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News & Features » May 2019 » “Like Cattle” by Ashley Sgro

“Like Cattle” by Ashley Sgro

In October 2017 we published An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, a rare literary science fiction set in a future universe so gorgeously described and perfectly self-contained—and yet so harrowing and cruel—that its only parallel universe is our own. Solomon’s novel has inspired this speculative fiction series. We’ve been through the past, and we haven’t really learned from it. The present? We’re too busy attempting to survive it. So we’re asking you to provide us a glimpse of what comes next. Illustrate the essential choices we must make in the present that will lead us to your brilliant utopian future. Or, if you cannot anticipate utopia, provide us instead with your cautionary tale. Show us where we will fall if we—when we—fail to alter our course. Fri-SciFi stories are published on Fridays because we expect we’ll need the weekend to contemplate your vision. 

This week, a future government science experiment gives new meaning to “making yourself useful.”

Like Cattle
by Ashley Sgro
Earth, 2800

“Can you use me?” My hands keep shaking.

“I thought you were going to East Lo tonight.”

My skin’s dripping. “For the meeting?”

Abraham nods his head.

I laugh. “I’ve always been on 5’s side. They’re the government,” I tell him, “I regard them highly.” I have nothing to do for the rest of the afternoon. I continue, “Can you use me?”

“I’m surprised you’re into what 5 is preaching.”

“And I’m surprised you question me.”

“Well,” he says, “their thoughts and teachings are—”


“Not quite.”



“Then what?”


“You’re a scientist,” I say, “and a well-respected one at that. As a part of the higher community and someone who works so closely with the government, I’m shocked by your opinion.”

“Don’t be shocked,” he says. He walks up to me and taps his finger on my forehead. “Be smart.”

I shake him off. “Enough of this. I didn’t come here to fight. I came here for one answer.” I put my hand on the nearest table. “Can you use me?”

Abraham turns away. “You’re healthy enough,” he says.

“Good,” I say. I run my hand down my cheek. “Then you can take my skin.”

“I can’t give you any anesthesia,” he says as he removes his glasses. He closes his eyes. He rubs them. “5 doesn’t permit its use any longer.”

“I don’t care.”

He shifts inside his lab coat. “You’ll be used for the T-185 when it’s complete.”

I open my mouth. My body is soaked in shimmering sweat. I nod my head.

“Skin me.”


ASHLEY SGRO has always been infatuated with words and writing. As an avid reader and eternal writer, she dedicates her free time to composing poetry and fiction. Ashley currently lives in New Jersey. Visit her at ashleysgro.com.


Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Fri-SciFi series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines.

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a conceivable, not a fantastical, future. No dragons, please.
—With your byline, include the date or era OR galaxy or ship or planetary system in which your story takes place. Or both. But not neither.
—To be perfectly frank, we prefer dystopias. But feel free to surprise us.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words, and must be previously unpublished.
—Please include a short bio with your submission.
—Accepted submissions to Fri-SciFi are typically posted 1–3 months after the notification date, and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: May 31, 2019

Category: Original Fiction, Fri-SciFi | Tags: , , , , , , , ,