Gliding, gliding, gliding into a mystery.
At least I think we’re gliding. This thing is moving so slowly and steadily we could very well be still—-just hanging motionless in space, like an ornament on a vast, black Christmas tree.
I can’t say I hate it here anymore. My emotions have gone by the wayside. I don’t feel angry or resentful about what happened—-just still, like the prison that is hanging here in space-completely still.
“Professor Briggs, dinner is ready.”
The door to my modest cabin opened slowly, emitting a high-pitched whine from the hinges that desperately needed oiling. The woman standing in the doorway smiled at me warmly, but her eyes were mocking and cruel. It’s an unsettling sight—-a warm smile and cruel eyes. It’s not something typically found on Earth.
She was holding a tray of my favorite foods. There was a large square of lasagna, a mammoth chunk of chocolate cake, crab legs, and barbecued shrimp. They lay together in a sickening array on the tray.
“I know you can’t resist all this, professor. Especially since you haven’t eaten in three days.”
“Has it been that long? Maybe if you didn’t serve them together like this I would have more of an appetite. Or maybe if you told me just where in the hell we’re headed, I would feel like I could eat safely. Can you do that for me? Hmm? Or is that just too goddamn hard?”
The woman put her hand coquettishly over her mouth.
“Professor! Such anger. I know humans get restless when they don’t eat, so why don’t you try something so you can fix your energy?”
“It’s not my damn energy that needs fixing! Just tell me where we’re headed and I’ll happily eat the whole ungodly feast!” I banged so hard on my knee with my clenched fist that it made an odd cracking noise. I took this to mean that I am either very strong or very weak, depending on one’s perspective.
The woman rested the tray on a tiny table next to my bed. “I’ll be back to clean up in an hour.” With that she left, locking my door behind her.
I felt a tinge of gratitude toward the woman. This was the first outburst of emotion I had experienced in quite some time and it felt good to get the blood pumping again.
I lay back on the thin pillow and stared at the plate of food, glistening next to me. They were trying their best—-these monsters. Every meal that was brought to me was something they knew I liked on Earth. I’m not sure how they found out what my tastes were, that was as much of a mystery to me as how I got here in the first place. I stretched my arm across the bed and swatted at the plate like a disobedient cat. The pile of food plummeted to the ground with a crash and squish. I turned over on my side to face the door, counting the moments until the monster in charge of the ship came in to inspect the noise.
I counted to ten before the agonizing whine of my door filled the room. I heard a disappointed clucking come from behind me before the monster spoke.
“Professor-why do you starve yourself? We thought we had figured out what you like. The chef will be most disappointed to learn another one of his creations has met with the floor.”
I turned to face the being. “How dare you ask me anything. You haven’t bothered to answer a single one of my questions. I don’t know how I’m staying alive but you can bet your ass it’s not gonna be for long. Not if I have my way about it.” I stared hard into the beast’s black eyes, waiting for a moment of chaos to come. “ANSWER ME!” The words pushed themselves out of my throat.
The monster shook his head slightly before calmly replying. “You didn’t ask anything just now, Professor.”
I jumped off my bed, at which point the monster reached for his belt.
“Professor I must insist you calm yourself.” He didn’t make any movement but his hand hovered about his belt with the steadiness of a quick shot.
“I’m not going to attack you.” I leaned against the wall across from my bed. “You’re the lunatic here, not me! Don’t go around acting like I’m the madman… scooping up people and keeping them hostage in some floating Titanic.”
The monster looked at me with what I can only guess was his version of pity. His gaze stayed glued on me even as he walked slowly around my bed to clean up my mess.
“Professor,” he finally said, “what is it that makes you so sure you’re our prisoner? Why can’t it be that perhaps we are saving you?”
I couldn’t help but donkey laugh at the question. It was probably the first time I had laughed in about five years.
“We give you all the food you can want and a safe place to live, yet like an ungrateful child, you refuse all nourishment and recreation. You just keep asking ‘why’. Your race is quite untrusting, Professor. You all seem to think that you know better. Did we take you away from a happy life? No. You were alone on Earth, as you choose to be alone up here. We have taken your human form, yet you refer to us as the monsters.”
“Well that is certainly a pretty tale, Captain.” I mock saluted the bemused being. “But why would you choose to save me, then? What makes me so damn special to you?”
The monster looked through me. “Well, what made you think you were so special that we would make you our prisoner, Professor? Why must rank have anything to do with saving or destroying a life?”
He held my plate, along with my splattered dinner in his hands. My ruined meal dripped cheese and sauce on his perfectly tailored suit, but he seemed not to notice. Before he left out of the whining door, he turned to face me once more.
“My race understands you, Professor, but it’s up to you if this is a prison or your salvation. It truly depends on one’s perspective.”
With that he hurried out of my cabin, leaving me with either nothing or everything. The only thing I knew for sure was that we were still gliding.
About the Author
Kathleen Wolak is a writer/actor/law student/ wannabe magician from Hamden, CT. Her short fiction has appeared in over 20 literary journals and her latest novel, Stars of Man, was released in April, 2017. She is the world’s biggest Simpson’s fan, and has the tattoos to prove it. When she isn’t writing, she is absorbed in her other favorite activity-hiking with her two dogs.