At some point in the last few centuries, aliens landed on planet Earth. No one seems to know exactly when they arrived – indeed, very few people know of their existence at all – but nonetheless, they are here. I first learned of their existence by accident, really. It all started with me getting chased across the schoolyard by the Pudgy Gang…
“Hey, chicken nugget! Get back here!” The shout echoes across the schoolyard playground, and as I look over my shoulder to see the four eight-hundred-pound sumo wrestler gorilla wannabes that were chasing after me, my subconscious takes a few moments to reflect on how I’d managed to get myself into this particular predicament. To really do it justice, you have to go back to my parents. They consider themselves fine, upstanding citizens of the five-hundred pound variety, and they were fully anticipating a full-sized healthy child. Instead, they got me.
I have a physiological disorder called Gefoe’s syndrome. It means that my stomach can’t digest sugars and fats, so most food just passes straight through my body, and too much fat can make me violently ill. As a result, I’m a sickly two hundred and twenty-seven pounds. My mother was mortified when she found out. “Whatever will we feed the runt?” she shrieked angrily at my father, after I spent two and a half weeks in the hospital when I accidentally ate a quadruple-bacon triple cheeseburger.
My father, ever the even-headed, rational one of the family, responded, “Well, we’ll just have to give him more vegetables, and meats that are lower in fat content.”
“Vegetables! Vegetables!!” my mom yelled back. “What do you think I am, some kind of rabbit mama? I didn’t give birth to no vegetable-eating scrawny little mutt!” Needless to say, my childhood was a little rough.
Anyways, where was I? Oh, right, my subconscious was taking a break from panicking. As I sprint across the schoolyard, it occurs to me that there is one advantage to only weighing two hundred and twenty-seven pounds: I’m a lot more agile than the big louts chasing me. In fifth period a couple of weeks ago, my biology teacher was telling us that we have reached the next great stage of human evolution. “Humans have reached a new point in our development,” she said. “Our brains have grown so large that we require a tremendous amount of energy to maintain all of our mental processes. And so the forces of natural selection have weeded out most of the weaker members of our species, enabling only the largest – and smartest – of us to survive.” As I dash around a corner of a building and duck into a dark alleyway, my six-hundred-pound advantage over my pursuers the only thing keeping me from being beaten to a pulp this sunny, pleasant California afternoon, my subconscious decides that my biology teacher is full of hooey.
Of course, perhaps if I had a few more hundred pounds on my body in the first place, I wouldn’t be in this situation. But, that can’t be helped now. I run to the back of the alleyway, and carefully crouch down behind a pile of trash, pulling a sheet of newspaper over my size 16 shoes to hide the glinting reflective material that runs along the sides. I contemplate that being smaller also enables me to hide behind more things; another evolutionary advantage over the Pudgy Gang.
The Pudgy Gang. At least, that’s what I call them when they can’t hear me. Call them that to their face, and you’re liable to end up needing a new one. A new face, that is. Their nicknames around the school are Larry, Curly, Moe, and Doobie, and if my biology teacher were present right now, I think I’d use the Pudgy Gang as a prime example of why her human evolutionary hypothesis is cracked, even if that is what the textbooks say. For example, Larry, the leader of the Pudgy Gang, is quite possibly the largest person in our school, weighing in at nine-hundred and twelve pounds, but frankly, his brain is so tiny, I don’t see how he manages to zip up his pants in the morning without suffering an aneurysm. Then you have Curly (eight hundred and sixty-two pounds), Moe (eight hundred and thirty pounds), and Doobie (only seven hundred fifteen pounds, and by far the smartest of the lot, though I still don’t understand how he manages to get his shoes on the right feet).
A few seconds later, they come tearing around the corner, gasping for air. “He… must be back here somewhere,” Larry pants. “Curly, go root around back there, see where he’s hiding . He’s not getting away with not giving us our lunch money this time!”
Doobie looks a little worried. “Don’t… don’t you think we’ve gotten in enough trouble this last week?” I can see the wheels turning in Doobie’s brain. A few days ago, they all got suspended for pounding the pulp out of Suzie, a cute little sixth grader who told Larry his hair looked like he used snot for shampoo (she was right).
Larry scowls. “Shut up and find that kid!” he snaps. “You don’t think I can stay as big as I am on the lousy fifty bucks my mom gives me for lunch every day, do you? Well, do ya?” Doobie ponders for a minute, and then shrugs and starts poking around the alleyway looking for me.
Not good. Not good at all – there’s no back exit out of this alleyway, and I might be nimble, but I can’t get around those behemoths if they all decide to stand abreast. I’m trapped in here now. My mind races frantically. Even my subconscious stops thinking about my biology teacher for a few seconds while I evaluate my options.
All of a sudden, there’s a bright light, and a loud noise that sounds sort of like a cat playing a tuba while taking a bath. I blink – there’s a pop – and Curly is gone. I blink again, and see something – like a great golden lion with sad, deep eyes that look at me – look through me. I rub my eyes and look a third time, but it’s no longer there. The cat stops playing its tuba; Curly is still gone. Moe has a dumbfounded look on his face, as though he doesn’t understand what just happened, and Doobie’s expression becomes even more worried.
“Curly, you nincompoop, stop playing games! Where’d you go?” shouts Larry after a pause. “Get back here, find that little runt, and let’s get out of here before Thystlewaithe finds us!” (Thystlewaithe is our school principal). There is no response from Curly.
“Uhhhh, Larry? Can we go now? I don’t like this at all… Maybe Curly will just meet us back at the clubhouse,” says Doobie. A strange crackling noise fills the air, and all my hair stands up on end.
A strange expression crosses over Larry’s face. It almost looks like… hunger. “Uh, yea, I think you’re right,” he says after a moment. My heart leaps. I don’t know what happened to Curly, and frankly I don’t really care right now. All I know is that I’m getting out of a beating for the day.
Later that day, sitting in Thistlewaithe’s office, my subconscious is beginning to regret its earlier jubilation. I’m in there with my parents, Larry, Moe, Doobie, their parents, Curly’s parents, and two police officers. I’ve pretty well managed to convince all of the adults in the room that I have no idea what happened to Curly (which I don’t), but Larry keeps shooting me looks of murder from across the room. I don’t doubt that whatever beating I escaped earlier will only be compounded later, as Larry has time to ruminate on how much of a fool I’ve made him out to be.
“I was hiding from the Pu—from them,” I gesture at the remnants of the Pudgy Gang, “in the alleyway, when all of a sudden Curly just disappeared,” I explain for the seventeenth time. “I didn’t see what happened to him, and frankly, sir, I was too worried about what was going to happen to me to really spend a lot of time looking for him.” I’m getting a little testy after all of the questioning. I conveniently leave out the strange noises and electricity feeling that accompanied Curly’s disappearance, and the strange lion-creature I saw. In my experience, things that make you sound like you’re crazy are better left unsaid, even if they really did happen.
The rest of the meeting passes in a blur. I don’t really pay attention to much of what happens, except that somehow I don’t have to say anything else. The two police officers assure Curly’s sobbing mother that, “Yes, ma’am, we’ll find him. I’m sure nothing bad has happened to him, and he’s just playing a little practical joke.” Larry comes up behind me and whispers in my ear, “You’re dead meat, chicken nugget.” And then I go home with my parents, where I answer a whole bunch more of the same questions before they finally leave me alone and I retreat to the peace and solitude of my room.
I lie in bed that night, mind racing. What happened to Curly? He was just… gone. And that noise… For some reason, I can hear the noise, plain as day, as if I were there all over again. I’ve never heard anything like it before. I don’t think I ever want to hear anything like it again. I replay the events of the day in my head, over and over and over again. What happened in that dark alley? I know something did. Something strange.
I eventually fall asleep, and my dreams are haunted by a giant Larry who chases me down a dark hallway. The hallway walls are made out of brushed steel, and there’s a bright light at the end. I try to run towards the light, but it never comes any closer, no matter how fast I run. The sound of yowling tuba-playing cats reverberates through my head, as giant Larry gets closer and closer. I feel his hot breath on my neck, and hear him whisper, “I’ve got you now, chicken nugget.” I turn around, and Larry’s turned into a great golden lion, with deep, sad eyes, a hungry look on his face, and oh-so-very-sharp fangs. I jerk awake and roll over, groaning, listening to a marching band play a percussion solo in my head. A harsh, cold yellow light is shining, somewhere far away. I lie awake for another hour or so, and then fall into a deep, dreamless slumber.
The next morning, I drowsily wake up, roll over, stretch, and sit up. Ouch! My head smacks into a large metal bulkhead, and a clanging noise echoes through my room. My headache comes back a little bit as I remember yesterday’s events. “Mom…?” I call out tentatively, and squint out into my room. Something seems a little different… my desk has disappeared, along with my dresser, and the door to my closet is now covered in gold leaf. My arm starts itching suddenly, and I scratch at it idly, wondering why my pajamas are now made of single-ply toilet paper.
I try to sit up again, and smack my head into that same metal bulkhead, and it jolts me fully to my senses. I’m not in my room anymore! What happened last night? Where are my parents? More importantly, where am I? “Moooommm!” I shout out again, and run over to the strange door I thought was my closet door. It doesn’t seem to have a handle on it, and there’s no obvious way to get it open. I pound on it with my fist, but nothing happens. I run back to the other side of the room, and then run back again, clawing at the door with my fingers, trying to force it open. It doesn’t budge.
I collapse to the ground, panting out of effort and fear. Ok, I think to myself. Stay calm. There is clearly an obvious, rational explanation for this. I just have no idea what it is. I look around the room I’m in, taking stock of my surroundings, and hoping for some clue as to where this strange place is I’ve woken up in. The room is square, with a small niche cut in the far wall where my head had its untimely meeting with the ceiling. The walls are made of smooth, brushed metal, with no imperfections or unusual features. There is no decoration on the walls or the ceiling. There are no windows.
That’s interesting, I think. I wonder where the light is coming from. The light is a soft orange glow that fills the entire room, but there’s no obvious source. I ponder this for a few minutes, but don’t arrive at any conclusions. I decide to focus my attention on the strange door across from the hole in the wall that passes for a bed in whatever this place is. If I have any hope of getting out of this place, it’s probably going to be through that door, unless I’ve developed an innate ability to teleport vast distances in the last 24 hours. Which, actually, as I think about it, is as plausible an explanation as anything else.
The door is shaped like half of an ellipse, cut along the short axis. It’s covered with ornately-decorated gold leaf, with strange loops and whirls carved into it. A bright yellow doorframe sticks out a few inches from the edge of the door, forming a perfect half-ellipse. It appears to be made of the same brushed metal as the rest of the room, except for the color.
The door sniks open, and in strides a great lion-shaped figure, standing upright on three long, slender legs. He looks at me with deep, sad eyes, and growls. I realize after a few seconds that he (she? it?) is talking to me, and a couple more seconds later I realize that I can understand the words. “Good morning, little chicken nugget,” it says to me, and grins. Its teeth, are, in fact, very sharp, just like in my dream last night. I stare at it, and then dash underneath its legs, through the still-open arched doorway, and out into the hallway, once again thankful (for more than one reason) that I’m not as big as Larry. The lion-thing lunges at me, but I dodge out of the way and run down the hallway, feeling a strange sense of déjà vu.
Somehow or another, I manage to survive on my own for several hours in this alien place. After running out of my room and down a maze of twisty passages, I find an entrance to what I think is an air duct of some kind. I squeeze in just before that thing comes down, and I don’t think he realizes where I went. Apparently it hasn’t occurred to these creatures that their air vents are viable hiding places for things, especially if that thing is substantially smaller than them. This again reinforces my theory about size and brain matter being in inverse proportions.
I’ve come to a number of conclusions during my explorations. This first, and most obvious is that I’ve been abducted by aliens. Maybe that should have been obvious a while ago, but let’s face it – being abducted does some strange things to your mental processes, so it’s taken me a bit to come to grips with that fact. The second conclusion is that I’m on a spaceship of some kind. Gravity feels relatively normal, but every thirty to forty minutes, there’s a faint rumbling sound in the distance, and my body gets pressed into the ground a little harder. Plus, I haven’t seen a single window in the entire place.
Third, these aliens certainly don’t have much of an eye for the aesthetic. Most of their spaceship, at least as far as I can tell, is made of this same boring brushed steel that my room was made of. Well, everything except for the doors; they all look like the doors in my room, making for occasional bright splotches of yellow in an otherwise dull and boring spaceship. I can’t help but feel that there is something… familiar about those doors. I can’t put my finger on it, though.
Right now, my biggest concern is food. If I really am on a spaceship, I’m probably not going to get off of it any time soon. I seem to be able to survive pretty well in these air ducts, but I know I need at least some food to eat. This could be a long journey, after all. What if all the aliens eat is fat and sugar? I think. But that’s just silly. These are aliens. Probably whatever they eat is something that’s impossible for any human being to digest – not just me. But, I figure that for whatever reason they decided to bring me aboard (and presumably Curly, too?), so they must’ve planned on feeding me somehow. I just need to find out how, and then figure out how to steal some of it without them noticing.
I keep exploring.
I wake up to the sound of voices echoing down the air duct that I’d curled up in to take a nap. The voices sound angry. Curious, I crawl down the duct, trying to make as little noise as possible. I make a couple of turns, and then find myself peering down into a room where three of the alien things are standing, arguing. It’s hard to say for sure, but one of them looks particularly angry. The one he’s yelling at, I can tell, is the same one that I saw when Curly disappeared. The other one was my captor. For some reason, they’re all speaking English.
“I can’t believe that you let him see you!” the big one shouts. I start – he’s using Larry’s voice! He is Larry! “You could’ve destroyed five hundred years of selective breeding. If the Earthlings were to find out about us…” Larry’s voice trails off menacingly. Then he turns on the other one: “And you! You let the little runt get away from you. When we get back to D’damoclns, I’m going to have both of you strung up before the Council.”
The first one, the one I saw in the alleyway, moves to protest. “It wouldn’t have harmed anything if we’d just left him there. He wasn’t telling anyone about us. He was too scared.”
The Larry-alien whips his head around. “Silence, imbecile! You know the laws. The humans must not know of our presence. We cannot risk anything tainting our stock. The famine on D’damoclns is only getting worse, and if the humans were to learn of us, it could destroy our people. The runt had to be taken, along with everyone else involved. And now it’s going to be my head for bringing back members of an inferior herd.”
I choke, and cough loudly. They’re using us for food! I think wildly. All these years we’ve been taught that we’re advancing the greatness of the human race, that we’re proceeding down the grand road of evolution into a better species, and we’re just being bred as alien feedstock! How long have we had the wool pulled over our eyes?
I suddenly realize that the three aliens are looking right at me. “Get him!” the Larry-alien yells. I scramble down the air duct as fast as I can, hearing the sounds of pursuit running down the hallways below me. Why does it seem like my only accomplishment in life is as someone else’s chase-toy?
Fifteen minutes later, I stop. I seem to have lost my pursuers, at least for the time being. I don’t know what to do next, though. I think back to what the Larry-alien said: “The runt had to be taken, along with everyone else involved.” That means there must be other humans on this ship somewhere. If I could find them, maybe we could overthrow the aliens, somehow get a message back to Earth. People must be told!
There’s also the problem of food. I still haven’t found any, and my stomach is starting to complain in a serious way. Yet another reason to find the humans on the ship. If we’re the fruits of an alien harvest operation, then they must still be feeding them. Unless they killed all of them already.
I push that thought out of my head. They didn’t kill me right away, and who knows how long a trip it is to this D’damoclns place? Somehow, I get the impression that these aliens like their meat fresh. Which means that the humans are still alive. I just need to find them.
Once again, the air ducts prove to be an excellent guide. After a while of crawling, I hear sounds echoing down the ducts. Human sounds. I follow the noises, and eventually find myself staring into a large hallway with a big set of double doors at the end, double doors framed by that strange yellow border. There’s something I just can’t quite place about them… but I swear I’ve seen them before.
From the other side of the doors, I can hear a tremendous tumult. People talking, laughing, crying. My heart leaps! I’ve found them! I keep crawling down the air duct into the room, and my eyes nearly pop out of their sockets. There are hundreds of them. Hundreds of people, all in cages. Each cage has a large trough filled with glop. I can only presume that it’s edible, but certainly nothing I would want to eat, even in my hungry state.
There is a small hole cut in the floor of each cage as well, which I presume is for, ah, personal needs. The entire room reeks of human. Vomit, urine, feces, sweat. It’s disgusting, and yet somehow heart-warming. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed being around other humans. I feel a tear running down my cheek. Then my cheeks flush with anger. We’re cattle! I think to myself. Fat, ugly cattle bred to feed some stupid alien beasts because they’re too incompetent to raise food for themselves on their own stupid planet! I wonder how many other races throughout the universe have become food for these creatures. Are they driving life to extinction because of their incessant need for food?
I take a closer look around the room, making sure that none of the aliens are tending their flock before I reveal myself. Then I do a double-take. There are my parents! In a cage! And next to them is Curly, Moe, and Doobie. A few cages down is Thistlewaithe, the principal, and a row or two over are the two police officers that were interviewing us. I don’t see Curly, Moe, or Doobie’s parents, but I’m sure they must be here somewhere. Or maybe they’re actually alien herd-masters in disguise, taking care of their human flock, just like the Larry-alien was. How many of them are there on Earth? I wonder. How many of my friends – family – teachers – are actually aliens getting ready to eat us?
I drop down from the air duct outside the cage my parents are in, amid gasps of surprise. “Son!” my mother rushes over to the bars of her cage. “They got you too!” She starts crying. “We’d… we’d hoped maybe you had gotten away from these monsters somehow… since we didn’t see you in these… with us.” My father looks distressed as well, but doesn’t start crying.
I give my mom a hug through the bars of the cage. “It’s ok, Mom,” I say. “They haven’t gotten me yet. But we’ve got to get you out of here. We need to get word back to Earth, somehow.” I study the locking mechanism on the cage. It’s relatively simple, actually. There’s no need for a key, just a large metal bar that needs to be lifted out of place for the door to open. Easy to open from the outside, impossible from the inside. I push the bar up and over the hinges, and the door swings open. My parents rush out
“Help me get the rest of these people out!” I say. “Tell them to gather in the center of the room. I can get us out of here if we don’t panic.” I run down row after row of cages, lifting bars, freeing people. “It’s ok,” I tell everyone. “We’re going to be ok. Just do what I say, and everything will be fine.”
I get to Curly’s cage, and pause for a minute. He looks at me with broken eyes. I push the bar up, swing the door open, and take a step back. Curly steps forward. “I… I’m sorry we chased you,” he says. “This is my fault.”
“Nonsense,” I reply. “This isn’t anyone’s fault. Now stop beating yourself up, and get out here and help me.” He pauses for a minute, thinks things over, then steps to me and gives me a big hug. Suddenly I’m crushed temporarily in eight hundred and sixty-two pounds of Curly. I guess this is better than the alternative, I think wryly, remembering the last time Curly got ahold of me. I had bruises on my legs for weeks. He lets go of me and starts throwing bars off cages.
Pretty soon, a massive crowd of people is gathered in the center of the room. I hear a dim murmur run through the crowd as I hoist myself atop one of the cages. “People!” I shout, my voice echoing through the room. “Humans! Friends!” I feel a bit of stage fright. I’ve never had this many people pay attention to me before. Then I shrug and charge ahead. Nothing for it now. “Today is a good day! For today, we throw off the weight of our oppressors, oppressors we didn’t even know we had!” The humans in the room are transfixed by my words. “We will no longer be cattle for another species! We will no longer submit and let ourselves be someone else’s food! Today… we show these monsters what it is to be HUMAN!”
A tremendous cheer rises up from the crowd, bouncing around the room like some great, powerful beast, roaring its anger to the heavens for all to hear. When it quiets, I begin to explain the plan that’s been forming in my head. In my explorations of the air ducts, I learned much about the layout of the spaceship. I tell the people where I think the engines are, where the main control decks are, where they might be able to find rooms full of makeshift weapons. I tell them where they might find the most of the alien creatures, I explain where some hidden side passageways are that I don’t think the beasts can fit into, but some of the smaller humans may be able to navigate. I prepare them for war.
As I’m speaking, the great double doors at the far end of the room burst open, and the Larry-alien crashes through, a snarl of rage escaping his lips. He’s followed by a ten other beasts. “There he is! Get him!” the Larry-alien yells. Then he notices the large crowd of uncaged human, and he stops, a look of surprise shooting across his face.
“There they are! Get them!” I yell in the momentary silence, and then there’s a surge of motion, a shout of anger, and then the whole room is rushing towards the aliens, fighting them, overpowering them, trampling them to the ground. And then they are gone, rushing through the ship, wreaking havoc and mayhem among all they find.
I look around the bodies of the dead aliens. The Larry-alien is not among them. Somehow, he escaped. I feel a strange sense of foreboding.
In the hours that follow, the fight rages on throughout the ship. A room is discovered where the aliens keep their weapons, some sort of large, hefty energy guns that cut through flesh and leave blackened scars on the brushed-metal walls. A number of other cage farms are discovered, and the people in them freed. The aliens, after the initial shock, begin to form up and fight back. Some of the humans die, but many more aliens are killed. Every time we kill one, it dies with a look of disbelief in its eyes. I can understand that. It would be as if our cattle were to somehow rise up in revolt for the thousands of years we have slaughtered and eaten them for their meat. In truth, I think that’s why we are doing so well against them. The aliens just can’t get it through their heads that their food is fighting them.
We fight our way to what must be the ship’s command center, and take control of it. We sustain heavy casualties in the effort, but finally succeed. We search through the bodies of the dead aliens. The Larry-alien is nowhere to be found.
Days pass. With a little bit of effort, we figure out how to make the ship work, and manage to get it turned around and pointed back at Earth. There are still pockets of alien resistance throughout the ship, but most of it is quelled fairly quickly. And then it happens.
I’m walking down a hallway with a few guards, and the leaders of the ship (after the initial revolt, other people quickly assumed command of the resistance. To be honest, that’s just fine by me. I wouldn’t want an eighth-grader in charge of humanity’s survival, either). Suddenly, there is a loud explosion, and we’re knocked off our feet. A large mass of the aliens surge through a new hole in the wall, led by the Larry-alien. Fighting breaks out. An alarm sounds. And then something grabs me by the nape of the neck, and rushes down the hall with me.
I feel the hot breath of the Larry-alien in my ear. “I told you I’d get you, chicken nugget.” I try to scream and struggle, but a wet, furry hand is clamped over my mouth. The beast is just too strong for me. “I’d eat you myself, but you don’t have enough meat on your bones to even make it worth it,” the beast breathes in my ear. “Probably all stringy and full of gristle, too.”
I’m carried into a room with six other alien beasts. One of them looks up as the Larry-alien enters. “We’ve no choice any more. We must destroy the ship. These humans must not be allowed to return to Earth! The survival of our species depends on it.”
Another one nods his head solemnly, and looks at me. “I’d never have expected this from your species,” he rumbles menacingly. “I thought we’d bred out all of your rebelliousness decades ago. And then this.”
The Larry-alien says, “We’ve got explosives placed around each of the engine cores, as well as the ship’s main power core. The humans don’t seem to have detected them. We can take one of the escape pods and make it back to D’damoclns. The news of this must reach the Council.”
He shakes me. “As for this one… space him. He’ll never cause trouble again.”
Rough hands shove me out of the airlock into the black cold of space. My subconscious takes my last few moments to reflect on how I got myself into this particular predicament. As I float away from the alien spacecraft, something clicks! I know where I’ve seen the yellow doors before! My body twists and turns through space, and I suddenly see the full spacecraft, in all its glory. A small escape pod shoots away from the ship, just a few meters away from the airlock I was jettisoned out of. The rest of the ship explodes, and I’m hit by a shockwave from the explosives set by the Larry-alien and his henchmen. The great, enormous golden arches of the spaceship shatter and implode on themselves, and my last thought is D’damoclns! McDonald’s!
Over one billion people served.