The Victim of Abduction

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It was rarely cloudless late evening. The trio of cream-red satellites illuminated the surface of the road with the light of a binary star, casting indifferent glances with their cold empty craters.

The shrill roar of a battered sandwalker broke the enchanting symphony of the night and scared off a few midnight dwellers who hid in the bushes. At this late hour, many local inhabitants had just started to live their intense lives.

Leaving dust trails behind and generously splashing the mud from the road in all directions, the vehicle passed the last turn and went onto the highway, lit by the multiple moons. Still focused on controlling the car, Mikai turned up the transmitter volume and, throwing a glance in the rear-view mirror, winked at himself with his upper eye.

Krii taa bu palla, krii taa vu palla, krii en tu di ramoto — krii taa bu palla,” the transmitter chanted intricately. Mad speed, the empty road, cheerful melody — they all just complemented the overall picture of Mikai Arenali’s happiness on the last day of his bachelor life.

He had courted Tirra for a year and a half: at first, she was unapproachable (as, indeed, for all other applicants for the beauty’s tentacle in marriage), but Mikai won the girl due to his persistence and energy, continuing the courtship when any other man in his place would shrug off and go away. His attentions were honest, careful and delicate; he had never thrown mud at his opponents or tried to rush things. Perhaps, it was the combination of these qualities that had won her over.

Arenali harboured no illusions: Tirra did not love him. Nevertheless, she allowed him to love her, and that was even more than some couples had. Moreover, love and being in love are two different things. In a short time, without knowing someone intimately, you can only fall in love. True love is based on a partner’s qualities and actions. Of course, if another partner is smart enough to notice and appreciate them. Otherwise, there is no sense to connect your life with such an ungrateful, foolish woman. Or with such an ungrateful, foolish man. It depends on who you have.

Krii taa bu palla, krii taa vu palla, krii en dinaro dbano — krii taa bu palla…” the transmitter sang sonorously and sweetly, but then it started to issue strong background noise and spit separate phrases, barely audible and muffled with the hiss.

“Well, I’ve lost the signal again. It looks like the storm is coming. How can you trust the forecast after that?” Arenali said to himself and put the airtight shields up with the display sensor button. Obeying his touch, the defences began to glide slowly. It blocked the windows and hid a direct view on a surrounding wasteland.

Now the sandwalker had turned from a mobile vehicle into a stationary sealed base, good enough for waiting out the crisis moment. That meant an inevitable delay. But such a small inconvenience couldn’t ruin Mikai’s mood this evening.

An onboard computer became the only source of communication with the outside world and a single device for monitoring the environment. It was capable not only of receiving signals from the external sensors of the sandwalker, but if necessary, also acquiring and sending information to a sub-orbital satellite of a private company that once provided Arenali’s father with this rattletrap by instalments.

Leaning back in his chair, Mikai launched the onboard stereo monitor, opened the glove compartment and fumbled inside. A flashlight, contraceptives, some keys, a photo of his younger brother with his friends and a girl, his father’s lucky charm, his mother’s notebook, some garbage and empty cans that had escaped being recycled, something completely unrecognizable…

…Oh, here it is! Got it!

Having fished the stocked can of thistles tincture by his tentacle, Mikai opened it with a light gesture and dipped his inter-finger proboscis in it, savouring the taste. On the one hand, drinking at the helm was not particularly welcomed by local law enforcement, to put it mildly; the latest models of a navigation system could even shut off if it identified a drunk driver behind the wheel.

On the other hand — how could this vehicle have the newest navigation system, if nobody had bothered to install even a standard radar in it? And after all, what harm might cause one innocent can, especially during parking? Even a child couldn’t get drunk from this, and it is enough time to drain a whole box of such cans while the storm begins, lasts and leaves. You’ll be sober as a judge when it’s over.

“But one is enough,” with this thought, Mikai drained the can of a mercury-ammonia solution, carelessly threw the empty can into the utilizator, and started to rustle in the compartment in search of another. However, he found nothing and cursed, mentioning this alcoholic (his father), that prat (his brother) and all his cheerful company.

Grumbling a little more, Arenali switched his attention to the monitor. Oddly enough, despite all the signs, the intended storm was nowhere near the vehicle. Of course, the sandwalker was hardly new, it lacked many useful and common functions, but it usually worked quite well. And it would certainly not fail out of the blue.

The sensors suddenly came to life, and their indicators noticeably went off the scale. And still, the storm was not observed. Nervously fidgeting in his chair, Mikai leaned over the dashboard. He no longer knew what to think. The multiple flickering interference strips ran across the screen one after another. The hiss, crackle, signal whistles, and strange noises erupted from the devices like a discordant symphony, and in a moment, something distinguishable appeared on the monitor against the sky shrouded in stars.

At first, it looked like a shooting star, but soon the “star” changed direction; it appeared to alter its trajectory and rushed towards the sandwalker with amazing speed.

As the unknown object approached, the equipment continued to crackle, and the sensors went off the scale completely. Now the outlines of the object became less like that of a celestial body or common mode of transport.

In the next moment, the equipment died with a final squeak. Cut off from the outside world, the sandwalker cabin plunged into darkness.

“It was one can. Just one little can! The single portion of booze couldn’t cause such an effect,” astonished Mikai consoled himself, excitedly looking around in the impenetrable darkness.

Quite recently, when he had got into the sandwalker, Mikai was in firm confidence that he was alone here, but now he thought he saw something incomprehensible inside the vehicle, at tentacle’s length. Something unknown, mysterious and at the same time very terrible lurked somewhere nearby, or perhaps, right behind his back.

The glaucous streams of steam began to emanate from the top of his head, showing the strongest inner concern. Mikai frantically touched the buttons, pulled the switches, pressed the levers, in an attempt to revive the control panel…

…But it was to no avail.

“Who’s there? What’s happening?” Arenali thought frantically. “Maybe it’s an illusion. If I close my eyes, it just disappears, right? I’m getting married tomorrow. It’s almost today, to speak more precisely. I want to live. I want to live so much. It must go away. It must leave me. I wanna go home. I want to see my family. I’m afraid. I’m terrified. I’ve never been so scared in my life. I don’t know what’s going on. Why all the equipment failed? What the hell is happening..? Alright, Mikai, get yourself together! You are a man after all! Yes, the flashlight! Of course! How could I forget about it?! Everything slipped my mind because of this terror…”

Fumbling in the glove compartment once again, Mikai found the flashlight and took it out with joyful relief. However, he was in no hurry to use it.

He was frightened by what may be concealed in the darkness.

But at last, making a strong-willed effort, the man pressed the button. An unusually bright beam of light blared his eyes which had already accustomed to the darkness and highlighted the dashboard.

Mikai carefully moved the flashlight around. He saw nothing special — all the same equipment in its regular place.

“You’re a fool. Why you distress yourself like this? But something has happened. Why did all the equipment suddenly break down? There is no storm after all! I love Tirra. I wanna be with Tirra. I want to live. I need to be alive to marry Tirra. I won’t be able to do it if I die…” Mikai nervously wiped the slime from his forehead and released steam. “That’s nonsense, all these crazy thoughts in your head…”

He did not have a chance to finish his nervous ramblings; he suddenly found himself paralyzed: the tentacle fell limp, dropping a useless flashlight, which rolled under the seat, continuing to illuminate the sandwalker’s interior. The faint glow produced a game of shadows that only intensified the already oppressive horror. Mikai simply felt that there was someone or something near him, here and now, that was beyond the reach of technology or normal vision.

The first panic attack started at the moment when Arenali realized that he had lost control over his own limbs. He still could feel them but was unable to move.

Having gathered all his willpower, the man mentally tensed and tried to budge. And, it must be said, this attempt was partially successful — at some point, his body twitched spasmodically. But he failed to achieve something more acceptable. The second panic attack came — Mikai felt that he was helpless and baffled by the situation.

A bright but cold otherworldly beam fell from somewhere above, filling the entire space of the sandwalker, and Arenali felt how insignificant his weight had become. His body floated up from the chair and continued upwards in the beam slowly and smoothly.

Expecting to feel the impact to the sandwalker’s ceiling, Mikai was surprised to find that the flight continued. In a daze, he watched as his head passed through the roof of the cabin sealed by a hermetic coating. Then his entire body followed, and soon the sandwalker was already somewhere below him.

Mikai rose up over the highway, over the wasteland, over the thistles and ravines. Wide-open spaces, illuminated by heavenly radiance, became accessible to his gaze. He was scared, terrified.

The unidentified flying object, which looked somewhat like a huge iron by its size and shape, brought him closer rapidly and inevitably with an azure beam.

All that numerous vague tales which appeared in the evening news from time to time or formed the plot of the next trash sci-fi movie flashed in Mikai’s memory: stories about other civilizations and aliens who had visited Tsenia in ancient times and influenced the formation of current cultures. They had built their research bases which were now perceived as monuments of antique architecture and left various obscure artefacts behind…

And what about these strange patterns that appeared in the crop fields regularly or abduction stories..? In the first place, naturally, his father came to Mikai’s mind at this moment: a drunken neurotic who shouted from the rooftops about how in his youth, tall aliens with shaggy heads had kidnapped him and conducted their horrific experiments on him.

Of course, the children of Arenali senior suffered from his behaviour time and again — both in school and in adulthood. It’s not an easy thing to be the sons of “that crazy alcoholic with an alien probe in the ass” in a provincial town, you know.

Mikai used to hate his father, not being able to forgive either his heavy drinking, after which the old man let loose with his tentacle fists or tongue, nor his wild tales that disgraced the whole family. But now — Mikai was both frightened and ashamed. Frightened — for himself, and ashamed — because now he believed. He believed that all these stories heard from his tipsy dad weren’t the whim of a madman at all.

Well, it wasn’t entirely correct. Faith implies an unwavering belief in something in the absence of indisputable evidence, while now he just faced the fact: aliens existed (as an option — strangers from another dimension, imps, demons, or whatever they really were).

They did fly to Tsenia, they did kidnap unsuspecting citizens and conducted their monstrous experiments on them, putting their probes into… It was scary even to imagine where exactly…

It turned out to be a truth. Earlier, it was still possible to believe it or not, but facts are stubborn things. Mikai’s father just didn’t have enough courage. No wonder though — nobody had supported him, not even his friends and family…

God, this is so scary. I want to live, desperately. I want to be safe and sound and somewhere far from here.

Mikai glanced into the distance behind the highway, where the wonderful city lights seemed to be so close but so far. Tirra was waiting for him out there…

The azure glow enveloped everything around and engulfed Mikai…







“Now be careful and make cuts here and there. Well done, Katsumoto. And you, Wallace, must watch and learn. And you know, don’t stand there as a statue — hold here. Katsumoto, light, please…”

“Look, he’s waking up, I guess…”

It was as if a blindfold had been slowly taken from Mikai’s many multicoloured eyes: at first, he winced from the bright light, but soon he began to discern different shapes and figures. Initially, Arenali could not understand where he was and what was happening; however, the recently experienced horror quickly revived in his memory, and the view he saw just added colours to the dire picture.

Mikai’s body, fixed and, moreover, partially dissected, was located in the middle of the broad and very cold silvery operating table, and a strange massive spotlight continued to illuminate his exposed entrails with an azure beam. It seemed that this light was endowed with weight. And, oddly enough, the irradiated Tsenian was still alive.

Some metal probes protruded from under the sides of the operating table. They looked like spider legs and held the edges of Arenali’s flesh, while three mysterious and eerie creatures (obviously, not Tsenians) were leaning over him. All three were in very strange clothes — some bizarre greenish coveralls with hermetic helmets which looked no different from one another.

However, there were differences between the owners of overalls. The skin on the face of one of them was dark-coloured, the second one had narrow eyes and a more plump face and figure, and the third seemed particularly pale in their background. At the same time, all three monsters had wool over their eyes, and the third one also had wool around his pink mouth.

“Wallace, give him a further dose of painkiller,” said the terrible creature with the lightest skin. Not shifting his glance from Mikai, the alien moved an elongated silvery object back and forth in front of the Tsenian’s eyes. It resembled some kind of bizarre flashlight. “The glance is comprehended. He reacts on anaesthesia normally.”

Mikai did not understand a single word. These unusual sounds were more like a strange noise, rather than a meaningful speech for him.

The dark-skinned creature briefly moved away from the operating table, but soon reappeared, holding another silvery object in his hand. This one resembled an autoinjector. Unable to cry out his internal scream, Arenali continued to watch aliens’ actions helplessly.

Cautiously (as if he was expecting a bite), the dark-skinned leaned over Mikai (as if he was a wild animal) and held out his torture tool.

“Come on, Wallace, show us some courage. It’s a simple shot of painkillers. Really, I am not forcing you to conduct the incisions by yourself or transplant a ganglion,” the pale-skinned creature spoke again.

“I’m just new at this, Doc. I’ve studied theory, of course, and I’ve practised on virtual models many times, but this…” said the dark-skinned, stammering.

“Wallace!” the light-skinned alien raised his voice.

Having fixed one of the many Mikai’s tentacles by his strange limb, the alien abruptly made a shot with the syringe, injecting some yucky stuff.

“You’re bastards! Alien scum! Beasts! Ugly freaks!” Arenali shouted to himself. He stared at the disgusting mugs of outer space monsters with horror and anger.

“Alright… Katsumoto, please, input a new batch of nanoprobes into the subject and start the scanning process. I’ve already delivered the information from the last matrix to the headquarters, and guys are studying the data now,” the pale alien nodded with satisfaction and brought a white tube to Mikai. “The Adderley’s group, they do us an ill turn, as usual, I must say. All this mess up to our necks, ah?”

There was an instant flash, a blue ray, a slight incision, and a device that took some foreign and weird-looking thing out of Mikai’s body, to his considerable surprise…

...Then, another weird device was put on Mikai.

“God, why are you doing this?! Where am I?! What’s happening?! Is it a dream?! Maybe it’s some kind of nightmare! Am I dreaming or not?!” frantically rushing, Mikai’s thoughts replaced each other in his mind. “Am I in..? Maybe I am… Is it a hell?! Or what?! And how…? What are these creatures?! They’re monsters! I want to go home. Far away from here. Yes, home! It’s all because of thistles tincture. I’ll never drink again, honestly. Now, I’ll close my eyes, and all this will be gone. Oh, please! I want to get out of here and never come back!”

“Okay, Katsumoto, stitch him up,” the pale leader nodded, and then the narrow-eyed fat man approached. He shined some warming flashlight upon Mikai; to the latter, it seemed that he saw the whole cluster of atomic creatures in its beam.

Wounds healed, covering with a thin tissue literally in a blink of an eye, and seconds later, there was no evidence of the fact that a very complex surgical operation had been conducted on the Tsenian recently.

“Entry number one thousand eight hundred and thirty-eighth,” the pale man said, turning to strange wall-mounted screens. “Experiment number nine thousand twelve delta tau tau, day one. The Institute of United Planetary Research, Expedition Corps, the expedition of Professor Konstantin Leonov, Doctor of Xenobiological sciences, the Department of alternative biochemistry of the Institute of United Planetary Research. The considered sample under the code name ‘three delta three’ has all features, artificially grafted on the previous generations stages…”

The alien continued to spew strange sounds into space, while Mikai carefully began to look around. The operating room was bright, spacious, and replete with some equipment of unknown purpose. There were a great number of flickering screens on one wall, and the overwhelming majority of them demonstrated Mikai’s congeners, apparently immersed in a state of artificial sleep. Other screens broadcasted various but quite recognizable species of animals and plants inhabited Tsenia. The third ones displayed some rooms, instruments, devices…

However, one of the multiple screens soon attracted Tsenian’s close attention. It showed the panorama over the familiar sandwalker.

Then the image started to change — at first, slowly, but in the next few moments, the screen was occupied by Tsenia. The view of his native world from on board the alien ship caused delight, but to a greater extent, evoked fear and melancholy at the same time.

Alien aircraft began to accelerate smoothly, and when it reached the second cosmic speed the home planet, to the Mikai’s greater horror, rapidly moved away, becoming smaller and smaller.

And at some point the planet’s surface turned into the face of a sad mother, saying a long farewell to her son…

Krii taa bu palla, krii taa vu palla, krii en tu di ramoto — krii taa bu palla,” the familiar melody broke through the veil of a headache. It seemed a century had passed since he’d heard it last time.

Mikai Arenali opened his lids and blinked, restoring clarity of sight. So, he’s still in the sandwalker. Music is playing. He is in the wasteland. Everything is peaceful and quiet.

Does that mean he just imagined the whole incident? Yes, it was a nightmare, obviously. An ordinary nightmare, and no more. He was drunk, he was waiting out a sand storm, he fell asleep, and piled up this nonsense dream in his own drunken head.

And it was because of one small can… Really..?

By the way, the head hurt severely, as if a cast-iron scrap had stricken it. The thistles tincture couldn’t have such an effect, right..?

Oh, f…!

...Stop! The wedding! What time is it?! Crap!!!

Key to go! Damn, the dawn has passed already; it’s the middle of the day! Forward, on full speed! The familiar road runs away quickly. The cloud of dust and dirt surrounds the sandwalker which rushes to the horizon. Faster, faster, faster! I won’t be too late! But something was apparently wrong. Probably, Mikai had not recovered from his strange apparition yet. Or maybe, there was another reason.

There are some weird billboards along the highway. When did they install them, I wonder?

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