Science Fiction: A Paradise Called Hell

 

A week ago, the sight of two seven foot tall fish faced creatures, with black globular eyes, would have sent him into a state of catatonic terror. Much had changed since then. While he leaned back, feet in stirrups, a phosphorescent green light illuminated his chest. He smiled. This was the most enjoyable extraterrestrial physical exam he’d ever had; well the only one for that matter. Strange symbols appeared over the projection of his guts, probably a diagnostic conclusion. Four times a week at the gym, he knew they’d find nothing wrong.

Scared—at first, who wouldn’t be? However, by now he’d concluded the aliens were much more considerate than most humans he knew. As they analyzed his anatomy, they kept their opinions to a low soothing whisper, unlike his ex-wife who refused to communicate in anything less than a yell. Although, to be fair, they were married at least two weeks before she set the volume to high.

The journey from normal to this point had been a quick blur, like when you watch a TV commercial, and only remember the jingle. That evening started similar to most; late night punishment detail at work, the commute home in his German engineered car, two scotch on the rocks, pizza delivery, another scotch, late night news, and if lucky—sleep.

All it took was a one year dry spell for them to forget the millions in contracts he’d brought them. Ingrates. As if the recession was his fault. The sound of a bell shook him out of his self-pity stupor. With a groan, he pushed his sunken body out of the plush leather chair, paid the pizza delivery boy, and searched for a place to set down the still warm cardboard box.

Another ring. What’d this kid want? He’d tipped him enough, probably too much. After throwing his dinner on the custom Italian granite countertop, he reopened the door. No one. The little bastard was playing games. His foot barely had time to touch the front porch, before a yellow tractor beam sucked him into the black orifice of the saucer’s undercarriage, like a bug in a vacuum cleaner.

An instant later he found himself on an illuminated circular platform, face to face with some real strange looking dudes. Strange looking, as in not human—and naked. At first glance the appendages swinging between their legs appeared to be orange elephant trunks.

His brain struggled for explanation. Drunk? Maybe a little buzzed, but not smashed. It couldn’t be a drug trip. He hadn’t dropped acid since college. Psychosis? No, his thoughts were too lucid. However, he did risk an imminent mental breakdown if an answer didn’t arrive soon. What else? Yes, of course, a dream! No need for alarm, he’d wake up…eventually. The explanation calmed him. Muscles loosened, breathing resumed.

What if this was a nightmare? Although he knew none of it was real, the prospect of getting snuffed in his subconscious scared him. But if the creatures wanted him dead, he’d already be a floor stain. Plus, he sensed no hostility, the opposite in fact. These guys projected a serene vibe, like the enlightened master who led the Finding Your Inner Sales Chakra seminar he once attended. Most likely the aliens were studying the native wild life, in this case human. Hmm, this might even be fun.

The bizarre beings escorted him through a hull lined with paintings, some famous enough for him to recognize, while others portrayed images and color variations he’d never seen before. Probably knockoffs, he thought, or maybe the counterfeits were in the museums, and these were the originals. He chuckled at his sleeping mind’s sense of irony.

The hallways were long, and contained a series of flat metallic sliding doors; all shut. They took an elevator that led to another hallway with more closed doors, followed by a second elevator ride that led to other hallways and more walking. Christ, what a maze, he thought. At last his two escorts stopped in front of an open entrance, the first one he’d seen. The room contained a bunk, shower, sink, toilet, chair, and small table. Not exactly the Four Seasons, but it looked comfortable. One of the aliens gestured him in. Exhausted, he plopped down on the foam mattress; not bad. In a few minutes he fell into what he imagined was sleep within sleep. Cool…

Awake! His eyes shot open. This wasn’t his bedroom. A hotel? Sure, a business trip, but who was he supposed to meet, and at what time? Damn, the last thing he needed with his slagging stats was to stand up a client. He couldn’t even remember what city this was? Better call his secretary Linda. Where was his cell phone, or the landline? Why’d that ditz book this place? It looked like a cross between the Ramada Inn and Andy Warhol’s holding cell. He peeked out the window. The clusters of milky star constellations were beautiful—star constellations?

The playback images hit him like a bucket of ice water in the face. It had all been real. A physiological assault followed his revelation: pounding chest, numbness and tingling in the extremities, hyperventilation, and dizziness. Heart attack? Stroke? Could you freak out to death? Stay calm, he told himself. They were friendly. “You’re not going to die”, became his mantra, repeated over and over, until his breathing leveled, and the panic receded like an ebbing tide.

What time was it? His gaze shot to his wrist. Ten o’clock, but was that morning, evening, the day after yesterday, or longer? Damn, twenty grand for a watch, and no date feature. When he invested in it, he hoped it might revive his career; it hadn’t.

As if someone yanked a power cord in his head, the sudden smell of a diner at breakfast shut his train of thought to a dead halt. He wheeled around to find a table covered with steaming plates of scrambled eggs, pancakes, and toast, as well as a tall frosted glass of orange juice, and a smoky cup of what he guessed from the scent was coffee. Where’d the spread come from? He remembered the uneaten pizza left behind. A hunger grumble percolated up from his stomach.

Halfway through the meal, his fork stopped short in front of his open mouth. What if they poisoned the food? —ah screw it; he’d already ate enough to kill him. In a couple of minutes nothing remained except a few tiny crumbs scattered across a white linen tablecloth. He leaned back in his chair, patted his stomach, and burped. This had to be much better than the toothpaste stuff the astronauts ate.

Satiated, he turned his attention to a sequential breakdown of events: Man kidnapped by aliens, taken aboard a flying saucer, and now traveling through outer space to points unknown. Pretty simple. But was it bad? What waited for him back home? Overdue bills, a stressful job, an ex-wife, and her attack dog attorney – real nice.

It must all be part of some grand design, he thought. Out of all the people in the world they picked him for a specimen. Didn’t that make him special? Sure, he always felt he had a little more awareness then the average person, but this proved it.

In retrospect his whole life had been like bad theatre—cheap lines of predictable dialogue accompanied by the appropriate gestures: The plastered grin, worn through a three hour business dinner, as he listened to a potential drunken client’s repertoire of unfunny racist and sexist jokes; all for a signature on a dotted line. Water cooler debates about sports teams and politicians he cared nothing about. The same date with different women, filled with template conversations about goals, hobbies, interests, beliefs, all of which he candy coated or altered in an attempt to get them into bed. Curtain please.

Just once he’d like to look across the table of one of the over-priced restaurants he frequented, and say to the husband hunter seated across from him, “Put up or shut up.” Wake, eat, earn, excrete, screw, sleep, was that it? It was all nothing, meaningless. He knew it—the aliens did too.
His mind searched for a reference point to help process this new experience, but all he came up with was old sci-fi TV shows and movies. Usually the abductee was examined, and then released. He recalled an episode of some long forgotten program, where they erased the memory of the humans after they finished with them. Tormented dreams, anxiety and unexplained flashbacks remained their only souvenirs. No, he needed to remember.

After an experience like this, how could he ever return to that hamster wheel? A staggering mortgage on an oversized house, the custom ordered Mercedes car note, women who were impressed by those things, paid minimums on maxed out credit cards, and of course his monthly alimony payment, all hung over his neck like a lead guillotine blade connected to a frayed rope.

He’d just joined an elite club, like the Presidents of the United States. What would he call it—A.S.S.H.O.L.E.? Amazing Society of Superior Humans who Openly Love Extraterrestrials. Where would they hold their conventions? Uranus? Ha ha. Enough with the jokes, he chided himself.

This was a special gift, and as the recipient of such an honor, he owed it to his less enlightened fellow humans to share his message when he returned. One problem. He had no message. Wait, sure he did—no more worrying over the little things, universal brotherhood, and cosmic transcendence; that’s what the world needed to hear. Ok, so they’d heard it before, but this was direct from the cosmos.

Financial freedom and international fame might provide the salve needed to heal his wounds. Pretty pictures projected across the wide screen in his head: television interviews, book deals, seminars, dump trucks filled with one hundred dollar bills, and girls…or maybe finally the right girl, someone he could love, and who would love him. Certainly the conduit between humanity and evolved life from other planets deserved a little compensation.

Just as his private jet super yogi fantasy reached cruising altitude, all engines flamed out, and the whole scene glided into a fireball on the side of a mountain. Nobody would ever believe him. He’d seen interviews of people who claimed kidnaped by UFO. Usually they looked like farmers romantically involved with their livestock, or frizzy haired Thorazine dabblers. Would he be any more credible?

First they’d stamp nutcase across his forehead, then job loss, followed by homelessness. From there it was a short step to dirt encrusted street prophet; a modern day, mentally ill John the Baptist, clothed in plastic garbage bags, who forced his story on repulsed pedestrians, as they circumnavigated another raving sidewalk lunatic. No, that wouldn’t work.

So why not stay on board? Worlds and galaxies, unmarred by humans awaited him. What an opportunity. Garbed in space suit, and powered by jet pack, he imagined himself propelled across a black infinity punctuated by dazzling bright lights. Wow! Travel. Adventure. No more dull routine. They couldn’t send him back; no way.

As if on cue, the two creatures appeared before him. Startled, he stood up. One of them touched his shoulder, and a warm feeling entered his throat. They’d help him, they were his friends.

When they got to the exam room, he knew what he had to do. Sell it, and sell it hard. Wasn’t that his specialty? Piece by piece, he laid it out. He could sweep floors, or do odd jobs—hell, even hand jobs if necessary. No laughs for that last line, not even a smirk. Maybe this was the wrong audience, better stay clean. Did they understand English? They hadn’t said a word. This was no time for negative thinking, he reprimanded himself. Keep up the momentum. Find their problem. Offer the solution, him. And if they didn’t have a problem, invent one. Sales 101 baby.

The pitch continued for about fifteen minutes, his strengths their weaknesses, his value their deficits, his advantages their disadvantages, until at just the right moment he ended with the most beautiful close he ever laid down. Silence. It was up to them now.

Their faces showed no change of expression. Seconds turned into an uncomfortable minute, and then another, and another. Beads of sweat broke out across his forehead. Wait, what was that on their lips? Yes, the unmistakable upward curl. A smile, and more important, their heads were nodding in agreement. He let out a relieved laugh. Hallelujah, he’d sold them. Now he could relax. So the painless examination proceeded, and for the first time in as long as he could remember he felt happy, or what he thought happy should feel like.

By the time they finished, a swell of love and gratitude had filled him like an overinflated tire tube, and he felt he might burst unless he gave them a hug. He reached up to put his arms on the back of their shoulders, and started to blubber something about friendship. The one on his right appeared to reciprocate his affection, but instead of alien flesh, he felt the touch of cold metal on his neck. His feet wobbled, the room blurred, like he’d downed some Blue Label with a Valium chaser.

“H-hey fellas, I feel…”

Blackness.

                                                                                                                                                           ***

A soft breeze brushed his eye lashes, and filled his nostrils with the scent of flowers, well not flowers exactly; more like floral Glade. He felt the tickle of grass blades on his bare ass. Sticky eyelids opened to an eerie blue sky, and although it was light, he saw no sun. His crackling vertebrae arched forward for a better vantage. A face. Human. With a long white beard and hair. The man smiled. The gesture was reciprocated. In one sit up motion, he positioned himself for a better look. Dressed in dirty wrinkled beige linen pants and jacket, sans shirt or shoes, the guy looked like a desert island castaway, or a lanky Kris Kringle.

“How do you feel Adam?” Kris asked.

“My name’s not Adam. What happened to my clothes?”

“I think you’ll like the Garden, Adam.”

“Did you undress me?” Adam asked, as he massaged his head in an attempt to jumpstart his brain, “Who are you?”

“I’m God.”

“Nice to meet you.” God huh? Yeah right, Adam thought. I’m either dead or crazy. If I’m dead, then maybe he is the almighty. Better ask, “Am I dead?”

“No Adam, you’re in paradise. Not quite heaven, but close.”

“Of course.” Ok, it’s crazy, he reasoned, and I’m in a nuthouse. This guy’s either an inmate, or one of the staff.

What was the last thing he remembered? The ship, the aliens…then what? They touched him with something…he blacked out…now he was here, stark naked…oh no. Those bastards ditched him, but not on Earth. The asphyxiated blue sky looked like nothing he’d ever seen.

Adam glanced down at his body once again—still nude. Had any molestation taken place while he’d been unconscious? Is that what his new buddy Kris meant by paradise? Maybe the aliens pimped him out to a haggard space queen. Green skinned seductresses, or pointy eared Star Trek hotties were one thing, but this was too much. Relax; he told himself, it was all speculation. Until he figured out the game, he’d pretend to be Adam, and Kris could play God…for now.

“I’m cold,” Adam said, starting to sweat. “Could I get some pants?”

“I can make it warmer,” Kris answered, sounding momentarily annoyed by the request, but quickly recovered his jovial demeanor. “You look well. Not surprising. The Gagutians have the reputation as some of the best specimen collectors in the galaxy. Eve’s looking forward to meeting you.”
“Eve?” At least there were women. “How about bathing trunks?”

“Let me show you around Adam.”

Adam followed him across a green meadow made of what felt like sponges under his feet. They stopped at an orchard, or something resembling one. Low lying branches bowed under the weight of donuts, Twinkies, corndogs, popcorn, ding dongs, as well a bunch of other innutritious garbage that hung like decorations on a junk food Christmas trees.

Guess I’ll skip the salad, Adam thought. He allowed himself takeout during late work nights, along with a few drinks, but for the most part, managed to eat healthy and exercise regularly. Still, he was hungry, and after a nod of approval from Kris, he reached for a shiny slice of pizza. No taste, maybe it went down too fast. His second bite was slow, and he allowed the mush in his mouth to roll around long enough to make a determination. The texture was what you’d expect, cheesy, doughy, saucy, but the taste was feint, like a piece of bland unseasoned chicken breast.

“I hope you like it. I’ve monitored Earth television transmissions to provide you with all your favorite foods. You can use that wooden pole lying in the grass to knock down what’s growing higher up.”

“It’s great,” Adam replied. Yeah great. He plucked a hamburger. The same. “Yummy.”

“Thirsty Adam? Take a drink from the Coca Cola stream.”

He got on all fours, and lapped up the liquid from the brown gurgling book. It tasted like unseasoned carbonated chicken.

“Refreshing?”

“Delicious.” Oh boy.

“Now open your mouth,” said Kris.

Adam hesitated, than complied. A longed stemmed soft thistle sprang up from the ground and brushed his teeth with jets of soapy foam and water. He gagged at first, but then relaxed. No taste, not even chicken.

“Good oral hygiene’s important Adam”.

“Ugh-seriously man, where am I?”

“Paradise.”

They resumed walking, and Adam soon found himself on a path that cut through a forest of tall pines. Less light got through, and he saw what appeared to be a big dog approaching them. It wasn’t until it came within thirty feet that he recognized it as a lion. What now? Play dead? Run? Too late, the beast was already sniffing him. All he could do was cover his exposed genitals. Fur brushed against his skin. Then the animal turned around, walked headfirst into a tree trunk, and collapsed. After a few twitches, it righted itself, and continued in the same slow meandering gait.

“Jesus F-ing Christ!” Adam cried, after he regained the power of speech. His body was covered with droplets of moisture, as if he’d been spritzed.

“Don’t worry Adam, they’re all friendly.”

“Friendly?”

“Their brains have been chemically altered. You can pet any of them.”

Adam kept alert for further wildlife. A little bit down the path he saw the backside of what appeared to be a large brown bear moving up and down. On closer inspection, he noticed a hippopotamus parked directly in front of it.

It took Adam a few moments of study before he exclaimed, “They’re fucking!”

“The wonder of nature Adam, the wonder of nature.” Kris pointed out a waterfall. “You can bathe there. It’s warm.”

The sky darkened to gunmetal grey when they reached a clearing that contained a king sized canopy bed. Kris pulled back the covers, and Adam eased himself onto the mattress. As if someone had turned off a light switch, the place went pitch black. A few seconds later tiny scattered lights appeared against the backdrop of the dark sky, and provided a hint of illumination. Kris drew the quilt up to Adam’s chin.

“Good night Adam.”

“Good night God.”

Once the sound of footsteps had faded, Adam started to chuckle, followed by machine gun bursts of laughter. I’m going to crack, he thought, and then laughed some more.

The light hit him like a set of high beams. Day. He pulled the cover over his head, and curled into a fetal position. No more. It was the pressure against his bladder that pushed him out of bed. About one hundred feet away stood a blue plastic structure that looked like a Port-o-Potty. When he opened the door he was relieved to find a sink and toilet.

Breakfast consisted of fresh picked chicken flavored Pop-tarts and Twinkies. The waterfall shower made his skin tingle, and he scooped up handfuls of the lavender scented suds that built up around him. Rested, clean, and fed, he could now think about escape.

First he needed to get his bearings. How? Just pick a direction and walk. So that’s what he did. Along the way he observed more plant life. Most of it looked plastic, like what you’d find in a dental office. Every once in a while he’d spot a monkey, zebra, badger or some other Discovery Channel specimen. He even saw an elephant. All the species exhibited the same type of behavior; stagger around as if drugged, fall down, get up, and do it again. Kris was right, they seemed harmless enough. The first sighting of the pooper scoopers, as he later named them, sent him scurrying behind a bush.

These machines were like golf carts with tank treads. A rotating metal head was fixed on top, and out of each side protruded four arms, eight in total. Every one of their mechanical extremities had a different landscaping implement attached to the end of it, such as saws, shovels, rakes, hooks and claws, as well as a few other tools. There was a big sliding door on their chests that opened up to a fiery furnace. That’s where the animal droppings were shoveled. Aside from that, their other job seemed to be performing basic maintenance on the lawns, shrubs, and trees. They ignored him, so after a short observation, he continued his trek.

It wasn’t long before he reached the one hundred foot high hedgerow that acted as perimeter fence. Adam tried to poke through it, but the densely packed sharp and jagged leaves pierced his flesh. When he retracted his arm there were small rivulets of blood. He washed his cuts in a brook, and dabbed them with clumps of grass until the bleeding stopped.

After he walked along the entire green fence, he estimated its circumference at about five miles. It surrounded the entire garden like a shrub fortress. Packed tight like bunched up barbed wire, the foliage would rip anyone to pieces who attempted to borough through. Due to its height, scaling it also seemed impossible. Maybe he could cut down some trees to build an extended ladder, but without an ax, how? The best thing to do was return to the stream, take a swim, and wait to talk to Kris again in the hopes of gathering some useful information.

“Adam, Adam!” It was Kris, leading someone by the hand.

Adam’s heart raced as he emerged from the water. The blurry companion took gradual shape. A female…a naked female…an attractive naked female. Adam soon found himself standing directly in front of her. He ransacked his brain for the appropriate greeting, but came up with nothing.

“Adam, this is Eve.”

Under normal circumstances he would have appreciated the youthful lithe body, creamy freckled skin, and shoulder length chestnut hair that draped her face’s delicate features. Instead, he focused on her watery eyes, bulged out as if they were being pushed from behind their sockets. Her whole body trembled, as if in vibrate mode.

“Eve came on the same transport as you,” Kris continued. “From a place called Kansas.”

Poor kid, she’s hysterical, Adam thought. Who knows what that bastard did to her? She couldn’t be any older than early twenties, maybe as young as seventeen. The way girls developed these days, there was no way to be sure without a driver’s license or birth certificate.

“It’s OK. I’m not going to hurt you.” Adam said.

She opened her mouth slightly, and hiccupped.

“Adam’s right my dear, our only concern is your happiness,” said Kris, as he stroked her hair.

She let loose a stream of piss for what seemed like forever, but was probably only thirty seconds. Both men remained silent until she finished, then Kris cleared his throat and said, “If you like Eve, you can play with the animals later.”

She hiccupped again.

“And then enjoy a snack at the orchard,” Kris added.

Her face scrunched tighter and tighter, only to expand with a shriek. “Oh God, Oh God!” she cried.

“I’m right here,” Kris replied.

She wheeled around, and bolted like a track star. If not for the TV remote control looking device Kris pulled from his pocket, she might have made it into the woods. One zap collapsed her into a tangled heap.

Adam stared at the spectacle, and yelled, “You killed her!”

He ran over to Eve, and checked her pulse. She was still alive. Kris approached. Adam stood up, his muscles and fists tightened like a compressed spring.

“I’m tired of your games,” Adam spat.

Kris pointed the weapon at Adam’s chest, and said in the firm controlled tone of a parent addressing a naughty child, “I’m a loving God, but even loving Gods have their limits.” Then in his friendly voice he continued, “No need for worry my son, she’s only stunned. This new environment has caused a cognitive break from reality, but I can fix her. It just might take a little bit longer.

Adam’s jaw unclenched, and he sat down on the grass. Not yet. The time wasn’t right. Two pooper scoopers rolled in. One grabbed Eve by the wrists, the other by her ankles, and then disappeared with her behind a cluster of shrubbery. Kris followed them.
Adam sprawled out on a field of soft grass peppered with little purple flowers. Next to him lay a leopard. As his hand stroked the soft fur on its belly, it twitched, and drooled.

Thoughts of escape bounced against the walls of his skull like a rubber ball in an indoor squash court. He had to get out of here, and take the girl with him. There was no way he would leave her behind with that madman. Somewhere Eve had family, friends, and a life. She needed to get home.
But how? Where and what was this place? A planet? Asteroid? Without a ship, returning to Earth seemed impossible. The first thing was to get across the hedgerow. It was there for a reason. Most likely Kris only controlled the grounds within the parameter. What was on the other side? Monsters? Aliens? Bigger lunatics? Death? It didn’t matter. A lifetime spent praying to a douchebag seemed worse than any potential dangers beyond the hedge.
The plan was simple. Overpower Kris and beat the answers out of him. All he needed was to get hold of the remote control. He wondered if there was a way to commandeer those pooper scoopers, so they could construct a rampart big enough to scale the barrier wall. There were more than enough trees around to do the job. The crucial main thing was to wait for the right moment. Play it cool, then strike fast and hard.

Funny, Adam thought, he’d always been a prisoner, even back home. The difference was that there, the prison was of his own design. Each brick had been formed from composites that no longer meant anything; the car, the house, the wife, the career, the validation of his peers. Now they all appeared as weightless illusions, to be dispersed in the wind, like a puffy dandelion head blown away by a child’s exhalation.

When he awoke the next day he jogged the enclosure’s perimeter, followed by multiple sets of chin ups, pushups, and sit ups. By the time the workout was finished his body surged with optimism. Afterwards he bathed, ate breakfast, and then walked around the grounds in search of relevant clues. Finding nothing of value, he returned to his encampment to recharge under the waterfall.

“Adam, Adam.”

It was Kris. Eve was with him. She no longer trembled, nor expressed any other signs of fear. Adam looked in her eyes. Nothing. They were like empty rooms cleared of all trace of an evicted tenant.

“Say hi to Adam, Eve.”

“Hi,” she said.

“Are you hurt?” asked Adam.

“Hi,” she replied.

“What’d he do to you?”

“Hi.”

“Is that all you can say?”

“Hi.”

Adam stared at Kris, who smiled and said, “Her vocabulary’s a bit limited, but it’s only temporary. You’ll find her much calmer. She’s also toilet trained, and can bathe and feed herself.”

He looked to the girl, then Kris, and said, “What’d you do to her?”

“Just a little chemical adjustment my son. To help her acclimate.”

Adam took a step towards them. Kris pulled the remote control out of his pocket.

“Relax God. I’m just going to sit her down on the bed.”

“Good. Show Eve around after she’s rested.” Kris walked off, and left the two of them alone.

Adam sat her down, and caressed her hair with his fingertips. Physically she looked healthy. Even her legs were shaved. So was the flesh between her legs. Kris had obviously groomed her. There was eyeliner, and a thin layer of makeup. Even the lips were painted. He detected the faint smell of lavender. Who knew what that freak had done to her?

At least her condition’s not permanent, Adam thought. When her mind came back, he’d alert her to his escape plans, and the two of them could work together. He placed her on her back. The best thing for her was probably a nap.

She laid there, expressionless, eyes blank. For the first time he appreciated her attractiveness. How long had it been since he’s been with a woman? It was the blond thirty-something pharmaceutical rep, a week before he’d been kidnapped. They’d wound up at his place after their third dinner date. She’d held out long enough to maintain etiquette. What was her name? Clarissa, Carissa, Claire?

He cupped her breast with one hand, and glided his other hand up her inner thigh, all the way to the end. No reaction. It wasn’t long before the full weight of his body was on top of her.

She screamed. Like a startled burglar caught in the owner’s house, he covered her mouth with his palm. Her nails dug into his cheek. With his other hand he gripped her wrist, and pinned it on the mattress. After he finished he rolled off, and searched her face for any signs of expression. Nothing. Her gaze was still fixed on the heavens. Adam flushed red.

“I-I’m sorry. I never…It’s just that…”

No response. The sky grew darker. He curled up on the opposite side of the bed, his back to her. It was a while before he fell asleep.
When he awoke the next morning Eve was still there, eyes open, but vacant. He shook her, gently at first, and then much harder. Not the slightest response. Next he checked her vitals. No pulse, no heartbeat, no breathing; dead.

“Oh God!” he cried, as he leapt off the bed. “God help me!”

Adam paced back and forth, stopping every minute or so to reexamine her. Each check yielded the same result. Rising tension boiled up in his brain, like a pressure cooker left too long on a hot stove. Just when he felt he might pass out, or explode, Kris appeared, and walked over to assess the deceased.

“What’d you do to her?” asked Kris.

“What do you mean, what did I do to her?

“I mean how’d you kill her?”

“Me?” Adam replied. “You must have overdosed her.”

“Maybe the dosage was a drop high. And that could’ve increased her susceptibility to shock, but still…”

“This whole place is one fucking electric shock treatment,” Adam replied, his gaze fixed on the ground. For a second he thought he might throw up, but it passed.

Both of them remained silent, until Adam said, “We should at least bury her, some kind of service.”

Kris stroked his beard and replied, “Of course.”

He pressed some buttons on the remote control. The pooper scoopers soon arrived. They pulled her off the mattress, and proceeded to remove her head and extremities with their saw blades. A fine mist of bloody drizzle covered the two men. Once she was in manageable pieces, they opened the furnace doors on their chests, and threw the parts inside. Done with their work, the machines drove off.

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” said Kris, with bowed head, and closed eyes.

Pow. Adam’s punch flattened Kris’s nose like an accordion, coloring his already red speckled mustache and upper beard a deep crimson. The remote control dropped on the grass. Kris reached down to pick it up, but as he touched it, Adam’s heel crushed God’s fingers and the device in one stomp, followed by a knee into Kris’s chin that laid him flat on his back. When Kris regained consciousness, he rolled over, got on his hands and knees, and spat out gobs of red ooze, along with a couple of teeth.

“Give me your jacket,” Adam demanded. Kris handed it to him, and he tied it around his waist like a skirt. “Who are you?”

“G-god.”

Adam knelt down, grabbed him by his neck, and asked, “You want more?”

“Steve. I’m Steve Zucker. From Earth.”

The former deity’s voice sounded muffled and weak from behind the balled up white handkerchief he’d taken from his pocket, and pressed against his mouth and nose.

“Explain,” said Adam.

Kris drew a deep breath and said, “I was kidnapped, like you, then sold to an intergalactic zoo. I spent twenty years in a glass cage, stared at like some god damned monkey by big pickle things with arms and legs. They’d bring their kids. All I had for company was a TV that could pick up Earth signals. I guess they weren’t all bad. This is a game reserve for the obedient animals. A place to spend our last days in peace. I guess it’s an ASPCA thing. You and the girl were brought here to keep me company. Fresh, vibrant humans. Undamaged by captivity.

“Undamaged by captivity? Tell that to Eve. And why’re you pretending to be God?”

Kris sat down, keeping the now saturated handkerchief in place, and said, “I wanted to be in control. Just once. Even back in Chicago, I was a slave to a mortgage, a bossy wife, ungrateful kids, crummy job. What if I could create a new world? A better one. If God exists, why’re there little babies burnt alive in car wrecks, cancer, cripples, beggars? Is He a sadist?

Adam smiled, “Maybe good couldn’t exist without bad.” He paused a few seconds and shook his head. “I fucked up man.”

“The girl?”

“Yeah, and other stuff. Where are we?”

“A piece of real estate floating on top of what we’d call a worm hole. The hedge is for our own protection. If you leave the garden, you could get transported to a million different places in the universe, depending on where you exit. It’s a crapshoot. How’d you like to windup rubbing shoulders with six foot talking cockroaches, or swimming in an ocean of hot lava. At least we’re safe here. There’s food. A female …well, at least you’re still alive. They’ll bring more women, ones not so fragile. And I’m working on modifying the drugs, so they’ll be safe, and fun. It could be nice.

“Good luck.” Adam said, as he headed towards for the orchard for a last meal.

“You’ll never make it.”

Before leaving, Adam turned around and asked, “Why does everything taste like chicken?”

“Try to explain food flavors to aliens. How do you describe cherry, or steak? Chicken was the best they could come up with. I guess it’s universal.”

The bright red apple caught Adam by surprise. It was the only non-processed item hanging from the tree. He took a bite. Sweet, just like on Earth. Lucky mistake or intelligent design? Did it matter?

It took the rest of the day to stuff enough animals into the sharp hedge to form a tunnel coated with blood drenched fur and hanging entrails. He hoped it would afford enough protection to reach the other side. The furry creatures put up no resistance when Adam grabbed them by their legs, and smashed their skulls against a jagged boulder. Then he stuffed each one in with the pole from the orchard, like he was packing a cannon’s barrel. At about the ten foot mark, he could feel one of the carcasses drop out the other side. I can crawl ten feet, he told himself.

After he completed the passageway lined with the corpses of rabbits, otters, hedgehogs, and beavers, he made a diaper out of Kris’s jacket, and positioned a dead raccoon in the crotch area for added protection. By the time he was ready to go, Adam was coated in reddish-purplish-brownish slime. Fuck it, he thought, just before he stuck his arms in. Not bad. A little pressure, maybe a few scrapes. The animal hides would do the job. He felt confident enough to stick his head in.

Positioned like a flying Superman, he felt his fingertips reach open space. A few inches further allowed him to use two squirrels as palm protectors, in order to grab the hedge’s other side for leverage. Air was getting through. Putrid air, but air none the less.

The hot stench, darkness, and pressure were getting to him. Mouthfuls of warm mammal guts that had to be repeatedly spit out didn’t help. At last he reached past his elbows. His fingers probed the surface on the other side; hard concrete, like a sidewalk. Soon he’d be able to use the full strength of his upper extremities. Then, as if he’d been thrown into a school of ravenous piranhas, sharp daggers started to puncture him all over his body. He felt a crush of weight. No matter how hard he pulled he remained stuck, like a cork wedged in a bottle.

The pressure increased, and made the leaves cut deeper into his flesh, like he was trapped inside a spiked Iron Maiden. His chest was so compressed, he couldn’t even scream. How long this went on was hard to tell. It seemed the agony had always been there, and would always be there. But then it stopped. Cold numbness replaced hot pain. You’re bleeding to death, he thought.

One more try. The push moved him a half inch forward. Like a wounded worm, he slithered towards freedom, increment by tiny increment. When his face emerged he took as large a breath as his injured thorax would permit. If only he could see, but one eye was cut, the other glued shut with muck. By the time he reached his belly button, he’d lost the raccoon jockstrap. Please God, not the balls, he prayed, just before he delivered the final thrust that popped him all the way out of his hole. He lay on the ground like a newborn covered in afterbirth.

Hands. Cold. Liquid. Cloth. Pressure.

“He’s cut up pretty bad, but he might make it if we get him back in time for a transfusion,” said the unknown male voice.

“My balls?” Adam asked.

“Still there,” the male voice replied.

“Where’d he come from?” asked a female voice. “And how’d he get covered in road kill.” She sounded efficient, but concerned.

“Are either of you God?” asked Adam.

“No pal. Try to relax. We’ve got to get you on the stretcher,” said the male voice.

“Am I?” asked Adam.

“Are you what?”

“God.”

“Buddy, you can be anything you want,” answered the male voice. “Just stay still.”

Adam smiled before he lost consciousness.

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About Richard Solomon

RK Solomon lives in New York City. Science fiction is his preferred writing genre, and he believes most world problems could be solved by the ethical application of physics. He enjoys the occasional slice of pizza, as well as the view from the George Washington Bridge. Although basically apolitical, he would like to see a slowdown in the United States decent into corporate fascism. Right now his two favorite celebrities are Edward Snowden and Julian Assange.