Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
 
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The Captive

by Rachel Bolton




I was still a boy when the aliens from above took me. They came in their big ships from far beyond and stole me from my mother and my home. She wept, and the aliens killed her for her distress. She was too old for their purposes. I was not their only bounty that day, two other children were brought into captivity. The girl, far too young, died a few hours later. I don’t know what happened to the other boy.

My memories of the transport are vague now. The captors provided food and checked on me often. I cannot imagine their faces anymore.

******

My home these past decades has been a prison cell. I can pace back and forth, and my captors make sure it is clean. But it’s too small. The walls are blank. Nothing grows, nothing thrives. I am brought to other cells from time to time, and since I am special, I have one that’s just for me. My captors believe this is enough to be happy.

There are many prisoners, some like me, others are strangers from worlds I don’t know. I cannot learn their tongue, but I understand their cries. We are all lonely in this place. There are eight of my own kind still living. I’m the oldest and considered a model prisoner.

I am fascinating to the aliens. It disturbs me to consider that some of them love me. They chatter in their grating, jagged speech, bring better food, and stroke my head during visits. If I am sick, a doctor comes to tend me. I knew of the aliens as a boy, stories passed down from my mother. Their ships were smaller. Visitors, not invaders. These captors don’t think they are doing any harm. All my needs are met, save for space and opportunity.

******

As part of their care, my captors brought me a companion when I reached manhood, the first of many. She too was from the world outside our prison. We knew what they expected of us, and at first the only thing we did in our cell was talk. Yet time stretched out endlessly in front of us, and sex became a balm to boredom. I did not force her. Why take away one of the few choices we had? We were gentle to each other.

She bore us a son. My companion was given the best of medical attention, and our baby was born full term. But the prison still ruined them both. Our son died at a few days old. His mother tried to keep his body in her cell. The captors came and took him anyway. Everyone in the prison could hear her cries. She sang for our baby, mournful and low, between her tears.

Eventually, she was brought back to my cell. They hoped we would try for another. We didn’t, the amusement of sex not worth the risk of bringing a child into this dreadful place. She too passed soon after. A friend from her cell confirmed her loss without detail. I don’t know how she died. If she killed herself, I wonder how she did it. Why didn’t she share this trick with me?

Over the years I’ve sired many more children. After the loss of my first born, I try not to think of them or get attached to their mothers. I’ve but one left, she is small and lives with her mother in another cell. My other children have disappeared from the prison or died before their early years passed. I try to speak to my daughter when we’re in the same space. She is scared of me. I’m too large and a stranger. She hides behind her mother when she sees me coming. I wish I could tell her about my life before, take her away from here to grow up free. Her mother was born in another prison, her own parents prison-born as well. I won’t tell our daughter about a life she will never have.

******

I don’t know how old I am. My captors celebrate a day with special food and songs for me and their guests. I believe I’m close to fifty years old. Life in the prison has left me permanently warped. My crooked back does not prevent my movement, but I wouldn’t have developed this if I’d been left in my home.

You must wonder why I don’t just escape, use my strength to leave. I cannot move in the air of my captors. I could never pilot their ship to take me home. While I understand many of their words, I’m unable to reply. There are too many of them and not enough of us. Finally, if I could leave on my own, I wouldn’t. My daughter and her mother deserve freedom too.

******

I know my captors use me for research. I’m so different from them. My body is studied. I’ve been measured regularly since I was a boy. I’d admire my captors’ curiosity more if they had left us all alone. I’m here for more than science. I’m here to entertain. Several times a day, unless I’m sick, they bring me into the biggest cell. The prison guests are here to be impressed by my strange body and fits of strength.

A captor in their special costume directs my actions with the commands I know by heart. I leap high into the air. Lift my captor, balance their light weight with ease. The crowds cheer with delight, excited to be so close to a being like me. Despite my hatred, I choose to do this. Yes, I could do the moves incorrectly or straightforwardly refuse. Boredom, my constant companion, would be delighted by my inaction. So, I do as I’m told. I’m given better food as a reward. I tell myself activity is better than standing still.

At the end of every show, I leap up onto the stage and show off my teeth to the audience. They think I’m smiling as they do.

******

My fiftieth birthday approaches. As I gift to myself, I decide to kill one of my captors. Under the right circumstances it should be easy. They are so delicate. I want to make this meaningful. I need an audience. Part of me does feel bad, my captors are the best and longest friends I’ve ever known. But I don’t want to be here with them. I never have. I harden my heart and think of murder.

******

I’m very patient. When you’ve spent your whole life waiting, what is another day or month? I fantasize about what I can do, trying to make the best choice in an infinity of limited ones. Days before my birthday, I’m brought to the big cell for the afternoon show. The screams are loud as the guests see me swim in. They chant the name I was given in captivity. Leading me today is the one who pets my head and coos like I was her child. I get close and lean on the stage, keeping most of my body in the cell.

She wears her special suit that mimics me, mocking my powerful white and black body. She kneels down next to me. My captor turns her head to the crowds watching her, watching us. I don’t think, only act. I open my great, wide mouth, taking in her hair and arm. I bite down and pull her deep into the water. The crowd cheers, thinking this is part of the performance. I twist and shake, plunging deeper and deeper with my victim. Maybe now they’ll understand what they’ve done.


THE END


2022 Rachel Bolton

Bio: Rachel Bolton is a busy writer living in Massachusetts. You can read more of her work at rachelmbolton.wordpress.com or follow her on twitter @RaeBolt.

E-mail: Rachel Bolton

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