Colors swirl around me as my eyes crack open. The colors alone tell me I'm not in my white hospital room anymore. But instead of relief like Ms. Cummings promised, my body feels worse than ever. I can't even lift my head. I immediately get nervous and scared. Why did I believe her? I probably sold myself to some weird experiment place that tortures people in the name of science.
"Hello," I croak, and I hear footsteps approach me from my left.
Someone touches my arm, and I manage to roll my head in their direction. My eyelids flutter as my brain tries to recognize the face looking at me, but the person's appearance is all wrong... Their skin is a shiny light purple, and they are towering over me at such a high height.
"Who are you," I ask, and the strange person tilts their head to the side before holding their finger to their mouth.
I instantly shut my mouth in fear. I don't want to upset whoever this is, but I keep my eyes on the purple being. As I stare, my vision slowly clears, and the details of the person's face become sharper. I realize the person is a beautiful purple woman with black hair and green cat-like eyes. She is elegantly tall and built like a buff model. Other than her eyes, her face is completely human-like, which comforts me a little. She is wearing simple clothes that don't do her justice but clearly indicate she is a part of a medical team.
"Heal. Process. Talk," she states bluntly in broken English, and my brows furrow a little before I understand.
She needs to heal me and then do some kind of process, and then we can speak to each other. Right now, I won't be able to understand her. I nod, and she smiles.
She gently pats my shoulder and then moves behind my head. Her tall figure is still easy to see, so I watch as she presses a green button. A bright light flashes over me once, and an almost transparent screen manifests in front of her.
"Holograms," I whisper, trying to explain to my mind what I might be seeing.
She ignores me and looks at the words on the screen. After about five seconds, the screen disappears. She again presses a button, but this time a yellow one. Three beeps sound out, and multiple lights begin to flash over me. As they flash, they change color and grow in brightness until I have to shut my eyes. As soon as my eyes close, my other senses begin to focus on what is happening to my body.
With each flash, I feel stronger. My breathing is improving. My spine feels as if it is getting straighter. My scalp and brow bone feel itchy. My heartbeat sounds louder. My toes and fingertips are no longer cold. I can smell the scents of the room better. After about three minutes of flashing lights, the machine beeps again, and the flashes stop.
I open my eyes, and the colors in the room seem brighter. Above me, the woman presses the green button again. One more flash goes off, and the high-tech screen pops up again. My purple caretaker smiles at the new words, and the screen disappears.
The purple woman moves away from my bed and comes back with some kind of remote. She smiles at me, and this time I notice her canines are sharp like a vampire but not in a scary long fang kind of way. They make her look like a cute cosplay girl.
She motions for me to sit up, so I do slowly. When I am positioned on the edge of the bed, I grin at the color in my legs before looking up at her again. She shows me the remote she grabbed in a weird way, and I nod because I don't really understand. She presses the remote to the side of my head, and a prick of pain makes me flinch. She steps back and sets the remote down without taking her eyes off of me, and I touch the spot on my head.
As soon as my fingers graze the spot she pricked with the remote, my vision is blocked by a black wall and waves of electricity pulse through my brain. I gasp loudly, but surprisingly, the jolts aren't painful. After a few moments, the jolts cease, and my vision returns. When I glance at my audience questioningly, she smiles again.
"Can you understand me," she asks, and my mouth pops open dramatically as I realize what she must have done.
"I am assuming that is a yes, and you have figured out what the device does. But just to clarify, I used a language educator on you. Most children receive their language chip at the age of three. It allows an individual to understand all known languages. That is why I shushed you earlier. I could understand you, but you wouldn't have understood me if I had spoken to you. I have forced my tongue to learn a few English words for the women coming from your planet, and I hope I spoke them correctly enough for you to understand. My name is Zalu (Zay-lou). I am your correspondent for the Harvest. I am to care for you and answer any questions you may have," she says, and I just stare at her for a moment before responding.
"So the contract was real," I ask, and she nods.
"Yes, it is. I understand your planet is still unaware of the existence of other human-like beings in the universe. But it is true. Your planet is obligated under a peace treaty to send women to harvest every ten years. It is a great honor to be chosen for the Harvest on all other planets. Earth's women typically see it differently than we do. But understand the males who will compete for your hand are honorable and will treat you with nothing but love. I will personally see to your care before your champion chooses you. Harvested women are treated like royalty. Before I explain things in more detail, I must get you fed. Your body is now healed, but it is depleted in calories. The cell copying and deletion process tends to use all of a patient's calories," Zalu explains, and I look at the buttons on the wall.
Questions swirl in my head before I look at the more evolved being again. I lick my lips, and for once, they feel soft.
"Will you look down on me because I am from earth," I ask, and her thin black eyebrows draw together?
"Look down on you? I must look down at you. I am taller than you. But that is not a bad thing. I am one of the taller species. We are very accustomed to the height of humans," Zalu replies, and I smile a little.
"No. Umm, look down on means... Will you behave as if you a better than me? Will you be condescending towards me because I am from earth? Will you be rude to me," I ask, and her eyes widen before she shakes her head?
"No. The earth is brutal in many ways. Your people fight over money, and many of your people starve all over the world if they don't have it. Your people also hurt each other...sexually and murder one another over minor slights. I will admit murders do happen on our planets, but it is rare for there to be killings outside of the war. But Earth does one thing right, in my opinion...they send the dying to live. Other planets send their most beautiful women. They tend to be spoiled and full of themselves...But Earth sends the sick. I have never met anyone as thankful as a human woman participating in the Harvest. You appreciate life more than the beauties. You look around yourself instead of at yourself," Zalu says, and I smile big.
"Thank you...Makes me a little scared about being chosen. I'm going against the galaxy's top beauties," I reply, and she grins.
"Earth's women are often picked in the first rounds. You are a stunning species. Once you see yourself, I am sure you will agree with my assessment. Let's get you fed. Then I will show you to your living quarters, and we can discuss more customs," Zalu says, and I nod before stepping onto the floor.
As I pass room after room of colorful walls and buttons, I can't hold my tongue anymore.
"Is everyone here purple," I ask, and the graceful woman looks down at me with a smile.
"This is my home planet, Kea (Key). We have hosted the Harvest since its conception. My people are like the rainbow. Each person has a different color. My mate is blue, for example. Many human females have commented on my planet's colors. They have told me your Earth is primarily green and brown, which sounds boring to me. Our planet is like our skin. Every plant here is bright. The animals match us. The soil is orange. Our water is blue like yours, but that is where the similarities end," Zalu explains, and as she stops talking, a door in front of us slides open, revealing my first look at Kea.
I gasp as I look around at a bright, colorful world full of trees.
"It's like a rainforest that has been dipped in paint," I whisper, and she laughs.
"I understand paint, and I am assuming a rainforest is a forest that gets quite a bit of rain," Zalu says, and I nod, unable to peel my eyes off my surroundings.
"What do you think," she asks after a few seconds, and I glance at her.
"It's beautiful. I hope my mate is from here," I whisper, and she chuckles.
"Unfortunately, none of the soldiers from my planet qualified this year. Only the males who showed outstanding honor and strength get to participate in the Harvest. Sometimes males from different planets don't make it. This Harvest has many Coks (Cokes) this time around. Their people are strong and often have many in the Harvest. Eleven planets participate in the Harvest. Each planet sends five women, but the fifty-five males participating have to earn their spots. Millions fight in the war, and every ten years, the strongest soldiers are chosen for this honor. They get to unite planets while being rewarded for their sacrifices with a woman to love and cherish. My planet did choose five women, but they will be mating with someone of another planet," Zalu explains as she begins walking again.
I follow quickly as my mind tries to piece together the information she just laid on me.
"Who do they fight," I ask, and she looks at me with a hesitant smile.
"The Jahns (johns), the Rusckods, the Gafrops, and the most vicious...The Muysocks. All are large and powerful. They believe since they are the largest species of beings that, they should run the Galaxy with an iron fist. They have formed a treaty with each other, and if they win, a dictator from one planet will rule for twenty years. After his reign ends, the next planet in line gets to choose a ruler, and so on. They would enslave all other people. No one would be free unless you were from one of their planets. Your Earth was almost lost to the Muysocks when it was discovered. The alliance immediately came to Earth's aid, so your planet joined the Harvest treaty. Many mixed-race beings are now in the Galaxy, making fighting amongst the allied planets difficult which was the plan of the treaty," Zalu says in a whisper, and I have to lean in to catch everything.
"It was a good idea," I whisper, and Zalu smiles brightly.
"I agree. It has unified many," Zalu says, and I smile back.
Zalu hands me a bowl of what looks like different fruits, and I stare down at the bright mixture curiously. "You brought up that Earth has starving people...Do other planets in the universe not have starving people? I mean, do you not have money or any type of economy," I ask as I pick up a squishy green piece of food. "We have something similar to your exchange policy, but unlike Earth, basic necessities are never something you have to pay for. Water and food are not owned. Food grows everywhere. We pick it, and if we want meat, we hunt. Our stores contain products, not needs," Zalu explains as she takes a seat in front of me. "Are you not afraid of over hunting," I ask as I bite into the piece of food. The green plant explodes with juice, and a tangy flavor fills my mouth. I hum as I chew. Whatever it is, it is way better than hospital food. "What do you mean," Zalu asks, and a few more people walk into the communal cafeteria Zalu brought me to. "Well, I mean, on Earth, we hav
"These clothes are fancy," I say to Zalu as we walk towards the cafeteria for breakfast. Last night in my room was magical but also a little scary. After Zalu left to go home to her mate, I decided to head to bed. The plush covers and fluffy pillows were calling my name. But when I turned out the lights and silence fell, I was able to hear the roars and calls from the animals outside. It was intimidating, to say the least. "All Harvested women are dressed in the finest outfits that represent their planet. These clothes are nothing compared to the dresses you will be wearing during the tournament," Zalu replies, and I look at her in surprise before glancing down at the beautiful blouse and straight-leg slacks I put on. "How do you know so much about Earth and what we like," I ask as I try to picture extravagant gowns. "Just because humans don't know about us doesn't mean we are ignorant to you," Zalu says as she points toward a table. I follow the line of her finger an
I grin as Jia gulps down another fizzy drink we got with our room service. When I asked Zalu about the drink, she had smiled and waved good night instead of answering me. So we have been learning what it is on our own. The purple liquid seems to make you feel drunk, but it doesn't make you wobbly or incoherent in any way. It is basically a grape soda that gives you the giggles. "So, what's your story," Jia asks me after I finish describing my first day here, and I giggle as she flops down on the couch beside me. "My story? You came to my room to learn my story," I ask, and Jia smiles. "Pretty much. You seemed nice at breakfast and the most approachable. So spill," Jia replies, and I nod while placing my empty plate down. "Okay, well, I'm from Ohio. My family consisted of my mom and me... And I have been sick off and on the majority of my life," I explain, and Jia looks down at the piece of fruit she is playing with in her fingers. "Single mom, huh," she mumbles,
I can't help but tear up as I stare at my reflection in the full-length mirror. Zalu is an absolute artist.My makeup is light but flawless. The mixture of brown and pale green eyeshadow applied to my eyelids makes my blue-green eyes pop. The pale pink lipstick Zalu brushed my lips with gave them a plump, kissable look. My hair has been swept up into an elegant bun, and the dress...The light green lace ball gown I am wearing is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I truly feel like a princess."Are you happy," Zalu whispers from behind me, and I spin around.I wrap my arms around her waist, and she giggles before returning my hug."I am honored," she says quietly, and I release her before stepping back."I have never felt like this before. I feel breathtaking," I admit, and she nods while her cat-ish eyes grin at me happily."I am happy I could help. Are you ready," Zalu asks lightly, and my butterflies return.She watches my expression closely, and I nervously lick my lips befo
"Attention, after meeting with your next group, you may retire for thirty minutes. For the last switch, please listen up," the male Kea says, and the female from Hassin, who I was speaking to, stops laughing. I turn my attention to him almost eagerly. Ever since the uncomfortable first round with the Froles, things have run smoothly. The Keas and Hassins being my favorites to talk with, closely followed by the Shikazs and the Peulos. We haven't had any more uncomfortable moments, and I have even made a couple of new friends. The male Kea lists the names and colors quickly as I look around the room with a easy-going grin, but when my eyes land on Zalu, my happy feeling dims a bit. She looks anxious as she stares at the announcer, and the realization hits me slowly as to why. The last group...the ones we haven't met yet. "Makskin, Earth, blue," he says, and a chill runs over my skin. The fact that Zalu is this worried about us talking with Zor is intimidating. It mak
"How did it go with Zor," Zalu asks as she sprays my face with what is apparently flawless foundation in a can.I grin as the memory of Xiu's words run through my head. She was so kickass!"It went well. Xiu handled the conversation, so it remained respectful but dramatic. Zor made some rude remarks, and Xiu returned the favor while not going over the line. It was beautiful," I explain while looking up at Zalu's nervous face.She grins and sets the spray can down before picking up the brush to apply more lip product."Good. I was worried you would let Zor get under your skin. She can be hard to get along with," Zalu says, and I nod slightly since I am trying to keep my lips still.Zalu finishes my makeup touch-ups quickly, and we hurry back to the hall. Just like before, Zalu presses the button to open the door, but the room's new layout makes me pause for a few seconds before I proceed into the room.The colored tables are nowhere in sight, and fancy lights are now hanging from the c
The females begin to take their seats, and I watch the line to ensure I grab the right chair. The last thing I need to do is get into a skirmish with a Makskin over seats. As soon as the smaller Makskin sits down, I follow. Jia sits down beside me, and I focus my attention on the male Kea watching all of us with an excited smile. He looks as if he can't wait to bring in the champions competing for our hands, and that eases my mind a bit. Kea people are sweet individuals. If he is happy to introduce us, the men must not be too bad. "Now then, let us begin. It is my greatest honor to present this Harvest's Champions. We begin with the Commanders—Commander Garlof, age 27, from the planet Cok. Defeated and conquered a Rusckods base with only seven soldiers. Commander Fornis, age 26, from the planet Cok as well. He led a covert mission into Muysocks controlled space. Not only was the mission a success, but he also didn't lose a single soul in the mission. Commander Burk, age 27, fr
"I was just surprised. I figured that would be something Fiadh would do," Jia whispers as we watch the twirling bodies move around the room. I shrug and rub my forearms to hide my embarrassment. "The thought of someone mistreating one of you just brought up a lot of emotion. I didn't mean to cry. I know that made me look weak...I just. My mom was all I had before I came here, and now the four of you are all I have. My bravado and hate towards the stuck-ups just kind of evaporated when I started questioning our safety," I explain, and Jia wraps her arms around me tightly. I manage to wrap my arms around her lower back, and she pats my back. "I wasn't trying to make you feel bad. I appreciated you standing up and showing some vulnerability. We needed to be reassured," Jia says, and I nod as she releases me. I give her a small smile, and we return our focus to the dance floor. Xiu, Zuri, and Fiadh have been asked to dance twice, while Jia and I have been asked once. O