The lump in my throat sits awkwardly while I read over next week’s work schedule. Living in the shittiest apartment, eating minimally, and showering once every three days would not be impossible with my lack of hours.
“What can I do?” my voice echoes clearly in my barren one-room apartment.
I had been asking myself the same question all week, and the same answer kept staring me in the face.
Join the alien project. Live with an alien and have all expenses paid for. It’s the best option for the poor community right now. And after a few years I can rejoin my community with money allotted to me, and then I will be back on my feet in no time.
I roll my lower lip between my teeth, trying to gain the courage to leave. To walk down the block to the headquarters of the alien project and sign up.
The pounding of rain against my window is accompanied by lightening and thunder. The weather itself if enough of a deterrent but with all of my belongings crammed into two large suitcases, my options consist of a cold night sleeping on the floor, or a cold wet walk to the headquarters.
A knock on my door startles me into alertness, “Open up Winter. I won’t ask again.”
The lump in my throat tightens as I stand silently. That voice, of course Roger would come out of the woodworks at a time like this. A time when I am vulnerable and am in need of help. Although, the drugged-up, abusive asshole probably just wanted my apartment to get out of the rain.
I touch my ribs, the ones he had fractured months ago when I was late to pay him back on those loans. I swear I can still feel the aching pain of the bones that ached for me to stop breathing. By the time I had paid back the last of the money I owed, I promised myself to never get involved with Roger again.
With a final resolve, I know that no help is better than Roger’s help. Especially when I can already hear the jiggling of the lock as he tries to break-in casually.
I stare at the wobbling door handle for too long, and then tilt my head back toward my window that is being pelted with rain. Seems like a cold wet walk to the headquarters is my best option.
My luggage is thrown out into the rain along with myself. Until I am half-dragging half-hauling my belongings down the narrow alley outside of my apartment toward the end of the block.
If Roger had any reaction to me being gone from my apartment, I couldn’t possibly hear him over the rain and the thunder.
Despite my better judgement, I had dated him while I was paying back the loan. He was so generous, so kind. Until he wasn’t, and I was simply another train-wreck that needed money. That’s when things got ugly.
The light from the headquarters is stark, and bright against the rain and the darkness of my city. Beckoning me to walk faster, and allow the facility to take care of me.
An automatic sliding door opens for me when I arrive. I’m dripping, and only wearing cotton shorts and a t-shirt for sleep, but it seems that I am the only applicant here.
“Hello! Welcome in, we are the Alien Learning and Living Program, ALLP, how may I help you today?”
I stare at the woman before blushing and clearing my throat, “Uh- hi. Sorry. I’m uh… here to join the AL...LP.”
She laughs slightly and takes a device out from beneath her desk, “Please hold out your arm. Wrist up. For your examination.”
After complying with her request, a small yelp escapes me when the grey box pricks my skin. A sticky sheer paper is placed over the cut to protect it, but my blood is already in their system.
Her brows furrow for a second as she reads the data. I tuck my arm into my wet chest, “Is… everything alright?” I draw out quietly.
She shakes her head and smiles, “Yes. We found no drugs in your system, so you do not need to enter detox.”
I sigh out in relief, trying to explain myself, “I’m just here to live with an alien for a while and answer their questions. Are drug addicts that common?”
The woman nods again, her perfect smile back in place, “This neighborhood is notorious for drug related admissions. Since you are clean, you have more options.” She slices her hand abruptly past me toward the right, “That door will lead you to the next phase. Enjoy your stay!”
She goes back to typing suddenly and leaves no more room for conversation as another person walks into the facility. Her spiel starts up again, but her voice is tight. After seeing the greased up, and shoeless man, I have no doubt he is one of the notorious drug addicts that she mentioned.
I slowly walk into the next room, it is smaller and more confined, especially with my two suitcases. In a moment a man walks in and motions for me to leave my luggage and sit at the metal table.
My heart hammers in my chest, and despite feeling exhausted, I sit stalk straight in this man's presence. He must be doctor, it would explain the white lab coat and his clipboard.
Instead of examining me, he sits on the other side of the table, "Winter... Albernage? That's is the surname of the orphanage, is it not?"
I nod and his gaze turns up to me disapprovingly, "Y-yes. I'm an orphan."
The doctor nods without care, if his monotone voice was anything to go by, I would assume that he doesn't quite like his job.
"No past experience with drugs? Alcohol?" at my confirmed 'no' he continues, "Age?"
His voice doesn't waver when he asks, but his gaze does flicker to my soaked shirt that clings to my chest, "Female." My arms come up and around my torso, protecting me.
"How long will you be staying at the ALLP?"
"I-ugh, I didn't know there were options," granted the ALLP had only been set up a year ago, but the participants had all agreed that it is safe and easy. As far as I'd heard.
"One year is the minimum, three years is preferred and the only option for some species, and complications will take longer." This man, doctor, raddles this off mindlessly.
That didn't stop me from questioning him though, "What complications?"
If there is even a slight chance of me dying at the hands of an alien, count me out. This was supposed to be easy, a chance to meet aliens and answer their questions about humans and our ways of life. Granted I didn't quite know what they asked, but there has to be a reason they wanted us for so long.
Apparently this man knew the reason, because he glances at me for a second before responding, "In the circumstance that you were to become pregnant by an alien. That sort of complication involves genetic testing and your commitment to carry the child to full term. Whether that commitment is on earth, or on their home planet."
A surprised 'oh' sound came from me, but I found myself nodding regardless, "I think- I'll just stick to the one year commitment for now."