He finally opened his senses. Gradually, he became aware of the night sky. Focusing, he realized there were no stars, no sister planet. It soon came to him that there was no sand and, turning his head from side to side, knew that he must be on a table. Trying to sit upright he felt restraints. What? The question reared its ugly head. Where? quickly followed. For an instant, terror gripped the being. He was tied down on a table and that made no sense. He thought he had been resting but then remembered the Old Man. The Old Man had seen him and the breaking of the link had convulsed him into unconsciousness. He also remembered an utterance he didn’t understand. It had not come from him, it had been from the Old Man himself, “Son of a Bitch!” Him? Was that a statement addressed to him. It shouldn’t have been possible. The Chrysleat was supposed to be surreptitious, shielded from others when used. Now, however, he was sure. The Old Man was aware of him and, following, must be aware of his presence. The ramifications of this stunned him to his core. No one, no “being” was ever supposed to be aware of he or his people or planet. This was ancient law and the punishment was death for allowing this to happen.
Now his predicament carried far more weight. If he were strapped down, non-ambulatory, it could only mean one thing. He had been caught out. Cold sweat broke out and he shivered. Arrested and punished for something I didn’t do and now…now this! It was absolutely unintentional. I didn’t make the Chrysleat or use it any way but the way I was told. And, at that, I used it sparingly, He remembered a thought, a phrase he had seen in the Old Man’s mind. “This is fucked up!” He wasn’t sure what the phrase meant but it sounded applicable to his situation. So applicable that he only wished he could shout it out! This is so very fucked up and so is the universe. Then he wept. Or, more to the point, his species version of weeping. He convulsed again, shaking his head from side to side in staccato fashion. Mewling sounds came from his sensory receptacles.
“Well, Tleackeh, I see you’re sensory apt again! Stop the expressive’s and pull yourself together. How do you feel? Drained? Weary? You should! You’ve passed the test. Did you see all the corpses? Did you recognize what the Chrysleat can do? Are you now ready for another challenge?”