It’s been thirteen ‘days,’ I think. Wherever I am doesn’t use a 24-hour cycle, but a 26-hour cycle. At first, I tried to use my knife to mark a wall in my cell to help me keep track. That didn’t work. These walls, whatever they are made of, can’t be scratched by anything that I have. I’ve never even seen this material before, the dullness of it almost absorbing the lights from outside my cell.
I’m on an alien ship, and that is all that I know, though in the beginning I was convinced that I had been kidnapped by drug lords and was hallucinating from whatever drugs they gave me.
Hearing one of them come close, I sit there and stare, no longer feeling the need to shrink away in fear. The alien’s eyes flick over me quickly, not caring about me.
Seeing the way they look at me as if I am an animal to them, makes me want to gut them with my fingernails. They must see me as nothing better than the animals across from me, some from Earth, some not. It makes sense, why they ignored the fits of anger and the screaming when I first woke up. I was just as loud as the chimps across from me.
At least I don’t have to share a cell with any of the real animals. I run my gross hands through my dirty hair. I probably sound just like the aliens who abducted me when I think like that.
Banging against the walls, screaming for help, crying for their death, none of it helped. All it did was cause exhaustion, which when in a situation where I am getting a fraction of the food I need, that exhaustion will kill me. So, I stopped. Hate had coursed through me when I realized that I had to change tactics and had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t giving up, just doing what I needed to survive.
My strength has faltered and using my brain is now the only thing that makes sense as my words mean nothing to them.
My anger won’t keep me alive. My rage won’t save me, and neither will my fear. Those are primitive emotions, and I am in a situation where I need to stay calm and be smart.
I think given the potential for anything to happen, I shouldn’t complain as being seen as an animal amongst these other animals. I scoff, as I start to bite my fingernail and then stop when I notice how dirty they are, as the dried dirt crusts within the folds of the knuckles on my skin, dried blood still staining them pink. I look to the light grey wall beside me; blood smeared across it from when I had tried to claw my way out like a caged rat.
My hair is caked in mud from crawling around on my stomach in the jungles of Brazil when I was caught, but I can’t look that primitive...right? I tried to wash as much dirt off myself as I could, but I only get two bowls of water a day, and I can’t be stupid with my water usage.
A positive of them seeing me like an animal is that they don’t even realize that when they stole me, I had my computer in my bag. This is good. This could save me because I have my linguistics software on here.
In the beginning, I would scream at them and throw things against my cell, and they would yell at me. I assume they were telling me to shut up. This is good because my interpretation software can incorporate that into this language as well.
Listening to new languages rarely heard and translating them to English was part of my job before I was taken. Each word I hear repeated, I try to find the context and enter it into my linguistics software.
I’ve concluded that they must speak some standard or universal language. There are several alien species that I’ve seen, and they all have different accents when they talk amongst themselves. I might not be able to understand them yet, but I can hear the differences in how they speak. The almost translucent alien that I see in the mornings, with its blue and grey eyes speaks with a soft hiss as if it needs to force the sounds out.
I flinch as the chimps diagonally from me scream, interrupting my thoughts. If the aliens don’t understand me, how is that any different than me not understanding the chimps?
“Damn whatever space gods are listening,” I mumble as I pace. I’m miserable, dirty and hungry. I only get fed twice a day, and after two days of starving myself, I had to give in and choke it down. I can’t look at it, but I know it’s a greyish color, and in the shape of a block. I plug my nose when it comes, chew with water and get it down.
I found wires as thin as my hair when I was trying to destroy my cell in the beginning. I don’t expect to do anything useful with these super thin wires, such as take over the ship and fly back home, because this isn’t a goddamn movie, and I have no idea what to do. I couldn’t even send out a distress signal. What would it say? ‘Please come to find me, US government, I’m in another solar system...’ Actually, “I would have better luck with Elon Musk being able to help..“.
I just want my interpretation software to analyze and extrapolate anything it can find. I want to know what they are saying, even if they won’t listen to me.
I sit on the small pallet in the corner that I was able to make from rags that were in here and cradle my neck in my hands as my elbows rest on my knees as I try so hard not to feel hopeless. Am I desperate enough yet to try speaking to these aliens? Because I’m almost at a point where I can try.
Finally, the lights dim, signaling the beginning of the ship’s night cycle. This is the time I do most of my work, trying to figure out how to communicate with anyone. But then again, I don’t know if they will listen, or if it will matter. I have about thirty words translated from watching and listening, but that’s not enough, and I’m hoping for more tonight both from my software and from the words I added manually.
A goddamn parrot has more than thirty words at its disposal. I live for puzzling out new words, which is one of the reasons I’m so good at my job. You don’t always have the proverbial Rosetta Stone, but I’m doing the best I can.
Sitting with my back to the wall so I can see outside, I start to take my computer out, not wanting anyone to see it, but not knowing if it matters. I’ve been using my hand crank generator, which was a necessity in the jungle. Otherwise, my battery would have died long ago.
None of the aliens have been abusive, but they aren’t exactly friendly either. I’m not sure if this is a spaceship version of a pirate ship, or if this represents all aliens who take whatever they want. No wonder our government has tried to hide their existence. Fucking pricks.
I always knew aliens existed, and I love an excellent alien debate. But this version of aliens is killing my romanticized version of an intelligent species coming to Earth, communicating, and sharing information. I don’t like this version of reality that I’m in at all.
I look down at my computer and my heart races, as my breathing quickens. I see I have 73 words! I can work with this. I feel a new sense of determination, and I’m about to study them when I hear yelling coming down the hall, and what sounds like fighting.
I quickly stash everything away and crouch in the corner. Usually, at night it’s only the sound of the other animals. Sometimes to the detriment of my sleep, because really, these non-Earth creatures make some crazy sounds. Is that xenophobic? Not sure, they just creep me out more than the Earth animals.
The shuffling and yelling stop in front of my cell, and I look up in horror as two of the aliens are in front of my cell, shoving a third alien in with me. Everyone is yelling at each other, and the one in my cell looks like he’s laughing at the two guards who are shoving him in and pointing clawed like fingers at him.
This is great. Probably a violent alien being shoved into a cell with me.
This ‘guy’ is enormous, and I hate being wrong. Especially since I just finished thinking that these guys haven’t been violent. I practically have my own church, a member of one, which is dedicated to me always being right. This is not the time to learn my whole belief in myself is for nothing. Talk about a crisis of faith here.
He’s standing; his back to me, and all I can see is that his hair is white. Many of the aliens who have hair keep it longer. But him, he keeps it a bit shorter. For as much dissimilarity to humans that I have seen amongst the aliens: some have feathers, tails, exotic skin, and boring skin. I have also seen so many little similarities to humans in almost all the aliens, though I haven’t seen this type before.
He has his hands in his hair, clearly frustrated, and turns so I can see his side. He has horns! They are dark, about two inches long and I’m gawking at them as I look to, I see the rest of him. His skin is a light blue color; I wonder if his planet has a star that doesn’t give off much UV radiation? The thought of figuring out why aliens evolved to look the way they do, and what their planet is like to cause specific physical characteristics is exciting. Something to think about after I keep myself safe, I remind myself.
I know how to fight a bit, but he’s enormous, and I’m weak after so many days in here with not enough food, and my muscles not being used the way they should be.
He finally turns to look at me, his eyes look almost purple, but it’s hard to tell in this light. And I can see tracks of something under his skin. Metal? Wires? Is this an alien cyborg? Not sure how I feel about this, they weren’t that friendly in Star Trek, but I can see things under his skin, and that’s all I can think of.
Looking at his face, he seems disgusted by me. I’m an animal to them all. Taking a deep breath and sitting down, my disappointment overtakes my curiosity. He looks like he’s trying to stay far away from me too. I guess he doesn’t want to spook the animal, right? Disgusted, I look away. I want to be seen as a person, even when I know I should be thankful that none of them do.
After an hour of listening to him grumble and attack his hair and yes, all while ignoring me, I can’t take it anymore. I want to know if I have things translated right. And I’m desperate. I don’t want to die in this cell, but how can I not try to do something to get out of here? So, I start simple, and hopefully in the Universal language.
“Hello,” I say into the speaker of my computer, so it will translate, as I look right at him. I would say that I got the desired effect, but I didn’t. It is better. He looks sharply at me and almost falls over while doing a double-take, obviously shocked.
That’s right fucker; I can talk.
He says something in a hushed voice, trembling almost. But I don’t know what it is. His voice is soft but deep, and he doesn’t seem to have any of the accents I’ve heard so far.
I decide to pull my computer out so he can see it. It’s now or never. I look over at him, and his eyes go wide, looking from my face to my computer. He stands now, and walks right over to me, crouching. I don’t know if he’s going to take this from me, but I have to try.
Instead, he grabs my face and turns me to meet his gaze, his light purple eyes holding mine, and I can’t help but smile. I think he sees me, and the look of horror on his face as he realizes that I’m not an animal is priceless.
I turn back to my computer and start to speak into it again. “No one understands me. I’m building a translator. Help me? They keep me in here. I’m cold, hungry, and getting weak in here.” I speak English to my computer, it translates I think some of the words, but I think it changed a few or didn’t know many. I hit for it to talk the translated version, listening to how it is pronounced so that I can learn for myself. If this is my new reality, I’m not going half-ass it.
I look at him while it translates. His eyes take me in anew, and he seems mad, but I don’t think it’s at me. He stands and goes to yell for someone. No one comes. No one ever comes when you scream. His fists are clenched at his side, muscles corded, and his voice booms.
“It’s no good; they won’t come. I’m sorry if I bother you, but I’ve been in here for a while now. And I need to try. They kidnapped me from my planet and treat me like an animal. Are you one of them?” I say all at once into my translator. No point in breaking up my sentences, and have my computer translate it for him.
He rushes back down crouches on his knees next to me.
He’s vibrating with fury, and I see how his face is different from a human. There is enough similarity that I would call him exotically beautiful, though his face is marred by rage, and he looks desperately at me. He acts as though seeing me in here is too much for him. He points at my computer; I’m excited that he wants to try. I hit the button and motion for him to speak.
“I would never do what they doing,” the translation sounds flat, but the determination of his voice makes me believe him. But I’m not ready to hope yet.