was dreaming of fields of craingris, long strips of glistening red bulbs languishing in the light. Their pink effusions, a soft powdery cloud rising demurely, and then being sifted through by the breeze, lingering over the nearby pools of clear water. She was a young girl, alive with joy and trepidation. Her first harvest, at last! She bowed correctly, and splayed her fingers in the manner her grandparents taught her, securing red orbs between each gap. “A light touch, and the craingris will yield” she remembered their stern lesson. “A clumsy one, and the plant will turn purple; the veins in the bulb will fire up, and it will wither instantly thereafter. There’s nothing you can do to save it.”
To save it. Save it… wait. There’s something else that needs saving, something closer, something as precious as the craingris… If only she could just remember. She shook her head once, twice, and tried opening her eyes. Her eyelashes were stuck together, and when she willed them open, they refused to listen. In the darkness, she felt around her. A cold, smooth floor, under her prone body. Her palm swept along it, caressing the surface. She was hungry, she realized, for sensations. Next, she attempted to rise, but her brain’s command reached only a void. No good, then. Slowly, carefully, she splayed her fingers, and pushed them forwards. One inch at a time, just follow your fingers, her mind whispered, as she began to crawl.
An empty silence surrounded her. She was moving along what seemed an endless narrow corridor, high walls to her left and to her right. One inch, and then one more, although her limbs were screaming at her to stop. Something to save… or someone? It wasn’t clear. Her breath was coming out erratically now, and she let out a strangled, low-pitched sound of disquiet. One moment’s inattention, and her left index brushed against her right hand’s wrist. Her fingertip traced a round, metallic bracelet , icy to the touch. “A tranquilink” she thought in a flash, and then it was all lost – she was in the crimson field again, placing the lid on her tall basket, and Skeer was coming towards her with a smile on his handsome, swarthy face. It was her fifth harvest, and she had never seen a man her age before. He turned his head a fraction in the light, and her heart started humming, buzzing…
Startled, she shivered herself awake. No, no, the tranquilinks will do that, they’ll try to make her stray from her path… She zoned in on the sound, and realized that it must be a generator, just come to life. If only she could reach it, there would be power there, and someone who’d come to check on it, and her… and… was she forgetting something? Something important? She slithered forward, using up her last bit of energy. “Energy” Skeer argued. “It’s all about energy. The craingris gives it to us, we rely on it completely for our bodies to function. And once it is gone, then what? Will we be better than our ancestors? They killed each other, Leah. Because there was no food, and they were starving. They turned on fellow men. For hundred-scores and hundred-scores of years, until there were just a few left. We have the craingris farms, your elders’, mine. But if that fails, if something were to happen…”
She reached the generator. No sound came from it anymore. There was static though, traces left over by the humming, and she inhaled it greedily, thankful for a change to the emptiness. Too greedily – she choked – and as her body convulsed, she realized that there is a certain quality to the air – a staleness betraying a low level of oxygen. This… couldn’t be true. Who’d put her here? who…? Skeer’s iridescent eyes appeared before her, and she sighed. A peacock’s eyes, with their hues of moss, and bronze, and butterfly blue. A mutation, most likely caused by eating the craingris, but much more captivating than her own pale tawny ones. Skeer – he said he’d help her. He had stared at her unblinkingly, and somber, and she had believed him. He’d save her – he would get her out – if only she would wait for him.
She forced herself to take shallower, measured breaths. Three seconds break, and then a little intake of air. Repeat. Repeat. Tranquilinks would not work when the brain was deprived of oxygen. One, two… Skeer save her? But Skeer’s dead! Breathe in… warm glow of craingris-picking days… breathe out, and hold. Dead, like the rest of them. And tranquilinks… are used to lull the dying… and the mad. My dreams, these memories … Breathe in… oh Skeer’s arms, she’s in his arms and laughing…breathe out… and hold. Hold. The bulbs are rotting, and she’s glad. A pest, an unseen one, working as Skeer promised. She picks them up, each infected bulb as precious now as a new born child, and glides among the rows of plants, surveying each colony of healthy craingris with a watchful eye. She chooses the remote spots, the ones no one would think to check, and places the intruders there. Perfect. Skeer would be so proud. And when the time would come, and red crops would turn grey, when all the ones she knew would starve and die, she would be safe, away from everybody, safe from hunger. Safe, in a sealed-up hall with bracelets giving happy dreams.