He awakened in a strange place. Still clad in his green striped pajamas, he was asleep on a bare floor in a small room lit starkly from every direction. Sitting up, he looked around without comprehension of how big the room was. His body was still tired, but the adrenaline of finding himself in a strange place was rebooting his body more quickly than usual in the morning. He stayed still, waiting to notice if anyone realized he was awake.
He stood up, and felt a little lighter than usual. Five steps from his position, he encountered a wall, perfectly disguised by lack of perspective in the completely illuminated room. A couple of taps on the glowing white wall convinced him he wasn't dreaming; a creative man, he frequently dreamed in color, but tactile sensations were rare and not this comprehensive. He let that settle in: he was a captive for reasons unknown.
Feeling with his hands, he traversed the perimeter of the room, it was about 10 by 10 meters and he couldn't feel the ceiling, although he was sure it wasn't far away. He sat down in a corner, looking carefully for the lines of a door or hatchway. None presented themselves. He looked at his toes and wiggled them. A 50 year old man of average height, dark hair and 10 pounds overweight didn't register as a likely candidate for scientific study, and his police record was pristine.
He noticed a tumbler of thick, white liquid at his right hand. "How did you get here?" he asked aloud. The smell from it was slightly nauseating. A tentative sip confirmed it as perfectly revolting and he spat the sip back into the glass. No need to be rude since his captor hadn't shown himself or herself: at that opportunity, he would calculate his rudeness as carefully as he could.
Time crawled by, and his bladder began to pressure him lightly. Being a civilized creature, he said out loud: "I have to pee now." Nothing happened for several moments. The pressure wasn't urgent, and he decided to hold it until he could figure out a better option. Urinating in his room was something he didn't want to do unless absolutely necessary since he had no desire to live in the remnants of his bodily functions. Without intake, the need diminished.
He must have slept: he awakened in a different position on the floor, the tumbler beside him contained a lightly blue fluid that smelled of bananas and garlic, and a porcelain receptacle had sprouted across the room from him. Sampling the drink, he found it like drinking pure grain alcohol lightly flavored with banana and garlic, so he spat it back. Getting up, he walked across and lifted the seat to relieve himself, and returned to his place.
His eyes traveled around the room, looking for the tell tale cracks of a door or hatchway, especially next to where he awakened. Nothing presented itself. What was I doing before I found myself here, he asked himself.
It was an ordinary Wednesday night, and after a long day at the office, he'd surfed the Internet while watching television. He was sending notes back and forth with Shelley, a friend of his on the East Coast, while he monitored the news, and after saying good night, had settled onto his couch to give the television his full attention. No sheet or blanket covered him, his body lounged on the soft leather as he fought to keep his eyes open to watch David Letterman interview Amy Sedaris. He must have slipped into a dream that she had gotten up on Letterman's desk to begin licking his face, and shortly after hearing him say: "You'd better be careful, my wife may be watching tonight," his eyes opened in this place.
Who could do this? He struggled with an answer and he no luck. The only explanation that fit was he'd been kidnaped by aliens and was now their guest. All right, he was single, had a job that didn't require his presence every day, and his habits were irregular. No one would missed him for at least two days. Of course, if he had been kidnaped by aliens, they could be past Alpha Centauri before they found him missing.
He walked the perimeter of his enclosure again, looking for a crack or flaw. It was a consistent, glowing white, with no indication of a passageway. "What are you up to?", he said out loud, and silence was his answer. He paced a while, looking at the floor and ceiling in futile effort before sitting again and staring at the blank walls.
At some point in time, he must have fallen asleep, but he awaked to find he was not alone. A woman slept on the other side of the room: a blond woman with medium hair wearing a light yellow nightgown. Her nails were painted red, her skin was almost pure white, and her eyelashes were very thin. Her breathing was quiet, almost inaudible, she stirred momentarily and settled back into her slumber.
Being awakened by a stranger might be the wrong way to begin captivity together, so he sat and waited until she work up on her own. Something tingled in his memory, but he couldn't put his finger on it, there was something familiar about this woman. She grew more restless and a gradually her body turned and tossed a little before she sat up awake in a bolt.
"Where am I?" she said.
"I don't know."
She gasped and looked around at him. "Who are you?"
"My name's Mike."
"Nice to meet you."
"Likewise." She looked around the pure white room frantically, blinking her eyes, and looked at him again. "Do you know where we are?"
"Not for certain. The best likelihood is we've been abducted by aliens."
She shrieked, making his ears hurt. "Why? What have we done to them."
"I don't know why they've abducted us, they haven't given any indication of what they look like, and they haven't tried to communicate since I've been here."
"How long have you been here?"
"I've slept twice. The room is solid white all day, no sounds get in here, and until last time there was no lavatory. Seems like they're going to no outside stimulus; perhaps we're part of an experiment and they're staying clear of it."
"I'm scared," she said, shuddering. "What are they going to do with us?"
"I don't know. We'll have to wait and see."
She looked at him closely. "You look familiar."
"You do, too."
"I'm not sure. We may have a lot of time to figure it out."
Looking around, she stood slowly. She walked forward until she found and wall. "It's about 10 feet by 10 feet," Mike said, "I paced it off the other day. Can't find the ceiling, but it may be 10 feet up as well. Can't jump that high, so I can't tell you for sure. Can you jump?"
"Not that high. Maybe if I sat on your shoulders."
"We can try that later."
She looked around again at all the walls and then back at him. "Can you see a doorway?"
"No, not yet. The room has changed while I've slept, but I haven't sensed anyone being in here."
"Maybe it materialized like they do on Star Trek?"
"I'll keep an eye out for that."
Shelly walked back and sat down next to him. "Maybe it's someone on earth. Maybe this is somebody's idea of a practical joke."
"Maybe. Hellva way to play a joke."
"Who would it be?"
"Your guess is as good as mine."
She sat cross legged on the floor. "I hope my kids don't freak when they find me missing. Although they probably won't notice until they're hungry, or want clean clothes."
"Yes. I don't know what can be done from the outside, but it will be good that you'll be missed. I live along, and no one will notice I'm gone for quite a while."
They sat in silence for several moments. Tentatively, they made small talk and discovered they had been communicating by e-mail for a couple of years. Mike had written a few stories for a website specializing in erotic literature and Shelley was a fan of his. The revelation made them more comfortable with each other, and they swapped stories about their childhoods and lives to date. She had married after college and several children, but her marriage was stagnant and she longed to be free of it. He was a confirmed bachelor, a professor of religion at a small liberal arts college, and was relatively happy with his profession other than the usual administrative nonsense that goes with professorial duties, and the indifferent attitude some of his students had toward learning.
They fell asleep after a while. Once in a haze, he heard a gentle flow of water and glanced over to notice her perched on the toilet. He looked away immediately like the gentleman he was. "Wow," he thought to himself, "We have a toilet now!"
Awakening again, he stood and went to relieve himself once he was satisfied she wasn't looking. She lay on the floor on her side, facing the wall, breathing slowly and gently. He noticed two tumblers on the floor, and the aroma was banana. Taking a tentative sip, he was surprised to find it pleasant, like a milkshake. "Well, do you think it will kill you?" she said, still facing away.
"I'll take my chances. They brought us here for a purpose, and since it's been at least three days since I've arrived here, I think they want to try something more elaborate on us than a simple poisoning."
"You have no guarantee of that."
"True. But the only chance we have to get nutrition is to consume what they give us. Unless you'd like me to chew you arm a little."
She turned and gave him a wry smile. "Why don't you chew my ass first?"
Chuckling, he said: "I'm glad you have a sense of humor."
Taking the other tumbler, she took a tentative sip, then followed it with a few others. "Do you think they want us to eat each other?"
"We'll see. I don't think these would be here if they were."
"We can work on that basis for now." They continued their beverages, finding the liquid filling. "Mike, why are we here?"
"It's like my view of the world."
"Really? Tell me about it."
"The world is like the ocean, and we're a species of fish. We can eat anything littler than us, and if something bigger than us comes along and catches us, we're food."
"Lovely. What about the purpose of life?"
"Survival. Enjoyment if we can manage it."
"Are we at the top of the food chain? Are we the sharks of this ocean?"
"Until now, I would have said yes."
"Unless I were a shrimp, I'd like to hang around with the dolphins."
"They keep the sharks away. They're also easy going, have a lot of fun, and will look after other species and even humans if they're your friends."
"Sounds good to me. And where do we find a dolphin around here?"
"You tell me. For all I know, we're sitting the belly of a shark."
"Thanks for making me feel good about my view of life."
They slept twice more, drinking the banana smoothies and chatting idly. Nothing happened to them: no stimulus from the outside presented itself, no noise, no pictures, no indication another sentient being was present. Shelley got up on Mike's shoulders and found the ceiling, but it was as smooth as the walls and floor.
"Crap," Mike said as he awakened the third time. "It's getting cooler in here."
"Started a while ago," Shelley replied. "I would say it started a couple of hours ago, but I don't have a watch."
"Haven't you been sleeping any?"
"Not much. I'm not used to sleeping on a bare floor, and I'm not used to sleeping alone."
"Well, I've been camping in the mountains a few times, but I'm used to sleeping rough."
"Oooh, la la. You've been holding out on me."
"Be quiet. And I'm used to sleeping alone."
She looked at him curiously. "Ever tried sleeping with someone?"
"Sleeping sleeping or. . ."
"Yes. It's been a while."
"I haven't been able to sleep much, only when I'm too tired to hold my eyes open, and not long. I'm scared. I think we'll get eaten."
"You're the one for double entendres."
"Shut up, I haven't had sex for a couple years. If there was a bed in here, I'd bite your clothes off."
"Who needs a bed?"
"Shut up. It's getting colder and I don't like it."
"Come over here. We can keep each other warm."
She came to him and they huddled together on the floor. "It would be easier if we had a blanket," he said.
"Yes, but I can't find one in the cupboard."
"They may be monitoring our conversations, so I was hoping. . ."
"Doesn't make sense, Mike. They want to see something about how we react to cold. I'm scared."
"I'm not happy with this either. It's getting like a refrigerator in here."
"The shark's going to get us."
"I don't like your metaphor. What good is life if you end up shark food?"
"It's the way of nature."
"Well, the human race is infamous for rebelling against the way of nature. I hope our hosts don't get too carried away and freeze us to death before they realize they've gone too far."
"Maybe that's what they want to do."
"Thanks for the optimism." They huddled more and more closely as the temperature dropped, and they saw their breaths as they exhaled. With no covering, they soon began to tremble and Mike began to think this was the end when they lost consciousness.
He awoke with a start, holding Shelley in his arms, with the room back at normal temperature. She was deeply asleep, a slight smile on her face and snuggled into his embrace as he stirred. "What do you want for breakfast?" she said huskily.
"Oh, the normal man food. Eggs and bacon, toast, fruit, tea. . ."
"Hate the stuff, never liked it. Made it through a semester of student teaching without getting hooked on the stuff."
"You were a student teacher? What subject?"
"I don't want to talk about it. I was miserable, and never used my teaching certificate."
"Do you think it's getting warmer in here?" A slight glisten of sweat was beginning to appear on their skins, and he softly pushed her away from him.
"Yes. It's going to be the flip side of yesterday. They want to see how hot we can take it."
"Should we take off our clothes?"
"No. We can handle more heat clothed than naked."
"Shoot. All we can hope for is one of your dolphins to drop by."
"Yeah. Give me their cell number." Looking around, he saw two full tumblers. "Drink it down, Shelley. We'll need all the hydration we can get."
"If there was water in the toilet, we could drink that."
"Just being practical."
The temperature gradually climbed, making their sweat soak their clothes and leaving puddles on the floor. They sat and waited, leaning back eventually until the heat finally abated.
He shook himself awake with a start and found the temperature normal. Turning to Shelley, he said: "We must have slept again. I don't know how."
"Yeah. I don't remember getting tired. They took our clothes."
Looking down at his middle aged body with grey hair, pockets of flab and wrinkles, he nodded. "It's curious why they didn't do that earlier. Or when we were asleep."
Shelley formed herself into a small bundle, using her arms to cover her breasts and crotch. "You men are all alike. Don't you want to cover yourself?"
"What use is it? I'm not proud of what I look like, but there's no sense in being a prude."
"Ron Jeremy you aren't."
He chuckled. "Never said I was. But I'm not a virgin, and I've never had a one night stand."
"And what do you mean by that?"
"I always got another chance. Usually more."
"Aren't we the locker room stud?"
"And what about you? A prim, proper virgin until your husband took your cheery in your sanctified marriage bed?"
"No, I grew up in the '80s. I was a wild child, and now I wish I was wilder than I was. I love men, sex is all I think about, and I wish I had the nerve to sleep with every cute guy I met."
"Wow, you have been married a long time."
"Shut up." She turned her face away, pouting, and was quiet for a long time. "We could make love now."
"Oh, come on. For all we know, this is what they want us to do. First they froze us, wanting us to screw to make body heat, then they fried us, hoping when our clothes came off we'd start."
He sat at the edge of the wall, his legs flat on the floor. "Strange way to go about it. Why couldn't they just download a few movies from the Internet?"
"Maybe they're really kinky and want to see it in the flesh."
"All right, but why us? What about putting a frustrated wife and a confirmed bachelor together just to see when they'll screw? Doesn't sound like good science to me?"
"We're just little fish in the ocean. . ."
"And the sharks are now perverts. I don't like your metaphor, and it doesn't really make sense, except on the surface. It does seem like the way of the world, but we'd never make it out of the caves to build civilizations."
"Who says we're civilized?"
"Point made. Our hosts probably don't think that. Maybe because we were connected online, told each other things we'd tell nobody else, lusted after each other from afar. . ."
"You're making some sense, but you're right. It's hard to figure out why they're doing it."
"The sharks are inscrutable."
"But there are dolphins in the ocean. Maybe we're the dolphins."
"Right. Sure. I don't think so. I think we're one kind of shark trying to pass ourselves off as dolphins. Right now, we're not succeeding very well."
They sat a long time in silence, then came a long darkness of profound length. They awakened next to each other. Mike looked around and felt a dull pain in the back of his head.
Shelley shook her head and looked up at him. "What's wrong?"
"I have a headache."
"What a wonderful, sexy way to wake up."
"No, no, I really have a pain in my head."
"There's a red spot behind your ear."
He turned around, trying to feel for something behind his right ear, and found a bump. "What's it like."
"Like a bug bite, real tiny. Wouldn't have noticed it unless I was right next to you."
"How do you feel?"
"Hungry. Shit, another tanker of that damned smoothie." She reached out to take it and took a long swallow.
"Shelley, you've got a bug bite behind your ear, too."
"I do?" She felt for it, putting the glass down.
"Yeah. It probably means they're getting serious."
"Oh no, they didn't put something in our heads, did they?"
"I hope not. I hope it's just bug bites we haven't noticed." He got up and walked away toward the other end of the room, and held his head as his headache got suddenly worse. Walking back, he noticed it lessened as he approached her. "Are you really all right? No headache or anything?"
"My head hurts and it hurts worse the farther I am away from you."
"Well come here, big boy and we'll see how bad that can be."
"No, I'm nobody's puppet. I'd rather die."
"Mike, don't be stupid."
"Like hell. There isn't much I can do to resist these little green men or superhumans or land walking sharks, but I can refuse to do what they want me to."
"No, Mike. Don't. Why do that?"
"Because I'm human, not some damn baitfish." He walked to the other side of the room, his head pounding, and pushed himself into a corner, making himself as small as possible.
She ran over behind him and began running her hands over his back. He trembled as he resisted her touch, contracting himself more and more, his muscles bulging as he pulled away as best he could.
A switch seemed to flip, and he went limp. She took a step back, and he turned, drooling and his eyes unfocused for a moment. A convulsion went through him, then a light seemed to come from his eyes. He stood and looked at her hungrily, and with the flip of a switch, she responded to him. . .
Mike awakened in his own bed. The early morning light filtered into the room, the clock at his bedside reported 6:00AM. Sitting up, he touched his pajamas and the sheets of his bed. The alarm went off and he silenced it. Going over to his laptop, perched on the table next to the bedroom window, he booted it up and discovered the date was the day after he vanished. A few clicks to news sites confirmed this. Going over to the mirror, he looked at himself, checking any change that may have sprouted overnight. There seemed to be nothing, but behind his ear was a faint bump he hadn't noticed before.