“Hey! Watch it!” I shouted to my friend Avery as he almost clipped the handlebars of my mountain bike. As he zoomed past, he turned around and laughed.
“Try to keep up, Skip!” he shouted as his bike became airborne for a moment.
It was Saturday morning and Avery and I had hit the forest trails early. There was still a slight chill in the air as we raced down the trails near Sunspot, the solar observatory in the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico. We lived in Alamogordo and most weekends would find the both of us loading our mountain bikes in the back of Avery’s pickup, taking the winding road up to Cloudcroft.
Avery was eighteen and would be graduating at the end of May, just a month away. At sixteen, I still had a year to go. In the next couple of months, we planned to cram as much as this kind of activity in as we could. While it wasn’t all that far, Avery was going to go to New Mexico State in Las Cruces and we felt that our days of mountain riding were numbered.
I catapulted my bike into the air from the same berm Avery had used, crossed the bike up like the pictures of my dad back in his motocross days, his long hair streaming behind him from under his helmet, the same as I’m sure I looked. I landed a little too hard, lost my balance and in a heartbeat was adding new scratches to my motocross helmet. I slid along the gravel and watched my bike bounce end over end as it continued on down the mountain side.
I just laid there for a few moments, feeling disoriented. As I managed to sit up, Avery came riding up. “Hey, what a poser! I knew we shouldn’t have taken off your training wheels.” He laughed.
Using both hands, I flipped him off and said, “You’re lucky I fell. I was just about to pass you.”
I gritted my teeth as I brushed dirt and small gravel from the very raw and bloody scrape on my knee. I somehow managed to tear my shorts as well. Grunting I finally managed to stand up.
Avery said, “You know, it’s getting embarrassing to ride with you.”
I glared at Avery through my helmet and said, “Fuck off, man! I landed on a lose rock or something.” Limping, I started to ease down the side of the mountain to retrieve my bike.
There was a sudden loud cracking sound, as if several trees were suddenly snapped in two. I stopped in my tracks and looked back up hill.
Avery jerked his head around and said, “What the hell was that?”
I slid on the bottoms of my shoes down the hill side towards my bike. I said, “I don’t know, but I don’t think we should stick around to find out!”
Another loud crack along with a low humming sound that seemed to come from nowhere, but everywhere at once.
Avery said, “That’s not an animal sound and it’s getting closer. I think we should…”
There was a sudden bright yellowish light and that was the last thing we knew.
I was aware of a bright white light as I slowly started to regain consciousness. I heard Avery groan from behind me. The light was just too bright and I squinted around the room as I sat up. My helmet was gone and my long hair fell across my face. I brushed it away as I scanned the overly white, apparently unfurnished room. Avery and I were lying on a surprisingly soft floor. The only thing to mar the stark, white, smooth walls were what appeared to be two tubes in one wall.
“What the fuck…?” I said even though Avery still wasn’t awake yet. I tried to stand, but felt dizzy. That’s when I noticed that instead of the clothes I was wearing on the mountain, I was dressed only what appeared to be an oversized t-shirt. No underwear and no pants. Avery appeared to be dressed the same way. Just where the hell were we?
Avery groaned again and sat up, shaking his head. He shielded his eyes with a hand as he brought himself to a sitting position. “Where the fuck are we? What’s with the light?”
My eyes adjusting to the light, I looked over at my friend and said, “I don’t know. Last thing I remember was hearing trees snapping and then that really bright light.”
Avery tried to stand, but fell back onto his butt. He said, “Wow. I feel really dizzy.” He squinted around and said, “I don’t see a door. Just where the fuck are we?” I could hear fear rising in his voice. Avery was normally pretty unflappable.
I said, “All I see are these tubes behind us. And they don’t go anywhere.”
Avery managed to brace against a smooth wall and stand up. He said, “We got to get out of here, man! This can’t be good.”
An opening appeared in the wall opposite the tubes and the strangest looking thing rolled in. As far as I could tell it was a machine and not something alive, but there was no way to know for sure. It had exposed hoses and wiring and things protruding from it that was impossible to identify. My guess it was just a robot.
The door slid closed behind it as soon as it cleared the opening. The robot said, “You’re awake.” It was a statement.
“Where are we?” shouted Avery. He tried to approach the robot, but a blue shimmer revealed an energy field of some kind surrounding the thing. Avery jerked his hand back as if he’d been stung. He shouted, “You fucker! Who are you?”
The robot said, “Are you mates?”
I finally managed to stand and said, “Mates? What, is this thing Australian or something?”
Scowling, Avery said, “What’s it to you, shithead? We want out of here!”
The robot said, “You cannot leave. You are on a Class Five Labor Retrieval Vehicle. No one may disembark until destination has been reached. Please sit down. Are you mates?”
With a shrug I said, “We’re friends. Are we in Australia?”
“Are you mates?” The robot was getting tiresome.
Avery said, “What if we’re not mates?”
The robot started raising some kind of device towards us. It said, “Your protein will be recycled.”
I jumped up and shouted, “We’re mates! We’re mates!” The robot lowered the device.
The robot said, “Thank you.” A sudden burst of light from his head made me feel suddenly dizzy again. Avery and I both fell to the floor. The robot said, “That’s why I said to sit down.” The robot fell silent for a minute or two while Avery and I just sat on the floor.
I felt like I wanted to cry. I looked over at Avery and said, “What’s going on?”
Avery shook his head and said, “The fuck I know, man. I think we’re fucked.”
The robot said, “The conditioning is complete. You are now mated for life.”
“What does that mean?” I said as I slid close to Avery.
Avery shook his head as he put his arm around my shoulders. He said, “I don’t know Skip. I have a very bad feeling about this.”
The opening behind the robot slid open. The robot said, “You may now enter the common area for nourishment. You will be required to return to this cell in the time reference you call an hour. This vessel will then depart this planet.” It rolled silently out of the room.
Avery and I both jumped up and ran for the opening. I shouted, “What do you mean leave this planet?”
We stepped into a blank corridor with solid black, featureless walls. A blinking series of lights along the floor seemed to indicate a direction we should go.
Avery said, “Let’s see where this goes. We got to find a way out of here!” Avery took my hand and led me down the hallway.
In less than a minute, we stepped into a large room with a few tables surrounded by chairs. Including Avery and I, there must have been fifty people in the room. Some were sitting at the tables eating something completely unidentifiable, some were talking. All seemed to be early to mid twenties in age. A man slightly older than Avery approached us.
He held out his hand to Avery and said, “I’m sorry you’re here, dude. All of us are sorry we’re here. You must be the last ones to be collected. My name is Terrance, by the way.”
Avery shook his hand. The man didn’t offer to shake mine. Avery said, “Collected? Where are we? I’m Avery and this is Skip. Do you know what’s going on?”
Terrance smiled without humor and said, “They tell us very little. Johnny-Five…that’s what we call that robot thing…is pretty tight with information. Or maybe it’s just not programmed to respond. From what we’ve been able to get from it is that it’s collecting people for some kind of labor camp.”
Avery said, “Any idea where this camp is? The robot said we’ll be leaving the planet soon.”
Terrance shrugged and said, “I have no idea. Johnny’s not telling us that. Everyone here has been picked up in the last week. My girlfriend and I were picked up last night.”
Avery said, “Just curious, where you were picked up? We were biking in the mountains of New Mexico.”
Terrance nodded and said, “We were camping in Colorado. Just the two of us.”
I said, “Johnny kept asking if we were mates. What’s that about?”
Terrance looked at me and again shrugged. He said, “Your guess is as good as mine. Oh, just a word to the wise to save yourself some trouble. Just do as Johnny says. If you don’t, he just makes you do it anyway. That light of his gives me a headache.”
Avery looked around the room full of people. He said, “Has anyone tried to escape? Or locate the control room?”
Terrance laughed and said, “What control room? What you see is all there is to see. There are no windows or obvious doors. We’ve all tried to get out. There isn’t any.” He pointed at the wall behind him and said, “There’s a food dispenser there. I suggest you get something to eat. I’m not sure how long we have before we’re forced back to our cells.”
Avery nodded and said, “Thanks.” He turned to me and still holding my hand said, “Come on, honey. Let’s get something to eat.”
I said, “Did you just call me honey?”
Avery looked back at me and shrugged. He said, “Did I? What of it?”
As we stood in front of the food dispenser, trying to figure out how to use it, I said, “You’ve never called me that before. Don’t you think that’s bizarre?”
Avery just smiled at me as he slid his arm behind my back and gave my ass a pat. He grinned, “First time for everything, huh.” Oddly, I didn’t pull away from him.
We finally got some food and sat down to eat. We had no idea what it was we were eating. It looked like grape jelly, but God knows what it was.
Avery pushed his container of jelly away from him and he said, “Remember what Johnny said? People who weren’t mates had their protein recycled.”
I grimaced and suddenly felt like throwing up. I pushed my container away too.
The room suddenly went silent and everyone was facing the room entrance. Avery and I turned and saw Johnny enter and he approached us.
To Avery, Johnny said, “After initial scans and evaluations, it is determined your mate is defective. We will repair. Come with me, Skip.”
Horrified at what the robot might have meant by defective, I stood up and got behind Avery. I said, “No. I’m not going with you.” There was a sudden bright light.
I awoke slowly. Every cell in my body felt on fire. I was laying on the floor in a fetal position and I cried as I slowly regained consciousness. For some strange reason, Avery was lying next to me, stroking my hair.
I turned to face Avery. Nothing felt right. And I was in total pain. I said, “What happened? Where am I?”
Avery continued to stroke my hair. He said, “We’re back in our cell. Just lie still for a few minutes. Johnny said the pain should dissipate quickly.”
Lying still seemed like a good idea. Every move was painful. I said, “What did they do to me? I feel horrible.”
Still stroking my hair, Avery said, “I don’t know, babe. Johnny just said they ‘corrected’ you. That’s all he’d say.”
I frowned and wondered why Avery was calling me ‘babe’ and ‘honey’ all of a sudden. He led me around by my hand earlier, and I didn’t think that was strange. What have they, whoever they are, done to us?
Avery laughed and said, “Whatever they did, it delayed us leaving earth for another day. Not that you can tell.”
The pain was starting to subside and I tried to sit up. I immediately felt totally wrong. There was an unexpected weight shift on my chest. I reached up to feel what it might be, and found what felt to be two large and firm tits. What the hell?
I looked down inside the collar of the oversized t-shirt we all wore. I screamed, “Oh my God! I’ve got tits!” Hanging from my chest were two of the most beautiful tits I’ve ever seen. But why are they on me?
Avery blinked a couple of times as if he was just waking up. He said, “Tits? What are you talking about?”
“I’ve got tits!” I yelled. I pulled the t-shirt over my head and exclaimed, “See? I’ve got fucking tits!”
Avery’s eyes went wide as he said, “Holy fuck! You’ve got tits!” He glanced up and down and said, “Dude. That’s not all you have.”
My eyes wild with fear I said, “What? What do you mean?”
Avery pointed and said, “You’ve got a pussy. Skip, you’re a bitch!”
I reached down and felt a slit instead of my cock. I pushed my fingers against it and felt what had to be a clitoris. I stood up, shocked and exclaimed, “Fuck! I’m girl! What the fuck? Fuck! This is impossible!” I fell up against the wall behind me, my legs getting weak.
Avery stood and looked me up and down. He said, “Holy shit, dude. This must be the ‘correction’ Johnny talked about. He’s not from Australia, Skip. To him, mate means sexual partner!”
Horrified, I said, “Shit man, I’m a girl! A fucking girl! And that robot asshole said we were mated for life? Sexual partners? Fuck!”
Avery took a step towards me. I shrank back and shouted, “Don’t you dare touch me, you perv! I’m not mating anyone!”
Avery frowned and said, “I’m not going to fuck you, you dipshit.”
Crying uncontrollably, I slid to the soft floor and wailed, “I want to go home! God dammit, I want to go home!” I looked at Avery with pleading eyes and shouted, “How could they change me into a girl? In a day? Fuck, fuck, fuck!”
Johnny-Five’s voice suddenly flooded the room, coming from everywhere, but nowhere. He said, “Please enter your transportation tubes and prepare to depart. Enter your transportation tubes now.”
I folded my arms and yelled angrily, “No fucking way, asshole! I refuse!”
There was a sudden bright light.
I awoke feeling really good. I felt more refreshed than I’ve ever felt in my life after a sleep. In the cramped space of the tube I found myself in, I stretched luxuriously and let out a little girlish moan. Ah fuck. I’m still a girl. I blinked a few times and pulled myself out of the tube.
Avery was already out of his tube and was staring at the open doorway. I wondered how long we were in the tubes. My hair was noticeably longer, now hanging down to my ass when I stood up. Avery seemed to have become more muscular. He smiled when he saw me climb out of my tube. His long t-shirt did not hide the boner he was suddenly displaying.
Avery said, “Hey Skip. Look. The door is open.”
“Hey, honey,” I said as I took Avery’s hand. “Can we go? Do you know where we are?” My feminine voice sounded so alien to me.
Shaking his head, Avery said, “I have no idea, babe. Let’s see.” He led me from the small cell into the corridor. Blinking lights on the floor seemed to indicate where we should go. They went a different direction than when we went to the common room.
I looked up at Avery in disbelief as we rounded the corner. Before us, a broad ramp ran from the ship to the surface of a strange, alien world. Several other pairs of people were slowly walking down the ramp. At the base of the ramp, stood one man with a broad smile. Behind him was a large group, all were smiling at everyone coming down the ramp.
The blue sky was tinted with a copper color. White clouds tinged with copper floated like a silent armada across the sky. Above us blazed a duel sun. The area was surrounded by low hills. Behind us was a mountain range. Avery held my hand tightly as we made our way down the ramp.
The man before us smiled and gestured that we all approach. Honestly, what choice did we have? As he waved us towards him, the man said, “Gather closer, everyone. If you understand English, just come towards me. If you understand Spanish, please head over to Javier to my right. If you speak French, please join James over on my left. If you don’t understand anything, we’ll try to find a way to accommodate you later.”
The man stood patiently as our group split into three parts. The largest part stayed with the man who originally spoke. From what I understood, most of us who were collected, came from America. The other groups moved away from the center so they wouldn’t be talking over each other.
I turned around and gasped. I tugged on Avery’s shirt, pointed and said, “Look at that!” Behind us, standing on four folding legs was a squat space craft, scraped and blackened from much use. I said, “That’s what must’ve brought us here.”
The man raised his arms to get attention and hopefully get everyone to quiet down. He continued to smile as he said, “I wish to welcome all of you to your new home, planet Hollis named for the first human being to be brought here. I know you have many questions and we’ll try to answer them. My name is Martin and I’m what passes for a mayor of this farming community.
“I know this will be hard for most of you, but you’re not returning home. I truly wish this was not true. Except for those born here, all of us were brought here against our will by some alien race.” Martin pointed behind him and continued, “Initially human beings were brought here to farm certain crops and to mine minerals that are abundant here. None of us know what the crops and minerals were used for. None of us have ever seen one of these aliens.”
I looked around and while Martin was speaking, I watched four men roll a rather large and heavy looking device on board the space ship.
Martin said, “About twenty or so years ago, the alien ships stopped coming here to collect the crops and material. After a few months, we realized they were never going to return, so we switched our crops to more food for us and started mining for metals in hopes of bringing ourselves up to the Iron Age. Exploring had been forbidden, but we started going out and eventually we discovered whole communities across the planet.”
Martin grinned broadly as he said, “We discovered that we had collected here enough variety of skills that we could not just survive, but thrive. We might not be earth, but we’re not uncivilized here. Later, as we get closer to suns set, there will be a welcome feast for all.” He chuckled and added, “I know what some of you may be thinking, but we’re all from Earth too. We’ve seen the TV shows and movies. There are no books here titled ‘To Serve Man’ and we’re not a bunch of crazy cannibals. We have plenty of livestock here.”
Someone said, “Where are we going to live? What do you expect us to do?”
Martin said, “We’ll sort that out in the coming days. There’s no rush. You can stay here or move to a larger community that has more amenities.”
Avery said, “Why don’t we just take that ship back to Earth?”
Martin smiled at us and said, “That’s been tried. The ship just removes anybody on board before it leaves again. We’ve been working on a solution to try to bring an end to the kidnapping of earth’s citizens.”
Another person said, “How the hell can you do that?”
Looking grim, Martin said, “We blow them up. You may have noticed a few men putting an object aboard the ship that brought you here. About two hours from now, after the ship is long gone, it will be blown to bits. It must be working. Your ship is the first one we’ve seen in six months. There used to be hundreds of these ships. And who knows how many planets are involved. Well, that’s all I have. See you at the feast!”
But Martin didn’t get far. He was surrounded by those of us who just left the alien ship, hounding him with questions. Other people from the community approached to help Martin with the barrage of questions.
A woman walked up to Avery and me and said, “Hello. My name is Alice. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.” Avery introduced her to us.
Alice gave us quite a bit of information about the place we now had to call home. After explaining about the farming and mining that went on and how the commerce here worked, she turned directly to me and said with sad, tired eyes, “Now what all this means to you, Skip, as a woman is that due to the processing you received from the ship, you will face a minimum of ten years of giving birth. We’ve tried, but we can’t seem to change that conditioning. You will probably get pregnant as soon as your body has recovered enough after giving birth. Until the aliens disappeared there was a high death rate from farming and mining accidents so they needed not only the collection ships, but women producing as many babies as possible.”
I looked at Avery and then back to Alice and said, “I don’t want to get pregnant. Until I was taken on that ship, I wasn’t even a girl!”
Alice nodded knowingly. She said, “That happens sometimes. The ships are pretty discriminatory, but sometimes they pick up gay men or lesbians and then it decides which of the two is more male or more female and makes adjustments. See George over there? He runs the dairy. Before coming here, his name was Jasmine. Just remember, you are mated for life. There is nothing that can change that. If you’d like to get married, we do have a non-denominational church. So go ahead. Wander around. Meet people. Soon the council will meet with each of you to decide where you’d like to live the most and what kind of job. Farming is the biggest, but not everyone is cut out to be a farmer. See you at the feast.” Alice waved and walked to another couple.
We stood alone for a few moments. I was clinging to Avery and he had his arms protectively around me. I looked up at him. His eyes were far away. I said, “What are we going to do, Avery? I’m scared.”
Avery looked down at me and smiled. He said, “I’m going to take care of you, Skip. I love you more than anyone on two worlds.” He bent down and kissed me softly on the forehead.
I smiled at him. I said, “I love you too, Avery. You’re my man. I can’t imagine ever being with another!” I know it was the conditioning talking. I wished I was back home in Alamogordo, playing Gears of War or something. Mom and Dad must be going out of their minds wondering what could have happened to me and Avery. I wish I could tell them I was safe and for what it was worth in my new life, happy. Knowing I’d never see them, or my friends or even finish school filled me with immense sadness.
I must have been crying because Avery wiped a tear from my cheek. He looked down at me and forced a smile. He said, “We’ll be okay. That’s my promise to you.” He bent his head to me, and kissed me deeply. I just melted in his arms.
“Push!” shouted the mid-wife. “Push, sweetie. And breathe! Just a little more.”
I looked over at Avery who had a worried expression as he held my hand. Through teeth clenched on a leather strap I seethed, “I hate you!” I then cried out in more pain. I probably drew blood digging my nails into his palm.
And then a sudden release of pressure. I took a deep breath and looked between my legs and saw the mid-wife holding a baby. My baby. With a towel she gently swiped some of the blood from it and brought it to me. She smiled and said, “You have given birth to a strong, healthy boy.”
I held him to me. Avery stood close and grinned ear to ear. I looked into the baby’s red and wrinkly face and said, “He’s beautiful! Look, Avery! You have a son!”
Avery smiled and said, “He is beautiful indeed. Just like his mother.” He bent over and kissed my forehead. He laughed and said, “Only nine more to go!”
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks.