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(MSDWC) Caged

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posted on Aug, 22 2007 @ 09:01 AM
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After an evening around the campfire, and about a half-dozen brews, it was time to stumble off into the woods and answer the call of nature. As I stood there, watering the base of some indistinct tree in the midnight darkness, I heard footsteps approaching.

“This stall’s taken, try the next one,” I mumbled, laughing. I was answered by a loud sigh. That’d be Danny-boy, the dramatic one, no doubt agonizing over one call of nature while answering another. He’d had a rough week, and I racked my brain for something comforting to say. “You still twisted about that chick, man? I’m not going to give you that damned ‘more fish in the sea’ speech. That’s Jake’s job. I know how bad it hurts. It totally sucks. Just don’t be a total freak or a wuss about it, cause we’ve all been there, and nothing scares chicks more than a dude who just won’t leave them alone.” I finished, finally, and zipped up, then turned around.

FZZT!!! Something hit my face. I’d assumed it was a branch. A big branch. My whole body stung like it’d been slapped, and whatever it was, it stuck to me.

“What the hell?” I tried to remove it, but my arms were pinned by whatever it was that had hit me, and then I fell over. Right into my own puddle. At first, I chuckled. This was outside the realm of reality for me, it had to be a joke. Either that, or I’d walked into a hammock, because what it really felt like was—

“—a net?!? What the hell? Get this off me!!! Guys, seriously, I just fell in a puddle of my own—“

WOOSH!!!

I was moving through the woods at a brisk pace, the forest floor scratching and scraping me through the net. Dirt, ant beds, leaves, twigs, and bugs all found their way into the openings in my clothing, my nose, even my mouth. A tingling sensation spread from the places where the net bit into the flesh. I tried to twist, to shout, to struggle, but all I felt was tired. My voice sounded distant and tinny, like I was hearing it on a phone held several feet away. Despite the incredible amount of anger and fear I felt, my eyelashes felt as if they each individually weighed several tons. The last thing I felt before sleep claimed my memory, was being pulled up a ramp.

Eventually, I awoke, naked, on a grill. The net had been removed, but the lines in my skin, as well as the abrasions suffered from being dragged on the forest remained. My first thought was that I must have gotten caught in a hunter’s trap, and my friends got me to a hospital. Why a hospital would leave me on a floor composed only of criss-crossing metal bars was beyond me. It was neither comfortable, or, truth be told, very sanitary.

Oh god. I was in jail.

“舉您的手如果您瞭解。”a voice spoke from out from the darkness.

Oh god, oh god, a foreign jail. The level to which this had begun to suck was only now sinking in.

“Hef uw hand op als u begrijpt.”

Well that was odd. That sounded nothing like the previous language.

“Soulevez votre main si vous comprenez.”

I knew that was French, even if I didn’t know what they were saying.

“Heben Sie Ihre Hand an, wenn Sie verstehen.”

This time I ventured to speak out “I don’t understand what you are saying. Speak English, please.”

“Raise your hand if you understand.”

I raised my hand.

“Stand up.”

I stood up, which was kind of awkward on the grate, with no shoes on. I cleared my throat and held my hands where they could be seen. “On what grounds have I been arrested?”

“Arrested?”

“Why am I in jail?”

“Jail?”

“Caged! Does anyone here speak English? Why the hell was I caught in a net and thrown in a cage?”

There was a long pause, and then “would you like a food? Do you feel hunger and thirst?”

I gave it some thought, and then “I wouldn’t mind some clothes.”

Another pause, then the sound of sliding metal above, and from somewhere up in the darkness, my clothes fell from the ceiling, in much cleaner condition than they’d been before. “Thank you,” I said, dressing myself. “Is that offer still open for the food?”

“Yes. We will give you a food and some waters. Walk forward, you will find it against the wall.”

Inset into the wall was a large basin, presumably filled with water. Next to it was a hatch. Something went THUD, and the hatch opened to reveal a dead cat.

“You can’t be serious,” I called out. “I’m not eating this cat.”

“Do you prefer it live?” the hatch closed.

“What? No! I’m not going to eat a cat!”

“You do not eat meat?”

“Of course I do. But I don’t eat cat! Don’t you have, like, some chicken, or something?”

A longer pause, and then a thump. The hatch opened. A very annoyed chicken flapped out at me and began stalking around the room, clucking angrily.

“Get it!” said the voice.

“Get it?... Get it? That’s a live, raw chicken!”

“Get it!”

It was obvious they were having a laugh at my expense, so at this point, I just decided to play along. Fortunately, I already knew that chasing a chicken is a nearly impossible feat, so I removed both shoes, tied them together, and began twirling them, faster and faster. It took a few tries, but on the fifth throw, I managed to hit the chicken so hard it either died or fell to the ground unconscious. Either way, a ruffled, feathery mass twitched in silence.

“Now what?” I asked.

“Eat it.”

“I can’t eat it. This is a raw uncooked chicken. I’ll get salmonella or something. It’s got to be cooked first.”

“Cook?” A longer pause, and then, “what would you need to cook the chicken?”

This conversation went on for hours, as they tried to figure out what I would eat, drink, how it would be prepared, and along the way, I eventually ended up boiling, plucking, gutting, cleaning, cooking, and eating the chicken. I’d never known so much effort to go into the making of a single meal, and by the time I got to eat it, I was ravenous.

More awkward conversations followed. I was expected to void myself over the grate, as well as tossing the refuse of my meals there. Explaining toilet paper had been particularly difficult, and the concept of a toilet itself was simply not conceivable by them. The best they could understand was that I was talking about intent to befoul my own water basin. Whomever they were, English was not their first, or even their second language.

Eventually I slept. When I awoke, I had another chicken, which was easier this time as I had all the necessary parts and knew what was expected of me. Through careful negotiation and words, I managed to increase my inventory of food to other items, each in its rawest form. Through it all, I was asked endless questions, and given activities to do. All delivered through the same hatch.

“Assemble the pieces into a device.”

Sometimes I made weapons, sometimes I made things to help me cook, sometimes I had no idea what they’d given me or how to join or shift it. What does one do with a box of quivering gel, a stick, and three tennis-ball sized orbs? This went on for days, the parts I was given became more complex, more unusual. My ability to catch, kill, clean, cook, and eat became more acute, and my repertoire of foods had been expanded far beyond normal fare. Rats, squirrels, snakes, you name it. All eventually ended up in my belly.

Eventually, I’d created something of a living quarters out of the place, with a crude workbench, chair, shelving, kitchen, bed, lamps, and various odd but otherwise useless devices that made lights, sounds, and so forth. I’d even managed to rig up a toilet above the grate to make things easier, even if it didn’t have running water.

“We are pleased with your progress,” the voice intoned one day. “Soon you will meet one of us, but first, put this bracelet on your wrist..”

I checked the hatch, and found what looked like a wristwatch with an elastic band, shrugged, and slipped it on.

“If you are bad, you will be punished. Like this.”

I suddenly became horribly nauseous. The walls spun about me. It was as if I’d instantly skipped to the unpleasant part of being rip-roaring drunk, just before some poor porcelain goddess would be given a stewy sacrifice. Just as suddenly as the sensation hit, it disappeared, and I felt fine.

“Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

What had once been a solid wall now slid upward into the ceiling, the vibrations knocking over some of my crafts. I was mildly annoyed, but more curious as to what lay beyond.

I’m not sure what I expected to see at this point. Soldiers? A G-Man in a dark suit with hollow eyes? Grays? Lizardmen? God? It could have been anything, anyone, and I wouldn’t have been too surprised at that point. But as the last of the wall slid up into the ceiling, all I saw was what looked like a tacky, viny, hanging plant. Perhaps they wanted to liven up the place a bit.

I walked forward, to see what lay beyond the plant, and one of its vines raised up towards my face, as if it were a snake. I backed off. The snake tentatively reached forward, I did the same. I slowly reached up, then touched the vine. There was a tickling sensation, as if millions of little hairs were probing my fingertips. I let it “sniff” me, for lack of a better word, and then heard.

“Our custom in meeting for a first time involves the release of spores. As you lack these, what is your custom?”

“We usually shake hands, but you seem to lack those. How about we just call it good?”

“Good, human.”

“Err... Good...plant.”

“We are myconid.”

“Of course you are, how silly of me. Good myconid, then. When will I get to go home?”

“Home?”

“Yeah. Earth. My home planet.”

“That is not an option.”

“Ever?”

“No.”

It’s amazing how easy a situation can be to accept if you realize you haven’t a bat’s chance in hell of changing things. Even if I overpowered the one alien in front of me, there was still the bracelet and the rest of the crew. If the crew failed to stop me, there would be a navigational system intended to communicate with houseplants, the operation of which I would be ill-equipped to handle. To top it all off, I had no idea where I was at. I shrugged.

“Okay, let’s assume it is not an option right now, but perhaps later you would return me?”

“That is not an option.”

“Why not?”

“That is not important.”

“It’s quite important to me.”

“Why? Did you have a mate?”

“Well, no, not as such...”

“Offspring?”

“Not that I know of.”

“We saw your dwelling. This is much better.”

“That was a tent! It’s just a temporary device to sleep out in the woods.”

“You had other homes?”

“Of course! Most of us don’t live in tents, you know.”

“It is unlikely you will ever set foot on your homeworld again. It is far too dangerous.”

“No, you got me all wrong. There’s no way in hell I’d tell anyone out this; they’d lock me up for life in a madhouse.”

“There will be no more houses of anger.”

“What?”

“Show me your new home.”

The conversation had become a frustrating as it was confusing. I decided against pressing my luck for now, and gave the houseplant a tour of my ugly little room.

“This is my kitchen,” I waved in the general direction of the area I prepared my food. “I gut and clean the food there, then I—look, I appreciate you’ve taken an interest in my quarters, but what I really want to know is why you’ve picked me up, and what do you intend to do with me, and when can I go home?”

The plant wurffled for a bit, and then “We picked you up because we desired to do so. We intend to take good care of you. We have no intention of returning you to Home. Now please, continue on with showing me your new home.”

It was pointless. I finished the tour, lamely pointing out my sad excuses for ad-hoc furniture, entertainment, and so forth. At the conclusion, the plant thanked me for my time and left the room, wall sliding back down from the ceiling behind it.

Time passed. Parts were assembled. Chickens were consumed.

I no longer thought in terms of day or night anymore. There was awake time and asleep time. My dreams became mere repetitions of my days. I slept through nightmares where enormous parts I could not lift were delivered to me. I was expected to assemble them into a giant Trojan Chicken to invade a greenhouse, and other such daft things. Sometimes I would remember ideas from the dreams and find similar parts in my hatch the next day. In time, I learned to practice assembling parts in my sleep before they would even arrive. I grew to hate chicken.

Then, one day, the wall opened again, revealing three plants, all of which ‘sniffed’ me, before even one of them spoke.

“We are very pleased with what we’ve seen, and invite you to tour our home.”

One plant shuffled ahead, while the other two held back. Obviously, I was supposed to follow the first one. The other two brought up the rear. I tried to get a grasp on any sense of identity with them. The leader of this trio had bluish blooms with glowing violet edges. The two behind me had the same red-thorny vines as one another, but one did not have nearly so many vines. I mentally dubbed the leader ‘Blue’, and his cohorts as ‘Thorn’ and ‘Thorn Jr.’

The interior of the ship was a contradiction in and of itself. The walls were ugly, dark, non-descript things that seemed to serve only the purpose of holding up the ceiling, and anchoring alternating troughs of water and various powders. Set into the tops of the walls were large, purplish ultra-violet lights, giving the entire corridor the feel of a techno dance club before the DJ arrives for the evening. Set into the ceiling were two tracks going in opposite directions, on which plants would occasionally trolley past.

“Our metabolism is far different than yours. We depend upon radiation, water, and minerals to process energy. Anything that contains minerals has the water extracted from it, and the remainder is pulverized into a fine powder that our roots can adsorb. The light and water assist this process. We find it immensely amusing that our waste product Oxygen is required by you in order to live. You are eating our gas.”

At this, all the plants wurffled amongst themselves. After a moment, Blue continued.

“However, to be fair, two sources of energy for us come from your waste as well. We make a good compliment to one another.”

And then Blue reached up with a vine, and patted me appreciably.

“In the water, we not only draw sustenance, but we also communicate with one another across the ship using chemical signals.”

“How are you talking to me now then?”

“The water you have been drinking contains a benign parasite we have domesticated. We aren’t actually forcing air through bellows and shaping the sound with a fleshy bladder, like yourself. We send spore signals that are interpreted by the parasites, whom pulse within your brain, to communicate our meaning.”

“You put—I’ve got—parasites? In my brain?”

“They are quite benign.”

“How do you know?”

“They did not harm the other.”

“The other?”

“Yes. Did you think you were the only one?”

“I...” Well, actually, I did, but put like that, it did seem a bit ludicrous of an idea. Why would aliens fly across the galaxy to obtain just one human. Of course not, they would select as many as they could bring back. “Why have we been taken?”

“For that, you will need to follow us further.”

I followed them through several corridors until I was brought into a large chamber, through which drifted various colors of haze. There was an overwhelmingly heady scent coming from within. It was not difficult to breathe, but each breath made me progressively more and more light-headed. Hundreds—no , thousands—of plants surrounded me. It was hard to tell how many, because they all tangled with one another like an overcrowded garden. Purplish light filled the chamber, and from various places around the room, spores released, were taken in, and released again. My feet seemed to get farther away from my body, yet I continued to walk. They felt out of synch with the rest of me, until I felt like I was walking at a ninety degree angle to the floor, yet still moving parallel to it. There was a sensation like floating and everything around me spun. Flowers and leaves of colors I never even imagined existed sprang forth and retracted hypnotically. I closed my eyes, it was too much—

—and found myself atop a mountain, a purple sky above me, eerily lit by a black disc that spat spikes of fire at either end. The landscape before me was awash with foliage, moving, swaying...migrating? Earthquakes tore at the land, and many myconid were swallowed by the hungry maws, dragged beneath, and consumed, as the planet consumes all things in time. The very land shifted shape, and the plants with it. Seas rose, and fell, and stinking gasses arose from it, killing all animals that breathed its sulfuric toxins. The tiny ones within the sea that produced the gasses fed off the dead matter and multiplied, creating more gasses, that moved further inland, killing more animals, and even a great many plants, creating more for the tiny ones to eat.

Eventually a stasis was reached, and the tiny ones within the sea bred themselves into oblivion, exhausting their food supply, dying, and over time, the gasses receded. The damage, however, was too great. Viable gene pools had been destroyed, and one by one, the animals faced extinction, and with them, the carbon that kept the planet’s true masters, the plants, alive. In desperation, ships were launched to every system the Myconids had found signs of animal life, in hopes that there, their salvation would be found in a viable gene pool. Thanks to the long lifespan the myconids enjoyed, and the communal sharing of knowledge, Myconid technology had advanced far beyond mere faster-than-light travel speeds. That’s what led them to discover Earth and all its varied, interesting, and above all, carbon-exhaling, fertilizer excreting, happily breeding, animal life.

I awoke, in bed, in darkness, and breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was a dream. I was still safe, in my own bed, in my own house, on my own planet. I laughed at the ridiculous nature of the whole thing, and rolled over to check the alarm clock. The dim glow of my makeshift stove and various parts assembled into usable objects greeted me. It had not been a dream.

I am still trapped, on a starship, far from home, and heading to an alien world as part of a desperate attempt to repopulate the Myconid planet with animal life.

A thump, followed by a clucking sound has announced the arrival of my breakfast.




posted on Aug, 22 2007 @ 01:45 PM
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Let me say first of all that this story was a pleasure to read: the narrative was beautiful and descriptive, the point of view consistent and clear, and the overall concept was clever and original. I got a good sense of the characters' personalities through the dialog itself - something every writer strives to accomplish. I hope you keep writitng.

Wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.





[edit on 22-8-2007 by Flatwoods]



posted on Aug, 22 2007 @ 02:17 PM
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reply to post by Flatwoods
 


Thanks, Flatwoods, I really appreciate that. That one compliment alone made the entire thing worth it, whether I win a place or not. Thank you very much!



posted on Aug, 23 2007 @ 12:26 AM
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I have to agree with Flatwoods; no wait, I want to agree with Flatwoods. Very cool story thelibra. Very interesting indeed. Now I am starting to worry LOL

We have some good caliber writers on ATS. I hope i have a chance of winning at least 5th place if a place at all



posted on Aug, 23 2007 @ 08:03 PM
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Great story thelibra, thoroughly enjoyed it. Reminiscent of Vonnegut's style i thought.



posted on Aug, 24 2007 @ 09:06 AM
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Thank you both! I very much appreciate the kind words. I tried to think up an alien species besides the standard antropomorphic grays and lizardmen. That and I have a natural distrust of houseplants. I'm convinced they're always trying to steal my chickens...probably in line with the crab people.



posted on Aug, 24 2007 @ 02:23 PM
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Originally posted by thelibra
...probably in line with the crab people.


Damn those crab people, itchy little buggers aren't they.

I didn't just say that on a public forum did I. Bugger.




posted on Aug, 26 2007 @ 10:47 PM
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Could you please not end it there? I have had a kind of rough day and this was just what I needed to pick me up. Enjoyed it very much.



posted on Sep, 21 2007 @ 04:26 AM
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Very enjoyable! I particularly liked the consistency with them being plants, UV light etc. I would have liked a little more outrage on behalf of the protagonist though!!



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