Chapter Five: Poke the Pet

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I couldn't believe I was still playing dumb. To tell you the truth, I was shocked that the others hadn't yet given up on our charade. By now, little metallic fists were banging on the plexiglass screens of our pens, demanding to know why we wouldn't come to them.

'Perhaps it's time they were taught a lesson.' That's what the booming voice had said. But taught what kind of lesson, I wondered.

My answer came as a thin metal spike protruded from one of the parent's fingers.

'Come here, little human,' it attempted to coo. 'Come here or this nasty spike will jab you.'

I had no idea how these things thought this an ideal tactic to coax us forward. However, I had a duty to my fellow humans to play dumb. Although I wanted nothing more than to cower away from this metallic beast, I crept forward toward its disgruntled child.

'There, that's a good pet,' it drawled. 'Go ahead, pet it.'

The child's soulless black eyes bore into me. It reached out a stubby metal digit and prodded me, hard in the cheek.

Don't lose your temper, I warned myself. The charade had to be kept up until the crowd dwindled. Hopefully, then we'd be able to make our escape.

As the robot child began stretching for a second jab, a gap appeared between the crowd. My eyes followed a brief glimmer, darting above the semi-circle of stone benches. A small opening stood proud, a metal gate swinging back and forth to permit entry. That was our exit. If only we could catch a break, away from these things.


This time the would-be child struck me hard in the temple, sending me flailing onto the straw-covered floor of my pen.

'Look mummy!' it cried, 'Look how weak it is. It fell straight down.'

Inside, instinct was taking hold of me. I inhaled slowly, righting myself when a second metal digit stretched forward and jabbed me again.

What was this, I wondered, some kind of sick entertainment?

Whatever it was, I'd had enough. I glanced to my right, my fellow humans looking as equally pissed. Great blue and purple veins pulsed like angry snakes on their foreheads and temples as their calm masks threatened to dissolve.

All it took was one more jab, one final push beyond the brink of their sanity, and the man in the cage beside me let out a frenzied shriek.

'Get back! Get back, the fuckin' lotta ya!' His eyes darted between our expressionless captors, mad as any I'd ever seen.

As if in response, the large booming voice blared out over the outdoor speakers.

'Number 3 has not been fixed. Warning: number 3 has not been fixed!'

That's it, we're screwed.

As my neighbour beat his fists upon the screen of his pen, the earth beneath us began to shake. Looking up past the crowd, I soon realized why. A great behemoth of a humanoid stomped down the rows of seats, eyes not black like the others but a bright blood red. It shook the earth with every lumbering step until it stood, towering before my neighbour's pen.

'Human number 3, you are not fixed.' The great brute spoke slower than the rest, as if testing its mechanical voice for the first time. 'You will be fixed so you will obey.' Its right arm descended upon the primitive pen, shattering the roof so it caved in. The man, urine now streaming down his thighs, attempted to clamber over the remains of his cage.

'You will not escape,' intoned the giant. With one quick swipe, it extended its hand and seized hold of the man, pinning him to the straw-strewn floor. The rest of us closed our eyes as the familiar whirring of a drill began, followed by a sudden, sharp scream.

If I hadn't been desperate to escape, I would have prayed for death right there. The scream cut off, replaced by the giant robot's near-hypnotic voice.

'Good human,' it seemed to purr. Then, to my utter horror: 'Better fix the rest.'

At this point, every one of my fellows began to scream, slamming their bodies sideways into the walls of their pens. Only I remained silent, staring at the husk of my former neighbour, blood oozing from his forehead.

The giant pulverized the tops of the other's pens, all while the swarm of humanoids watched. They seemed intent on destroying all that we were: all that we could have been. To them, we were a nuisance, or perhaps a threat.

As the final scream of my fellow captives rang out through the courtyard, I found myself staring at the locked door to my pen. The humanoids must have made a mistake. The giant repeated the same pattern every time, first demolishing the roof of our pens and then pinning us down. As the brute towered above my own cage, I bent my knees, and sprang up.

Metal sliced clean through the wooden roof. Splinters scattered in every direction, landing in my skin and hair. As the gigantic arm pulled back, I swung my arms around it, holding on until the beast realized its error. It tried to shake me off but I held on tight. The humanoids were far below me now, the behemoth's height far surpassing their own.

I had one chance. As the giant being shook its arm again, I let go, using the force to propel me across the stone stands. If I was lucky, I would make it. I sprinted up the lines of benches, clambering over every row.

The gate loomed above me, a shimmering silver metal.

Home free, I thought.

But I could hear the crowd of disgruntled humanoids behind me, surging up the stands in waves, feet clanking hard on the dense stone.

With surprising ease, I cleared the last bench and leaped toward the open gate.

'No.' My heart sank. I was faced with another identical area, pens of humans set into the floor below a series of stone stands.

A sea of metallic faces turned toward me.

What do I do? Oh God, what do I do?

It was too late. As I turned to flee, the humanoids scrambled to get a good look at me, the crowd behind me having caught up.

Heavy metal limbs crashed down upon my skull, beating me for my disobedience.

'You have mocked our hospitality,' droned one, pinning me to the floor with ease.
The ground shook as the sea of shiny faces with soulless black eyes parted for the great giant. For a moment, it stood and stared at me, as if in pity. Then, it spoke.

'You will be fixed, human. There is no need to panic. We will feed you and keep you warm for the rest of your days.' It edged forward, the same terrifying metal spike protruding from its hand. 'Just lay still and it will be over soon.'

 I tried to thrash against the creatures that held me, but to no avail. This was it. Time to die. Time to lose everything that made me human, that made me yearn for love, for life.

The behemoth fell to its knees, sending the earth quaking.

'Time to sleep human,' it whispered, 'Time to dream, forever.'


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