Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Harrowers, Part Six

(Dispel any notion of aliens as they are often described. Greys, the popular example, persist in our culture not as representatives of a real alien race, but rather as subconscious memories from when we were newly born and, looking at our mother's face through a film of birth-stuff, saw pale forms in the hospital light and dark, almond eyes within them. Note the similarities between Cleetus's recollection of a white room and white beings with metal instruments to those natal stirrings of a maternity ward, also a white room with white beings and metal instruments. Cleetus, and a million others like him, wouldn't know an alien if it parked on his silo.)

When the Harrower had finished observing me from afar, the bottom of the craft slid open and the bubble of white-blue energy lifted me up and into the hull. It was pitch-black inside, and humid like an understory. There was a putrid stench like human viscera and I could hear the sloshing of water. A dark blue light awoke from a crystal in the ceiling, a light bright enough to fill the space of an arm's reach in front of me, but no further. I knew my captors stood nearby. And I wished, wished very hard, that I had seen the face of the first Harrower more clearly so as to give these beings some shape or character in my mind.

I realized they were wading through some kind of pool or bath, since the sloshing came from every direction. This must be their latrine, I thought. What decor. The light grew stronger. One of the Harrowers came near, not near enough to show its face, but such that I could see its general features. The legs alone rose twice my height and joined a terraced thorax, the sides of which were shelled in chitin; three arms curled out from this chitin, giving the creature the air of an isopod. A little terror grew inside me then, as I drew in its size and the marble-white of its body. I suppressed this terror. Suppressed it because I knew I would need a clear head for the rest of the night.

Two more Harrowers came forth from the dark, one pulling an instrument tethered to the ceiling.  The beings trilled to each other in their language. I realized then that they stood below me, that I was in fact on an elevated platform, like a dais, above their bath. As I didn't know what the fluids in that bath could do to human flesh, I thought it best to stay on the dais, resigning myself to capture till I could find some means of escape. The Harrower with the instrument aimed the end of it at my head. In a white-hot burst, cataracts of energy disgorged from within it and bound me to the dais. I struggled against the bonds, but they issued a jolt to still me--not like an electric discharge, but a force more subtle, more terrifying, one that doesn’t sting or fray, just starves the will to defy it.

I waited for the beings to cut me open like a can of tuna, to unbowel me for their knowledge and pleasure. What a death that would’ve been, to be the autopsy stock for a band of star-faring premeds, to be their test, their toy, an exemplar of terrene biology laid out in parts. What a terrible death. You know me; I wouldn’t have it. So I spit on the Harrower who’d bound me. It recoiled as if from acid, then trilled to the others, who then seemed to console it: No, no, I imagined them saying, this species can’t spit venom.  The stricken being lowered its head into the light to better see who dared provoke it. What I then saw, and now relay, nightly roots into my dreams.

It was a face as far from any human’s as most animals of the deep. Its three white eyes were arranged in a triangle below a horn-capped plate of bone. And below these, a set of mandibles folded down and out and crossed like half-sprung jackknives, each with teeth sharp enough to saw through pewter. The being’s plating shimmered. I was reminded of bugs, and especially of those I had killed.

The creature extended an arm to my forehead. It traced a path down toward my nose, then back up, then made a third stroke horizontally. The skin was moist and cold. After a pause, the creature drew back and another Harrower looked over me, this one with a blancher head, like a cattle's skull in the sun. It too traced a path, seemed to ponder, and like the one before it made a full three strokes as of a calligraphic symbol. I couldn’t figure out what the ritual meant until a Harrower craned their tethered instrument over me, then aimed it at the cross-strokes of my forehead.