They must think that I am an idiot. I sit in a small classroom with about twenty other women listening to a male teacher telling us about the flora and fauna in the Pinn world. On a large screen at the head of the classroom, pictures of greenery fade in and out. Different than earth perhaps, but not so different that I would have known if I didn’t look closely.
“.... it is a most beautiful planet. The plants and animals will not harm you. But do not eat anything you are not familiar with!” the balding man booms.
After leaving my small room, I had followed the signs to the cafeteria. I had been tempted not to and instead go in the other direction, but decided against it. I told myself I was waiting to see what I was up against before trying to escape. Sure that was it.
Opening the door I saw the women, some sniffling, some outright crying, others staring ahead silently. All sitting on plastic white stools at long white tables with grey trays with food in front of them. They all appeared to be in their twenties or thirties but came in all shapes, sizes, and races.
“There,” a tall man in a blue uniform waved me towards a line of women on the other side of the room waiting for a chance to scoop out food from a buffet onto their drab lunch trays.
I stared back at him. “Are you...?” I couldn’t finish.
He rolled his eyes, “yes”
I stared at him trying to see if there was anything different about him. He looked like a normal man. A normal soldier, he had dirty blond hair with dark blue eyes. He had a normal nose and mouth. He was tall and had wide shoulders, but all were within what I had seen on earth. He wore a heavily starched navy uniform that matched his stiff expression.
He cleared his throat and raised an eyebrow.
I had been caught starring and I decide to scurry over to the line to wait for my food.
After the meal of chicken, peas, and mashed potatoes, the women had been divided into groups based on the numbers on their wrist band and assigned to classrooms. I was now in my second class.
“Whatever you do, do not go into the forests!” The teacher continued to boom “you are not familiar with the creatures there and you will not make it out alive”
While the first class had been taught by a small frail man who spoke at length about how wonderful the political system of Pinn is, the current booming teaching is lecturing us on how beautiful Pinn is. It doesn’t take a genius to see through the propaganda. The perfect political system sounds like city-states headed by warlords- the nature of Pinn is astounding, but you can’t go out to the forest to enjoy it otherwise you will be eaten by a horrible green alien creature. Okay, the teacher might not have said anything about a green creature, but I can imagine it.
While listening, I examined the men for anything strange. The Pinns simply looked normal. Thin, broad, balding, whatever they are, they look like human men. The balding Pinn before us is of average height with sweat pouring down his wrinkly forehead which he occasionally swipes with his sleeve. What he misses drips down his remarkably friendly face which lights up as he describes some factoid about his world. He comes across as approachable, brainwashed, but friendly. He also looks nothing like the models shown in the welcome video.
We all know how to play the game. We pretend to be normal students in a normal classroom. For the most part, the women have remained silent, listening. Only a few daring to ask questions and even then the questions were over little things: How many people live on Pinn? How many city-states are there? Nothing too risky.
A small knock interrupts the teacher’s droning on the beauty of the mountains of Pinn. Who cares? We are about to be given to strange men - no not men. Aliens.
In walks an incredibly handsome Pinn. I catch my mouth before it falls open. He looks like a movie star from the past with dark brown hair and almost black eyes. He is well-groomed with a sophisticated air that borders on snobby. The blond willowy woman at the table next to me abruptly sits up from her slouched position and nearly falls off of her chair. A woman behind her giggles.
“Mr. Hertilz” the bald teacher greets.
Mr. Hertilz doesn’t return the greeting, “I believe it is my turn to address these females”
The balding Pinn nods, “Yes, yes” and clicks off the screen.
Whispers come from the back of the room. Then giggling.
Clearing his throat, the handsome Mr. Hertilz stands at the front of the room. Even though I had held myself together- admirably I might add- I can feel my cheeks burning from embarrassment. Of all things, they make a fuss about a cute guy!
He smiles a charming smile and glances about the room. “Females, I am here to explain the process of choosing a partner”
I gulp as my face turns to a frown. The last thing I want to think about is picking some alien to have babies with. I looked down at the desk in front of me tracing it with my finger.
The women are all attentive now.
“The process is quite simple,” The Pinn says “we will travel to different cities where we will hold large socials with Pinns looking for a partner. Think of it as similar to the mail-order brides in your history. If you meet a Pinn and you agree to become partners, after some paperwork on his side, you will go home with him”
A hand shoots up from the blond woman next to me. “ Yes,” the Pinn says pointing to her.
“What if we don’t find a partner?” the blond woman squeaks.
“You will find a willing partner” Mr. Hertliz rubs his chin, “women are rare and precious on Pinn and there will be many interested in you. If however, you have not found a partner after a year you may become a priestess.”
Another hand shoots up. “What if we don’t want a partner?”
“Then after a year, you may become a priestess”
Another hand, “What does a priestess do?”
The Pinn narrows his eyes slightly, “she serves the goddess”
“Yes, but how?” a tall woman with long black hair from the back demands, standing up from her chair.
“In her temple”
“How does she serve the goddess in her temple?” she demands again.
Mr. Hertliz is looking annoyed now. “You may ask your social teacher on the different roles of priestesses. I am here to talk about choosing a partner”
With a loud “harumph” the woman sits back down.
I bite my lips. A question was bubbling within me, but I’m sure if I want to upset the Pinn further. Here goes nothing. I cautiously raise my hand.
“Yes,” the Pinn says looking at me, annoyed.
“What if we choose to go with a Pinn and we later find out that we don’t get along?” I ask in a small voice.
The Pinn nods, “We encourage all couples to figure out whether they wish to stay together within the first six months. If it does not work out you can return and begin looking for a partner again”
Mr. Hertliz turns back to the class “Females, I encourage you if you wanted a husband or a family on earth to search for a partner. He will care for you and protect you.”
A woman at the back of the room scoffs.
“I also encourage you to get pregnant as quickly as possible. We have found that women who do are much better at adapting to life on Pinn”
The woman scoffs again and Mr. Hertliz turns to her.
“Not all women are successful in adapting to Pinn” he narrows his eyes at the woman in the back “It saddens me to think of what happens to those who don’t.”
I gasp silently at the threat. So far none of the Pinns had said anything but hallow words of propaganda and encouragement. The room is unnaturally silent. The woman in the back clearly understands the implied threat. Somehow the threat brings me back to the reality of the situation. We aren’t asking about abstract possibilities- I am really being sent somewhere to have sex with an alien.
I am here against my will.