Close Encounters, Chapter 9

Chapter 9

I get out of my pod. I was having a dream about him.

Ever since the maze, it felt as though he was finally opening up to me again. It felt as though that stupid excuse about him not liking me because Jonathan had all faded away. Whatever reason he was giving to stay away from me no longer worked. He wanted me. I could see it in his eyes.
“He must be back there talking to Canaan,” Star says, “They were here just a second ago.”
“Why are you looking for him?”
It’s a strange question but then again I’ve been getting odd vibes from Star. It was the kind of guy that you knew liked you but he just wasn’t getting the clue. It didn’t take a genius to put together that he was feeling some type of way about me and Naz spending more time together. Him asking me this question was just the example of it.
I wasn’t good at this. Every time I get confronted with something I start to sweat. My tongue gets dry in my throat and I feel like I’m choking on something.

None the less I answer.

“I like him.”
I’m trying to be as clear as possible. I wasn’t the type to hide things. I wasn’t the type to hold secrets. I wasn’t the type to do any of that. Right now I wanted to make it obviously clear to him where I stood and why I was where I was.

“You don’t know anything about him,” Star argues as though my feelings were up for some debate.
I believe it’s the exact reason I don’t like Star. He has this sense of entitlement. I didn’t know how wealthy he was but I didn’t think it was about his money. It was about his looks. He was that ideal Antlien who walked around with all us “normal” looking people thinking that their looks were going to get them whatever they wanted. Antliens were a smart race that was technologically advanced and they had the looks on top of that. It’s no wonder so many Familiars took to them.

“I like him,” I tell Star, “And the part of being around him is trying to get to know more about him.”
“What would Jonathan say.”
“Excuse me.”
Star was a stranger. We were all strangers. The fact that right at this moment he has the audacity to bring my family into this because he was feeling some type of way that his crush liked someone else was ridiculous. I look at him and raise an eyebrow feeling like I’m in the twilight zone or something. That’s saying a lot based on the fact that we were in shuttle underground.

“What would Jonathan say if he knew that you were laid up with a member of the Resistance?” Star asks, “The bottom barrel of society.”
“Fuck you.”
That’s how I answer him. Him calling Naz the “bottom barrel” of society struck me in a way that I didn’t think it would. Star is the one talking to me but when he opens my mouth I almost swear I hear my grandfather speaking right out of his lips. I almost swear its Jonathan talking down to me about how I should get private tutoring and quit the public school before I am tainted as though I’m some pure filtered water flowing around toward a dirty stream. He was looking at me the same way that Jonathan looked at me. They thought I was too good. They thought I was one of them.
But I wasn’t like them.
I wasn’t some stuck-up dickhead.

“Wait…I’m sorry.”
I ignore him. He’s not sorry that he said it. He’s sorry that I’m irritated by it.

“I’m going to look for Naz.”
I get up off the pod and start towards the back rooms. The white room is long and the pods are getting emptier. Our numbers are down. The lights are flicking back on at this moment. Looks like they we are regaining power. It bothers me when I hear about Canaan and Naz going into the private bathroom area to talk but at this point I realize that Naz isn’t necessarily mine. I can’t tell him who he should talk to and when. Still…I knew Canaan well enough to know I couldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him.

“Wait…you volunteered?”

It was Canaan’s voice. I get closer trying to pay attention.

“Yeah,” Naz states, “I told you that.”

“No, you didn’t. You told me you were chosen.”

“Damn it. It always happens when I’m irritated…”

I don’t see what happens but whatever happens seems to freak Canaan the fuck out. I can hear his breathing from the behind the wall in the bathroom. The bathroom is lit up by now. The shower stalls are all lined up next to each other. These showers look almost old-fashioned like it was taking from a different time or something. They were different from the chromotherapy shower back home. I was used to the unique designs of my home shower with a handheld showerhead, foam, chromotherapy, radio, thermostatic taps, and three whirlpool jets. The showerhead can change colors to adjust body vibrations to frequencies that result in health and harmony. The shower also constantly cleans and recycles the water you use, thereby saving on water especially since there was a drought last year on 2nd Earth due to the fact that the sacrifice was late.

This was…just a regular shower. Like some sort of ancient shower. It sprayed water and it went down the drain. It was strange but I guess they did it to cut costs.


Naz pauses.

Then out of nowhere, he says, “A shame. You would have been an awesome sacrifice…but I guess I’ll have to kill you now.”

That’s when I see something that shocks the shit out of me. Naz actually leans over and grabs Canaan by the throat. He slams Canaan into a wall using one hand. My heart jumps when I stare in shock. Canaan’s body hits the wall so hard that the fucking tiles break behind him. I had no idea Naz was that strong!
“Naz what the hell are you doing!”
I’m screaming at the top of my lungs as loud as I can. I’m doing it for the others to come help.
I run over and jump on Naz’s back. I don’t think he realizes it’s me because he elbows me in my side so hard that I think one of my lungs are about to cave in. I fall hard on the ground. Just when I hit the ground I see Anita and Star running into the back. It’s Star who tries to tackle Naz but I watch him toss Canaan at Star. The two of them clash collide together.
“What the fuck are you doing?” I state.
I get up at that moment and look at Naz. Naz looks at me.
“Oh my god…”
“My fucking ribs,” I state screeching in pain.

This guy was strong. Not human strong. No, he was stronger than I knew. I look up at him and see he’s concerned. He’s walking towards me and I swear I’m so frightened by him that I shiver. I literally shiver as though the temperature dropped. I’m looking Naz right in the face and it’s almost as though I didn’t fucking recognize him. I didn’t even know who the fuck he was.

“I—-I didn’t mean to hurt you. I didn’t know it was you.”
He looks at me and tries to come closer but I’m so afraid that I sweep my body back once again trying to get away from him. I don’t think he realizes it but in the next moment, I see someone come up from behind him. I look and see who it is.

It’s Star.
He’s so distracted on me that he doesn’t see Star slam one of the broken tiles on the back of his head. It knocks Naz out cold!
“What the fuck was that about?” Anita asks.

We all turn to Canaan. Canaan is getting up off the ground clearly in just as much pain as I am if not more. His eyes narrow on Naz.
“Nazareth is an Upsetter.”
I’m in the room as time passes with the others and I still am not able to comprehend everything that happened even though Canaan tells us over and over. I knew one thing. I knew that if I wasn’t around when I was that Naz would have killed Canaan. Canaan wouldn’t be around now.
They tie Naz up using every bedsheet that we could find. Star is actually quite good at it making sure that Naz is secure in his pod. I watch as he’s doing it, fighting the urge not to try and defend Naz. Even now I’m concerned about how tight Star is tying these fucking knots.
“What do we do with him?” Anita asks.

“He’s an Upsetter…we kill him,” Canaan states.

“Easy for you to say huh?” I ask, “I’m not a fucking murderer.”
“He’s an Upsetter,” Canaan explains, “Or are you fucking forgetting? Do you know what Upsetters are capable of? They are terrorists. It was an Upsetter who destroyed the Earth. Or you probably don’t care about that because you aren’t fuckin human.”
“I am half human.”
“The other half doesn’t seem to give a fuck.”
“Upsetters destroyed our planet too,” Anita argues, “Chilles N30.”
“It’s the name of the planet where Familiars originated from,” Anita explains to him, “Our planet was beautiful. More beautiful than 2nd Earth. A noocracy where people didn’t have to deal with things like this. There were those who opposed and they destroyed the civilization. Burned all the homes to the ground. Destroyed it from within.”
I’m confused.

“That means something to you?” Star asks.
Star and Canaan both give me a look. I’d heard of a Noocracy before in my readings but I had no idea that this is the kind of government that they came from.

“A noocracy is a government where the political system is dependent on some sort of global brain that is configured for governance.”
I look at Anita. She doesn’t seem to mind.

“It is a beautiful society unlike the simplified outdated governments of humans. It was the evolutionary outgrowth of democracy, a flexible and adaptable system. It’s comprised of conscious, systematic, and institutionalized elements which will operate in decentralized autonomous subsystems.”
“A queen?” Star states, “like Antliens. You guys have a Queen?”
I’d heard the stories of the Antliens. The male race who used a Queen to reproduce. They lived almost like ants. The queen is the Antlien machine used to reproduce. The male Antliens use the machine in order to reproduce. We thought the Antliens called themselves that because of the fact that they had antlers but it’s really because of their ant-like reproduction habits.

“No. You don’t get it,” a voice states.

We turn at that moment and notice someone has woken up. It’s him. Naz. He’s back up.

“Should I knock him out again?” Star asks.
“Let him talk,” I argue.
“There’s no reason,” Anita states, “There’s nothing he can say. Why listen to a fucking Upsetter?”
“Tell them the truth about the Familiars. Tell them about the Syntellect.”
I’d never even heard the term.

“Syntellect?” I ask.

Naz looks over at me, “It’s a unified or hive-like civilizational mind that integrates all individual minds, both natural and artificial, likely through the cumulative effects of informational networks. A collective identity. A single mind. One single entity dependent on life. What does that sound like?”
I look over at Anita.

“Is he telling the truth?”
“He’s an Upsetter. He’s a terrorist.”
“We are a unified front. Ying and yang.”
That’s when I see Anita snap. She does something that I don’t expect. She reaches over and hits him so hard that I think he completely loses consciousness. After she does that she looks over at the rest of us. By this point Star, Canaan and I are just more confused than ever.
I have this feeling like I just walked into a conversation I wasn’t supposed to be a part of. None of us were supposed to be a part of this conversation.

“Why the fuck did you knock him out?” I ask.

“He’s an Upsetter. End of story.”

An hour passes. Naz is still out. It’s not only that he’s out but it’s the fact that Anita doesn’t leave his sight. She’s watching him like a hawk making sure that no one goes near him. I’m on the other side of the white room and I realize just how strange she’s acting. It’s as though whatever he was saying was something that she didn’t want out.

Single mind.
Single entity.

A collective identity.

A unified front.
His words keep playing in the back of my mind and I can’t get it out of my head. I look over at Star. He’s laying in his pod as I approach him.
“We need to talk to Naz when he wakes up?”
Star opens his eyes seeming a bit drowsy, “What for?”
“What for? What for! Seriously? Didn’t you see how much Anita wanted to shut him up.”
“He’s an Upsetter,” Star states as though he was reading something off a goddam script, “He confuses people. That’s what they are good for. Why the fuck do you want to listen to more of his fucking bullshit.”
“I think there’s more to the story.”
“You are embarrassed because your boyfriend happens to be a fucking universal terrorist,” Star states.

It irritates me, “Stop making this personal.”
“It IS personal! He’s fooled you. He’s fooled all of us. If we wake that guy up we should be waking him up to kill him. That’s what I think.”
“You sound like fuckin Canaan.”
“Well Canaan has a goddam point,” he explains, “Maybe if we kill him now we’ll get a goddam metal or something. Hell, maybe Jonathan will pin it on me himself. That’ll be awesome, wouldn’t it? A metal from the Jonathan, the Deliverer.”
He’s serious when he’s saying this too. He’s not joking. His facial expression says that he’s dead serious with all the words coming out of his mouth. I can’t believe it. I can’t believe that he doesn’t find this weird.
He turns over and goes back to sleep as though its’ nothing. He turns over as though none of this shit bothers him in the least bit.

I just stand over there. I look over at Anita. She’s not doing anything. She’s just staring down at Naz. It’s making me nervous how she’s doing it. I wonder if she’s thinking about the same thing that Star was thinking about. What if they tried to kill Naz.
I shouldn’t care. He was an upsetter. I shouldn’t be bothered.
I’m just confused more than ever. What Naz says kept running through my mind. A unified front. What does that even mean?
I’m surprised when I turn and see Canaan standing there.

“I’m going to distract her,” he states.

I raise my eyebrow at Canaan more confused than ever that he said that.

“I’m going to distract her and I need you to talk to him,” he states, “There’s something off.”
“He tried to kill you.”
“I know what he tried to do. I know what he is. All I’m saying is that I don’t trust any of you people. Including Anita. Including Jonathan,” he starts and then gives me a hard look, “Including you.”
He meant Familiars. He didn’t trust us. The way he gives me the stare lets me know exactly what he means.

And the weird thing is that at that moment…
I’m not sure if I trusted Familiars either.

I nod, “Fine.”
He nods back, “You’ll know when…”
He walks to the other side of the room opposite her. I can see at that moment that he heads to the bathroom. It’s strange really that I’m working with Canaan of all people right now. I guess his hate is the only thing that is able to put us together at that moment.

Out of nowhere, I hear an earth-shattering scream. It’s coming from the bathroom. I watch Anita and Star both jump and run towards the bathroom to see what is happening. I have no idea what he’s going to do to distract them when they get to the bathroom but I know that I didn’t have much time.

I run over to Naz.

“Wake up!”
I smack him a few times.
His heavy eyes turn and open. It’s clear at that moment that he looks like he is a bit out of his. When he opens his eyes he looks at me and just stares for a few seconds.
“Am in heaven, angel?” he asks.

Something like that would have made me melt at one point. It would have made me melt before I knew what Naz was. Now that I knew what he was I was just confused. I was more confused than ever.
“We don’t have time for your games.”
“Games?” he states, “No games. I mean it with you. I wasn’t supposed to mean it with you but for some reason I fucking do. You have no idea what they’ll do to me because I said what I said to you.”
“About the Familiar planet?”
He nods, “Yeah.”
“What is going on?” I ask.

He shakes his head, “There’s always one Familiar chosen for these Reparations. They are never chosen really. They are watching. Making sure everything runs smoothly. That person is Anita this time. We are the Repairers. Strange name isn’t it? Ever wonder what we are repairing? Ever wonder why Familiars never talk about their history?”
“I just assumed we were a secretive race.”
“Assumed huh? You haven’t gone through your maze yet. You’ll learn once you do. Once you get to the center of the maze we all learn the truth.”
I’m more confused than ever.

“We’re one in the same. You and I. Ying and Yang. Upsetters and Familiars. This was all the plan. One mind. One planet. One hunger. We have to feed it. That’s what this is all about. Jonathan, the Deliverer. You ever wonder why they call him that.”
“He saved the humans. He delivered the refugees to this place.”
He laughs.

“He delivered cattle to the slaughter.”
My mouth gets dry.
What was he saying? “Are you saying the Upsetters and Familiars never were at war?”
“Hell no there was no war,” he explains, “Ever wonder why Upsetters just pop up out of nowhere. There is no invisible plane. The only difference between Familiars and Upsetters is in our job title. We’ve done this for centuries.”
“Done what for centuries?”
“Fed it. Fed the Syntellect.”
There was that term being used again. Syntellect.

“Your planet Chilles N30,” I state, “Was it destroyed.”
He shakes his head, “You aren’t getting it. This isn’t 2nd Earth. They told you guys that to make you feel comfortable. They told you that so that you can feel like after your homes have been destroyed you were desperate enough to come here. You would be desperate enough to stay. You would be ok with this sacrifice. “
“This isn’t 2nd Earth,” I state, “This is Chilles N30. Isn’t it?”
“Welcome home…”