“Who’s there?” I demanded loudly, though my trembling voice gave away my fear.
Off to my left, a dark shape moved towards me. They were by my side before I knew it and I let out a small scream as a hand clapped over my mouth and nose.
“Make another sound and we are both dead. Do you understand?” A deep voice said in a hushed tone.
I looked up to find a face looking down at me. He had angular features and blue-tinted skin now clearly visible, and the sensation of his hand smothering my scream was unmistakably real. This was no hallucination attributed to my sleep disorder.
“I need you to be very quiet,” he whispered in the same deep smooth voice. “For both our sakes,” he added.
I gathered my wits, blinking once deliberately as if to nod in agreement, and slowed my breathing to demonstrate I had calmed down. He removed his hand and nodded.
“Good,” he said. He stood taller and smoothed down his grey uniform. “I do not want to have to put you under again.”
“Who are you?” I asked, making sure that my voice was no louder than his.
Blinking hard again, I tried to focus on his face. If I made it out of this alive, the police would need a description of this psycho. I could feel him touching my arm, but I couldn’t see what he was doing.
I studied the details of his face and noticed that his cheekbones and jawline were extremely angular. In fact, all his features were.
“Could you elaborate a bit, Korin?” I said, trying to keep him engaged with some conversation, but a lingering thought kept chilling me to the core, making it hard to imagine having a real chat with this man. I couldn’t help but wonder if he planned on letting me live since he was so comfortable letting me see his face.
He raised an eyebrow, then said, “I am your doctor.”
As soon as he said it, my attempt at keeping cool became doubly difficult. There was no way I wanted to play doctor with this freak. I noted there must have been a blue light somewhere in the vicinity casting an iridescent glow over him.
“No, my doctor is a short Asian woman named Alicia Wang,” I asserted. “You don’t look like a short Asian woman to me.”
“No, I’m not human and we are not on Earth.”
“Oh my god, you’re out of your mind,” I said louder than I meant to.
“Keep your voice quiet.”
“HEL…” He clapped his hand over my mouth and nose again.
“We are aboard a large medical vessel orbiting your planet, the E-Orbiter-3,” he said then leaned over me and looked intensely into my eyes. “How else do you explain your presence here?”
“Ow,” I groaned as he took his hand away to let me speak. “You drugged me and…”
“And walked into a building riddled with high definition security cameras, and armed guards where I carried an unconscious woman out of the door without being stopped by anyone?”
“I… I don’t know,” I whined. “I can’t think. I can’t move. I’m freaking the fuck out!” I shouted and started to cry.
“If I remove the straps across your forehead and neck, will you calm down and cooperate?”
“Yes,” I managed to say in between the sobs that were shaking my body.
I looked up at him, my eyes clouding with tears. He sighed, looking into my eyes before shaking his head and unfastening the straps, as though he knew it was a bad idea but was doing it anyway.
Finally, free to move my head, I looked down in horror at my body. My clothes had been rolled up and he had various intravenous tubes inserted all along my arms, legs, and abdomen.
“Holy shit! What are you doing to me?” I shrieked.
“I need you to keep your voice down. I am trying to help you,” he said as he fiddled with one of the tubes that was in my left arm. I also noticed that there was not a blue light cast over my body. Seeing his hand grasp my arm, I could see that his skin had a real blue tint to it.
I winced as he pulled the needle out.
“Why is this happening to me?” I said.
A bloody hole about the diameter of a pencil marked the spot where he had pulled the needle out.
“I’m here to help you.”
“Please, just let me go,” I pleaded. “If you want money, I can get you money.”
He took a small device that was the size of a little flashlight and pressed it onto the needle hole. To my astonishment, when he removed it, my wound was completely healed.
“Natalia,” he said quietly moving to the next tube and repeating the process. “I do not want anything from you.”
“How do you know my name?”
“You are on an alien spacecraft and you’re asking how I know your name?”
“You don’t have to be an asshole.”
He clenched his jaw and he took a breath as if to gather his patience.
“You need to take me back home, right now,” I ordered.
“You can either cooperate or go back to being paralyzed,” he said calmly in a way that told me that he meant it.
I realized that I could finally focus on his eyes, which were a stunning mixture of violet and purple with silver flecks that reminded me of the Keystone Asterism in the Hercules constellation. Clouds of gasses in space left over from the birth of a star created colors that most people never got the chance to see in a natural setting. I certainly didn’t expect to see those colors contained in the eyes of a man.
As he pulled out the final needle from my abdomen, I felt my muscles cramp and tighten around the metal.
“I have to do one more procedure before I can send you home. I know you often get cravings for things you used to eat before, but I need you to promise you will not try to eat or drink the things that have made you sick in the past. No prescription medication, no processed foods, no alcohol. If you do, you could very possibly die. Do you understand?”
I didn’t answer but nodded in agreement.
“Good. This may cause you some discomfort. I need you to keep your palm flat and open for me,” he instructed.
He took a small blade from a tray and sat down on the right side of the table and ran his fingertips over the palm of my hand. I imagined him slitting my wrist and letting me quietly bleed out in whatever weird storage room we were in. Against my better judgment, I uncurled my fingers, offering him my open palm. There was a sharp sting as he made the small incision. He then used something that looked like long tweezers to pick up a tiny metallic pebble and dipped it in a flesh-colored liquid which appeared to be some kind of fast drying silicone, he placed it inside the open incision and used the healing device to seal the wound.
Once again, the fresh wound disappeared right in front of my eyes, while my brain struggled to understand how anything like this was possible. Everything else, this place, all the freaky medical equipment, his oddly alien appearance, could all be explained away. It could be one elaborate prank that someone who didn’t know me well had decided to pull. It was a far-fetched explanation, but an explanation nonetheless. But watching my flesh be opened up and closed before my eyes without even a scar left behind defied all logic.
“What did you just put into my body?”
“Something to help you return.”
“No offense, Korin, but I think I’d rather just live with whatever you’re trying to cure.”
“I need to see you back here in 15 hours. This is non-negotiable,” he said, picking up a metallic object. It was reflective, just like everything else in the room, but it was irregular in shape; not perfectly round but smooth and about the size of a peach pit. “When the time comes, hold this and focus on your memory of this place.”
“Sure,” I said sarcastically.
He didn’t acknowledge my obvious unwillingness to return but simply stuck a needle in my arm, plunging me towards unconsciousness once again.
“You can’t force medical…” I slowly moved my head back and forth and babbled incoherently, “treatment on…”
But I wasn’t able to finish my statement as I found myself traveling through space once more. The strobing light was almost hypnotic, and I felt my entire body go limp. I wasn’t fully aware of my arms or legs in the sense that I would normally feel my extremities. Rather, I was aware that I existed, and of my surroundings and all the splendid lights in the vast sea of darkness that was washing me onward through space.
When I woke, it was with a deep and sudden gasp, as I sat straight up in my pod. My heart was pounding through my ribcage as I reached for my phone, noticing a metallic object that fell out of my hand.
“What… the… actual… fuck?”