August 25, 2014

 

This Paradise Called Hell

 
 
 

A week ago, the sight of two seven-foot-tall fish-faced creatures, with black globular eyes, would have sent him into a state of catatonic terror. Much had changed since then. While he leaned back, feet in stirrups, a phosphorescent green light illuminated his chest. He smiled. This was the most enjoyable extraterrestrial physical exam he'd ever had; well, the only one for that matter. Strange symbols appeared over the projection of his guts, probably a diagnostic conclusion. Four times a week at the gym, he knew they'd find nothing wrong.

Scared -- at first, who wouldn't be? However, by now he'd concluded the aliens were much more considerate than most humans he knew. As they analyzed his anatomy, they kept their opinions to a low soothing whisper, unlike his ex-wife who refused to communicate in anything less than a yell. Although, to be fair, they were married at least two weeks before she set the volume to high.

The journey from normal to this point had been a quick blur, like when you watch a TV commercial, and only remember the jingle. That evening had started similar to most; late night punishment detail at work, the commute home in his German engineered car, two scotch on the rocks, pizza delivery, another scotch, late night news, and if lucky -- sleep.

All it took was a one-year dry spell for them to forget the millions in contracts he'd brought them. Ingrates. As if the recession was his fault. The sound of a bell shook him out of his self-pity stupor. With a groan, he pushed his sunken body out of the plush leather chair, paid the pizza delivery boy, and searched for a place to set down the still warm cardboard box.

Another ring. What'd this kid want? He'd tipped him enough, probably too much. After throwing his dinner on the custom Italian granite countertop, he reopened the door. No one. The little bastard was playing games. His foot barely had time to touch the front porch before a yellow tractor beam sucked him into the black orifice of the saucer's undercarriage, like a bug in a vacuum cleaner.

An instant later he found himself on an illuminated circular platform, face to face with some real strange-looking dudes. Strange looking, as in not human -- and naked. At first he thought the appendages swinging between their legs were orange elephant trunks.

His brain struggled for explanation. Drunk? Maybe a little buzzed, but not smashed. It couldn't be a drug trip. He hadn't dropped acid since college. Psychosis? No, his thoughts were too lucid. What else? Yes, of course, a dream! No need for alarm, he'd wake up ... eventually. The explanation calmed him. Muscles loosened, breathing resumed.

What if this was a nightmare? Although he knew none of it was real, the prospect of getting snuffed in his subconscious scared him. But he sensed no hostility, the opposite in fact. These guys projected a serene vibe, like the enlightened master who led the Finding Your Inner Sales Chakra seminar he once attended. Most likely the aliens were studying the native wild life, in this case human. Hmm, this might even be fun.

The bizarre beings escorted him through a hull lined with paintings, some famous enough for him to recognize, while others portrayed images and color variations he'd never seen before. Probably knockoffs, he thought, or maybe the counterfeits were in the museums, and these were the originals. He chuckled at his sleeping mind's sense of irony.

The hallways were long, and contained a series of flat metallic sliding doors, all shut. They took an elevator that led to another hallway, with more closed doors, followed by a second elevator ride that led to more hallways. Christ, what a maze, he thought. At last his two escorts stopped in front of an open entrance, the first he'd seen. The room contained a bunk, shower, sink, toilet, chair, and small table. Not exactly the Four Seasons, but it looked comfortable. One of the aliens gestured him in. Exhausted, he plopped down on the foam mattress; not bad. In a few minutes he fell into what he imagined was sleep within sleep. Cool ...

Awake! His eyes shot open. This wasn't his bedroom. A hotel? Sure, a business trip, but who was he supposed to meet, and at what time? Damn, the last thing he needed with his slagging stats was to stand up a client. He couldn't even remember what city this was? Better call his secretary Linda. Where was his cell phone, or the landline? Why'd that ditz book this place? It looked like a cross between the Ramada Inn and Andy Warhol's holding cell. He peeked out the window. The clusters of milky star constellations were beautiful -- star constellations?

The playback hit him like a bucket of ice water in the face. Then the symptoms started: pounding chest, numbness and tingling in the extremities, hyperventilation, and dizziness. Heart attack? Stroke? Could you freak out to death? "You're not going to die," became his mantra, repeated over and over, until his breathing leveled, and the panic receded like an ebbing tide.

His gaze shot to his wrist. Ten o'clock, but was that morning, evening, the day after yesterday, or longer? Damn, twenty grand for a watch, and no date feature. When he invested in it, he hoped it might revive his career; it hadn't.

As if a power cord got yanked out of his head, the sudden smell of a diner at breakfast ground his thought process to a dead halt. He wheeled around to find a table covered with steaming plates of scrambled eggs, pancakes, and toast, as well as a tall frosted glass of orange juice, and a smoky cup of what he guessed from the scent was coffee. Where'd the spread come from? He remembered the uneaten pizza left behind. A hunger grumble percolated up from his stomach.

Halfway through the meal, his fork stopped short in front of his open mouth. What if they poisoned the food? -- ah screw it; he'd already eaten enough to kill him. In a couple of minutes nothing remained except a few tiny crumbs scattered across a white linen tablecloth. He leaned back in his chair, patted his stomach, and burped. This had to be much better than the toothpaste stuff the astronauts ate.

Satiated, he broke down the sequence of events: Man kidnapped by aliens, taken aboard a flying saucer, and now traveling through outer space to points unknown. But what waited for him back home? Overdue bills, a stressful job, an ex-wife, and her attack-dog attorney -- nice.

It must all be part of some grand design, he thought. Out of all the people in the world, they picked him for a specimen. Didn't that make him special? Sure, he always felt he had a little more awareness then the average person, but this proved it.

His mind searched for a reference point to help process this new experience, but all he came up with were old sci-fi TV shows and movies. Usually the abductee was examined, and then released. He recalled an episode of some long-forgotten program, where they erased the memory of the humans after they finished with them. Tormented dreams, anxiety and unexplained flashbacks remained their only souvenirs. No, he needed to remember.

This was an elite club he'd joined, like the Presidents of the United States. What would he call it -- A.S.S.H.O.L.E.? Amazing Society of Superior Humans who Openly Love Extraterrestrials. Where would they hold their conventions? Uranus?

He was probably gifted. The aliens recognized it. Didn't he owe it to the world to share his message? What message? Don't worry about the little things, universal brotherhood, cosmic transcendence: the usual bullshit.

Pretty pictures projected across the wide screen in his head: television interviews, book deals, seminars, dump trucks filled with one hundred dollar bills, and girls ... or maybe the right girl. The conduit between humanity and life from other planets deserved a little compensation. Yes?

Just when his private jet, super-yogi fantasy reached cruising altitude, all engines flamed out, and the whole scene glided into a fireball on the side of a mountain. Nobody would ever believe him. He'd seen interviews of people who claimed to have been kidnapped by UFOs. Usually they looked like farmers romantically involved with their livestock, or frizzy haired Thorazine dabblers. Would he be any more credible?

First they'd stamp nutcase across his forehead, then job loss, followed by homelessness. From there it was a short step to dirt-encrusted street prophet; a modern day, mentally ill John the Baptist, clothed in plastic garbage bags, who forced his story on repulsed pedestrians, as they circumnavigated another raving sidewalk lunatic. No, that wouldn't work.

So why not stay on board? Worlds and galaxies unmarred by humans awaited him. What an opportunity. He imagined himself garbed in space suit, and powered by jet pack, flying across a black infinity punctuated by dazzling bright lights. They couldn't send him back; no way.

As if on cue, the two creatures appeared before him. Startled, he stood up. One of them touched his shoulder, and a warm feeling entered his throat. They'd help him, they were his friends.

By the time they reached the exam room, he knew what he had to do. Sell it, and sell it hard. Wasn't that his specialty? Piece by piece, he laid it out. He could sweep floors, or do odd jobs -- hell, even hand jobs if necessary. No laughs for that last line. Better stay clean. Did they understand English? They hadn't said a word. This was not the time for negative thinking. Keep up the momentum. Find their problem. Offer the solution; him. And if they didn't have a problem, invent one. Sales 101, baby.

The pitch continued for about fifteen minutes, his strengths their weaknesses, his value their deficits, his advantages their disadvantages, until at just the right moment he ended with the most beautiful close he ever laid down. Silence. It was up to them now.

Their faces showed no change of expression. Seconds turned into an uncomfortable minute, and then another, and another. Beads of sweat broke out across his forehead. Wait, what was that on their lips? Yes, the unmistakable upward curl. A smile, and more important, their heads were nodding in agreement. He let out a relieved laugh. Hallelujah, he'd sold them. Now he could relax. So the painless examination proceeded, and for the first time in as long as he could remember, he felt happy, or what he thought happy should feel like.

A swell of love and gratitude filled him like an overinflated tire tube, and he felt he might burst unless he gave them a hug. He reached up to put his arms on the back of their shoulders, and started to blubber something about friendship. The one on his right appeared to reciprocate his affection, but instead of alien flesh, he felt the touch of cold metal on his neck. His feet wobbled, the room blurred, like he'd downed some Blue Label with a Valium chaser.

"H-hey fellas, I feel ... "

Blackness.

* * *

A soft breeze brushed his eyelashes, and filled his nostrils with the scent of flowers, well not flowers exactly; more like floral Glade. He felt the tickle of grass blades on his bare ass. Sticky eyelids opened to an eerie blue sky, and although it was light, he saw no sun. His crackling vertebrae arched forward for better vantage. A face. Human. With a long white beard and hair. The man smiled. The gesture was reciprocated. In one sit up motion, he positioned himself for a better look. Dressed in dirty wrinkled beige linen pants and jacket, sans shirt or shoes, the guy looked like a desert island castaway, or a lanky Kris Kringle.

"How do you feel, Adam?" Kris asked.

"My name's not Adam. What happened to my clothes?"

"I think you'll like the Garden, Adam."

"Did you undress me?" Adam asked, as he massaged his head in an attempt to jumpstart his brain. "Who are you?"

"I'm God."

"Nice to meet you." God huh? Adam thought. I'm either dead or crazy. If I'm dead, then maybe he is the almighty. Better ask. "Am I dead?"

"No, Adam, you're in paradise. Not quite heaven, but close."

"Of course." Ok, it's crazy, he reasoned, and I'm in a nuthouse. This guy's either an inmate, or one of the staff.

What was the last thing he remembered? The ship, the aliens ... then what? They touched him with something ... he blacked out ... now he was here, stark naked ... oh no. Those bastards ditched him, but not on Earth. The asphyxiated blue sky looked like nothing he'd ever seen.

Adam glanced down at his body once again -- still nude. Had any molestation taken place while he'd been unconscious? Is that what his new buddy Kris meant by paradise? Maybe the aliens had pimped him out to this haggard space queen. Green skinned seductresses, or pointy eared Star Trek hotties were one thing, but this was too much. Relax; he told himself, it was all speculation. Until he figured out the game, he'd pretend to be Adam, and Kris could play God ... for now.

"I'm cold," Adam said, starting to sweat. "Could I get some pants?"

"I can make it warmer," Kris answered, sounding momentarily annoyed by the request, but quickly recovered his jovial demeanor. "You look well. Not surprising. The Gagutians have the reputation as some of the best specimen collectors in the galaxy. Eve's looking forward to meeting you."

"Eve?" At least there were women. "How about bathing trunks?"

"Let me show you around, Adam."

Adam followed him across a green meadow made of what felt like sponges under his feet. They stopped at an orchard, or something resembling one. Low lying branches bowed under the weight of donuts, Twinkies, corndogs, popcorn, ding dongs, as well a bunch of other innutritious garbage that hung like decorations on junk food Christmas trees.

Guess I'll skip the salad, Adam thought. He allowed himself takeout during late work nights, along with a few drinks, but for the most part, ate healthy and exercised. Still, he was hungry, and after a nod of approval from Kris, he plucked off a shiny lukewarm slice of pizza. No taste. Maybe it went down too fast. His second bite was slow, and he allowed the mush in his mouth to roll around long enough to make a determination. The texture was what he'd expected, cheesy, doughy, saucy, but the taste was feint, like a piece of bland unseasoned chicken breast.

"I hope you like it. I've monitored Earth television transmissions to provide you with all your favorite foods. You can use that wooden pole lying in the grass to knock down what's growing higher up."

"It's great," Adam replied. He tried a hamburger. The same. "Yummy."

"Thirsty, Adam? Take a drink from the Coca Cola stream."

He got on all fours, and lapped up the liquid from the brown gurgling book. It tasted like unseasoned carbonated chicken.

"Refreshing?"

"Delicious."

"Now open your mouth," said Kris.

Adam hesitated, than complied. A long-stemmed soft thistle sprang up from the ground and brushed his teeth with jets of soapy foam and water. He gagged at first, but then relaxed. No taste, not even chicken.

"Good oral hygiene's important, Adam".

"Ugh -- seriously man, where am I?"

"Paradise."

They resumed walking, and Adam soon found himself on a path that cut through a forest of tall pines. In the reduced light, he thought he saw what appeared to be a big dog approaching. It wasn't until it came within thirty feet that he recognized it as a lion. What now? Play dead? Run? Too late, the beast was already sniffing him. All he could do was cover his exposed genitals. Fur brushed against his skin. Then the animal turned around, walked headfirst into a tree trunk, and collapsed. After a few twitches, it righted itself, and continued in the same slow meandering gait.

"Jesus F-ing Christ!" Adam cried, after he regained the power of speech. His body was covered with droplets of moisture, as if he'd been spritzed.

"Don't worry, Adam, they're all friendly."

"Friendly?"

"Their brains have been chemically altered. You can pet any of them."

Adam kept alert for further wildlife. A little bit down the path he saw the backside of what appeared to be a large brown bear moving up and down. On closer inspection, he noticed a hippopotamus parked directly in front of it.

It took Adam a few moments of study before he exclaimed, "They're fucking!"

"The wonder of nature, Adam, the wonder of nature." Kris pointed out a waterfall. "You can bathe there. It's warm."

The sky darkened to gunmetal grey when they reached a clearing that contained a king-sized canopy bed. Kris pulled back the covers, and Adam eased himself onto the mattress. As if someone had turned off a light switch, the place went pitch black. A few seconds later tiny scattered lights appeared against the backdrop of the dark sky, and provided a hint of illumination. Kris drew the quilt up to Adam's chin.

"Good night, Adam."

"Good night, God."

Once the sound of footsteps had faded, Adam started to chuckle, followed by machine gun bursts of laughter. I'm going to crack, he thought, and then laughed some more.

The light hit him like a set of high beams. Day. He pulled the cover over his head, and curled into a fetal position. It was the pressure against his bladder that pushed him out of bed. About one hundred feet away stood a blue plastic structure that looked like a Port-o-Potty. When he opened the door he was relieved to find a sink and toilet.

Breakfast consisted of fresh-picked chicken-flavored Pop-tarts and Twinkies. The waterfall shower made his skin tingle, and he scooped up handfuls of the lavender scented suds that built up around him. Rested, clean, and fed, he could now think about escape.

First, he needed to get his bearings, but without a reference point, all he could do was pick a direction and walk. Along the way he observed more plant life. Most of it looked plastic, like what you'd find in a dental office. Every once in a while he'd spot a monkey, zebra, badger, or some other Discovery Channel specimen. He even saw an elephant. All the species exhibited the same type of behavior: stagger around as if drugged, fall down, get up, repeat. Kris was right, they seemed harmless enough. The first sighting of the pooper scoopers, as he later named them, sent him scurrying behind a bush.

These machines were like golf carts with tank treads. A rotating metal head was fixed on top, and out of each side protruded four arms, eight in total. Every one of their mechanical extremities had a different landscaping implement attached to the end of it, such as saws, shovels, rakes, hooks, and claws, as well as a few other tools. There was a big sliding door on their chests that opened up to a fiery furnace. That's where the animal droppings were shoveled. Aside from that, their other job seemed to be performing basic maintenance on the lawns, shrubs, and trees. Convinced they posed no harm, he continued his trek.

It wasn't long before he reached the one hundred foot high hedgerow that acted as perimeter fence. Adam tried to poke through it, but the sharp and jagged leaves cut him. When he retracted his arm there were small rivulets of blood. He washed his wounds in a brook, and dabbed them with clumps of grass until the bleeding stopped.

After he completed his walk along the green fence, he estimated its circumference at about five miles. It surrounded the entire garden like a shrub fortress. Packed tight like bunched up barbed wire, the foliage would rip anyone to pieces who attempted to burrow through, and without tools to build a ladder, there was no way to scale it. Discouraged, he headed back to the stream for a swim. When Kris returned, he could try to pump him for more information.

"Adam, Adam!" It was Kris, leading someone by the hand.

Adam's heart raced as he emerged from the water. The blurry companion took gradual shape. A female ... a naked female ... an attractive naked female. Adam soon found himself directly in front of her. He ransacked his brain for the appropriate greeting, but came up with nothing.

"Adam, this is Eve."

Under normal circumstances he would have appreciated the youthful lithe body, creamy freckled skin, and shoulder length chestnut hair that draped her face's delicate features. Instead, he focused on her watery eyes, which bulged out of her head like two frightened blowfish. Her whole body trembled, as if in vibrate mode.

"Eve came on the same transport as you," Kris continued. "From a place called Kansas."

Poor kid, she's hysterical, Adam thought. Who knows what that bastard did to her? She couldn't be any older than early twenties, maybe as young as seventeen. The way girls developed these days, there was no way to be sure without a driver's license or birth certificate.

"It's OK. I'm not going to hurt you." Adam said.

She opened her mouth slightly, and hiccupped.

"Adam's right, my dear, our only concern is for your happiness," said Kris, as he stroked her hair.

She let loose a stream of piss.

Kris waited until she finished, cleared his throat and said, "You can play with the animals later, Eve."

Another hiccup.

"And then enjoy a snack at the orchard," he added.

Her face tightened. Then she shrieked, "Oh God, Oh God!"

"I'm right here."

She wheeled around, and bolted for the woods like a track star. If not for the TV-remote-control-looking device Kris pulled from his pocket, she might have made it. One zap collapsed her into a tangled heap.

Adam stared at the spectacle, and yelled, "You killed her!"

He ran over to Eve, and checked her pulse. She was still alive. Kris approached. Adam stood up, his muscles and fists tightened like compressed springs.

"I'm tired of your games," Adam spat.

Kris pointed the weapon at Adam's chest, and said in the firm controlled tone of a parent addressing a naughty child, "I'm a loving God, but even loving Gods have their limits." Then in his friendly voice, he continued, "No need for worry my son, she's only stunned.

Adam's jaw unclenched. Two pooper scoopers rolled in. One grabbed Eve by the wrists, the other by her ankles, and then disappeared with her behind a cluster of shrubbery. Kris followed.

Adam sprawled out on a field of soft grass peppered with little purple flowers. Next to him lay a leopard. It twitched and drooled, as his hand stroked the soft fur of its belly.

Thoughts of escape bounced against the interior of his skull, like a rubber ball in an indoor squash court. He had to get out of here, with the girl. There was no way he'd leave her with that madman. Somewhere, on the other side of the universe, Eve had a life.

But how? Where and what was this place? A planet? Asteroid? Without a ship, return to Earth seemed impossible. The first thing was to get across the hedgerow. Most likely Kris only controlled inside the parameter. What was on the outside? Monsters? Aliens? Bigger lunatics? Death? It didn't matter. A lifetime spent praying to a douchebag wasn't an option.

The plan was simple. Overpower Kris, and then beat the answers out of him. All he needed was to get hold of the remote control. He wondered if the pooper scoopers could be commandeered to construct a rampart big enough to scale the barrier wall. There were enough trees around. The main thing was to wait for the right moment.

When he awoke the next day he jogged the enclosure's perimeter, followed by multiple sets of chin ups, pushups, and sit ups. By the time the workout was finished, his body surged with optimism. Afterwards he bathed, ate breakfast, and then walked around the grounds in search of relevant clues. Finding nothing of value, he returned to the waterfall.

"Adam, Adam."

It was Kris. Eve was with him. She wasn't trembling, or doing much of anything else. Adam looked in her eyes. They were like vacated rooms.

"Say hi to Adam, Eve."

"Hi," she said.

"Are you hurt?" asked Adam.

"Hi," she replied.

"What'd he do to you?"

"Hi."

"Is that all you can say?"

"Hi."

He looked at Kris, who explained, "Her vocabulary's a bit limited, but it's only temporary. She's much calmer, and toilet trained. She can also bathe and feed herself."

"What'd you do to her?"

"Just a little chemical adjustment, my son. To help her acclimate."

Adam took a step towards them. Kris pulled the remote control out of his pocket.

"Relax, God. I'm just going to sit her down on the bed."

"Good. Show her around after she's rested," said Kris before he left.

Adam sat her down. Physically she looked healthy. Even her legs were shaved. So was the area between her legs. Kris had obviously groomed her. There was eyeliner, and a thin layer of makeup. Even the lips were painted. He detected the faint smell of lavender. Who knew what that freak had done to her?

At least her condition's not permanent, Adam thought. When her mind returned, he'd alert her to his escape plans. He placed her on her back. Kris was right. She needed rest.

For the first time he appreciated her attractiveness. How long had it been since he's been with a woman? It was the blond thirty-something pharmaceutical rep, a week before he'd been kidnapped. They'd wound up at his place after their third dinner date. She'd held out long enough to maintain etiquette. What was her name? Clarissa, Carissa, Claire?

He cupped her breast with one hand, and glided his other hand up her inner thigh, all the way to the end. No reaction. It wasn't long before the full weight of his body was on top of her.

She screamed. Like a burglar caught in the act, he covered her mouth with his palm. Her nails dug into his cheek. With his other hand he gripped her wrist, and pinned it on the mattress. After he finished he rolled off, and searched her face for any signs of expression. Nothing. Her gaze was fixed on the heavens. Adam flushed red.

"I-I'm sorry. I never ... It's just that ... "

No response. The sky grew darker. He curled up on the opposite side of the bed, his back to her. It was a while before he fell asleep.

When he awoke the next morning Eve still had her eyes open. He shook her, gently at first, and then harder. She didn't respond. Next he checked her vitals. No pulse, no heartbeat, no breathing; dead.

"Oh God!" he cried, as he leapt off the bed.

Adam paced back and forth, stopping every minute or so to reexamine her. Each check yielded the same result. Tension boiled up in his brain, like a pressure cooker left too long on the stove. Just before explosion, Kris appeared, and assessed the deceased.

"What'd you do to her?" asked Kris.

"What do you mean, what'd I do to her?

"How'd you kill her?"

"Me?" Adam replied. "You overdosed her."

"That's very unlikely."

Both of them remained silent, until Adam said, "We should at least bury her, some kind of service."

Kris stroked his beard, nodded, and pressed some buttons on the remote control. The pooper scoopers soon arrived. They pulled her off the mattress, and cut off her head and extremities with their saw blades. A fine mist of bloody drizzle covered the two men. Once she was in manageable pieces, they opened the furnace doors on their chests, and threw the parts inside, then drove off.

"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust," said Kris, with bowed head, and closed eyes.

Adam's punch flattened Kris's nose like an accordion, coloring his already red speckled mustache and upper beard a deep crimson. The remote control dropped to the grass. Kris reached down to pick it up, but as he touched it, Adam's heel crushed God's fingers and the device in one stomp, followed by a knee into Kris's chin that laid him flat on his back. When Kris regained consciousness, he rolled over, got on his hands and knees, and spat out gobs of red ooze, along with a couple of teeth.

"Give me your jacket."

Kris handed it to him.

Adam tied it around his waist like a skirt, and asked. "Who are you?"

"G-god."

"You want more?"

"Steve. Steve Zucker. From Earth."

The former deity's voice sounded muffled and weak from behind the balled up white handkerchief he'd taken from his pocket.

"Explain," said Adam.

Kris drew a deep breath. "I was kidnapped, like you. Then sold to an intergalactic zoo. I spent twenty years in a glass cage, stared at like some god damned monkey by big pickle things, and their ugly kids. All I had for company was a TV that picked up Earth signals. I guess they weren't all bad. This is a game reserve for obedient animals. A place to spend our last days in peace. An ASPCA thing I guess. You and the girl were brought here to keep me company. Humans, undamaged by captivity.

"Undamaged by captivity? Tell that to Eve. And why're you pretending to be God?"

Kris sat down, and said, "For once, I wanted to be in control. Even back in Chicago, I had a shit life. What if I could create a new world? A better one. If God exists, why all the misery? Is He a sadist?

Adam smiled, and replied, "Maybe good can't exist without bad." He paused a few seconds and shook his head. "I fucked up, man."

"The girl?"

"Yeah ... where are we?"

"A piece of real estate floating on top of what we'd call a worm hole. The hedge is for our own protection. If you leave the garden, you could get transported to a million different places in the universe, depending on the exit point. It's a crapshoot. How'd you like to wind up living with six-foot talking cockroaches, or swimming in an ocean of hot lava? At least we're safe here. We've got food, a female ... there was ... they'll bring more women, stronger ones. And I'm working on modifying the drugs, so they'll be safer.

"Good luck," said Adam, as he headed towards for the orchard for a last meal.

"You'll never make it."

Adam turned around and asked, "Why does everything taste like chicken?"

"Try explaining food flavors to aliens. I guess chicken's universal."

The bright red apple was the only non-processed item hanging from the tree. He took a bite. Sweet. Lucky mistake or intelligent design? Did it matter?

It took the rest of the day to finish the tunnel coated with blood drenched fur, and hanging entrails. The small creatures put up no resistance when Adam grabbed them by their legs, and smashed their skulls against a jagged boulder. Then he stuffed each one in with the pole from the orchard, like he was packing a cannon's barrel. At about the ten foot mark, he could feel one of the carcasses drop out the other side. I can crawl ten feet, he told himself.

Once the rabbit, otter, hedgehog, beaver, corpse lined passageway was complete, he made a diaper out of Kris's jacket, and positioned a dead raccoon in the crotch area for added protection. Red-purple-and brown slime made him look like he was covered in body paint. Fuck it, he thought, just before he stuck his arms in. Not bad. A little pressure, maybe a few scrapes. The animal hides would do the job. He felt confident enough to stick his head in.

It took about five minutes before his fingertips touched open space. Positioned like a flying Superman, he used two squirrels as palm protectors to grab the hedge's opening for leverage. Air was getting through. Putrid air, but air none the less.

Heat, stench, and darkness smothered him. Mouthfuls of warm mammal guts had to be repeatedly spit out. When he got past his elbows, he was able to probe the other side's surface; concrete, like a sidewalk. Then the crush started. Sharp daggers bit into his flesh like a school of hungry piranhas.

The pressure increased. Like an Iron Maiden, the spiked leaves pierced his entire body. His compressed chest couldn't even get out a scream. Time stopped. It seemed the agony had always been there, and would always be there. Then the pain disappeared, replaced by cold numbness. You're bleeding to death, he thought.

One more try. A half inch forward. Like a wounded worm, he slithered towards freedom, increment by tiny increment. When his face emerged, he took as large a breath as his injured thorax would permit. If only he could see, but one eye was cut, the other glued shut with muck. By the time he reached his belly button, he'd lost the raccoon jockstrap. Please God, not the balls, he prayed, just before he delivered the final thrust that popped him out of his hole. He lay on the ground like a newborn covered in afterbirth.

Wet. Cloth. Pressure.

"He's cut up pretty bad, but he might make it if we get him back in time for a transfusion," said the unknown male voice.

"My balls?" Adam asked.

"Still there, mostly," the male voice replied.

"Where'd he come from?" asked a female voice. "And how'd he get covered in road kill?" She sounded efficient, but concerned.

"Are either of you God?" asked Adam.

"No, pal. Try to relax. We've got to get you on the stretcher," said the male voice.

"Am I?" asked Adam.

"Are you what?"

"God."

"Buddy, you can be anything you want," answered the male voice. "Just stay still."

Adam smiled before he lost consciousness.





Originally appeared in Kalkion Magazine

Article © R. K. Solomon. All rights reserved.
Published on 2013-03-04


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This Paradise Called Hell

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