Author: Coleman Bomar

The doctor scowled in disgust behind an orange Hazmat mask, began to remove the feeding tube and said, “1284, I suppose by now you’re tired of being fed through your sinus or whatever the hell you things call it. Well, I have bad news, we are increasing your forced feeding sessions to two times a day until you start eating.”
1284, known as Highslither Ry of the planet Rendal before his arrest, grimaced as plastic was pulled from his flat, snakelike nose. “We don’t have to keep disappointing each other,” said the doctor.
He didn’t respond.
“For all our sakes, cooperate with Colonel Tomlinson and leave. Take him.” A large orange suited guard locked handcuffs over Ry’s scaly wrist. He was escorted, but more so pulled, back to his cell.
Highslither Ry meditated behind bars, and would continue until his skin was shed. A week of captivity was no excuse to halt prayer. Men could bind him, but becoming a true prisoner by stopping worship, a slave to this species’ infringing empire…death was more appealing. Rendal would only survive clinging to tradition, and even if the Highslither’s devotion was hidden from view, he would still function as an example. Now his people were being relocated, enslaved or maybe killed; their speaker to the gods held hostage in a ship prison meant for star killing scavengers. The only hope left lay in persistence. They were attempting to break him and while he was afraid, the fear wasn’t from the pain of forced food. Ry sat on the skin-cluttered floor of his cell, perfectly underneath a cone of fluorescent light pulsing from the ceiling. Strips of shed surrounded him. Later he would lie curled with newly pink skin on the rough scales and let discomfort fill his memory. Resilience was currently a more important virtue. He crossed both arms and silently consulted his gods. Heavy boots clinked closer for a second visit.
He was taken to the Colonel’s office, and after entering through a wooden windowed door with the string blinds drawn, he was pushed into a chair of cushy red velvet and was forced to wait overlooking Colonel Tomlinson’s mahogany desk. When the Colonel finally entered, air was churned up and displaced by the Official’s massive figure. These visits were becoming routine now, as every twelve hours Ry was marched to the office to consider the same request.
“Just tell your people to cooperate with the mining programs and you’ll be released,” said the Colonel. “We’ll also cut back on relocations. Say the word and if you stick to the script on our next ground-level visit, I’ll turn you loose.”
Ry didn’t answer. They would never stop the relocations as long as drilling bore results.
“We didn’t teach you the most important language in the galaxy for you to sit in silence. Some fringe resisters are refusing to leave USC property and encouraging others to do the same. They’re shot on sight, but it’s halting progress and costing your own people their lives.”
The Colonel was becoming impatient and the air about him was swirling differently today. He even seemed confident. He was smiling and brought out a handheld sized silver case from his coat pocket. He popped it open and three microchips with what looked to be protruding needles glistened from inside.
“This is the alternate solution It’s a Broca kit. The United Space Coalition bylaws has it under “inhumane”, but it’s been approved specifically for you. Two chips attach to the language center of your brain and one to your vocal cords. Whatever I say into the mic comes out your mouth as if naturally spoken. How we do this is your choice, take an hour to think it over.”
They walked him back to the cell as his tears fell wailing This was how species forgot themselves.
There was no more outlasting behind bars. Toughness wouldn’t save a planet now. If he became a mouthpiece for silence, the people would listen and halt most dissention, hoping falsely. They would be herded without difficulty across the whole planet until the very core was cracked open and sucked dry. “Words are the memory of cultural,” he said to the white wall facing him. “If I enable closed lips, we won’t remember ourselves.” He sat on the floor shedding his skin and twirling the strips with long scaly fingers, considering. “Walls can’t hold everything.”
Within the hour, a guard went down to the cell of 1284. When he opened the metal door supposedly housing an extraterrestrial reptilian monstrosity, the rumors of whom fuel human child nightmares, he opened to a much more pitiful image. No movement. No disgusting scaled thing sitting cross-legged and peace-filled. In the cell, Highslither Ry of Rendal was limp and hanging from the ceiling in a noose made of his own skin. His eyes were closed. His arms dangled loosely. His mouth was open. THE END