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The Creature in the Cage
Andrew Ostow bent down to pick the unmarked envelope up, eyes darting across the street in front of him to see if anyone was around. When he saw he was alone, he quickly snatched it up and went back inside his apartment. Inside the envelope was a small piece of paper with just an address. He looked back at the front, seeing no clue of its origin.
The logic side of his brain told him not to go, because it could be dangerous. But the curious side, which is what usually gets him into trouble, told him to. The curiosity won, as he had nothing better to do for the rest of the day.
Andrew got to the address, seeing an old, rundown warehouse. It reminded him of a horror movie, which unnerved him. Nevertheless, he grabbed his phone and slowly walked to the building. He crept inside and was suddenly horrified at what he saw.
Inside was a small black blob. No- not a blob. A creature? It was in a large, metal cage, wailing as if it were in pain. He brought his phone up to take pictures, the creature taking shape as he zoomed in. He clicked the button to capture the scene without realizing his sound was on. The little ‘click’ drew the thing’s attention, causing it to stop wailing and turn toward him. Despite his fear, Andrew stared back, feeling drawn in to the creature’s apparent panic and suffering. He put his phone back in his pocket and slowly stepped inside, compelled by something unknown to him.
The creature stilled, cocking its head to the side as it watched the man inch forward. He could now see two big white eyes and a mouth. Ears, a nose, a body, legs. Once he got to the cage he put his hand up to the still creature and it nuzzled into it. Without thinking, he opened the door.
The creature’s eyes widened, seeing the open door. It leapt out, standing on the concrete floor in front of him. Suddenly, it transformed from its dog-like body to a cat. Then- a frog, a lion, a mouse, until it settled on a bird. Andrew stepped back, both in awe of the creature and terrified of it. The bird flew up and landed on his shoulder, content with its perch.
Andrew knew he should be scared, but he felt weirdly comfortable around the unknown creature. He felt like he had a bond with it, a past together that spanned centuries. He shook his head and pulled his phone back out, snapping a picture of the cage and surrounding area. He couldn’t find anything new so he turned around to go back into the sunlight. As he was leaving, the bird flew off his shoulder and onto the base of the large doorway, where it picked up a forgotten piece of paper in its beak. It flew back to Andrew, dropping the paper in his hand.
To be dropped off at Port 7 in Oregon by June 17
On its way to Port 51 in Nevada by June 20
Shipment 40 of 40
Andrew frowned. Today was June 19th, and this was Oregon. He slid the paper in his pocket and walked back to his car, thinking about all the things that are happening. And, of course, about the strange creature that was currently nuzzling into his neck. He put his hand next to it and the bird loyally hopped onto it. Andrew brought his hand in front of him and stared at the innocent-looking animal. “What are you?”
The bird immediately looked into his eyes and turned into a snake, wrapping itself around his arm. It continued staring into his eyes, but as unnerving the creature was, Andrew couldn’t feel anything but trust. He crouched down next to his car and let the animal slide onto the ground. From there, it turned into a dog- a border collie, actually. His favorite kind of dog. It jumped through the open car door and curled into a ball in the passenger’s seat, sighing contentedly. Andrew got in after it and drove them to his apartment.
Once he got there, he went straight to his computer. The dog followed gleefully. He searched “Port 7, Oregon” but couldn’t find anything. Next he searched “Port 51, Nevada” but all that came up was conspiracy theories about Area 51. He shook his head, disappointed, before hearing a crash from his kitchen and spinning around.
“Hello,” A person said from behind the counter’s island. At least, they looked like a person. With blue skin, wide eyes, and no ears. Or hair. “I know you must be confused. Don’t worry.”
“Yeah, I am pretty confused. Which I evidently have a right to be.” Andrew spat, backing up from the person in front of them. They jumped off the stool behind the island and walked across the floor to him, which is when Andrew noticed that they were about two feet tall.
“I am, as you Earthians call it, an alien. I came here from another planet, one that your government doesn’t want you to know about. The planet that your- er- dog came from.” Andrew looked back at the animal, and it trotted over to the alien, seemingly friendly with it. “I came here because I need help. Your help. I don’t know why it’s you, but I guess I’ll find out.”
Andrew calmed down, letting go of the fists he didn’t know he was making until now. “What does that mean? My help, but you don’t know why?”
The alien hopped into the chair Andrew was just sitting in, so it could be at eye level. “These animals can form bonds with other creatures, which are usually with my species, but for some reason this one picked you. I knew you had to be special.”
The dog turned into a bird once again and flew to Andrew’s shoulder. “Okay…” he paced back and forth, trying to quickly absorb everything happening. “I’m Andrew, but I guess you already knew that.”
“I go by Crumble. I was the one who left that envelope at your door because I needed you to find that creature. Thankfully, I knew where its shipment was going. The others, I’m too late.”
Andrew sat down opposite Crumble and put his head in his hands. “Okay, explain to me what’s happening. And what the shipments are.”
Crumble took a deep breath. “I work for the leadership in my society, which I’ve found out is corrupt. They have made a deal with the leadership here to trade weapons. We give you some of these creatures-” he gestured to the bird, “to use as weapons in wars. And you give us bombs. That little guy there is part of the first shipment, one of forty. I flew here illegally because I need to stop this. Not only is the slavery of these creatures terrible, but I fear very bad things may happen because of it. I need your help, Andrew, to sneak the ones already enslaved out and back to my planet. I’ve already started a revolution back there, so no more shipments will be coming.”
Andrew stood up and walked to the front door. “What are we waiting for?”
“Nevada. Area- I mean Port- 51,” Andrew said as they drove closer to their destination. “So what’s the plan?”
“Okay. You’re gonna dress up like a soldier- I have the clothes- and I’m gonna sneak you in the back of the facility. Take the animal with you, it can help. Go down the main hallway and follow the signs to a room labeled ‘Live Testing,’ that’s where they’re kept right now. I’ll get into the control room and turn off the alarm, and you unlock all the cages. Your creature will tell them all to turn into flies and then they can follow you out, where I’ll meet you at the back door. We can get them with us and I’ll take over from there,” Crumble explained as he handed the soldier clothes to him. Andrew parked the car far away as to not draw suspicion, and changed into the outfit. All three of them made their way to the facility.
Once they got to the door, Crumble saluted Andrew. “And this is where I leave. Remember- Live Testing. Act normal.” He disappeared around the side. Andrew crouched down to face the animal who got him into this mess, and stroked the dog’s fur. They locked eyes and in that moment Andrew felt nothing but trust and confidence. He nodded at it, standing up and opening the door.
Once inside, the dog turned into a fly and sat on Andrew’s shoulder. He blended in seamlessly with the crowds of soldiers and scientists, scanning the doors for Live Testing. He finally found it and slipped inside the dark room. Cages lined the walls, each with a different animal. But Andrew knew they weren’t normal animals- they were the aliens, same as the fly sitting on his shoulder. He flipped the light switch and walked to the closest cage, to start unlocking them.
Before he could even find the lock, the doorknob clicked and the lights went off. Suddenly, he felt ropes being tied around his arms and legs, pulling him to the ground. He struggled against them, overwhelmed and confused. The lights turned back on and standing in front of him was Crumble. Two aliens like him were on either side of Andrew, holding the ropes. Before he could get a word out, the fly hopped off of his shoulder and flew to Crumble’s.
“I would say I’m sorry, but I’m not. We wanted more than just bombs for our part of the trade deal,” Crumble said as he looked at the fly sitting on him and then back at Andrew. “But we’ve learned we have to be smart to catch you humans.”