A different happy ever after

With a face still crumbled with sleep, Quinn jawned and tried to rub the sleep from her eyes. She was not looking forward to the rest of the day, as she spent the last two hours snoozing in the high grass, tired and with an aching back. She hated reeking the hay, although she always loved working outside. But normally she would be here alone with the sheep, which didn’t bother her about her plans for any future she could foresee.
A heavy sigh sounded as she lay back on the ground for just another second. She really wasn’t feeling up for it. She never imagined that lying back down might be one of the biggest mistakes she would ever make.

_______

The next moment Quinn opened her eyes, her head was feeling heavy and sore, as if she had slept during a hot summer’s night with too little to drink. The sounds around here were strange, which was even more odd than the sudden headache. There normally weren’t sounds in the field, at least not sounds like these. Warily, she got up and looked around.
What she saw blew her off her feet, mostly because she wasn’t sure what she saw. Whatever it was, it was not from this world. The walls around her seemed to be made out of metal and were unlike anything she knew.  Completely overwhelmed, shocked, and with her mind possibly blown to several thousand pieces, Quinn looked around. While she didn’t know where she was, she was absolutely sure that whatever was going on was not a dream. There was no way she could dream of this place. This grey, cold empty room with no one here and only the cold touch of the metal floor that seemed to cling to her through her clothes. “Aah, you woke up?” Quinn turned around so quickly she almost lost her balance. Something was off, normally she was light on her feet, could balance on anything even if other people told her it was too thin or too high. That it was too dangerous. She never cared, as she knew it would be all right, this was the one thing she was good at. The fact that here she almost tumbled over as she turned around, that was something that got her attention more than her direct surroundings. “Wow, careful there cutie. You don’t got your shiplegs yet.” Although the guys words seemed friendly, he didn’t move to help her. Warily, Quinn looked him up and down. Something about him was odd, but she couldn’t put her finger on it. He was taller than anyone she had ever seen, his face long as a horses face, and he seemed sick, his skin a paleness that she had only seen on people who were beyond saving. However, he was leaning casually against the wall and nothing about him seemed to be unwell in any other way. “Where am I? Who are you? And what do you mean by shiplegs?” She wasn’t on a ship, so why would he say something like that. Although, to be honest, she could be as there was something really weird going on. The guy grinned, his lips moving over a set of teeth a weird green colour that startled Quinn. That certainly wasn’t normal! “I am Nava, and you have been picked up by The Beyonder. The finest trading vessel in this part of the galaxy.” The what in the what in the what? None of his words made sense to her. What kind of name was Nava? Beyonder certainly didn’t sound like a word to her. And what did he mean by the word ‘galaxy? Nava had said all of this with the grin still glued to his face. He loved telling the new stock these words. Many of them were familiar with time travel, but a lot had no clue about it and he loved that. He knew that this girl was a inhabitant of Earth, a planet far behind his when it came to technology and knowledge of science. There was no way that she would know about space, let along space travel. Quinn recovered quickly though, still not entirely comprehending what had happened. “So… We’re on a ship?”  The ‘trading vessel’ part she understood, even though she had never been to the harbour herself she knew her father went once a year for the annual market. Nava laughed. “You can say that cutie. The Beyonder is the best ship in the galaxy. Why don’t you just look out the window over there?” He pointed to a porthole just hidden behind Quinn, a port hole so small that she hadn’t noticed it before and she wouldn’t have seen it now either if Nava hadn’t pointed it out. Because at first there wasn’t much to see, just an endless amount of black ‘nothing’. Only slowly did something come in view, a blue ball, shimmering with live and nothing like anything Quinn had ever seen. Her eyes became big, as she moved towards the window to get a closer look but whatever it was that she was looking at didn’t get any closer. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it? You got a lovely planet there. It’s a shame you’ll have to say goodbye to it.” Nava looked at the young girl, knowing the effect of seeing Earth from space for the first time was baffling. It took all of Quinn’s strength to look away from the magnificent view. “What do you mean, that that is Earth?” And what did he mean by saying goodbye? Nava started grinning again, it was a sight that was not enjoyable. “Exactly what I’m saying sweetie. That’s where you lived, you are in space now, and you’re not coming back. So say your goodbye’s and come join us when you’re ready.” After which he simply turned around and left the room at the same time Quinn’s legs almost collapsed from under her. Earth? That was Earth? What did he mean by that? You couldn’t leave Earth! Unless you died of course, as your soul would move on to the next life. With space, did he mean the sky? The sky that was as black as whatever it was that surrounded them when she looked beyond the blue ball that she had seen outside the window?
Hastily, and because of that a bit clumsy, she scrambled after Nava. “Wait up! What do you mean, left? Am I… Am I dead or something?” Was that what happened? Was this the way to move on after passing away? Nava chuckled while he rolled his eyes. Creatures who didn’t know about space were hilarious when you tried to explain it to them at the beginning. Nava laughed again. “Don’t be ridiculous. Why would we pick up a dead chick? You’ve just travelled beyond that big blue sky of yours. So get used to it, you’ll learn soon enough that whatever it was that they taught you on that narrow-minded little rock is the furthest from reality you can get.” And with that, he picked up the pace, almost losing the scared Earth-girl twice.

The Beyonder wasn’t a big ship, it was rather small even, but it could be confusing if you didn’t know the way, and considering that gravity in the ship was a lot lower than it was on Earth it became even more disorientating. Quinn had trouble keeping up with the strange man, as she fired questions at him, which he ignored. All she wanted was to understand what was going on, where she was, and what she ate that he could dream something like this. Because that was what she still hoped, that it was all a dream. Nava opened another door. “Get used to it cutie, you’ll be here for a little while.” A strong push between her shoulders shoved her inside, the door closed behind her. The metal on metal sound resonated in her ears, Quinn new in a second that this must be the sound that you would hear when you were locked in a dungeon somewhere. She turned on her heels and started banging on the door, which again was completely made out of metal. “Hey! You can’t keep me here! Let me out!” The door, however, wouldn’t budge and the strange man did not return.
“It’s no use.” The voice startled her once again, and Quinn turned. Too quickly, again, as she felt the room spinning around her. Someone grabbed her, pulled her down. “Easy there, deep breaths. Try to focus on the wall.” The voice was soft, calm, it talked her through the faintness, grounded her in one-way or another. As Quinn gained her footing, metaphorically, she noticed more faces in the room. About six people were sitting on boxes, crates, and amongst rubble. Some looked similar to her, human-like that would be, and others came in all shapes and sizes. One of the guys, at least she assumed he was male, had a skin that was almost see-through and his insides seemed to glow. Three faces looked at the new girl in the room, two others kept talking. A sudden realization hit Quinn, as she looked to the other people in the room. “How… How can I…?” The girl who had pulled her to the floor, she was one of the more human-like people in the room, noticed the shock on Quinn’s face she smiled softly at her. “Translator,” she simply said as she moved her hand towards Quinn’s face. The girl flinched, practically jumped away from the stranger’s touch, but the girl kept smiling at her. “I’m not going to hurt you, don’t worry,” she said while stopping her motion before reaching towards her own ear. She tapped a spot right behind it, moved her hair to show Quinn a little metal knob the size of a seed of grain. “They must have implanted yours right before you woke up. It translates all known languages automatically into your own. It’s why you can understand us, and we you.” The shock on Quinn’s face didn’t fade, not even a single but as her hand flew towards her own face and she felt the cold touch of metal against her fingers. “How… Why…?” The questions that formed in her head didn’t make their way out of her mouth, blocked by shock and fear. The girl kept her friendly face. “I’m Ciyoa, from Nira. They picked you up from Earth, right?” Quinn nodded, the only movement she was able to make at this moment. Ciyoa saw that as encouragement for her to continue. “I know this must all seem very strange to you. Earth isn’t aware of alien lifeforms yet, is it? On my planet, we know that there is more than just us in the universe, but we haven’t developed long distance space travel yet. I was picked up by The Beyonder a year ago myself.” Quinn felt her stomach twinge, and her hands becoming sweaty, as she was pretty sure she was about to faint. She wasn’t usually the type to do something dramatic like that but she couldn’t help herself anymore. This was all just too much. First she saw her home, or what they claimed to be her home, from whatever it was they called space. Then they told her that she wasn’t dead, she just went beyond the blue sky that was supposed to be the edge of the world of mortal men, and now here was a girl that looked a bit like girls she had met before that told her she was from another planet. It felt like her brain was going to melt. Ciyoa ordered someone to get something to drink, as she tried to keep the Earth-girl from hyperventilating. The Niranian sighed. She had seen this reaction before. She was the first one of this “load” to be picked up, and therefore it fell on her to make sure the rest of the people picked up by The Beyonder adjusted. At least, she took it as her task. No one assigned it to her, and most people kept to themselves, knowing it was never a good thing to be kidnapped from your home planet by a merchant ship. “Drink this,” she said while she pushed the glass of water in Quinn’s hands. Quinn simply nodded, as she tried to get the glass to her mouth, but here hands were shaking too badly while she mumbled a silent prayer. Ciyoa recognized it, Quinn was not the first girl picked up from a planet that still believed to be the only one in the universe, or the first one picked up from a planet that didn’t even know that there was such a thing as the universe. A planet where religion ruled through fear and wishful thinking. She sat down in front of Quinn, which the others saw as I sign to start minding their own business. “Hey, it’s going to be okay, okay? As long as were on this ship nothing will happen to us.” Quinn, pale as a sheet, stared at the girl. She looked so human, and yet there was something odd about her. Her eyes and ears, they were unlike any the peasant girl had ever seen. “When… when can I go home?” she asked, her voice faint and shaking. Ciyoa’s face froze for half a second, long enough for Quinn to notice. “Am I ever going home?” She feared to ask the question, terribly afraid of the answer. They were told stories as kids about bandits that kidnapped children who stayed outside after dark, about pirates that plundered ships on sea and that burned ports to the ground. Even though she barely had a clue what was going on, Quinn realised that this ship was like those pirates, similar yet completely different from what she was told. She was sure her parents never thought of space-pirates kidnapping their children. Her parents… A new wave of fear hit the poor girl. What would her parents think if she didn’t show up for the rest of the reeking, didn’t show up for dinner, didn’t show up ever again anymore? Tears started filling her eyes, spilling over her cheeks. Ciyoa placed one of her hands on the girl’s shoulders, a gentle gesture meant to comfort Quinn but all it did was make the crying more intense. “It’s going to be okay,” Ciyoa repeated in a soft whisper. “It’s not that bad up here, we can explain all that is going on and before you know it we’ll dock at a port.” Quinn looked up in surprise. “A port?” What did they want to do there? Ciyoa’s eyes became a slight bit darker, literally. Her eyes shifted from blue to storm cloud grey, it was unsettling to see. “Yeah, these traders collect people all over the galaxy, to sell them off.” To sell them? Quinn’s face went back to shock. She would be sold? As a… She couldn’t even finish that thought. Ciyoa saw the fear on Quinn’s face and smiled. “But don’t worry, we’re working on a plan to get away before they can do that.” Her voice would have been reassuring, if her eyes hadn’t stayed grey…

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The concept of space, space travel, technology in general, and that there were more inhabited planets in the galaxy was a lot to take in, and Quinn had only a limited amount of days to learn all of it. It was a mission doomed to fail, but she tried to adapt as much as possible. First, she adapted to the ship, with its low amount of gravity, the weird material, the terrible tasting food, and the concept of the indoor plumbing. Second came getting used to her fellow abductees. Quinn learned quickly that most of them stayed to themselves, out of fear, out of anger. The only one who talked to everyone, who looked out for as much people as she could seemed to be Ciyoa. During the first couple of days, Quinn had learned that it was common amongst people from Nira that her eyes shifted colour based on her mood or thoughts. Her ears were the other odd thing about her, they were not just pointy but ended in two points at the top and at the bottom, as some weird squares. It seemed that everyone had something that made him or her unique, special in a way that Quinn had never seen. As she talked to some of them, and even more to Ciyoa Quinn started to realize how small her wolrd had been, how little she had known and how little everyone around her knew. The galaxy must be huge to have so much different planets that she didn’t even know about… It also got Quinn thinking whether or not anyone knew but just kept quiet. For the first time in her life, no one was there to set her straight when she started forming critical thoughts and it was liberating to be able to speak them out loud without someone threatening her in one way or another. However, there was little time to think about that, because with the realization of the size of the universe came the realization of the situation that she was in.

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