Proxy Part I
Part I
By: Adam Stump

Period. He presses the key on the old Underwood typewriter and zips the paper out of the machine, placing it face down on a two inch pile of typewriter paper. He's the greatest science fiction writer you've never heard of, and he's finished. It's his first novel, coming in at just under 160,000 words. He's poured his lifeblood (and fingertips) into this manuscript. This stack of paper is the culmination of months of pounding on the unforgiving keys of the Underwood, dutifully erasing and sweeping away his mistakes, painstakingly preparing the words for another person to devour and digest. It is his legacy, and it is finally complete.

He pushes his wheeled office chair back from the desk and nearly bumps a bubbled, wobbling pressboard bookshelf. He spins around and grabs a large, Manilla envelope off the fake woodgrain shelf. Wheeling back around he picks up the stack of papers and thumps them on the ratty old desk one more time, just to make sure that the edges and corners are even. The first page proclaims in old typeface the title: "First Contact."

Sighing with both satisfaction and relief, he slides the few hundred pages into the envelope, carefully licking the glued edge before wrapping the string around the cardboard buttons in a few sloppy figure eights. Jack Isherwood: Fallinghouse Publishing is printed neatly on the front of the envelope. He slides the packet into a worn, Corinthian leather satchel beside the desk, then interlaces his fingers, stretching above his head and arching his arms behind him to a delightful pop of vertebrae in his back. He sighs again.

Planting his feet firmly on the floor, he presses his hands against the arms of his chair and stands erect for the first time in months–no longer exhausted and fatigued, but invigorated and refreshed. For the first time in his adult life, he's accomplished something–his first novel. He strolls over to the casement window in his dilapidated apartment on the outskirts of Garden City, New Jersey. Looking out the single pane of glass, he mulls over whether or not he should go to Philly for a steak.

A smiles creeps across his face as he grabs his jacket and Phillies cap and slams the door shut. The deadbolt turns as he twists his worn, brass key in the tumbler. Stepping outside into the crisp fall air, he passes by several people on his way to the station. His stomach growls as he searches his pocket for the appropriate change.

As he looks down at the pavement, he notices that one of his shoes is untied. He stoops down onto one knee to tie it. Even as he's doing the loopty-loo and pulling the bow tight, a shadow chills the back of his neck. The pavement turns dark gray and the hair on the back of his neck stands straight up. Sheepishly, still holding the bows of his laces, his neck turns and his full, white eyes stare straight up into the sky.

A large, titanium gray disk is hovering several hundred feet above him in the sky. The disk is as large as a small city and blocks the sun's rays. His mouth opens to scream, but not even breath escapes. Instantly, a blue-white beam encircles him, drawing him up into the sky. His stomach churns and somersaults as he's lifted above the low-rise buildings around him. In the distance, he sees the Philadelphia skyline. He rises into a large, circular hole, ringed by giant metal triangles. The scene reminds him of a squid's beak about to crush the prey drawn in by reaching, hungry tentacles.

He is brought, weightless, through the opening and into a dark room. The hole below him shuts and he's gently placed on a cool, damp surface. The darkness is oppressive. Slowly, his eyes notice a phosphorescent glow–faint at first, then growing. He sits, cross-legged, on the floor, which now seems to possess a slimy film. As the glow around him grows, he sees rib-like columns on the walls, separating ghostly conclaves. The light in the walls pulses like a heartbeat, growing stronger and brighter down the corridor that is directly in front of him.

He turns his head and behind him is total darkness. Slowly pressing down on the floor, he takes a knee and then stands, wiping his damp hands on the front of his pants. He walks, cautiously, toward the brighter hallway, noticing the pulsing getting stronger as he moves forward. The entire space is silent–even his footfalls are muffled in what appears to be a thin mucous covering every surface.

The further down the hall he travels, the faster the pulsing of the light in the walls. Eventually, his journey takes him so far that his eyes no longer discern strobing. The light is bright and constant. In front of him, the hallway ends in a membranous wall. It pulses with what looks like veins and arteries, all gray and black–totally devoid of the blues and reds of human anatomy. Slowly reaching his hand forward, he touches the surface. Pressing his palm into the gooey material, the film glows and pulses around his hand. He feels warmth rush to greet him.

Almost imperceptibly, a narrow slit opens in the membrane. The middle parts wide, narrowing at the top and bottom. While a tight fit, he can press himself through. The passage covers him in the mucous of the membrane as he squeezes into the next compartment.

The mucous-lined hallway pulsing with light is gone. He now finds himself in a large, sterile room filled with monitors and lights and buttons. They beep and ping and show small lines arcing and undulating with the rhythm of the universe. There are metal railings leading him along a pathway, keeping him just out of reach of the machines. He continues forward, squinting his eyes as he passes underneath harsh, white lights.

Nearing the end of the cold, hard room, He sees a metal door. Pressing his palm against it, nothing happens. He pushes. Harder. Searching around the door frame, he sees several cords connected to various screens and machines. Seeing a red cord, he pulls on it. Nothing happens. He pulls harder. Finally, it comes free of the wall, several fibers shooting sparks and mist all around the door. With a whoosh, the door opens. He walks inside the next room and the doors whoosh shut. He stands in total darkness. Silence. Cold. Suddenly, he hears a whirring sound and sees a green light flicker. It illuminates a console ten feet in front of him. It continues to blink. The rhythm is that of his own heartbeat.

Slowly, he steps forward toward the blinking green light. As his heartrate increases, so does the blinking. As he stands in front of the light, he stops breathing. The green light fills his field of vision. He doesn't dare blink. He reaches out with his hand and places his palm on the console. He presses down as hard as he can onto the green light. He feels a constriction in his chest. The harder he presses, the harder his chest convulses. Finally, he breathes. The tension in his chest relaxes and he lifts his hand off the console. Yellow, red, and green lights illuminate before him, the walls glow with the same blue-white light as in the corridor. He sees that he's in a command module, or bridge. Everything before him is in an alien script. Writing is everywhere, but nothing that he can read.

He hears a clicking and whirring behind him. He wheels around, raising his fists, expecting a fight. Instead, coming from the wall–a cocoon of sorts–he sees a female form. It's the same color as the titanium walls of the bridge. She has the same green eyes as the console that he just pounded. However, she's leaner than the bridge. Just as cold, but not as spacious. Slender. She has all the features that a woman does, except without any blemish–perfect in form. He is immediately drawn to her. She's flawless, except that she's part of the machine. Her slender head has no hair, but her almond-shaped eyes glow with the burning radiance of a sun-not-yet-seen. Her torso is of perfect proportion and her hips are slightly splayed with a gap between her thighs unlike any legs that earth has ever seen. Those legs are just slightly longer than her torso and reach down to the floor, but are connected to it like the roots of a tree.

She glides forward in a single motion and engages the console. We have been waiting for you. Her mind connects to his without spoken words. You are the one that we sought. Now you are here. Direct us.

"I–I don't know where–" he stammered.

With your mind. Direct us with your mind.

Immediately, a chair slides behind him and nearly knocks him down. Off balance, he falls into it. The chair eases forward to the console and a screen lights up before him. It is gray, but luminescent. He looks into it, but there are no words or images on the screen. On either side, he feels indentations. He looks and sees hand prints. They have a thumb and three fingers, but are larger than human hands. Pressing his middle and ring fingers into the middle finger impressions, he lets his other fingers fall into place. As he does, the gray screen before him lights up. It fills with alien symbols.

They continue to flood the screen. They scroll and move, and as they do, he feels electricity move through the grooves cradling his fingers and palms. His eyes reflect the yellow and white alien symbols on the screen as he searches, darting back and forth, trying to discover their meaning.

The android moves behind him, resting her delicate hands on his temples. She strokes his hair and his eyes close. She caresses his ears, neck, and throat; he swallows. His Adam's apple presses against her delicate appendages. She gasps an electronic breath and her eyes glow brighter. A slight crackle of electricity sizzles across her facepiece and her mouth closes. Her eyes glow deep amber as her fingers return to the sides of his head. She massages his temples with the tips of her fingers. Tiny blades emerge from the end of her fingertips.

He winces as her fingers embed themselves into his temples. With acrobatic ease, several of her fingers move across his forehead and embed themselves amidst his furrowed brow. He grits his teeth, then jerks as the android behind him groans a mechanical undulation. The two move in chorus as she presses her lips into the back of his head. She kisses his scalp as static crackles and she stares at the screen. His eyes begin twitching behind their lids.

The computer screen flashes white and then goes black. After a moment's pause, white dots appear on the screen. Next to each dot is a set of coordinates. The alien characters are gone. English letters and Arabic numerals populate the screen. Star charts emerge and numbered galaxies dance across the display. Her head jerks back and she gasps, her eyes glowing bright white. He grits his teeth and presses his hands into the molds.

Almost imperceptibly, his fingers and palms press into the grooves of the console. Slowly, a rhythm forms as he taps into the smooth metal. The speed of his fingers increases as his closed eyes twitch faster and faster. His mind enters REM sleep and he presses into the hand molds so hard that his fingers blotch pink and white. With a sudden spasm of his legs, he pushes his chair backward into the torso of the android. Her grip on his head tightens. The monitor in front of them blinks, then zeroes in on a star.

The large disk lifts off the surface. As it rises, several fighter jets using both English and Russian call letters move in, but are instantly pulverized by the defensive shield pushing outward from the ship. It rises higher and higher, a deafening hum causing the humans below to double over in pain, grabbing their ears, screaming inaudibly over the whirring of the vertical propulsion of the disk.

To Be Continued…

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