Odessa, Texas, USA
February 28, 2033 / 9:38 a.m. local time
Pain! All I noticed was pain! I found myself in deep darkness. Was I dead? Then why was I still hurting? I had just found myself in nothingness, then suddenly there was pain and darkness. What had happened? A new experiment? Had I been locked up somewhere in complete darkness? I felt something touch my forehead. I wanted to avoid the touch, but my body did not seem to want to obey me. Was I paralyzed? The touch was strangely soft. None of the doctors or nurses had ever touched me like that. Maybe I was dead after all and an angel was there with me? Maybe angels did exist for people like me. Had the woman with the red hair lied? I hadn't seen her for a long time, that woman with the red hair. She had been the one who took care of me when I was a child. She wasn't quite as bad as the others. Even though she had never treated me gently. She was the one who told me about God and Jesus. Of evil. The devil. And of the angels. But she said that my people were the descendants of the devil. That's why we were kept prisoner. Because we were dangerous and evil. And the angels looked at us with contempt.
"... no change. The ... too large ..." I heard a man say.
"The ... I don’t ...", replied a gentle female voice. "Give him ... Give him ... time ... nurse. Please, Daddy!"
"Very well. If ... absolutely ... Later again", replied the one the woman had called Daddy.
She sounded young. Maybe even younger than me. I realized that I liked her voice. Who was she? And who was this Daddy? Were they with them? I wanted to ask her, but I had no control over my voice.
I felt her presence. Was she the one who had touched me before? If only I could see her. By now I realized that I was not in a dark room, rather I seemed to be in a state between sleeping and waking. The pain suggested numerous injuries.
So the woman may be one of the nurses. But I did not remember hearing her voice before. Besides, nobody had ever been nice to me. Especially not worried about me. But I had heard concern in her voice. She was probably one of my kind after all. Maybe the rumors were true and there was more of us out there somewhere and they had come to free us.
Little by little, I started remembering things. The alarm! The doctor who said there were soldiers. Whatever people they might be. Were the woman and this Daddy among the soldiers? I wanted to find out. I had to find my way out of this darkness somehow. I needed to wake up! It suddenly seemed the most important thing to me. To wake up and see the face of my angel.
Apart from the cell where the badly injured boy had been found, there were five others. But the investigators could not tell whether they had all been experimented on.
"I won't give up on you", I said to the boy before me.
He seemed to be my age, which was unusual. So far, all Alien Breed that had been liberated had been between twenty-eight and forty-one years old. There were only a few women in their early twenties.
I turned away from the bed and walked over to the sink to pour myself a glass of water. As I reached for the glass, I heard a soft moaning behind me. I froze and my heart began to race. That was the first time he had ever made a sound.
"Oh. My. God!" I gasped and turned around.
I slowly walked up to the bed where the Alien Breed was lying. I sat down on the chair again and bent over him.
"Hi!" I said a little out of breath. "Can you hear me?"
I could see the muscles in his face twitching slightly. That seemed like a good sign to me. He was obviously responding to my voice, maybe even to what I had said. Hesitantly I reached out one hand and stroked his cheek. His eyelids fluttered and I pulled my hand away in shock.
My heart was jumping excitedly. He was talking. Apparently, he was afraid that I would leave.
"I am here", I said and grabbed his hand. "Everything is fine. You ... you are safe!"
It was a shock to see him open his eyes. Never before had I seen eyes like these. They were unusual, but beautiful. They were green around the long pupil, but they became more and more yellow on the outside. The outer edge of his iris was green. He stared at me and at that moment there was only him and me. It was magical and I knew instantly that I had fallen in love. I had never believed in love at first sight. Until now. "A-angel?" he whispered hoarsely. "A ... an angel?"
I shook my head with a smile.
"No, I am not an angel ...", I said and reached for my blonde curls, which probably made him think I was an angel with my free hand. "... and you are not dead!"
He examined me extensively and my heart beat faster.
"I’m Alina. My dad brought you here after your liberation. He's a doctor."
"Doctor!" growled the Alien Breed and tried to stand up despite his obviously severe pain. His whole face was a mask distorted by pain.
I put a comforting hand on his chest.
"None of the people who did this to you", I reassured him. "We want to help you. Please calm down! You shouldn't exert yourself!"
Searching for my eyes, he paused and I nodded.
"Everything is all right. You are safe here!"
His features relaxed and he sank back onto the bed.
"Alina!" I repeated.
I nodded and smiled. His lips briefly distorted into an almost smile.
"Alina", he repeated, slowly raising one hand to reach for my blonde curls.
His gaze slipped to the thick strand he was holding in his hand. I held my breath as he examined the texture of my hair with his thumb. Butterflies started to flutter in my stomach.
I smiled. I wondered if this boy had ever seen a girl in the hell his life had been. He seemed almost fascinated by me. His gaze caught mine again and the butterflies were now somersaulting. There was clearly some chemistry between us in the air that we both felt. The Alien Breed raised his other hand to his head and stopped. He was obviously confused about his dark stubble.
"We had to shave your head", I explained. "Because of your head injuries. It will grow back, don't worry."
I was watching his reaction. Inspecting, his hands slid over his skull, feeling the long scar on the left and the two smaller ones on top of his head.
"You were extremely lucky", I said. "They beat you up so badly, they probably thought you were dead. Well, you weren't far from it when they brought you here."
The door opened and Dad entered the room. He looked at us and the emotions reflected on his face changed from astonishment to slight annoyance when he saw my hair in the Alien Breed's hand.
"I see, our patient is awake", he said in his best doctor's voice, which did not reveal how much he disliked that a boy was holding my hair in his hand.
Dad generally didn't like boys getting too close to me. To him I was still his little girl. The fact that he had left me alone with the Alien Breed at all was only due to the fact that he had ruled out the possibility that his patient could wake up so quickly.
"Yes, just now", I confirmed, trying to sound as uninvolved as possible. "I was just telling him that we had to shave his hair. He seemed a little confused about that."
"He did? Well. It'll grow back again, young man", Dad said and stepped up to the bed to examine the Alien Breed.
I moved back a little and observed. The Alien Breed put up with everything, but when I looked at him I saw that he didn't appreciate the interruption at all. He kept looking at me and I gave him a little smile.
The next three days were hell. Dad had banned me from the Alien Breeds hospital room. Four guards were with him around the clock. Now that the Alien Breed was recovering, Dad thought it was too dangerous for me to have contact with the boy. On the third day, I couldn't stand it any longer and went to Dad's office to ask him a question. Once I arrived at the door, I took a deep breath and knocked. My heart was racing excited as I waited for an answer from inside.
"Yes!" Dad's voice finally sounded.
I opened the door and entered the room. Dad was sitting at his desk looking up at me. A smile appeared on his face.
"Alina! What's on your mind, my dear?"
I closed the door behind me and sat down in the armchair in front of Dad's desk.
"I was wondering why I can't visit the Alien Breed anymore. I never thought you were prejudiced. I thought you liked the Alien Breed!"
Dad sighed and leaned back in his chair.
"I have nothing against the Alien Breed, Alina! I was involved in the first liberation campaign and since then I have been involved in many other campaigns. But I know these poor bastards better than you do. You saw his condition when he arrived here. Rest assured that anything you imagine about their conditions in captivity only rudimentarily touches on the truth. They have experienced unimaginable cruelty at the hands of humans. All Alien Breed take a long time to learn to find their way in freedom and they can be extremely unpredictable. I don't trust the boy, Lina. Not because I don't like him, but because I've seen enough cases where rescued Alien Breed attacked their keepers. I should never have allowed you to make contact. I didn't think he'd wake up that fast."
"But he didn't hurt me, Dad!" I disagreed. "He was very calm. Only ... curious. I don't think he's ever even seen a girl before."
"Lina, child. Don't get attached to the boy. He will soon leave where he can live in peace with the other Alien Breed. On Eden. It’s better for him. They are his people. Not only would he be exposed to constant hostility here, but you would also be condemned if you became friends with someone like him. Maybe you should go back to Mum a bit early. My work is not good for you, child."
"No!" I protested. "I'm not going home sooner! And besides, Mum is not even there. She went to Miami with Jesse."
"Well then. I will allow you to visit the boy every day for an hour. But only in the presence of security!"
I wasn't happy with his decision, but it was better than nothing and so I stopped myself from making a snide comment. But one hour was not enough for me. I wanted to use this time to get to know the boy better before they flew him to Eden.
"One hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon," I said firmly.
Dad was silent for a while, then he nodded.
"Very well! You can visit him today at five. I will inform the guards. And now I have to get back to work!"
I got up from the chair.
"Thank you, Daddy!"
"Yes, yes! It's all right!" Dad grumbled, but the look he gave me was loving.
Bored, I was staring out the window. My bed had been turned around so that I could see better. A few men had brought me a device they called a television. It was meant to make me forget about my boredom, but it puzzled me to watch all these movies. I had been told that everything had been performed to entertain people, but I had seen people hurt or killed in these films. I had seen it! With my own eyes! How could they claim that it was all just an act? No! This television was not for me. I preferred to stare out of the window. Even if I noticed after three days that hardly anything was happening out there. All I could see were a few trees that shielded the view from everything that was behind them. From time to time I saw little creatures appear in the trees. Humans called them birds. They were funny little guys and I was happy every time they showed up.
There was nothing to see at the moment. Only the leaves moving in the wind. But then I saw something moving in one of the trees. My attention was drawn to a small grey furry thing running along one of the branches.
"What is that?" I asked.
Drake, one of my guards, stepped up to the window and stared in the direction I was pointing. After a while he seemed to have spotted what I had been seeing and smiled.
"That’s a squirrel. Cute little guys, aren't they? They are very fond of nuts. I once managed to lure one with peanuts until it ate them out of my hand."
"The only animals I have seen in ... I have seen before were the dogs of the guards", I said. "Nasty beasts with sharp teeth."
"Not all dogs bite, boy", Drake said. "I have a Golden Retriever at home who is very sweet. He has to be, because of the baby. I wouldn't leave a dog alone with my wife and the baby if it was vicious. These dogs, being used by guards, are specially trained to bite on command."
"You have a young?" I asked interestedly.
"A young?" Drake asked, surprised, then laughed. "Oh! You mean my baby! Yes, I have a young! His name is Tim."
"I have no name", I said and stared out the window again.
"You can pick one", Drake said. "I heard that your people on Eden have given themselves all sorts of crazy names. They call themselves after things they like or that describe them. I met a guy who called himself Midnight."
"I wouldn't know what to call myself", I replied shrugging my shoulders.
"You like the music I have on my iPod, don't you? The band that sings it is called Toxic. How about that? Toxic somehow suits you, I think, and it sounds good."
I turned to him and looked at him for a moment.
"Toxic", I said quietly. It really didn't sound too bad and since I didn't have a better idea, I shrugged my shoulders and said, "Yeah, why not? Toxic! My name is Toxic!"
"Wonderful! Pleased to meet you - Toxic!"
He held his hand towards me and I shook it. It felt good to have a name.
As I stood in front of the Alien Breed boy's room at five o'clock, I was so excited that my hand was shaking as I reached for the door handle. Just before I reached the handle, I paused. Maybe I'd better knock? After a short hesitation, I knocked three times and almost instantly the door was opened by one of the security guards. He let me enter and I looked a little embarrassed at the boy sitting on his bed and giving me a bright smile.
"I thought you wouldn't come see me again", he said, obviously pleased about my visit.
"I ... I had a few important things to do", I lied. I didn't want him to know that Dad had forbidden me to come.
"Since my dad is eating out tonight and it's almost dinner time, I brought us some junk food", I explained, holding up the paper bag containing burgers and fries.
"Junk food?" the Alien Breed asked.
"Yes, burgers and stuff. I think you'll like it!"
I pulled up a chair and sat next to his bed. I placed the bag on the bedside table and opened it with trembling fingers. Why did this boy make me so terribly nervous?
"We'll be waiting outside the door until you leave", said one of the security guards and the two men left the room.
Dad had told me this afternoon that he had reduced the guards to two because he didn't think the boy would cause him any trouble. Still, he didn't want to abandon all precautions. The reason the two of them had left the room was probably because Dad wasn't there. I was happy because their presence made the whole situation even stranger. I pulled a burger out of the bag and handed it to the boy.
"Here! Try it!"
The Alien Breed stared at the wrapped burger helplessly. I pulled a second one out of the bag, unwrapped it and took a bite. The Alien Breed was watching me closely and copied me. His bite, however, was almost half of the cheeseburger and he was chewing with his mouth full. His eyes widened. He swallowed and smiled at me.
"That’s good!" he said and stuffed the second half of the burger into his mouth.
We devoured our food silently. I had bought a few more burgers because I had already expected the Alien Breed would be able to eat a lot. In fact, he ate eight cheeseburgers, two chicken sandwiches, two large portions of fries and twenty chicken nuggets. He also emptied a large Coke in a single gulp. I was full after two cheeseburgers and a serving of fries. I never even touched the salad I had bought. The Alien Breed didn't seem to like the green stuff, because he just shook his head when I offered him the salad. I cleaned up the trash and felt a little embarrassed. I noticed that I had no idea how to address him at all. Dad had told me that the Alien Breed didn't have names, only numbers. The liberated Alien Breed had all given themselves their own names.
"Did you ..." I began without looking at him. "Have you already ... a name ..."
"Yes! I did!" he replied and I turned to him in surprise. He smiled. "Toxic!"
"Toxic?" I repeated. "Hm." I examined him. "Fits you somehow. But how did you come up with that?"
"Drake helped me", he explained. "I like the music he listens to and he says the band is called Toxic. Drake said that might be a good name. So, I chose it."
"A good choice! I kind of like it!"
"Alina sounds nicer", he said and stared at me with a strange expression in his unusual cat eyes. It made me tingly and my face became hot.
"How are you now?" I asked to distract from my nervousness. "You look pretty healthy again."
"I feel good. Your dad says I can go and see my people tomorrow."
"Tomorrow already?" I asked in horror. Dad hadn't told me anything about that. I didn't like this at all. The thought of never seeing Toxic again filled me with a deep sadness. I was falling a little bit in love with the Alien Breed.
"Will you come visit me in the colony?" Toxic asked.
"I can't ... do that", I replied dejectedly. "It's too far away. Your people live on another planet, Toxic. Many light years away from here. You need a shuttle to get there."
"Oh well. Then I won't see you again?"
Toxic didn't seem to like the idea either.
I shook my head.
"Looks like this is our last night together," I said. "What do you like to do? Do you want to watch a movie?"
Toxic looked at me in amazement.
"I don't like movies! I don't understand that it's only supposed to be acting, when I see people hurting and killing each other. Not that I haven't killed already, but I don't have to watch it for fun."
"The blood you see in the movies is not real blood but paint. Everything is just a gimmick, Toxic. But if you don't like action movies, then maybe we can watch a funny movie. Ice Age is funny. You'll like it. We can buy it on iTunes."
I grabbed the TV remote and navigated the menu until I found what I was looking for on iTunes. I bought Ice Age I and sat down on the bed next to Toxic.
"What is this? Why does it all look so weird, are they aliens like me?"
"No, Toxic. First of all, it looks like that because it's all computer created and animated. The characters and the landscape. Nothing is real. The movie is about different animals and how they used to live on earth. This movie is really funny. Just make yourself comfortable and enjoy."
It didn't take long and Toxic and I were laughing ourselves silly. I was right. The Alien Breed liked Ice Age. It was a nice feeling to sit on the bed with him and laugh. I started to like Toxic more and more. But that made the prospect of losing him tomorrow even worse. When the movie was over, we sat shoulder to shoulder in silence. I mustered up the courage and put my head against him. Toxic put his arm around me and my stomach was suddenly filled with butterflies.
"I feel good when you're with me", Toxic said, sounding a little surprised. "I like Drake and it's nice when he's here, but when you're here it's kind of ... different."
My heart beat faster when he spoke. I knew he didn't have any experience dating because of his lifelong imprisonment and isolation and I didn't really know how to react. What should I do or say? How much did he even know about what happened between a man and a woman? The differences between us. It was strange to think that someone so handsome and strong had no experience at all, and probably not even the slightest idea.
"I feel good too", I replied. "The ... um, the difference between Drake and me is that ... I'm a girl and not a man."
"I’ve seen other women before and have never felt that way!"
"What kind of women were they? Doctors? Nurses?"
"There was the woman with red hair who took care of me when I was a kid. Then there was the doctor with the light hair. And two women not much older than you who came to see me with the doctors."
"They were all people who were involved in what was done to you", I said. "If you didn't feel comfortable there, it's no wonder. Nobody will hurt you anymore. You are safe here!"
"Am I?" he asked skeptically. "Then why am I guarded and can’t go where I want? Is this really freedom?"
"Once you're on Eden with your people, you'll be free. The precautions here are for your protection only. Every liberated Alien Breed is treated the same way. Dad says that some Alien Breed became aggressive after their liberation because they didn't believe that nobody wanted to hurt them anymore. That's why you have the guards, so it doesn't lead to problems."
"Then it's not for my protection", Toxic argued.
"In a sense, it is. Because if you were to become aggressive, you might get hurt or shot. Nobody here wants anything bad to happen to you. Do you think I’m your enemy?"
"Of course not! It's just all so hard to understand, everything that happened. I don't even know if I want to go to Eden at all. Especially now, because then I can never see you again."
"Maybe we can after all", I said quietly. "I will try, Toxic!"