Bathed in complete darkness, I heard the harsh breath pass through my lips with each heavy inhalation. Hot air brushed my skin, burning my creamy pale arms. The minty smell made my nose itch.
My vision tunneled, and I faded away.
Slowly emerging from unconsciousness again sometime later, my arms burned even more from the sun. Pain shot up my lower leg as something tightly gripped my ankle, dragging me along the ground.
Breathe…in and out. My head bounced, hitting something hard, piercing my scalp.
“Agh,” I groaned in agony, not really sure what was happening.
It could just be a terrible nightmare, I thought. I’ve had them a time or two in my life.
Cracking one eye open, the coral sky filled my vision and I marveled at its beauty. Light yellow clouds floated in a lazy progression. Definitely not a nightmare.
Pain shot through the back of my head again. “Agh!”
Memories rushed back, intensifying my torment. Launch day on Exploration One, seeing Earth from outer space. Talking with Cami and Shawn in the galley, the asteroids bombarding the ship...
Breathe in and out…
The asteroids that knocked out the life support system, the evac pods!
My harsh breath wheezed out while staring at the coral-colored sky, heart galloping in my chest, and I thought I would faint the moment I realized…
I gulped hard, then sucked in a large breath.
I couldn’t look—I didn’t want to. My body trembled, and I swallowed hard, again. None of my training had prepared me for this. I desperately wanted to turn back time.
Lifting my head a little, I saw a yellow hand with thick, brown claws digging into my ankle. Pain shot up my calf as my body trembled in fear. I froze, my stomach revolted and my breathing became erratic.
My gaze slid over the shoulder and spotted a large, mud-brown space ship with splintered ice edges, and two other yellow, beast-like aliens standing guard at the bottom of the ramp. Every ounce of control vanished as a scream tore from my throat. The alien stopped, glanced over his shoulder and smiled, revealing sharp black teeth.
My vision tunneled and then…nothing. Everything faded away.
Stripped naked, arms and ankles strapped to a cold metal table, something hard penetrated my core and I screamed, pain lancing my arm. Blinking rapidly, I glanced around and spotted the yellowed aliens who had kidnapped me, but also more sophisticated looking yellow aliens with bald heads, round eyes, and small bodies. One stood at the foot of the table, the other on my left side. Two more worked on a computer that whined with every stroke of a button. Occasionally they would glance my way.
Something prodded my nether region….
The cold felt good against my cheek, and I dozed. When something touched my arm, I jerked awake and caught the glimmer of a forcefield spring to life, two yellow beast-like aliens walking away. That’s when I knew I was caged like a prisoner—an animal. A soft hand touched my shoulder, and I flinched. Turning my head, my gaze locked with the green, round eyes of a white scaled alien.
My first instinct was to scutter away, but I held still. The eyes were kind and sad. Looking around the cell, I saw there were another two aliens in there with the scaled alien and myself.
One had a slick, purple body but no real curves to determine if it was male or female. Another looked like a rock, unable to move due to its hardness. But as it sat down cross-legged on the floor, its limbs moved seamlessly. Not hard at all.
The scaled alien spoke softly in a high-pitched, lyrical voice; I assumed she was female. I couldn’t understand her language, but something in her face made me feel like she was asking if I was alright.
I stared in awe, glancing at each alien in the ten-foot wide, drab colored cell. The possibility that life existed on other planets had always been there, but no one truly believed it. Yet here they were.
A deep throb in my lower stomach, broken memories flashed, reminding me that I had been violated.
The scaled alien began yelling in what sounded like frustration rubbing her enormous forehead. Her green eyes cut to mine. She glanced along the length of my naked body. My arms and legs showed severe bruises in various stages of swelling and colors ranging from black to yellow to purple.
Some could’ve been caused from the crash; others at the mercy of the yellow aliens. My arm ached as I tested its movement. With all those lined bruises, I knew I was lucky to be alive.
The white-scaled alien watched me expectantly, as though she was waiting on an answer. “I don’t speak alien. Sorry.”
Her eyes narrowed and she spoke, probably telling me she didn’t understand what I was saying.
Ignoring her, I rolled to the side and pushed up to a sitting position, pain continuing to shoot through my body. Not one inch was left untouched.
“Awl…” I grimaced.
The more reality sunk in, the more hysterical I became, at least on the inside, and memories reeled like an old movie.
My evac pod never made it back to Earth. What about the others? Remember, Lara! I had raced for the evac pod, my eyes locked with Cami’s defeated gaze just before the hatch closed and locked into place. An asteroid knocked my evac pod into a wormhole…the pain, the feeling of being stretched in two was too much…I must have blacked out…
Glancing at the three alien females, I panicked a little, okay, a lot, but…I was in a cell on a freaking space ship! Think! Taking slow, deep breaths, my heart slowed to a more normal rhythm, my eyes watered.
The scaled alien shrieked, pointing toward my eyes. Maybe her species didn’t have tear ducts? I swiped the tears away and sniffed and she spoke again. It sounded like a question. Why was she still talking to me? Shaking my head, I swiped another angry tear away.
“I’m crying because I’m locked in a cell on a freaking spaceship and I hurt everywhere!”
There was no way to get home, and I knew I would be forever lost. Probably the only Human trying to find her way in some unknown galaxy. And how was I supposed to learn this strange language?
Something wasn’t right—my head felt strange. Lying back down, I closed my eyes.
A day or two later—who really knows anymore?...
I jerked awake, gasping in a quick breath. My head felt clear, the aches in my body not as bad now. Reality struck, and my breathing became erratic. I knew I needed to get my shit under control. Taking a slow, deep breath, I gave myself a little pep talk.
Think, Lara! You are smart, and you can do this. Just calm down and use your brain.
Slowly rising to my feet, I noticed that worried eyes of the other aliens snapped in my direction. The white scaled alien cautiously ambled over and spoke to me, her tone sounding concerned. At least, I thought that might be it; her words sounded like gibberish, so I really couldn’t be certain.
Frustrated, I just ignored her and studied the forcefield. It was the key to freedom. I needed to figure out if it was powered by a magnetic field, or from an electric current. If I could disable it, we could all escape. Only one way to find out.
Intent on touching it to test my theory, I lifted my arm, finger pointed toward it. Suddenly the scaled alien’s webbed hand shot out and snatched my wrist.
I didn’t like her touching me! Spinning around, I huffed out, “Don’t you want to escape?”
I knew she couldn’t understand, but I didn’t care. It gave me permission to say whatever I wanted without repercussions. For all I knew, they could all be violent creatures.
She shook her head, looking at me like I was the stupidest person she’d ever met, which only served to irritate me. She said something in a forceful, almost angry sounding voice.
Good! I was also angry at the entire situation.
Ignoring her and the obvious warning, I turned my attention back to the forcefield, intent on touching it again. Just as I lifted my arm, she snatched my wrist…again.
I spun quickly, eyes flaring in anger as I faced the white-scaled alien.
“What the hell?” I exclaimed in exasperation, my hands falling against my sides in a loud slap, before running trembling fingers through my long blonde hair, grabbing a handful.
Yes, I was freaking out a little—okay, a lot!—and it wasn’t the smartest idea to yell at any alien. But my entire body throbbed, and I wanted to go home, crawl into my comfortable bed, and pretend that none of this ever happened.
A soft growling voice spoke. It was the rock alien; I noted she sounded somewhat feminine.
The three aliens continued to talk—argue?—amongst themselves, their eyes occasionally sifting my way.
The scaled alien reached over and pinched my arm. I jerked away.
I narrowed my eyes, trying to shoot her a warning glare.
They were all speaking around me, but their shifty eyes kept darting my way. It made me uncomfortable to be the only one in the cell who couldn’t understand a freaking thing.
The scaled alien glanced around the cage, placed her foot on a piece of flat black rubber type material, and kicked it into the forcefield. Electrical sparks zapped the material, leaving brunt, melted edges.
“Thanks,” I said, my mouth slightly gaping. I knew she’d just saved me. The large current would have knocked me on my ass, possibly killed me in the process. Who uses such a powerful current to detain prisoners? They must kill them in droves!
Still staring at the deadly barrier, I saw it was definitely an electromagnetic field, which meant there had to be a way to interrupt the signal. But where would I go, once I escaped?
Five days! Five damn days I have been in this cell! Maybe more, maybe less, but it feels like at least five days. Who can tell how much time has really passed? I wonder.
The yellow beasts dropped off food while we slept, but it was barely enough for the four of us, and it tasted like shit!
Laying on my side, one arm tucked under my head, I tried to block the smell of feces, pretending it was something more pleasing. It never worked.
“Do you think she is alright?”
“I do not know. She barely eats.”
“If she does not keep her strength up, she will be dead before we reach the auction.”
“Maybe that is a good thing.”
“Do not say that!”
“Look at her. If she makes it to auction, her body will not hold up to the repeated use. Death may be a better option.”
To my surprise, I understood them! Sitting up, my gaze touched each of them in turn.
“I can understand you now,” I said, sucking in a shocked breath. “But how?”
“They must have given you a defective translator,” the white-scaled alien replied, smiling. “I am Nonya.”
“Lara,” I replied, still a little surprised. “What auction?”
Nonya’s eyes cut to the rock girl before sliding back to mine. “Our captors are the Suntae; they are terrible. Savages! We have been trying to think what they mean to do with us. The auction is our best guess, but we don’t really know for sure. It’s highly likely though; that’s how they make their credits.”
“Well, let’s assume they are taking us to this auction. What is it for?”
“It is a place where females are sold.”
A sick feeling settled in my gut. If these Suntae thought they could sell me—treating me as nothing more than an object—they had another thing coming. I would eat their disgusting food, just to keep my strength up. And at some point, I would find my chance to escape, even if I had to kill them.
The holding cell smelled of urine and feces, but I shoved the offensive odor away and studied my fellow alien prisoners closely.
The scales covered everything except Nonya’s face, which was a slightly gleaming gray color. Under different circumstances, I’d say they shined a bright white. She seemed to have a kind spirit about her, and I thought among her species that she was considered beautiful.
The purple girl hadn’t told me her name yet, but she looked like a giant glowing worm. When she closed her eyes, there were no seams nor lashes; her face looked like solid skin. The rock girl caught me looking and smiled.
“I am Yaundy.”
“Nice to meet you.” She appeared friendly enough, but every part of her body looked stiff, unbending. If she was to sit unmoving with her eyes closed, I would walk right by her.
“Where are you from?” Nonya asked.
“I have never heard of such a place.”
Nonya glanced at the others and they each shook their heads.
“You know, when we started out on our mission, we never really considered that aliens existed. How stupid was that? I mean, I worried about it a little, but…” I glanced over at the two other females and shook my head slightly. “If they only knew, they would be shitting their pants. Probably trying to form some sort of treaty. They’re like that. Bureaucracy at its finest.”
Nonya gasped slightly, likely at the thought of Humanity’s arrogance and ignorance combined.
“Anyway, I guess we were all wrong,” I continued.
If I were to guess, I’d say Nonya looked pensive; the other two were now ignoring me.
“So…no one will be looking for you?” Nonya asked quietly.
How could they? I asked myself. I’m sure when the others arrived back on Earth, I was just presumed dead.
“What about you?” I asked.
“My brother, Nar.”
The thought of Earth and being the only Human here—wherever here was—was almost too much to bear, so I switched gears and changed the subject.
“I would kill for a pizza right now. That’s my favorite.” I glanced up at them and smiled. “My best friend, Cami, now she was focused. Sometimes too much. I used to go dancing on Friday nights, always hoping she might go with me. It never happened.” I paused, shaking my head, one side of my lips tipping upward. “I didn’t have anywhere else to go. Dancing was my escape. Do you all have dancing where you’re from?”
They just stared at me with a blank look.
“I guess not.” I tilted my head back against the filthy gray wall, and closed my eyes.
Weak, stinking of urine and feces, my muscles were stiff. At least they threw down a dark brown foam mat to soak up the urine. It didn’t help the smell.
How long have I been in this cell?
I didn’t know. Maybe a month, maybe two. Long enough not to care anymore. Day after day, or should I say—one long dim twilight—I filled the time talking with the others. Now I just lay on the floor in silence, remembering my friends, wondering if they made it home and what they were doing right now. Probably preparing for a second launch.
The lights flickered overhead and the ship jarred slightly. The other three stood abruptly while I slowly pushed up from the floor. They seemed both nervous and excited.
“What’s happening?” I asked automatically.
“I wish I knew,” Nonya answered.
My heart skipped a beat as I neared the forcefield and stared down the dark passageway.
When two yellow beasts appeared, I backpedaled and pressed up against the wall. The forcefield shimmered away just before they shoved a pink furred alien in with us. The alien spun around...
It all happened quickly. The forcefield sprang to life and the furred alien’s paw touched the current. She screamed, jerking her hand/paw away and clutching it to her chest. The others rushed to her side while I watched, heart pounding. Why didn’t the current kill her?