The mass of tissue, the womb-like thing that Spegg had created in the science lab, had slowly stopped pulsing and throbbing, contracted, and formed into a lifeless ball of muck, roughly the size of a softball. Spegg largely ignored it now, and had left the room for a while and returned with a long tube of golden foil, like a roll of wrapping paper.

My stomach ached and I turned my attention back to the elephant seal’s carcass. I hadn’t touched it, and Spegg hadn’t bothered me about it again. I guess he figured I’d eat when I got hungry enough. And honestly, the idea was slowly becoming less and less repulsive. I eyed the hotplate, the fresh injury Spegg had given the seal, and sighed. Fine. I had to eat something and if this was all I got, then so be it. I untwisted my body from the fetal position I’d been keeping to ward off the hunger pains and slid up onto my knees in the shallow cage.

Spegg had unrolled and spread the roll of foil on the counter, and as I reached through the cage bars to plug the cord into the wall I watched as he drew his fingers along the right side of the foil, which sparked and gave life to a luminous three dimensional display that sputtered for a moment, then suddenly projected a seemingly solid map of the stars directly above and around the golden sheet.

I leaned forward and let the cord fall out of my hands. With his bony index finger, Spegg tapped on a region of the universe and a model of an alien spiral galaxy sprung forward with a flash. I gripped the cage bars and stuck my face between them as Spegg tapped on various places in the galaxy, colorful nebulae and clusters of stars and planets whisking by his fingers as he swiped them away and zoomed in deeper and deeper, farther in to one of the galaxy’s spiral arms to a region of the galaxy dominated by a perfect, black sphere that bent and distorted the light from the nearby stars as if they were circling a drain.

“Oh my god,” I gasped.

Spegg turned his head. “You know what this is, Chikushou?”

“Of course.”

“Good,” he replied, clenching his fist. “We will go there.”

My mouth dropped open. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Spegg said nothing and removed what looked like a tiny, white remote control from his oval case. His eyes were calm and his mouth set in a long, thin line as he engaged a mechanism on the device with his thumb. The room filled with a terrible buzzing—the sound of a thousand bees screaming in my ears. The muscles in my arms twitched, my jaw snapped shut, then suddenly my body went numb and I collapsed onto the cage floor. I breathed hard, paralyzed, as Spegg gathered the acetylene torch and started cutting through the door.