The microspeakers continue whispering their incantation throughout the city. The Harvest alerts play every day at routine intervals: six in the morning, twelve in the afternoon, three in the afternoon and then once more a half hour before sundown, whenever that is during the season. The message is repeated all across the steel continent; in every room, in every building. It is illegal to reside in a property not linked to VoiceComm.
You don’t need to be surface-side too long to catch the gist of Harvest. Every night is the same.
Lock the doors.
Bolt the windows.
Use only one light at any time.
Put in earplugs.
Draw the curtains.
Don’t look outside.
Of course, you peek out the window the first night you’re left unattended. You hear all that commotion start up outside when the sun goes down. It’s like a bustling marketplace starts humming through the walls.
But it’s true what they say – not even once.
All it takes is that first glance. You catch something unfathomable. Something that your mind simply cannot comprehend. There is no way to explain it. You might gaze out through the glass unto the strange hues of light vibrating on impossible spectrums. You may see the reflection of the red moon across a hulk of pulsating black chitin. Large mandibles covered in sores from which monstrous pupils peer out. Which peer back at you through the glass.
The first night, you’ll look away in fear and disgust. But then the next night, there you’ll be, clenching your teeth while you try not to draw the curtain again. While you try to just not eventhink of what’s going on out there. While you fail.
While you peek again. Night after night.
And what you see during the Harvests from your human accommodation room will start to change you. Even though they warn you back home not to play voyager, not to give in to curiosity, you’re still going to do it. Despite the threat of a revoked PlanetVisa and deportation back to Earth for trial, you still peer through panes of glass, through cracks in the wall. Just to catch a glimpse of something else.
But then you’re doing it every night you’re on the planet. You start forgoing sleep, to spy on Harvest, soon you have to watch the Harvests just to feel normal. The alien nights lose their strange lustre. You become familiar with them.
However, you will almost never realise how familiar Harvest has become with you.
Before you know it, you’re not looking away until sunrise. The images of last night’s Harvest burn in your head, keeping you awake until the sun falls once more. Then, you have no choice but to watch the next Harvest lest you go insane – clinging onto the wild hope that somehow tonight’s Harvest will be different, that tonight will be the night you figure it out. You keep your face pressed up against the glass for another whole night until the scenes outside go dim and it hits six o clock and the Harvest alert of a new dawn breaks the silence.
YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE. HARVEST BEGINS AT SUNDOWN . . .
And then, Harvest comes for you.
That’s when it happens. That next night, when you’re too deep now to come back up for air. You haven’t slept in days, you’ve lost an unhealthy amount of weight. You are losing your mind trying to process what happens each night. Trying to figure out what the fuck it all means. And then you see your Mother in your head, heartbroken and disappointed. Her words of caution replaying ad infinitum directly to your conscience:
“Don’t experiment with other planets. It’s not natural.”
And then they knock at the door.
You hear that wet, rustling noise they make when they talk.
Your shaky hand clasps the faux stainless-steel door handle, sweat rolls from your tear ducts, your mouth is dry. Your tongue sandpaper. You open the door and the red moonlight spills in the room. You are no longer behind glass.
Not that I would know any of this, though.
I don’t peek during Harvest.
Creative words by: Jonathon Davidson