(The following story contains mild sexual content; if you are under 18 or otherwise not keen on reading about it, please leave this page.)
This is the fourth in a series of short stories set in a shared universe: Earth has been pummeled by heavy storms for twenty years, and the governments left over have adapted by genetically manipulating (and in some cases, Inventing) creatures to help them survive the onslaught of rain and wind. After two decades, the storms have diminished, but the changes are too significant to return to the status quo so easily…
The sound of the rain had taken on a subtle tone, dashing itself against the tin roof with a soft but determined fervor. No malice or ill intent transmitted throughout the dilapidated structure, yet there rang a hollow noise, low and almost empty, from the opened doorways and windowless voids along its face; echoes of a past long forgotten.
Carrion birds, immersed in the warm summer storm, picked at the remains of a rain-bleached carcass, their underbellies glistening with blood both fresh and days old. Short, serrated beaks tore at the bones beneath the sodden meat, still upright in a macabre impression of the last pose their owner made; the marrow inside was highly prized in this waterlogged season. Concrete grey feathers shimmered iridescently in the scant rays of sun cutting through the cloud-laden sky, sending scintillating rainbows across their arrogant forms.
From across the open field, they watched the small flock of feeders taking their fill, waiting for them to move on with full bellies. After some time had passed, the little birds, now burdened with swollen stomachs, took to the air in a haze of slate, disappearing in the thick sheets of droplets. Now was the time for larger predators.
Donning cloaks of thick canvas proofed against the torrential weather, they set about crossing the field that was once, surely, covered by shorter grass and not strewn with debris rusted by years of deluge. One stood watch, its eyes dutifully scanning the horizon while the other began to hack and pack meat into a neoprene sack. Then came the laborious work of sawing the bones into manageable bundles, the work somehow slower than a horde of birds’ beaks. The Watcher took off their ceramic mask slowly, letting it hang around its neck as it tilted back the thick hood, letting the water pour over its features. Almost hot, the rain stimulated the worn, worked skin that stretched taut over the bone beneath. The scent of unwashed flesh was whisked away in the downpour. It glanced back at the other, busied in its work, then loosened its cloak and let it slump to the ground as it opened itself to the skies.
The Harvester, still collecting the kill, said nothing; though it looked back enviously at the other when it put parts into the bag, taking much longer than should have been necessary. Its eyes scanned every detail and scar on the Watcher’s body, and after some time, left off its task of butchery to stand next to its partner.
The Watcher, caught in its reverie, gave a wordless look of shock, reaching instinctively for the cloak it had so carelessly tossed. But the Harvester smiled its cheshire smile, undoing its own covering and letting it slide down. The Watcher’s eyes were aglow with interest, and it hungrily took in the sight. It had never witnessed such a smooth, clean shape in this flooded place, kept pristine from the wind and water that had so twisted its own visage. It was simply the two of them, the Harvester and the Watcher, as it had always been. But now…
The rain seemed to react in kind to their machinations, spurred into a fury of warmth and sensation. Tentative fingers stretched out across flesh both new and old, taut and flexible; wandering eyes and soundless gasps, all lost in so much noise and tactile feedback. The storm itself was a part of their joining, a third lover caressing both at all times; many touches, alternately hard and soft, but always hot to the touch. The day wore on as they wore out, eventually laid staring into the sky, their lidless eyes impervious to the rain. Their chests rose and fall heavily, almost beating back the front that had so beaten and battered them into submission; not only the storm, but their whims, as well.
The bag forgotten, the Watcher and the Harvester began a long trek towards some greater unknown, clad in nothing but their skin.