Chapter Five: Dearly Departed
Three beings stood around their fallen companion and, for a moment, they had completely forgotten about Gil.
Standing there in his soiled clothes, having still not moved an inch since Kif’s face slapped the metal floor, Gil tried to make sense of the situation. Like chickens, he thought.
As a child, Gil had once gone to a local farm with his parents to bring home a pumpkin for Halloween. In addition to the festive pumpkins, there were also various common farm animals for visitors to interact with. Gil had ridden a pony, stopped to pet the sheep, and giggled at the filthy pigs rolling around in the mud.
When he approached the chicken coop, a young boy was being pulled out of it by his angry mother. He had entered the coop to have a bit of fun getting the chickens all worked up, but accidentally stepped on one of the birds. After a loud shriek, it just lay there on its side, lifting up its head to look around.
Blissfully unaware, little Gil wrapped his tiny fingers around the chicken wire and peered inside the coop just as all the other chickens descended upon their injured cellmate and viciously pecked it to death. This disturbing scene sent the five-year-old into hysterics, and his parents took him straight home—no pumpkin that year.
Much later in life, Gil learned that this was a fairly normal occurrence. If a chicken became injured, the others might turn on the bird and peck it to death. Similarly, there didn’t seem to be any attempt made to bring Kif back from his sudden seizure. Nearly as soon as it had begun, the only apparent option was to jam a spike through its skull and put it out of its misery.
Gil had to admit to himself, of course, that he didn’t have a clue what conversation may have transpired between them. For all he knew, Kif may have begged for Korben to drive that spike through its skull. It was just as likely they’d given up out of sheer lack of medical knowledge as it was that their logical minds mentally exhausted every course of action and knew it would end in failure.
He snapped out of his daze—Roger had lifted Kif’s corpse up into its arms, and the three of them moved into the corridor. Gil followed, still seemingly unnoticed, and the walls of the exam room silently slid shut once they had all stepped out of the area.
The beings glanced at the wall containing the center room. Jeltz lifted his right hand and interacted with a sequence of lights on the wall to once again open a door into the large round room. Once the clear pane was out of the way, Roger walked just past the threshold and dropped Kif’s body onto the ground. The small corpse hit the floor like a sack of fertilizer.
With Roger back in the corridor and the window pane closed, the three of them stared in silent eulogy at the undignified heap that was Kif. On cue, Gil thought, he was the only one of you who hadn’t made me bleed. He had a feeling that height played a role in whatever their equivalent of testosterone levels were, and was genuinely a little sad to see the most docile of them be the one to croak. Why couldn’t that big idiot, Korben, have been the test candidate?
And then a darker, more selfish thought entered Gil’s head, and he wondered if this corpse was going to be his new roommate.
Now Korben lifted a hand to the wall and fiddled with some sort of display that had materialized under his touch. Gil glanced over and saw the strange device in the alien’s free hand that had been driven into Kif’s skull—it was filthy, covered in all manner of yellowed vomit and guts. He looked back through the window and saw that the spinning orange disc in the middle of the room started to rise up. It maintained a silent, constant ascent until stopping mere inches below the silvery protrusions from the ceiling. It had to be about eight feet off the ground. Gil could see his puddle of urine pooled in the dip of the room’s center.
The giant continued to press phantom buttons and slide its finger along the display until a wide-circle outline in the floor of the center room began to recede.
At first level with the ground, Gil watched as a one-inch wall formed around the perimeter of his urine. Then two inches. And then three. After several more inches, perhaps eight altogether, its descent revealed screaming blackness. The yellow puddle disappeared in a flash of vapor. Kif’s body turned over and slid raggedly towards the opening—first slowly, and then at a literal breakneck pace.
The corpse flew along the floor and smacked into the metal panels surrounding the opening. Its belly wedged itself into the opening and went first into the blackness like a fist squeezing a ripe tomato. Kif bent over backwards, snapping like a bundle of kindling as it threaded through the opening; skull dashing against the edge of the void and exploding like a hardboiled egg from a slingshot.
Bits of grey matter flew upwards before quickly changing course and reversing through the opening. Shortly afterwards, Gil’s day-old mess of congealed vomit was also sucked into the void, leaving only smears behind; the vacuum had claimed everything.
Eventually, the room grew silent. Only a few pieces of visible matter remained, floating freely and lazily bumping into the walls. After Korben made a few more gestures on the wall, the opening closed, the orange disc lowered, and what looked like the jets of fire extinguishers erupted all along the ceiling.
The glass pane slid open yet again, and it was as if nothing had ever happened. Korben slowly turned around, and then started at the sight of Gil—it had completely forgotten about him. It grabbed him by the shoulder and pushed him into the cog’s center room. Gil whirled around and started back towards the three of them.
“No, please!” Gil cried. “Please don’t make me stay in—let me sleep in the corridor! What’s the harm anyway?! I can’t even open the— “
Korben took its right hand and made contact with Gil’s ribcage, pushing him back with enough force to sweep him off his feet. As the doors to the center room began to slide shut, he flew backwards, hitting the back of his head against the hard floor and skidding to a stop just outside the center of the room.
Gil was knocked unconscious. And this time, he did dream. He was in a hospital. Wearing a paper robe and lying in a dirty bed, cruel doctors dug into him with bare hands. Their red eyes were gigantic, the irises a mess of piano wires tugging at the bottomless pits of their pupils. And when they pulled off their green surgical masks, horribly oversized and maniacal grins bore impossibly-long, yellow teeth embedded in blackened gums.