The night was humid and hot, with no immediate relief in sight. The solitary fan busy rotating the thick, soupy air that permeated porous skin, unable to sate or ease its uncomfortableness. Two cold showers in, and still sleep would not come. Living in the rafters was not for the faint-hearted, for the summers tended to be brutal when you laid underneath the Sun.
Lying in her bare skin, Eve lay listening to the noises of the restless night: neighbors, unable to sleep, outdoors, laughing and talking late into the night; children, behind walls, put to bed yet crying in desperation of the night. The deafening sounds of the cicadas.
She thought of the decision she had made and wondered if, in time, she would come to regret it. It had not been an easy one. Anger and sadness had accompanied her for most of the past year until at last she finally accepted what she knew she had to do. Her history left her no choice. Adam supported her all the way. He too, felt the chances were much against her favor. There were other alternatives they could in the future pursue, he said, where others will be blessed by this unfortunate tragedy. And it was this that made the decision easier.
In time, she dozed off. Just before she drifted off to sleep, she thought she heard the distant clap of thunder; finally, relief would soon come.
But sleep came cloaked in the fear of the unknown filling her with the dreaded anticipation of the morning once dawn came. Unable to sleep fitfully, she at last opened her eyes. The night had become unusually quiet, much like the nights of Savannah. How long had she slept? She imagined a couple of hours had passed because the rains had left a much grateful coolness in the air. She took note of the stars and how particularly bright they shone. But, mostly, she took note of the quiet. The world had suddenly become void of sound.
She began to drift away from her bed, floating above herself. Oh, she was sleeping! She saw herself lying next to Adam, both soundly asleep unaware of what was happening to her. Was she dying? Is this how one experienced death? But she was so healthy. She tried hard to control this nightmare, if it was a nightmare, willing herself back to her Self, yet her body, indiscriminate to her will, kept floating higher and higher.
She awoke to a sterile, bright, gleaming environment. She lay lifeless on a stainless steel table, much like those where corpses lay waiting to be autopsied. The table's numbing coldness sent shivers up her bare spine. She could not move, physically frozen, unable to move muscle or twitch. Yet, she was not strapped down nor held still by hands. The only thing that remained alert were her brown, terrified eyes.
She watched as a pair of elongated, dark, gray figures stood over her, scanning her with their eyes. Two deep cavities for eyes - two black holes that held her captive. No ears, nose or mouth. Long, elongated arms that ended with three long slimy fingers touched her belly.
The one closest to her, The Gray One, held a silver, rectangular object in its hand. It stood over her body and began to scan the object over her entire body. Once it was done, The Gray One looked at The Other and began to speak. She understood their language?
“How are you feeling?”
“Fine,” she responded. Yet her mouth did not move and was not afraid.
“You are well. Healthy.”
The Gray One turned to The Other, “She is still not fully cognizant.” They passed the rectangular object over her again.
She answered to her given name, “Greetings, Xuch.”
“Greetings. How are you doing?”
“As well as can be expected. The vessel is defective.”
“The vessel is young and the defectiveness of which you speak is only due to current lifestyle. She is healthy and she will do. Do not let her youth mar your mission.”
“I will not, but let me state again that her youth was a problem that concerned me from the beginning and which I voiced to the Elders. They are prone to do foolish things with their lives that may jeopardize our project. As you recall, I was opposed to this particular project because of the immaturity level of this particular species. We are wasting our time here.”
“Do not believe that, Zexura. There is much to learn here. And we cannot succeed without the knowledge you gain from your stay here and Eve's behavior."
"Overall, I don't see how we can learn anything from them. They are inferior."
"Intellectually, yes. They will always be. It will take another millennia for them to reach our level of understanding. But don't lose sight of why we are here. They are the only species left in the Universe that can still carry life. You have been successful in your melding. It is important that you bring that knowledge back with you. It is imperative if we are to survive. "
"I have absorbed everything, from the minute to the mundane. I don't see how this will help us, but you will not be disappointed. She is so young Xuch. I still believe I would have learned more from a more mature vessel."
“The young carry the healthiest eggs. Finding a more mature vessel would greatly reduce our chances of succeeding. These are desperate measures as you know. We are slowly ceasing to exist. We will die as a species soon if we do not find the answer to our sterility. Earth is our last hope.”
“So, I assume you brought me here today to begin impregnation?"
“Correct. I will inject the vessel with our organism and next time she will talk love with her mate, our organism will meld with theirs and you then begin your study of its creation. You have an insider's view. Find the missing link. In nine months time, we will bring you home so the organism can be excavated and incubated into our own life liquid for assimilation."
"Have you been having any success with the others?"
“None. Some have died at gestation, others at incubation. You will be the first explorer to stay for the duration of the human gestation. I believe our failure before was a result of bringing the organism home too soon. We believe that by leaving the organism to thrive with the human fetus until the human part of it is fully-formed and ready, that this time, success will be ours. You are our last hope. Do this well, Zexura. We are counting on you. For Xaphalon, our Mother Planet."
"For Xaphalon," Zexura concurred.
Zexura was injected and dozed off again.
An uncomfortable pinch in her belly woke her. She felt her belly and found a welt the size of a penny. Whatever it was that bit her was nasty. She thought of tomorrow. The day she would have her hysterectomy. Only 23 years young, yet her mother, and now two sisters had lost the fight against ovarian cancer. So far, she was healthy. But history held the cloak of death before her eyes. She had made the right decision.
Eve turned and put an arm over Adam. She tried to remember the dream she had just had. It was there, tantalizing her on the surface, yet she could not grasp it. In the end, it produced nothing. Outside, the sound of the cicadas filled an empty night.