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|She looked at him like he was crazy. “What are you talking about?” she asked in disbelief. “We are going to slaughter!”||
Samara lay shivering in the back of the semi-tractor trailer for about an hour when some men arrived in a government vehicle. One of them jumped out and started the semi. Samara was afraid to call out to them so he sat tight and hoped for the best. After a 20-minute ride on bumpy gravel roads the truck finally backed into a loading dock at a warehouse at the edge of town. For two hours, it sat idling as the yellow dawn continued over the horizon. The trailer had vents all along the sides, allowing for free circulation of air. They also allowed light to enter and illuminate the three frozen bodies he had been trapped with. The air was still freezing and his breath drifted with the breeze that filtered in through the vents.
He had no idea where he was or what he was doing here. He only knew he had no way to escape and that no one had come around to check on him since he was locked in the trailer. He had a feeling that no one knew he was there. He had been up all night and the sleep deprivation and fatigue was setting in. He had always been a difficult person to deal with, but now he was ready to snap at anyone who came his way.
From inside the building, he heard the rattling of a chain and the mechanical whine of a motor in motion. Then the rumble of a metal garage door being pulled up came from inside. Something was about to happen and he stood awaiting the trailer door to open. He did not know what to expect as the door began to lift and the cement floor inside the building became visible.
Standing back about fifteen feet, he saw as the door lifted, the legs and feet of a large group of people standing inside. They were all moving about in a frantic attempt to move away from the door as it opened. Samara quickly surveyed escape options but found a huge rubber gasket provided a tight seal between the trailer and the building. As he moved back to the far end of the trailer, the door opened completely, allowing him to see what was inside the room.
It was filled with people, huddled together in the center, surrounded by armed guards and heavy machinery. Behind the crowd of people, two front load trucks slowly forced the crowd from the building into the back of the semi tractor-trailer. The guards on the sides shocked those who stepped out of formation with electric prods that sparked on impact. The screams from the crowd echoed and reverberated inside the expanse of the nearly empty tractor-trailer.
The trailer quickly filled to capacity as the crowd trampled the dead bodies lying frozen by the entrance. The door was shut, sealing them all inside. There was little room to move as everyone was packed in shoulder to shoulder the entire length of the trailer. Samara kept his back to the wall as he surveyed his situation and tried to find someone to speak to.
The people looked normal to him and they seemed to be dressed for the weather. He just had no idea why they were all packed into a cattle truck. The sounds of voices filled the trailer and the people began to converse and cry out to each other. Samara was lost and confused. Becoming anxious, he asked the woman crammed up next to him, “What the hell is going on?”
She looked at him like he was crazy. “What are you talking about?” she asked in disbelief. “We are going to slaughter!”
Samara swallowed hard and looked her in the eye. “Slaughter?” he asked back. “Where is this truck going?”
The woman looked away and ignored Samara’s question. She was in tears and unable to speak.
“We’re going to the slaughter house you idiot!” a man behind her yelled. “How can you be so stupid? We are all going to die!’
Samara felt a flash of panic and a shiver ran down his spine. What was going on in this yellow reality - a war – a mass execution – were these people infected with something? He looked to the side out the vent and tried to see someone outside the truck. He was too high in the air and he could see no one. Pushing away from the wall of the truck, he tried to make his way to the rear. He was not letting anyone take him to slaughter without a fight. He could not get anywhere though, for they were packed too tight and there was no room to maneuver. He settled back against the wall and thought hard about his situation.
Just then the truck slipped into gear and moved forward with a jerk that sent everyone in the back off balance. With the sudden lunge forward, the entire group was jolted towards the back. Within moments everyone had regained his or her balance. Samara began to become aware of the unbearable stench of bad breath, body odor and vomit. The group, especially the women continued to moan and sob uncontrollably. For the moment Samara was glad he had not made it to the rear of the trailer.
The rattle of the truck and the sound of the diesel engine increased as they picked up speed and moved away from the loading dock out onto the main street. At the end of the block the air brakes took hold and the truck came to a quick stop. The weight of the bodies from behind squeezed the wind out of him until the breaks hissed and the truck again began to move forward. He now knew what it felt like to be an animal taken to the slaughterhouse.
The truck found the highway and picked up speed as it moved along unabated in its journey. The cold air from outside became almost intolerable, whipping inside the truck through the air vents on the side. Samara began to shiver and the cold wind bit at his exposed skin. The crowd was now silent trying to stay warm and huddling as close together as possible. His one solace was that the stench had subsided with the increased airflow.
“How long?” Samara asked, his teeth chattering.
“It’s over fifty miles to the plant,” an unidentified voice spoke out of the crowd.
“We have to do something!” Samara shouted over the silence. He was greeted by more silence. “Are you going to let yourself be killed?” he asked.
“There is nothing we can do!” another voice called out. “It is pointless to try to escape!”
Samara shook his head in disgust. Never had he met anyone who was so willing to give up so soon. He peered out the vent and watched the fields of snow pass by at highway speeds.
The woman next to him again spoke to him, this time she whispered, “This is just the way it is. It is our time, there’s nothing we can do.”
Samara peered at her. “Time for what? What is this all about?” he asked.
She looked at him with confusion in her eyes. “How is it you don’t know what is happening? Is there something wrong with you?”
“I’m not from around here,” he snapped back without thinking.
“It is this way everywhere. We are all called to service eventually I don’t understand how you were unaware of this.” she said.
“Called to service?! What the hell are you babbling about?” Suddenly he realized he was going to get nowhere with this attitude. Samara looked to the roof of the trailer to mentally regroup and then back down to her. “Pardon my ignorance, but why is this happening?”
“For the survival of mankind,” she replied.
“Mankind?” Samara asked as calmly as possible. “How is this benefiting me?”
“It is not for you, it is for the preservation of our society. The population must be maintained.”
“Pardon me, but I don’t find much about your society worth preserving if this is how you treat your citizens.”
“Your society?” she asked. “What do you mean by that?”
Samara had no reason to lie to this woman. He knew his life was over as soon as they reached the slaughterhouse anyway. “I am not from here,” he said expecting her disbelief. Her eyes opened wide but that was about all the reaction she had.
“I thought they had cleaned out the mental wards a long time ago,” she said dismissing him. “They must have missed you.”
“You think I’m crazy?” Samara asked.
“Oh yeah, we get those folks who claim they are from a different world all the time. They used to house them in the institutions. Ever since we ran low, they have been cleaned out.”
“What do you mean by ran low?” Samara asked.
She shook her head at him and looked away. She was tired of his ignorance. A man listening from behind her chimed in and replied, “of food you dumb crap!”
“Food?” Samara asked, looking to the man. “We’re food?”
“You are nuts!” the man said ignoring anything further from Samara. Samara secretly thought the same of them but kept his mouth shut. The mood in the truck was dark, filled with anxiety and despair. No one wanted to talk.
The semi crossed a set of railroad tracks and rocked side to side as it regained equilibrium. Samara could see and smell the processing plant, a mile or so parallel to the side of the truck. Hot steam billowed out of several tall smokestacks. He had been on the road for over an hour and they were huddled together to block the cold wind and regain some body heat. The truck turned down the service road for the last leg of the journey. Everyone was quiet and still.
The air breaks hissed and the truck began to slow its pace as they moved slowly closer to the unloading docks in the rear of the plant. Samara could see pallets and barrels stacked in a haphazard manner along side the brick walls of the massive building. Workers wearing hard hats and protective overcoats moved about the concrete slab surrounding the entrance.
The truck made a tight turn that sent the people scrambling for footing. Screams and moaning came forth from the crushed masses. The truck stopped and the people were forced again towards the front, momentarily squeezing Samara to the wall. He lost his wind as his lungs were constricted, forcing him to hold his breath.
“Get off me!” Samara shouted as he tried to push the crowd away. It took only a moment for the truck to change direction and send everyone crashing towards the back of the truck, including Samara. He could not stop himself as he fell forward onto the woman who was smashing into him a moment ago. The truck moved slowly as it reversed into the plant through a large door in the side. Once inside, the air breaks again hissed, this time with an echo and the truck came to an abrupt halt forcing Samara once again into the woman.
Samara could see workers running around to the sides of the truck and secure chains and cables to various connecting points along the side of the trailer. With a noticeable clank, the cab disconnected from the trailer and drove off leaving them sitting alone in the cold. More banging metal sounds reverberated around them from all directions and the entire trailer shuttered as they were bounced about by something underneath.
Then it fell silent and everyone in the trailer looked about at each other. Hot steam from their breaths collected at the top of the trailer and dissipated outside through the vents. Samara was beyond scared and felt totally helpless to free himself. None of the workers outside even acknowledged the passengers inside, treating them like they were animals.
“What’s happening?” Samara asked. He did not expect an answer. He swallowed hard and braced for the worst.
The sound of an electric motor startled Samara and the rest of the captives followed by a clank and a shutter from below. The trailer began to rattle and Samara noticed that his end of the trailer was starting to rise and the other side was starting to lower. Just then the trailer door slid open and Samara watched the crowd backup towards him away from the exit. He could not understand why they weren’t leaving.
Higher and higher the front end rose and people began falling out the back door, disappearing from his view. Screams and yelling filled the trailer and Samara reached back to grasp onto the wall behind him. His hand was met with an electric shock that burned when he touched the metal with his gloved hand. He looked at his glove and saw it had enough tears and holes in it to allow of an arc to find its way to his skin. He looked up and saw that others too were avoiding the sides of the box and were crowded towards the middle. By now he was feeling gravity pulling him down and did not have time to formulate another plan. The increasingly sloping floor was slick with vomit and urine and he began to lose footing. He fell on his rear and his slide into the unknown began. It was just a matter of moments before he slid out the end of the trailer like everyone else.
Everything seemed to go in slow motion for Samara but in reality it took only seconds for the entire contents of the trailer to empty into a cement pit in the center of this large warehouse facility.
Samara was lucky to be one of the last ones into the pit. Many others had suffered a 15 – 20 foot - falls from the back of the truck plus a rain of bodies on top of them. There was plenty of blood and a few compound fractures but none of that mattered now.
A few moments later the trailer began its journey back to level. The sounds of the motors were almost deafening in the pit; the motors themselves were housed just over the edge. As Samara began to regain his bearings he noticed that the walls of the pit were far to high and smooth for anyone to climb out of. He had ended up on top of a pile of squirming and screaming bodies. Many were being crushed under the great weight from above. For a moment, Samara thought of standing on the pile to try to jump to the edge of the wall to climb out. His thoughts were quickly dashed when he saw two armed guards approach the rim and look down upon them. One of them almost pulled his rifle, but backed down when he saw Samara fall back on the pile and slide down the pyramid to the bottom.
Samara found room to stand along the edge of the hole, against the cold concrete wall that rose some twenty feet above him. He quickly found himself jammed between the rest of the captives who had now begun to stand and the wall that held him imprisoned. Under his feet, lay a mesh of steel slats that made up the floor. Under the slats, he could hear the sounds of water splashing up against the concrete along the sides. A gentle steam rose from the water.
Again, he heard the whining of electric motors and he looked around for their source. From above, he saw something protruding out of a groove in the wall. It was some sort of canopy made of the same interlocking mesh slats that he stood on. From the other side of the bunker, he watched as another horizontal slab slid towards the center of the bunker above him. The slabs slowly crawled out of the sides and met in the center with a startling clank. Then the machines stopped whining, leaving them in an errie silence.
Samara could see now that they were all trapped in the bunker with no way to escape. The mesh slats, above and below were just wide enough for him to push his hand through but nothing more. The walls were finished slick concrete, rising too far above for him to jump to the mesh and check it for weakness. The mesh slats below allowed the water to rise up enough to lick at his feet and fill his shoes.
Above the mesh canopy, he now could see a solid steel cover sliding over the entire bunker. With each passing second, the steel slab moved over the top of them and the pit became darker and darker and the screams of the people trapped inside became louder and louder. To those standing outside watching, the screams became more and more muffled.
Less than a minute later, the pit was dark and Samara could no longer see anyone. The echoing of screams, and the pushing and shoving of hysterical people were overwhelming. He wanted to cry out himself but he knew it was useless. He felt alone.
Just then, he heard the high pitched, muffled whine of an electric motor and the sounds of pistons pumping along at tremendous speed. A rush of wind blew over him as he felt the water rise up around his legs. The water swirled and rushed around from all directions encompassing him and moving him about like a rag doll in a washing machine. The sound of the water was almost loud enough to drown out the screams of the captives that were quickly being overcome by fear.
The water rose and Samara could feel people all around him moving, bobbing and reaching out for anything they could get a hold of. He was grabbed and pulled under as the water quickly rose above his head. Reaching out, used all his strength to free himself long enough to push back up to the surface. The surface, now five feet from the mesh canopy, would be difficult to reach as he contended with the panicked swimmers and the swirling water and he struggle to swim burdened by the weight of his clothing.
Seconds later, Samara had reached the mesh canopy and realized he had no where else to go. He was trapped and his air was running out fast. He could feel the kicking and tugging of frantic people trying to fight for a breath of air all around him. It remained pitch black and Samara continued to fight the impulse to panic.
Samara grabbed his final breaths as he clutched the upper grate by pressing his mouth and nose through the small opening. He took five or six of the deepest breaths he could muster under the conditions. He held his breath for what seemed forever. The pain and fear coursed through him at lightning speed, jolting his body in wild spasms while trying to get free from the bunker. He thought maybe he could beat this thing, this couldn’t be the end. He dove to the bottom of the tank and grasped the steel grate and laid motionless as others above him struggled and kicked, one by one succumbing to their fate. He closed his eyes and preyed for his heart to calm to preserve whatever oxygen he could. A minute passed, maybe two. Soon he realized he was the only person alive in the tank.
His air completely depleted he allowed his body to drifted to the top. He felt lifeless legs and motionless bodies adrift as he ascended to what was sure to be his final moment. As he ran his hands up the sides of what felt like a muscular middle aged man he began to become entangled in what must have been a long overcoat. He proceeded up or what seemed to be up in the darkness. Then suddenly, air, precious air. What had happened, had the grate opened, surely not. It was so dark, so cold now but there was air. He inhaled deeply several times in a row, coughing and spitting and calming down from his mixture of panic and joy. He felt the back of the man in front of him. He was lifeless yet still warm. Then in a flash it came to him. He had risen into an air pocket trapped in the shoulders of the man’s overcoat. It was a good-sized pocket maybe twice as big as his head. Samara continued to breathe as shallowly as possible again conserving oxygen. It was very difficult as he shivered uncontrollably.
After five minutes a buzzer sounded and the top lid was quickly removed. The workers above did a quick check of the dead, poking and prodding with long wooden sticks. After making sure no one was left alive, the top mesh canopy was slid back into the walls of the bunker and the water was allowed to drain back down to the original level.
Samara lay motionless. What was a life saving pocket of air now was a wet blanket over his face. He slowly moved his hand up to the man’s neck and lifted the coat near his hairline to reveal a streak of light and some fresh air. He couldn’t see much, just the sides of the pit and the side of the face of the woman he’d spoken to earlier. Then with a jolt and the whir of electric motors he felt the sensation like when an elevator begins to rise. He could see the walls of the pit move downward. Slow and steady Samara surmised the floor of the pit was rising to meet the level of the plant floor.
He knew he was near the top of the pile of dead human beings. He also new that even the slightest movement would alert whoever might be watching that he was still alive. So he breathed as shallowly as possible, trying not to move a muscle even though his leg was pinned at an odd angle and he was slowly beginning to lose feeling.
As the floor of the pit reached level with the concrete floor above, bodies piled near the edges including Samara’s flopped out of the pit. In one swift motion during the tumble he did his best to free himself from the overcoat while trying to look as lifeless and natural as possible. He was successful as soon he found himself lying on his side in a semi fetal position facing toward the pile.
Samara decided that if he was going to live he had to get a look at what he was up against. Gradually he opened his eyes until they were wide open. After all he thought, didn’t people sometimes die with their eyes open? The trick would be to not let anyone see him blink.
The workers were dressed in identical uniforms and headgear, with gloves and plastic face shields. From what he could see and hear he surmised there were maybe four workers in the room. It seemed three were pulling clothing off the bodies, using what appeared to be box knifes to cut what wouldn’t come off easily. They tossed the clothes, shoes and belts into separate metal bins on wheels located all around the pit. The other worker was driving a medium size bulldozer with a front-end loader. Samara noticed the bulldozer was quiet though because it had tires instead of metal tracks.
As the bodies were stripped, thankfully at the far end of the pile, they were scooped up by the loader. Sometimes as many as five or six bodies were scooped up, sometime as few as two, depending on how lucky the driver was. As soon as he’d gotten what was an acceptable load, the vehicle would swivel around with one set of wheels locked, the other set quickly facing the opposite direction. The bodies were then unceremoniously dumped onto a slow moving conveyor belt that crept through an opening in the side of the room.
The three men on the floor were getting closer and closer to Samara. It seemed to him that in fact he might just be the final body to be stripped. He sneaked in occasional blinks as the men approached but continued to lay motionless. Then it was finally his turn. He felt his legs get straightened out, then with one efficient move his belt was unfastened and removed. The white clad man above him then grabbed the waistband of his pants and lifted his mid section off the cement just briefly as he ran the box knife down the length of his leg. In another sweeping motion he cut the other side and suddenly Samara was naked from the waist down. Soon the rest of his clothes were stripped off and his head hit the pavement in a thud as he slumped to the side. He had too much adrenaline pumping through his system now to shiver. Even though he breathed slowly to avoid detection he felt quite warm in what was obviously a refrigerated room.
Thankfully the man was good at his job and he hadn’t cut Samara’s flesh. The man knew that damaging the produce in any way might lead to him getting fired or worse, eaten. The three workers soon disappeared through a set of double doors that opened automatically when they approached. The man on the bulldozer continued to scoop up the remaining bodies two and three at a time. Samara knew it wouldn’t be long before he was on the conveyor belt. He needed a plan, what could he do now? Then suddenly it came to him. There was no way he’d get anywhere in his present condition. He watched the dozer approach once again and plow into the remaining corpses. The force push Samara about three feet across the cold concrete floor but when the scoop raised he was still there.
The driver managed to gather up four this time and as the scoop swiveled around to head to the conveyor, Samara jumped to his feet and ran naked toward the back of the dozer careful not to step on the metal grate. He quickly made his way up the back of the vehicle undetected. There he was standing behind the driver, who was oblivious to his presence. Only a windowless opening separated them.
He knew he couldn’t just kill the driver, he had to maintain control of the loader as well. The last thing he need now was for it to crash into the wall or the conveyor. So after taking a deep breath Samara reached into the cab through the opening with his right arm and cinched the inner joint of his elbow around the mans neck and applied as much pressure as he could muster. With his left hand he reached around the other side and turned the wheel. The dozer began to turn fairly tight circles causing enough centrifugal force to dump two of the bodies out of the loader onto the concrete. The driver struggled for a relatively short time. It was surprising at how easy it was to kill someone.
He pushed the driver’s limp body to the side and reached down and flipped the gearshift into neutral. He jumped down and made his way around to the side of the now idling machine. He stepped up and grabbed the driver by the collar and quickly pulled him down to the ground. Samara suddenly got the shivers as he started to remove the man’s clothing and equipment. The cloths were surprisingly a good fit for Samara, even the boots were comfortable.
He grabbed the driver by the wrists and dragged him around to the front-end loader and rolled him up onto the two remaining bodies. He knew that he had to finish what the driver had started to avoid suspicion. He jumped up into the cab and after fiddling with the controls for a moment, he popped the clutch and proceed to dump the bodies onto the conveyor. He swung around and headed for the three remaining bodies. He angled the dozer so as to scoop them up in one pass. He cringed as the scoop hit the first corpse but proceeded on to pick up the other two. After a quick dump he turned the dozer off and jumped down from the cab.
“Houser!” a voice shouted from behind. Samara turned to see a large man with a clipboard in his hand walking towards him.
Samara quickly turned his face to the side so the man couldn’t see him. He put his hands in his pockets where he found a knife that must have belonged to the driver. He slowly withdrew the knife and looked down at it and bit down on his lip contemplating killing another man.
“What the hell are you doing?” the strange man asked. “Get back on the line!”
Samara glanced at him. He had no idea what it meant to go back on the line. He turned away from the man and then looked back at him.
By this time the man was no longer looked at Samara but he yelled again,“Get back on the line before I put you in the line!”
This time Samara knew he meant business. “Yes sir,” Samara said walking to the conveyer belt behind him. As he approached the double doors, he was overcome with the smell of blood and he shivered in the cold. Standing on the other side, in a long line were men in uniforms cutting meat as it came down the line. They placed the bones onto another belt going the opposite direction. Everyone carried a knife and used it at a speed that impressed even Samara as he watched them work. Occasionally, the men would run their knives through a sharpener attached to the bench. Fat went into a tub that was replaced as soon as if filled and the cut meat was allowed to move on down the line into another room.
Samara stepped up to the line and gagged. He backed up and dropped his knife seeing what was coming down the line. He spun around and looked up at the racks of meat hanging above him and noticed they were human carcasses. He stepped away and walked quickly down the line towards where the bodies were coming from.
“Houser!” he heard again. The sounds of heavy footsteps came up from behind him and he felt a hand grab his arm. “You get your ass up to the office right now!” the man said.
Samara shook his head holding back his nausea. “The office? Right!” Samara said, getting his act together. He had no idea why the man didn’t recognize him as an imposter.
The strange man shoved Samara away from the line towards the office. He slipped on the greasy floor then steadied himself against a barrel of fat. He noticed the grease draining out of a crack in the barrel onto the floor. Instinctively, Samara walked to a staircase and began walking up them to what he perceived as an office on the second floor.
Upon reaching the office door, he knocked and stood awaiting a reply. For a moment he heard nothing but the sounds of machines and the grinding of metal. “Get in here!” a disembodied voice, said from within the office. Samara opened the door and stepped into a dark foreboding room lined with tables and office equipment. Atop the tables were scattered papers, cups and a pile of metal parts from what looked like one of the machines outside.
“You wanted to see me?” Samara asked.
“No crap!” the man said, not concerning himself with the workers identity. He was the boss. Samara could tell right away. “I need you to go to the special processing room. I have a special order tied up in there and I need it done right away. I have two others there already.”
Samara inadvertently shook his head. He had no idea he was even doing it.
“Do you have a problem with that?” the boss yelled.
“No sir!” Samara replied. “I’ll get right on it.”
At the special processing room, Samara was in a situation he did not know how to get out of. He had to go along until he could make sense of what was happening and escape from this place. The door swung open and two guards stood over a man strapped down on a stainless steel cutting table. Samara knew right away that this was Aquarius.
Samara looked over at Aquarius in horror. He was half out of it, shivering on the metal table. Across the table were the two other men wearing the same uniform he was wearing. He had no love for Aquarius, but he was the only person that he recognized and thought maybe that he could be of some help.
“Leave me alone with him for a moment,” Samara said to the other men. His request was met with odd looks from his work mates. He seemed to be out of order.
“What are you going to do?” one of them asked. “He is nothing but product you know. We don’t go around conversing with livestock. It is policy.”
“I’m changing policy,” Samara replied. He stood, knife in hand, waiting for them to comply.
“Where are we supposed to go?” the man asked. “Boss man is standing outside the door along with security. I have no intentions of joining this thing. At least not yet.”
Samara did not know what to do. If he couldn’t get them to leave, he had to do his conversing with them standing by. It was his only choice. “How are you Donald?” Samara asked. Aquarius looked up at him in a daze and read his nametag.
“Houser? Do I know you from somewhere?”
“Don’t you recognize me? It is me, Samara.”
Aquarius opened his eyes wide and his mouth hung open. “Samara?” he asked.
“You’ve got to stop them, they’re going to butcher me!” he whispered forcefully.
The two other meat cutters backed away and slowly stepped towards the door. Aquarius took notice and brought it to Samara’s attention with a nod and a glance.
“Stop!” Samara said to the men. “Get back over here!”
The two workers ran to the door and opened it. They ran outside and left the two men alone inside.
“Quick! Cut the ties!” Aquarius yelled.
Samara took his razor sharp knife and sliced through the restraints like they were butter. In a second, Aquarius was on his feet grasping two cutting knives from the knife rack on the wall.
“We’ve got to get out of here before they bring back help!” Aquarius yelled.
“How?” Samara yelled back. “I have no idea how to get out of here!”
Just then the door busted opened and two security guards ran into the room brandishing pistols. Aquarius grabbed a meat hook from the knife rack and flung it at the nearest guard sticking him in the neck. Aquarius ran over and grabbed the bleeding guard who was struggling to remove the hook and stop the bleeding. Aquarius used him as a shield as the second guard unloaded his gun at him. Without thinking, Samara grabbed a meat cleaver from the knife rack and came around behind the second guard. With one swift motion, Samara brought the cleaver down upon the guard’s right forearm, it’s hand still firing, cutting it off with razor precision. The arm, along with the gun struck the ground with a thud and a clank. Blood shot out of the open wound, spilling all over the floor. Samara kicked the guard in the groin and pushed him back through the doorway onto the catwalk floor. His head struck the rail hard and he slumped unconscious onto the metal walkway.
“Let’s get the hell out of here!” Aquarius yelled, stepping over the guard who had apparently succumbed to the blood loss from his neck and multiple gunshot wounds. Samara followed him out the door and ran down the catwalk keeping one hand on the guardrail and the other sliding along the wall. Looking over his shoulder as he ran, Samara could see workers down on the floor and bodies hanging from hooks above their heads. As far as he could tell, no one noticed them up on the catwalk running for their lives.
“This way,” Aquarius yelled darting down a long hallway. On the side of the wall a sign read, “Kill Floor,” and an arrow pointed in the direction they were running. Coming out of the hallway, they stopped at a T intersection and hesitated. One hallway had a sign reading “Kill Floor,” and the other sign read, “Packaging.” Samara looked to Aquarius for an answer; he could not find it in his eyes.
“Kill Floor!” Samara yelled. It was almost like he knew something about this place.
Aquarius shook his head in disagreement. “No, I think we should go that way.”
With a solemn look of confidence Samara calmly looked Aquarius in the eye and said, “I know this is the right way, don’t argue with me!” He maintained the stare until finally Aquarius gave in.
“OK,” Aquarius said. “Let’s go, and you better be right. We only have one shot.”
Samara led at first, then Aquarius overtook him and they both scrambled down some stairs toward the kill floor. Once they entered the room, they turned and ran along a walkway along the outer edge towards a large open door. A quick glance at the pit and the metal grate sent shivers down his spine as he recalled his prior experience.
The men then continued to run until again Samara came to a complete stop. Aquarius turned and yelled back to him, “Get your behind moving!”
Samara was lost in the moment as he looked up at the body of the woman he had spoken to in the trailer, hanging upside down from two meat hooks placed in her calves. Her neck was slit and she was chalky white from having her blood drained. Looking into her eyes, he saw the vacant lifeless stare of the dead and he stomach began to churn. He now realized that this dream was no dream.
Samara touched his lips as he looked at the blue tint of the lips on the body before him. Looking down upon the kill floor, he saw pools of blood in vats and men using wide brooms to push water and blood into a drain in the center of the room. He could not stay any longer.
Aquarius unexpectedly took off down the walkway without Samara. A second later, Samara gathered his wits and took off after Aquarius shuffling his feet to maintain his balance on the slippery floor. The light from the doorway became brighter and brighter as they approached the outside world. Samara’s work coat was thin and covered in blood which chilled in the breeze making him feel worse than Aquarius who was only wearing a thin shirt and jeans.
“We have to find some shelter!” Samara yelled as they exited the building.
“Keep it down!” Aquarius said as he turned back. “We can’t get caught again. I’ll be fine till we get out of here.”
In a sprint, they ran to the far end of the building looking out for workers who putted around in forklifts and work vehicles. Parked along side were empty tractor-trailers and pallets that could be used to hide behind. They needed heat. Dodging behind a trash dumpster, Aquarius whispered to Samara, “We need to hitch a ride.”
With his jaw hanging open, Samara asked, “On what?”
Pointing to the loading dock, Aquarius replied, “One of those semis”
Samara hesitated and was struck with a memory. He flashed back to when he was trapped in the back of one of those trailers and was unable to escape. The thought of entering one again scared him beyond words. “Isn’t there another way to get out?” he asked. “Other than in the back of one of those trucks.”
“We could hang out in this dumpster until they pick it up,” Aquarius said sarcastically.
“How about plan C?” Samara asked.
Looking at Samara, Aquarius had an idea. “You look like one of them now,” Aquarius said. “All you have to do is go up there and ask for a ride. You have identification right there.”
Samara looked at his nametag on his chest and for a moment the idea made perfect sense. Only he would need the courage to pretend to be someone he was not.
“How about we just walk out to the parking lot, grab a car and drive right on out,” Samara replied worrying that a face to face meeting with a truck driver would be risky.
“Now you’re being ridiculous,” Aquarius laughed. “I’m sure you’re not going to find any keys left in the cars. How do you plan to unlock the car?”
Samara reached into his pocket and with a wry smile, pulled out a set of car keys.
“We just need to find a way to make sure they don’t notice you,” Samara said.
“Yeah, you’re right. I don’t have identification.”
“If you walk with me, they may not ask anything. If they do, we’ll need a good story. I don’t think they will accept that you forgot your ID at home.”
“No, I don’t suppose they would.” Aquarius was now lost in thought. He needed a better idea and felt it was his responsibility to come up with one. His eyes lit up for a second then he went back to the same intense expression.
“You have an idea?” Samara asked.
“Well,” Aquarius hesitated. “You could just go get your car and come back around here and pick me up. Just pop your trunk and I’ll get inside and close it.”
“That might work,” Samara said scratching his chin. “As long as no one asks me what I’m doing driving behind the building.”
“Security is a bit lax here.”
“I think you’re right, it might just be a matter of luck.”
Samara rose to his feet and bent down behind the dumpster looking around for a chance to start walking. He didn’t want to draw attention to Aquarius who was hiding behind.
Aquarius reached over and tugged on Samara’s coat. “You’re not going to drive off without me are you?” he asked with a concerned look. “I’m sorry about pushing you into the gate and all. At the time I had to.”
Samara looked back down to Aquarius and the memories came rushing back to him. “That’s right!” he said. “You son of a gun!”
Aquarius now knew he should have kept his mouth shut. “I’m on you’re side now!” Aquarius pleaded. “I am here because of my father incompetence. The gatemaster and I need your help now, we must complete the mission!”
Samara just stood there staring and thinking about what Aquarius had done to him. He did not know the circumstances of why Aquarius was even here at the meat packing plant but he knew he was in trouble.
“I’ll come back for you,” Samara said. “Don’t worry, I’ll give you a chance to make it up to me.”
A smile crossed Aquarius’ face and Samara departed. Aquarius leaned back against the wall and watched Samara walk to the end of the building and turned the corner towards the employee parking lot.
Samara walked confidently along the side of the building scanning the rows of cars. He pulled his keys from his pocket and looked to see if he could identify his car from something printed on them. They only print on the keys were the letters GM and the letter A engraved underneath. He was going to have to think hard and let his intuition take over, leading him to his vehicle among the hundreds parked in the lot.
He looked about and kept walking trying not to look out of place. Rows and rows of cars passed by as he moved along scanning for something that looked familiar.
Just then he heard a voice call to him. “Hey! You need a clean coat?”
Samara was startled and his heart skipped a beat. He turned to see a man running to him with a clean coat in his hands. He was one of the meat packing plant employees.
With a smile Samara replied, “Sure, I could use a clean coat,” holding out his arms.
The man stopped running and handed Samara the coat. Steam panted from his mouth and nose as he read Samara’s nametag.
“Houser?” he asked. Samara was hoping he was just trying to make conversation.
“Yes, that’s me,” Samara said. He swallowed hard and tried to look calm.
“You taking off early?” the man asked.
Samara was about to explode. He had no idea what to say. He bit down on his lip and replied, “Yes.”
The man expected more of an answer and for a moment it was awkwardly quiet. Samara looked around trying not to make eye contact with the man using the time to look for an escape route if he had to make a run for it. He immediately saw the razor wire fence and the two guard towers by the exit.
“Do you want me to take your old coat? I can send it to laundry,” the man said.
To Samara’s relief he replied, “Yes, I would appreciate it,” pulling off his bloodstained coat. He handed it to the stranger.
“You might want this back,” the man said with Samara’s nametag in his hand. “You’ll never get out the gate without it.” The stranger had a smile on his face. Samara felt odd about the nice way he was treated considering how those people hauled in the trucks were treated.
Samara pulled on his new coat and clipped his nametag on the collar. As he clipped it he read the writing on the nametag again and this time noticed a number letter combination below the words “Hawthorne Meat Packing Inc.” It read F-56.
Samara looked out to the parking lot and saw signs posted on the light poles with large black letters written on them. He seemed to be standing in section B according to the nearest sign, and assumed the letters on his nametag was a parking assignment. Now he had a clue and started walking again following the signs.
Cars and trucks seemed to be coming and going quite often in and out of the compound, which made him feel escaping may not be a problem. As he moved along, he watched semis pull into a special gate and kick up snow as they drove around back. Employees seemed to come in a different entrance. The smell out here was less overpowering than inside.
From section to section he moved, until he found the pole with the letter F attached to it. He then walked down the rows of cars, noticing each stall had a sign and a number assigned to it. He had fifty more stalls to walk past until he found out what kind of a car he drove. He pulled his keys out of his pocket and let them jingle as he walked. He was feeling better about his situation with each step.
As he walked, another employee was exiting her car and rushing down the driveway towards the plant. He assumed she was late for work and smiled and waved as she passed by. To his horror she stopped and approached him.
“Hey, where are you going?” she asked. She seemed to be sticking her nose into his business but apparently didn’t know who he was.
Samara again swallowed hard as he stopped. “I have to get home. My wife called and she said there was a problem with my baby daughter.”
“Your baby daughter?” she asked. She had the look of confusion on her face. The woman knew something was amiss for there were no babies. She assumed this guy was crazy so she excused herself as amicably as possible.
He wasn’t actually sure why the woman was so quickly put off, but he was sure he didn’t want to stick around to find out. The woman turned and jogged down the driveway towards the plant to Samara’s relief. He didn’t need anymore distractions.
At stall fifty-six, Samara found a ninety-one, Chevy 4-door sedan parked with a Hawthorne parking permit in the back window. He approached the side of the car and placed the key in the lock. With an easy turn the lock clicked and the door opened allowing him to climb inside. He placed the key in the ignition and started the car. It purred like a cat.
Now it was decision time. He thought to himself, “Do I pick up Aquarius and risk being captured or do I just take off and leave the sorry son of a gun to fend for his own life. It was Aquarius’s fault he came to this place in the first place. If it weren’t for him, Aquarius would be dead now anyway. Haven’t I done enough already?”
The thoughts raced in his mind while he scanned his dashboard. He had plenty of gasoline and a parking permit on his rearview mirror. He didn’t think it would be a problem to just take off and leave. He would just have to hand his name badge to the gatekeeper and they would scan it and hand it back. He would then be on his way out of this place.
“But to where?” he thought. He now knew he needed Aquarius’ help. He found this world very difficult to understand. He knew this would soon turn into more problems.
Samara put the car in reverse and backed out of his stall. He then put the car in drive and moved down between the rows of cars until he reached the end, pausing to look for cross traffic. Finding the path clear, he continued on making a right turn heading on towards the side of the building. Once he made it to the side, he drove on around to the back and stopped along side the dumpster where Aquarius was hiding.
Nervously, he waited for Aquarius to step out from behind and run to the car. Reaching over he unlatched the glove compartment door, and found the trunk release button. As he pressed it he heard the trunk door pop open and he leaned back upright. To his shock he saw a pickup truck bear down on him and come to a halt just in front of his bumper. In his rear view mirror he saw a car pull up behind him and box him in. Aquarius was no where to be found.
The two vehicles moved in close and made contact with his front and rear bumper. He could not gain any momentum and ram either one of them. He opened his door and jumped outside the car. Running past the dumpster, he dodged the door of the car behind him as the driver stepped out.
Before he made it to the end of the building, Samara heard a siren start to wail from atop the building and the sounds of individual car sirens from all around him. As he made the corner, a patrol car spun around and screeched to a halt.
Samara ran around the corner and sprinted down the side of the building, pursued by security who were now on foot. The building was huge and the side of it ran for over two hundred yards. From the parking lot ahead, he saw two more patrol cars turn the corner and head in his direction. He was now boxed in on all sides, by the building on one side, razor wire on the other side, two cars in front of him, and three men behind him.
Samara knew he was out of options and stopped running. It took only a few seconds for the men behind him to catch up with him and tackle him to the ground. His hands were pulled behind him and cuffed and his feet were bound with leather straps.
One of the patrolmen said into his radio, “Get the wagon over here.” He barely even acknowledge Samara’s presence. A moment later, the wagon pulled up along side Samara and he was hauled up and tossed inside. He now knew what it felt like to be an animal in the minds of men. As he was being pushed back away from the door he screamed out. “You son of a gun’ses!”
The door was slammed shut and darkness fell upon Samara. He felt the truck move off with a jerk and used the momentum to roll over onto his stomach. The cuffs behind him dug into his back.
He wondered where Aquarius was. They must have found him behind the dumpster he thought. He surmised that the woman in the parking lot had reported suspicious activity and sent security after him.
|Morning Star chapter 18||Morning Star chapter 2|
|Morning Star chapter 24||Morning Star chapter 14|
|Morning Star chapter 6||Morning Star chapter 8|