I was sitting at an empty table in the middle of the room. There were no doors or windows. Lights lined the edges of the space, letting me know there was no obvious way out. I had briefly gotten up from my chair to inspect things closely. What I found notable beside the silence was the lack of sharp edges on the furniture. It was perfectly smooth leaving no chance for self harm for those who had to wait in here.
The chairs and table were molded to the floor. I removed my feet from the table once I had tried just about every position. The chair did no favors either. I waited for what felt like hours, but it could have been minutes.
At last, the wall across from me decompressed and raised. A man in a suit entered. He asked my name.
"Robert Retrich," I responded.
He hardly gave me a glance before saying, "Apologies, I must have the wrong room." He left. The wall closed up again and I continued to wait for something to happen. There was no gum under the table. I began to pace around the room.
On my seventy-sixth lap around the table, a man's voice came over a speaker, "Could you stop and sit down please? You're making me dizzy." I hadn't noticed a speaker placed anywhere. The sound seemed to be coming from the center of the ceiling.
I complied and sat back down. "Can someone come and talk to me? I'm really bored."
A long silence lasted for a few minutes, but the voice did eventually return. "I apologize for the wait. Do you need any food or water?"
"A water would be great," I admitted. The room seemed to lack any humidity.
"Give me a moment." I could hear the man behind the voice getting up from his chair wherever he was.
A few moments later the wall opened again. A man in a security officer outfit entered carrying a cup of water. "Here you go," he said gently, confirming he was the voice of the ceiling. He quickly exited the room, the door closing behind him. The water was lukewarm, but sufficed.
At least an hour had passed, with me killing time messing with the empty cup. At long last the wall opened. The suited man from before had returned.
"Mr. Retrich, are you related to a Bob Retrich? I can't seem to find him in any of these rooms."
"I go by Bob." I started to inhale.
"You said your name was Robert?" I continued to inhale.
"Roberts can also be called Bobs," I said, trying my hardest to maintain all of the oxygen I had crammed into my lungs.
The man let out a deep sigh, which I matched with an even more obnoxiously loud sigh from all the air I had built up. I prodded, "Dude, what the hell? This is common knowledge."
The man entered and took a seat across from me.
"Well I do apologize for all that. I did not intend to keep you waiting this long. I see at least you did get some water."
"Yeah. Can you tell me what's going on here?"
"Earth is gone. This room is inside a large spaceship. I am an alien. You are one of a few dozen survivors. My species will help you colonize a new planet. We wish to research you in greater detail there."
I leaned forward in my chair. The man looked normal to me. I stared daggers at him to call his bluff. He stared back at me, blankly at first, but as the minutes passed he developed a more concerned look on his face.
"You want proof, yes?"
The floor sunk. It felt as though the room were an elevator. We descended a story down and then the walls became transparent, the clearest glass I have seen. The man gestured over my right shoulder towards the bottom corner of the room. I turned to see what looked like Earth, shattered into three pieces. One with the moon embedded in its crust.
My eyes returned to the man. It took less time for him to catch on to my meaning this time.
"You need more proof?"
"I shall show you my true form." He stood, keeping his eyes locked with mine. He seemed a good sport. Removing his suit revealed tentacles lining his sides. He tugged at each one, causing them to shrivel up. With the last tentacle plucked, the front of what must have been his chest plate fell open.
I propped myself up to get a better look inside but the chest cavity began to release a thick fog. It pulsated flashes of various colors as it began to take shape over the table. The gas shaped into a perfected smooth ball, twice the size of a beach ball. The vibrance of colors normalized to a light brown.
Without warning the gas solidified and plummeted down, denting the table. The solid reminded me of feces as it began to develop cracks and creases across its top. From the creases a multitude of buds began to spawn. The buds grew flowers which quickly bloomed to reveal jagged thorns along their stems. The thorns began to pierce other stems forming a networking of interconnected flowers.
The flowers turned crimson red and–"Okay, I get it. You are an alien. It checks out."
"I'm..not..done.." the bouquet now radiating with an intense heat managed to murmur.
"Well I am. Let's get this show on the road already."
The flowers cooled down to a calm blue color. A hole took shape in the bottom of the poop ball. It was a mouth.
"Alright then. You have been selected as the representative of your species. We plan to arrive at the home of your new colony in what you would call a fortnight–"
"How did you not know 'Bob' was short for 'Robert'!?" I shouted, caught up in certainly the wrong detail of what the alien had just said. Him knowing that obscure unit of measure instead really ticked me off.
"Again, I apologize." He got back on track, "Fourteen of your days from now we will arrive on your planet's replacement. In exchange, we will research you to further our understanding."
"Alright, whatever. Can I ask you a question?"
"What's the meaning of life?"
"You will be kept alive on this ship and transported to the planet safely. The rest is up to you."
"No, what is the meaning of life, in the general case?"
"I'm not sure what you mean. As you've seen we don't know how to fully speak your language."
"I was born. I will eventually die. What is the purpose?"
"We don't have a record of what you were assigned to do on your planet?"
"No, I'm not talking about just me. Life, consciousness, what is the point? Why do you exist?"
The ball looked as confused as a ball could be. Silence lingered until I asked, "can you sprout some eyes?"
The mud above the mouth began to swirl two puddles which took shape as eyes. I looked into them just like before, daggers out. The eyes looked back as I strained.
"Fuck. You guys haven't even thought about this, have you?"
"Your question is confusing to me, yes. I shall ask others if they can make sense of this. Do you have any other questions?"
"No I don't. This question is really important to my kind. I was hoping you could shed some light on it. Everything else we can figure out another time."
"Very well. Please follow me to your sleeping quarters."
The mud ball swayed side to side, uprooting itself from the dent in the table. Out of the hole, its body cracked into fragments which spilled off the edge of the table. Those pieces shuffled toward the man suit, huddling at the feet, building a tower to reach up to the chest cavity. I waited at the wall while it did all this reconstruction.
Finally we entered the hallway. I was escorted only a few steps to a door on the other side of the hall. This was my room, nothing special inside. A table, single chair, and bed with a blanket. An inner door led to a small bathroom which had a shower and sink. I asked about a toilet and mud said I could go anywhere and it would be disposed of automatically. I insisted on a toilet and he promised it would be installed shortly.
I crawled into bed and went to sleep pretty quickly. It had certainly been a longer day than most. I dreamed about the cup I left in the–
"What the fuck did you do!?" My eyes shot open as my body slammed the ceiling. I had been shoved into the top corner just above the bed by an arm of vines. They shackled around me, gripping me to the ceiling way too tightly.
The plant monster shouted again, "What the fuck is going on!?"
"Oh my god," I said. "Y'all really haven't thought about it."
"Thought about what? Answer me," the plant demanded, it's grip growing tighter.
"Can you handle it?" I foolishly asked as if it could give me a genuine answer with what little information it must have had.
The consequence for that miscommunication was both my arms. Sliced right off by razor sharp vines. The pain was too overwhelming and I rag dolled just as I caught a glimpse of blood spurting in the sides of my peripheral vision.
Then I remember only brief flashes. I remember looking down to see my stubs bandaged. I remember being dragged by my legs, my feet encased like within concrete. Hallways, flashing lights, and blaring alarms were ever present in these few memories. My inner pain allowed me to shut out the noise, but the vibrations and unsteadiness were unescapable.
When I came back to full consciousness, I was hunched over sitting with my back to a wall. I was a lab rat, surrounded on the other three sides by something like plexiglass. I kicked one leg out, motioning for attention.
"We underestimated you." The mud approached the glass wearing his suit, his voice unmistakable based on the hand full of voices I had heard before. "Allow me to explain to you the situation."
"After our meeting, I submitted my report to my superiors. An hour after the report had reached the elder council, the elders had died. Another two hours passed and in that time, 1% of our population had died. You were woken, healed, and placed in quarantine."
"Look, you have to understand–," I tried to speak. My voice had been taken. I struggled to scream it but nothing came out.
"Precautions were taken to prevent you from infecting the rest of the ship. However, it seems we acted too slowly. We are currently in an escaped pod, headed towards what was to be your new planet. The main ship is now adrift, in no better shape than your home planet. The ship only had pods for half of our population and of those pods only a half-dozen were released."
He paused to let me absorb this information.
"I have not been able to contact the other pods. It appears the majority of them have damaged hulls, meaning no survivors. Unless the remaining pods are in stealth mode out of extreme caution, it is safe to say our pod is the last remaining."
More time to absorb. I took this pause to move closer to the glass to look into his eyes once again.
"In this pod, there are four of us, including you and I. Once we land, I shall rebuild my species. In a millennia, we will have subsumed the planet to form the basis for a new ship."
I put my forehead to the glass, using my daggers to say, "and what about me?"
He caught my meaning. He stretched to press a button which released a door to my left. In unison, two beautiful human girls poked their heads out, looking at the mud suit and me, my face sticking to the glass wall.
"You, you're golden, Ponyboy."
"What. The. Fuck!" My voice finally broke free on that final word, startling everyone. I was so pissed I literally made new chords or something. "An Outsiders reference!? How the fuck can you know that but not Bob is Robert, you bitch!"
"We arrive in three days."