Lucas woke up hearing voices but couldn’t see anything.
“This is definitely one of the NEW TYPE. Look at these genetic markers. His resistance to disease is much higher than average.”
He tried to speak but couldn’t manage it. The voices continued.
“Those are quite remarkable. I will fill out the order and send him upstairs.”
“Do not bother. They are uninterested in anyone older than 25 cycles.”
“But those genetic . . .”
“It does not matter. They reject anyone older with no exception.”
“What do we do with him, then? Just dispose of him? Such a waste.”
Dispose? That sounded ominous. Why couldn’t he see?
“No. We will try to breed him. If that does not work, we can extract his genetic material and graft it to a younger candidate. No waste.”
“Let us look at the next specimen.”
Footsteps receded from him. Soon he was alone with no idea what was happening to him. At least, he had thought he was alone until the surface he was laying on began to move. A table on wheels, perhaps? Being pushed somewhere? He soon lost consciousness.
* * *
When he became aware of his surroundings once more, he found himself lying on a large cushion. He could see again. Other cushions and pillows were scattered around the rather sizable room, but no other furniture was present. The walls were a tan color, and there was light without any identifiable source. After scanning the room, he was surprised to realize he wasn’t alone.
A woman was sitting against the far wall and staring at him. Several pillows were arranged around her, leaving only her face visible. It was then that he realized he himself was naked. He quickly grabbed a couple of nearby pillows to cover himself with. His flabby body had him feeling rather self-conscious. Carefully, he shifted to face her while remaining seated and covered.
“Sorry. I don’t know what happened to my clothes.”
“Just stay over there.” Her voice was firm, but he detected a hint of anxiety.
“I will, I will. How did I get here?”
She glared at him but said nothing.
“Before this I was . . .”
“You can’t remember, can you?” It almost sounded as though she was gloating.
“No. Now that you mention it, I had a weird dream and woke up here. I can’t remember anything else.”
“You probably heard them talking, not a dream.”
“Who are they?”
“Don’t know. Haven’t seen them. Just hear them now and again.”
“What do they want?”
“How should I know? As far as I’m concerned, you could be one of them.”
Her irritation finally cowed him into staying quiet. And she was right. Why should she trust him? He was a stranger.
Time passed in silence. He turned so that he wasn’t directly facing her. With nothing else to do, and the woman uninterested in talking, he laid down and curled up facing away from her.
“Hey!” The woman’s voice woke him.
“What?” He muttered in response.
“You snore.” She hadn’t changed positions.
“Sorry.” He sat back up. “How long have you been here?”
“Long enough to have lost track of time.” She still sounded wary but not as openly hostile.
“Do you know why I’m naked?”
“I think they want us to mate. But before you get any ideas, you’re not my type.”
He considered responding in kind, but even though it was true, it seemed petty. “Understood. My name is Lucas, by the way.” He hoped sharing his name might put her more at ease.
“Don’t care. As long as you stay over there.”
So much for that idea. Noticing that there were no obvious doors, he began to wonder how they got into the room initially. Even where the walls met, the corners were rounded and showed no seam, as if the room had been created as one piece. “Is there any way out of here?”
“One of the wall panels slides open. There doesn’t seem to be any mechanism to activate it from this side. I’ve looked.”
“So we’re trapped.” He wanted to get up and walk around. Even with the padded floor, he was starting to feel stiff from sitting for so long. However, without a better way to cover himself, standing meant subjecting the woman to his body, so he stayed where he was.
“Do we get food?”
“Periodically. It’s edible, at least.”
“And . . . Uh . . .”
“Over there.” She pointed to a third wall. “Just warn me before you use it.”
Out of frustration at the situation, he shouted at the ceiling. “Hey! Hey! Could we at least get some blankets?”
“What are you doing?”
“Well, if they do want us to mate . . .”
“I already told you.”
“No, no. I just mean, if that’s what they want, they’re probably watching us. I figured I’d ask.”
“Oh. Not sure they’re listening, but it can’t hurt, I suppose.”
When some time had passed without any response, he assumed she was right. Either they weren’t listening, or they didn’t care.
Her voice surprised him; she hadn’t said much of anything unprompted.
“My name. Rachel.” She wasn’t looking at him.
“Oh. It’s nice to meet you, Rachel, though I wish our circumstances were different.”
She nodded an acknowledgement but said nothing else.
As silence descended once more, he turned his attention to his memories. It was disturbing that he couldn’t remember anything about his life before waking up here. His name and his age were the only pieces of information connecting him to his past.
Part of wall suddenly vanished, startling him. A person with a shaved head and wearing a white robe entered through the opening. In their outstretched arms was a tray of food on top of two folded blankets.
“Who are you? Why are we being held here?”
The person showed no reactions to Lucas’s questions. They placed the blankets and food on the floor just inside the opening and then stepped back. Instantly, the wall was restored.
Awkwardly, Lucas made his way to the blankets without standing up. Wrapping one around himself, he tossed the other towards Rachel and turned his back to her.
“Thank you,” she said after a few moments. “You can turn around now.”
On the tray, there were several slices of brown bread and a large bowl of something that looked like vanilla pudding or mashed potatoes. None of it looked very appetizing, but his hunger became acute.
“I can’t believe they actually gave us blankets.” Rachel had moved closer. “By the way, that creamy stuff is very bland, but it hasn’t caused me to get sick.”
The sat down on opposite sides of the tray and began eating. It was tasteless, but the texture of the food in the bowl did resemble pudding, so it was inoffensive. They ate in silence. Neither of them wanted to seem too eager, but Lucas guessed she was probably just as hungry as he was.
As they finished, Lucas tried once more to start a conversation. “I think I heard them say something about not wanting anyone older than 25, and I’m in my mid-30s, but you don’t look that old.”
“I’m 26. But I think they’re only interested in women for breeding purposes. That was the impression I got during my exam.”
“You said earlier that I wasn’t your type . . .”
“It’s true, but that was a bit harsh. I’m sorry. I just didn’t want you getting any ideas.”
“No, it’s okay. Strange, naked man wakes up in your room. I’d be surprised if you weren’t anxious about it. I just wanted to let you know that sex doesn’t interest me. I don’t know if you’ll believe me, but there it is.”
Rachel considered him for several moments. “Well, I’m not sure I believe you, but thank you, I guess.”
Without warning, glowing red numbers appeared on the wall that had opened earlier: 8:00:00. Immediately, they began counting down. It seemed that had eight hours. A little less now. But what happened after 8 hours? “Any idea what that means?”
Rachel shook her head. “I’ve never seen them before.”
The lights in the room dimmed so that it was difficult to see details. He could still make out Rachel’s face, but only barely. A disembodied voice came from somewhere overhead.
“You clearly understand speech, so we will explain the situation. You have eight hours. If mating does not occur within that time, you will be reassigned.”
“What does that mean?” Rachel asked, but there was no response. “What do think ‘reassignment’ means?” She directed the question to Lucas this time.
“I couldn’t begin to guess. You were here before me, so you know everything I do.”
They sat for awhile, each of them avoiding looking at the other.
“I’m going to lie down and try to sleep,” Lucas said eventually.
“You don’t want to talk about this?”
“What’s there to talk about? Neither of us is interested in having sex with the other. We don’t know what will happen in eight hours, so there’s no point in dwelling on it.”
“So you’re not going to try to convince me?”
“Do you want me to?”
“There you go. Even if we could muster the desire, we can’t let ourselves be threatened into having sex.”
“You’re right,” Rachel agreed. “I guess I expected you to talk me into it.”
“That wouldn’t be fair to you. Let’s just try to rest.” He laid down under his blanket, and she followed suit after moving away.
Her disgust at the idea of having sex with him didn’t upset him. He didn’t assume it was about him, just as his lack of interest had nothing to do with her.
Worrying about what might happen next made for fitful sleep, but he managed to get a few hours. The numbers on the wall indicated there was less than an hour until ‘reassignment.’ Looking around, he saw that Rachel was already awake and sitting against the wall.
“Did you sleep?”
“No,” she replied. “I don’t know how you did. How are you so calm?”
“I’m not. I’m terrified, but I don’t know what to do about it.”
They didn’t say anything for the rest of the countdown. He couldn’t guess what Rachel was thinking, and he was occupied trying to come up with some sort last minute escape plan. Their captors were listening, and probably watching, so coordinating anything with her would just give them warning. The person who had brought them food hadn’t appeared to be armed and didn’t look particularly strong, so maybe if Lucas surprised them when they came, he might be able to overpower them. It wasn’t much of an idea, but he couldn’t think of anything else.
When the timer ran out and the wall opened, he readied himself to jump at whoever walked in, but he hadn’t been prepared for what arrived.
Two figures stepped into the room. They were roughly human shaped, though much taller at over seven feet. Their arms were twice as long as they should be given their height, and their skin was completely smooth shinning with a warm yellow light. They weren’t wearing any clothes, and Lucas couldn’t make out any facial features on what he thought must be their heads.
There was a scream, but it took him several moments to realize he was the one screaming. Both figures walked towards him. They reached out to grab him and stand him up. His fear and confusion prevented him from resisting.
As he was guided to the opening, the screaming in his head died down enough that he could hear Rachel’s voice.
“. . . a little more time. You don’t have to take him. We will mate!”
He managed a weak smile at her and shook his head. “Don’t. Don’t give them the satisfaction. Good luck, Rachel.” Then he was taken away.