She had been abducted and held here for a few days. It had happened at home, at night while she was watching TV. The last thing she remembered was a white light, a piercing sound and a ringing in her ears, and then she woke up here.

She is in a small room which is white and clinical, and smells like fresh pine needles. An image of a small wooden cabin by a lake is projected on one of the walls, it seems vaguely familiar to her. There is no furniture apart from the bed she is lying on and a small table beside it. She is hungry and thirsty however she isn’t scared, she feels an overwhelming sense of calm.

Her abductors have only visited her once, three of them dressed in white with strange silver masks on their faces. One placed a thin white disk on the palm of her right hand while the others stood silent and observing, like medical students studying a patient in a hospital. The white disk started to glow, first a bright luminous yellow and then orange. Her three abductors nodded in unison, as if they were pleased with this result, and then removed the disk carefully from her palm and left the room.

She wonders if anyone has noticed she is missing, but then probably not. Her parents both passed away when she was sixteen and her only other family is an absent Uncle who she hasn’t seen or heard from in years. Her preference for solitude means she has no real friends, and her work as a freelance illustrator provides her with the convenience of being able to work from home. In fact she could go for days or even weeks without seeing or conversing with a single person. Maybe this retreat from people and the world is the reason her abductors had chosen her, as no-one would notice she was gone.

She is suddenly aware of how hungry and thirsty she really is and begins to panic. But before she can even think about screaming for help the door to her room slides open and one of her abductors, dressed in white with the strange silver mask covering their face walks in. “Don’t panic” he says soothingly, “I am here to help you”.

The voice is male, however he does not seem like any man she has met before. He brings out the same thin, white disk as before and places it on the palm of her right hand. This time the disk glows blue. “You need food and water” he says in a concerned voice. He leaves the room for a moment and returns with a tray holding two flasks. He places the tray carefully on the table beside her bed. “The silver flask holds your food and the white flask your water” he tells her. He leaves the room before she can ask him any questions.

She takes the lid off the silver flask first and holds it up to her nose. It smells remarkably like chicken soup so she takes a sip. As the hot broth fills her stomach she immediately feels calm again, comforted even. She finishes the contents of both flasks then gets up from her bed and walks over to the door to her room. To her surprise it slides open. At first she hesitates but then feels compelled to walk out the door and down a long white hallway.

The hallway leads her to a large round room with small blue chairs in the middle, set up in pairs and facing each other. She recognises the man who brought her food and water, sitting on one of the chairs and walks over to him. “Please sit down, I am sure you have many questions for me” he offers. He takes off his strange silver mask and places it on the floor underneath his chair. There is an elegance and lightness to his movements and gestures, it reminds her of her absent Uncle when he used to practice yoga in her parent’s garden in the Summer when she was a child. His features are plain, perfect and nondescript, like a Plastic Surgeon from one of those extreme makeover TV shows. Again he does not seem like any man she has met before. She realises that perhaps this is because he is not human.

“Where am I”?

“You are on our Mothership Edie”.

“How do you know my name”?

“We have been watching you for a long time, we know everything about you. How your parents used to take you to a small cabin by a lake every spring when you were a small child. How you used to pick pine needles from your neighbours tree as you walked to school every morning and rub them between your hands as you liked the way they smelled. How you still make a pot of chicken soup every Sunday evening as it reminds you of a time your grandmother looked after you when you were sick.”

She thinks back to being in her white, clinical room earlier on, the smell of pine needles, the image of a small cabin by a lake, and the flask of piping hot chicken soup. Things her abductors had collected from her past to make her feel calm and comforted, so she wouldn’t feel afraid.

“Do you have a name?”

“We don’t have names. Would you prefer it if I did?”

“Yes. You remind me of my Uncle in a way so I will call you ‘Paul’ if that’s OK?”

“Paul is good, I like that.”

“Paul, how are you able to speak my language?”

“We have learned to speak all of your languages, you and the others like you.”

“What do you mean the others like me?”

“We have been watching others on your planet too. We have brought others here before you, and we will bring others here after you.”

“Paul, why am I here”?

“We have brought you here to learn from you Edie. You and the others like you have one thing in common that is very important to us, you are alone but you are not lonely. You seem to enjoy your solitude. We are travellers on what it seems is a very long journey to nowhere. Our planet was destroyed a long time ago and there are only thirty-three of our species left. All we have is this Mothership. We are alone and so very, very lonely. What we wish to learn is how we can be more like you.”

“What have you learned so far”.

“That even though you all have this one thing in common you are all very different.”

“And where are they now, the others you have brought here before me?”

“They are safe and back on your planet. We return you all once we have learned everything we can. We wait until you are sleeping and simply ‘beam you back’ as your science fiction stories would say.”

“What if we don’t want to go back, what if we would rather stay here, on your Mothership with you”?

“We have never thought to ask that question before. Tell me Edie, why would you want to stay here, on our Mothership with us?”

“I don’t know Paul. Maybe to be somewhere else for a while”.

Image: Photographed by Tim Walker, British Vogue, 2009.

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