On Harvesters

My friend Kristine asked me for some background on the Harvesters, so I figured I would write down what little I thought I had come up with for them. Turns out I had actually thought of more than I realized, and my wonderful hubby Dave helped me with some of the other details. So here, for your enjoyment, is some information on the Harvesters:

Harvesters are chosen (“Harvested,” if you will) as very young children. They’re chosen at random by older Harvesters. In areas of the world where people still leave unwanted babies on hillsides, exposed to the elements, some of them become Harvesters. The children who are taken by the Harvesters are forgotten by their families and the rest of the world. Their documentation disappears, and no one ever looks for them. No one knows where exactly the first Harvesters came from. Their teachings say that the first ones were selected by Death himself, and that he is responsible for the lists that each Harvester receives monthly. However, no one knows for sure, of course.

They are raised in the Center, a place that has grown as the world’s population has grown. It’s a city big enough to accommodate all of the Harvesters. They are raised and educated in such a way that they can fit in anywhere. The Center is out of phase with the rest of the world, so non-Harvesters can’t find it.

Harvesters live like most other people. They fall in love and get married, but they don’t have children. However, anyone who wants to raise Harvested children can do so. They become the closest thing the children have to families and the children will refer to them as such. Not all of the children are part of families, though. Some, such as Angel, grow up in what basically amounts to an orphanage.

Harvesters are not immortal, though they are immune to disease and most poisons, with the exception of aconite. They live roughly 150 years, but don’t show signs of age until a few years (five or so) before they die. Harvesters are also immune to the touch of other Harvesters. When they die, they just fall asleep and don’t wake up. It’s said that Death harvests the Harvesters personally, but again, no one knows for sure.

Contact with a Harvester causes death, though it isn’t immediate, and only if that person is on the Harvester’s list. It can be a touch as simple as brushing against someone while passing through a doorway, a handshake, or just the touch of the tip of a finger when accepting a drink. But that person will be dead by midnight. A Harvester’s touch won’t affect anyone not on their own list. Each Harvester receives their new Deathlist at the beginning of every month, and they must come into contact with each person on the list before the month is over. They do not choose the manner of death for anyone on their list, and the only set “expiration date” for anyone on the list is the last day of the month.
People don’t remember Harvesters once they leave the area, but they have to actually move on, not just leave the room or building, or leave to use the bathroom. This allows a Harvester to do various odd jobs to earn some money (generally under-the-table work that doesn’t require ID), but also ensures that they can’t be reported as a suspect if deaths are ever investigated (which sometimes happens if there are a large number of deaths in one area, or if any deaths seem overly suspicious). They are perceived as ordinary by regular people, as if they belong wherever they are.

The governing body of the Harvesters is the Council, consisting of six men and six women. A Harvester is eligible to be chosen for the Council once he or she turns 70 and can serve a term of ten years. After that time, he or she goes into semi-retirement, meaning that they aren’t required to do as much Harvesting, and serve in an advisory position for the Council. Often they also go into business in our world, with most of the money they earn going back to the Center. Since they are then living and working in an area for an extended time, they are not forgotten by the people around them, until they decide to move on (which they have to do after a few years, since they don’t show signs of age). They are not the only Harvesters working outside the Center, however. Any Harvester over 80 can choose to semi-retire (a Harvester continues Harvesting until he or she begins to show age, at which time they stop getting Deathlists) by sending a statement of their wish to do so to the Council. At this time, they can either get jobs in the real world (with any necessary documentation being provided by the Council) and send most of their earnings back to the Center, or do various sorts of work at the Center (work at the orphanage, operate small farms or greenhouses, work for the Newsletter, that sort of thing).

Harvesters don’t have many laws, though they are expected to obey the laws of whatever area they happen to be in. The primary reason for this is because to do otherwise would be taking advantage of the fact that people forget them when they move on. Therefore, there would be no way for them to be prosecuted for theft, murder, or any other crime. Also, they are absolutely forbidden to kill another Harvester. Since a Harvester is immune to the touch of another Harvester, the only way for one to kill another is to use a weapon of some kind, or else to poison the other with aconite. Aconite doesn’t grow at the Center, so it must be harvested from our world. The only reason aconite is harvested is to kill a Harvester who has been found guilty of committing a crime, whether in our world or at the Center. This may seem harsh, but it is felt that a Harvester willing to abuse his or her power in our world, or one willing to kill a fellow Harvester, is a detriment to their society as a whole, and one who cannot be an effective Harvester in our world. Death is a part of life, true, but Harvesters are only supposed to touch those whose time has come to die, not deliberately decide to take someone’s life whose name is not on his or her Deathlist.

The Deathlists are delivered psychically to each Harvester every month. They know the names, appearances, and locations of every person who is on their list. The people on the list are generally, but not always, grouped in the same area. Again, there is no set “expiration date” for anyone on the list—they must simply be touched by a Harvester by the end of the month. Once they have been touched, they will be dead by midnight of that day. And again, the Harvester doesn’t choose the manner of death for anyone on the list. So someone might be eating a handful of popcorn, turn to walk into the kitchen, slip and fall on a wet spot on the floor, and choke on the popcorn. Someone else might be hit by a car, and someone else might die from being hit in the head by a ricocheting billiard ball. It’s pretty random, but these things could have happened to them at any time—being touched by a Harvester just makes things like this more likely to happen.



Um. Well. I suppose I should have warned you all that I don’t blog as often as I should. Sorry about that! I promise to try to do better, but I can’t guarantee anything. But for now, I thought I would share a story that’s been kicking around in my head. I got the idea a few weeks ago, and wrote the beginning. Since then it’s been percolating a little more every day, and this morning I had enough more that I could add to it a bit. So far it’s only a few paragraphs, and I pretty much know where the story’s going. I just have to get there. I’m pretty sure this isn’t how “proper” authors write, but I never claimed to be a writer–I’d much rather edit! 🙂 Anyhow, here is the beginning of “Angel,” by yours truly.

She sat in a dimly lit corner of the only slightly better lit bar, like a hunter patiently waiting for her prey. A slight smile hovered around the corners of her lips as she considered which of the bar’s patrons would be her first victim. Calling this run-down dive a bar was being generous—it did serve beer (two brands: Lousy and Lousy Lite), and it did have a faithful clientele of people willing to drink the stuff, but that was about where the similarity ended. Well, except for the lone pool table in the corner, which was currently surrounded by some rowdy locals who seemed to be knocking the balls around more for something to do while arguing (mostly) good-naturedly, than actually playing a game.

She knew who was going to die, of course. She had a list. Nine of the people in this joint were going to die, and for no other reason than that their names were on her list for this month. And the month was almost over. Normally she wouldn’t take out so many at once, but it just so happened that they had all gathered here tonight. Chances like this didn’t come along often, so she took advantage of them when they did. It wasn’t personal; it was just her job. As a Harvester, she got a new list every month, telling her whose time was up. There was never a specific “expiration date,” and she didn’t have the power to decide how anyone died. She just had to make sure that she came into contact with each of those people before the month was out.

This life wasn’t one that she had chosen; it had been chosen for her. She didn’t have a name, or at least not one that she could definitively call her own (she did tend to introduce herself as Angel most of the time, simply because she found it amusing). All she really knew about herself was that she’d been selected for this life when she was too young to do anything about it. She had no memories of her family (though surely she’d at least had parents) or of a home (the center where she’d been raised could hardly be considered a home). Her appearance was striking and attractive—when people were paying attention to her. When she passed beyond their notice, she faded into fuzziness in their memories.


Every summer, my family (as many as can arrange the time off) and I head to the Beartooth Mountains for a couple of weeks of camping. To be honest, we’ll try to arrange several such trips over the course of the summer. It’s a time for us to recharge and to forget, for a while, at least, all the petty nonsense that makes up our day-to-day lives in town. I realize that making a living and paying bills may not be considered petty to everyone, but really, look at what I just said. Making a living and paying bills. When all is said and done, that stuff is petty because it’s not what’s really important. The really important stuff is making connections with your friends and family, getting back in touch with the natural world, learning how to just be. We spend so much time on our computers and our phones that we forget that there’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored and experienced. When we leave this world, no one is going to remember much about what we did for a living or whether we got all of our bills paid. They’ll remember things like camping trips with crazy wind storms that make you feel like you’re going to be blown away to Oz; things like cooking a giant brown trout over a campfire, and the fish is so big it actually hangs over both sides of the fire grate; things like hiking up the side of a mountain on an unnamed trail in search of a waterfall, and then, once it’s found, never wanting to leave because it’s like walking into another world where no other humans have ever been. These are the things that memories, that lives, are made of.

As you can tell, I like camping. A lot. This year’s trip did nothing to change that opinion. 🙂 A good friend of ours, along with his son and niece, were able to join us for a few days, which was wonderful. For the most part, the weather was good, though we did have a few days of high winds (the crazy wind storms I mentioned before), and a couple of days when it rained 95% of the time. One of those days just happened to be the day we were supposed to be packing up our camp, so naturally a lot of things got put away damp, and now they’ll have to be dried out here so they’re not all mildewed and gross. We got to take a new friend on the trail to the waterfall, and this year I saw something new there. I saw a couple of small black birds that appeared to be fishing (though at the time, I thought they might have been swimming) and taking food back to a nest at the edge of the waterfall. I attempted to get some photos of the birds, but the silly things just wouldn’t sit still long enough! 🙂

We’re hoping to go on another camping trip next month, possibly to the same campground, though my husband has a couple of other places in mind that he’d like to explore. Sounds great to me! I don’t get to do as much traveling as I would like, but I live in a big state, and there is a lot of it that I haven’t seen yet. I look forward to changing that. For now, though, I have to get back to the mundane business of working so that I can afford to walk away from everything for a while. Have a great week, everyone! 🙂

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

I had a job interview today, and my prospective employer asked me that. It’s a pretty typical interview question. The interviewer wants to make sure the interviewee (that’s such an odd-looking word!) has some sort of goals planned for his or her future; I’m guessing it’s indicative of a more stable personality, someone who’s less likely to flake out and bail on a job.

Anyway, any other time I’ve been asked this question (or a variant; sometimes the amount of time is less, sometimes it’s more), I’ve managed to come up with some vague-yet-satisfying answer for the interviewer. At least, I assume so, since more often than not, I’ve gotten the jobs I’ve been interviewed for. But today I actually had a pretty definitive answer. I replied, “Well, eventually I’d like to be freelance editing full-time.” I realize that that still sounds somewhat vague, but I also said, “I’ve been reading from other editors that most people can’t just jump into full-time editing, and I’ve realized it’s true. I need time to build up a roster of clients before I can go full-time.” The lady interviewing me seemed pleased with my answer and said that it sounded like a good goal to have.

So, what do you know? I’ve got goals! And I’m going to do this. Not today, not tomorrow, and probably not next week. But I will do it.

Back to School!

Well, sort of. A few weeks ago, I enrolled in a class for developmental editing for fiction, which is offered through the Editorial Freelancers Association. The class started yesterday, and I’m working through the first assignment. I truly enjoy learning, and even more so when it’s something that will help me improve my editing skills. It was interesting to note that, of all the students enrolled in the course, I seem to be the only one who sort of jumped in to freelance editing without having a long background in editing in general. I don’t think that’s such a bad thing, though, especially with the availability of training and resources.

Speaking of training, I need to get back to my homework. Until next time!




Welcome to Under the Willow Tree!

I plan to talk about editing, for the most part. Things I learn, projects I’m working on, projects I’d like to work on, that sort of thing. Thanks for joining me! I’ll be working on the site for a while, and hopefully it will end up being a pleasant place to visit.