My sister moved to the moon when I was six. When I turned eighteen, I followed her there. That’s when everything was still new and exciting. Now there’s more people than there are jobs. We downgraded to a single sleeper pod and slept in shifts. It didn’t take long for that to be unsustainable. We weren’t living, we were barely surviving. I just wanted to feel alive again.
When Tam told me she could get us work with her uncle harvesting Blue I didn’t hesitate. I couldn’t watch any more ads just to get a few extra dollars for dinner. It was starting to rot my brain. I knew harvesting Blue wasn’t going to be easy work, but I just needed to make it through one season, and I could buy me and my sister a house. A real house, not one of those shit pods where you share a bathroom with thirty other people.
I was familiar with Blue. It would get passed around at the shop during lunch. It was often preferred over a meal, it’s certainly cheaper than one. Some people were old school and liked to smoke it, but it mostly ended up as nose candy because it got you a better high and wasn’t as detectable. Not that anyone really cared. Most people were riding the Blue wave. It’s the only thing that made them ok with drowning.
Blue started out as a cure-all for depression and anxiety, but once they discovered its highly addictive nature, they reigned in those prescriptions real quick. That didn’t really solve the problem though, it just created a new one. It wasn’t long before it became available on the streets just like everything else and people started shooting each other over it. You can’t just give people something like that then take it away. It became a part of us.
I’ll admit that I was addicted. That’s a big reason why I jumped at the opportunity without a second thought. I had already left my home world for another. What’s one more?
The shuttle took sixteen days. But once we were there, we were there. Surrounded by beautiful fields of Blue. Nothing I had ever seen before or since was as magnificent as a field in full bloom. I imagine it’s how Dorothy felt the first time she saw the Emerald city.
Training was simple, but terrifying. Our suits had to remain airtight the entire time we were harvesting. The air was breathable enough, but the Blue could make you hallucinate and go mad. We were told that last season a woman slit her own throat in an open field three hours into her shift. The pay was really good though. And we got all the Blue that we wanted.
Nose bleeds came with the territory. They were so common people didn’t even try to hide them. Here it wasn’t an addiction to be frowned upon, but a way of life. I definitely wasn’t on the moon anymore.
The seasons were short, so the hours were long, and we worked fast. They could have over a thousand harvesters, and it still wouldn’t be enough. It was everywhere. But once the season ended, everything died, and it was another year before harvest could begin again.
The fast pace made accidents a daily occurrence. My second week in the fields I watched my sheers glide right though three of the fingers on my left hand, lopping them off. That was the last thing I remembered before waking up in the infirmary. When I clenched my fist, I was relieved that my fingers were still attached. A tiny hole had found its way into my suit. I had been breathing in the good stuff all morning. It was just a hallucination, but it still kept me from missing two full days of pay.
It wasn't long after my stay in the infirmary that the headaches began. They were mild at first, but after a month they became so unbearable that I was shoving a week's worth of Blue up my nose just to get through the morning.
I spoke to the staff doctors about the recurring migraines. They assured me that it was just due to stress and that I should drink more water. The air was thin here, and it happened to most new recruits during their first season. I wanted to believe them. And so, I did.
Tam’s uncle said that most people didn’t last too long after the headaches start. Typically, two seasons working the fields is all a person can take before they head back to their respective home worlds with a pocket full of cash and a raging addiction. At four years in, he had been there longer than most, so he had seen it all. You could tell it was starting to eat at him though. He was only forty-two, but looked like he was knocking on sixty’s door. I couldn’t blame him. Recruiters got fat bonus checks for everyone they brought in, and they didn’t have to work the fields. Just a few more years and he would be set for life. These days, not many people could claim that kind of security.
Tam wasn’t being affected by the fields the way I was, for her, it was much worse. Most nights she would scream herself awake. She told me she had dreams of being rooted to the ground and would make me pinch her legs to prove that they were still Her's. One morning I woke up to her pulling strands of her hair out asking me if they looked like leaves. The next day, she was gone. Her uncle told me she went home. I didn’t want to believe that she left me here without saying goodbye, but I did. I had to. I was alone. Some days, when the wind blew just right, I could still hear her laughter in the fields.
I guess it makes sense to me now why her uncle looked so defeated when he told me about Tam. I hope he enjoys his retirement.
Raw Blue hits everyone differently. My body must have been more resistant to the germination. But after a while, it had me too. It took me longer than it should have to figure out what was going on. To be honest, I’m kind of ashamed that I didn’t put the pieces together when I pulled the tendril out of my nose. I like to think it was the roots invading the rational portion of my brain. I don’t have much time before I become completely incapacitated, but I’m luckier than most. At the very least, I got more time. I’ve never been happy with anything in my life. There was never a reason to be. But for now, even if it’s not for much longer, I’m just happy that I feel alive.