The stranger

The stranger within my gate,
He does not talk my talk—
I cannot feel his mind.
I see the face and the eyes and the mouth,
But not the soul behind.
—Rudyard Kipling

My clothes were wet. I opened my eyes and winced as sweat poured in and stung my corneas. The room was insanely hot. I wiped my face on my shirt and glowered at the row of bars between myself and the rest of the science lab. I was trapped in one of the reinforced steel dog cages we used for the huskies. The door of the cage had been welded shut and lying immediately in front of the cage on the floor was the cock-eyed body of an adult leopard seal. I bent forward, frowning. Spegg was on the far side of the room.

“Gah! Primitive garbage,” he growled, shoving a spectroscope onto the floor. He kicked away the busted, loose pieces and moved a wide, black, rectangular case onto one of the lab tables. I didn’t recognize it, so I assumed it was from his ship. With a grunt, he swiped his hand over the top and it sprung open. I sat up for a better view and bumped my head on the top of the cage.

“Nani?” Spegg chirped, wheeling around. In his right hand he held a long, silver tube. He shuffled over and bent down in front of the cage, his thick, meaty lips twisted into a grotesque, W-shaped grin, twirling the shiny instrument between his pencil-like fingers.

“What the hell is that?” I said, and backed up as far as I could in the cage, which was only about ten inches.

He didn’t answer. Gripping the cylinder like a ball point pen, he clicked the end with his bony thumb and a mass of worm like needles slithered out, undulating hypnotically at the tip. I swallowed and Spegg started laughing, a warbling, high pitched chortle that forced me to grab my ears.

“Why so jumpy?” he sneered, then cocked his arm.

My heart lurched, the silver device flashed in his hand, and he stabbed the instrument downward. Suddenly the seal roared and its body convulsed as Spegg twisted and prodded the device into its neck. Its howling quickly degraded into desperate shrieks, it’s massive tail pounding the floor, its bulbous nose quivering and spewing blood.

Spegg grinned a row of tiny pointed teeth at me as he held the seal down, shouldering the instrument further into its flesh. The seal’s power faded fast—its protests grew feeble and helpless, the shrieking lessening into cries… whimpers… then dull, guttural moans, and finally the seal stopped moving altogether and there was nothing but the ghastly sound of fluids and tissue as Spegg continued to jerk the device around in its neck. My mouth hung open in horror and disbelief.

Spegg removed the instrument and retracted the motionless needles back into the tube’s chamber. He got up to go, but paused, then knelt back down and peered into my cage.

“Don’t worry,” he said, leaning closer, his giant, black eyes reflecting the thick columns of reinforced steel. “You’re next.”