Day 1, … or maybe it was day two by now (it felt late):
There was plenty of time to worry about what was going to happen next. Answering ‘D’ to Slorp’s last question felt a bit brave and badass at the time, but was a decision I’d grown to regret. In any event, I found myself hoping that the window for “probing” had closed and that whatever happened next would involve putting on lots of clothes (at the absolute minimum) and then maybe getting something to eat.
Jerkface came back into the operating room alone, my stomach grumbling audibly as it approached the table and dropped a white bundle onto a cart.
‘What are you going to do to me now?’ I asked.
Jerkface’s oddly shaped face contorted into the semblance of a grimace. My insides tightened. It said, ‘My vote was for throwing you out of the airlock, but it looks like you’re free to go.’
Airlock… so… I was definitely on a spaceship – but I couldn’t be sure the translation was accurate. ‘You’re letting me go?’
I recoiled when Jerkface started undoing my restraints, a hand-type appendage brushing my ankle, making me want to kick it in the face. It said, ‘You’ve been deemed anti-social, but no more than average, so yeah, we’re letting you go.’ ( shrug )
The kick was still on the table but the urge faded, replaced by a mix of happiness and cautious disbelief. ‘You’re letting me go home then?’
( nodding ) ‘Right after we’re done here… that’s where I’m taking you.’
‘Yes!’ I exclaimed, proud at having outwitted the aliens with my amazing quiz-taking abilities.
Jerkface freed the last of my bonds and I rubbed my wrists – they were red, puffy, and more than a bit sore from all the struggling I’d been doing.
As I was getting to my feet, Jerkface unwrapped the white bundle. To my great relief, I saw that it held my clothes, along with some other recognizable bits and bobs. Seeing my backpack on the table, I wondered why I couldn’t remember being captured by the aliens. What had I been doing when they abducted me? The presence of my backpack implied that I might’ve been on my way to (or from) school. But there were more pressing concerns to deal with right now, like: ‘So I’m in outer-space?’
Jerkface ( nodded ) while rifling through my things. I slapped one of its hand-thingies away and tried shifting my stuff onto the operating table. Doing this, I’d turned my back on the creature – exposing parts of me that Jerkface had seen too much of already. Using the table as a shield, I pulled up my jeans up and wriggled into my t-shirt as quickly as possible.
And also: Holy crap, I’m on a spaceship!
That would have been a thrilling fact – were it not for all the aliens, along with everything else that had happened since I woke up in the wet flesh-sack-thing. Any desire to know more about the ship, its size, layout, and futuristic technology was quickly overridden by my intense desire to get the ( curse ) out of there and go home… Home! All I wanted to do was to crawl into my own bed and spend the next month trying to forget all about this experience.
Slinging my backpack over my shoulder, I confirmed, ‘I can go home now? For real?’
Jerkface said ( agreeably ) though cryptically, ‘Don’t get too excited, you haven’t seen it yet.’
That didn’t compute. ‘Wait, what? … What do you mean, I haven’t seen it yet?’
Jerkface stopped at the door. ‘Your new home,’ it said ( smugly ).
I stumbled as if the ship’s gravity had suddenly been reversed. ‘My… new… home? You aren’t taking me back to my home-home? To Earth? Back to my, uh… planet?’
Jerkface flashed a ( concerned expression ) then beckoned me to follow. The desire to ask more questions was overwhelmed by stronger conflicting emotions. For a time, we walked through the alien ship in silence, my thoughts consumed with getting back to where I belonged, and the uncertainty of whether I would ever be able to.
A few of the more creative curse-words I’d thrown around earlier came rushing back to me.
Day 1, a whole new world:
Perhaps I should have been awestruck at the wonder and sheer magnitude of what was happening to me. Traveling through the bowels of a massive alien spaceship should have been… exhilarating. But the prospect of making this awful place my new home was so demoralizing that there was little mental bandwidth left for amazement.
All the same, I had to admit the place was pretty amazing. The, er, “birthing level” that I’d arrived in, turned out to be a massive circular tunnel filled with thousands of flesh-sacks. This ring was connected to another, smaller corridor which housed hundreds upon hundreds of processing rooms along its outer edge. All of the sacks and operating rooms were empty, save for the one I’d recently vacated.
Nothing about the present situation added up in a way that made any sense. For example, the ship seemed much too large to be so empty. And, we didn’t run into anyone else while we were walking down the curved hallway. Or when we entered a semi-circular chamber filled with a colorful assortment of open-sided vertical tubes.
We approached one of the tubes, and when I wasn’t looking, Jerkface shoved me into a green one. It immediately sucked me upward at nauseating speed through the dark nether-regions of the ship and my relief was palpable when I finally, and gently, whooshed out of the other end. A moment later, Jerkface popped out behind me.
We were in a small vestibule, similar to the one we’d left, surrounded by more elevator tubes of varying sizes – a big octagonal door in the far wall the only obvious exit (trying to jump into a random tube before Jerkface could stop me didn’t seem like a realistic possibility).
Then the alien waved an arm-thing toward the door, as if to say: “after you” – I obliged, but was totally unprepared for what awaited us on the other side.
Almost, but not quite, the end of Day 1:
I’ve said it before, but my first impressions of the alien ship were (to put it mildly) mixed. A good eighty-five percent of my experience thus far had been awful. The other fifteen percent could be described as amazing, but only if you could get over the fact that you’d be spending the rest of your life trapped here (I might have felt differently if this were merely a temporary visit but, unfortunately for me, it wasn’t that kind of ship).
Right. The tube-vestibule opened into the largest indoor space imaginable. If I hadn’t known we were aboard a spaceship, I’d have assumed we were outdoors. But the space wasn’t empty. Nope, that would have been too easy. It was filled to the brim with what appeared to be a large city. And we were standing in the middle of a bustling block of it. Alien buildings of all shapes and sizes spread out into a murky and suspiciously-hazy distance.
Oddly enough, the air was breathable – Wheezy’s backpack sprung back to mind while I was thinking about how unlikely this was; not that I’m any kind of science expert or anything.
The street was humming with activity, a cacophony of blinking lights and unfamiliar smells nearly overwhelming me. Lots and lots of aliens were walking all around us, and I was suddenly overcome with the urge to find the nearest restroom (which would have doubled as a convenient place to hide) but Jerkface urged me onward.
There must have been a hundred different life-forms walking, crawling, sliding, squirming, slumping, leaping, or floating past (I’d never given much thought to the potential diversity of alien life in the universe before this day). The aliens that milled around us were an eclectic mix of gruesome and occasionally comical forms – all seemingly going about their daily routines, and none of them bothering to acknowledge our presence.
‘Impressive, isn’t it?’ opined Jerkface as I stood there gobsmacked.
I didn’t really know what to say other than, ‘What is this place?’
( waving appendages expansively ) ‘This is home,’ it said.
I was getting sick of it referring to the ship that way, so I said, ‘What do you mean… this is home?’
( shrugging ) ‘Like I said – yours, mine, everyone’s. These ( people ) are the Slixt’s guests. All of us are along for the ride, however long that lasts. The rest of our lives, at least.’
I didn’t like where this was going. ‘You mean that I can’t ever go back to my real home… back to Earth, I mean?’
‘None of us can go back to where we came from, so you’d better get used to it,’ said Jerkface with a ( conflicted expression ).
I couldn’t process that statement. Not then, and not for some time after. And, as someone who’s not good with words, or knowing what to say in the moment, all I could manage was, ‘Jeez.’
‘You got that right,’ it replied. ‘Try not to think about your planet right now… look, I know that this comes as a bit of a shock. It was for me too.’
‘What? You don’t run this ship?’ That was yet another surprise. My trio of abductors were clearly all co-conspirators in my abduction. Weren’t they? I couldn’t believe that Jerkface was telling the truth as it shook its head in ( confirmation ). ‘I just thought that…’ but was cut off when a spidery-giraffe-hamster thing almost walked into me (and/or ate me).
Jerkface was obviously ( irritated ) by my assumption. I could tell even without the sub-title. It said, ‘You thought wrong Human. Jaxld and I are like you… follow me.’
There was no translation for one of the words that Jerkface had thrown my way. ‘Jaxld?’ I asked, following.
‘Obviously not just like you,’ said Jerkface, weaving its way through the crowd while I tried to avoid being eaten alive by something that had cheated on the multiple-choice entrance exam. It said, ‘We were also taken from our worlds… Jaxld’s the one with the tubes.’
Wheezy was a prisoner too, then. Not that it made much of a difference.
Jerkface continued, ‘The ones you should be mad at are the ( expletive, curse-eating, giant slugs ), the Slixt. It’s thanks to them that we’re all stuck here.’
We entered a narrow alley between two large blocks of rectangular buildings that were reminiscent of the ones back on Earth.
I said, ‘The Slixt? You mean Slorp? Why would they do this to us?’
( unknown expression ) ‘Don’t ask me, I’m just trying to get by, like everyone else… come on, time’s wasting.’
It led the way into a side alcove under a towering grey block building, then into an elevator. Jerkface manipulated a string of buttons on a small console and we started moving, upward at first, then lurching in different directions while my stomach heaved some more.
My mind was reeling, but I was too hungry, nauseous, and tired to process any of it. Everything about this place sucked. ‘I see,’ I said, more to myself than to the alien.
Jerkface gave me a ( knowing look ) as the elevator came to a stop. When I didn’t move, it motioned for me to get off. After that, we walked a short distance down a narrow hallway to the third door on the left. The number 134 was stenciled in curving alien script on the hatch, which I was able to read courtesy of the translator-bolt that they injected into my skull earlier in the day.
‘This is you,’ said Jerkface, swiping the door open via a rectangular black panel mounted on the wall.
We entered a small living-room-type area with two doors leading off of it. To my surprise (I know that seems a bit redundant at this point to say “surprised”, but I was) there was a couch and a coffee table opposite a large screen on the door’s wall, and not much else.
I dropped my backpack on the table and turned around. The room wasn’t very big, but it made for an ok jail-cell, I guessed.
‘This is weirdly Earth-like,’ I offered. ‘I mean… it’s pretty crappy… but at least it’s familiar.’
Jerkface ignored my reaction and proceeded to explain how things worked, but I only half listened on account of being so weirded out by it all. There was a cubbyhole that produced both food-bars and water, if and when I needed to eat or drink. The dispenser only had two buttons on it, and even I could handle that, probably (I wasn’t feeling so good).
My slight dizziness at that moment could have been attributed to a lack of calories (or maybe just sheer terror). I would need to eat something soon, and was planning to give that it try just as soon as Jerkface left.
I wanted it to leave immediately and was gripped with the not completely irrational fear that Jerkface would be living in one bedroom, and me in the other, like a badly written sit-com. Jerkface seemed unaware of (or interested in) my internal struggle, pointing to one of two doors, which led to a closet with a cot in it. That appeared to be the “master bedroom”, while the other door revealed an even smaller, empty… closet?
‘And the bathroom?’ I asked, feeling that this was one of the most important questions a person could ask just then.
‘In here,’ replied Jerkface, indicating the empty closet. ‘Make sure to take off all your clothes before you go in there, and shut the door. You can keep your clothes on if you want to clean them-just don’t try to do both of those things at the same time… you’ll have to trust me on that one.’
‘Just trust me,’ said Jerkface, but I wasn’t feeling super comfortable or trusting at the moment.
Before I knew it, Jerkface was making the universal motions of an alien who was impatient to get going because it had better things to do with its time than to show a Human how to live in an apartment.
It shook my hand with one of its cold, rough, appendages, and right before it left, it said, ‘Good luck Human… I mean that. Someone will be along tomorrow. They’ll help you get adjusted to your new life. Try to get some rest before then.’
As it moved toward the elevator, I almost regretted calling it Jerkface and wondered what its real name was and why I had been so rude as not to ask when I had the chance.
Day 1, alone at last:
The depression set in after the alien left. I was trapped, relegated to this small if comfortable cell, for who knew how long. Jerkface said that it was going to be forever, but that was quite a bit longer than I was planning on staying.
It didn’t take long to look the place over (a few times), and I knew that I’d go stir-crazy within days unless I found something to do. Planning my escape might have been the most productive use of the available time, but I didn’t have the faintest idea where to start. It was easier to convince myself that they’d locked me in. Even if they hadn’t, I’d still have to navigate a crazy city without a map, and there was no telling how hostile the other aliens swarming through the city actually were. As a Human, I’d stand out like a soft, sore thumb.
The “lifeforms” that I’d seen so far seemed much more predatory/powerful than they had any right to be – Slorp’s questions about eating other aliens came flooding back to me. Maybe that was a big problem around here. Maybe that’s why they needed to abduct me (like, to take the place of someone who’d gotten themselves eaten). Either way, they had to be watching my every move, and would likely be expecting me to make a break for it.
Before I could consider anything else, resolving the bathroom situation would have to take priority. Apparently everything hadn’t already been purged during my “orientation session”. Yet another thing I’d gotten totally wrong so far. It felt like everything I’d thought I’d known about life, the universe, and everything had been completely off-base. On the plus side, I couldn’t have been the only one.
I was concerned by what Jerkface had said about removing my clothes but I’d already spent a few hours naked with the aliens, and if they were watching… well, they’d have to get used to seeing me in the buff from time to time – whether either of us liked it, or not.
Finally, the call of nature proved too overpowering to ignore any longer. Gathering my courage, I stripped down and entered the small closet, the door automatically closing behind me. A metal handle shot from the ceiling, stopping somewhere around shoulder height, forcing me to dodge in order to avoid getting impaled by the stupid thing while it unfurled.
I felt cold and ridiculous, thinking: now what? But eventually, under increasing pressure from my guts, did the only obvious thing and grabbed the handlebar. My hands gripped the red ribbed plastic tightly (whether from fear or some alien power locking them down, I neither knew nor cared). And just like that, I was riding the alien crap-cycle (picture a mechanical bull crossed with a cruise-ship stomach-flu epidemic) while a deafening, moist, gale-force wind swirled around me.
Sparing the most grisly details, I hung there for a long time, gripping the bicycle-handle-thing, trapped inside the giant foggy vacuum until finally, it stopped. Then I flopped to the floor, which was surprisingly clean – feeling more refreshed than seemed possible under the circumstances.
I’m not going to lie, the thought of going to the bathroom ever again was terrifying, and there’d be a lot of trouble with that in the weeks that followed.
Putting my clothes back on quickly, I went to the wall alcove in search of food. Pressing a random button in the cubby-hole rewarded me with a glassy cup of lukewarm water. The other button produced a small, thick, brownish-green bar that glorpled out of a square tube and landed quivering on the ledge beneath it.
I took a sip of the water, eyeing the bar suspiciously – courage would be needed just to touch the thing. It was medium-firm, slightly sticky, and I was almost certain that I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to actually eat it. I sniffed it. Gingerly picked it up. Dropped it again. Reconsidered. Then took a tentative bite, which wasn’t nearly as bad as expected. The texture was all wrong and it tasted vaguely of stale meatloaf (mixed with another flavor that isn’t worth describing).
I ended up eating two of them.
After that, I was too sleepy to do anything else and fell into the spartan cot in the bedroom, pulling a slimy (but warm) blanket over me. In spite of everything, and all the thoughts whizzing through my head, I fell fast asleep a short time later.
That night I dreamt about aliens and operating tables. Beams of blue light. Running screaming through a burning forest. I also dreamt about the people I had left behind, and whom I would likely never see again.
Day 2, … in the morning? Time is weird when you’ve lost your frame of reference:
The sound of an alarm going off woke me up, causing me to jump out of bed and slam into the wall of my tiny bedroom, face first, before rebounding painfully and smacking the back of my head on the opposite wall. My nose was smarting and a lump was already forming on the opposite side. Tears streamed down my face (yes, this wasn’t just a bad dream).
I pulled on my pants, then stumbled into the living room area of my cell, wiping away some stray tears while thinking about how best to pull myself together. I couldn’t be spending all of my time freaking out, crying, pissing myself (it wasn’t worth mentioning that part earlier), or anything of the sort. The only way I’d be able to get out of this madhouse was to keep my wits about me and look for an opportunity to escape.
To accomplish that, I’d need a lot of things that might be hard to come by. Such as a weapon. Getting one was high on my list. As was finding out my present location (the fact that the Slixt ship was somewhere in outer-space was, without a doubt, the biggest of the challenges facing me). As far as I knew, the universe was a really big place and my current location could have been anywhere from Earth-orbit all the way to another galaxy.
Assuming that the “where” problem could be solved, I’d still need a spacesuit of some kind. Supplies. And a shuttle – or some other kind of vehicle. Taking control of the city-ship itself seemed unlikely. There were thousands, or maybe millions, of other aliens between me and the command-center. Wherever that was. But I couldn’t afford to let a few inconvenient facts get me down.
The beeping hadn’t stopped. Its source turned out to be the screen mounted on the wall of the main living area, and a big door-icon flashed on the display in time with the alarm. Tapping it produced no noticeable effect.
Something started banging on the door and I nearly jumped out of my socks (or would have, had I been wearing any). Without thinking, I approached the door and tried, ineffectually, to slide it open with my hands. My failure didn’t bother me as much as the realization that I likely didn’t want to see what was waiting for me on the other side.
I guess I was just stalling for time.
Then, a faint sing-song clicking noise (that my sub-titles informed me was muffled Cht’xst’tk-ian speech) joined the thumping. The gist eventually got through. ‘Can you open the door?’ I didn’t want to, believe me, but there wasn’t much of a choice – the aliens who ran this ship could probably open any door they wanted to.
Clearing my throat, I addressed the door loudly, trying to make my voice rise above all the other noise. ‘Er, I don’t know how to, uh… er… it won’t open.’
There was a momentary pause on the other side of the wall and then, ( exasperated ) ‘Seriously? You don’t know how to open a door?’ This was followed by a ( sigh ).
The muffled voice came again, ( weary ) ‘Swipe your hand on the black plate… please.’
Easy enough. The door swished open.
I took an involuntary step backward. Feeling ashamed as the alien mimicked my movement. The word ( repulsed ) flashed across my vision. Then my own embarrassment flooded in, arising from the fact that the alien would have undoubtedly seen a similar sub-title, coming from me. I backed away, tripping over the coffee table and landing in a heap on the couch.
Probably not the best first-impression I’ve ever made.
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