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In the middle of something

Chapter Text

You are sketching away at a face.

It’s not even half done, but you can’t get the eyes to look right.

You’re the worst at eyes. Symmetry is overrated.

You just got to adjust that and… the eye shape’s completely off.

Flip it, Just move on to the nose? Nah. You can add eyelashes. That’s something.

 And where did the notebook go? Where are you?

You check yourself over. You still have a pencil, and your glasses, thank goodness. You would like to be able to concentrate on what you're reading without headaches wherever you are.

And you are in a white room. Great. Not creepy at all.

You poke the walls. Nothing happens.

(You) “Hello? Is anybody there?”

Well, you might as well keep going.

(You) “Got to say, I’m not a fan of kidnapping. Mind putting me back?”

What sounds like speaker feedback comes out of the wall. You cramp your hands over your ears. It stops.

(You) “Little quieter, please?”

You have your hand at about shoulder level and you lower it a foot. Nothing happens. But the sound doesn't come again

(You) “Alright, cool.”

Chapter Text

You are doodling with the pencil when a needle pops out.

The walls and floor all seem to be the same substance, and they are both hard to write on, but you can just press harder. It makes smudgy lines, but what else are you going to do, sleep? 

The floor is hard, you’ll pass out when you’re more tired.

Back to the needle. You don’t like needles.

You scramble away to the other side of the cell. The needle gets stuck halfway across. Apparently they weren’t planning for your fear of needles.

You take a couple of deep breaths. A loud “brrrr” sound comes out of the speakers.

You think you know what to do now. You tap your ear, put your hand out and then lower it a foot.

There is a pause, and then the speaker whines again at a more manageable level. You smile and send a thumbs-up.

Looks like you’ve been kidnapped by aliens or something. Ah, well. Not the worst position to be in.

You edge towards the needle, carefully. You can do this. You can do this. You don’t like it, but you need to to move on with this. Just like a video game.

The needle slides in. Ahhhhh. Fun.

You whimper. And then you see the blood coming into the tube.

You gesture towards where a watch would be, make a pillow out of your hands, and then a hand to the side sharply. You think at least one of those signs should make it through the language barrier. Oh, wait.

(You) “If I pass out, stop taking blood, please. Otherwise it could be dangerous.”

You might have a better chance communicating with them through sign than English, especially given how much of a mess English is, but you might as well try on both frontiers.

It takes a lot longer to pass out than you thought it would. The world gets woozy, and you ask them to stop, you think, but then you pass out and you can’t tell anymore.

Chapter Text

When you wake up, you cannot tell how long it has been, but the needle is retreating into the wall. So not long.

You wait, but no bandage comes. You sigh, take off one of your socks and wrap it around the wound. Might not be a big deal, but you don’t want to take any chances.

You hear a rumble from the wall. You shrug and sit back. Gosh, it stings. You hiss a bit, but not much else.

You are tired. You spend a long time shifting into a position to sleep into, before you think about making a pillow.

You take off your sweater and ball it up to put behind your head.

You eventually end up half holding it, half laying on it. What can you say? You like cuddles. You prepare for a sleepless night.

Sleep comes, even though the lights never dim. You tuck into a corner and think before drifting off.

Waking up is strange. You thought you were still in your bed for a while, but you're not. You are in a brightly lit room, with only your sweater for company. And the voice.

You put your sweater back on and decide to try communicating with the voice.

But what to say?

Well, you are hungry. You might as well go for that.

(You) “Hey, I’m hungry, can I get something to eat?”

You rub your stomach, and then make a flat O with your hand and put it half in your mouth.

You wait.

(You) “Hello?”

Eventually some cubes pop out.

(You) “Are these for eating? Um, thank you.”

You rest a hand on your chin and bring it down and then lick one of the cubes.

The cube tastes bland, but hasn’t done anything terrible yet, and no one has yelled at you.

You pop it in. It is indeed bland. Ah well, It hasn’t killed you yet.

You eat all of them, and then decide to look under the sock. It has stopped bleeding.

You untie your sock and put it back on your foot.

You find your pencil again, and begin outlining where the walls meet the floor.

When the pencil breaks you try to bite it back into a point. It doesn’t work very well, but it is serviceable.

Chapter Text

When you wake up again there is a cup.

You get some on your finger and put it near your mouth.

*QQRRR*

You smack your hands over your ears so quickly and violently that you spill the cup. It turns the floor black where it touches.

(You) “Oh. Okay.

You take your sock with the blood on it and wipe off your eardrum.

(You) “So does “qqr” mean no or stop or something like that?”

You say qqr again, and hold your hand up in stop position.

*qqrrr*

You go back and forth with the speaker until your pronunciation is decent enough for whoever is on the other side's liking, and you get to drawing.

You leave penciling out the lines of the room to pencil. You outline your sleeping area, and sign “again” while saying “qqrrr” until the speaker does it too, and then you do your best to  outline the vent. When you are done outlining the vent, the speaker goes *Qqrrr*

(You) “Do you want me to try outlining the vent again?

*qqrrr*

(You) “So, should I save the rest of this?”

*thhsss*

(You) “Is that a yes?”

*thhsss*

You go back and forth until your pronunciation is acceptable.

(You) “Could I get some water, too? I think that you can die of dehydration faster than you can starve to death.”

There is no answer, but a couple of liquids come out of the wall.

You try a small amount of each of them until you find something that tastes like water.

(You) “I think I need… eight cups of this a day? About this big. Per cup.”

You demonstrate the size of your large kitchen cup. The speaker makes an alarmed beep.

(You) “It’s not necessary, just healthier. I don’t always get that much water. But at least two, alright?”

*thhsss*

(You) “Thank you.”

You do the thing with your hand on your chin to near your torso at an angle. You might not have taken much ASL, but you will use what you know.

(You) “And I need a toilet. Or at least some sort of bowl.”

You can use a chamber pot. People have for years.

You put the cup next to your pencil on the other side of the cell. Room. Best to think of it as a room.

You take your sweater back off and curl up again.

Chapter Text

There are aliens in your room.

This would be very cool, but you really don’t want to expose them to COVID.

(You) “QQRRR!”

They step back.

(You) “I might be sick, and I don’t want to get you sick. Stay back.”

You fake a cough into your arm, and then flap your arms at them. One of them comes closer.

You hold up a hand, “Qqrr” again, and gesture them out. They retreat.

One of them points at your wrist. Why?

Oh, time.

You point at your wrist. They point at your wrist. You raise your hand. They mirror you. You point at your wrist. They point at their wrist. You give them a smile and a thumbs up. You “thhsss” as an afterthought.

They gesture to come in, and then point at their wrist. You smack yourself on the forehead lightly.

You count out a second. “One chimpanzee.” You tell them that a second is that long.

You make your hands into fists and stick out your pointer fingers, and then rest one of them on the tip of the other, and move it about fifteen degrees, and leave it there, until you move your hand.

You gesture them out of the room. It appears a hallway just opened up.

When they are six feet away, at least, you grab the ink-like substance and draw a line at one end of one of the walls between your door and your bed. You write “second” under it.

Now how to explain multiplication? They probably know what it is, but it is a strange thing to explain.

You hold up one finger, make an x with your hands and then hold up your other hand with two fingers on it, and then two fingers on your other hand.

Another person points to the wall behind you. You sigh, hit your head lightly, and draw on the wall without a bed, a wall, or where you will be demonstration time.

You do 1 to 5 times tables, and then tilt your head, tap it twice and “thhsss” at them, to try to see if they understand.

*thhsss*

From the speaker, which is on the same side as the door.

You draw an x and sixty tally marks, and label that “minute.”

You do the same thing as you did for “second,” but you move your hand back.

You draw another x, and then sixty more tally marks. You label this “hour.”

You make the sign for “hour,” which is another extended pointer, but your other hand is flat, and your pointer hand spins all the way around. You are not sure if this will help somehow, but you might as well keep up the illusion that you know what’s going on.

You draw another x and then twenty-four tally marks. You label this “day.”

*mmrrr*

Goes the speaker.

You look at the wall, and then notice that you went sixty, sixty, twenty-four.

(You) “Mmrrr.”

You go back and forth with the speaker. You do your best to ignore the aliens.

(You) “Is mmrrr a question? Like when you want to confirm? Like with the multiplication?”

You point at the wall across from you.

*thhsss*

You pump your hand in the air, say thank you and bring your hand down. Maybe a bit more than necessary, but you like it. A development.

You underline the “day” and then put one of your hands down, palm flat, extend your other, pointer up, wrest your hand with the palm up under the one with the pointer up, and lower your hand with the pointer finger up to the elbow of your other hand.

You draw another x and then draw seven tally marks. You label this “week.”

You have your pointer finger fist on the edge of your other hand, which is flat. You drag it across.

You draw another x and two tally marks. You might have messed this up.

You draw a line under week, draw another line under the two lines, and do the same thing that you did for “week,” but with your pointer finger and middle finger extended instead of just your pointer finger.

(You) “Mmrrr, thhsss?”

You give two thumbs up and tilt your head to the side.

There is no response.

You look at the aliens again. The one in the front points to their wrist again.

Hmmm. Oh!

You slap your head lightly.

You point to yourself, extend your pointer and middle fingers, put them upside down on your palm, lift the little figure up, and then make a little box with your hands.

*Mmrrr*

Goes the speaker.

You tap the walls with writing on them, then the wall with a door, and the one with a door. You extend your arms as far as you can, towards the walls with writing on them, and then move them into the box shape.

You turn ninety degrees, and then do the same thing.

You click the watch, and start counting seconds out loud.

(You) “From when I got here.”

You do the little person flying into the box again, and point at your wrist.

(You) “Thhsss, mmrrr?”

You give two thumbs up and tilt your head to the side.

You hope you got the point.

*Thhsss*

Goes the speaker.

*Ooohh*

Goes the speaker.

The aliens retreat. You wave goodbye.

Chapter Text

The water has been forthcoming, along with cubes from the wall.

You’re not quite sure if it is enough, but you are still alive, so you will take that.

You need to use the restroom.

(You) “Hey, I need to use the restroom. Can you send me some toilet-like thing? At least a bowl?”

You show them the shape of a bowl with your hands.

One pops out of the wall, after about a minute.

You do your business, and then realize that you need to deal with this.

(You) “I need something to wipe my-Nevermind. Just something to clean up my hands.

You’re not using your sock for that.

A little cup comes out. You pour a little of your hands, scrub it around, set it down, and ask them to dispose of your waste.

You curl up. You can see why cats don’t like to use the restroom in the same place that they drink. Not only germ theory.

Chapter Text

You are feeling more than you usually do.

Don’t get you wrong, you aren’t usually empty.

Being trapped in a white box hasn’t exactly been great for your feelings, though. If only there was a safer way to do it.

The mess in the bowl is gone, but the bowl is still there. You drag it to the corner between the wall with the door and the one with multiplication on it. You put the cup full of hand sanitizer there, too.

You are sure that the food comes out of the wall with the door, near the middle, which is a good thing.

And your stomach hurts.

(You) “Can I get some food, please?”

You put the flat o in your mouth.

*rrfff*

Goes the speaker.

(You) “Is Rrfft food?”

You put the o in your mouth again

*thhsss*

You pump your fist again.

The wound has stopped stinging. It healed up fine. You check.

You “rrfff” with the speaker until your pronunciation is acceptable.

Then food pops out.

(You) “Oh, you're training me. That’s cool.”

Well, you are trapped in a box, and isolated. Some of it is self-inflicted. Is there anything you don’t want to do?

(You) “Alright, long as you don’t try and train me to kill people, I’ll play along. Or injure! I don’t want to injure people either.”

You eat the cubes while you wait for a response.

You hear your voice coming back out of the speaker when you are halfway done with the cubes. There are six left.

*training*

Goes the speaker.

Guess that was a lot of strange words, but at least they seem to be open to communication now.

(You) “You want me to explain training?”

*thhsss*

Goes the speaker.

(You) “Well, here it means to reward an action in hopes of making the animal perform it again. You want me to show you?”

There is a long pause, and then the speaker goes

*thhsss*

You aren’t sure if the speaker knows what is going on, or if it’s just betting on you not hurting yourself too badly, and is willing to play along.

(You) “Okay. So if you wanted to make me do jumping jacks, then you might demonstrate jumping jacks. Lucky for you, I performed the behavior before it was demonstrated.”

Now, how to create two separate entities. Directionally? You write on the door wall “Instructor” and on the bed wall “Subject.” You move all the remaining food to the door wall, halfway across the wall. Maybe a little more than halfway. Sue you, You don’t want your food touching your toilet.

(You) “So, these are two different people. The instructor faces the subject word, but is closer to the instructor word.”

You point to the instructor word, then to yourself, then face the bed.

(You) “Alright. Let’s say my name is… Betty. So Betty has all the food cubes and she wants the subject to do jumping jacks.”

You face the door wall.

(You) “Okay, now I’m the subject.”

You point at the word subject, yourself, and then turn to face the door wall again.

(You) “The subject’s name is Sam. Sam wants the food cubes. When I am facing this way, I am Sam.”

Betty demonstrates a jumping jack.

(You) “Okay, now Betty is waiting for Sam to respond. Maybe she waits.”

You point to your wrist again.

(You) “Betty demonstrates again.”

You do a couple of jumping jacks.

(You) “Sam does a jumping jack.”

You stand in Sam’s spot and to a jumping jack. You move back to Betty’s spot.

(You) “So Betty rewards Sam for doing a jumping jack.”

You push a food cube towards Sam’s spot.

(You) “Sam doesn’t have any food cubes, or he wants more food cubes than he has. So he is willing to perform the action until there are no more food cubes, or he has as many food cubes as he wants, or he has enough food cubes that he doesn’t want to do jumping jacks anymore.”

You decide not to explain the part about phasing out rewards. You don’t want to give them less reason to feed you.

*food cubes*

Goes the speaker, shaking you out of your trance.

(You) “Food is rrfff, yes?”

*thhsss*

Goes the speaker.

(You) “Okay, cube is the shape.”

You start to draw on the door wall. It looks roughly cuboid, and you can’t erase, so you decide to go with it.”

(You) “All the sides are equal.”

You put your fingers around one of the sides. Just two, but enough to define it. You move the cube ninety degrees, and put your fingers there.

(You) “See?”

*mmrrr*

Goes the speaker. Not quite enough, you guess.”

You measure every side with the same two fingers. You then figure out that you have to explain squares. Shirt.

(You) “Okay, I might be going a bit fast.”

You go to your bed side of the room, and you draw a line. You label it “1st dimension.”

(You) “Okay, this one exists on one level. Not really, because it’s also the ink-thing’s depth. But close enough. This is height.”

As close as you can come to just height, anyway.

You draw a square. You label it “2nd dimension.”

(You) “Do you see how we got from there to there?”

*Thhsss*

Goes the speaker.

(You) “So, all the sides are equal, because this is a square. And we added a new dimension. This one’s… this one’s length! Yeah.”

*thhsss* 

Goes the speaker, and you are happy that you are communicating effectively.

You go over to the cube and label it “3rd dimension.”

(You) “And then you take the concept from the square, and you apply it to the cube. Because every side is equal. And every face. And angle. And it’s made of squares. Squares are the shapes with four sides, too, because you can have an octagon with equal sides.

You draw one near the “2nd dimension”

(You) “I.. don’t know why cubes are the ideal shape? If you want to fill a cubical room, or something. I just think they’re cool. Not sure what sort of evolutionary advantage that gives you, other than the fact that things aren’t square in nature, usually, so it would have to be handmade. That could be it.”

The speaker is silent for so long that you eat the remaining cubes and fall asleep without an answer. You are thirsty, though.

Chapter Text

There is a cup of water waiting for you when you open your eyes.

You test it first, of course. In case it’s ink. There is no beeping. You still have enough ink, anyway.

(You) “I’m ready for questions now.”

*more*

Goes the speaker in your voice, a crystal clear recording. You suppose you will have to start with the little alligators.

You draw out a less than, greater than, and equal to sign on the multiplication wall. Math wall. You’ve decided.

You draw two dots to the left of the greater than symbol, and one dot to the right.

(You) “Okay, so two is more than one. So the left side has more dots than the right side.”

You would think this is simple, but these are aliens.

You draw three dots to the left side of the less than side, and four on the right.

(You) “So, on this one, the right is more.”

You draw another greater than sign, and draw five dots to the left, and two to the right.

(You) “Can you use my words to tell me which one is more? Left or right.”

You point to the five dots, and say left again. And then to the two dots, and say right.

(You) “Which one?”

*left*

Goes the speaker. You pump your fist.

(You) “That’s right. As in correct. Sorry. Good job.”

The English language is a mess.

*enough*

Rings from the speaker, and it doesn’t really ring, because future tech, or something like that, although you suppose it’s not the future, just a different starting point.

(You) “Okay, that a tricky one. As much as you need, I guess.”

*much*

Goes the speaker, and you can’t say you're surprised.

(You) “It’s an amount of things. Usually relating to need.”

*need* 

Goes the speaker. You should have guessed.

(You) “Need is how much is required to survive. You know. I need two cups of water a day to survive, or about that much. Haven’t tested it.”

You’re glad you haven’t had to.

*survive*

Goes the speaker, and you don’t want to deal with that, but you will.

(You) “Keep going, ya know. Keep your heart pumping and not starving or freezing to death. Not dead. It’s the bare minimum, but it’s something. I would starve to death without the cubes. I would die of dehydration without water. If you kept taking my blood, with that needle in the wall, I would die. If you cut me up, my blood would come out and I’d die. Lack of oxygen to the brain, or something.”

There is a sound that you don’t think that you can make, but that you think is horror.

(You) “You wouldn’t kill me, though. Would you?”

*Qqrrr*

Goes the speaker, and it’s so quick that you decide to trust the aliens on the other side.

This is followed by an outpouring of little cubes, that if you stacked them up, would probably be the same size as your head.

(You) “Thank you. Um, do you have enough, so that I don’t have to worry about asking for things?”

They seem to want to help.

*thhsss*

Goes the speaker, and it’s not as fast as it was to reassure you, but it is fast enough so that you don’t doubt it. Much.

(You) “Could I get another bowl? For food.”

You demonstrate the size for the benefit of the one behind the camera.

A bowl pops out of the wall, and a tub of water.

(You) “Thank you so much.”

You eat some cubes, and drink some water and fall asleep.

Chapter Text

Your stomach hurts. You eat some cubes, but you still feel bad.

You clutch your stomach, and take a sip of water, which you took out of the bin of water.

You check your underwear. Yup. Blood.

(You) “Whoop-de-do. Period.”

*period*

Goes the speaker, and you forgot it could do that for a second, so you jump.

This is going to be fun.

You take off your pants.

(You) “This is generally pretty impolite, but you wouldn’t know, and I don’t care.”

You point in the general direction of your private parts.

(You) “There’s a hole for pee, and a hole for other human sexual organs, and some of it feels good when you touch it. The blood comes out of the organ hole.”

Organ hole. Didn’t think that you’d get to say that. You kinda like it.

You hike up your pants and answer a lot of questions.

(You) “...I guess it would make more sense if I experienced sexual attraction.”

*mmrrr*

Goes the speaker, and you’re almost proud of yourself for that.

(You) “Well, apparently most people look at some people, and go “they’re hot, I want to feel pleasant sensations in my private parts with them, which may or may not lead to a child.”

There is a long pause.

*child*

Goes the speaker, and you weren’t expecting that, but you suppose it makes sense.

(You) “A small person. Like, if I hadn't been around for much time, I would be smaller.”

You point at your wrist when you say time.

(You) “If two people take care of a child, then it’s their child.”

And your stomach really hurts.

(You) “Hey, can I get some painkillers?”

*mmrrr*

Goes the wall, after a while.

(You) “Yeah, I guess that wouldn’t be safe. Can I get a hot pack? That isn’t going to kill me.”

Probably.

*hot*

Goes the wall in your voice, and you can’t say you were expecting it. Or that you care.

(You) “Can you change the setting for this room? Like cleaning the walls? Set them back to white?”

*white*

Goes the speaker, and you thought you explained that, but you guess not.

(You) “It’s a color. The wall’s white.”

You tap an empty patch of wall.

(You) “The ink’s black.”

You tap the word “supervisor.”

(You) “The food cubes are… light brown?”

You hold up a food cube, before eating it.

(You) “Outside of my jacket’s light blue, inside’s white.”

You still have your jacket in the corner.

(You) “My shirt’s green. Not the graphic, the base.”

You point to your sleeve, the cats, then your sleeve again.

(You) “My pants are blue.”

You have to bend over to tap them, buy you manage.

(You) “Socks are gray.”

And you have to sit to tap those.

And the walls of the room are white again.

(You) “Okay, so can you tamper with the settings of the room a little? Just enough for me to tell what you're tampering with. And not kill me.”

You talk them through gravity when things start to float.

You tell them about small and large when the walls start closing in.

You eventually get to temperature. You tell them that they can take the temperature back to normal, but that you want an item that is hot.”

You get something that looks like a heating pad, which you tap. Not uncomfortably warm.

You press it to your stomach, and lie in the bed area, or what you think is the bed area, until you drift off.

Chapter Text

You are awake again, and you are not loving it, but you are alright.

(You) “Not to impose, but can I get a blanket? Something soft.”

*soft*

Goes the speaker, and this is a hard one.

(You) “Um, It’s a texture thing. My jacket is soft. Mostly the white part. And a blanket is a cloth to wrap yourself in.”

You demonstrate.

(You) “Usually they are shaped like the wall but thinner.”

 You draw out the size.

(You) “You can have my jacket, but I do want it back.”

A drawer slides out of the wall. You place the jacket in.

(You) “You should sanitize that carefully. You don’t want to get sick.”

You curl up, drink some water, eat some cubes and wait for your sweater to come back.

With it is a blanket. It is not soft in a way you are used to, but you like it. You curl up in the bed spot, which is now properly marked.

(You) “Thank you.”

And then you are dreaming, of home at an angle, stranger than you remember it.

Chapter Text

(You) “Hey, you want to hear something else about sex?”

*thhsss*

Goes the speaker in a way that you think is apprehensive, so you laugh.

(You) “There are about two sexes. Male and female. I’m a female, because my sexual organ looks like that, and I have breasts. Males have smaller breasts, and a sexual organ that looks more like a stick.”

You draw a penis in the wall of your room.

(You) “There are pleasure spots around the vagina in various places, and at the head of the penis. The reason likely being that it is more natural to have a child when you feel pleasure in doing so.”

(You) “But there are intersex people, who have some combination of a male and female body, and there are a lot more things that I don’t know or care about enough to explain, but they can’t have a child because some of their organs don’t work in a way that makes children.”

You take a breath.

(You) “And there are a lot of expectations around your sex. We call them genders, because it’s a more useful term to talk about who you are, rather than your organs. Some people don’t like this, most of which can be traced back to discomfort with the unknown or a book that said a lot of good things but had certain outdated sections enshrined into law or the public consciousness.”

*unknown*

Goes the speaker, and you almost forgot it could do that.

(You) “Um, Unknown. You don’t understand most of what I’m saying. I understand rrfff and qqrrr, but not many other words. Unknown means you don’t understand. Or that it’s not something that you thought was out there. You guys were unknown until you picked me up.”

You explain a couple more tricky concepts and then dive back into your favorites.

(You) “And some people are attracted to people who present as the same gender as them, or a different gender, or multiple genders, and some people don’t like that either. Same reasons people aren’t comfortable with gender.”

There is a silence.

(You) “And then there’s romantic attraction, but no one knows what that is really. Not even those who experience it.”

There is a silence, and you wrap yourself in the blanket and fall asleep.

Chapter Text

There are aliens again

One of them points to their wrist. You do not think it has been long enough, but you’ll take their word for it.

They are soft-looking things, round and squishy-looking, but you wouldn’t judge based on shape. For all you know, they could have guns.

You aren’t particularly inclined to act out anyway.

There is a pod in front of you. It is white, like the rooms and the hallways and the suits that the blob aliens are wearing.

The one in front gestures for you to get in.

(You) “Is it safe?”

They stare at you

(You) “Will I die if I get in?”

Although you aren’t sure that they would tell you the truth if that was the point.

They talk amongst themselves, and eventually return with a “Qqrrr” That sounds a lot different then the ones you heard through the speaker.

(You) “Okay, then.”

You step inside, and the walls close.

You take a deep breath. It’s fine. And it’s lit up and everything.

It takes about thirty seconds, and then they escort you back to your room.

(You) “Thank you.”

You bring your hand down again, and smile. They don’t respond in any way that you can see.

There is a long silence, before you hear the speaker go

*Mmrrr*

In a way that seems incredulous, before showing you scans of your body.

(You) “Yup. Seems about right.”

*about right*

Goes the speaker.

(You) “I’m not an expert, but that’s how the human body works. Might have a couple vitamin deficiencies, but I’m doing fine.”

There is a silence.

A long one.

You fall back asleep after consuming the rest of the food cubes.

Chapter Text

When you wake up, there are more food cubes, and some aliens waiting by the door.

You hold up a finger, eat a couple of food cubes, swallow some water and get walking.

You arrive in something that looks like a gym.

They demonstrate running back and forth.

(You) “How long?”

They point at a wall.

(You) “Until they tell me to stop?”

(Leader) “thhsss”

(You) “Flipping hate gym.”

You jog and jog and jog and jog and sit down and get back up again and ask for some water and get some and jog some more and rest some more until you don’t think you can move.

*Qqrrr*

Goes the speaker, and it’s been far too long.

You have to lean on someone a little bit, because you are tired.

You collapse into bed.

The next morning you wake up, swallow half the food cubes, because you burned energy, fill your cup three times, and then walk out with the aliens.

They stay clear a bit more than they did yesterday. Except one of them, who seems to be there in case you need to lean on them.

And there is a pull-up bar. Flip.

You do it. Or you try and fall off and get on again.

There is also a treadmill. You hate treadmills.

You exercise anyway, and they manage to stop you while you still have enough energy to stumble back.

You get into the scanner. You might have drifted off if it took longer. You stumble into your room and collapse.

You eat and drink when you rise.

There is an exercise ball. You love these things.

You tell them about scoliosis while you fool around on an exercise ball. You don’t think any of it got across, but you did your best.

You go back into the scanner. You don’t mind.

You don’t fall asleep immediately this time.

Chapter Text

You awaken to cubes, water and aliens. As is your usual.

This time, though, you do not walk into a room with a piece of exercise equipment. You walk into a room with a computer. And gray blocks on the screen. You tap it.

And it appears to be Minesweeper.

You figure it out in a couple moves. You are a pro at Minesweeper.

The colors are different, though. Of course they are. But there’s no red. Which you think is a bit strange.

Then you play a little language game. It is interesting how quickly they learned  your language, but you learn quickly too.

You know the words for water (mmfff), and a couple of plants and animals, most of which have four legs and brighter coloration than you are used to. It makes sense when you get to the plants.

You go to bed and sleep.

Chapter Text

 There are no aliens waiting for you when you wake. You decide to clean yourself up.

There isn’t much sanitizer, but you need to clean yourself off. You get all of the problem spots before you are out.

Huh. More sanitizer.

You strip, get everything and then start to rub it into your clothes. 

You use the restroom. It is a calm day.

Your clothes are fine on your skin. You eat cubes and fall asleep again.

Chapter Text

You are disembarking, apparently.

You are hustled off the ship, through a port and into what appears to be an office, by three little blobby things, including the one who is an armrest sometimes.

Two of them break away to speak with someone. You sit on one of the chairs, delicately. It isn’t very sturdy, so you probably shouldn’t put too much weight on it, but it is still interesting to be sitting in a chair again.

The alien pulls up their own chair.

You wait. Breathe. Think.

And then the alien is tugging your arm, and you are walking into a room that is also white, with a table and what looks like a deer with four legs and two arms.

The aliens gesture for you to climb up the chair.

You do. It is like those tall chairs at cafes, but you are large enough to maneuver. And then you are face to face.

They are blue with spots of brown. They look interesting.

And there is a solution in front of you. Clear, like every other solution so far

(You) “Is this safe to drink?”

You get a “thhsss” quickly this time. You drink it.

It is bitter, and your body shakes. You do not like bitter things.

-humor- That is how you perceive it?

Goes a voice in your head.

(You) Is that you? Deer-hexapod individual?

-humor-

(You) Yeah, I bet you have a name. Sorry.

-friendliness- My name is Mhewwn. Yours?

(You) Y/N. I suppose you have a couple more questions to ask, though.

-tact- Well, first off. You just seem so flat. Emotionally speaking.

A bit of bitterness rises to the surface.

(You) It’s the depression. Not supposed to be like this, but I am, so what can you do?

-curiosity- How?  

You show them pictures of books, of sitting alone, of talking to people, of being rejected, of the wrong words at the wrong time, breaking your heart.

-vexation- They were cruel.

(You) They weren’t trying to be. They just expected me to have a higher social tolerance, but I would only talk every so often after reading, and when they hurt me, I would go back to reading.

-curiosity- Did anything change?

You have a little humor here.

(You) Lost a lot of feelings in eighth grade. High school, words didn’t hit as hard and no one knew who I was.

-caution- But you are not doing well.

(You) No, but that is because of a virus, not because of my refusal to talk to people. Although that doesn’t stop some people.

-curiosity- Virus?

You show them the death count per day, the tired and angry hospital workers, the side effects if you recover and they are scared.

-disgust- And people are still going outside?

(You) Well, as long as you wear a mask and stay six feet apart, you should be fine. More or less.

-concern- But that’s not happening.

(You) Bingo.

-confusion- Why?

(You) Have you ever heard of the “politicization of information?”

-curiosity- No.

(You) Okay. So. Science says the earth is round. People believe it. Then we get the internet, where small communities of people can come together and talk only to each other to convince themselves that they are right.

-confusion- What is the internet?

Computers, cellphones, browsers, Google has five percent of the information and millions of pages.

-bafflement- We had something similar, but not so… comprehensive.

(You) People believe that they are better than others, because they do better based on systems they don’t want to believe exist.

-confusion- What?

Christianity, disease, farming, shapes of continents, plagues, slavery, triangle trade, Civil War, Jim Crow, MLK, the boy who called a white girl baby and ended up drowned in chains, Breeona Taylor, George Floyd, studies

-fear- What?

(You) He also called Mexicans rapists.

-aggravation- What.

Stolen land, texas, drug trade, stereotypes, DACA, citizenship, people should all be cared for no matter where they come from, why do you think being from here makes you better than anyone else, why is this a priority, jobs, wealth tax

-confusion- That was all interesting. None of it was at all helpful at answering my question.

(You) I don’t know.

-calm- Of course not. What were you talking about?

Media can’t be trusted, fake news, lost elections, FOX goes for truth, capitol storming, Confederate flags

-shock- What?

Small defences, George Floyd Protest, sorrow for officers, miscommunication, none shot, no arrests, civil war lost, confederate statues

-bafflement- So, that man made the truth polarizing?

(You) Yes.

-calm- Well, how was your trip?

Boredom, fear, exercise

-confusion- Did you really fear for your life the whole time?

(You) Not really. Best not to take any chances, though.

-confusion- How do you live like that?

(You) Not always. But if I am somewhere new, I shouldn’t count on safety.

-concern- I see. What is your diet like?

Fruit in the morning, chips, salsa, pepperoni for lunch, dinner pizza, pasta, chicken, cauliflower, broccoli, potatoes, peppers

-concern- Was that… meat?

(You) Yeah, I eat meat.

-confusion- But some of those were vegetables.

(You) Yeah. I’m omnivorous.

-resignation- Of course. How much do you exercise?

Thirty minutes on a treadmill, thirty sit-ups, one walk around the block.

-calm- Okay. What are the human limits?

Four minute mile, which would be around two and a half blocks.

-confusion- How much is a block?

One ruler times 5 tomatoes, 1*5280, the imperial system is a trip

-concern- There is more than one system of measurement? How does that work?

Science is metric, metric makes sense, centi, milli, not sure what a gram is, but it’s fine.

-confusion- Then why?

American exceptionalism, city on a hill, why they haven’t phazed out pennies yet, hard to change

-confusion- Why American?

Land of the free, home of the brave, left unsupervised, tried to take back control, push back, politeness, pushback, war, democracy, stays out, threat, nukes

-horror- Nuclear bombs?

Cities, cities full of people, everyone’s a spy, concentration camps, didn’t know about the radiation poisoning, Chernoble, tests, arms race, no bombs at enemy territory, bay of pigs, Mutually assured destruction, hide from the nukes under your desks, self-cleaning house in apocalips with dead dog in comic format, never happened, never reading it

-horror- There is a lot wrong there.

(You) We do our best, but when you focus on a group and not the whole, if you try and say that one group is better than another…

Gas chambers, piles of corpses, striped pajamas, lines all down his back, sharks following a ship, kicked out of every part in europe, burnings

-horror- Stop!

(You) Sorry. There are good things too.

-disgust- What?

Hot chocolate, volunteering, fighting for change, public schools, holidays, ice cream, books, family, pride, friends, acceptance, games, glow sticks, space travel, hope in space

-confusion- What?

(You) That’s where the cold war stopped. Landing on the moon. International unity.

No way forward, but when has there ever been one, Jackson, guns on the floor of congress, riot condemned, Democrats for free healthcare, most places have it

-confusion- Your society is very… mixed.

(You)  No kidding.

-confusion- That is humor? How?

(You) You know what they say. You laugh or you cry.

-confusion- What is crying?

Tears dripping on your face, panting so hard you can’t breathe well, headaches,

-discomfort- That is enough.

(You) It’s less now. Not sure if it’s better, but it’s less.

-discomfort- Drink this.

You take the offered drink and pass out.

Chapter Text

You wake up in your room.

No, your room. With the bookshelves in every spare corner, and the dresser in the front, and a ridiculous number of windows. You’re home.

You’re home!

You change quickly. Nevermind your bloody pants and underpants, you can change them later.

You pull on a pad in your underwear, and a shirt and jeans, and a sweater, and check the time. It’s six.

You’re waking your parents up. It’s a good morning.

Gosh, this is an interesting story. You could go on the talk show circuit. Maybe no one believes you, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get any money out of it.

Oh goodness, you have a lot of homework to catch up on.