by Adam Prosser

They keep me in a room about ten meters cubed. Pretty big, all things considered. It has dark blue walls, with orange-yellow lights set all around about two meters off of the ground. They are recessed into the wall, and the recesses have bars in front of them, so that I can't tamper with the lights. Why I would want to is beyond me; this place is bad enough without being pitch dark. And it's not as though I could escape under cover of darkness. The door (or what I think is the door, I don't know, I've never seen it open) is a square section of the wall that doesn't echo when I bang on it. It must be pretty thick.

  There's a bed in one corner. A sort of water hole that functions as a toilet and a sink--not pleasant. And an alcove with a slot that serves me these different coloured bars of foodstuffs. They tasted pretty bad at first, but I think "they" have been experimenting, because now I can actually get my saliva going at the thought of a meal.

  There's also a screen in one wall, on which "they" flash all kinds of strange images--to keep my brain from freezing, I guess. Some of them are scenes of forests, mountains, oceans, cities. Others are totally bizarre landscapes--alien worlds? Extreme close-ups of human skin? The center of the earth? I long ago stopped trying to figure out their meaning. Sometimes--not very often--they show animals or even humans, in strange environments. A lot of them seem to be in cages, being prodded or examined or dissected. I wonder if these are views of rooms adjacent to mine. If so, I'm grateful my punishment is relatively light.

  In the center of the room is a round table, and on it sits the Muse. My head is attached to it with a long wire. If I concentrate in just the right way, I can make the words I think come up on the screen. Like these ones.

  It doesn't matter who I am or who I was, even though sometimes the memory of my relatively humdrum life is often the only thing that keeps me sane. I can't think about it for too long, though, or it starts to appear on the Muse. I don't want them to know too much about me.

  I have never seen my captors, nor have I spoken with them; nevertheless, I understand a great many of their desires. I don't know if it's some kind of telepathy, or maybe subliminal suggestion implanted by the Muse. I do know why they keep me here.

  They want stories.

  Not just general information. Stories. Stories about people, or anthropomorphic animals, or monsters or robots or anything else that the human mind can dream up. They are clever, and they know that the way to understand a people is to study their stories. So they brought me here, under circumstances I don't even remember, and force me to help them learn about us.

  They, themselves, are not human. I don't know what they are, but it isn't human. Because the reason they have brought me here is this: they are conquerors. As soon as they know my mind, and perhaps the mind of another chosen few, they will slither their way into our dreams and steal our souls.