Temporal Foil

When Alvin wakes he does so with a start. His eyes shoot open only for him to instantly regret having done so because they are viciously assaulted by blaringly bright lights. If he didn’t know better he’d say they are aimed directly into his pupils and in no way strike him as being normal unless he’s forgotten to turn the lights in his bedroom off that is. Such a thought having entered his head does little to alter the fact that the mousy haired man scrunches his eyes closed with no intention of opening them again until more than a full minute has passed. And when he does undertake such a risk he does so with only his left eye, the pain too recent in his mind for him to risk anything more than that. Yet, he cannot say as to why his left over his right is the one that is offered up to the task, other than to say that it simply felt correct.

On this second attempt at viewing the lights he finds them to be nowhere near as searing as they had been the first time round. He’s more than thankful about that until he looks past the lights at the ceiling above. It’s grey and bulbous, completely unlike the white flat ceiling of his apartment. His mouth goes agape, marginally, to allow a strained sound that was meant to be an um out. Right after the sound Alvin rolls his eyes around to see what else he can ascertain of his surroundings. Sadly, there isn’t much he can discern while laid out on his back. It’s why he moves, propping himself up and onto his elbows. His eyes having shot down to examine himself as he did so. His conclusion is that there is no oddity in his attire for he remains clad in the same light blue jeans, brown t-shirt and open chequered short-sleeved shirt that he’d slipped into not long after getting home from work.

All of a sudden it dawns on him that he doesn’t remember going to lie down on his bed, or his sofa. In fact, from what he recalls he was in his box room, sat in front of his monitors watching… Alvin’s head snaps up to something approaching level so he can take in his surroundings. The same grey bulbous shapes across the ceiling are continued down the walls. His conclusion is that he finds the aesthetic to be alien, not necessarily in an extraterrestrial way, though he isn’t willing to rule that out, but in a form that is certainly foreign to him. There is no way he can be in his apartment then and so pushes deeper into his memory to recall as to why he’d been sat at his computer.

He looks down to his watch and finds it reads one minute past three. The smaller dial within the watches overall face, the one that counts the seconds, isn’t counting. He peers at it for a good while. Far longer than you might think would be necessary to be certain. And so Alvin swings his legs off whatever he is laid out on top of only to slide off so that his feet end up flat on the floor, which is a dull metallic grey colour. Very different from the polished to an almost shine bulbous shapes of the walls and ceiling save for a lower section of the walls which are lined with banks of equipment. Some of it looks much like the control panels you used to find in old power stations while the rest is made up of strange cylinders and oblongs a few of which aren’t opaque and show their contents.

While turning about on the spot and taking in the scene before him, Alvin cannot help but conclude that this must be some sort of dream. He definitely remembers failing to remain conscious to see the true cause of his watches loss of time, it’s why he sighs heavily and wonders what might have influenced this dreamscape. Without a doubt he has not watched anything science-fiction or space related that might have had this sort of an effect on him. It makes little sense where he finds himself, however his considerations are cut short when a soft low whooshing sound similar to that caused by an air canister being used reaches his ears. In response to it he spins around only to back up and brace himself against the ‘bed’ he’d been laid out upon. Had he been afforded the time he might have noticed it is little more than a table, similar to that you might find in a morgue, suspended atop a single central shaft capable of pivoting the slab of metal in any direction conceivable.

“Who are you?” Is instead what Alvin cannot help but feel the need to query now that he is faced with these forms, roughly the same size as him.

The sight of them makes his skin crawl but cements in his mind that this has to be a dream for there is no way these metallic masses of countless ridged pieces can be real. They are the sort of thing you would expect to find in literature, film, games or television. Yet, he cannot argue that they are perfectly suited to the equally bulbous walled and ceilinged room he is stood within.

“Torian.” Is the overly rolled R pronunciation that he is greeted with in response. It comes alongside a clenched fist that is slammed against the central figures metal chest piece.

The figure that gestures is the closest, marginally speaking, to Alvin. The mousy haired man wonders where this dream might be going. It’s seldom he remembers dreaming but for once hopes this will be a tale he’ll be capable of recounting, unless it turns… He settles on not pursuing the unless side of things. Such things are better left to dwell at the back of his mind for fear they might sway the current trajectory of this dream. He doesn’t know if that’s possible but thinks he saw that mentioned somewhere once.

“What do you want with me?” Alvin sounds a great deal more comfortable and sure when he speaks now. Gone is the fear and caution. After all, what need is there to be cautious? This is a dream. You can’t be hurt in a dream. A dream is a fabrication of the mind. It isn’t real. Sure, it might use aspects of real things but what happens in a dream has no affect in the real world. The world where he lives alone in an apartment, learning as much as he can about mechanisms, machines or anything else that takes his fancy when he isn’t working his office job putting together detailed reports for the higher-ups who may or may not be passing all of it off as their own. Alvin is fully aware such likelihoods anger a great deal of the companies’ employees but not him. He doesn’t care. He certainly couldn’t do the corporate high flyers jobs and wouldn’t want to. Yet, finds it mildly amusing that those around, likely also incapable of succeeding in such roles if they were granted them, like to whine as if they would be far superior in the same capacities. If that were true would they not put in for such positions? He thinks so and yet they rarely do. It always brings him back to something his mother told him as a young boy struggling with his OCD; only worry about the things you can and want to change. Everything else should be allowed to fall by the wayside.

She has always maintained that is how she and Alvin’s father have remained happy throughout the trials and tribulations of life, including Michael’s fight with cancer. The fight that eventually saw him win out in the end, against the odds offered by everyone except him, his wife and Alvin.

Though, privately the mousy haired man hadn’t been as confident as he made it seem for his parents’ sakes. It meant that when he spoke with his parents and was told the good news he felt more than a slight pang of guilt for having ever had any doubts. If his parents, either of them, had ever had any they had never shown them. Something did and does continue to tell him that they never faltered from their belief that Michael would make it through his fight with cancer to live a long life, like his dad did. After all, Alvin’s grandfather lived to the ripe old age of ninety seven before his body simply couldn’t sustain life any longer.

“You are here for study.” Every word the Torian speaks sounds shorter than it rightly should, though the R’s continue to be rolled.

“Study? What sort of study?”

“Genetic. We need to be sure your world is fit for us.”

“Are you aliens?” Alvin has to admit that this is, thus far, the weirdest dream he has ever had. Whatever resulted in this fabrication of his mind he finds it fascinating, yet he still regrets not having managed to remain awake and discover the real cause as to why his watch loses two hours. Sure, it isn’t ticking here but he never imagined that it would. After all, this is a dream.

Do clocks ever appear in dreams? Working? He cannot say. If he’s ever seen one he cannot recall any details regarding them.

“We are not.”

“Prove it, because thus far this is quite the dream and I feel a twist coming along.”

“A dream? You think dis a dream? Dis is not a dream. Dis is… It would be easier to show you.” The Torian gestures performing a semi-bow as he does so. The other two almost identically armour clad figures offer no response.

Alvin feels confident this is a dream. It has to be. There is no rational explanation for where he is and who these Torians are. He’s certainly never heard the name previously and there are a great many things that the mousy haired man has heard in his life. Sure, if not for the setting and the strange accent he might think that perhaps Torian is a word he has simply never come across, but married together in the way all this is there is no way this can be anything but a dream. That is why Alvin exclaims confidently, “Sure! Lead the way.”

If the Torian understands the statement he does not show it as he continues to keep his real face obscured. Further proof, in Alvin’s mind, that this is dream. Nevertheless, Alvin wastes little time for he feels in no danger in shuffling off heading in the direction the Torian continues to gesture toward.

The hulk of armour falls in step close behind once Alvin has gotten moving, however his associates do not. They remain where they have been since entering the bulbous room. At least they as far as Alvin can gather prior to the doors sliding closed cutting off his view, making the same whooshing air noise as they do so.

Meanwhile, the corridor Alvin finds himself in has no windows. He finds it a tad claustrophobic regardless of the fact that it is over two and a half metres high and three wide. To make matters worse, but helping to add to his assurance that this is make-believe, is that the mousy haired man has never previously suffered claustrophobia. It strikes him as the sort of creation which would afflict someone in a world that isn’t real when they have never suffered it, seeing as he has been in pretty tight spaces in the real world previously.

Still, he and his new associate slink down the length of the corridor. They pass no one. It’s eerily empty. It’s another point that adds credence to this being a dream. After all, the human mind would never be capable of creating thousands of individuals and so would leave this space empty, like it is.

Ultimately they step into a vacant circular space. Since departing the room in which Alvin woke the walls have been largely flat. A few, as he would term them, decorative sweeping lines have reared there head infrequently but nothing on the scale of the bulbous protrusions that greeted his ‘rousing.’ It is in this circular room that the Torian again gestures, this time toward a seemingly dead-end. Alvin shrugs resigned to abiding by the request and following a short jaunt to the conclusion of the avenue soon learns it is in fact a set of double doors. They part after a few seconds of him being within close proximity to them and reveals a cylindrical shape beyond. The Torian steps through the mouth of the doorway, says and does nothing else but is clearly waiting. A few seconds go by prior to Alvin setting foot into the space to join what he has long since concluded as being a man. The deep tone of voice suggests such, though was considered carefully encase there was hint, he had not ascertained at first, that the voice was in some way being altered. The mousy haired man discerned that it was not hence his final decision that this Torian is male.

The doors slide closed behind Alvin. Unlike the whooshing air noise of the others these make no sound at all and shortly after the cylinder begins to move. Alvin cannot guess as to whether it is up or down other than to say that it is undoubtedly one of the two.

The conclusion comes alongside him noting that this cylinder is without doubt an elevator. When it comes to a halt barely more than a handful of seconds later a new set of doors slide open much to the surprise of Alvin who watches the Torian again gesture. For the first time the mousy haired man feels, since determining this is a dream, uneasy. Forcing such feelings aside not as successfully as he would wish he steps off the elevator only to be greeted by a jaw dropping sight. The sight is that of a live feed; it shows his apartment. And alongside it is another showing Earth, as he knows it, from orbit.

The man’s immediate reaction, instinctive and beyond his control, is to spin on his heels to query what is going on. Before he gets the chance he feels a sting from a patch of the exposed skin of one of his forearms. “Ouch!” He exclaims looking down, seeing a tiny speck of blood and then angrily looking up to find the Torian face-to-face with him, far closer than he imagined they would ever be.

“What was that for?” Alvin demands.

“Proof, dis is not dream. If dream. You would have woken. Is dis not the case?”

Alvin errs, he doesn’t want to admit it but it is indeed said to be true that you cannot suffer actual physical pain, bleeding especially, and remain asleep in a dream. It’s said that the dream shatters; the person wakes, or at the very least stirs. He has done not of those as he instead remains very much in this place he has up until this point called a dream. It’s why he gulps loudly, which is as much confirmation as the Torian needs. Hence that is why he lifts his arm, Alvin flinching fearfully as he does so, and presses a release on the underside of the helmets jaw line, left side. With that the overlapping metal sections similar to scales retract, packing into the neckline compartment of his body armour, revealing his entire head.

Alvin’s jaw drops to the floor, quite literally, for he finds that the Torian is a man. Not just male, as he had concluded, but human with a shaven head, dark eyes, wide nose and a number of strange runic tattoos. The tattoos are the only things which the mousy haired man would call foreign in the Torians appearance.

“Who…?” Is all Alvin manages of his intended question. It’s enough, though results in a humoured smile sliding across the Torians face. It’s an expression that does in no way suit the bulky bodied man.

“Like I said. We Torians. Not a name familiar to you. We are aware of dis…”

Alvin gulps loudly for what is the second time but manages to stumble out his query not long after, “A-are you h-here to h-h-hurt me?”

His previous bravado is gone, replaced by abject terror as well as a more than healthy dose of confusion, but not an ounce of scepticism.

“Ha, no. We are not here to hurt. We are here to study.”

“Study what?”

“You. For as you can see, we similar. Torians need to know how similar.”

“W-why?”

The Torian sighs deeply, looks away, drops his head for a few seconds but soon recovers and returns his dark eyes to Alvin’s own grey specimens. Following that he answers, “We need a new home. Ours lost.” The answer is far more succinct than Alvin was expecting.

“And you want Earth to be your home?”

“Correct. If suitable.”

“And if it’s not?”

“Then we move on.” A shrug accompanies the reply which is exaggerated by the Torians armour.

“Move on to where?”

“The next Earth.”

“What, you mean another planet that’s like Earth? So you are aliens.”

“No. I mean we move on to next Earth.” Are the words offered alongside a slow shake of the head.

“I…….” Alvin doesn’t understand, not in the slightest.

The Torian smiles, his eyes flare, perhaps it would be better to say flash but flare is the only word that comes into the human’s head and so he sticks with it.

“Your Earth one of many. Realities are numerous. Our Earth, dead. One thousand years since disaster.”

“So where am I, a spaceship? Because I take it I’m not on Earth, is that right?” The question is delivered with careful consideration and caution by the mousy haired man who is reticent to reveal just how worried all this is making him. Or he would be if his reticence were not written across his face. Not something he is aware of, alas.

“Correct. We are in Torian facility, between dimensions. Dis is where we now live. But it not sustainable for Torians. We need planet, atmosphere, stars light, sky…”

“Then why not come to our Earth and ask for…”

“We have studied your Earth. Humans are violent; more so than even Torians. We fought but we fought for peace. Your kind fights for power. You would not accept us. You would want war. Could not win war…”

“What do you mean; could not win war?” Alvin isn’t sure he should be asking such a question. A voice screams he would rather not find out, but it’s too late the question has been asked.

“Your species weak. Number strong but no match for Torians. Our technology same as was when planet fell. Far surpasses your Earth’s. War would cost lives. Could leave planet damaged. Torians will not risk that.”

“So what will you do?” Is the question the mousy haired man asks once he is over the fact that the Torians, humans from another dimension who’s Earth is long dead and whose numbers are unknown, would easily best humanity and that is what this man before him meant when he said, could not win war. It’s overwhelming and enough to make Alvin want to collapse his head has been spinning so relentlessly.

There is a pause, a long one. The Torian, Ir’vok, considers the question. He could lie but that would be deceitful, more human a trait then Torian and so he decides to keep with custom. “Replace.”

“What? What do you mean replace? You can’t do that! We’re the human race! Earth is our home, our planet! It isn’t yours!” Alvin is incredulous, loud and defiant in his proclamations. None of which are wrong or surprising to Ir’vok and yet he does not care. To be frank nor would any other Torian were they stood before this human who is, by comparison, a primitive being. Yet, the Torians are the ones who lost their world because of their hubris. Much like humanity they believed, prior to the disaster, that they were the immovable object. That soon changed when the Big-Crunch, the collapse of the universe, which they tried in vain to prevent occurred regardless of their efforts. It’s the event that saw less than one percent of the forty trillion strong population of Torians survive. Numbers that have barely altered since their exodus into this dimension when they boarded this facility, which was constructed to maintain them but allow for transition between the thinner than is normal barriers that can be found between various instances of Earth dimensions.

“Choice is not decided and once knowledge held it will not be yours to make. Torian decision alone.” There is no hint of remorse or empathy on Ir’vok’s face or in his voice, which is why Alvin feels it necessary to strike. He whirls round with his fist hoping it’ll do more than he fears. Alas, it fails. Ir’vok saw it coming a mile off and catches the fist pre-impact.

He could crush the humans hand but is inclined not too regardless of the exclamation that he and all Torians are, “Monsters!”

“Find peace in sleep.” Are the last words Alvin hears before being forced back against and then into the wall which becomes a void behind him. When Ir’vok’s hand releases the mousy haired man he attempts to lash out only for the doors to slam shut before him and then cryo vapour to flood the space.

The freezing matter sends Alvin into a panic that sees him begin to plead. However, he makes very little progress before he is dragged into cryo sleep where he will remain for good unless the Torians discover this Earth is ill-suited for them, or if it is decided humanity should be given a chance to prove they do not possess similar hubris to Torians.

After all, humanity like Torians are not the immovable object they believe themselves to be, but nature and the universe is and will always remain the unstoppable force.

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