Barbara awoke drowning. Either her eyes were unable to open or she had gone blind, she couldn't tell, but she could feel the water surrounding her. She expected the water to feel cool but her skin was on fire and the bubbling liquid made her feel like she was being boiled alive. She tried to scream but nothing came out.

She held her breath and thought, I have to get out. She strained against invisible bonds and tried to force her arms and legs to move but her muscles mutinied. What's happening to me? God, please help me.

She prayed for help but none came. I can't go on. She let the air out of her lungs and took a deep breath to fill them with water. Air rushed into her mouth expanding her chest. Goddammit, let me die.

A black fungus-shaped apparatus clung to her mouth with a tendril snaking down her throat. Panic gripped her chest, but then she realized it was breathing for her. Barbara took the air in but the burning sensations over her body caused her to gulp. Her heart pounded. God, make it stop hurting.

No sooner had she thought it than the water began to feel soothing, not just to her flesh but also to her fear. She became calm and her breathing slowed.

"The beginning is always painful." She heard a voice in her head like a sweet melody from childhood. "Rest." The word slipped between each layer of thought.

The water stopped bubbling and gave way to small ripples. As each ripple passed over her she felt buoyant and free as though she was back in the womb.

"Sleep." The voice sang once again and she fell into a blissful sleep.

When she woke next she still couldn't move but at least she was able to open her eyes. She was inside a clear container filled with water. She couldn't feel the water and she was relieved her skin had gone to sleep. Through her blurry vision she could see a figure standing over her. She couldn't make out any features but she recognized the voice from before.

"You are almost ready."

The ripples soothed her thoughts, smoothing out the wrinkles in the fabric of her mind. A strong scent of lavender washed over her and she was suddenly with her mother. Her mother's hair always smelled of lavender. I must be dreaming, she thought.

She was reliving a memory when she was a little girl curled up in her mother's lap. Her mother was stroking her hair and singing her a lullaby. Barbara drifted off to sleep, knowing her mother would protect her.

"I will take care of you." Was that her mother's voice? She couldn't tell.

"Sleep." The song played for her.

She replied like a child being told it was bedtime. Yes, mommy.

She yawned and stretched her arms above her head. I can move. Was everything a dream?

She sat up and looked around expecting to see the familiar sight of her bedroom. Her cat Mara would be resting peacefully at her feet. The sun would be shining through the sheer curtains bathing her room in a gentle golden glow. Her art work would be hanging unceremoniously on the walls between framed photos of family and friends.

Mara was nowhere to be seen. The sun did not shine through her curtains because there were no windows. There was no artwork on the walls, only curious markings, like hieroglyphics, that circled the room. Some of them took up a small space while others covered an entire wall. Light emanated from the walls without any visible source.

Barbara swung her legs over the edge of the bed and let them dangle above the bright alabaster floor. She had been lying on what looked like a plain metallic table that was warm to the touch and pliable like foam. A desk and two chairs connected to it at one end.

Her head whirled when she stood up and she had to grab the edge of the table to keep from falling. She closed her eyes and leaned on her hands until her head stopped tingling. When she opened her eyes she realized she was naked.

"Oh my god." The words barely escaped her mouth. The skin on her arms was mottled pink and black. Her legs were blackened and raw like a badly cooked steak. Patches of skin were missing leaving blistered areas covering every inch of skin she could see.

"No, no, no!"

Barbara ran to the wall. Her fingers scraped frantically searching for a door but she couldn't find one. She sank to the floor and covered her face with her hands. Choking on tears that ran down her swollen face, she didn't notice a section of the wall glided open.

"You need not fear." A voice said.

A hand touched her shoulder and she screamed. The creature was not human and she scurried back and wedged herself in the corner. Barbara went limp and her mind reeled. She was aware of what was going on but it felt like it was happening to someone else.

"Will she recover?" A second voice asked.

"Yes." Their concordant voices played off each other.

"Perhaps the Bellite treatment has not removed her pain?"

"The Bellite treatment was successful. I have performed enough study to come to that conclusion."

Their words sounded far away. Who were they talking about? She felt them lift her up and lay her gently on the table. They left and the door shut again just before she passed out. ______________________________________________________________________________

Barbara woke with a start. Her eyes hurt from the light in the room and she shaded them with sore fingers. When she opened them she saw a gown laid out at the table end. She put it on and touched one of the blisters on her arm. "Oh god. Will someone tell me what's happening?"

"I will tell you." The sweet voice seem to come from every corner of the room. "I would like to come in."

"Who said that?"

"Don't be frightened. May I enter?"

She cowered down behind the bed.

"Please." The voice soothed her.

"Alright." She gripped the table and peered out over the edge.

The most beautiful creature she had ever seen walked in. Its toned arms and legs moved with the grace of a dancer. It was tall and slim and hairless. Eyes like obsidian watched her stand up slowly. What the fuck is this? This is really happening! A thousand questions ran through her head but they all smashed together like a traffic jam before she could ask any. Her hand reached out as if to touch its smooth skin, covered in hydrangea blue, and then came back to her side. This is crazy. It carried a tray of food and laid it on the table.

"What's happening?" Her voice faltered.

"There is nothing to fear here." With a blink his eyes changed to a soft emerald green and Barbara let its words settle over her. "I am Arn."

Barbara sat on the table and stared at him. "What are you?"

"You are among friends." It slid the plate toward her. "You must eat."

There were clear rectangle wedges that resembled jello. "It is safe." It picked up a piece and took a bite.

"Please just tell me what's going on."

"You have many questions. It is understandable after what you have gone through." It finished the food and sat on the opposite side of the bed.

"And what exactly is it I've been through?" She snapped at him.

"I will explain." He stood up and offered his hand.

"How about you just let me out."

"If you follow me..."

"I said open the fucking door." She ran to the place in the wall where the alien had entered and pounded against it.

"There is nowhere to go."

"What the fuck does that even mean?" She was ready to start punching the walls.

It waved its hand and a panel opened up on the far wall. "See for yourself."

She saw a window and moved cautiously toward it. It took her a moment to grasp the meaning of the blackness and the stream of flickering dots surrounding a planet before her. A planet whose land formations confirmed that it was home.

She placed her scarred hand on the window as if trying to touch her home, to connect with it. Instead of the blue marble she had always marveled at in thousands of images since she was a child, she witnessed a grey and black cinder as if the very soul of the Earth had been drained.

"Oh my god. This can't be happening."

"It has happened." He walked over to her and stood behind her.

"What...?" was all she could muster.

It stood beside her looking at the dead giant in front of them. "The inevitability of greed...aggression."

She turned at stared at her host. Tears welled up and she slid down the wall like a slow moving mudslide.

"Nuclear war began between two of your nations. It spread to others causing a chain reaction that enveloped the entire planet."

It knelt down and held her shoulders. His skin was warm and felt like crushed velvet.

"We collected fifty of your species before Earth's final destruction. You were found surrounded by fire. You were barely alive."

"I wish I wasn't."

She dragged herself off the floor and laid on the table. Then she curled up into a ball and wept.

"There is—"

"Please leave."

Arn opened the door and left.


Barbara slept for several hours until Arn entered her room and gently shook her awake.

"I just want to sleep."

"It is time to wake."

She sighed and rolled over, staring at him through heavy eyes.

"Why?" She turned toward Arn.

"You have slept enough."

"I don't want to get up." She rolled back over and buried her face beneath her arm.

"I don't understand." He sat on the bed.

"How could you? You're not even human." She laughed

"I have been studying your planet's data stream. I want to understand."

"Well, maybe if you lost everything that meant anything to you and wound up like some refugee with nowhere to go, that would be a good start." She spit the words out at him.

Arn stood and walked to the window. He stared at the scorched world below. "It is time to meet the others."

She stirred and uncovered her face.

"Others?" She sat up.

"The remainder of your species." He turned from the window. "Surely you have been anticipating this."

She sat on the edge of the bed. "I hadn't really thought about it."

"Come." He extended his hand and she took it.

The alien was completely naked. A thin vertical seam in the center of a smooth crotch reminded Barbara of a vagina but despite the lack of a penis everything else about it seemed masculine.

"Arn?" She asked as they walked to the open door.


"Are you male or female?"

"I am the male of my species." Barbara wanted to ask about the lack of a sex organ but they had just stepped through the door into a hallway filled with other creatures. She tried not to stare but couldn't help herself. They all looked identical to her host and she wondered how they were able to tell each other apart. Every one of them ignored her presence and offered a strange greeting to Arn in a language she couldn't begin to understand.

She walked past the same grey walls and bright bloodless floors she had seeing since she awoke. Her head spun at the thought that she was in space aboard an alien ship. This is crazy, she thought.

Arn stopped and opened a door in the wall. "They are waiting for you."

She took a deep breath trying to find some deeply buried reserve of courage but came up empty. She wondered if she would recognize anyone. Would anyone from her neighborhood be in there? What if they were all strangers? Were they as confused and frightened as she was? Who did they leave behind on Earth?

Then it hit her hard. They were all gone. Probably everyone she knew, every place she had never visited had been consumed by fire. Her home, her entire existence vanished along with everyone else's. We are the last humans, she thought.

"Wait." She leaned against the wall and started to shake.

"What is happening?" Arn held her shoulders.

She looked into his eyes which had changed to amaranthine. How could she make him understand? She couldn't.

"Nothing." She stepped inside the room with her arms folded tightly across her chest. The large room had the same design of hers but accommodated three long, metallic tables. There were men and women of different ethnicities sitting in front of plates filled with the same gelatinous food. No one had noticed her yet amid the murmur of cautious conversation, as if they were trying not to be heard.

Her fellow human survivors were all dressed in the same gowns which made Barbara think of da Vinci's "The Last Supper". A burst of nervous laughter escaped her and everyone stopped talking and turned to her. Barbara couldn't stop. She laughed until tears rolled down her cheeks.

Some people gasped and turned away. Whispers flew around the tables and she stared back confused. She wiped her eyes and stared at her hands. She had forgotten her burns.

"What is your name?" Arn bent down and whispered to her.

"Barbara." She could barely speak. The word came out strangled.

"This is Barbara." The alien announced to the room.

No one spoke. Barbara placed a hand on Arn's arm. "Please take me back to my room."

"I do not understand."

"Please." She said more urgently and stepped out of the room.

Arn joined her in the hallway and they walked silently back to her room. He opened her door and tried to follow her in but she turned and placed her hand on his chest.

"Thank you, but I need to be alone." She left him standing in the doorway and went inside.


Arn closed the door and returned to his room. At his desk he waved his hand and a screen appeared above the surface. He opened the Earth database and began his research. The data were collected shortly before Earth's destruction and were incomplete, but Arn hoped there was information that would help him to make sense of this case.

His door opened and Bal entered his room and sat down across from him. They greeted each other with a solemn exchange of words and a gesturing of hands to the forehead.

"What is her progress?" Bal asked.

"Fluid resuscitation is complete, there are no respiratory complications and there is no infection. Pain has been successfully nullified due to the Bellite immersion. Her radiation poisoning has also been corrected, but I am confused as to her mental state.

"Explain." Bal leaned forward, her coal black eyes unblinking.

"I assumed her re-insertion with her fellow humans would reanimate her. Instead it has made her worse." He kept searching through the database as he talked.

"Perhaps I could assist in this research."

"I would be most grateful."

Arn waved his hand and a second screen appeared. The two beings studied together.

"She is important to you?" Bal asked as the information on the screen sped by.

"They are all important. Our survival depends on their survival."

"Perhaps she is important to you personally." Bal's eyes changed to a burnt sienna.

"Does that put my posting in jeopardy?" Arn looked up from his screen.

"Your accomplishments are well regarded. I only ask as a friend." She returned to her screen and said no more.

Arn went back to his screen and keyed in Barbara's room. He watched her at her desk, her head down and resting on her arms. He changed the screen and went back to his research.

Many hours later when Bal left, Arn keyed in her room again and lay on his bed. "Barbara," he said aloud. He remembered the expression on her face when she touched his arm and chest. Physical contact with species similar to his own was not new but he had never touched a human before now. He stroked his skin where she had touched him and held his fingers up to his nose. A distinct scent lingered on his skin. Interesting, he thought. He closed his eyes and his body began the dormant process. His eyes rolled over white and his consciousness drifted off. His body rested as his internal systems minimized. He slept until the scream awoke him.

Arn sprang up and checked the monitor. Barbara was lying in bed, eyes still closed. Her arms were thrashing as she screamed. He left his room and rushed to Barbara's bed.

"Barbara." He sat on the bed and touched her shoulder. Barbara bolted upright with a final scream. She looked around her and then burst into tears.

"Are you in pain?" Arn asked her.

She slid closer, rested her head on his chest, and slowly wrapped her arms around his waist.

"Could you hold me?" Arn did not move.

"Please, put your arms around me." She sobbed.

Arn gently rested his arms around her and remained motionless. Barbara's arms tightened around him and her cheek brushed his chest. Hot tears splashed his skin and quickly turned cold. Her skin bristled against him and brought an exhilarating sensation whenever she moved. Her hair smelled like panadal fruit, and the senses in his nose felt as though they came alive for the first time. Arn inhaled deeply and let his fingers glide through the soft strands.

She nestled into him. Slowly, her breathing softened. "Thank you," she said. She fell asleep in his arms and Arn held her, feeling the rise and fall of her chest. The warmth of her body pleased him. He laid her back on the table and closed the window on his way out.

Back at his desk he touched the wet spot on his chest. He brought his finger to his lips and tasted her tears. The saltiness was a new taste. It sent shivers through his body. He touched the palm of his hand and could still feel the tangle of hair. Bringing his palm up to his face he opened his mouth and licked it. The seam between his legs opened and his fal emerged and lengthened.

"What is happening to me?"


"I'm sorry about yesterday." Barbara said the next day when Arn sat down with her.

"There is no need for apology."

"Could you open the window?"

With a gesture of his hand the window opened and she walked over to it. She placed her raw fingers on the window and stared out into empty space. "Where's Earth?" The words raced from her mouth.

He joined her at the window. "We have left Earth's orbit."

She felt adrift like a singular mote of dust in a windstorm. She had no time to grieve the loss of her home, no time to say goodbye. She imagined its ashen corpse floating in space, still making its revolutions in orbit, just like her.

"Where are we going?" She whispered.


"Is that your home?"

"No. I am from Kreyt."

"Why are we going to Epsal?"

"That is to be your new home."

In all this time she hadn't thought about where she was being taken. She had assumed she would stay on board until...until what? She didn't know.

"Why are you doing this? Helping us?"

"We have been researching new species, finding those with the potential to join us in expanding our culture in the universe. We came to explore your planet but there was no time to complete our experiment."

"The war." Her mind filled with the images of the battles she watched on TV, the patriotic fervor she shared with her friends. Nausea swept through her.

"Yes. On our arrival the war had started and your kind were being decimated. We decided to salvage what we could and decide once you were on board whether you were compatible."

"Compatible for what?" She took deep breaths hoping her stomach would settle.

"For reprogramming."

"I don't understand. Reprogramming?" A chill ran up her spine and alarms went off in her head.

"Your kind will be reprogrammed. Your minds will be erased of aggressive tendencies as well as the memories of your life on Earth. We will implant our culture in its place. This will better situate you to your new home and our way of life." Arn sounded like a politician promising a better life if elected.

"Wait. You're going to brainwash us." She asked incredulously. She stormed away from him and stood by the chair.

"I do not understand this term."

"You're going to take away our identities, take everything away that makes us who we are." She felt like she was talking to a child.

Report Story

byDemonstrative© 4 comments/ 11405 views/ 7 favorites

Share the love

Report a Bug

2 Pages:12

Forgot your password?

Please wait

Change picture

Your current user avatar, all sizes:

Default size User Picture  Medium size User Picture  Small size User Picture  Tiny size User Picture

You have a new user avatar waiting for moderation.

Select new user avatar: