I’m going to kill him.
Despite her rising ire, Chloe sat staring straight ahead through the windshield into the dark city street as Brad droned on about himself, as he had for the last hour and a half. She panicked when he paused, afraid for a moment that he expected her to respond to a question he had asked her, but he resumed after taking a breath. She wondered for the eight thousandth time why she had agreed to this date.
Oh, right. Because Beth was her best friend. Trying to fix things made Beth so happy. Ever since Chloe had mentioned that she felt lonely at night sometimes, Beth had made fixing Chloe up her new personal project. Chloe half-smiled. Beth was so sweet that there was no way Chloe could be angry with her. However, Brad was probably the most self-absorbed person that Chloe had ever met.
“So, what do you think of the car?” Brad broke into her musings again as they pulled up to the stoplight at Fifth and Main.
Chloe opened her mouth to answer when a green light filled the car. The stoplight was still red; Chloe could see it. And this light was a sickly green color, not the emerald glow she was used to seeing. She and Brad both looked around for the source of the light before realizing that it was coming from above.
Chloe rolled down the window and leaned her head out to see, but the light was blinding. She reached for the door handle, but then the car started to move. It shook gently, then the wheels groaned as they left the Earth. The car tipped forward until Brad and Chloe were staring down at the ground getting father and father away from them.
Brad, of course, started speaking first. “I’m really freaking out right now. Do you think I’m safe? What do you think they’ll do to me? Have I been targeted personally or is this just a big misunderstanding? Do you think I can bribe them to let me go?”
Chloe had had enough. “Have you ever noticed that all of your sentences are about you?” she countered. “Do you ever think about anyone else?”
He looked shocked, then insulted, then sulky, but at least he stayed silent.
They watched as the tops of the trees and buildings passed them and got smaller, eventually blending into a mass of grey and green speckled with light and shadow bordered on one end by a yellow stripe and the sea of mysterious deep blue.
Soon the light grew so bright that Chloe squeezed her eyes shut against the glare. When it finally darkened a bit, she opened her eyes to see a – something – staring her in the face. Although it’s face was grey and wrinkly, Chloe didn’t think it was old. Its eyes were bright and clear, but they gazed at her with passive indifference.
As it wasn’t an immediate threat, Chloe decided to look around. She opened the door to Brad’s sports car and looked at the floor. The hatch the car had been pulled through was now closed, so she stepped out.
Mechanical whirring began the moment she was upright and she was seized by several long robotic arms which hugged her arms to her sides and immobilized her legs then fastened her to a metal table. From the sounds of whimpers and clicks, Chloe could tell that Brad had locked himself in the car. A giggle escaped her lips, but Chloe refused to allow her fear to blossom into hysteria, so she forced herself to remain calm and objective as she craned her neck to see what she could see.
The room was so large that the walls and ceiling disappeared into the green glow. There were several tables just like the one she was on scattered around the room accompanied by fearsome machines of assorted types. Chloe squinted into the light.
There was a person on another one of the tables. Three of the grey figures huddled around him. Though their eyes were cold, their long-fingered hands moved swiftly as they worked. The man on the table moved restlessly but couldn’t do anything to stop them. Watching him wiggle helplessly like a worm on a hook filled Chloe with a fear unlike anything she had ever felt before.
As if from outside of her own body, she could see her eyes widen and her mouth open in a scream of terror. With superhuman strength, she wrenched off the table, crashing to the floor in a mess of cables and disembodied metal tentacles. The aliens looked alarmed but couldn’t move fast enough to stop Chloe from charging over to help the stranger. She dove at him, pushing the whole table over so they both tumbled to the hard metal floor.
Chloe was a bit stunned, but the stranger quickly shoved the equipment off of them and yanked her to her feet. He dragged her along with him as they tried to get away from the mechanical tentacles swarming after them.
They bumped up against a wall after running for a few moments. Chloe barely had time to register that the wall was translucent before the stranger pulled her along the wall, looking for an escape.
“I’m Steve,” he said, not looking at her.
“Chloe,” she answered, barely sparing him a glance because she was still fighting off those arms.
“Is your husband OK?” Steve asked.
“The guy in the car.”
“Oh, Brad? Not my husband and definitely not OK,” she answered.
“Do we need to rescue him?”
“Probably, but I’m a little busy right now.”
He chortled, then they both fell through a door into the darkness and quiet. Apparently, the arms couldn’t reach out here. Chloe wanted to rest a moment, but Steve was hustling her along before her eyes had even adjusted. They bumped into corners, fled down corridors, and hurried into and out of doorways until they had no idea where they were or how to get back. Finally, they reached a storeroom that had dust on the crates, so it was clear no one ever came in there. Only then did they stop and sit down.
After they had caught their breath, Chloe looked at Steve and said, “Now what?”
“Hey, you started this escape,” he replied. “I thought you had a plan.”
She laughed nervously. “It looked like they were hurting you, so I got scared and reacted!” She gave him the once over. “Are you OK?”
Steve gazed at the floor and shrugged. “I guess.”
Chloe waited a few moments, but he didn’t say anything else. “OK. If we stay here, we’ll need food and water. Then we need to figure out how to get home.”
“Do you know how far up we are?” Steve asked.
“No, do you?”
“That was rhetorical,” he said in irritation.
“Well, that’s helpful,” Chloe snapped back.
He glared at her a moment, then sighed. “Sorry,” he said, shaking his head to clear it. “You’re right. We need to be practical.”
“It’s all right,” she replied. “I don’t think either of us has been in this situation before.”
He let out a startled guffaw, which turned into laugher for the both of them. They laughed a lot of their tension out.
“Let’s see what’s in these crates before we go poking around the ship,” Chloe suggested. “There may be weapons or something we can use to defend ourselves.”
Steve was amenable, so they set about figuring out how to get the metal boxes open. They fumbled for a few minutes until Steve accidentally stumbled on the latch mechanism.
With a hiss the lid rose slowly. In the box there lay a perfectly preserved kangaroo.
“Um, Steve, why do they have a kangaroo,” Chloe asked?
“Uhm…you got me,” he answered.
“That was rhetorical.”
Instead of laughing, he just glanced at her and opened another box. This one contained a tapir. A third was a hammerhead shark. So it continued; they opened all of the crates in the room. Each was another random animal. Their confusion was complete.
When all the crates were open, they sat back down. Neither could speak for a few moments.
Eventually, Chloe cleared her throat. “We’ll still need food and water.”
“Yeah, OK,” he said.
They went to the door of the storeroom. “I’ll go left and you go right,” he said. “That way we can cover more ground. We’ll meet back here.”
Chloe nodded. “In an hour?”
They silently slid the door open and we’re met with a wall of impassive black eyes. Before the aliens started shooting, Chloe had just enough time to wonder if that was the only expression they knew.