The thing I remember the most vividly about that night is the smell. A noisome, repulsive stench that seemed to stick to my skin forever and that no product seemed to remove, aside from strong acids I did not dare to use. Tomato soup, toothpaste, peroxide, even bleach was without effect. The stench penetrated every pore of my skin and for a while, I thought I would be stuck with it forever.
It was, overall, the normal course of days that finally offered a resolution to my problem: skin cells that died were progressively replaced with new ones and, over time, the odor faded until a good half-can of deodorant, coupled with around five different perfumes, made the situation somewhat tolerable for the people I normally share my life with.
I was lucky enough to be kidnapped by aliens during summer: had it been during the school year, I suppose I would have had to be homeschooled, lest I wanted to earn the privilege of having yet another derisory nickname. In 6th grade, for example, I was humbly dubbed “the plant” due to my thin and supple body and perhaps also the fact that, for a girl, I tended to be quite tall. Some kids liked to use that name to pretend I wasn’t very bright, but it was actually quite the opposite: in 8th grade I was nicknamed “the brain” due to my nearly perfectly grades and score sin all things related to school. This time, it would have been “dumpster girl” or “rotten skunk.”
Last year, as a freshman, a group of particularly vicious and certainly more popular young ladies preferred to refer to me as “the witch” given my long and shoddy black hair that I could never, ever manage to brush correctly. In fact, the first thing I remember after waking up in that goo was “I might as well shave my hair, because I’m never going to be able to clean it.” It goes without saying that, due to the smell, shaving my hair was one of the first thing I did after getting out of that ship.
But I am getting ahead of myself. After all, hair or not, I was not meant nor supposed to survive this night. Ironically perhaps, I owe my survival to the same creature who kidnapped me, a bipedal reptilian creature named Xilitum.
My story begins in the middle of the night. I woke up screaming, soaked and immerged in some think purple goo. A small, crystal-like breathing apparel was connected to my nose and I understood quickly enough that disconnecting it would be a very bad idea. I could see a window through the liquid I was immersed in and, through some incredible effort, I managed to move my arms and legs around. I was still wearing my pajamas which, as the only three girls I could refer to as “my friends” reminded me in our last pajama party, made me look like I was at most eight.
“We will proceed with this one,” said a figure as he opened the capsule I was kept in. “Fifteen, female, Caucasian.”
I was last scared that I should have been, really. By the time I saw the man who was talking to someone off my field of view, or something as I would rather learn, I was getting slightly agitated, but no more. Some girls scream at the view of a spider or the sounds of a wolf: I’ve only been scared once in my life and that’s the day I found my mom on the floor, agonizing in crippling pain. Of my two parents, she was the good one. For many years, I wished it had been my dad instead – but my father had apparently had the good fortune to be the one blessed with good genes and no cardiac defect. When the doctor discussed it with me, they referred to my mother as a “ticking bomb.” She didn’t know it, she had no idea in fact, but her heart made it so that she could have died at any time, and at any time did she die.
I was left alone with the man who furnished half of my genetic material, a man who had little interest in me aside from berating, belittling, yelling, insulting and hitting me at every occasion. No, I did not like my dad. Starting at age 12, I ran away from home as often as I could, up to the point where social services were called on a monthly basis. But my dad is a rich, powerful and influential man and nobody, not a single police officer or social worker, defies him for very long. That broken nose? A basketball accident. A black eye? I do kickboxing. Lost teeth? Baseball. If you read my file from beginning to the end, you’d think I’m the most unlucky young athlete in the history of sports.
And the events of tonight, apparently were going in the same direction, at least as far as luck was concerned. The goo had made me incredibly weak: I was conscious, but it was as if all strength and vigor had been removed. Even breathing was a chore.
“A bit scrawny, I suppose.”
“She. Is. Per. Fect.”
The voice seemed to emerge from a computer: it was low-pitched and strangely articulate, yet resonated and echoed loudly around the room.
“Well not a second to lose, let’s get started.”
“Wha… A…” I spoke as much as I could, but like in a bad dream, I couldn’t get the words to come out of my mouth. I literally could not talk. Of course, the gel I was surrounded of made it slightly harder as well and my words didn’t travel very far in front of me.
“Don’t try to talk, young one. The substance you were in is a strong paralytic. Amongst other things. Your vocal cords, your mouth, basically, if it’s a muscle you normally have control over, assume you can’t use it. You could have removed her clothes, Xilitum.”
He spoke like a true maniac, as if he seemed to be genuinely enjoying the moment. He sounded over-excited and over-confident.
“Nev. Er. Un. Der. Stood. Why. Hu. Mans. Wore. Clot-.”
“Protection from the sun, social status, safety, hygiene… Tons of reasons, really.”
“Rep. Tile. Su. Pe. Rior.”
“I see. Think we should explain our new friend here what’s going on? Why, she isn’t scared. This one is not scared!”
“How. You. Know.”
“Her pupils. Not dilated. And she’s not shaking or tearing up like the ones before her. I was a doctor before you kidnapped me. You remember, Xil?”
“I apologize for the smell, young one. This substance is necessary, sadly. We can burn your smell receptor if that will make it that much better.”
“No… No… No….”
“I think she’s getting a little scared now.”
The man, or the doctor I should say, slowly cut my clothes, plunging his hands into the tank I was held in. He was incredibly gentle and precise with his movement: I could tell her had been a surgeon before. I was utterly powerless to resist.
“I apologize for that intrusion. I realize you might feel it’s inappropriate, but it helps with the… procreation. We need to close the tank now. If you get too bored… I don’t know, do you want a movie? Do we have a television, Xil?”
“You want to know what is going to happen to you? Nah, trust me you don’t,” he said, shutting the lid close. “You know, it would spoil the surprise.”
And that’s when my belly started growing.
I mean, I talk like it’s something I noticed straight away, but when you are isolated from everything, when you can’t even move by more than an inch, time becomes a relative thing. Once upon getting back on Earth, I realized I had been gone for a good ten days. But for me, time seemed to pass in a much slower manner. Perhaps the ship also had the capability to bend time, perhaps some anomaly made the time go slower, but I have always had the impression I spent several months at least inside that capsule.
I don’t think I will ever know for sure.
That substance did more than paralyse me. Whenever I was hungry or thirsty, I swallowed a mouthful the best I could given my reduced attributes, and immediately felt satiated. You try to resist, of course: you never want to do what your captors want you to do, let alone eat something that smelled so gross. Eventually, however, you just get hungry enough and painfully swallow what you can. Once, in an utter state of despair, I tried not to eat for as long as I could in an attempt to end my days, but the substance, apparently sentient, eventually decided to force its way into my mouth and then into my throat.
it tasted nothing. I mean, it literally didn’t taste a single thing. It wasn’t sweet, it wasn’t sour, it wasn’t salty, it was just… Like eating modeling clay, but softier. The tank seemed to refill instantly. No matter how much or how little I ate, it was always at the same level: full. My dejections, at the same time, vanished inside it almost immediately. It seemed kind of gross when I think back about it, but it’s not like Xilitum had given me any choice.
I quickly came to learn the bounds of my situation. In simple termes, there were no escapes possible. At best, I could move my arms a couple of inches, bump against the lid of the tank in a nugatory manner. I could open my mouth, twitch my toes, perhaps even bump my knee against the container hard enough to create a slight noise, but that was it. No need for any restrictions: I was locked into the best of prisons.
When I look back at these moments of my life today, I always consider myself to have been neither dead nor alive.
The first time I noticed my growing belly, I panicked. I had not been one lucky enough to be blessed with the presence of a boyfriend, yet I immediately knew I was pregnant. Pregnant with what, I couldn’t say and I couldn’t imagine. The doctor would check on me from time to time - a nod here, a smile there, I don’t know. I would hear something beep or catch glimpse of a flash from time to time. He rarely talked to me. In fact, up until he opened my tank again, I can only remember two sentences of his.
“For your information, what you are breeding is not human.”
In my total isolation, with absolutely sensory deprivation, any form of stimulus was more than welcome. Over time, I started to get happy whenever he entered the room, simply because it meant something was about to happened.
The second time he talked was the second time of my life I was genuinely scared. It happened right after I felt… them move.
“They’re going to rip right through you, teeth and all.”
There were three of them inside me. Males, females, did these things even have a name or a gender, I couldn’t tell. They moved, and they fought, and they bumped each other. I felt the pain of one of them when his sibling, her sibling, bit her or him.
They definitely had teeth.
I had always thought babies did not have teeth.
And then time passed. Their move became my only distraction from the boredom of my indigent situation.
In the void, I had nothing but my teeth to accompany me, and even then, my own thought process seemed slow, foggy, mixed up. It had been some time. I tried to remember what my house was like, what my friends looked like, things I had learned in school, what I wanted to do when I grew up (a doctor, but not anymore). And then, as I felt them moving inside me, I became utterly and completely terrified. I forgot thing. I felt oddly at peace, letting my mind drift, and in the great emptiness, I found utter terror.
Every second, I feared the moment the biggest one – one of them was definitely bigger than the other – would be strong enough to finally bite his way out. I had felt him poke the borders of his prison and every day, I felt he was growing stronger. I imagined him as he would chew his way out of… out of me, into that tank. I was going to die, this I knew, and I feared the pain far more than death itself. I would ripped apart by these monsters.
And then, I became determined to end my days.
I tried to breath by my mouth. Surely, that substance would choke me. Again, however, it knew better and pushed itself out right out of my breathing tube and into my trachea. I then, I tried disconnecting the breathing apparel stuck to my nose, only to discover that, in a biomechanical process, it had merged with my flesh. It was well stuck inside my nose and no attempt to dislodge it produced any effect.
My next suicide attempt was trying to hold my breath as long as possible. I almost passed out a few times, but always found myself breathing again. At last, I tried to eat as much as I could of the tasteless paste. I must have eaten gallons of the thing; I became sick, vomited, and nothing else happened. I was sentenced to live. In a state of utter despair, I totally abandoned and resigned myself to my fate.
Then, things started to change.
“Our friend here is the last survivor of his species.” It was that doctor again. He open the chamber again. “I know what you tried to do. Holding your breath and all that stuff. Quite childish. Quite immature of you. To deprive Xilitum of his children. And plus, don’t you think we thought about that?”
He played with some instruments in the background: they clinked loudly together. “I’ve been following you for a very long time, young lady. I know all about your past suicide attempts. I’ve read your medical file, you see. Not all women can carry Zolgan children to term. In fact, we’ve had sixteen failures so far.”
For the first time, I lifted my hand high enough for it to emerge out of the liquid. I touched open air.
“And by failure, we meet that they died giving birth. What a shame.” He turned towards me, finally noticing my feeble attempts at escaping. “They are making you stronger. Have you given them names? Two boys and a girl. Congratulations.”
He pushed my hand back inside the liquid aggressively.
“The Zolgan have both male and female gender, but each gender can actually reproduce independantly. Parthenogenesis, you see. Sadly, male Zolgan need a… A recipient for the child to grow and develop.” He paused momentarily. “Had Xilitum been a woman, we wouldn’t had that problem. And we wouldn’t need you - the solution. Most people think lizards lay eggs. Many don’t, actually. I studied zoology, you see? You’ll die giving birth. But think of everything you will do for the galaxy. Your children will help repopulate what has once been a proud and powerful race. And me, oh, I will be the man who helped make this possible! Anyway… I am boring you, am I not? You’re due any day, now.”
He walked to the door and I caught a glimpse of him rubbing his hands. As he was in the doorstep, he turned and said loudly: “Oh, the girl is the biggest one. Thought you’d like to know.”
I felt the first contractions what should have been a few hours after this discussion. My belly was so large I felt it was simply going to explode.
The doctor and the alien came back into the room.. That was the second and last time I saw Xilitum. At last, I got to get a good look at him.
He was immensely tall, over ten foot high, and at least five foot long. He wore some kind of protective mask on his face and only his eyes were exposed: two black globes on the side of head looking at me. He walked on two short legs and had a long tail behind him. His skin was of a dark green hue and he spoke through a communication machine.
“My. Mother. Brood.”
He scared me, intimidated me, but also fascinated me. He looked strangely eerie, absorbed in his thoughts. He seemed rapt by my presence, in pure elation of my now larger-than-natural belly.
“Is. It. Done.”
“Yes, Xilitum. The contraction have begun.”
“Ex. Cel. Lent.”
In a shocking movement, he raised some kind of weapon, a pistol, and shot at the doctor, vaporizing him instantly. The doctor did not even have the time to scream.
“He. Was. Al. Ways. A. Fool,” he mocked, hissing. His tongue flipped up and down in a hurried rush, before falling back behind his mask. Hovering his hand over some kind of button, he emptied the tank: I saw the liquid leave through some colored tubes. At last, I was free.
“Do you know. Why you’re here?” he simply asked in a much more coordinated manner.
“To… breed…” were the only words I could think of. Finally, I could speak and he could hear me.
“No,” he replied. “To think. A Zolgan. Would reproduce. With inferior species.”
He approached me, and I felt his cold, stench breath on my skin. Hovering his hands over a console and the breathing apparel simply vanished..
“Never. What you have inside you. Is human. The feelings. From human child.”
“I… I don’t…”
“The feelings. Inside. Hallucinations. Sensory.”
“Why am I… Who…”
“You don’t. Understand. All this time. You don’t understand. Go back. And think.”
I started to feel drowsy. I had been a long time since I last slept. I gathered my strength, now free from the prison, and glanced at my belly, large as always. What was even going on?
“What..” I was going to fall asleep at any time. There was nothing I could do. “Please, please… I beg of you…” I yawned and my eyes closed. “Explain,” I said.
“One. Hint. You weren’t. Test subject. He,” he pointed at the floor and the tiny cloud of dust that was left. “Was,” he last said.
The next time I opened my eyes, I was on a stretcher in an hospital. I reeked of every horrible scent there was on this planet. Doctors and nurses pushed me urgently and then I felt the pain. An hour later – a long, painful hour later – I had a big young girl in my hands… and two little boys.
I long thought about what had happened. Of my father, of that doctor, of that tank, of all the people who didn’t buy a word of my story – not even when I pointed out to the sixteen missing girls. Of my ten days disappearance, people believe I, you guessed it, ran away again.
Had it not been for that damn smell, I probably would never have had believed what I have lived through myself; surely it had all been a dream. For many months, in fact, I stood in my room in utter confusion. I wrote this short story over and over again, trying to make sense of the impossible sequence of events. What the hell at happened?
It would be many months until I finally put all pieces of the puzzle togetherAt one point, I had an entire white wall filled with stickers, arrows, bullet points and everything I could think of to make sense of that. I thought I was going crazy. And those last words he said, oh…
When you’re raped, tons of crazy little thoughts go through your mind. “What if I get pregnant,” you think. And when you do find out you’re pregnant, you think your babies are going to be monsters. You somehow think that just because your child was conceived during a horrible, heinous act, they will be born with scales, a tail or crazy eyes. When you feel them kick you, you imagine tiny little lizards about to burst out of you. But nothing could be further from the truth. I love my children and always will.
My father was a fool. He should have known what he did to me could make me pregnant. I guess men don’t think too much sometimes, especially when alcohol and a general feeling of omnipotence is involved. I suppose this is the one abuse he wouldn’t manage to outrun. No sports to blame it on, no witness to discredit: only cold and irrefutable evidence. I mean, can you imagine the scandal? My father is incredible rich and powerful: rich enough to bribe a doctor into performing a forced abortion. Powerful enough to hire every mercenary, every bounty hunter, every corrupt cop, every killer and every bad man on this planet the moment I found out about his plan and ran away.
They would have caught me. They had always caught me before and there’s nowhere on Earth where I would have been safe. In today’s world, which place is truly safe? Nobody is your friend when offered a fortune. But what my father didn’t count on was the zealous vigilance of the last remnant of a fallen species, a humanoid reptilian called Zolgan who cared little about money and such trivial matters. A Zolgan who had enough of my father and his deviant habits. Xilitum, over his years of loneliness, became outrageously concerned with all things related to motherhood. The others didn’t get pregnant. Before giving birth, I would have said that they were lucky, but holding my children in my hands… I am not so sure anymore.
I think Xilitum had something against my father. A score to settle, maybe. My father didn’t make his fortune from nothing: he had made a lot of people angry. Zoltan needed proof to ruin him and so he brought to the only place I would be safe. He even went as far as to invent a nonsensical stupid plan to make sure I would always have a doctor, a human doctor even, care for me. That doctor was not very bright: he was lost in his delusions of grandeur, certain he would be remembered by the entire universe for his trifle acts. He should have sticked with zoology: he was blinded by his passion for the impossible and it led to his inevitable demise.
I felt asleep under a bridge. I woke up in a ship. He protected me from everything.
Except from the smell, of course.