The Locust Farmer
and the Green Children
by Rudolfo Serna
Part 1 appears
in this issue.
The farmer and his daughter did not see the Surgeon General and his deputies approaching, or the “sand dogs” pulling the carriage on the dirt road toward the black house and the silver silos in the yard. The chrome cylinders contained swarms swirling inside, programmed to emerge and fly across the land.
The rattling cart would take the prisoners to the town hall and to the pyres that awaited those infected. Large slug-like creatures, kept alive to be used as pack animals, pulled children to the fire, and then carried their ashes away.
The slugs’ bulbous, hairless bodies stood on short stumps with cleaver-like hooves, grunting and huffing, resurrections of the geneticists. The beasts had been allowed to survive for their labor and meat, just as the locusts had been allowed to exist to collect the purple grass grown from the deserts.
The deputies broke into the house with masks and gloves made of woven locust spit.
Rosa screamed as she was being dragged from the black house with her father, who was knocked to the ground with a club. The deputies pulled them apart as the farmer tried to hold on.
“We are sorry, master farmer! We are sorry!” one of the deputies said, knowing that the farmer possessed knowledge obscure to those who had been raised in the town made of fiberboard from regurgitated grass. The deputies had heard stories about the farmer’s powers, those born after the fall.
The deputies pulled the girl and farmer to the front of the black house. The sand dogs bayed as they excreted a gelatinous shell that protected them from the dry climate.
The Surgeon General wore the same woven ashen-grey gloves and mask that the deputies had worn to protect against breathing in the tainted flesh of the infected. The Surgeon General stared out from under a wide brim hat dyed with purple grass.
“You can’t take her,“ the farmer said, but the deputies just repeated, “We are sorry, master farmer, we are sorry!”
The Surgeon General stood over the farmer, who was trying to get up after another blow to his side.
“There’s nothing wrong with them,” the farmer spat.
“Yes, there’s something very wrong,” the Surgeon General said.
“It’s the blood! The locusts stay away from them after they change, it’s a defense, it’s natural,” the farmer said.
“Natural? There is nothing natural about their deformities. They cannot be allowed to exist to infect the rest.” The Surgeon General circled closer to him.
“They are our children!” The farmer said.
“They must be sacrificed for the rest of those still human.”
“It will not stop them from changing!”
“You are guilty of hiding your infected child, endangering the rest of us.” The Surgeon General’s face hidden in the shadow of shifting sunlight across an aqua green sky.
The farmer tried to focus on the face behind the mask, one of those that had escaped from the capital with the Old Order, before the fall.
“But you know this, don’t you? You know all of this,” the farmer frantically said. “You’re not here because of the girl.”
The Surgeon General looked down on them from behind the mask.
“There’s no way you could have known,” the farmer said, trying to see, trying to remember the face. “You are here for something else.”
The Surgeon General lowered the mask. The farmer could see the curved lips. “They tolerated you because you were able to bring in the harvest,“ the Surgeon General said, “but now—”
“They’re grown in my programming. You can’t control them,” the farmer said, still unable to recognize the distorted face, aged and scarred from the war.
“How do you think they got loose?”
The farmer was struggling to stand.
The Surgeon General stepped closer through the rising dust.
“You thought you were the only one able to control them?”
“Please, let her go,” the farmer begged.
“She will burn in the town square with the rest. It is the law.” The Surgeon General was close enough for his voice to be heard clearly through the muffled screams of the girl who was being dragged away to the waiting cart.
“Why do you burn them alive?”
“To keep those willing from accepting the change.”
The Surgeon General’s long cloaked body circled the farmer. A stiletto slid from beneath the folds.
“To keep power... You have it, take the swarm. You can have it all,” the farmer said, hearing the screams.
“Don’t you remember?” The Surgeon General said.
“When the smoke rolled through the streets,” the Surgeon General sneered.
“I don’t understand.”
“You believed in this new world. You supported those who resurrected dead species. You brought the disease that started the war. I’m trying to end it. The only way is to stay human, to stay pure.
Memories of the smoke rolling through the streets, the engineers dragged out of their labs and destroyed after the first children turned green.
“It’s the only way.” The Surgeon General drove the stiletto into the farmer’s chest. “You were not the last one to be modified, farmer.”
Rosa called out to her father from the cart used to carry the infected. But he did not answer; he lay dying on the ground in front of the black house.
The Surgeon General stepped over the body and entered the black house. Finding the altar, he looked into the steel tank with the eel-like creatures born of two planets. “Abominations,” he said, pushing the tank over.
The resurrected animals twisted on the black floor, snapping at his boots. With the heel of his boot he crushed the heads of the animals lashing back and forth. Looking up at the flag marked with a five-pointed star. He pulled it down along with the grow lights, scattering the salvaged hoses and pipes from the fallen capital. Water spread across the floor with the roots of ancient plants starving on the black locusts board.
Finding the orange rock that had channeled commands to the hives, the Surgeon General picked up the stone and carried it carefully to the door.
The Surgeon General’s men hurriedly went about setting the rooms on fire with the flames they had stoked in the black hearth. The fire carried through the house as the caravan pulled away with Rosa bound and lying on the bed of the cart, screaming for her father. She would be destroyed with all the other children that had bled in the fields with the rising of the twin moons and the locusts’ harvest.
The farmer’s last thoughts transmitted across the yard to the silver silos, emitting a last command, a last task, reciting the equations in his head, then calling to them with his dying breath. ”X three dash X three dash four X three dash four one...”
The swarm emerged from their silos.
Those of the caravan heard the sound of the composite wings flashing silver behind them. The Surgeon General turned from the crying girl, the blood running from her face, the swarm looming closer. Its shadow blocking out the burnished sun and aqua green sky pink with shadow and distant sundown.
The girl’s cries were replaced with the din of the approaching mass of living technology.
The Surgeon General stood firm with the orange stone that was supposed to transmit coordinates, holding it up to the cloud as if offering a sacrifice, reciting the letters and numbers that had taken years to learn and remember: X six X seven J four split...
But the locusts did not stop at the Surgeon General’s psychic command.
He recited the code again, trying to break the farmer’s spell and turn back the waves of clacking mandibles overtaking them, but could not. Looking over at the house and the body lying in the front yard. The farmer has changed the code.
The locusts covered them, devouring all those on the road. The sand dogs reeled and groaned in agony while their skin was ripped from them in front of Rosa.
The cart tipped over with her blood seeping into the sand of the road. Her bonds loosened around her wrists. hearing the screams of the Surgeon General and the deputies being plucked apart, minute bites being masticated and digested and finally carried away in the abdomens of the swarm moving towards the town.
The bells rang, and all of the town’s children bled at once, their skin turning green beneath their bleeding brows, eyes shining red. Their blood dripped onto the courtyard and gardens they had tilled over, as the clouds of the glittering silver wings approached. The townspeople held each other, screaming. The waves of locusts lapped over rooftop pitches, harvesting the living, consuming bone and flesh.
The people ran for cover, being devoured before they could get through their doors. They were pulled apart in the sky, and pieces rained down on the heads of the green children, mixing with the blood from their eyes and forehead.
There was no sanctuary in their homes for the adults that had already grown ugly and deformed, while the locusts rolled like clouds of poison gas in the capital streets.
The children bled in the town square, their skin transforming, their eyes glaring in the red tint of changing sunlight in the long day. They would not be driven to the stake, bound and lit on fire for the sake of preserving the old ways. Their adult tormentors would become fodder for the locusts.
The locusts would not touch the bleeding children as if the hives recognized them as kindred of the new star. The parents that held them were picked apart and devoured, to be regurgitated onto the farmer’s harvester screens, mixing with the purple grasses of the planet. The locusts would return to their roost by instinct instead of by the will of their maker.
Rosa picked the orange stone from the gelatinous remains of the Surgeon General. She felt nothing emanating from the rock. Its power had died with the farmer. Setting it down, wiping the blood from her eyes, she saw her dead father’s body in front of the burning black house.
* * *
The town disappeared under a cloud of locusts.
Children of the new star, green skin and red eyes crying for their dead parents and lost town, wailing, walking away from the last of what remained of the fallen capital.
The Old Order devoured, the town burning down as the green children gathered to seek the forests at the edge of the purple prairie that stretched over vast deserts to the giant mountain caps.
In the high grass, they walked on, sucking water from the stems and leaves, grazing with the locusts clouds in the distance, bringing the sand dogs with them, carving through their flesh with pieces of sharpened left-over metal, harvesting the crawling beasts soft bone and yellow blood. The green humanoids sang new songs. They slept in the open, lying back to back in the grass, under the two glaring moons, the constellations of a pattern once mapped by the astronomers and astronauts in their silver ships crossing the expanse.
To reach the mountains would take whole rotations of the planet, a lifetime, like their ancestors’ crossing the void. Instead of sleeping in silver ships, they would walk across the prairie, herding the sand dogs through the purple grass.
Locusts in the distance sailed over the land, untethered to any rock transmitter or handler, rising and falling with the twin moons. The children staying clear of the swarms, memories of pain and transformation programmed into them.
Copyright © 2017 by Rudolfo Serna