THE GREEN DREAM
"Neto, time to wake up," a sweet familiar voice nudged him to wakefulness. "It’s time for breakfast."
Net rolled over in his soft, cozy bed. He felt drained, but also surprisingly rested. Even though he didn’t want to get out of bed he was afraid he’d fall asleep and return to that horrible nightmare.
"Hmm, it really was just a nightmare," he said, and sighed as his pulse slowed to a normal level.
Still, it had seemed so real and Net could have sworn his stiff and sore body was a result of the probing green light scanning his body. Subconsciously he rubbed the birthmark on the back of his right hand. He knew where he was now and he felt safe. His family was on the planet Earth and he was staying with the Flogus’ on the planet Beta-Mole. He knew this for certain. He felt a sense of pride knowing that he was in a foreign exchange student program being accepted to the most prestigious school in the universe, the Kreatonion Institute. Feeling a little homesick after his restless night, he decided that after breakfast he would send his parents an intergalactic phone message over the Universal Web Outernet Service.
Net sat up and put his feet on the floor. He was not used to everything on Beta-Mole yet. The bed he slept on was a molded plastic frame. There was no mattress or sheets. A force field resonated from all angles of the inside of the frame where the mattress would lie if he had been on Earth. It felt odd to lie there suspended a foot and a half above the floor held up by some sort of invisible energy. After a few nights, Net’s insecurities dwindled as he realized that it was the most comfortable bed he had ever slept on. He quickly dressed and headed up stairs to breakfast.
Net could only travel from floor to floor via the Molecular Translocating System-MTS for short. The system was a clear cylinder off to the side of each room that transported people from room to room, and floor to floor. The Tube, as the kids called it, could translocate more than one person at a time. In theory, the system would unlink all the molecules in the body and reorganize them in the desired location.
Net entered the Tube, and said, "Main Floor."
"AAHH!" Net screamed.
"AAHH!" Grandpa Flogus screamed, turning in surprise. His flabby belly jiggled as he tried to hide himself with his gangly arms.
"Sorry! Sorry!" Net apologized.
"Who are you? One of Tevel’s friends?" Grandpa said, as he grabbed his robe and stuffed his belly button goo into one of the pockets. He was staring at Net as if he had never seen him before.
"It’s Net. I was just trying to get to breakfast and I said Main Floor, but the Tube sent me here."
Net backed up into the transparent cylinder that should have transported him to the main floor. Grandpa continued to stare in astonishment as if an unknown intruder had entered his room. That was strange. He had talked to Grandpa Flogus on several different occasions.
Net was reorganized onto the main floor MTS cylinder. As he stepped out a putrid smell hit his nose. It was coming from the kitchen. The stench was comparable to an outhouse at the end of a week-long Boy Scout camp.
"Oh, great, I wonder what Mrs. Flogus made this morning?"
By scent alone Net knew he would be unable to enjoy breakfast this morning. The stench grew stronger as he approached the kitchen area. He could hear the whole family talking. As he picked up his pace, he was also able to decipher some of the words in their conversation. He could tell they were talking about him.
"Okay, everyone, make sure you are on your best behavior. This is the first time you are going to meet Net," Mrs. Flogus’ voice resonated out into the hall where Net was walking.
That was odd. He had been with them for three weeks. Why was she telling the children this was their first encounter? Net stopped before entering the kitchen and listened to everyone talking at once. He was sure he must have misheard Mrs. Flogus’ remark, so he smiled confidently and strode into the kitchen. His shoulders were back and he held a big breath in has he entered.
Everyone stopped talking and looked at him. The curious stares made him feel like a tropical fish in an aquarium. At that odd moment Net did feel like a complete stranger. These people act like they’ve never seen me before.
Net looked around the kitchen table at four of the five orange members of his alien exchange family, who all had become so familiar to him. He had already adjusted to looking into their one big eye when he talked to them. Net was so confused. He knew them like his own family, yet they stared at him with a sort of emptiness and anticipation.
The Flogus’ had three children: Sarcana, Onomial, and Tevel. At 17, Sarcana was the oldest and ’most attractive’ according to Tevel. He was naturally smart, so he didn’t have to study hard to do well in school. This worked to his advantage, because he had plenty of time to spend on cars, music, and girls.
Onomial was a bubbly and popular 15-year-old who attended the Intergalatic School of Performing Arts. Since she was a young alien girl she had always dreamed of making it big as an actress in the holographic movie industry. She was extremely outgoing and would flirt with Net. This made him uncomfortable, because he could never find himself physically attracted to an orange-colored girl with one eye and a huge mouth, no matter how great her personality was.
The youngest son, Tevel, was 13 and would be attending the Kreatonian Institute with Net. Tevel was athletic and agile so he excelled at every sport he tried. He constantly compared himself to Sarcana and was certain he had been accepted to the Kreatonian Institute only because he was the ’great Sarcana’s’ little brother. Net knew so much about the family, but they were all still gawking at him like a foreigner. Mrs. Flogus noticed the awkwardness and broke the peculiar silence lingering in the kitchen.
"Neto, I made your favorite breakfast," Mrs. Flogus said.
"Wonderful," Net replied, trying not to show he was only breathing through his mouth.
I wonder what favorite breakfast she had in mind? Net never remembered eating anything so stinky as his favorite breakfast. The smell was worse now that the concoction was out of the oven.
"Cinnamon rolls are your favorite aren’t they?" she asked.
Mrs. Flogus must have noticed he was crinkling his nose. The smell was pungent. If those are cinnamon rolls she must have dragged them through a sewer. He could feel his eyes watering. The odor was so strong he could smell it without breathing through his nose. When he saw what had been cooking in the oven he knew he couldn’t eat it.
It was a dead beast-a purple, dead beast with big yellow spots. Net could see its bloodshot eyes and yellow teeth. Mrs. Flogus set it down in the center of the dining table. She was proud of it. Everybody dove in, all except for Net. It was some funky species that probably lived by eating dead things and there was no way he was going to eat that. Cups were clanking and mouths were slurping and crunching.
"Mom, this cinnamon roll is nuclear," Onomial exclaimed. "I hope they aren’t too fattening."
"Net, I’m glad you like cinnamon rolls too," Tevel said, looking at Net. Net gave him the biggest fake smile he could muster.
"We are so glad you are here to stay with us," Mrs. Flogus whispered, into Net’s ear.
It was a nice thing to say, but the remark was weird since he had already been there for weeks.
"Thanks. I’m glad you’re letting me stay with you," Net returned. It sounded like they were making formal introductions, but he had already done that... hadn’t he?
"Oh, I hope you like the cinnamon roll," she said, while ladling a heap of juicy purple flesh onto his plate.
"Oh, I hope I do," Net said, putting his chin down into his chest, hiding his eyes with the brim of his hat.
Mrs. Flogus was already sitting in her usual spot at the kitchen table. She too had started slurping down the rotten smelling animal. Net stared at the purple skin and the black soupy broth the fatty flesh floated in. Look at it on the bright side; at least I didn’t get an eyeball or some gnarly fang.
Onomial interrupted his thoughts, crying out, "Net you’ve gotta try the eyeball." Before he could refuse she plopped the one she had into his bowl. "It’s the juiciest part, but it also has the most calories."
"Greeaat," Net said, sarcastically.
Was he getting used to the odor or was his sense of smell permanently ruined? He didn’t know, but kept breathing through his mouth so he wouldn’t have to taste anything. Despite all of his reservations and disgust Net decided that he would try it. His taste buds froze in shock as they awaited the alien concoction. He sliced part of the skin and clumsily scooped the beast’s hide onto the spoon along with some of the black broth. Bringing the spoon up to his mouth he closed his eyes, and slurped up the slimy skin and liquid. In the process of sucking the contents of the spoon into his mouth, he forgot to only breathe through his mouth. A waft of putrid air swept into his nose causing all his taste buds to work in overdrive. He had actually tasted what he tried so hard to avoid.
Wait a minute. What is this? The taste was not bad at all. As a matter of fact, it was fairly good. It tasted almost like cinnamon, well maybe more like a bitter cousin of cinnamon. It was the texture that was so hard to get used to. He would have preferred a sweet cinnamon roll from Earth covered in cream cheese frosting, but this ’cinnamon roll’ wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be.
While Net enjoyed his alien breakfast, something on Dr. Flogus’ news transparency screen caught his eye. Net focused on reading the headline backward through the clear screen. It read Vessel Not Found After Last Weeks Crash.
"What was that?" Net asked.
He pointed to the headline. Net never liked reading the news, but the story about the missing vessel intrigued him for some reason.
"Oh, it is an ongoing story," Dr. Flogus responded.
Net watched the camera footage. The vessel flew right into a body of water. The footage was looped and he watched it over and over. Gray vessel... crash into water.
"It has been happening for the last few weeks," Tevel said. "There are these crashes." He took another bite of his breakfast. "Some sort of space ships or vessels have been crashing into a nuclear waste lake north of town. When the authorities dive for the remains nothing is found. I think that was the seventh one."
"Interesting," Net said.
He was still mesmerized by the gray vessel crashing into water. On the way back to his room Net couldn’t get the gray vessel out of his mind. He wanted to know more about it. He wandered back to the kitchen and tapped Dr. Flogus on the shoulder.
"Do you think I could look at your news screen when you’re finished?" Net asked. Back on Earth he considered the kids that read the news to be one of the ’intelligents’ and he wasn’t one of them.
"Yes, you may," Dr. Flogus answered. "In fact, you can take it right now."
He turned and handed him the clear plastic sheet. Net watched the looped footage over and over again. There was something familiar about the gray vessel. While walking to the MTS to return to his room, he noticed a faint word on the side of the hull. The news transparency had a pause and slow button. Net replayed the footage and just at the precise moment pushed pause. Then pushing the slow button he was able to step to where the grey vessel filled the picture spot in the story column.
IMPOX was scribed in faint red lettering. There was a large scratch through the name. Next to the name there was a fading green symbol-a big circle with four small circles inside and three small circles on the outside. Then it happened.
What is that buzzing sound? The sound woke Net, but he lacked the strength to open his eyes. A sterile smell wafted into his nose. It was a damp, thick smell that reminded him of the air after a rainstorm. There was only one place with a smell like that: a hospital. Someone was talking, but it certainly wasn’t English. In fact, the only place he had heard this type of language was in his universal species language class.
"Boylafoy," said the raspy high-pitched voice. Was that boy? Net wondered. "Nelafetolafo Lelafexalafan," the voice continued.
Wait a second. That definitely sounded like my name. With his eyes still closed Net concentrated on the voice.
"Earlaferth," the voice stated, but this time it was softer and more distant. Then the voice faded out.
Net opened his eyes, even though the task was nearly impossible. His eyeballs were dry and rough like sandpaper had been rubbed all over them. He willed his eyes to stay open long enough to look around. What is this place? This isn’t a hospital. Where am I?
A lime green light was shining on Net. He gazed down at his peachy-colored skin and was startled because it was now green. In fact, the entire room had an eerie green tint to it, but the most intense portion of the light was concentrated on him.
Worry swept through his body. A thousand butterflies had broken out of their cocoons and were flying around in his stomach. His fingers and toes were cold, but moist. His breathing quickened as he started to panic.
Where are my parents? Where are my brothers and sister? Where am I?Eventually his tears drowned out his questions. Loneliness and fear engulfed him. Net rarely overreacted, so he tried to calm himself. He had to figure out how to escape from wherever he was and return home.
His eyeballs were the only things he could move voluntarily, so it was hard to get a good look at the room without moving his head. His eye muscles screamed as he scanned his surroundings. He was lying on his back in a clear tube that was suspended in the middle of the room. His legs and arms were strapped down. He felt claustrophobic, even though the ends of the tube were open allowing him to breathe. The tubes and wires connected to the transparent cylinder created strange shadows on the dark walls of the room. Lurching and belching, the wires and tubes looked like hundreds of huge venomous snakes slithering all over the walls and ceiling. A large, black tube undulating directly over Net’s head hissed as hot steam escaped an opening.
He felt a strange tingling sensation in his right hand. A needle had been jammed in the birthmark on the back of his hand and blood was being drawn from it. He felt helpless as he watched his life being sucked out of him through the tube.
"Help!" he tried to yell, but his tongue was swollen from lack of fluids. A small spurt of air squeezed through his aching vocal cords and throat. His voice was barely audible. "Is anybody there?" he asked, trying to fight back the tears. The pressure welling up in his eyes was too much and tears began to pour down his face. "Please," he managed to utter in-between sobs. "Somebody help me? I need help. Please get me out of here," he pleaded.
He heard a click and a low buzzing sound as the green light moved up and down his body. The desolation he had felt earlier was replaced with intense pain. As the light traveled up and down his body it felt like his throat, stomach, and heart were being twisted and torn right out of his body. The intense throbbing made him feel nauseous. He couldn’t take the constant squeezing, twisting, and pulling from the light. When the green light finally met his eyes he thought they were going to be sucked right out of their sockets. The agony and nausea were too much for his body. He felt dizzy and the strange shadows in the room started spinning. He jolted and twitched like an injured animal trying to free itself from a trap; he closed his eyes and faded into unconsciousness-his only means of escape.