An Alien Encounter of the Worst Kind
As Bob Jones lathered up in the shower, he sang lustily and off key, "Figaro, Figaro, Figaro." That is all the words he knew to the famous aria and so repeated them over and over. He knew the words to a rock and roll tune that he could have sang, but he considered himself an intellectual and that popular music was for the uneducated. After a while though, he began to hear music that ran counterpoint to his singing. He stopped scrubbing, turned off the shower and listened. It sounded like the theme from "The Twilight Zone" and was quite loud. He wondered whether his downstairs neighbor had turned up the volume on his TV. After he dressed, he would go down and complain.
Before he could reach for the knob to turn the shower back on, he was suddenly surrounded by a strange blue light, like a spotlight shining on him. "What the hell," he cried. As he gazed at his hand, he cried out in horror. It was dissolving, fading away. In fact the same thing was happening to his whole body. The next he knew, he was strapped to a gurney and strange reptilian creatures with enormous eyes were examining him. They poked and prodded him like vicious doctors, sticking strange instruments in openings all over his body, some of which they created themselves.
The creatures had skins the texture of crocodiles, wore clothes like a human and had no mouths. They stared at him with those enormous eyes as though they were waiting for him to say something. "Hey," he cried. "What's going on? Where am I? Who or what are you?"
He received no reply. But, he realized that since they had no mouths, they must communicate in some other fashion. After several hours of inflicting painful prodding and probing, they wheeled him down a ramp and into a small room. They unfastened his straps, laid him on a bare plastic bunk and left. Bruised and battered as he was, he could barely move except to vomit into a bucket. He gazed around the room. It was oval shaped, cream colored, and had no corners. The walls glowed. In the direction that the creatures had brought him, were ivory bars. Apparently, he was in a jail cell. But why? Nothing made sense. He was sure that he was awake, but everything that had happened to him right after he heard that weird music was nightmarish.
Once he felt well enough to get out of the bunk, he peered out of the bars. His cell was one of a long row of similar cells. To his consternation, the one directly across from his was occupied by an enormous bull gorilla, who, when it spotted him, started beating on its chest, rattling the bars and howling. It stopped when Jones drew back. Since there were two sets of bars between them, Jones jumped up and down and imitated an ape gone mad. He laughed when the gorilla shook his fist at him.
He returned to his bunk and tried to puzzle out the situation. The way he arrived here -- wherever here was -- had been the way that characters in Star Trek were "beamed aboard." The creatures who had tortured him when he first arrived seemed like monsters from a bad sci-fi movie. The whole thing began to make a certain amount of crazy sense, the strange music, the weird light, being beamed up, the monsters, the gorilla in the cell opposite. Oh-my-gosh, he thought, I've been abducted by aliens. He wondered what they were going to do with him. He had heard about alien abductions, but never believed that they were true. He realized that at some point the abductees must have been returned to earth. Otherwise, how could they tell their stories. This cheered him a little.
After what seemed like several hours, an alien appeared at the bars and slipped two bowls through a small opening at the bottom of the cell door. Apparently he was being fed. He picked up the bowls and brought them to his bunk. There were no eating utensils, and the stuff in one bowl was gray-green mush. The other bowl contained plain water. "At least they could've given me wine with this crap," he muttered.
He stuck a finger in the food bowl and sucked off the stuff stuck to his finger. Although it was not all that bad, he made a face. If it had been on the menu of a French restaurant, he might have ordered it. Besides, he was terribly hungry. It had been several hours since he had last eaten. He scooped up the mush with his hands as best he could, making a mess as the stuff which dribbled between his fingers onto his chin, chest, legs and the floor. When he was done, he drank a little of the water and used the rest to clean himself off, spilling a lot all over.
He was about to doze off when a cat appeared from somewhere. He recognized it. It was his neighbor's cat, Boots. "Boots, how did you get in here?" he asked rhetorically.
To his amazement, a voice in his head said, "I walked through the wall. All cats can do that. How do you think I got into your apartment all those times?"
"Oh. I didn't know you were telepathic."
"That's because I never lowered myself to communicate with an inferior species. However, as a fellow prisoner, I thought it might be wise to talk about our situation."
"Sure. But what exactly is our situation?"
"I know that you're slow, but, duh, we've been abducted by aliens, along with several other animals of various types. This spaceship is a regular Noah's ark."
Jones did not know whether he was more insulted by the cat calling him an inferior species, slow or an animal. "Are we really on a spaceship?"
"Yep. Some people would call it a flying saucer or a UFO. I read the mind of the aliens. They plan to put each of us to test to see which species is the most intelligent."
"You mean they can't tell simply by looking?"
"To them, we all look pretty much alike mentally. For instance, they have no clue that the most intelligent beast on earth is a small furry animal with sharp teeth that can see well in the dark." Boots puffed up his chest.
"Wait a minute. Humans are the most intelligent creatures on the planet."
Cat chuckle echoed in Jones' mind. "Don't be ridiculous. Nonetheless, you'll get your chance to prove it. As I said before, which you didn't seem to comprehend, the aliens are putting us through a series of tests. The representative of each species will compete against all other species. The one that the aliens find to be the most intelligent will represent earth to some galactic-wide governing body."
"And what happens to the losers?"
"The aliens are hard to read on that score. I get a headache reading their minds. They're so alien. But I gather that the rest of you will be put into a zoo to amuse their kittens."
"Why you egotistical cat. Surely, you don't believe that these aliens will think that you're smarter than me."
Boots licked his paw and began to groom himself. "By far. But you're not the problem. I think the chimpanzee has a leg up on us so far."
"A chimp? How is that possible?"
"Well, for one thing, he was the only species who arrived here clothed. Like you humans, these aliens seem to put a great stock on hanging pieces of cloth all over themselves. Also, apparently a mad human scientist taught the chimp sign language. The aliens communicate by signing. By the way, how come you aren't wearing garments? I thought you humans rarely went around naked except when you're making love."
"I was in the shower when I was abducted."
"That's what you get for getting yourself so wet. I shudder at the thought of going anywhere near a bathtub or shower. If you were truly intelligent, you would clean yourself a little at a time daintily with your fingertips and spit. Also ahead of us in the intelligence race is the Komodo dragon. It most resembles the aliens in looks."
"When are these tests going to begin?"
"Oh, they already have. Everything that goes on in these cages is monitored." Boots shook his head. "You didn't make any points when you did your ape imitation. I think the gorilla scored on you during that episode when he simply shook his fist, a definite sign that he uses symbolism in his thinking. Also, you made quite a mess with your food. A civilized animal would simply have licked the stuff up with his tongue."
"Oh yeah, what about my opposable thumb?"
"That puts you in the same league as raccoons and pandas. Say, since your hands are so nimble, how about scratching my back?"
"Okay." Jones reached down and scratched the cat's back. Boots stretched, wiggled and purred with ecstatic pleasure.
"How about under the chin?"
Jones rubbed Boots under the chin. When he was done, Boots telepathed, "Guess I'll go now that I've demonstrated that you're my pet and that I control you telepathically. See ya, sucker."
Boots scampered to the cell door and squeezed through. He stopped in the middle of hallway to taunt Jones. "Escaping my cage was another item in my favor. I think that I'll make a great ambassador."
Both Jones and the gorilla ranted and shook their fists at the cat.
Once Boots was gone, Jones wondered what other tests they would be given. He was soon to find out. The aliens took him from his cell and put him in a room with the gorilla. In two of the corners were wooden clubs and shields. The gorilla, who immediately recognized Jones, gave out a Tarzan yell and beat its chest. Jones dove for one of the sets of weapons. As he bent down to pick them up, however, the ape charged and kicked him so hard in the rump that Jones' head banged against the wall. Although dizzy, he had the presence of mind to hold on to the club and shield as he rose to his feet. The gorilla charged again, tore the weapons from his hands and began to beat him unmercifully. Soon everything went black.
Jones woke up back in his cell. He felt like a walking bag of bruises. His head hurt terribly, but nothing seemed to be broken. He lay still, since every movement meant more pain. After a while, something like wet sandpaper licked his face. He opened his eyes. Boots was sitting on his chest. "You didn't make out too well in your fight with that big ape?"
"Maybe I lost the battle, but I was the one who knew what the club and shield were for."
"Stupid of you to turn your back on the brute, though."
"Leave me alone."
"Wait, I've got a proposition for you. The next test is going to be a strategy game something like Go. Have you ever played Go?"
"Of course." Actually, Jones had only played twice in his life and with children, who trounced him royally.
"Well, they've got me matched against the chimp. I think that his former master taught him to play. I'd feel more comfortable playing against you."
Jones figured that he could beat a cat even if he could not win against his niece and nephew. "Okay, but how will the aliens know that we want to be opponents?"
"Sign language. Raise your hands and cross your wrists. Good, now stick out both pointer fingers. Flip your hands over so that your palms are up. Point to me."
Boots jumped off Jones. A few minutes later, an alien entered the cell, it opened a table with a complicated design on it and many peg holes. Another alien brought a stool for the cat and gave each contestant a bag of pegs. The first alien made many motions in the air.
"What's he doing?" asked Jones.
"Explaining the rules. After the aliens leave, I'll tell you what they are."
When the aliens were gone, Jones struggled to a sitting position and moved the table over in front of the bunk. He placed Boots' stool on the other side. Boots leaped up on it and explained the rules. "You'll have to place my pieces. As you pointed out, I don't have an opposable thumb."
They began the game. The cat indicated by telepathy where he wanted his pieces placed. Jones played a strategy similar to the one he learned from his nine-year-old niece. After a half hour of play, the cat telepathed, "A green peg in that hole there." It pointed with its paw. Jones placed the peg where indicated. "Well, that's it. I win," bragged the cat.
"Wait. That's not a winning position in Go."
"But this isn't Go. I told you that it was something like Go. Actually, it's an alien game that's quite different. Weren't you listening when I explained the rules?"
"Well I ... uh ... I didn't catch all of them."
The aliens came in and took away the game and the table, but left the stool. The cat left again. By this time, Jones was exhausted and went to sleep.
The next morning the aliens took Jones to a maze. His opponent was a dog. The dog quickly ran the maze using its nose to find the barbecued sirloin steak prize at the end.
There were many more trials with different animals. Jones won a few, but lost many more.
One day the aliens strapped him to the bunk. He felt the spaceship accelerate putting several gravities of pressure on him. Once the acceleration period was over, Jones' straps were removed, and he floated to the ceiling. They were in free fall. He immediately became space sick and vomited. An alien came by later and vacuumed the bits of partially digested food.
After many days, the alien ship went into orbit around the aliens' home planet. Jones was beamed down to a cage in the alien zoo. He became a favorite of the alien kiddies when he would make faces at them, and sometimes throw his feces.
One day they threw Boots in with him.
"You," cried Jones. "I thought you were going to be the winner and represent all catdom in the galactic parliament."
"I was beat out by an elephant. It had a prehensile nose and a memory that wouldn't quit. Strong too. You'll be glad to hear that it squashed the gorilla that beat you up."
"That big ape had it coming. But why did they put you in this cage with me? Did they think I needed a pet?"
"Not a pet. A husband. They want us to reproduce."
"What? Don't they know that we're both males? And different species to boot."
"Apparently not. They think we were mates because I was hanging around your cage on the ship all the time. They thought that when you were rubbing my back and chin that we were indulging in foreplay."
Jones burst into laughter so raucous that he rolled around the cage into his own manure.
© 2006 by Joe Vadalma
Bio: "I've loved science fiction and fantasy from the time I learned to read. My hobbies, besides writing, are adventure game playing and do-it-yourself projects. Before I retired, I was a technical writer at a major computer manufacturer. Several short stories of mine have been published in E-zines, and I've sold a series of dark fantasy novels called The Morgaine Chronicles to Renaissance E Books. Renaissance has also published a collection of my short stories, The Sands of Time, and two SF novels, Star Tower and The Bagod. Delingers Publishing has published my science fiction novel, The Isaac Project. The Book of Retslu, a humorous fantasy, has been accepted by Mundania and will be published soon. My web site, The Fantastic World of Papa Joe, contains SF, fantasy and horror stories, serials, my blog and art." Joe's stories have also appeared in Aphelion on many occasions, most recently Alien Signal, October, 2006.
E-mail: Joe Vadalma
Comment on this story in the Aphelion Lettercol
Or Return to Aphelion's Index page.