This crew looks decidedly different than the last one I worked with, and although I’ve done this gig fifty plus times before, every rotation feels fresh and new. Stimuli floats around and caresses each of us in a translucent waveform that the others appear to be oblivious to, yet all I can do is stare wide-eyed and take in the bright colors, crisp sounds, and pungent scents from my cushioned station.
The crew’s senior male, who seems to be more of a consultant than team lead, clears his throat and pulls my attention from the airborne recital. He smiles from his equally cushioned and reclined position, and I can’t stop the grin from spreading across my face. I like this man. He has abnormal features that I find myself oddly fascinated with. His bulbous nose fits perfectly into my hand, and the unruly eyebrows shading his dull eyes are deemed even more ridiculous by the lack of hair on his smooth head.
A shrill voice pierces our friendly, unspoken exchange. He looks over my head and nods, using considerate effort to pull himself up to move out of my purview.
I’m alone now. Peaceful. Lovely. I could return my attention to the verve dancing on lustrous waves for my sole entertainment, or perhaps I should be concerned the crew convened without me, leaving me here, alone, to fend for myself.
Annoyance builds in my belly, the titillating performance dulling real time before my very eyes. Do I protest? Demand my equal share and opportunity to contribute? Sure, this tightknit crew has completed many missions without me, but still…
Irritation morphs into trepidation. Surely, this crew wouldn’t cause me harm just because I’m the new guy? I have tangible knowledge to share. It’s the sole reason I was chosen for this assignment in the first place. So why leave me out of the important conferences where decisions are made?
Oh no, she’s in my face again. Her bright orange lips purse, babbling nonsense as she wraps her claws around me. While her lips terrify me, the sickly, sweet floral decay emanating from her skin is what sends me over the edge. I desperately want to negotiate my release, explain her offenses, and return to the wonderment of the ether surrounding us.
Instead, I scream. This woman cannot pacify me. I refuse her every attempt and shut my eyes tightly, praying she will release her death grip.
Thankfully, my prayers are answered and the torture is short-lived. The soft cloth I rest my cheek against stifles my cries for justice. Warmth radiates through the fabric covering my skin, and gently applied circles massage away my distress. A calming vibration lulls me to sleep, so I might have the strength to fight another day.