“Why exactly am I here?” I say.
“Step on this. I need to record your height and weight.”
“You’re a scientist aren’t you? A researcher. An anthropologist!”
“I am no such wild thing. I am a being of precision and detail and truth.”
"Is that not a scientist?”
“Do you understand any of our language, the Damaneit?”
“The what? Can I leave the building today? I want to explore the city. I’d barely seen it yesterday, and the air feels fresh; I can feel it seeping in through the window, and it’s calling me!”
“Why on earth would I let you do that? Who knows what you’d do.”
“You’re researching me, my kind, aren’t you? Observing my actions? Drawing conclusions on the human race? Wouldn’t it be more interesting to see how I interact with the people of your world. I think that would be interesting.”
“You may have a valid point, my dear.”
“Indeed, I think I do. Shall we then?”
To start my experience off, Dr. Rehckiff takes me to a two-story brick restaurant smelling of melted cheese and potatoes. He pays. It’s spectacular. Inside, the tables are triangular, wooden, and shorter than the usual human table. The chairs are extra-cushioned, like Dr. Rehckiff’s chair. It’s lunch time and twenty or so creatures, the Damaheiz I guess they are called, are scattered about the interior, munching away as their furry cheeks jiggle and their eyes occasionally, sporadically flit toward me. I should feel uncomfortable but I don’t. I relish the attention this environment is affording me. And I thoroughly enjoy the food in front of me. Their cuisine, it turns out, is not very different from ours, just a bit more flavorful and wholly vegetarian. They’re inherently omnivorous I suppose?
I have to admit, I expect a little more interaction as I venture through the city. A little more something, a little more face-to-face with the kind. But I don’t experience anything. I mean, I do experience many things.
As Dr. Rehckiff leads me through the unpaved, curving streets, I recognize a few things and see many new things I had never imagined before. I mentioned upon first describing the city that the buildings were square and either brick or timber in structure. There are the two taller buildings. Dr. Rehckiff explained to me their purpose. The one in the northeast is occupied by government officials. Ti Meichvun is the name of the city, and it is actually a city-state sort of arrangement. There are creatures occupying farmlands outside of the city, but all of the creatures are a member of one state, and Ti Meichvun is the center of it, geographically and metaphorically. The government is representational, like the American system he explained, except that there is no President. There are seven elected heads of state which have equal power but serve as representatives for a precinct of the state. He said there is also a legislative branch of thirty elected officials.
“Interesting,” I tell him after he’s described it all, although I’m not interested at all. I always hated Social Studies class. Changing the subject, I add, “I think you may just be acceptable. It was a bit rough at first, but I think I may like you, Dr. Rehckiff.”
I’m not fast too attach to people, nor to like them. I enjoy overzealously reaching out to people more for entertainment, to watch their reactions, but typically I don’t really care for friendships with no effort put into them. At this point I don’t even actually like Alfred. I treated him as a friend because I know he doesn’t want to be friends and that I likely disgust him. I like to have fun with people. Or with Damaheiz I suppose.
By the time we hit the city center, I’m anxious for interaction. Dr. Rehckiff is distracted from me for a moment as he finds a dear friend to converse with. I slither into the crowd of creatures, searching for a target. Who do I want? The slender, feminine one with sandy fur? Or the perky one with larger eyes and a pointed nose? There are too many choices! Who would reap the funniest responses?
Oh! There’s a small one, a young one. Why haven’t I run into a younger one before? I’ve passed by hundreds of creatures today and plenty yesterday. That is who I want. She’s very short, and white with beedy little eyes and a flowered frock that’d barely fit around my thigh. She’s practically spouting rainbows and unicorns.
“Hello there, little one. What is your name?”
(Now, reader, Art, at this time I did not know the language. But for convenience, I’ll provide a translation, although I’ll admit my translation is still poor. And let’s act like I know what she said, because that makes it a lot more interesting.)
“Buzz off, Naker. Why are you even here?”
I am a bit startled. I’m a bit put off too, but I laugh audibly and motion to Dr. Rehckiff. “Why aren’t there more of you little ones around here?”
(She really did understand English, interestingly enough. Only a small population cared to learn English back then, because so few ever planned to venture out of their world, and even fewer actually did it.) “You don’t know anything, do you? We only breed every five sickets.”
“Five what? I’ll ask Dr. Rehckiff later.” I am about to ask her yet another question when who I assume to be her mother comes and swoops her up.
“Get away from that,” she scolds her daughter and prattles off into a side street.
I go and sit on the fountain, not currently running, which serves as the center for the square in the center of the city in the center of the Ti Meichvun state. It’s only then, when I’m immobile and darting my eyes about the environment before me that I see a scene is emerging. Dr. Rehckiff is in view and he’s coming toward me. The square is brimming with creatures and few of them are actually in motion. They are, in fact, standing still or motioning frantically to their peers. They’re motioning toward me. They’re not smiling.
Yesterday, all but one had decidedly ignored my presence. They had chose to dismiss me and avoid me and act like nothing had changed. But apparently quite a bit has changed. Now they lack their previous complacency, and my hands begin to shake. It feels suddenly cold, even as the sun emerges from beneath its gray foggy mask. Dr. Rehckiff’s reaches me and he looks nervous. He is to blame for this. He’s kept me here rather than sent me back.
“There’s no reason to worry, friends,” he calls out in his native language. No one responds. “Please, hear me out. It is not so bad as it seems. Meet Tilly, but we shall call her Tilree.”
“We will not be calling her anything.” That voice sends Dr. Rehckiff into a tremoring mess.
“Tilree is a young human,” he says. Murmurs, murmurs all around. “She happened upon the Patch accidentally, and happened upon our city with equal coincidence. I assure you, she is harmless. I have kept her here only for a bit of observation, for truth! Always for truth, my friends.”
“How much has she been told?” The voice registers low and deep and echoes off of the gathering of bodies. The figure attached to the voice is long-faced and pale and stands straighter than any person I’ve known. “How much has she seen?”
“Very little, sir. She was kept in isolation since nearly her arrival. I took her out only to keep her health and to observe her reactions to our environment.”
“Dr. Rehckiff, for Dama’s sake! We have stressed enough the futility in your ventures to that side. How dare you allow one to walk through our streets? You have openly welcomed her into our world and put us entirely at risk. You know exactly, most of all, how they function, and one of them has no place here. What are we to do with her now?”
“Imprisonment!” That was from someone in the crowd. Of course, at the time I had no understanding of what was being said, and thus saluted the crowdee with a “Thank you!”
“No, no,” Dr. Rehckiff is saying. “No. This is being blown out of proportion. This is unnecessary! She knows so very little. She has no powers, she has no strength. Look at her! And I can tell you, from my numerous trips through the Patch, I know that in her condition, her age and meagerness, no one would ever be inclined to believe her if she were to speak of us. And she would not be able to return either! We know that. This was a special circumstance. An animal. It was an animal that caused this all.”
“I begin to believe you brought her here, Rehckiff. I don’t think I’d have a problem believing it.”
“I would never.” Rehckiff is on his knees now, sliding toward the being and wripping the knees of his trousers. I’m only now beginning to understand the events going on. I begin to think, should I run? How fast do they run? Alfred was horribly slow.
Before I begin running, and I’m almost there, my palms gripping the edge of the fountain ready to spring up and bolt, when two beings grab me from behind. Am I going to die? Are they going to kill me? Lock me up or zap my brain and take my memories? What ARE these things capable of? Surely they must have supernatural powers.
They must have decided not to kill me, nor to imprison me for the remainder of my life. I’m not certain what Rehckiff’s fate is, but a pang of remorse swells my heart for him. The two creatures take me back to the patch, with little trouble from me. I may be equal in size to them, but I am in their home, not mine, with no idea of anything, and no power. They take me to the Patch and push me into the dandelions so that my face plunges into the bed and my mouth is invaded by dandelion petals. Nothing happens until one of them touches their hand to the flowers.
POP. I’m back in my own world again.