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Out of Nowhere by Patrick LeClerc.
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Boneless

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When they started harvesting boneless people, there was a running joke about how if certain people hadn’t been so spineless maybe the whole harvesting thing never would have happened. Maybe. A boneless person is as useful as useless though depending on one’s needs. 
 
The first farms, if that’s the right term, were all on Earth. They were horrific places. Imagine a human being as they have historically existed and then consider the effects of gravity upon them if stripped of their interior frame. Aisles of wheezing forms as desperate and they were disparate, all waiting for the end. 
 
There of course is no end though is there? Social improvement of the human species has always required marriage of one technology to another. Fire is a great example. A long, long time ago someone figured out how to replicate the lightning that crisscrossed the sky and set trees ablaze. But what use was fire until someone else figured out how to make a spear or an arrow that could cross vast distances and strike prey with lethal force?
 
When they put the boneless folk in space the absence of gravity made life better for them. Space is an expensive proposition though. There are orbits to be maintained. The rigors of endlessly circling the third stone from the sun take their toll quickly too. It’s no coincidence humankind’s first space stations were sent burning into re-entry dust just a few years after attaining initial operational capability.  
 
The moon became the logical place for the harvest. Sure, there is some gravity on the moon but not enough to make living a burden on the boneless. Lunar soil is particularly soft once past the initial crust. It was easy to burrow deep down and create vast caverns full of the harvest living inside translucent spheres. 
 
That doesn’t mean the entire harvest went up to the moon. Not at all. Even with regular, almost daily service to Mare Cognitum occurring from half a dozen or so sites worldwide, some maintained their own little gardens of the boneless, off the books so to speak. 
 
Apologies are warranted for the lie mentioned earlier. It is true that fire conjoined with better hunting weapons made it easier for early humans to give up that hunting and gathering nonsense. Really, did it ever make a whole lot of sense for the species to try and exist picking berries while on the run and competing with lions and tigers and bears oh my for a meal? Fire had its own uses independent of arrows and spears though. Perhaps that is what brought you here, metaphorically speaking. 
 
If you think for a second that those poor boneless beings slopping around in fluid up on the moon or wheezing away In a basement off some highway no one ever remembers when they pass through are there against their will, you are dead wrong! There is not one single documented case of any human being ever being harvested against their will. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
 
Indeed, many seek the harvest. Why? A variety of reasons. Immortality is a big one. There are boneless people lingering on for a half century or more than they would have had they retained their skeleton inside. Getting away from it all is another big reason. By letting their skeleton out of the closet so to speak, they experience a freedom most never get to know in life. 
 
That’s what brought you here isn’t it? The unease you evidenced when you rang the doorbell and then looked up and down the hallways of the building while I watched you through the peephole for a good three minutes said it all. Were you afraid your lover would come dashing down the hall to tell you about the other in your life that had been discovered? Do you owe someone more than you can ever give them? Is it something else? No matter. 
 
Before I stepped into my kitchen to make our tea I offered you a cup of water, remember? That wasn’t me being polite. I needed to help you hydrate. Then we spoke about what might happen next.
 
Make the choice I said, and we could get you into a reputable harvest site I knew of in Ohio. The site operator had well-established deals with name brand on-line companies. You’re a smart kid. Your mind, once integrated into the web, would provide a nice boost to processing power across the cloud. You were uncertain but the tea tasted good didn’t it? Nice and warm on a cold January afternoon.  
 
I should have offered an apology too about the immortality thing. Sure, join the ranks of the harvest and chances are you get to live a lot longer than you would otherwise. But there are limits. For as long as this has been going on, I’m sorry, we don’t keep Beethoven or Sun Tzu in harvest anywhere nor do we have any way of recovering their DNA and making them profitable for us. 
 
There was no need to apologize though. Maybe I misjudged your weight and added a few drops too many into your tea. Maybe I put all those drops in there just so I could get the whole thing over with already. Two swallows of tea and you were already slumping into my couch. 
 
Painless isn’t it? One would think that dissolving their own skeleton while still inside their own body would hurt. Somehow it doesn’t. Some say it’s liberating. 
 
I’ll run some water in the tub in a bit and then place you there where you can float along the surface. That’s as close to weightlessness as you’re going to get in my apartment. Then we’ll need to decide what to do with you.
 
Yes, I know what brought you to my door. Those vindictive fires burned long and hot inside someone didn’t they? That’s why cash traded hands and I promised to spike your tea. I’d let you shake hands with me for the windfall setting on my nightstand but at this point your hands look like mush. Anyway, it’s not much of a windfall. I’ll give up at least half of that to sustain you over the next day or so.
 
In the meantime I have to figure out what to do with you. Sell you to a harvester? Try and connect your mind to the cloud myself and make some money that way?  A boneless person that can turn a quick profit is useful to me, one that can’t just isn’t going to last. 
 
Will you be useful or useless in satisfying my needs? This after all, was your choice. 
 
 

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