Kira distrust men and is convinced that she can live just fine without their testosterone in her life. When she accidentally teleports to a wild planet populated by only alien males, her plans stutter.
“You can’t do it.”
Kira squinted at the fine print on the manual and then at the bolts and screws that cluttered her kitchen floor.
“I’ll be fine,” she replied.
“This is a man’s job. Just hire someone to fix it for you.”
“Mom, if I found out how to get a PhD, then I think I can figure out how to put nails in a block of wood.”
Most of their arguments were of the same nature. Her mother was always speaking down to her, trying to guide her toward her prophecy of failure. As twisted as it was, Kira was sure that she hoped she ended up in her shoes– divorced, bitter, and stuffed with an equal amount of bullshit and botox.
“Why don’t you call the nice young man I met at church?”
Kira rolled her eyes in beat with her screwdriver. “I’m not interested,” she replied with a voice that was as cold as the tile floors she was sitting on.
“You’re almost twenty-seven. You need to start a family.”
“You will, yes, but not by using a sperm donor and giving birth to a stranger’s child. That is ungodly.”
Kira continued to twist the screw in place, refusing to be broken down. “We’re in the year 2203. You really ought to be more open-minded.”
With a huff of defeat, Dana turned and click-clacked her way out of the apartment. Kira didn’t bat an eye over her tantrum. It was her uterus, and she’d do whatever she wanted with it.
Artificial insemination was the perfect way to get pregnant without needing a relationship. There wouldn’t be a man in the picture, because Kira needed no man.
A cry for attention made her drop the screwdriver and reach for her cellphone.
“Hi, Einstein. Why don’t you come over to the facility? I have a surprise for you.”
Kira looked down at the pieces of the table that were still awaiting arrangement. Choosing to procrastinate instead of dealing with the mess, she stood up and sought out her purse.
“Sure. I’ll be there in thirty minutes.”
“Welcome back, doctor.”
Kira tossed a smile at the receptionist as she placed her palm against the censor. Within a second, the pad read her fingerprints and granted access to NASA’s headquarters.
After engineering a device that could translate every language on Earth as well as learn ones that it didn’t recognize, she was swarmed with awards. Cherry was also an engineer, but she was far more seasoned since she was fifty years old.
She took the elevator to the engineering department and knocked on her friend’s office.
“Einstein has arrived,” she called out.
The silver door slid aside into the wall and revealed Cherry’s face, which was wrinkled with both age and joy.
“You need to clean this place up,” Kira chuckled as she stepped over the multiple boxes that littered the entrance. “I won’t hesitate to sue if I fall.”
Cherry waved her off. The mess of her office certified her genius. The glass walls that surrounded them were decorated with formulas and the tables littered with gadgets.
She guided Kira to the room attached to her office and scanned her hand for access. This room had fewer hazards. Behind a tempered glass wall sat Cherry’s latest project. After ten years of tinkering, the astrophysicist managed to figure out how to teleport an item from one spot to another. The objects only teleported a foot or two apart, but it was a feat nonetheless.
“What are you testing today?”
“You won’t believe this.”
An arc of Kira’s eyebrow urged her on.
“I figured out how to move samples from one room to another.”
“You’re lying,” the younger scientist choked out, overwhelmed with pride for her friend. Although other engineers were working on similar projects, no one had managed to move objects very far.
“I’ll show you!” Cherry pitched. She moved to the control panel and squinted at the potato that was sitting on the table. “It’ll appear in the next room. I haven’t been able to dictate what room the objects move to.”
She typed on the panel’s keyboard, coding away instructions. After a melodramatic click of a button, the machine shot out a ray of blue that consumed the potato. The vegetable vanished instantly, taking Kira’s composure with it.
“Cherry, this is... this is fucking crazy,” she stammered as she reached for the glass.
“I know!” Cherry agreed. “I don’t believe it either. I–”
The rest of the sentence disappeared along with Kira’s reality once she touched the glass. Her breath and balance were ripped from her, leaving her rawly winded.
She cried out as she fell, expecting her knees to hit the cold marble of Cherry’s office. Instead, they dipped into a green carpet of grass.
The office was gone. The metals, concrete, glass, and civilization were all but memories. Everything had gotten replaced by nature. Huge trees loomed over her, staring down as if studying the newcomer in the forest. A body of water roared nearby, its waves aggressively slamming against the rocks as if trying to reach her.
Cherry was no more, and neither was the NASA headquarters.
Kira reached for her purse and began to sort through its contents. She had her ID, cellphone, cash, translator, and a few credit cards, but her cellphone had no reception to offer.
It must have gotten damaged, she reasoned before giving her attention to her surroundings.
Something was off about the scene. There were no sounds of machines, and the sky looked bluer than usual as if it had never kissed pollution.
The body of water was a good sign. Water meant people, and people meant civilization. Her best bet at running into someone was following the shoreline. Choosing to do just that, she kicked off her Louis Vuitton heels, picked them up, and began to walk.
Where in Washington DC am I?
It took her a mile of walking to determine that she wasn’t in the state, but in hell. Her sweat glands were crying with defeat and her feet bloated with complaint.
She ventured into the water in search of cool relief, only to scramble out soon later. She swatted at a leech that had attached to her left foot, and a bead of blood trickled when she finally managed to peel off the vermin.
How could the Department of Safety not place warning signs around this area?
She made a mental note to report the hazard once she got home.
With an exhausted sigh, she resumed her walk.
“Come on,” she groaned once her phone remained as void of reception as the sun was of mercy.
“Just give me one bar.”
The unmistakable sound of chatter interrupted her pity party. She dashed into the treeline, struggling to run since her stylish pencil skirt was only good for looking pretty.
“Hello?” she called out.
A bird cawed somewhere in the background, its high pitch countering the sound of deep male voices. Kira didn’t recognize the language the men were speaking, but it was far from English.
A mortifying idea floated. Had she been teleported outside of Washington DC?
Seeking answers, she dropped to her knees and crawled into a bush.
Her eyes must be betraying her brain. Her pupils must be rebelling against reality.
There had to be reasoning behind the craziness that they were proposing. She was a patron of science, an enemy of fiction. There was no way that the men she was observing were real.
Was this a movie scene? Were they actors? She looked around for cameras, microphones, humans, explanations. Nothing familiar appeared. She was alone in the jungle with six naked men.
Her breath teleported out of her lungs.
The men– no– the humanoids, looked like wild titans. Their hair lengths and styles varied– from short to long and from braided to cascading.
They were massive, all ranging from six to seven feet tall. Four of them were tanned while two had a much darker complexion. The one thing they all shared was the reptilian-like scales that covered different parts of their bodies.
They had eyes that could make demons cower. They had no whites, but black with colored irises.
Kira pressed a hand against her chest, afraid that they could hear the thunderstorm that had become her heartbeat. Fear lassoed around her neck like a leash, guiding her backward. Her legs got scraped by the dirt as she crawled away while a scream scratched her gut.
There has to be an explanation. There has to be science.
Science was the one force that never betrayed her. It stuck by its promises without offering any ifs, ands, or buts. That’s why she fell in love with it.
She clung to her purse, afraid of losing her last connection to normality. Her swaying feet were barely able to execute her brain’s command to run. The men’s voices became fainter with every step, but the distance didn’t change the scene. She was still in the thick wilderness, far from the modernization of the year 2203 and the safety of Washington DC.
Spotting some crawl space between a tall tree and a rock, she scurried into the hole like a terrified prey, not caring to check if any creatures called it home.
She protected her purse against her heaving chest and pulled her legs close. Her knees bled along with her thoughts, staining both her skirt and sanity.
This is a hallucination. It isn’t real.
Panic wove through her skin like a needle through cloth, poking holes into her esophagus. She wheezed as she tossed her head left and right in search of answers within the trees. There was nothing but green. The color stalked her irises, tormenting them with its horrid tyranny.
She was sure that she smiled with relief when blackness rescued her.
Her empty intestines lassoed around her consciousness and dragged her back to the green. Groggily, she dug into her purse to retrieve her cellphone. The screen lit up, showing her wallpaper in which she was holding an academy trophy while smiling brightly. She looked so free of worry within the pixels.
She gripped the phone tighter, wishing she could relive the moment just one last time.
After a few seconds, she took in the time. The digits declared that it was eight PM in Washington DC. She had arrived at the NASA headquarters at three PM, so five hours had rolled by since she teleported.
The aching in her stomach worsened. She rubbed it, unable to offer anything but comfort. There was no way in the universe that she was going to step out of her hole. She’d rather starve than get discovered by the males.
Would they hurt her? Rape her? She had no idea what kind of society they ran– if any.
She hugged her legs, noting that her white pencil skirt was now stained. It was only a matter of time until she looked like one of the natives.
In a pathetic attempt to distract herself from the pending death in her starved stomach, she closed her eyes and sought sleep.
Her act of rebellion against nature was lost hours later when her stomach began to contemplate eating itself. In a move of desperation, she stepped out of her safety bubble.
The night’s cool was gone, and the blazing sun had returned. With a shaky inhale, she began the search for food– barefoot, since she had lost her heels.
All of the plants around her looked normal. There was nothing alien about them. She heard birds chirping up above, but didn’t see any. She hadn’t seen any animals either, that is, if she included the six males she had seen the previous day.
They are males, right?
Her PhD had little to do with biology, but as far as she knew, males tended to carry a set of balls and a cock between their legs. Judging from the scary appendages that those men owned, they fit in the category.
A few dots of red captured her attention. There was a bush littered with what seemed to look like berries. They were too big to be berries, but they were a cousin of some sort.
Were they safe?
She picked up a skinny twig and poked a single one, waiting for something terrible to drip out. Nothing happened, and she took that as a good sign.
With an approving clench of her stomach, she reached out.
Vrox stepped over the group of tifs. They were fierce creatures that were round and stood around five inches tall and found strength in numbers. The balls of terror liked to camouflage against plants and attack prey by biting poison into them. Vrox was too big for their interest, so they were not a threat.
He walked with a lowered guard. He was on the outskirts of the jungle, where the dangers were minimal. The only place worthy of his undivided attention was the cruel heart of the jungle.
A strange coloring caught his eye. He stopped walking and watched a creature interact with a bush that he could tell was full of tifs. The creature was short and its legs were covered with a white coat. It stood at a puny five-feet of height– serving as the perfect victim.
It was when he got a better look at the creature’s face that he realized it wasn’t an animal, but a boy.
"Gun!" he warned.
The boom of his voice tackled the child to his back. Vrox wasted no time in running over, wrapping his arms around him, and separating him from the infested plant.
The child’s gratitude came in the form of vigorous kicks, whines, and jerks. Vrox couldn’t help but wonder how something so young had such energy. He was a mere breath of life, yet had the determination of death.
To ease his struggles, Vrox returned him to the ground. The decision was instantly regretted when the boy turned and ran toward the jurisdiction of danger.
With a piqued growl, he gave chase.
Kira swatted at the green, pushing past the leaves that stood between herself and her freedom. She could hear the monster mowing down the wilderness behind her, grunting out words that sounded as heavy as his footsteps.
It felt like she had been running for an eternity, but in reality, she had only made it about a hundred feet away before arms the size of her thighs declared her theirs.
The word was so short yet so endless.
Instinctively, she kicked at the dirt and scratched his powerful forearms. The scales were so vicious that it felt as if she was scratching concrete.
She had no idea what she was doing. She knew plenty about engineering, but nothing about self-defense.
Vrox gritted his teeth and fought the urge to shake some sense into the boy. He should be thanking Vrox for saving him, not trying to escape. Younglings stood no chance against the jungle; it was designed for men.
“How did you get here? Where is your provider?” Vrox asked in his native tongue.
He was surprised to see the child unsupervised. Boys were treasured nowadays, as there weren’t many of them left. Based on this boy’s size, he had to be around ten snowfalls old. Vrox didn’t even know that such young ones existed.
How did this one get so far into the mouth of death?
The youngling continued his fight. His strength was truly pitiful; he was as weak as an alk that just left its mother’s womb.
“Stop fighting,” he grunted. “I won’t hurt you. I’ll just return you to your provider.” He gripped the tempered boy’s softly curved shoulders and spun him around.
Vrox had never seen anything like him. His round face contained two dirt-colored irises, which were surrounded by white instead of the black found in his people's eyes. His long, dark hair was bouncing around. Most men braided, tied or cut their hair to keep it out of the way, but it was clear that this boy was too young to know how to groom himself.
He scanned his neck, looking for a hint of scales. Vrox’s left arm was covered in them. They started at the base of his neck and went past his knuckles. The rough skin was a feature that developed once boys became men. This child didn’t own a single scratch, dent, or scar. His skin looked like undisturbed snow.
When he noticed a feature that definitely didn’t belong on boys, he sent his eyebrows to the sky. Two round protrusions hung from his chest, but they were hidden by the strange texture that covered his skin.
Understanding the situation, Vrox slightly relaxed his hold.
“You should have told me that you are injured.”
Were the bumps a temporary injury or a birth defect? Was that why he was alone in the wilderness– because his father had discarded him?