We stood, shivering, in the steel cold room. Not that they cared, it was a balmy temp for them. They were lounging around on divans, if my memory serves of tales about Romans and orgies. We can just do as told.
I’ve survived so long. It had to happen one of these days. I was just sixteen when the skies opened and the ships came. I was in the city, to shop. My prom was coming up and I didn’t like any of the dresses in my small town stores. I had to have something special, different. I’m long past grieving for that simple life. Scooped up, with something others have told me were tractor beams but they don’t know. Old SciFi geeks, they call themselves. The tech is too advanced, we’re like dogs, ordered to sit, stand, fetch. We do what we’re told.
Now I’m part of the select, that’s what they call it. The Select, like it’s something special. It’s special all right. A special way to die.
We’ve been pampered all month. Well, it’s thirty sleeps for us. The day night cycle is long, longer than humans can tolerate. I heard stories that when they first started taking humans, they expected us to work on their schedule. People just died from exhaustion. Now they understand, we need to sleep often, at least often on their schedules. So households have many servants, we work in shifts to clean, entertain, cook, take care of their offspring.
Don’t get me started on the offspring. The nanny corp needs constant replenishment.
Anyway, here I am, dressed in the special robe, nanotech flashing a number on my tunic. An amplified voice speaks the alien numbers as a screen flashes them up for the gamers to see. If a number shows on the screen, the human who bears that number disintegrates. The masters moan in their own way but I’ve already lost six friends today. I stand stone-faced but several are weeping. Silently, of course. There will be no unseemly wailing to disrupt the fun. I’m just angry.
At the end of each game there is a winner, and those of us with the right symbols are excused. Back to the approved master, of course, no one is ever freed. I can’t imagine what Earth is like now. Did they take over? Did they just scoop us all up and leave the planet alone? I have no idea.
Now it’s my turn. My group is herded forward to stand on the similarly numbered squares and the game begins. At each called number, a player around me disintegrates. The dust of them makes me cough and my eyes water but I’m not crying. My teeth grind together as my nails dig into my palms.
As far as I can figure, I’ve made it twenty years in this hell hole. I’m thirty-seven and have borne eight children, none of whom I’ve been allowed to see after the birth. I’ve figured I’m so old that I’d be among the select sooner rather than later though the method of choosing us is a mystery.
The booming voice keeps chanting numbers. Some sort of random number generator the rumor has it. More of us disappear. One of the aliens whistles and throws one of their upper appendages into the air. Many of the other aliens moan. I look around; I’m one of the last five. We’re led from the arena and taken to another room. Other humans undress us and lead us to the steam baths. We’re given food and wine. How the aliens found out about that is beyond me. They drink something that others have told me resembles hydrochloric acid. I enjoyed the wine, whatever it is. I’ve earned it. I won’t be chosen for the Select again.
There is a rumor that some humans are gathering together to fight the aliens. What a joke. Like they can work any of the tech. Do they have four hands? Do they even know what the tech does? Wishful thinking by humans about to use whatever tool they can find to make their own end.
Tomorrow I’ll be back in my master’s kitchen mixing up the chemicals they call food. There’s a rumor there was a game like this on Earth, though not deadly. Bingo. What the hell is Bingo?
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