On the night of April 23, 1998, when was living in Boston, I got really stoned and attempted to write a science fiction story. This is what happened.
Alex wiped beads of sweat from his eyes. The salty sting was getting to him and the handkerchief wrapped around his hand was too drenched to do any good. Water and rations were running low, but this expedition was too important to turn around now. According to his map, they were in the heart of Tibula country. They were only the third party of humans to ever enter the great rainforest of the planet EJSJ4339, also known as Eden. Earth’s little brother. The environmental conditions on Eden have the closest relations to Earth than any other planet explored by humans.
And here Alex was, three years out of Cornell after receiving his PhD in anthropology, heading an expedition into the only virgin territory left on the planet. The first two scouting groups failed to ever return. Infrared satellite photos had pinpointed the exact location where they had stopped, and never moved again.
Every member of Alex’s squad had a location device in their backpacks so that headquarters knew where they were at all times. Along with Alex was his assistant Ben, Dr. Jeremy Bonstadt, a professor of archaeology at Berkeley, an environmentalist named David Chesterfield, the Reverend Charles Black, and a handful of soldiers.
They had all shuttled into the Human colony of Manuela, a port of military men and scientists. It was discovered that a chemical in the air called filideum zorine was toxic when inhaled by women. Their excess of estrogen caused their glands to bloat and gave them a high fever. So women could only visit the planet for a few days with the aid of oxygen tanks. In Mandella, the expedition was briefed on the terrain and the weather conditions of the area. Their gear was loaded and they trailblazed into the jungle.
They had been hiking through the mountains for twenty-four days. They were on the downhill and were only miles from the valley where the previous explorers hit their roadblock. The sun that Eden orbited around was scorching as the trees became less and less condensed. Alex unbuttoned his shirt completely to release some heat.
Only a few primitive tribes had been discovered on Eden. The natives are humanoid with pale greenish skin. They have extremely large, black eyes and small, sharp noses. Biologists have discovered that their organs are surprisingly similar to humans’ and serve the same functions. They communicate by clicking their tongues and whistling, a language scientists are still struggling to decipher. Their civilization was almost exactly like that of Australopithecus humans millions and millions of years ago.
A shout rose up from one of the soldiers at the front. “There’s a path!”
Alex ran, his pack bouncing on his back, to where the soldiers were huddled in a knot. Surely enough, a worn down, dirt trail laid right in front of them. Soon the rest of the group was huffing and puffing.
“We should send a reconnaissance down each way.” Sergeant Patterson was the leading officer of the soldiers. He was a rough, middle aged man who had served on Eden for the last fifteen years.
“Good idea,” replied Alex.
They sent two soldiers in each direction down the path. Alex waited anxiously for what seemed to be hours for the soldiers to return. The sun was still high and blazing when the first pair returned. They reported that if they took a left, the route headed back in the direction from which they just came. The expedition loaded their packs on their backs and filed down the trail to the right.
Fifteen minutes later they met up with the other two scouts. About a mile down the path it widened and turned into a well-traveled road. They were soon traveling down the road, but no other sign of civilization could be seen.
The foliage encasing the trail was much like the brush they had seen for the previous two and a half weeks. The vegetation was like nothing Alex had ever seen before. Granted, this was only the fifth alien planet he had the privilege to step foot on, and the other four were barren deserts of rock and primordial soup. Here on Eden the trees were overgrown fern with very plastic-like brown and orange leaves. The bushes laid very close to the ground and were brambly and scratchy. The wilderness slowly thinned out into a prairie of ruddy grass.
Voices arose at the front of the line.
“What’s that?” murmured Alex.
Brown mounds were barely visible over the waves of brush. As they neared, Alex realized they had found their destination. It was a village.
“We should stop here and send a reconnaissance expedition.” Sergeant Patterson strode aside Alex.
“Yes, I suppose we should.” The group stopped and the officer started barking orders to his troops.
“Excuse me, sergeant.” Alex tapped him on his shoulder. “Would it be possible for me to go with them?”
“Better not. We don’t know what could be up there. You would be safer here and let the trained men take care of this.”
“Yes, you’re right.”
Once again the group waited. Silence and darkness enveloped them as their greatest dreams and worst nightmares flitted in their heads. A low humming sound of strange insects filled the muggy air. Without a sound the soldiers returned out of nowhere.
“What is it? A village?” asked Alex.
“Affirmative,” answered one of the men.
“Give us the details,” Ordered Patterson.
“As far as we can tell the inhabitants are human. Primitive, but human. Their huts are made out of mud and it seems they support themselves by farming the land. As far as we can tell the natives are peaceful.”
“Did you make contact?”
“I suggest we stay here for the night and send in another reconnaissance patrol in the morning to make contact with the village.”
“I agree,” said Alex.
The soldiers cleared away the brush with machetes and they set their tents up. After taking his vitamins, Alex tried to lie down and rest. Even after his strenuous trek he was not tired. He sat up with the soldiers and stared at the blackness walled in around them.
“Do you hear something?” asked one of the soldiers as he cocked his head.
“Yeah,” said another. “It sounds like footsteps.”
Then Alex heard it. The unmistakable crunch of footsteps was getting louder. The soldiers snapped their guns to attention in the direction of the noise. A dark, thick human appeared at the edge of the camp.
“Una Y’owey,” he said. He motioned for them to follow him.
“What is he saying?” asked the guard.
“I think we are supposed to go with him.” Alex stared at the man. His white teeth shone through his broad smile. “Wake up the sergeant.”
Soon the entire camp was staring at the inviting stranger.
“I say we go with him,” Alex said. “If they try anything our men are more than prepared to stifle them.”
“So it seems,” agreed Patterson.
Leaving the camp standing, the group followed the strange human through the darkness. The village glowed above the brushline and grew brighter. Then Alex heard a faint, eery music. Pipes and drums flowed with sounds of the insects in a rhythmic aria.
A small group of villagers were waiting at the entrance of a tall gate. They cheered joyously when they saw their visitors from Earth. The greeters grasped each guest by the hand and led them to a giant dining table in the center of the huts. A bonfire was blazing and musicians circled it, playing their enchanting tune. A gorgeous, dark-skinned girl led Alex to a seat at the table.
“Hello,” she cooed.
“What? How do you know…” Before Alex could finish she had danced away. All of the men wore brown loin cloths and the women wore bulky shirts with pouches in the back and baggy leather pants. The hosts began setting dishes of putrid smelling food on the table.
“No thanks.” Alex shook his head as a native motioned him to eat.
“Is this how they plan to kill us?” asked Ben.
“This is actually pretty good.” The reverend was scooping a pile of brown mush into his mouth. Alex slowly took a bite. It was so sour that it was sweet. He ate until he could swallow no more. Then a woman began to pour drinks into goblets for each of the earthlings. Alex sniffed it. Like the food, it smelled rancid, but he took a sip anyway. It was just like syrup only thinner.
The girl who had spoken to him led him by his hand again. They sat beside the fire with the rest of the tribe. A weathered, gray man was wildly telling a story.
“Kachuna Ellowen sim-oney.” He was waving his hands about and grimacing.
Alex noticed he was becoming light-headed. The girl was pressed against him tightly. He could feel every soft curve of her body clinging to him. Soon he noticed that his entire troop had disappeared. Except Ben. Ben sat alone, entranced by the storyteller.
Alex didn’t realize he was once again being led away. This time he found himself inside a hut. Lights were dancing around him like fireflies.
“Hello,” the girl said. He was in a bed. She was standing over her him. Slowly, she lifted the lumpy shirt over her head. Her body was slim and tight. A black elf. Alex sat up as she set herself on the bed. He kissed her lightly on the lips. He stroked her hair and she began to clumsily finger his shirt. He grabbed her hands and unbuttoned it himself. He laid her down gently and slipped off her overstuffed slacks. She was beautiful laying there in the shadows. She gazed at him tempestuously. Alex unbuckled his belt and lowered his pants. He leaned over and kissed her. He positioned himself and she easily let him inside her.
Then a pair of hands jerked Alex back by the shoulders. Alex swung around to find Ben dragging him off of the bed.
“They are all dead.”
“Everyone! Everyone is dead! We’ve got to get out of here!”
Alex stumbled to put his pants back on.
“Come on! We’ve got to get out of here!”
Wearily, Alex followed Ben out into the stillness of the night. Complete silence hovered around the bonfire. Naked bodies were strewn about the dirt. Not one native was in sight. Alex could barely recognize the bloated face of Sergeant Patterson. They were all dead. Revered Black, Dr. Bonstadt, Dr. Chesterfield, all of the soldiers. Something had suddenly stricken them. There was no blood or wounds. Was it the food? If so, why were he and Ben still alive?
“Come on Doctor,” Ben was urging. “We’ve got to get out of here.”
Alex tramped after Ben down the path. His stomach was gurgling and felt queasy. A rush of vertigo hit him and Alex collapsed on the path.
“I can’t. I can’t go. I can’t go.”
“You can make it. We’ve just got to make it to camp. I radioed headquarters. They’re sending a helicopter. We’ve just got to keep going.”
“I can’t. I can’t.”
Alex could hardly breathe. His head was swimming and his face was burning up. He could no longer feel his hands or his feet.
“Come on,” Ben grunted as he heaved the doctor onto his shoulders. He took a few unsteady steps then picked up momentum. He stumbled blindly until he crashed onto their camp. He set Alex on a cot and covered him with a blanket.
“Here. Drink this.” He dripped some water out of a bottle into Alex’s parched, cracked lips.
“Just hold on. They should be here any minute.”
Alex barely heard the chopper. He knew he was being lifted. The rest was utter unconsciousness.
Ben mopped the doctor’s forehead with a wet rag for the entire ride.
“Where are the others?” the pilot asked him.
“They are all dead.”
Alex woke up in a hospital. Machines and tubes surrounded him. A doctor entered the room.
“You’re very lucky Mr. Simons got you out of there when he did,” she said through her oxygen mask.
“What? What did Ben do?”
“He saved your life. Those alien girls are poisonous to you earthmen. You were very lucky to be exposed to only a small dose of that girl’s venereal toxins.
“So everyone died?”
“Except you and Mr. Simons.”
“Good God. What happened to the village?”
“The army took it over. The inhabitants were shipped off to laboratories and the military set up a base of its own.”
“What are they doing to them at the laboratories?”
“Tests I suppose.”
“Is Ben around?”
“Yes, would you like for me to send for him?”
A short while later the doctor escorted Ben in.
“What happened?” Alex asked him.
“I was sitting there by myself after that girl led you away, when all of a sudden Sergeant Patterson staggered out of one of the huts completely naked and gagging. Soon everyone followed. They dropped like flies. I knew which hut you had gone in, so I grabbed you before you went too far.”
“Yes, too far. It was the poison from the girls’ vaginas that killed everyone.”
“Why weren’t you seduced like everyone else?”
“I thought you knew.”
“Well doctor, I’m gay.”
“Well thank God for that.”