A Visit to the Doctors
by Mark Anthony Brennan
What's happening to me?
Anne tried to pick up her head but she felt so weak and dizzy she had to lie back again.
She stared at the ceiling. Her vision was blurry, but what she could make out looked odd. Although made from a plastic-like substance, the ceiling seemed to be crudely carved like a dug-out canoe. There were patches of light in the ceiling -- not light fixtures but merely areas that glowed. At least, that's how it appeared to Anne. The ceiling also appeared to be awfully close. But then she was probably just imagining....
*Hey, where the hell am I, anyway?*
Mustering her strength, and fighting the dizziness, Anne propped herself up on her elbows. She tried hard to examine the room through her swimming vision. The room was large enough to hold several other (ten?) beds like her own. Most were empty but over by the far wall there was at least one other person laying down. What was that thing over that other bed? Some kind of machine hovering over the person.
Anne recalled the last thing she could remember before she awoke here (or was it a dream?) She had been out walking at night. Suddenly there were bright lights above her. A helicopter? No, it had been much larger than that, and the sound was different -- a low pitched humming. Then she had felt weightless and could feel herself floating. And then....
*And then this. Am I abducted? Are those stupid tabloid stories true? I've gotta get out of here.*
She rolled out of the bed, hitting the floor more abruptly than she expected. Anne realized that the beds were closer to the ground than she thought. She took a deep breath and stood up. She hit her head hard on the ceiling which knocked her back into a sitting position on the floor.
*Ouch! So I wasn't imagining it. The ceiling is low.*
With her head a little more clear, Anne glanced around and saw an opening in the wall close to her. She would have to stoop to walk through it. Anne decided not to take any chances so she rolled over and scurried out on her hands and knees. She was now in some kind of hallway. Not stopping to think she headed off to the right. As she quickly moved along she decided not to waste time trying to stand up. She did not want to risk hitting her head again, or, worse, passing out.
It was difficult to make out what lay ahead. The hallway seemed to go on forever. Anne was only vaguely aware of her surroundings. The walls were a dull off-white color and made of some kind of fabric. The floor seemed to be made of something like rubber -- hard, but not as hard as concrete. And it was not quite smooth. In fact, the roughness was starting to scuff Anne's hands and knees.
Suddenly, Anne reached an intersection of two hallways. That's when she heard the sound behind her. Footsteps? Animal noises? Anne was gripped with a sickening fear. She had no idea what hideous form of creature was pursuing her but every muscle in her body just screamed at her to move. Just move!
Anne spun and headed down the hallway to her right. With speed being more urgent she leapt to her feet. In a staggering run she lunged forward keeping her head down to avoid scraping the ceiling. There were still noises behind her but they diminished as she distanced herself from the hallway intersection.
As she ran she lost track of time. Therefore, she was not sure whether she had been running for a matter of seconds or a few minutes when she suddenly hit a void. In her blind panic she had not noticed the opening in the floor that she was now falling into. For a split second as she fell into darkness she wondered whether she was falling into the vastness of outer space, but she quickly landed with a painful thud.
She had landed on her side with her shoulder taking the brunt of the impact. It was painful but she could immediately tell she was not seriously hurt. Looking up Anne realized that she had fallen through a hatch way. There was a ladder leading down one side to the floor where Anne was now laying. This was some kind of crawlspace, much shorter than the hallway above. Anne rolled away from the light and then scurried on her hands and knees again, instinctively heading for the furthest, darkest corner she could find.
As she scurried she concluded that this was not a frequently used area. The floor below her felt like rusted metal and it was covered in filth. She was almost choking from all the dirt and dust that she was stirring up as she moved. Before long she felt a wall in the darkness in front of her and she stopped.She turned around and sat with her back firmly against the wall. Looking back she could see that the hatch way was about 50 feet away. The light from it lit up the area at the base of the ladder, but everything else was pitch black. Her shoulder and knees throbbed and she was almost gagging on the dank, foul air. Anne wanted desperately to cry out for help but allowed herself only the smallest of whimpers as she slowly laid down and curled into a ball.
Her body was spent, physically exhausted. But Anne's mind raced with a jumble of panicked thoughts.
*Will they find me? Where can I go? Should I stay here or keep moving? What are they? Where am I?*
Her eyes flicked around the crawlspace. Her eyes were slowly growing accustomed to the dark. She could now make out more detail in the area beneath the hatch way. She could see the rust and dirt on the floor by the ladder. She could see shapes that looked like ducts or pipes just a few feet away from the ladder. But in the far recesses of the crawlspace, the darkness still revealed no detail.
*What was that?*
Anne thought she saw some movement in the corner of her eye. It could be just her imagination. But then again, what if there were rats down here?
*There, again. There is something down here!*
She stifled a cry of fright, as she not only detected forms moving in the gloom next to her face but could hear the creatures moving about and making odd sounds. Then as she went to flail her arms to fend them off she got a greater shock.
*I can't move!*
Anne was bound by something. Rope? No, smaller. It was strands of string or wire. Whatever they were, the strands were incredibly strong and would not give no matter how much Anne squirmed.
Anne lost control. She closed her eyes and screamed at the top of her lungs -- a scream of pure terror. As she gulped in more air she opened her eyes and froze in complete disbelief.
A few inches from her face were several repulsive-looking creatures. They were like large worms, almost a foot long. The bodies were bloated like insect larvae. They waved the front half of their bodies up in the air. In the gloom Ann could not distinguish any facial features, if they had any, but she could see that they were brandishing small sticks. Their appendages were very thin, almost like thick hairs. Then they started poking Anne in the face with the sticks.
*Spears? Oh Jesus, this isn't happening.....*
Then there was a blinding light and the creatures scattered before Anne's eyes.Anne had to blink as the light was painful for her eyes. Then she realized it was a portable light being carried by a large creature approaching her. Then she saw a face peering at her above the light.
"Are you all right, Miss Jensen?"
As she slipped out of consciousness, Anne Jensen thought, Christ! Now I know I'm dreaming.
The peering face was human.
Anne's eyes opened. There above her was that stupid scraped plastic ceiling again. However, compared to her ordeal in the crawl space this was a welcome sight. Turning her head she smiled as she saw the man standing over her. She recognized him as the man who saved her from the "worms".
"Thank you," Anne managed to croak.
"I am glad you are feeling better, Miss Jensen."
The man appeared to be a doctor as he was dressed in a simple white tunic. He was an unusual-looking man. He was Asian but his skin was very pale. He was bald with a fairly round, flat face. The eyes were large, with a well pronounced slant. His speech was odd, also. The accent was not Asian, in fact it was not like any accent Anne had ever heard before. Furthermore, he seemed to have difficulty in speaking. When he spoke it was as if his mouth was full of marbles. His face also twitched and jerked as if speaking was an uncomfortable effort for him.
*Well, odd or not, at least he's human.*
"You'll never believe what I saw, or thought I saw, Doctor," said Anne.
"Yes, our anaesthetic can have that effect."
"You know, I actually thought there for a while that I'd been abducted by aliens."
"Well, you were half right."
Anne sat bolt upright on her bed.
"Hey, what's going on? Where is this......" Anne's voice trailed off as she glanced at the foot of the bed.
There were four other people standing there. Anne gasped in amazement as she saw that they all looked exactly like the "doctor".
"You see, Miss Jensen," the "doctor" was saying, "we did abduct you. You are now on our space vessel. Don't be scared. We will not harm you."
Anne looked furtively from the "doctor" to the other four and then back. Her eyes showed fear but she was still suspicious.
"This is stupid," she said as boldly as she could, though her voice wavered slightly, "You guys are human. Humans don't come flying in from outer space, speaking English, except in bad sci-fi movies. ...And, say, how do you know my name?"
The "doctor" let out a short gasp of air and then said, "Your name is on your identification we found in your wallet."
Anne glanced down and for the first time realized that she was wearing a white tunic, not unlike the "doctor's".
*Hey, where are my things?*
"As to speaking English, we have been monitoring your radio and television transmissions for many years now. It has not been difficult for us to learn your major languages."
As the "doctor" spoke Anne realized another strange fact about her companions. Anne had hit her head the ceiling which meant that it was less than six feet high. The "doctor" and his friends stood in the room with a fair amount of headroom. That meant that, despite being normally proportioned, these five people were remarkably short -- much less than five feet high. In fact, two of them were even shorter than the others. Could they be females?
"But, who are you?" whispered Anne.
"We would love to tell you everything. But, in return, will you talk to us?" asked the "doctor".
"What do you mean?"
Now one of the other men spoke up, though his voice was exactly like the "doctor's". "We are fascinated by your planet but we rarely get the opportunity to actually speak to anyone. You see normally we administer a general anaesthetic to the people we abduct, so that they are never awake the entire time they are on the vessel. However, sometimes we make an error in the dosage. That's what happened to you, Miss Jensen. We miscalculated your metabolism and you awoke before we expected. We are very sorry you hurt yourself -- it was not meant to happen."
"But, you are awake now," said the "doctor", "So we wondering if you would be kind enough to talk to us?"
"You first," said Anne defiantly. Even though she was starting to get used to this crazy idea, she still harbored some suspicions.
The "doctor" let out that short gasp of air again, then said, "That is fair enough, Miss Jensen. We will also show you our vessel. That should allay some of your fears."
As Anne swung her feet off the bed she realized that, despite the throbbing in her shoulder and knees, she felt much better. The dizziness was completely gone. She stood up, remembering to keep her head stooped. She felt like an awkward giant as she looked down at the diminutive "doctor".
"What should I call you?" she asked.
The five of them looked at each other and emitted a strange series of sounds. They were obviously communicating with each other but the sounds were a bizarre combination of buzzes, clicks and hums.
*Bizarre. But also familiar somehow.*
When the five had stopped "talking" the "doctor" turned to Anne.
"You may call me Doctor White." Then he pointed to the other two men. "This is Doctor Black and Doctor Brown." He then pointed at the two women. "And this is Doctor Green and Doctor Red."
"Oh, great," groaned Anne. "What is this? A cheap spy novel?"
Doctor White let out that gasp of air again.
It suddenly dawned on Anne that the gasp of air was a laugh.
"You would not be able to pronounce our real names, believe me."
"So, anyway," said Anne, looking at the other beds in the room, "this is where you examine the people you abduct?"
"Yes," said Doctor White, "we can examine most parts and functions of the body using the..." he paused, briefly, "Well, using that machine over there." He pointed at the object at the far end of the room that Anne had seen hovering over another "patient".
That "patient" was gone now. In fact, except for Anne and the doctors, the room was empty. Looking around, Anne's impression was that it was shoddy. There was the rough floor and even rougher ceiling. Then there were the walls which were covered with a flimsy material that looked like white sheets that had been accidentally stained. Anne was not sure what was behind the "sheets" but she was sure that if you fell against the walls they would collapse.
*Like those walls in Japanese homes. Except these are not geometrically shaped.*
In fact, nothing in the room was particularly geometric. The room itself did not seem to be quite square in the corners. There was no true straight line to be seen. Even the beds, although similar in design, were all slightly different sizes and shapes. The whole room looked makeshift and poorly constructed.
Then there was the machine. Anne was impressed by the fact that it was suspended in air by no apparent means of support, but the object itself was ... well, a pile of junk. It was roughly, very roughly, spherical -- about two feet in diameter. Pieces of metal, plastic, and other materials that Anne could not identify, jutted out in a seemingly haphazard fashion. It looked as though someone taken various unrelated items, melted them together and rolled it all into a ball.
"Jesus," whispered Anne.
"What did you say?" asked Doctor Green, in a voice that was a higher pitched version of Doctor White's.
"Oh, nothing," muttered Anne.
"It is completely non-invasive," said Doctor Green.
"Yes," commented Doctor White, "Contrary to popular myth, we do not cut anyone open. No-one is ever harmed in any way."
Yeah, right, thought Anne, favoring her bruised shoulder.
"Shall we go?" asked Doctor White, gesturing toward the five foot high door that Anne had previously crawled through.
Much to Anne's chagrin the rest of the ship was pretty much the same. The same rough-hewn ceiling and floors. The same drab, tatty walls. None of the rooms or corridors seemed quite straight.
It certainly was not the type of spaceship Anne had seen in movies. It was not clean and bright in glossy whites or gleaming silvers. There were no impressive looking displays of wonderful technology. And there wasn't that ever-present white light everywhere. The patches of glowing light in the ceilings were unevenly spaced, so that many parts of the ship were either dark or poorly lit. And where were the spectacular views of outer space?
"Windows?" Anne asked at one point.
"No windows," came the terse response.
As Anne walked through the ship towering over the five doctors she began to find the whole situation somewhat comical. She felt as if she was in the company of children showing her their best efforts at making a "real live" spaceship.
But if Anne was disappointed in the space ship, the story the doctors told her more than made up for it.
"So, Miss Jensen, you want to know how we can be visitors from outer space and yet still be human?" asked Doctor White as they began their tour of the ship.
"Yes," answered Anne, "I mean, I'm not stupid. How can you be human if you are not from Earth?"
"Oh, but we *are* from Earth," said Doctor Brown, "Originally."
"What?..." asked Anne. She was confused now.
"To explain, we have to go back. Way back in time," said Doctor White, "The Earth has been visited ever since human civilization began -- several thousand Earth years ago. The original visitors were indeed an alien race. Let's call them...." he paused, "The Others, how about that?"
"Works for me," said Anne.
"OK. So the Others were from a planet, let's call it X," continued Doctor White.
*I think I saw that movie. Wasn't Peter Lorre in it?*
"The Others were fascinated by Earth because human civilization was the only other civilization they had ever found. The Others were not like us, however." Doctor White looked Anne squarely in the face at this point. "They not only studied humans but they took human...samples...back to their own planet."
"The Others took human beings back to live on their planet?" asked Anne.
"Yes," replied Doctor White, "For over two thousand Earth years they did this. The humans on X flourished and developed their own culture and civilization alongside the Others. The Others considered it a symbiotic relationship. The Others civilization assisted humans and human civilization assisted the Others."
"Oh, man," interjected Anne, "I can see where this is going."
"Yes, Miss Jensen," said Doctor Red (or was it Doctor Green?), "As you have undoubtedly already guessed, we are the descendants of those original human abductees."
It was not as if the tour was without its interesting moments. There were some features that were so baffling to Anne that she could not figure out their function. For example, there was one room that simply had a hole in the floor. The hole was about two feet in diameter and about six feet deep, with some form of tubing leading into it from the walls of the hole.
"What is this hole?" asked Anne.
"It is a bath," came the simple reply.
*A bath? So does that mean they shower laying down?*
The bridge was remarkable, if only because it was such an example of mass confusion. The area that was no bigger than the examination room and was half filled with machinery. The machinery, which all vaguely resembled the device Anne had seen in the examination room, was scattered in no apparent order around the room, as if someone had just carelessly dumped it from the back of a truck. There were about half a dozen flight crew members, who looked exactly like the doctors except that their tunics were all a dingier off-white than the doctors' tunics. They milled about the room as if they were not sure what to do. A couple of times when Anne was in the bridge, members of the crew actually bumped into one another.
*Boy, precision and order are not exactly these guys' strong point.*
The most impressive stop on the tour was undoubtedly the engine room. For one thing, the room was a vast space several hundred feet long and more than fifty feet high. This was a relief to Anne, as she rubbed her sore neck, because she was starting to feel a little claustrophobic. Another thing was that the engine itself did not resemble the other machinery in the ship. Although Anne could not see the inner working, the outer housing was impressive enough. It nearly filled the vastness of the engine room and was smooth and nicely proportioned. To Anne it just looked *right* somehow -- the way the engine of a spaceship should look.
"So these Others," Anne was saying, "you say that they took humans away for two thousand years. So you mean that they don't do it anymore?"
"No," answered Doctor White, "About one thousand of your years ago our people convinced the Others that this practice of taking humans was cruel. By that time human civilization on X had advanced to the point where we had a great influence over the Others."
"And do you still get along?" asked Anne.
"Yes," continued Anne, "Your people and the Others. Do you still get along OK?"
"Oh, Miss Jensen," replied Doctor White, "the Others are long gone."
"Gone? What do you mean 'gone'?"
"We destroyed them," answered Doctor Black, "about....five hundred of your years ago."
Anne looked a little shocked.
"You see, Miss Jensen," continued Doctor White, "when I said that the relationship was a symbiotic one, that was only from the view point of the Others. Although there is little evidence that the Others ever actually abused humans, they most definitely took advantage of our race. The reason they really took humans to X was because of their physical limitations. They needed us to build their buildings, their infrastructure, their machines."
"You were slaves, then?" interjected Anne.
"I don't think our ancestors saw it that way," said Doctor White, "At least, not at first. After all they had a good way of life -- the Others seemed happy to share their technology and provide them with the space they needed to grow."
"But," added Doctor Black, "as our civilization advanced it was inevitable that the races were on a collision course."
"Yes," said Doctor White, "As I said, our people progressed, and as we progressed we began to have more and more influence over the Others civilization. Then began the discontent. People would ask themselves: Why do we work for the Others? What do they give us in return? Is this fair? Eventually it all erupted. It culminated in the Great Human Revolution."
"And you destroyed them? You wiped them out?" There was a touch of hostility in Anne's voice.
"Yes, we destroyed them. There was no other way."
"No other way?" Anne asked incredulously, "You didn't like the arrangement so you just annihilated an entire race of intelligent beings? Just like that?"
Doctor White emitted that annoying "laugh". "It is easy for you to judge us, Miss Jensen. However, you do not understand our people, our history. It was necessary. It had to be done."
"So what did you do then?" Anne asked, "Take over their cities, their technology?" Anne glanced around. "Their spaceships?"
The five doctors looked at one another. The strange noises indicated that they were communicating. Finally they stopped and again addressed Anne.
"It is true that the basis of our technology comes from the Others," said Doctor White, "but we have made improvements since the Revolution."
More communicating noises ensued. Finally, Doctor White turned to Anne and said, "You would not understand. Shall we go?" He gestured to the exit from the engine room.
After that Anne fumed for a while. However, after a few minutes her curiosity got the better of her.
"OK, so I see," she suddenly said, "The visits over the past few centuries have been from you, not the Others?"
"That's right," piped up Doctor Red (or was it Green?), "Shortly after the Revolution our people set about adapting the Others technology for our own purposes. Once we developed our own spacecraft our first priority, naturally, was to visit Earth."
"We have been coming ever since," said Doctor White, "You are our long-lost cousins. You fascinate us."
*Who'd have thunk it? Humankind has already conquered space, and we didn't even know it*.
Doctor White stopped in the corridor and motioned to Anne to step into a doorway. Inside was some kind of lounge. There were soft chairs placed around the room.
"Now," said Doctor White, as they all sat down, "We have given you our story. Will you now tell us something of your culture and lifestyle?"
"Yes, there are so many things we do not understand," said Doctor Brown.
"For example, war," interjected Doctor Green (or Red), "We do not understand war. Why would humans kill other humans?"
*You tell me, sister. You should really get a man in here to explain that one.*
Out loud she said, "But you had no problems killing the Others?"
"That is different," said Doctor White, "We told you, it was necessary. The Others are not.....they are not like us."
"So you killed them all," said Anne, defiantly, "You killed every one."
There was suddenly an uncomfortable silence in the room.
After a few seconds Doctor Black finally said, "Not exactly, Miss Jensen"
"What do you mean?" asked Anne, "I thought you said you destroyed them."
"The Others civilization was destroyed," said Doctor Black, "At the time we thought that the Others were all killed. In fact, for nearly two hundred of your years we saw no evidence that any of them had survived. But then they began to ...reappear."
"Have you had wars, then?" inquired Anne.
"Oh no, not at all, Miss Jensen," said Doctor White, "You don't understand. They are not capable. They are not civilized."
"You must understand," said Doctor Red (or Green), "The Others civilization, their culture, everything, is long gone. These...creatures...that survived are mere remnants. For centuries they have lived in the wild. They have reverted to primitive savagery."
"They are no more than vermin," said Doctor White, "They are a pest, like your rats on Earth. They live in the dark corners of our cities, scavenging in the dirt for food. They are no threat to us, Miss Jensen, just a nuisance. They infest our buildings .... and, oh yes, our space vessels."
A horrifying realization dawned on Anne.
*So I wasn't dreaming. I saw those things down in the crawlspace. Oh my God!*
Then another chilling thought hit her. Those communicating noises that the doctors made had sounded vaguely familiar. That was because they bore an odd resemblance to the noises those creatures in the crawlspace had made. Anne instinctively drew her legs up from the floor. Her eyes darted around the floor and to the corners of the room.
"Do not worry, Miss Jensen," said Doctor Brown, "They are harmless. They are only searching for food."
*Harmless? Yeah, right.*
"Now, can we continue?" asked Doctor White.
"Yeah, sure, OK," said Anne, hesitantly. "Say....what are you going to do with me? Are you going to take me back to Earth?"
"Yes, of course we are," said Doctor White, "We mean you no harm."
"But aren't you worried?" asked Anne, suspiciously, "I mean, all that I know, everything that you've told me. Aren't you worried that I'll talk?"
Then, all at once, the five doctors let out that gasp of air.
*Jesus, they're all laughing at me.*
"Really, Miss Jensen," Doctor White said, "Who's going to listen to you? The supermarket tabloids?"
*You got me there, pal. You sure got me there.*
Story copyright © 1999/2000 by Mark Anthony Brennan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Artwork "You've Got Worms!" copyright © 1999/2000 by Sam Crowe <email@example.com>