Excerpt for An Alien Perspective by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



Roxanne Barbour

Copyright © 2017 by Roxanne Barbour

Cover Artist: Steven Novak

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author

Chapter 1

I opened my eyes and gagged. I discovered myself face down, with my mouth wide open to the grass beneath me. I lifted my head, rolled my body to the right, and sat up.

Where am I?

An unfamiliar environment greeted me.

To get a better view of my surroundings, I stood and took a couple of stiff and hesitant steps. Then I stopped. A small enclosed compound surrounded me, and I found six or seven other young adults struggling to their feet or moving about. Few words were being spoken. The others appeared as stunned as I.

My head is killing me!

A metal fence enclosed our grass carpeted compound. The sunshine glinted off the six foot high, mesh-like fence. A large box occupied one corner of our prison. To add to my confusion, the sun appeared as strange as the purple-hued grass.

I walked toward where our fence connected to the corner box. I surveyed my surroundings.

What’s this?

My mind froze in confusion, and I found myself breathless.

Over the top of the box, I’d spied an adjacent compound inhabited by strange beings. These humanoid aliens had all the same body parts as we did, but that’s where any resemblance stopped. Their baldness and large ears complemented their dark mottled skin. They had a tall, slim physique. My appearance had instantly stopped their restless movements.

One being was close to my location. Neither of us moved as we stared intently at each other over the top of the box.

The alien’s clothing appeared soft, supple, and camouflaging. Our closeness allowed me to observe that his skin was consistent with his clothing.

Unnerved, the alien similarly undressed me. I felt like I was on display, but I realized the feeling was probably mutual.

“Where are they from?” I mumbled out loud.

“We are from the planet Temma,” the alien answered.

Instinctively, I took a big step backward. Then I grunted, after I stumbled and almost landed on my ass. I needed to get a handle on my reactions.

“You speak English?”

“Unlikely. Take a look at what is around your neck.” The alien lifted an upper appendage—very similar to a hand—and pointed at me.

In my confusion, I hadn’t discovered an object hanging on a cord around my neck. I reached up and grabbed it. A small black metal object with lights, numbers, and letters on its surface filled my clenched fist.

“I believe we have all been given universal translators.”

“Who are you?” I blurted. I don’t know why those words popped out of my mouth.

“As I said, I am a Temman male, and my name is Stire.”

I should respond, I thought.

“Oh, ah, ah, my name is Cyn. Actually, Cyn-Tia Silverthorne, but just call me Cyn. And I am a girl, I mean female, of the human species.”

Get a grip, idiot. You sounded really stilted.

“Where are we? What’re we doing here? Did you bring us?” I stammered. By this time, the rest of the humans had gathered behind me.

I tried to read Stire’s body language and facial expressions, but my overloaded senses failed me.

Unexpectedly, Stire thrust his hand toward me. Startled, I put my hand on the box between us to steady myself.

A harsh beep erupted, and I jumped. The loud sound made both of us take a closer look.

The large closed container was about eight feet on a side, and had no distinguishing marks.

Glancing around, I discovered four fenced compounds surrounded the box. Apparently, one for each of the races—human, Temman, and two unknown, obviously alien, groups.

Stire stood in front of the box where it protruded into his compound. As brave, or as foolish as I, he reached out to touch it himself. A similar sound to the first pinged on our consciousness.

At the second loud beep, the inhabitants of all compounds started walking warily toward the central box. An alien from one of the other two compounds touched the box and the same beep zinged through the air.

Nothing happened, so the three of us just stared at each other.

Enough of this inaction!

“You, touch the box!” I said, pointing at the nearest alien in the remaining compound.

After a pause, an apparently female alien responded.

“Why should I do what you say? We Irandi do not cooperate with strangers.”

And I bet we’re very strange!

Before I had a chance to respond, Stire interjected, “Although I do not know what is going on, I do not believe that any of us caused this situation. So we will have to cooperate—at least to the extent of gathering information.” He paused, and then said, “At the moment, someone from each of three compounds has touched this box and nothing has happened, except for the beeps. So, I think someone from your compound should also touch the box.”

“Maybe the fourth could be anyone?” the Irandi responded.

Stire gestured to another Temman. Nothing happened after the second Temman touched the box.

We turned to the Irandi. After a moment’s hesitation, she touched an appendage to the box.

A fourth beep sounded, and a package spewed out onto my feet. From the movements of the other aliens, they’d obviously also received a delivery.

The lizard-like Irandi was the first to pick up its package. Nothing happened, so my fear of a bomb was unfounded; although, thinking back later, my notion wasn’t very logical.

My package contained a few pages covered in writing, so I started to read. I’d never been able to resist reading anything put in front of me.

“Cyn, are your notes written in your own language?” Stire asked.

“Yes, they are. And yours?”

“Yes. My notes say to confer with my own people and discuss the contents of the package.”

If I could read an alien, Stire appeared confused. The other two held their packages as far in front of themselves as they could, and their actions reeked of uncertainty.

I had no argument. I desperately needed information about our predicament.

“Why don’t we each join our own group and discuss what we’ve found. Meet back here in a little while?” I suggested. I assumed the differing physical gestures made by the aliens showed their agreement because they started to walk away.

I turned around and proceeded toward the far corner of the human compound. As I traveled, I gathered up the other humans. I sat against the fence and looked around—definitely not Earth. In addition to the unusual purple-tinted grass, the air had a faint whiff of a herb. Not close enough to any Earth herb for me to recognize, but pleasant, nonetheless. However, my anxiety intruded, and I needed to stop my examination of my surroundings.

So I picked up my papers and started to read, but voices intruded.

“What’s happening? Where are we?”

“What’s in the package?”

“What are those other beings? Are they aliens?”

The voices overlapped and a little hysteria rose to the surface.

After I raised my hand, quiet eventually descended upon my group. I counted eight of us, and we all appeared to be older teenagers.

“I have no information yet; let me read these notes. Perhaps the answers are in here.” I started to organize the papers on my lap.

“Don’t keep anything from us,” said a fairly tall, dark skinned guy, shaking his short brown hair.

Irritated, I looked up. “I’m going to read these papers out loud, as I said before.”

“My name is Hamza, and you didn’t say you were going to read everything to us.”

A couple of people hushed him. To diffuse the situation, I decided the time had come to introduce ourselves. Our group consisted of four females and four males, and we appeared to be from different backgrounds. Is this an important fact?

After the introductions, the humans settled down.

“The first note in this package is the instruction to read and discuss all of the following items with everyone else in your group. So that’s what I’m doing.” I tried not to sound annoyed. “There are ten items. Let me just read all of them out loud, and then we can discuss each item separately.”

Then I said, “Listen carefully.

“1. We have brought you here, from your home planet, for a reason, which will not be revealed at this time.

“2. You will be living and working in an integrated village with the other species.

“3. The four people who each received this package will form your Managing Committee. The members of this committee cannot be changed. Their DNA is required to open the supply box.

“4. The Managing Committee will receive instructions and supplies each morning. The Managing Committee will be your government.

“5. Today’s instructions and supplies are waiting in the supply box.

“6. Around your neck is a universal translator, which also incorporates a timepiece and a recording device.

“7. There is clothing and footwear for each individual in the supply box. Discard your old items.

“8. Do not attempt to leave. There is nowhere to go.

“9. Discuss your situation for a few moments.

“10. Then the Managing Committee must meet at the supply box.”

I dropped the list in my lap and tried to slow my breathing. My confusion escalated—I’d just gained consciousness in a strange location with no clue about my situation, and now I was in charge? From the stunned looks on the faces in front of me, I gathered the others experienced a similar shock.

“This isn’t fair. I want to go back to Earth,” said the green-eyed girl, Janet Kahn. The force with which she brushed her red, curly hair out of her face said everything. “I never thought abduction by aliens would be part of my life.”

Her statement nailed our predicament and forced me, at least temporarily, to ignore my own feelings.

“Janet, it does seem pretty rotten. My major concern is the why of the situation. Why are we here? We don’t even know who brought us.” I paused for a moment. “I’m guessing it’s another type of alien we haven’t met.” The number of different aliens overwhelmed me—although, on another level, my excitement grew.

Hamza brought me back to earth—actually, my expression didn’t quite fit.

“I don’t understand why you’re on the Managing Committee—I should be. I’m in charge of many programs on Earth,” he said.

Although I thought Hamza was exactly the wrong person to be on a committee, I decided on tact. “Perhaps you should be, but I don’t see how we can change anything. These instructions are pretty explicit.” I pointed to the sheets in my lap.

Hamza pursed his lips.

“There’s nothing else in this envelope, so it doesn’t look like we’re going to receive any more insights at the moment.” I’d started to put the instructions back in the envelope when Tommy approached.

“Cyn, I’m a journalism student, and I wondered if I could take those papers. We should start a journal on what’s happened to all of us. And since these gadgets are apparently recording devices too, I thought I’d record our instructions.”

Tommy had a good idea. If nothing else, he’d help crystallize our thoughts.

“Good. I’ll give you the papers a little later; I need them for now. But take this envelope; you can also be our archivist. Who knows what the future holds? Maybe we’ll all write our memoirs.” I couldn’t bring myself to smile.

I continued, “It’s time for me to meet the rest of the managing committee.”

After that comment, the other seven followed me to the supply box.

Chapter 2

The supply box turned out to be a popular spot. The rest of the managing committee waited for me. I positively recognized Stire, but I wasn’t sure about the other two aliens.

A few steps back from each member of the managing committee, the remainder of the abductees hovered in groups in their compounds. The humans appeared anxious and upset, and I was sure the aliens were also.

The four managing committee members studied each other.

“Stire, may I look at your instructions? I just want to compare your language with ours,” I said, to break the ice.

So Stire and I traded. I flipped through his sheets of paper. Of course, I wasn’t even sure if the sheets were made from paper. His written characters gave me an urge to solve a puzzle—not that I was any linguist.

The other two beings silently joined in our exchange.

After a few moments of studying the various versions, Stire said, “We should all introduce ourselves, as it appears we will be working together.”

I had to agree. From what I could glean from our instructions, we had a lot to do.

“Okay, I’ll start. My name is Cyn-Tia Silverthorne, but please call me Cyn. I’m from a planet called Earth. Parts of Earth are similar to the little I’ve seen so far of this planet, but I don’t think this is Earth. For one thing, the sun and ground cover are slightly different.” I took a deep breath. “What else? Oh, yes. I’m a female of my species, and I’m seventeen years old. Seventeen is equivalent to a teenager, or a young adult. I’m studying mathematics and computer science at school.” For the time being, they didn’t need any more information about me.

Next, Stire held up his hand. “I am Stire. You may call me Stire.” I suspected Stire tried a little Temman humor. “I am from a planet called Temma. My age is five, but I believe it is equivalent to Cyn’s age. I am male. Most of our planet is very dry, and certainly has less vegetation. I am currently studying chemistry, and I will shortly be moving to study water preservation.” He sighed. “I hope.”

Silence enveloped the four of us while we thought about our predicament.

Then an alien with mauve skin slightly darker than the others of its species began to speak. While doing so, a large raised band of flesh around its head moved slightly. “My name is Frakis a Kirba. I am from a planet called Reanno. Our planet would be classified as a water planet. Everywhere you look, you see water. Reanno is distinctly unlike Temma and this planet. We have a matriarchal society, and I am female.”

Frakis hesitated, and then said, “The Kirba in my name indicates which clan I belong to. We have four clans: Kirba, Camp, Simo, and Brewst. Normally, we call each other by our whole name, but I will make an exception in this situation. You may call me Frakis. I am sixteen, which appears equivalent to everyone else.” The band around Frakis’s head settled down.

Frakis had certainly provided information to pursue. I wondered what she studied. Perhaps the Reannone didn’t have a formal educational system.

The last member of our committee then spoke. The Irandi we’d forced to touch the supply box hesitated. We studied an upright lizard with yellow eyes and twelve fingers. “I am called Tine Jana. Tine is also a clan name—one of many. Only four appear to be represented at this location. Our planet is called Irandis. And, again, it is unlike our current location. Irandis is mostly tropical forest. Calling me Jana is correct. I have thirteen years, and I am female. We consider ourselves young adults at this age.” Jana stopped talking and stepped back.

No one said a word, so I decided to babble. “This’s so exciting. Never, in my wildest dreams, did I imagine I’d meet real aliens—people that look and act so differently. All the stories I’ve read never prepared me for this moment!” I sighed. “Of course, I miss my family and friends. Don’t take this the wrong way, but I wish I was home on Earth.” My smile disappeared.

While talking, I’d noticed Stire looking at me with some speculation. I wondered what his thoughts were, or if I’d even read him accurately.

Stire spoke. “Since we four are the managing committee—through no decision of our own—we must discuss everything. We should have meetings every day because there will be much to plan. For our first action, we must open the supply box—we need to study our new instructions. Perhaps we will find clues as to why we are here. I must reiterate, we Temmans are upset regarding this abduction.”

“Join the club,” I murmured.

“What does join the club mean?” asked Frakis. “Is not a club used to hit something?”

“You’re right. In our language, club does normally mean an instrument for hitting, but it also means a group of people joined together for a specific purpose.” I smiled. “These universal translators are apparently not perfect. What I’m trying to say is we all seem to be reacting in the same way.”

“Let us open this box,” interrupted Stire, clearly impatient.

I studied the portion visible to me. Each quarter of the box top had an indentation. This is new, I thought.

Frakis said, “Put an appendage, or a hand, or whatever you call them, in your respective indent.”

“Were these indentations here before? I don’t remember them,” I asked.

Neither did anyone else. The top of the box had obviously changed.

We all reached out. Jana was the last to put her hand on the top. At that point, the top of the supply box split open and slid down into its sides. Startled, I pulled my hand back. Shortly afterwards, the fences retracted into the ground. A delineation of our compounds was no longer needed.

A stuffed supply box greeted us. Sheets of paper and plastic wrapped clothing resided on the top layer, and numerous boxes filled the bottom.

The managing committee sorted through the instruction envelopes to retrieve the ones we each could decipher, and then we started to read.

During the time we perused our new instructions, I glanced up and noticed that, even though the fences were down, no one in the compounds had moved.

After a moment, Stire commented, “This is pretty much what I expected. The first thing we must do is take everything from the supply box and rendezvous at the cookhouse. Our abductors provided a map of the areas in this settlement, or the village, as they call it. The map shows us how to find the cookhouse, so we should go there first. Then we can study the rest of our instructions.”

No one had any argument with Stire’s firm statement, so we organized our own people to each grab a box or two. The supply box contained numerous items, and I looked forward to uncovering the contents. With such differing species, I suspected a number would prove fascinating.

With Stire in the lead, our group proceeded along the path. We looked like a flock of birds with their heads bobbing about taking in the sights. The countryside was mostly invisible because of the low rise buildings surrounding us.

All of a sudden, I found myself on the ground—I’d been pushed from behind.

I heard Tommy yell, “Why did you knock her down?”

Janet helped me to my feet, and I saw Tommy had grabbed the arm of a Temman. They struggled for a moment, but Tommy wouldn’t let go.

“What is going on?” demanded Stire. The word had apparently reached him at the head of the line.

“This idiot pushed Cyn to the ground,” said Tommy.

“Have you been hurt?” Stire asked, in a quiet voice.

“Just a little scrape on my hand.” However, the shock of being pushed upset me.

Stire glared at the Temman. “I am sorry about this. I will take care of the situation.” Stire made a gesture to the other Temman and said, “Come with me.”

I watched the two of them walk to the head of the line.

Is this my future?

The cookhouse was close to our starting point, Awakening Square. The outside of the single story building was clad with gray colored boards. Inside, we found a cooking area, an open dining area, and stacked tables and chairs.

We piled everything from the supply box in the middle of the open room, and then the committee huddled.

“Housing and clothing needs to be assigned,” said Jana.

My study of the map and instructions reminded me. “Apparently, each housing unit is to contain one Human, one Irandi, one Temman, and one Reannone. And one of the housing units is specifically labeled for the managing committee.”

“The Irandi will not be happy with this arrangement. We should make each housing unit species-specific,” said Jana.

Not very friendly, I thought. Did she have an alien reason?

“Jana, I believe it would be foolish to disobey our abductors at this early stage of our captivity. Let them think we are obedient until we gather sufficient information,” said Frakis. “I suggest we pile all the clothing together. Then we will give every person a set of clothing and tell each of them their housing unit number.”

“Apparently we can record with our universal translators. Has anyone figured out how to do that?” I asked. “I think notes on the housing assignments would be useful.”

In just a few moments, Frakis became the first to decipher the art of recording with her universal translator.

“There is also a necessities pack for each person. Hopefully, they are species-specific,” Stire added. “They should be given out at the same time as the clothing and shoe packages.”

Chaos reigned, for a while, especially when we tried to determine clothing sizes, but we eventually sorted everything out and sent our comrades on their way.

The managing committee’s housing unit was located next to both the cookhouse and Awakening Square. A one level building covered with brown paneling, our unit contained four bedrooms, a sitting area, and a bathroom. Each bedroom door had a plaque designating a planet written in the appropriate language. We knew our rooms would be slightly different to take into account our differing physiologies.

My sparsely furnished room contained a bed with linens, shelving, a bench, and what appeared to be a lamp sitting on the window ledge. I dropped my new clothes on the bed and sat down on the bench. The monstrosity of my situation engulfed me; tears rolled down my face.

Will I ever have contact with my family again?

After a few moments of despair, I gave myself a little shake, and then changed my clothes. Knowing I needed a freshening, I found the bathroom. Quite unique—our abductors had managed to make uni-species fixtures.

Shortly, all four of us met in the sitting area. Our new clothing fit well—mostly because the dark colored shirts and pants had numerous ways for making adjustments. Velcro-like tabs, a belt on the pants, and a built-in drawstring on the shirt’s waist helped. The comfortable sandals had Velcro tabs. They were comfortable, and acted like heavy duty walking shoes.

“This clothing is quite practical,” commented Frakis. A bright red scarf adorned her neck.

“Why’re you wearing a scarf?” I asked.

“Tradition. Wearing one indicates our clan.”

“Why?” asked Jana.

“Mostly historical. In the past, we had clan wars, so we needed a way to tell the clans apart. We have worn them for so long we feel naked if one is missing.” The scarf certainly spiced up her clothing. I’d have to think of something for myself. Jana, the Irandi, had jewelry on her fingers.

“We need to get back to the cookhouse; a lot of work is waiting,” said Stire.

The next item on the agenda we’d received regarded assigning tasks.

According to our instructions, we needed to unpack and store the remaining items, find the location of the wood supply for the cook stoves, set up the tables and chairs, and start the first meal.

A lot to be accomplished on the first day.

“The Irandi are concerned about our situation,” said Jana. “How long are we to stay here? Knowing the length of our stay should help us plan.”

“Yes,” replied Stire, “but later. We will not receive answers from our abductors today. Right now, we need to work on our projects.”

A little pushy, I thought.

“What time of day is it?” I asked.

“Why?” quizzed Frakis.

“Since we have timepieces, we should set them to our best estimate. Then we can plan our mealtimes, and such.”

“How do we know how many hours are in a day? Or even if this planet has days?” asked Jana.

“We lack information, I agree. But I’d guess we were given timepieces because we do have a night and day, and so we could synchronize our activities,” I said.

“My best guess is mid-afternoon,” suggested Stire. “So, if we have a twenty-five hour day, we are at about fifteen-hours now.”

No one objected, as we had little information.

“I am sure we will have many adjustments to make, and not only our timepieces, as we gather data,” he added. “But we are off track. We need to organize our tasks.”

“Our first project should be to assign people to look for the woodpile. We will soon need a meal,” suggested Frakis.

“Yes, and let’s discuss a meal schedule later. Our routines must be different.”

I continued, “From what I’ve observed, thirty-two people arrived here, with eight from each species.” Apparently we could all count; no one voiced any disagreement. “So, why don’t we send eight to gather the wood—I’m sure it won’t be far? Then maybe we could have eight cooks and helpers, perhaps another six to unpack these boxes, with another six to start setting up the chairs and tables and help with the unpacking. That leaves the four of us to go back to Awakening Square and take a better look around. We probably missed clues or other important information in the initial confusion.”

Clues would be really nice!

“What is Awakening Square?” asked Jana.

“Oh, sorry, that’s just my own name for where we woke up.”

“An excellent name,” commented Frakis. “And I have no objections to your suggestions about the duty splits. We need to start somewhere.”

So that’s what we did. There was a lot of grumbling, but good-natured, for the most part. A state of shock still permeated the atmosphere, though. And I expected the feeling to last for a long time.

The managing committee helped with some of the unpacking and storage, so we had a better idea of what supplies had arrived, and then we walked over to Awakening Square. This time, we took a closer look. Studying the area had not been foremost in our minds after we’d woken up.

Awakening Square was near the edge of our village. As a result, we had a good view of our surroundings. In the distance, tall snow-covered mountains caught my eye. Surrounding the village were acres of lush fields. No water source appeared, but the fields would need one close by. Just a hint of an unusual scent wafted in the air. Perhaps lavender?

We wandered around Awakening Square studying the details.

“I’m trying to figure out a reason for us being here, but nothing comes to mind. This whole situation is obviously well-planned, but why? Seems strange to throw together four wildly differing species—it can’t be a random happening.” To myself, I even sounded stressed.

“We must be involved in an experiment. An advanced species brought us here so they could study us. And they must be advanced, because this is certainly not my planet, and we have not developed any way to get here ourselves. On the other hand, maybe one of your species abducted the other three of us!” barked Jana, throwing her arms in the air.

Jana was losing her grip on reality. Not a surprise.

“Jana, if one of our species did this, why would we be here too?” I asked. I tried to be reasonable. “Honestly, we only have space travel to neighboring planets in our own solar system, and even that’s only in an early exploratory stage.”

“We regularly travel to one other planet in our system, but out-of-system travel is beyond our current capabilities,” added Stire.

“And we are thinking about it,” said Frakis, with what I assumed was a smile.

So the other species aren’t any more developed than we are. What are the chances of four species, being at the same stage of development, landing in the same situation?

Something to think about.

“So, to summarize: we’ve all been brought here from different planets for an unknown reason, and by an unknown race.” I took a deep breath. “That’s not much data, and certainly not very comforting.”

“No. And we have found no clues. The only item of interest is the supply box. Does anyone think it works both ways? If we put something in it, will the item disappear?” Stire asked.

We walked over and studied the inside. I couldn’t see any indication of machinery or electronics. Its appearance was nothing more than a large empty wooden box.

Frakis took off her scarf and said, “Put this in the box and see what happens.”

“Don’t you need your clan identification?” I asked.

“I will be fine. I have my clan belt.”

Her red belt had escaped my notice. I suspected we’d be learning more about clan customs in the future.

So we put the scarf in the box and closed it up. We waited a few moments and then looked back inside. The scarf remained on the floor of the box.

“Maybe we need to leave the scarf until the next time we get our supplies. Perhaps the supply box can only be operated from the other end?” said Jana.

“That’s not a bad theory. Let’s leave it where it is until tomorrow,” I replied. “Has anyone discovered any clues in Awakening Square to help us?”

I heard no response, and I hadn’t expected any. Our abductors weren’t going to be that unsophisticated. We continued to study the area, but our actions were fruitless. We needed to move on.

“Why don’t we do a little exploring away from the village? Which direction should we go?” I asked.

“North,” said Jana, as she pointed towards the mountains.

“Why do you think that is north?” Stire asked.

“I can tell by the sun.”

No one argued. Did it really matter what the direction was labeled?

We walked away from the village. The landscape consisted of low lying fields and short shrubbery. A slight tinge of purple continued to enhance the greenery.

After about fifteen minutes of walking north, we changed our direction to circle the village. Shortly, we came upon a path leading away from the village; probably in the equivalent of west. Although a wide path, no wear indicated it had ever been used.

“Let us take this route,” said Jana. “It must lead somewhere.” She appeared quite the explorer.

“Actually, I think we should go back to the cookhouse and monitor the progress. We need to keep everything organized and under control,” Frakis said.

Jana took one look at us and, without a word, stomped off towards the village. We watched her go.

Frakis sighed. At least, that’s what I thought her movement meant. “This managing committee is excellent experience for me, since my study topic is city administration. Or was…” Frakis appeared crestfallen after her remark.

“Good thoughts,” said Stire.

I wasn’t sure if Stire meant Frakis had a good plan, or if she needed to think positively. Either way, Frakis perked up. The three of us started back. We were a short distance behind Jana.

Back at the cookhouse, much progress had been accomplished. Most of the tables and chairs had been assembled and set up, and the remaining supplies stored. From where we stood in the dining area, the kitchen sounded chaotic. At least the smell of smoke indicated stoves had been lit.

So the committee proceeded into the kitchen. A door on the back wall opened, and Tommy appeared with a load of wood. He dumped it by a stove.

“Where did you find the wood?” I asked.

“Piled right beside a store room, not far away.” Tommy grinned. “My curiosity got the better of me, and I took a peek inside. The room is stuffed with all sorts of articles—things like wheelbarrows, gardening tools, coils of wire and rope, and lots more. Some of them look quite alien.”

I smiled. “They may be native to our new friends.”

“Or maybe whoever brought us here.” A faraway look appeared in his eyes for a few seconds, and then he snapped back. “I’ve made a mental list of all the topics I want to write about; all of the experiences we’ve undergone today. And, to top it off, this store room excites me, for some reason.”

“Well, just remember to write it all down. Your job is important.” I decided to change the subject. “How much wood did you find?”

“Probably enough for a couple of days. We’ll have to determine how fast the cooks use it, but I think we’ll probably need more pretty soon. We’re creating a stockpile outside the cookhouse. And we found tarps in the store room, in case it rains. We have no idea what the weather patterns are like.”

“Agreed. We’re pretty ignorant, but I’ll put a source of wood on our to-do list.”

Tommy took off to get another load of wood, I assumed, and I turned back to the kitchen. Stire listened to a discussion. The stances of the participants indicated disagreement, so I walked a little closer.

“I am not going to let some alien watch me cook our food. Cooking is a private matter. We have many rituals we perform. It is part of our religion,” said an Irandi.

“That is indeed a problem,” agreed Stire. He glanced at me.

Was I supposed to come up with an answer? Probably, since the other cook involved was a human.

I thought for a moment. “We need four areas in the kitchen so food can be prepared for each species, and the kitchen looks like it’s been set up that way. Why don’t you take one of the end stations? Most of the cooks will not be near you. We’ll try to rig up a divider on the other side of your station—that way no one can watch you cook. Since we need a meal shortly, it’s probably best you all get started.”

The Irandi cook acted mollified. I may not have been entirely convincing, but the cooks did turn away and get back to work.

I gestured Stire aside. “There’s so much we haven’t thought about. It’s mind boggling. For example, how many meals a day does everyone need? Most humans require three main meals, and two or three snacks. We need to set up a meal schedule accommodating all species.”

“Yes, we do.”

So Stire and I gathered up Jana and Frakis and worked out a meal plan. Of course, we made assumptions about our new world.

In the end, it turned out three meals a day was the norm for three species. Since the Irandi normally had two main meals a day, they would snack with us during the midday meal.

A long countertop had been installed between the seating area and the cooking facilities. When the cooks finished their preparations, the dishes of food were piled along the countertop, and everyone helped themselves. The eating area contained plenty of space for comfortable dining.

Jana stood and let out a shriek. The dining area immediately silenced.

“Not everyone follows a religion, and certainly not mine. However, I would like to say something.” Jana paused for a couple of seconds. Then she held out her hands, bowed her head, and said, “Blessings on everyone, blessings on this food, and hopeful blessings our situation will resolve.” At the end of her blessing she slowly dropped into her chair.

I heard a few murmurs—prayers perhaps—then everyone began to eat. We, the managing committee, had a table to ourselves.

“Does anyone understand how this universal translator works? Most of the time, I hear the translation clearly. But why don’t I hear the original words and the translation all jumbled together?” Although I happily accepted the machine, curiosity made me ask.

Jana suggested an answer. “Since I study astronomy, I confess I also am addicted to scientification.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Fiction with wild scientific speculation thrown in,” said a flushed Jana.

“We call that science fiction,” I said, smiling.

“I found a theory about universal translators which says they tune directly into the frequency of your brain, eliminating confusion. Perhaps these work on that basis. Without translators, our accomplishments and organization would be minimal.”

No one argued with her statement.

Then the dining area attracted my attention. “A lot of the tables are only occupied by a single species.”

“A natural reaction to the stress. Everyone needs to find comfort in familiarity. Our lives, right now, are filled with uncertainty,” commented Frakis.

All four of us continued to study the dining area, but no one else commented.

To change the topic, I asked, “Our abductors have supplied the basic necessities. Any thoughts about the housing units?”

“They seem sparse, but at least they are suited to the Irandi needs,” commented Jana. “Especially the bathroom. Our abductors ingeniously figured out a way to make a bathroom usable by everyone. Having facilities in the cookhouse is also appreciated.”

Stire spoke up. “We have practical clothing. Although only three sizes were available, the garment adjustments make the clothing workable. Since such an elaborate setup was created, I believe we will be here for a considerable length of time. We will need a continual supply of food and more than one set of clothing. In particular, we will need a means of cleaning items.”

I added my thoughts. “That has also been planned. I talked to the cooks and we have hot and cold running water in the kitchen.”

“I briefly checked out the bathroom facilities in our housing unit. Hot and cold water is installed there also,” said Jana.

“So we have the means to clean clothes and dishes. Of course, we don’t know where the hot water is coming from, and I’ve not seen any power sources. There is so much to learn.”

Feeling a little weary, I continued, “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m fading. It may be whatever they drugged us with, or I might be over stimulated, but I should probably get an early night.”

“Yes. I am also tired, but we need to become familiar with our new home. We should suggest everyone take a short stroll around the village to relax and explore, and then settle down for the night.” Frakis had a comforting nature.

“Before we do, we should decide on kitchen cleanup,” said Jana. “The Irandi will not be the only ones doing dishes.”

Irritated for some reason, I decided her species probably did many things differently.

In the end, the easiest solution turned out to be alternating the daily cleanup amongst the races. Tonight’s toss fell to the Irandi. Jana stood to offer a protest, but then she backed off.

Various groupings, mostly non-mixed, took off from the cookhouse when their meals ended. A stroll was a welcome way to aid digestion.

I joined the managing committee and we walked north again.

Although I thought of this time as evening, the light level remained high. What will the length of the day eventually turn out to be?

We discovered water on our stroll. A wide shallow course rushed past us. Because of the meadows lapping the stream, we easily walked along the edge. We also discovered a piping system taking water from the stream and sending it in the general direction of our village. Our source of cold water had been found.

Our exercise had increased my energy level. Since more planning was deemed necessary, we decided to return to the cookhouse. On our walk back, we encountered a few groups still exploring, but the majority of our populace also headed back.

The cleanup crew had put a few items out for an evening snack. The cooks had helped the Irandi determine appropriate food stuffs for each race. Our abductors had given us a large supply in our first drop.

After we picked up food, the managing committee settled at a table to continue our planning. I had a topic I desperately wanted to discuss. “Stire, why was I pushed to the ground?”

Stire didn’t answer immediately. “Cyn, I am sorry about that. However, you must understand more about Temmans. Physically, we are tall and strong. However, if we lose our balance, we cannot recover and land on the ground. Then, only slowly, can we regain our upright position.”

“Yes, but why was I pushed?” I demanded.

“Pushing is what we do to enemies, and all aliens are considered enemies. Not that we encountered any before.”

“So, we are all at risk?” said Jana.

“Yes. I will try to keep the Temmans under control.”

This is a fine state of affairs!

“Anything else I need to worry about?” I glared around the table, but no one responded.

“What do we need to plan for tomorrow?” asked Stire. Apparently, he wanted to change the subject.

No one spoke, but I discovered Frakis busily recording.

“I am beginning a list,” she said, responding to my glance. “I just added find an escape to it. Following the agenda of our abductors is necessary, but I think…”

A loud screech erupted from everyone’s universal translator. The sound was followed by a voice, saying, “Follow your instructions. Do not attempt to escape. Any deviations from your agenda will be met with increasing repercussions.” A loud click resounded in the deathly quiet room.

This is not a good end to a stressful day.

Gradually, the dining area filled with conversation, but a note of hysteria lingered below the surface.

“Our abductors must read anything we record,” said Jana.

“Yes,” agreed Stire. “We must be careful. We can discuss this later in a secure location.”

No one spoke, so I decided to bring up a non-controversial subject. “These chairs are interesting. I don’t know how they did it, but they seem to be comfortable for all of us.”

“I agree,” answered Stire. “Although we have noticeable physical differences, they do work. Our abductors must have studied our planets for a significant length of time before they set up this village.”

“Frightening,” Frakis said. She ate something resembling canned purple worms. “I have a subject I would like to bring up.” She continued. “No insult to Stire, but this managing committee should be all female. Reanno is organized in that manner.”

“Our abductors made it quite clear…”

Two humans burst through the cookhouse door carrying a third—Tommy and Hamza toted Janet.

“Cyn, Janet started throwing up. What should we do?”

Chapter 3

Tommy and Hamza deposited Janet on the floor of the cookhouse. I jumped up from my chair and ran over. Others in the dining room moved as well.

Janet’s sweaty face had a gray pallor. She was conscious, but obviously in a great deal of discomfort.

“Has anyone found evidence of a hospital, or even medical equipment, in our village?” I asked, raising my voice.

A Temman spoke. “We think we found a medical clinic near where we arrived. A small building contained beds and equipment. Although, I may have incorrectly concluded its purpose.”

Janet needs to go there.

“Does anyone have medical training?”

I jumped, after Stire spoke. I hadn’t realized he’d joined me.

A human and a Temman waved their hands.

Good. At least we have some medical expertise.

Stire pointed at the Temman. “Take us to this building quickly.” He motioned for Tommy and Hamza to pick up Janet and for the human and Temman medics to follow. Stire suggested the people remaining in the cookhouse relax and await our return. We would assign tomorrow’s remaining duties at that time. He also waved the managing committee to the medical clinic. I needed no urging—I wasn’t about to ignore a sick human.

We found a rudimentary medical clinic containing four beds, examining equipment, and containers of drugs. The equipment and drugs were clearly segregated into four sections, and expertly labeled in our own languages.

Stire, Frakis, and Jana stayed outside joining Tommy and Hamza, so Janet could have privacy in the clinic.

Lying on one of the beds, a pale Janet greeted me. Still conscious, but I knew her eyes wanted to close.

The two medics talked quietly to Janet while they examined her. I moved closer.

Janet glanced at me and said, “Sorry I’m such a bother. I don’t know what happened. A profound tiredness came upon me after dinner, and then it got to the point where I could barely walk. So I sat down, and then I lost my dinner.”

“Do you have any allergies?” one of the medics asked.

“None that I know of. I probably just over ate at dinner. Every item I tried tasted so good.” Janet smiled.

“Did you try any of the alien foods?” I was curious what had appealed to her.

“Just a couple. I do so love purple foods.” Abruptly, Janet started to throw up, and a container was shoved under her chin. Thankfully, her discomfort was short lived. One of the medics gave her a glass of water to rinse her mouth and a damp cloth to wipe her face.

My eyes glanced at the bucket. Purple items did indeed make up the majority of the sludge. I gave the medics a trust me look before I spoke to Janet. “Believe it or not, Janet, I have an opinion about your predicament. I think food poisoning caused your distress.”

The first part of my statement brought a smile to her face.

“Your body’s quickly getting rid of the offending items. You’ll probably feel crappy for a few days, but if you rest a lot, you should be better in no time.” I gave her shoulder a pat, and then motioned the medics outside. “What do you think of my uneducated medical opinion?” I asked.

“You’re most likely correct. I was leaning toward that thought myself,” answered a blond haired human. “But we should keep an eye on her, at least for tonight. Strik and I’ll split up the night watch. If all goes well, Janet could potentially rest in her own room tomorrow.”

His name escaped me, but then I remembered—Sam Clark. “Sam, I’m going to bunk here tonight. Janet’ll be happy with a familiar face.”

“Sure, there’s lots of room.”

Together, the three of us walked back into the clinic.

“Janet, you lucky person, we’ve decided you’re probably going to live. But guess what? You get to listen to my snores.”

“Good. I didn’t want to stay here alone.”

“I’ll be back. I need to talk to the rest of the managing committee about tomorrow.”

I left Janet and paused on the steps of the medical clinic and took in the view. The setting sun infused the alien skyline with an unusual green hue.

I encountered Tommy and Hamza hanging around the bottom of the stairs. “Thanks, guys, for bringing Janet so quickly. Smart thinking,” I said.

“We couldn’t leave her on the ground. Something was obviously wrong. So we picked her up and took her to the only place where there’d possibly be help. The medical clinic was unknown to us,” added Tommy.

“We haven’t even been here a whole day yet. You couldn’t have known.” The concept of less than a day flabbergasted me. I’d experienced so much in so little time.

“What’s the matter with her?” asked an agitated Hamza.

“Just a case of food poisoning from eating some alien items,” I replied.

“Are you sure? Maybe she’s infectious,” he said. “Perhaps we should isolate her from everyone. Do you think she picked up an alien disease?” Hamza wrung his hands.

Tommy was behind him, so he could roll his eyes and not be caught.

I stifled a laugh. “Everything’s fine, Hamza. Janet’ll rest here tonight, and I’m staying with her. Why don’t you guys get a snack and have an early night. This has been stressful for everyone. And thanks again.”

Tommy put his arm around Hamza and gently hustled him away.

Stire, Jana, and Frakis also waited a few steps away. I went over to them.

“I’m going to stay here tonight—Janet needs a reassuring face. She should recover quickly. We think her experimentation with alien cuisine was too much for her system.” I sighed. “I would’ve liked to try alien foods too, but it looks like I’m going to abstain, at least for the time being.”

A yawn escaped. “What do we need to plan for tomorrow?”

“Do not worry. We will assign cooks for the morning meal. If we plan the meal at eight am—well, eight am by our timepieces, that is—we should have the cooks in around seven, or perhaps earlier. Their decision. That should leave about nine hours for tonight’s rest. Everything else can wait for tomorrow,” answered Stire. He also looked weary.

“Sounds good. After breakfast, we’ll need to go to Awakening Square and open the supply box. I’m a little apprehensive about what instructions we’ll find,” I said.

“We are all apprehensive and tired. See you in the morning,” said Frakis, with a weak smile.

So my first night on an alien planet was not spent in my new bedroom, but in the medical clinic.

During the late evening, Janet was only sick once. The medic on duty, and I, kept encouraging her to drink water, since dehydration would slow down her recovery. She didn’t need pain medication, which was a relief for everyone.

Much to my surprise, Jana joined us around midnight. “What’s up, Jana?” I asked.

“Trouble sleeping, so I decided to see if everything was alright here.”

Jana is so sweet.

We chatted about inconsequential items for a while, and then Jana said, “You know, Cyn, our situation is troubling. We have no clue about how we got here; why we are here; what we are supposed to do…I could go on for quite a while. Very hard to grasp.”

“I agree. And I imagine being surrounded by all these strange beings is unsettling. I know it is for me.” Actually, I lied a little—I enjoyed interacting with aliens.

“Not upsetting, but you all act strangely at times.”

We both laughed after we recognized Jana had uttered a truth.

A few moments passed settling Jana, and then we joined in the slumbering.

In the morning, I woke up fairly well rested, and my shower only served to refresh me even more. However, I decided we needed to do something about clothing.

“I need new underwear. I’m wearing yesterday’s,” I complained to Janet.

“I agree. At least they provided sanitary supplies.”

Damn, I hadn’t thought about that yet. Our abductors must’ve had an unimaginable set of details to juggle.

“How’re you feeling?” I asked. Janet had more color in her face this morning.

“So much better! I may have to be less adventurous with the food, though.”

“No argument from me.” Medical crises were the last thing we needed. “Do you want to go to breakfast?” She didn’t look rested, but I thought I’d ask.

“No, I think I’ll just stay here and sleep. I’m still weak. Tonight, I might be brave and go to the cookhouse for dinner.”

“I’ll bring you breakfast, but only a small amount,” said Sam. He whistled a tune and set off.

I needed to be off. Today would be filled with unknowns. “Janet, I’ll try to pop in later. The managing committee has much to do today, so getting back here may be dicey. At the very least, I’ll find someone to update you on the going-ons if you don’t make it to dinner.”

Because the time on my universal translator told me I was behind schedule, I rushed over to the cookhouse. I hastily threw food on a plate and jumped into a seat at the table with the rest of the committee.

“How is Janet this morning?” asked Frakis.

“Much better, but she’s very tired and will rest all day. Our diagnosis of food poisoning appears correct. We’ll need to be vigilant in keeping the food items separate.” I had so wanted to try some of the alien dishes.

Time for a change of topic. “Frakis, what’s the last memory you have before you woke up here?” I asked.

“Hmm. I had just finished dinner with my family, and I had decided to take my grasm for a walk. My baby brother had bugged me throughout the meal, and I wanted to get away. For a time, I watched Frik run around a park, and then I woke up here.” Frakis painted a vivid picture that could have been from a human home.

“What’s a grasm?” I asked.

“A grasm is a small household pet. Frik has white fur, and is about two years old.” Frakis’s hand gestures gave me the image of a perky little dog. “I do miss my family,” she added.

Stire interrupted, “Discussion later. Time to go.”

The restlessness in the cookhouse was evident.

Stire quickly gathered everyone, and we walked over to Awakening Square. After a moment’s hesitation, the managing committee touched the supply box. To no one’s surprise, it opened immediately. Again, four sets of instructions greeted us.

“What do we have today?” someone yelled.

Stire gestured to the crowd for silence, and began to read aloud. I followed along with my copy.

“1. Another supply of wood has been delivered. You will need to search out your own source, as tomorrow will be the last day wood will be supplied. Cutting tools are included in today’s shipment.

“2. Species specific seeds have been supplied. You will need to find the gardening tools and begin preparing gardens.

“3. All species can digest the animals found on this planet.

“4. Do not put items in the supply box.”

Stire looked up. “No other instructions were included.”

Item four had obviously resulted from yesterday’s experiment with Frakis’ scarf.

“We need to unload the supplies. We can discuss the instructions later,” suggested Frakis.

We emptied the supply box and had the contents taken to the cookhouse.

After examination, we found more clothing, including three sets of underwear for everyone—at least, the alien equivalent of underwear.

Large and small cutting tools were also included in the shipment. We found seeds, as mentioned, and food. An second supply of paper and appropriate writing instruments, heavy duty paper, tape, paints and brushes delighted us.

Do our abductors want us to stop using our recording devices?

While we sorted everything out at the cookhouse, I commented, “We’re being watched. How else would our abductors know I’d been talking about underwear?”

“Being part of an experiment, it makes sense they oversee what is going on,” said Jana.

“Yes, but they must be watching everywhere. Yesterday, I ranted in my bedroom when I changed into my new clothing. That must be when they heard me talking about underwear. It couldn’t have been my conversation with Janet this morning; the supply box had probably already been filled by that time.”

“True,” agreed Frakis.

“I don’t like it. But then, I don’t like anything about this situation.” I managed a small smile. “Actually, that’s not completely true. I’m happy we’ve absolutely confirmed aliens do exist.”

Frakis laughed. “And how strange they look and act!”

She had a wicked sense of humor, in my opinion. I started to lean towards the theory every species had a sense of humor—although I wasn’t convinced the Irandi did.

“We need to decide actions,” Frakis continued. “Our instructions involve big projects.”

Stire broke in, “I agree with Frakis. Our resources need to be allocated carefully—we are few. We need to find a supply of wood, plant gardens, hunt for a meat source, and continue the food preparation and cleanup.”

Daunting tasks I agreed, but with Frakis studying city planning, we had a tremendous resource on our side. So the committee delegated tasks.

A hovering Hamza attracted my attention.

“Cyn, I don’t want to be part of the search for wood. I want to be an explorer. Let some aliens chop up firewood, and get hot and sweaty—or whatever it is they do,” said Hamza.

Hamza is a thorn in my side.

I thought frantically. “Think of searching for wood as exploring the countryside. Who knows what you’ll find?”

Not convinced, Hamza said, “I still think we should be able to choose whichever task we want.”

“Don’t worry; we’ll be switching around the assignments.” I glared at Hamza.

Now go away and leave me alone.

When I didn’t say any more, a sullen Hamza stomped off.

I suspected grumbling wouldn’t be relegated to just one species.

The managing committee decided to work with the gardening crew today. Appropriate tools had been discovered in the store room, so we gathered them up and went looking for a suitable location for our first garden patch. Since we’d need a water supply, we searched for a spot near the creek.

A lovely open area near a small grove of trees would offer the workers a shady spot to rest when required. As a result, today’s crew sat under the trees and planned the layout of the garden.

Digging up the meadow made a long day but, thankfully, we’d filled our packs with food and drink. The laboring gave us ample time to think about our abductors and their threats.

By the time dinner drew near, all I wanted was a shower and a nap. The nap wasn’t going to happen but, after we returned to the village and put our tools away, I did take time for a shower.

One long wall of the bathroom was covered with a racking system. I suddenly realized these were drying racks—a perfect place to hang newly washed clothes. I’d changed into my new set, so I quickly washed my others. Our abductors had planned well.

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