The 7th Night
by Robert Thorn
(Editor's note to readers: This story contains graphic scenes that some readers might find disturbing. You have been warned.)
It was the seventh night that I realized it would be pointless to continue any type of resistance. It was all too clear that they were going to do what they intended to do and no feeble struggle on my part would stop them. I had tried vehemently to stop them in the beginning, but none of my attempts at retaliation yielded any hope of success. This fact unfortunately forced me into an uncharacteristic state of pacification and submission, which I must say I now regret.
Guns had virtually no physical effect on them. The deadly bullets rendered nothing more than tidy little holes in their skin, which sealed almost before I could follow with a second round. It matter not whether I fired into their face, head, or body. Furthermore, the irritation caused by the gunfire, triggered a merciless outburst in which they would pierce my spine with thin needles to make their point. Needless to say, gunfire was useless and unwise, unless of course I had the courage to turn it on myself, which I did not.
Verbal protests were also fuel for their unpredictable tempers. My screams and curses would be played back at monumental volumes during the period of my nightly transfers to their realm, sometimes causing my ears to literally bleed. I'm sure they could understand or at least conceive the meaning of my spitting assaults, which made me feel a little better, but it was not worth the replay back into my own ears like millions of rooting worms.
My last and most reluctant hope had been the disclosure of my situation to a few close friends. During my tentative confessions, I was careful to throw out small pieces of the puzzle at a time so that I could avoid committing myself to an eternal badge of insanity if the person seemed unwilling to open his or her mind to the reality of it all. If this was the case, I would then carefully sew up the remaining conversation with a suture tight enough to prevent it from coming back to me as a vengeful ghost. In most cases I was referred to the quick and easy solution of relaxation or professional counseling, which would have been the worst thing for me.
As I awaited their arrival on the night in question, I did not bother with the pretense of sleep (even if it were possible) and lay awake contemplating an escape that could not occur. For the most part, escape would require the presence of walls, bars, or locked doors, physical or otherwise, which in this scenario simply do not exist. In the beginning I had tried to hide, sleeping elsewhere or confining myself to a remote location, but no tunnel was too dark, no well too deep, or no island too deserted for them to lose sight of my laughable business of evasion. They would find me and return me instantly to the dreaded road of transfer from this world to theirs (wherever that may be) punishing me with confinement in a dark tube for the inconvenience.
As I mentioned, I was unable to grasp any hint of orientation which could provide even a general idea of where they were taking me, although I have become all too familiar with the dark denizens and strange landmarks of my interior destination within their facilities.
Some will suggest that this interior destination lies somewhere on the troubled vistas of my mind, but as physical pain will tell you, this explanation would be too desirable a solution. No, there is no doubt that I have been physically moved somewhere outside of my normal realm of existence during these apprehensions and placed under the all-seeing microscope of their unmerciful probing. I have scars to prove it.
The rooms in which I was confined to endure the unspeakable experiments were of shockingly primitive construction. The walls were made of haphazardly chiseled rocks which resembled greenish marble. Dirt, trash, and unidentifiable organic matter were littered along the room's edges in a purely careless fashion. Odd-shaped gelatinous masses affixed on the ceiling provided a purplish glow, giving the room a black-light type aura. I would have believed this place to exist on earth, but its entire feel, including the air, the strange appearance of physical matter like dirt, and my gut intuition told me otherwise. Their gift of advanced intelligence seemed to clash with their choice of environments.
I first thought that during those times which I lay naked, sprawled upon that chilling black surface in their laboratory (for lack of a better word), that I was not the only one undergoing the unrelenting subjectivity of their curiosity. But my beliefs were altered after the third visit when I was placed in a room where I could hear the distant sounds of screams and moans. However cold and selfish, I felt relieved at this prospect of companionship.
My first impression of the voices had been the obvious conclusion that they were screams and moans of pain just as mine were. But at a later visit, in which I was quartered within immediate earshot, I heard something more haunting swirling among the tortured wails. Screams and moans of pleasure! Not the pleasures of my own human-kind, but of their kind with slightly warbling timbres whose attributes could not be achieved by our thinner throat cavities. I was not mistaken! Their voices I knew intimately just as I might know that of a friend or television personality, although what they spoke was as enigmatic as the remotest foreign language. My horror now had been compounded by this discovery. As my every threshold for anguish was being explored, they engaged in carefree sexual pursuits next door. My brain seethed at the thought.
A test which I suspected had a close relationship to these horrible sounds in the next room, came in the form of an unbound visitor to my room. It was a girl wearing a restricting apparatus that only exposed her body in brief strips of flesh which managed to poke out between the straps of its confinement. Her head was the only section of her body excluded from its uncomfortable application which ended at the top of her throat. Its ruddy black color contrasted with her white skin as it clamped in awkward and seemingly random points around her body. The harsh material stretched between these clamps giving her an obvious burden of dull pain.
I reached out to her as if I were Frankenstein's monster and she were my bride, thrust together by the tragedies of our haunted existence. The curious abductors watched behind veiled glass. I could not see them, but their burning contemplation of my outward reactions to the woman bore into my back nonetheless.
Her face smiled despite pain, raising her pure white cheeks ever so slightly, as she approached me. Her beauty could not be annulled by the hopeless condition and I wanted to free her from this terrible captivity no matter what the cost. But I did not get this chance. She was hastily removed by a rough orderly as they gauged my reaction. I never really understood the purpose of her visit.
During the ordeal which had robbed me of six nights over the last month, I had lost my own incarnation of beauty whom I had planned to marry as soon as my financial situation stabilized. Lorna and I had been together since I had moved to Arizona three years ago. It had been the most satisfying relationship of my life, although I will be the first to admit that I was not always the ideal mate. In our second year I had an affair with a neighbor who shockingly confessed to Lorna in a state of drunkenness. I had seriously damaged our relationship, but was able to save it through counseling. Only Lorna would have forgiven me for such a n outright abuse of trust. I never thought of such a thing again.
Looking back, I realize now that she could not have been expected to comprehend the things which were happening as she slept peacefully beside my vacant side of the bed. My description of the first two ordeals invoked a pitiable laughter which danced uncomfortably across her slender face. To her it must have seemed like a tasteless joke. Resentment began to burn inside me at her shallow treatment of my circumstance, but I had to give her a chance to consider my plea. I tried again two more times to convince her of my dire need for her understanding in the matter, but each time my case seemed more like a well-constructed science fiction story than reality. I could feel the separation hardening like a concrete wall between us and began to unexpectedly explode with anger at my merciless abductors. The pools of midnight sweat, bouts of maniacal frustration, and late night disappearances were more than she could endure. She finally left. I could not blame her.
Regardless of my personal problems, the seventh night eventually led to the familiar black table. I barely took notice of the journey. They had already removed my clothes and I could feel the heavy stare of their bulbous eyes bearing down on my vulnerability as they must have been reviewing the night's agenda in their alien heads. I tried to transport my mind from this torturous anticipation, but I have never been good at fooling myself. The touch of their cold hands brought me back to the reality from which I never escaped.
As he/it/she touched me with one hand near the lower portion of my body, the other brought forth a long steely rod ending in a sharp crescent, which looked like a large dental pick. In ritual, I tested the gravitational shackle which held the four corners of my limbs in scientific crucifixion. They were as firm as iron chains.
It lowered the pick instrument toward my thigh where it paused in search of the proper destination. Finally I felt it bore into the tender flesh of my left inner thigh as he pushed it forcefully with his long fingers. The pain shot like boiling mercury into my brain like the trip of a familiar switch. I gasped, but did not scream.
Rotating and finally positioning the instrument to its satisfaction, the creature reached for a thread-thin cable, which he connected to the end of the steel pick. A machine began to beep erratically somewhere in the room, but I did not seek its origin. He monitored some type of reaction on a small screen, occasionally adjusting the pick with a painful nudge. I had no idea what this procedure revealed to him, but it was a constant pain to me.
Next, he retrieved a device which looked something like a toothed clamp. It was dark in color and grimacing in its closure giving it the appearance of burnt animal fangs. It's pointed teeth ended in clusters of small red pins, adding to the macabre appearance of the tool.
He squeezed one end and the jaw opened. He mumbled something as I felt the teeth clamp into my tender area, just below my manhood. Without warning, he squeezed it unmercifully. I groaned heavily and held my eyes shut, desperately searching for that far away land called oblivion.
A second alien entered through one of the arched portals, pushing a sort of floating tray full of additional tools and meters. He positioned it within reach of the surgeon and left it hovering in place while he moved to the end of the table where my head lay. He stooped to pass his scornful gaze over the area. I opened my eyes and looked at him as he looked at me. He had a converging brow, which dropped like a "V" between his eyes to form an elongated face which fell in a drastic point. Despite the inhuman features, I could not mistake the look of scorn which drew up his small mouth and lowered his brow . His eyes focused a moment directly into mine, but they did not belie any hint of the actual thoughts that lay beyond their glassy meniscus. I had pondered the creature's motivations for my torturous ordeals since their inception and could not decipher whether there was an end purpose to them or just curious exploration. No matter the answer, patient well-being was definitely not on their list of concerns.
I had hoped that the new tray of instruments was merely a formality, but much to my horror, several new devices were to be employed. First, the surgeon pulled from its platter of portent, a twisting corkscrew type instrument, which he held up into the violet light as if to inspect its craftsmanship. The second creature moved to assist, bringing a small cup from the tray as they approached the end of the table where my head lay.
With the stealthy press of a button, I felt my head being pulled down against the table just as the invisible shackles held my limbs. I could no longer move my head in any direction leaving me no choice but to look straight up and await their next operation.
The cup was placed just below my ear as I strained with peripheral vision to get a better look. The corkscrew's sharp end was then positioned at the entrance to the same ear as the alien loomed above me. He began to twist the device counter-clockwise (which seemed illogical) with slow rotating spins. Moments later I felt its cold surface as it passed through the canal and began to make a purchase somewhere inside my skull. Pain shot like an exploding atom into my consciousness. I had never known a pain equal to this.
I do not remember how long it was before I stopped screaming, but I suddenly realized that my surgeons were slapping my face and the pain was gone. It must have been an overload, bursting past the pain threshold and falling into the realm of incomprehension because surely I would not have been still conscious otherwise. It is also possible that the steely point had penetrated the very center for pain-impulse gathering, slipping behind the sights of its monitor system. For whatever reason, thankfully I could no longer sense the device inside my brain.
The corkscrew device protruded from my ear canal and I could make out the faint reverberations of dripping as blood rolled into the cup. A whir of electrical force spun around my head as if I were being fed electrodes via the ear canal. I could not see the creatures, but I could hear their methodical movements behind me. I took the opportunity to saturate my brain with images of earth, filling it to the brim with the things I loved in an attempt to ward off that presence of death which loomed in the room. I pictured my ex-girlfriend, my car, my neighborhood, my favorite bar, football games; anything to remind me of sanity. If I could live through this, all other problems life could possibly launch would be nothing more than petty nuisances. For the moment I bathed in the child-like nobility of humanity, which undoubtedly evaded even the closest scrutiny of these vile creatures. But my mind was unexpectedly infiltrated with visions of human atrocities, which could have stood side by side with those of my captors in the universal hall of tortures. It seemed that no avenue led where I would have hoped and finally my mind lay still. There was nothing more they could do to make it worse. I clung to this thought solely.
Several minutes later, the pair of extraterrestrials returned to my outstretched body which I could feel with diminishing sensation. They made busy with an examination of my neck and made streaks across it with a gelatinous substance. One of them pulled an instrument from the tray that appeared to be a small box equipped with numerous hoses which ended in small teeth-filled mouths. It reminded me of a group of eels, swaying as he sat it on a stand near my left shoulder. I shuddered inside as I strained to see the device.
Suddenly all of the tooth-filled hoses sprang from their random bobbing and attached themselves to various locations along my chest and head. They bit into my skin with violent electric shocks and then held fast in a static position. The irritation grated on my brain, but the pain was not as severe now that they remained still.
What I saw next alarmed me more than anything I had seen or experienced thus far. As they argued over some point of dispute, one of the creatures produced a silvery saw which he held near my head. Guessing what horror the creature had in mind, I burst into a fit of fear and anger. I let out a series of threats and curses which would have been comprehensible to any regardless of the dialect they spoke. I pulled at my restraint, but no amount of force in my body could have freed me from it. My captors stood back, halting their own disagreement to watch my display. As usual they let me play out my pathetic expression as they scowled with irritation. Finally I stopped and the room returned to silence. My ineffectual outrage was moot. I knew this.
They moved above me again as the surgeon raised the saw and lowered it to the tender flesh of my neck. Within my mind I cursed God and all the entities in between one last time as I prepared for the impact. The alien, as if allowing me to complete my interior curses, then dug the saw into my neck with a quick thrust. Pain was reborn in full intensity. I could literally feel the end mounting my doomed body like a protesting lover as he hacked across the taut sinews which had once supported my head. How could a race so obviously advanced, revel in such primitive practices? I would obviously never have the possibility to consider.
A leaden haze crashed into my consciousness, squeezing the living impulses from its every private recess. All memories and beliefs spilled into the distance, dissipating as they went. I could no longer feel the pain as I took the cold palm of death into my own. For all my nights of suffering, at least now I would be free at last. Free from this carnal torture to fly light - years away from these nameless creatures. They would have me no more.
* * *
I was surprised beyond all measure when I awoke. My immediate thought was dream, but the familiar violet glow of my nightmare world betrayed this hopefulness without remorse. Somehow I was still alive despite the fact that my head had been severed from my body. Maybe the ordeal had been a partial dream or perhaps a hologram trick to test me. I gave this theory tentative reign until I could come up with something better.
I determined myself to be laying supine on a rather soft bed without the captivity of restraints. My head ached with a dull pulse as if I had drunk too much the night before and my eyes swirled with flashing blips of light causing me to be unable to focus clearly on any of my prison's features.
With great effort I rose like an ancient vampire until I was sitting upright, noticing that my body did not respond normally to the muscular commands as it usually did. Something felt strangely different about me, but I could not pinpoint a specific reason.
I was dressed in a gown of light, airy material similar to those I had seen on my alien torturers. It clasped somewhere at my neck and draped over my whole body like a dress. It had two slits for arms to protrude from the dressing, but they had not bothered fitting mine through. With the strange muscular control, which seemed hesitant to respond, I felt for the slits and tried to get my arms out. I was anxious to inspect my neck. It took an exorbitant amount of time due to the lack of control and also because my tactile sense was drastically altered. It was not that I was missing any of the usual sensory input to my fingers, it was just that I was picking up a jumbled array of new sensations which I was not accustomed to. The slight residue of body moisture within the gown was minutely discernible to my touch as if it were a thin layer of water covering the material. It was like a magnified sense of touch. I could also feel every individual thread of the alien material as my touch passed across their ridges as if they were enormous. It was a bombardment of information.
As I explored my heightened tactile capabilities, I now realized that the blips of light my eyes were seeing were the result of a heightened visual capability as well. I strained to focus my eyes on the flux of visual images existing even in the rather vapid and sterile room. I could now see the tiny molecules of oxygen and carbon monoxide colliding all around me. Insignificant fluctuations in lighting about the chamber were now readily visible as drastically different groups of light, shadow, and color. I had to force my eyes not to take in so many of the new images, so that I could focus on the task of extruding my arms from the cloaking garment.
At last I suppressed the jumbled data long enough to poke both arms through the slits. At first glance they appeared to be distorted, so I again tried to block out some of the visual clutter in order to get a better look. As my vision slowly stabilized, I came to the horrible realization that these hands which had come forth from under the gown were not mine. Yes, they were connected to my body and I did have control over their movements, but these were not the hands of a human (at least the type of human I had been yesterday). These hands were flat with eleven long, curving fingers; the hands of my alien captors!
Immediately I jumped from the table in an episode of panic, resulting in a harsh collision with the metallic floor. I found that my legs functioned as poorly as the rest of my body, flailing beyond my control . As I lay there, I reached to pull up the gown from its end to reveal my feet and legs. To my horror, these feet had not toes, but a single glossy hoof which was dark and rubbery. I cringed at the sight. Had I become one of them?!
I writhed awkwardly until I could pull myself to the edge of a mobile instrument tray near the far wall. I reached out and knocked it on its side, spilling its throng of gruesome devices onto the ground. I maneuvered its reflective metallic surface in front of my face and saw what I had suspected. I was one of them! I had been transformed into one of the shameless monsters which had tortured me beyond imagination. How they had done it, I could not even guess, but the distorted head in the silvery tray no doubt housed my own brain...my own soul.
Shoving the tray aside, I struggled to the corner of the room where I lay motionless and meaningless in my abhorrence. I despised myself. I shivered to think what else may lie underneath the concealing cloth of my garment and I dreaded to know what new horrors would be in store for me now that my physical humanity had been stripped.
I lay there for an unknown amount of time -- it too had become distorted -- gathering the courage for suicide. In a fit of rage I pounded my fist into my face. I wondered if I would even know how to kill such a body as this? The physiology would be different. I didn't know if I had blood to spill or the ability to do it, but I resolved to find out.
Maneuvering back to the scattered surgical instruments, I selected a scimitar curved scalpel and awkwardly gathered it into one of my hands (or should I say, one of their hands?). Its sharp smile held the deadly consequence that I sought.
I was selecting the point of slicing that the blade should take when I suddenly noticed that an extraterrestrial dressed in a tight uniform the color of blood had entered the room. I fumbled for the dexterity to slash the alien wrist, but he was on me before such a deserved release could be executed. He grabbed the blade from my hand and threw it aside and shoved me to the hard floor. I collapsed, unable to protest.
Shortly, he was joined by a second identically dressed creature who helped him lift me up. They forced me to stand, digging their long fingers into my upper arms. My alien legs worked poorly under me and I stooped as I tried to hold myself between them. They prodded me into walking, partially supporting me as I went. If I stumbled they would stick me with a sharp instrument, forcing me to adjust quickly to my new footfalls.
Gradually my control of the alien body increased and I was able to move myself along as the soldiers took me down a long hallway. We passed through a few nondescript foyers and finally arrived at the threshold of a closed door.
One soldier inserted a key which resembled a thin fork into a small hole, and the door lowered before us at a foreboding speed. My eyes, which had also become more used to the change, fell upon a group of beings which were dressed in the same thin covering that I was. They stood in a loosely formed line that snaked up to a dark portal at the far side of the room, whose open breadth leaked grayish smoke.
One of my escorts pushed me into the room and to the back of the line, where I joined the others. He backed away making sure that I would not protest or try an escape. I stood, fearing worse consequences if I were to try any type of retaliation. Satisfied that I would remain, he backed through the doorway and disappeared behind its closing maw.
I turned to inspect the being in front of me as he turned to face me. I saw my own alien horror reflected in his visage as I surveyed his own alien features. Somewhere behind those bulbous eyes I thought I could sense humanity, but was afraid to profess my suspicion.
"Yes, I am human," he suddenly spoke in a warbled and barely comprehensible alien voice. I faced him, but said nothing in return. My caution was still in full operation.
"I can understand your apprehension, but it is safe to relax now. My name is, or was, Gerald Becker. What has been done to you was also done to me. I was human too."
"Why?!" I said at last, fumbling with the alien speech equipment in my throat. The tongue in my new mouth was thicker and the jaw moved differently making it difficult to duplicate human speech, but he seemed to be able to comprehend.
"You will get better. It's hard to control the alien body at first, but our brains adapt quickly." He paused. "As for the reason we have suffered this cruelty? Procreation."
I tried harder to control the awkward mouth movements. "You mean this is how they create new members of their race?"
"Not exactly," he said, as we were prompted along with the moving line. "We are now their procreators if you will. You see, they have lost the ability to procreate within their own species. They cannot function sexually. They need our human capabilities in order to avoid extinction of their ancient race."
"How do you know all of this?" I said, trying to grasp the bizarre picture he was rendering.
"The same way you know.." He pointed to the alien creature in line before him.
His face contorted with a sudden seizure, but it disappeared quickly. "The seizures are a side effect I suppose." He went on. "The brain centers for creating sexual hormones have grown dormant in the male of their species through a suppression for such activities. Only the females still have these working centers due to their natural maternal instincts. We have become surrogate fathers so to speak."
I was beginning to think that the situation may not be totally rotting with torment. Although the alien bodies were foreign, they were not drastically different from human. I was not sure if I had seen a female of the species as of yet, but at least if I were to be a slave now, it was of the sexual sort. I grabbed to my crotch in a sudden inspiration, but found nothing familiar. "How do these alien bodies perform?" I asked my friend.
"Similar to a human body, but not entirely the same. Feel the nodule at the back of your head."
I felt a small bump with a large pore type opening under the thin layer of hair covering my alien skull.
"That is your genitalia opening," he said, waiting for my reaction.
"I have never done it, so I could not tell you. All of us here are newcomers. After you are experienced, you are kept in a different part of the sector. It is supposedly more lavish in the way of accommodations."
"I can't believe this," I said shaking my strange visage in human mimic. "Why would they pick us for surrogate fathers."
"It must have to do with our tremendous appetite for sex. Just look at our society. It's ingrained in everything we do. We must have been the obvious choice."
"Guess so, but it still seems so unreal. How long can we last in these alien bodies?"
"That's the catch. We'll be here a long time because their life span is over 2000 years long," he said, checking the status of the line. We had moved considerably.
"That's a lot of...well I don't really know yet, but it looks like we'll know soon enough."
We stood in silence contemplating our own parallel fates. The line ebbed slowly to the time of enlightenment.
I re-examined my alien features and wondered if I would ever be at home in this strange shell. It seemed a paradox that my humanity could still burn so intensely even though less than five percent of its physical mass remained alive, hidden within a form constructed light-years beyond my own.
I awkwardly extended my alien appendage to that of Gerald Baker as his turn came to duck inside the hazy chamber. I could hear his footsteps trail into the distance as I stood awaiting my own turn. I could feel an all too human rumbling of nervousness in my alien gut. At least I knew that they were capable of fear.
Finally, a uniformed alien grabbed me roughly by the shoulder and pulled me into the misty darkness behind the door. At first it was almost impossible to see, but eventually we entered a zone where the mist was not so heavy. He led me toward a row of metal doors which looked something like the individual stalls of a horse stable. Strange moans accompanied by intermittent shrieks were audible now, giving me a disorienting heady sensation. I tried vainly to cast them from my mind.
I was shown to my designated stall, where the alien escort let go of me long enough to swing open its creaking girth. Then, without warning he effortlessly thrust my uncoordinated body into its opening and slammed the door. I heard the disturbing clang of a lock.
I had fallen on a layer of gooey liquid which coated the floor of the stall, but had suffered no injury that I was aware of. Gathering my courage, I heaved myself upright again and stood warily to confront whatever effeminate creature would be my deign.
The shadows in the chamber obscured my view of the total depth of the stall, but I could hear her anticipatory breathing within that hazy veil. She seemed to be preparing herself for the encounter and unsure of my role, I remained still.
After a few eternal moments, she emerged from the shadows and stood before me as I focused on her unfamiliar form with my alien eyes. At first I believed they might have been distorting the vision I was perceiving, but after a few seconds it was unquestionable that what I saw was real.
The female in no way resembled the human-like male, whose body I had been given. She was a completely different type of entity, far more alien and horrible. Long barbed appendages emanated symmetrically from her body, which resembled a rotting egg yolk. In the center of the gelatinous mass, a dark undulating hole blinked in heart-like rhythm as it spurted a substance like brownish pus. Somewhere deep inside my alien form nausea began to boil. She slunk closer toward me. I could feel her staring with hungered intent, though I could not discern any visible eyes.
My head imploded with the horror of my mate. I turned and grasped the stall's door and pulled violently. It would not budge. She edged even closer, emitting a jasmine type odor which surrounded me in a cloud. As I grappled with its unlikely fragrance, I could feel the familiar awakening of sexual energy inside me. I tried desperately to suppress it, but its persistent urgency would not leave my mind. I thought of scaling the enclosure wall, but I could not reach its top in order to pull myself upward. I was trapped.
The probing appendages were upon me as I backed into the corner, surrendering to the inevitability of the union. Escape was impossible and understandably so. I would be another surrogate for the extension of their race. An unwilling catalyst for evolution, used until I was spent and cast into the pit with all the other nameless fossils whose purpose had been forgotten.
Her limbs grasped me in a way that was both loving and inimical at the same time, tilting my head toward the yellowish mass which was her body. I shrieked with my alien tongue, but what came forth was entirely human. As I neared the spattering, jellied skin of her interior, I came face to face with all that repels us from the odious bodies of insects, reptiles, and slugs; the numerous paranoia's that plague the human mind and falsely elevate us above our true origin. The fragrance could not mask the horror that enveloped me in her bosom, a creation that had long ago been selected for extinction, but had ironically persevered through its abuse of nature. Her limbs clutched my neck. My head disappeared into the hole.
Story copyright © 1998-99 by Robert Thorn <email@example.com>
Artwork copyright © 1998-99 by GAK <firstname.lastname@example.org>