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An SF horror novella

Copyright 2013 Douglas T. Vale

Cover image courtesy of La_torre /

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Five-five-seven-two slept and woke in the Machine and worked sorting the cherries. He had known nothing but these for his outer life. Voices spoke times—numbers told him what to do and when to do it—voices spoke orders, voices spoke news. "Congratulations, five-five-seven-two. You have existed for thirty-two years as a faithful worker in the Machine. Perhaps one day you shall be as the Tallics, who are deathless."

Half of what the voices said meant nothing to him. What was ‘faithful’, what was ‘deathless’? He had no idea. Thinking on it helped little. In the end it took a home in his secret place, the hidden place, where he set all the little things he could catch. The words he laid out one after the other, re-saying them before Night claimed him.

Tallics was one word he thought he knew. That was what some called the Hard Ones—those with the grey shell, and the single long glowing eye. They stood tall, and they rattled when they walked. They had purified themselves to become ‘Human’, another unfamiliar word.

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