Chapter Two

One moment I was cowering behind a bush and the next I was being hoisted into the air by a set of muscled arms. Terror seized me at first, arresting all movement until, like a splash of ice water on my face, I realized what was happening. I wouldn't allow them to kidnap me without a fight; I bit hard into the pillar of his neck. His blood bathed my tongue and, hacking, I spit it out. It didn't taste like the blood that fills your mouth when you accidentally bite your cheek. It tasted like soy sauce. That's the best way I can describe it.

The stranger snarled, slapping a hand over his bleeding wound, giving me a chance to run. I easily writhed my way away from his only free arm and sprinted away. My long legs were good for one thing – getting away. I managed several long strides before I went down, a sharp sting in my shoulder indicating that I'd been shot with some sort of tranquilizer gun. My captors stood over my paralyzed body and a sheet of black dropped over my thoughts. Helplessly, I fell into complete darkness.

Imagine falling asleep on a bus. Think of the way the road shakes the bus, the way it jerks forward and wobbles slightly, uneven on its path through the streets. When I was in elementary school, I slept on the bus ride home. Waking up after being shot with a tranquilizer dart, I felt like I was waking up on that bus, on my way home with my backpack on the seat beside me.

But when my bleary eyes opened, I didn't see the heads of the children seated in front of me, or the window allowing the afternoon sun to pour in. I only saw the shining steel walls that contained me and the cot I was reclining on. There was a door that was made of the same steel that the walls were crafted from. It almost blended in with the surrounding area, making my prison cell seem like a room without a door. It was a horrifying thought. There were no windows, no furniture, only that barely-there door and my cot.

Sitting up was like stirring a glass of iced tea and dropping myself into it. Immediately queasy, I returned to my prostrate position and waited for the room stop flexing and heaving. A knock on the metal door startled me, sent me cowering into the corner of my cot. "What do you want from me?!"

"Please, remain calm." The voice on the other side of the door sounded bored, practiced, like he'd done this all before.

"Like hell I will!"

"I'm coming in, Karena."

"It's Karina," I corrected in exasperation. "Kar-een'-uh."

"Karina," he repeated.

"Bravo," I snorted. "Such a fast learner."

The door opened, then, and nothing could've prepared me for what I saw. The darkness of the forest concealed everything about my captors except for their shadows. The creature standing in front of me didn't fit the description of "human" in any way. His humanoid features were concealed by alien skin – it was purple. A thick mop of black hair claimed the top of his skull, and two dark blue eyes bored holes into the front of his face, but even those features lost their normalcy when afloat in a sea of periwinkle-colored flesh. Aside from his skin, his stature was very different than the average male human. He topped 6 feet, easily. I didn't have a measuring tape, but I would've guessed him at 6'5", maybe taller. His long arms were muscular and their topsides were covered in bumps – large bumps, small bumps, tiny bumps, all arranged in intricate swirling designs that resembled Indian mehndi markings.

For all his ferocity, the creature's mouth was tilted into a soft frown, like he was disappointed about something. I took off my shoe and hurled it at his head. It bounced off and he frowned harder, rubbing at his afflicted forehead.

"Please, remain calm."

"Stop treating me like a hysterical woman on her fainting couch! You abducted me!"


"Remain calm, I know," I interrupted, realizing for the first time that my breathing become rapid, each breath labored. I placed a hand on my chest and closed my eyes. It was a bad time to have an asthma attack, considering it would render me even more helpless against anything the purple freak tried to do to me.

"I want to introduce you to someone…"

"Your cohort? Is the goblin king going to emerge and start singing? Because even Bowie wouldn't cheer me up right about now."

He looked confused. "It's a human thing. You wouldn't understand, I suppose."

"You still have your wits about you," he commented in an accent that didn't really exist on earth.

He was speaking English, clearly enough that I could understand him without much effort, but I couldn't categorize that accent. It wasn't Spanish or French, Chinese or Japanese or Korean… Like before, it most closely reminded me of Russian.

"Are you a communist?"

"What?" He shook his purple head. "I'm unfamiliar with that term. I apologize. I have a dictionary… If you're asking what I am, they call me Erasmo…"

"What do you want?" My fist slammed into the steel wall beside my cot and the alien jerked in surprise.

"Well, there's certainly no need for that sort of behavior. Come with me."

I hesitated, when he turned and left the room, but my only other option was to stay in that cold metal room. After being put to sleep, I wanted to stretch my limbs and get my bearings. The only way I could do that was by following him. So with quaking limbs, I crawled off the cot and wobbled out.

"Elden," called out the man who, when I stood beside him, positively towered over me.

I was in some sort of narrow hallway. The walls were, of course, made of unadorned steel. I felt like I was in some futuristic movie from the eighties, and expected robots to come whirring out of hiding. Instead, a door opened at the end of the hall and out stepped another alien with a similar physique, except he was even bigger.

He was several inches taller than the first one, his muscled arms were thicker, his head was nearly shaved, and his features were squarer. Everything about him was intimidating, right down to his threatening silence and cracked-glass navy blue eyes. Like his co-conspirator, this "Elden" fellow was wearing a sleeveless black shirt, just as plain as his black pants. The bumps on his arms formed different shapes, and his larger lips were in a straight, disapproving line. I saw the bandaged gash on his neck and grinned haughtily.

"Karina, meet my brother, Elden. Elden, meet Karina."

Elden's features were unmoving. I shifted my feet beneath his flat stare.

"He's mute? I thought you beasts could speak."

"He can speak," griped Erasmo. "He just doesn't speak English very well."

"It's been a thrill," I mocked, curtseying for the wall-of-a-man before me.

"There's one more thing…"


The voice – so familiar, yet so distant in my memories – belonged to the last person I ever expected to find on a spaceship besides, well, myself.


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