Anthony’s nose recoiled. Rotten eggs? He choked down the vomit that almost came out. The sandstone faced aliens cocked their heads, but none spoke as the Butler guided Anthony through the crowd. Though the alien’s skin appeared closer to sandstones Anthony remembered from southern Utah, the shapes mimicked humans.
A line of the crag faced aliens took seats on barstool chairs. The material glistened in a phosphorous pink hue. Five things to do in front of a jury. The cracks in the faces angled down and toward the center of the faces. A rumble of stone on stone emitted from one alien. All not seated moved to the edge of the room. The rumble came again and the other aliens made a high-pitched noise. Are they laughing? No, don’t worry. The list. One, pretend you know nothing. Anthony fought to clear his throat, and his stomach grumbled.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t understand,” Anthony said.
The center alien shook their head, touched their neck, and the rumble switched to English.
“… meant to understand. But this word meant for you. Could you talk more to increase our language diversity?”
“What do you mean? I must have seen thirty or forty humans in that line,” Anthony said.
The other aliens turned toward the one in the center. Do their barstools spin? Anthony tried to hold a straight face.
“Many languages on one world. Do you understand?” The center alien asked.
“What do you want with me? What happened to Elida?” Anthony asked.
The same high pitched grinding pattern as before.
“Humans, to the point. Elida proved not successful, and now contributes to the mind. You can save life if listen?”
“Whose life can I save?”
Two, have as much information as possible. Anthony asked what they expected of him. The stone aliens returned to their rumbles. Might as well be listening to tectonic plates moving. One alien on the end threw up its arms to reveal rings of metal holding miniature green spheres of light. Each ring of metal was a different color. The rumbles stopped, and the leader tapped their throat.
“For you to survive, convince this man to follow to the source.”
A hologram flickered to life between the aliens and Anthony. A blonde-haired and pale-skinned man appeared in the same cave Anthony first arrived. Three, three, why do I always block out at three? Anthony cursed and ground his teeth.
“Why?” Anthony asked.
“To grow our minds.”
The center alien pulled up his sleeve to reveal twice as many rings and green spheres as the other. The man looked familiar, but the memory wasn’t clicking. Maybe with someone else I could escape? The man’s broad shoulders draped the parka to hide the rest of his body. He must be in shape. Why did I have to click that link? Atlas mewed nearby. The aliens released metallic screeches. Anthony searched for his cat, but couldn’t find him anywhere.
“Go, take the man to his place, or you will take it like Elida.”
The Butler pulled Anthony by his arm and out of the room.
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