• Sobbing and gasping for breath, she stumbled blindly down the rocky path, hoping against hope that the house was unlocked. She could hear the sound of the machines behind her, gaining speed despite the thick undergrowth. Her sneakers thudded onto the packed dirt, sending a burning feeling into her thigh muscles from the sudden impact. She winced in pain as her foot caught on a rock and slid to the side. The sharp pain stabbed into her ankle and traveled up her leg. She could not stop though. Ignoring the growing throbbing in her leg, she sprinted full speed, her breath burning her windpipe as it ripped out of her in short gasps. The door was so close, the metal of the doorknob glinting elusively in the moonlight. As she reached out a hand she grasped the cool smooth handle and shoved the door open, flying into the room. The buzzing grew faster at a terrifying rate as she turned, trying to throw her weight against the door. Finally, she found purchase on the wooden floor and pushed the door with all her might. Then, she felt a discomfort in her neck, like that of a small splinter. With a sigh, she collapsed onto the ground, her head slamming into the wooden floor but the pain didn’t register. Turning her head to the side, she saw a machine, about four inches in diameter and chrome. The sphere hovered near her, the sound reminding her of her father’s buzz saw. It silenced abruptly as the machine blinked once, twice, three times before zooming back out the door. Then, the darkness claimed her.
    Henry cringed as the tall woman touched his arm gently, guiding him into the small control room. The feel of her long thin fingers reminded him of those dreams he had had as a young child, keeping him awake all night. She pointed to a seat right before him. “Sit,” she commanded, her voice was soft and sweet and yet, there was something in that voice which made him feel as if he were about to be killed, a feeling of uncontrollable anxiety and rising panic. He did as he was told and focused on the screen before him. At first, he couldn’t believe his eyes. His house was in the center of the screen, watched by this camera. As he scanned the other screens, he saw his friends’ houses. They were all being watched, every one of them. Glancing behind him, he saw the woman’s eerie smile, perfect teeth glinting under the sickening fluorescent light. Looking back at the screen, however, he gasped in horror. All of the houses’ doors flung open instantaneously, the occupants’ bodies vaulting out onto the ground just to lie there, prone. He stood up so fast that his seat rolled across the room. Spinning angrily around, he stared straight into the woman’s eyes. But, before he could say a word, that eerie smile flashed across her face. “They have all been decommissioned dear. You see, it will not do to have a crop that knows what they are destined for. And now, my sweet, I am afraid that it is your turn.” And, placing a gentle hand along his face, she smiled sadly. With a single click, Henry’s thoughts stopped racing, his blood stopped boiling, his eyes shut, and he turned off, waiting to be rebooted and reprogrammed for the next batch.