When Sarah opened her eyes, everything looked different. She was in a dull room with gray-painted metal in every direction. Someone stood in front of her; their face was larger than her own, and their eyes were a pink blur. The taste of strawberries was still on her lips from the last dream and she longed for one more drink of her sippy cup. There was still a warmth in her sex that had begun in the sunlit field.
“…on Luna—Earth’s moon. Remember how you got here?” the face was asking. Sarah frowned and tried to shake her head but it felt like she was moving through treacle. She couldn’t focus properly, but she was sure the face was the same one from her last dream.
“Daddy?” The previous scene had been wonderful; she was still hopeful that this was one of those dreams where it was a continuation of the same story in a different location. The surroundings here were awful, but she was sure this wasn’t Langley, Virginia. That was where her bed was.
Maybe they could return to the last dream; the field with the dandelion clocks, near a rushing river, on a warm summer’s afternoon, where she had been eating marshmallows with a huge, handsome daddy who had also brought peanut butter cups and Twinkies, and there had been no salad and no calorie counting at all. When she remembered how loved and cared for she’d felt, she noticed an embarrassing wetness between her legs.
She’d been wearing one of those incredible dresses that only seemed to exist in anime shows and cosplay conventions. The dress had been white, and covered with delicate lace and oversized bows. In this dream, looking down was difficult, as her head didn’t want to move and her eyes kept refusing to focus; she was still wearing white, but this looked more like a hospital gown. She hoped he couldn’t see the little trickle of arousal that was making her panties damp. Would her daddy put her over his big knee and spank her if he knew how turned on she was?
She realized he was waiting for an answer to whatever he’d just said. Her eyes brought his face into focus. It belonged to a very tall man, whose eyes were pink, or else it was a convincing trick of the light. The man’s face was framed by an incredible cascade of natural-looking spun gold highlights over brown hair, and his broad shoulders and muscular arms were visible through his clear plastic spacesuit. With a rush of joy, she knew that while he looked slightly different to how he’d appeared in the dandelion field, it was definitely her daddy. Her heart leapt and she wanted to snuggle up with him like before.
“I’m Ralnar Rowardennan; I’m the lead archaeologist on an excavation here on Luna. Do you remember anything about how you got here?” Ralnar’s voice seemed to be coming from some sort of radio, and the words didn’t match the shapes that the face’s mouth was making. Nothing seemed to make sense; how had he forgotten her already?
“It’s me—Sarah! I was about to have some strawberry juice in my sippy cup, Daddy. I don’t really remember…” The room seemed to get darker, and she wanted him to hold her so she’d know that everything was okay. She was afraid that he didn’t remember her, and her heart ached with loss.
“I’m taking you back to my ship now, little one.” The man’s voice grew more distant and although Sarah was sad that her perfect daddy was going away, she was slightly relieved when the weird location morphed into a dream where she was helping an elderly Justin Bieber find his false teeth in her office at FarTech.
“She’s probably a vegetable. She might not even be able to metabolize things we take for granted; this isn’t what I agreed to help you with, Ral…” A woman’s voice drifted into Sarah’s dreams, and she opened her eyes.
This room was small; it had a smooth glassy ceiling and the walls seemed to be made of the same stuff. A woman stood nearby; she wore a lab coat and stethoscope. As the woman leaned forward, she went out of focus and Sarah looked elsewhere.
She jumped as she realized that the man from her dream was standing to one side of the room. He was dressed like an explorer, in khaki pants and jacket, both made of some lightweight material, and a sand-colored shirt. On his chiseled jaw, there was a little stubble.
“You!” He must have brought her here, and her brain must have latched onto his appearance and used it in her dreams. He was just as sexy in real life, but that didn’t mean he was a good person. She tried to point at him. “I can’t move! I can’t move!” She started to become frantic. Why was she here? What did these people want with her? Her wrist ached and there was a sharp pain in her forehead.
“Please try to calm down. You are not in any danger.” The female doctor picked up a small metal object. Sarah had worked with technology for almost ten years since college; she knew a medical device when she saw one.
“The fuck? Get that thing away from me! I’ll report you to the cops! You’re not getting my organs!” Sarah wanted to fight this woman but her arms and legs just wouldn’t work. These people must have sedated her or something. She didn’t even remember what she’d been doing before this.
“This normal, Doctor Tavia?” the man asked. Both voices seemed to be coming through a speaker, and Sarah remembered the same thing had happened in one of her dreams. Were they trying to disguise their voices? She panicked more as she realized they weren’t stopping her from seeing them. That surely meant they were assuming she’d never recognize them again.
“If you come near my fucking corneas I’ll… I’ll…” The vulgar words stuck in her throat before she finished the sentence. “I’ll vomit in your face!” That was probably all she could do in this position. She felt so helpless. How had these organ harvesters taken her?
“This reaction is not unheard of. No one has ever brought a complex organism back from such a long freeze. Her neural pathways might need time to normalize.”
The man turned to Sarah, and she saw sympathy in his eyes. Those pink eyes were mesmerizing. They didn’t look like colored contact lenses; they had too much depth, but how were they possibly real?
“Shh, easy, little one. You’re safe here,” he told her. His tone was soothing, and Sarah wanted to trust him. She must have visibly relaxed somehow, because he added, “That’s right, no one’s going to harm you.”
The doctor pressed the metal device to Sarah’s head. To one side, something beeped. Sarah was terrified of losing consciousness again.
“What does that mean?” the man asked. Doctor Tavia glanced at the screen.
“It’s assessing her physical state and memories, Ral. No illnesses recorded. Some of her memories are blocked, but that’s quite normal for cryogenics. She has experienced thirty-one birthdays. She has two injuries: moderate contusion to her right wrist, and a laceration on her forehead. No concussion. She is currently under the influence of… of some sort of tranquilizer. But it’s a short-acting one, and it’s wearing off.”
Cryogenics? Sarah stopped trying to fight her captors in favor of listening to their conversation. She didn’t think it was possible to revive people from cryogenics. More to the point… when had she been cryogenically frozen? It didn’t make any sense.
“Earth cycles were a little shorter, so that makes her… twenty-eight in universal standard years,” the man called Ral calculated. He was so tall, and his eyes were so pink. Sarah knew he couldn’t be human.
“I’ve been abducted by aliens,” Sarah realized. “Let me go! I want to go home!”
“You need to stop fighting. It takes longer for the neural pathways to start working again if you keep fighting your brain. It has many tasks to do to get your body working after so long.” The doctor seemed bored. “I need to test her reflexes and ensure she’s not carrying any pathogens.”
“Is this really necessary?” Ral raised an eyebrow.
“Of course it’s necessary, Ral! We could be looking at a new epidemic.”
“There’s no disease that modern medicine doesn’t have a fix for.”
“Yes, but it could inconvenience the city for days, maybe even weeks, while we cured everyone! The alternative is to quarantine her for six months.” She held a long instrument that was the same width all the way down and had a rounded end. It glowed. Sarah stared at it, unsure what it was supposed to do, or why Ral seemed so against it.
“Fine, but I insist on doing this myself. I don’t trust your bedside manner,” Ral said. The doctor glared at him but conceded, and handed him the instrument. “Where’s your lubricant?”
The doctor gave him another stony glare.
“You don’t use any? Jeez, lady, what’s wrong with you? Fine, I’ll do this the old-fashioned way.” He turned to Sarah. “I deeply apologize for this, honey, but the good doctor won’t release you until we do this somewhat invasive examination, and she doesn’t have anything to make it more comfortable, so I’ll have to use your natural juices.”
Before Sarah could protest, Ral had put his hand to her sex and was gently caressing it through her panties. Embarrassed, Sarah had to stop herself from moaning in pleasure. His touch was unbelievably good, after so long without feeling another person, and Sarah felt herself instinctively opening for him. She forgot that the grumpy doctor was still in the room, as everything seemed to fade away except for the enormous man who was stroking her clit, sending thrills through her core.
“Her nipples are hardening. Arousal response seems unusually fast.” Doctor Tavia’s voice made Sarah flush with embarrassment.
“Pay no mind to her. Just focus on me.” Ral’s intense gaze made Sarah’s tummy do flip-flops as she concentrated on him. She tried to part her legs to give him better access but she couldn’t move, so she had to settle for remaining in place. Wetness flooded her panties, then she felt him slide them aside, never removing them, before he gently inserted the long, thin instrument into her pussy. It seemed to go very deeply inside her.
“Good girl, it will be over soon,” he said. Sarah was caught between feeling aroused and ashamed, and didn’t know how she was supposed to behave in this situation.
“Initializing the probe for a reflex test.” Doctor Tavia pressed some buttons on a computer, then the probe began vibrating inside Sarah’s pussy. She couldn’t help moaning this time, as Ral continued to caress her clit and the vibrations sent powerful waves of pleasure through her body.
Then Sarah realized what the reflex test was going to entail.
“Please, don’t make me do this here,” she said, her face flushing an even deeper red as she felt the pressure building inside her.
“It’s all right, little one, it’s supposed to happen.” When she looked down, she saw that he was straining against his pants, but he paid no mind to that.
“I can’t… I’m scared…” Sarah searched his eyes for reassurance. He gave her a comforting smile.
“You can’t resist it. The probe will find the exact level of stimulation to make you orgasm,” Doctor Tavia said briskly.
“See? Just let it out, then we can go.”
“I don’t wanna!” Sarah realized she was acting like a child but the pressure was unbearable and she was trying to stop herself coming with all her might. She didn’t want them to see her like this.
“Shh, it’s all right, little one, I’ll take good care of you, don’t worry. Just come for Daddy.” Ral’s words sent her over the edge and Sarah found herself biting back cries as a powerful orgasm tore through her body. The waves of pleasure seemed to last for ages, then, when it began to fade, the probe was removed and Doctor Tavia put the tip into a jar of fluid, which turned green.
“No venereal diseases.” The doctor sounded disappointed.
“Now let me go!” Sarah demanded, still embarrassed about what they’d just made her do.
“Ral, can I fully sedate her? I’ve stabilized her biological functions, it’s just her emotional state that’s unpredictable. I can’t do anything about that until her brain has fully restarted.”
Sarah threw a pleading glance at the pink-eyed man in the hope that he wouldn’t let this unkind doctor put her to sleep.
“I want her to stay awake.” He turned back to Sarah. “What year d’you remember?”
“Twenty-twenty,” Sarah said.
“The year is 2320. Welcome to the future, little one.”
“Why have I been abducted by aliens and taken to the future?” Sarah demanded.
“You’ll probably be pleased to know that you haven’t been abducted by aliens, or taken to the future; you were cryogenically frozen.” He smiled at her, and for some reason Sarah felt like she was safe around him. After all, in her dream, he had been her daddy. Her cheeks flushed again as she realized what he’d said to her when the probe was inside her. Come for Daddy. It didn’t seem like he was just saying that; it was more like he’d innately reacted to that part of her that had been acting like a child.
“You told me before that your name was Sarah. That right?” Sarah nodded. Had the last time she’d seen him been real, then? She colored red as she remembered calling him Daddy when she thought she was dreaming.
“I’m called Ral, as you might have guessed, since Doctor Tavia keeps calling me that, and I’m an astro-archaeologist, so I investigate sites like Luna, where I found you. I brought you straight here, to Minos Kerala, which is a city on a planet called Minos Kerala, in Andromeda. As you can tell, the Minos Keralans were very imaginative when they named everything.” He winked at her and she had to suppress a smile. “You’re here because I work in this city.”
“I’ve never even heard of this place. Why couldn’t you drop me off on Earth as you passed it? That’s where I was from. I don’t even know how I ended up on the moon!” Sarah frowned, trying to work it all out.
“You’re very lucky, little lady. At some point, someone must have decided it was cheaper or easier to store cryogenic units on Luna, and they moved a whole set of people there. None of those other storage units still had functional power; I think an asteroid had hit near the place where you were being kept. When the Earth was destroyed, you survived.”
“What do you mean, the Earth was destroyed? I was there this morning! Or something…” Her brain caught up with the idea that her perception of time might be wrong.
“Someone invented a technology which made the surface of a planet so uninhabitable that no one ever lived there again. Someone else used it,” Ral said.
“Why would anyone do that?” Sarah didn’t understand what would drive anyone to destroy an entire planet, with people living on it.
“As a show of power. About fifty years ago, a mad emperor went on a rampage around the Milky Way, destroying all the known inhabited planets. Earth now looks like Venus, the planet next to it. Poisonous gas and molten lava everywhere. The only people left from Earth are those who weren’t on the planet at the time. There are lots of Earth descendants on Minos Kerala since it was colonized by Earth’s Homo sapiens—that’s your species. Around the rest of the galaxy, Earth humans are pretty rare.”
“But… they’re fixing it, right?” Sarah felt like she’d been standing on a chair to reach a high shelf, and now the chair had been kicked away. How was the Earth—the whole, entire Earth—gone? All of it? It wasn’t fair. Her eyes became wet as she tried to make sense of it.
Part of her didn’t want to believe it; her background thoughts tried to reason that perhaps this was all a test, like a psychological evaluation, and that everything he was saying was a lie. A couple of the VR companies were rumored to use immersive scenarios to test the caliber of potential employees. The rest of her knew it was true. Nobody went around telling people things like that unless they meant them, and somehow this man, Ral or whatever his name was, seemed trustworthy. He radiated control and honesty, and it seemed like he had rescued her. He hadn’t used that medical exam to take advantage of her, either, despite the fact he was clearly aroused by it. He hadn’t even taken her panties down, although it would have been entirely justifiable.
“I’m sorry, Sarah. They can’t fix it.” Ral shook his head sadly.
Sarah felt lost as she tried to accept this situation. She couldn’t even wipe the tears away because she couldn’t move properly. A machine made a beeping sound again.
“That was the evaluation of your mental state. It advises that you shouldn’t be left alone. Unfortunately, I am not running a babysitting service so you will have to pull yourself together. If you’ve finished expending energy on this, I really need to ask you to leave. I have three more revivals to get through in the next hour, and they’re all paying customers.” The mean doctor pressed some buttons and Sarah felt something sharp behind her ear, then the glass slid away and she sat up properly.
“We can dispense with the pocket translator now.” Ral picked up a device that looked like a radio, pressed a button on it then put it in one of his pockets, making his jacket look slightly lopsided where the device bulged through the fabric. Sarah put her hand to the side of her head; Ral’s voice seemed to be inside her ear now. It was very disorienting.
“What just happened? Your voice…” Sarah frowned, unsure of how to describe it.
“Doctor Tavia implanted a Speakeasy chip behind your ear. It’s a special device that will translate everything you hear, so you can understand us all. Every citizen of the Interplanetary Alliance has one,” Ral explained. “Now, the kind doctor is going to waive her usual exorbitant fee if we quit her office immediately, so I want you to try and stand up, then let’s go for a walk around Minos Kerala city.”
Sarah put one foot on the black glassy surface, then tentatively put her weight on it. The other foot touched the floor too, and she saw that she was still wearing her ruby-red glittery party shoes. There had been an event, and she’d been dolled up. Where were her dress and clutch bag? She was dressed in a hospital gown. Something didn’t quite add up. Where had the event been? The memory of getting into a stretch limo was followed by nothing. A big empty blank patch where the rest of the night had gone. Who had she been with?
“Was I frozen in this hospital gown?” She looked at Ral, hoping for an explanation.
“Looks that way. There are plenty of places near here where you can get some clothing.”
“I’m pretty keen to know where my dress and purse went. They might explain why I got frozen.”
“Get out of my laboratory!” the doctor grumbled. “Outside is for conversations. Inside is for sick people. Paying sick people!”
“Wait! Do you have a towel, please?” Sarah wondered why this was sticking in her mind, but she knew it was important.
“On the shelf. Take one and get out.” The doctor waved a hand dismissively at a huge stack of white fluffy towels. Sarah picked one up and held it tightly.
Ral took Sarah’s free hand and gently led her out of the doctor’s office into the corridor.
“Why a towel?” he asked. She looked up at him, as the tears pooled on her lower lash line again.
“It’s the only single thing I can think of right now that will make me feel even remotely prepared for this situation,” she tried to explain, but she knew it must seem silly to other people. She was just glad that such a normal thing as towels still existed in this future. Was it a sign that everything hadn’t changed much? But then, she was on a foreign planet, surrounded by aliens whose languages were being translated by an implant behind her ear. How were there still towels? Her fingers gripped the towel to make sure it was still there. It was reassuringly fluffy.
Ral showed her out through the glassy automatic doors, and Sarah found out just how different this new world really was.
The street was bizarre. Sarah stared around at the black, glassy buildings under the tropical purple sky. There were rows of flying cars, about five feet off the ground, all traveling at a uniform pace. Occasionally, a vehicle would break away from the herd and land beside the dark, translucent pavement, and someone would either get into or out of the car, before it would take off again and rejoin the others. On the other side of the road, a woman in a shiny catsuit walked behind someone crawling on all fours; the woman held a leash that attached to a muzzle obscuring the crawling person’s face.
“Those people… are they performing street theater?” Sarah asked, barely able to stop staring.
“No, little one. They are probably just going for a walk on a summery afternoon.” Ral squeezed her hand, and Sarah was momentarily reassured that he would keep her safe in this scary world.
It didn’t last for long, however, and when they got to the bottom of the street, Sarah nearly walked straight into an enormous monster with masses of writhing green tentacles. Ral turned to wave at the monster at the same time that Sarah screamed in terror. Wrenching her hand free from his, she fled, clinging to her towel as she ran away. Ral called after her but she ignored him. She didn’t know how to feel about Ral in the torrent of emotions that seemed to be taking over her. He had seemed so safe and trustworthy, but she had no interest in finding out why he was being friendly with horrific monsters like that. Had he brought her all this way to deliver her to some sort of alien overlords? All the sci-fi shows she’d ever seen ran through her mind at once and she was too scared to stop and find out what was going on.
With no idea where she was going, she dodged down an alleyway between two tall buildings, and ran at top speed away from the terrifying tentacle monster. After taking several turns to throw off anyone chasing her, Sarah ran straight into someone, and they both fell to the ground. When Sarah looked up, she was surprised to see a young woman in a sailor dress.
“I’m so sorry, are you okay? We have to get out of here, there’s a tentacle monster nearby!” Sarah cried. Her towel had landed on the ground and she snatched it up like a hungry wolf snapping at a piece of meat. The other girl frowned then giggled.
“They look really scary but they’re just different. You look like you’re having a bad day; want to come to my place and play?”
In the midst of all the confusion, Sarah realized this must just be another dream. There was no planet anywhere, even in the distant future, where adults asked other adults if they wanted to play. It must be her subconscious yearning for a friend again. Sarah had always wanted someone who she could act little around, without having to worry about what she was wearing or what she said or did. In an ideal world, there would also be a daddy around to take care of her, but Sarah knew there wasn’t much chance of her finding anyone who would put up with her work schedule. More certain that she was dreaming, Sarah nodded at her new friend.
“I’m Sarah, what’s your name?”
“Laila. Are you new to Minos Kerala?” the other girl asked. Sarah nodded. “Don’t worry, this whole place is really weird ‘til you get used to it. Do you like painting?”
“Sometimes. I’m not very good at it though.” Sarah was definitely not an artist.
“Me neither! We can paint terrible pictures together in my playroom! C’mon, I’ll show you!” Laila took her hand and led Sarah around a corner to her building, a big warehouse made of the glassy black stuff that all the other buildings seemed to be built from. Behind the huge door, there was a spaceship parked in an enormous hangar-type room. The words ‘The Great Gig’ were just visible on one side of the ship, beside an unfinished painting of a pinup girl clad in a corset and frilly panties, who was still awaiting some feet and shoes, but otherwise looked a lot like Laila. The ship’s underside had a very dented door that looked large enough to load cargo.
“That’s my daddy’s ship. Our apartment is upstairs.” Laila led the way up the stairs to a mezzanine floor that half-covered the warehouse, and she opened a door at the top. Inside, there was a living room. One wall was just made of glass windows, facing outside, and the only pieces of furniture were a low coffee table and several very large beanbags. There were a few devices that looked like iPads on the coffee table, and a half-full glass of something orange. At one end of the living room, there was an open-plan kitchen.
“My little room’s this way!” Laila opened a door to one side and showed Sarah into what turned out to be a playroom. The walls were painted in a pale yellow. Three big toy chests brimmed with dolls and puppets. Two red plastic-looking easels stood side by side, one with the word ‘Basil’ at the top, the other, ‘Laila.’ Instead of a bed, a pink playpen stood in a corner. It was all perfectly adult-sized. Sarah had never seen anything so amazing.
When Laila got the paints set up, they both painted happily together until someone loudly opened and closed the front door.
“Laila? You home?” a voice called. Sarah paused with her paintbrush poised over the paper, then reached to the floor and picked her towel back up. Laila dropped her brush into her pot and ran out of the room.
“Daddy!” Laila shrieked with joy. Sarah cautiously put her brush down and tiptoed to the door, holding the towel ready to throw over the head of any monsters. She knew these sorts of dreams could change at any moment. The man tickling Laila didn’t look scary; nobody wearing such a normal knitted sweater had ever turned into a tentacle monster.
“We have a visitor, I see.” The man looked at Sarah, who shrank back and tried to hide most of herself behind the playroom door. If only there wasn’t so much of her, she thought, she could probably have gone unnoticed.
“Sarah, this is Basil, my daddy. Daddy, this is Sarah. I bumped into her on the street and she was lost and scared. Can she stay with us?” Laila looked so hopeful and Sarah was torn between wanting to roll her eyes and wanting to give her new friend a hug.
“Wait a moment, young lady. I think you need to explain this in more detail,” Basil said, and Laila told him what had happened. Sarah was too scared to interrupt; she just hoped the tentacle monster wasn’t going to reappear.
“So, you found her on the street and brought her here? Sarah, do you have a home nearby?” Sarah looked at him and shook her head. To her immense surprise, the chip was only translating one or two of his words in each sentence, and everything else he said was in English.
“You… you speak… normally…” Sarah struggled to put her thoughts into words. “Can you take me back?”
“To Earth?” Basil looked pained. “I’m sorry, Sarah, it’s been destroyed. Maybe you should tell me how you got all the way to Minos Kerala without knowing Earth was un-terraformed.”
Sarah hesitantly started explaining everything that had happened today.
“…And when we got to the end of the street, this scary monster appeared, and it was covered in slimy tentacles and I was so afraid that I ran away,” she finished. “Then I met Laila.”
“So there’s an elf out there somewhere who’s searching for you. Did you get his name at all?”
“Ralnar Rowardennan,” Sarah remembered. “He was really tall.”
“Yes, you told me; that’s how I knew he was an elf. Elves are always a lot taller than humans. There’s not many of them on Minos Kerala so they tend to all stay in touch with one another. I wonder if my good friend Flin knows him from one of the elvish bars…”
Sarah shook her head tearfully. She buried her face in her towel, feeling completely ridiculous as she did so, but still unable to help herself.
“Please don’t call him. He seemed to know that monster, I think they were friends.” She spoke through the towel but Basil seemed to understand her.
“Sarah, there’s a few tentacle monsters on Minos Kerala; they’re just regular people like you and me. They look different because they grew that way on their planets, but they’re not inherently bad or good. They’re just people,” Basil explained.
“I told you that!” Laila announced.
“You… you mean it wasn’t going to eat me?” Sarah asked, lifting her head from the towel.
“Absolutely not. They only eat seafood and plants,” Basil said. Sarah shook her head in disbelief. Pescetarian tentacle monsters… now she knew she must be dreaming.