It always happened on a Tuesday.
Ever since he was young, which did not seem that long ago, Bud knew that he would meet his fate on a Tuesday. All of his ancestors came to their demise on a Tuesday, all of his friends and their ancestors came to their end on a Tuesday. In fact, it was not just on Tuesdays, it was on every Tuesday. You see since time immemorial, or at least as far back as oral tradition would allow, The Harvesters came to Bud’s community on Tuesdays.
The danse macabre would begin with the familiar rumble of the Death Box; a horrid, antiseptic caravan used to transport the mutilated remains of Bud’s community. The Harvesters would then commence their unspeakably grotesque massacre, they would collect the corpses in rough burlap sacks, and then they would leave. No reason provided, no offense made by the community, just senseless slaughter. He had even heard fantastical tales about how The Harvesters would keep their victims on the very edge of life and death by providing them with the barest amount of nourishment while displaying the bodies around their homes. It would seem the perversion of The Harvesters knew no bounds.
Perhaps the cruelest thing about The Harvesters was that while they held no regard for age, gender, or class, their pogrom was exclusively directed at the most beautiful of the community. It seemed an unfair destiny indeed to be born into a community renowned for the fineness of its members only to have these pulchritudes systematically butchered at the moment of their bloom into glorious perfection. Bud often mused to himself that were there any justice in the heavens a community such as his would evolve into unsightly beings with naught but barbed dispositions. There was no justice however, and he was living proof. Bud had often been hailed as one of the most stunning members of his community which, he imagined, would be a source of great pride in any society but his own. No, for him and his kind beauty was a death sentence. Sure, the unprepossessing and repugnant members died as well but you stood absolutely no chance if you were as ravishing as he.
This wouldn’t seem so hopeless, and might even border on the romantic if the community had some way of defending itself. There was some talk from time to time of starting an uprising and yet even the best defenses of the community were nothing but thorn pricks to The Harvesters. The community was not without its legends; however, and The Incident of ’94 is much talked about. In this historic event, a community near Bud’s own was able to ensnare a Harvester; but the most grounded among the storytellers maintain that it only lasted for a brief time and the Harvester escaped relatively unscathed. The best defense was a preventative one: being born ugly, or at the very least to be ugly for the majority of your life. The only hope for those that were unfortunate enough to be even slightly attractive was to hide in the shade of obscurity and avoid being seen for as long as possible so as to enjoy some longevity before their inevitable slaying.
Bud’s plight seemed particularly cursed for he became a paragon while still in the flower of his youth. Not only this but due to his family roots he was in a position in the community where it would be impossible for him to hide. He had tried everything he could think of to ruin his magnificent visage. He turned away from the sun to pale himself, he even tried to refuse food or drink. All of this was to no avail however and Bud remained, despite his best efforts, beautiful.
The Tuesday began like any other: the gracefully silent sunrise that splintered the dawn sky into a million glorious reflections, the crisp morning dew that was at once invigorating and soothing, the sound of birds playfully chirping their hellos to anyone who cared to listen. It seemed absurd that a paradise such as this would soon be shattered by the mindless slaughter that was to come. It was ridiculous, laughable even, that this world which contained so breathless a scene could house one equaling it in repulsiveness. The rumble of The Box rudely pulled Bud from his rumination.
The silence between when The Box was turned off to when the slayings commenced was always insufferable. The Harvesters approached as they always did. Without any pomp or ceremony they calmly, even contentedly, walked toward their helpless victims. Bud thought he could even hear some of them humming pleasantly to themselves, humming! Happy tunes of their people no doubt. It would be just like the bastards to have their own childish melodies be the last thing the community would hear.
They reached the community sooner than Bud had anticipated but then again nothing was stopping them. They began their ghastly work with cold and well-practiced precision. The wails of the beautiful could immediately be heard and quickly escalated beyond biblical proportions. The Harvesters move in a smooth calculated way that offsets the frenzied emotions now flying through the community.
With saws and shears and knives they carried out the slaughter. They would first take hold of their victims so roughly that necks were almost broken, stretching them as if on a rack, before proceeding to decapitate them. Perhaps it would have been better if they did break necks.
Howling, stretching, lacerating, the community was a cacophony of death. All around him Bud could see his friends and family being savagely brutalized. He knew at any moment it would be his turn.
He turned to see his brother fall lifelessly into one of The Harvesters’ bags of corpses and just then he felt something pulling his neck to its breaking point.
Pulling, pulling, pulling, he wished they would just end it…
What was that? Did the Harvester just smell him? This sudden act of being smelled by a Harvester took him so completely by surprise that he didn’t even notice the knife as it began to cut through his neck. Bud was made painfully aware however as soon as the blade broke through the first layer of cells. Time slowed to a crawl. He told himself to fight, to run, but his thorny exterior was no match for the Harvester and he was firmly rooted where he stood. Each second was a new adventure in agony, unbearably so. Somewhere in his periphery, Bud was cognizant of the sawing motion of the knife, its teeth slowly, almost tenderly, cutting through him.
His world grew dimmer and dimmer and he felt the last of his hope leave him as his head became detached from his neck. Shockingly there was no blood. Anywhere. He couldn’t feel the warmth of the sun anymore, couldn’t smell the morning air anymore. The last sight he saw was the side of the Death Box with its location and contact information emblazoned in bright red letters on the side. His hearing was the last to go.
Alas he did not speak human and so he would never know that the last thing he heard was,
“What lovely roses we have this year!”