The day was clear and curiously stifling. An occasional fluff of white hung motionless in the blue void above. The warmth made good for laziness, but burdensome for the unfortunates obliged to tend the crop.
Zed absorbed the warmth of the sunlight through closed eyes pointed skyward. He tried to remember a happier time, or a more miserable, but could not. His newest helper approached quietly from behind, breaking the spell nonetheless.
“You can see for miles from up here. Just look, Zed, as far as you can see acres and acres nearly ripe for harvest.”
“There’s a lot of work out there and such a short time. It seems impossible. Sometimes I dream of leaving this dreadful place- just up and disappear.” Zed instantly regretted those last words. If report of his desolation got back to the master he would surely suffer unjustly.
Zed also knew there would be no place he could run to or hide. His master had eyes and ears everywhere and owned, or tried to convince anyone who would listen to believe that he owned, all the land in every direction.
Although loyalty was seldom rewarded insubordination was swiftly ended and there were plenty who would turn on their own brother to make points with the master. So Zed trusted in no one.
Such were the times.
The grueling labor was never-ending and Zed’s superiors were condescending and callous at best. It was offensive the way he and so many others were forced to toil and sweat day and night only to be cast aside as the master showed up to take all the credit.
Zed dared not let on that he grew wearier and more disillusioned each day.
Soon, yes very soon, his master incessantly promised the end to this seemingly perpetual cultivation. Then Zed and all the others like him would be free. But pressure was forever on to press forward and never falter the pace.
‘The time of the Great Gleaning is at hand.’
Those nine words were so often abused that they rapt his mind with fury and his stomach with retch.
“This is going to be so much fun. We’re a part of the master’s big plan and we get to destroy the lives of these pitiful creatures at the same time. Aren’t you excited, Zed?”
“We should get started before someone reports our leisure. You already know what you’re supposed to do.”
“Ok, boss, any last minute suggestions?”
He did not like the new assistants condescending tone. When Zed did not reply the other promptly headed for downtown, soaring inches above his obligations. Zed felt certain that the herd below could feel the draft from unseen wings ruffling the hair of their repulsive little heads. Mythical Mother Nature would doubtless get the thanks for the fleeting breeze.
From below aromas of fear, anxiety, desperation and desire mingled strong in the stagnant air along with those of loneliness and hopelessness. This taunted his senses.
Zed screamed his frustrations to the crowded city below. No one heard his cries except his subordinate who, without missing a beat, glanced back briefly- a contemptuous yet contented grin on his leathered face.
Zed clenched his twisted talons into hate-filled fists then spread his scoured wings and dropped from the top of the man made skyscraper, slithering through the thick sky unnoticed toward a nearby high school.
Today Zed may get his wish and vanish from this place. The real Master, the Master of all masters, has His own workers stationed in the same fields, but with an entirely different agenda.
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