I put my hand around the clammy palm of what appeared to be a normal human being.
“It’s so nice to finally meet you,” it said, grinning from ear to ear.
“The pleasure is all mine,” I replied, hoping I didn’t sound too desperate for its approval. “I’ve heard so much about you.”
“Here,” it offered, “Have a seat. There’s so much to do and so little time to do it. Would you like some tea?”
A stainless steel kettle was the centerpiece on a cherry coffee table. Steam rose up from its tip and dispersed in front of a rigid, industrial room that made no effort to look hospitable. And yet it was the kindest place I had been in for a while.
“No, thank you,” I answered, pulling myself back to the thing.
“Are you sure? I just had it imported from Samson XI. It’s bred to taste like raspberries, although I haven’t tried any myself.”
I smiled. “Any tea or any raspberries?”
It smiled back. “Both. I have to say, I think I like you.”
“I’m glad we’ve had a good start,” I said, “But what’s a good start without something coming after it?”
The thing laughed and I was afraid that I’d sounded rude. But then it said, with an amused smile, “A young man with a schedule. Now I know I like you. But we have many things to attend to.”
“I’m about to get very serious, and I’ll need you to be serious too.”
I looked it straight in the eyes. Gray eyes, that–along with the swoosh of medium brown hair and the bumped nose–were a perfect match for a description I would come to know by heart. I said, “I can do serious,” and meant it. It put its hands onto its knees and pushed itself onto its feet, motioned for me to follow it, and began trudging into the next room.
“It’s all a formality,” the thing said, “But I need to ask. Your name is Collin Cathy, correct?” I nodded, trying not to seem anxious. Something about the thing made me more anxious than the situation itself. And not just its uncanny human-like appearance. “No I’ll need you to sit down.”
It didn’t mention where or why, but I knew. I recognized the chair with a ball of pure panic in my throat. The chair didn’t look much like a chair at all: the basic shape of the back support and the seat were there, but they were slim and metal, with wires and straps branching out from it like spider limbs.
“I don’t know what kind of sick, twisted thing you are,” I spat towards the thing, “But I am not going to sit in that chair.”
“I understand you have reasons, but I’m trying to help,” it cooed.
I laughed in a way that felt like crying. “This is not helping. This is a disturbing thing from my past.”
“So is what you came to me for,” it replied. “And this is the only way to get that back.”
My eyes blurred as they went from the grayscale of the wall to the bleakness of the chair. Taking a deep breath, I put myself onto the seat and laid my spine along the chilly back support.
“Now I need you to be very serious.”
“I am bering serious. I am seriously afraid. Disturbed. I’m disturbed.” It started wrapping the devices around me as I corrected myself. “Why do I need to be serious? You’re going to put that gas into me and then I’ll be too asleep for it to matter.”
“Collin,” the thing said, “You have to trust me.”
“Stop calling me by my first name, you’re not my parents!” I huffed through my teeth.
“Collin,” it repeated like a broken recording.
I looked the thing right in the eyes and wondered how much of their hazy green was made of real human.
“I’m sorry,” I told it. “Put the stuff on my face that will make the lights go out.”
The thing did exactly what I asked.