I looked at my watch. The bell would ring in a few minutes, and lunch would be over. I was asking Kate, a friend of mine, a profound question about her view of modern society. It was an unusual topic, and so I was expecting to see that surprised look on her face saying, “Are you crazy?” Thus I was following her, having neither a place to go nor a satisfactory answer.
    Suddenly there was a flash of light. The flash was so close that I could hear even the buzzing of electricity. Everything was so bright that nothing could be seen, not even the sky. I glanced at Kate and saw an even more surprised and scared look.
    Then there was another flash, and everything went dark. When I opened my eyes, I thought, “I died and went to here. That must have been lightning.” But soon my eyes adjusted to the light, and I saw it. We were standing in the middle of a vast plain in the middle of the world. The sand was dark-orange, the sky was dark-green, and the distant mountains were black. I turned around and saw Kate. She was confused and scared. She asked me,
    “What happened?”
    “I don’t know. I know that we aren’t on Earth.”
    Some time passed. I looked at my watch. It indicated 12:55. It was rather cold, but the only thing I had in my backpack was an extra T-shirt. I suggested going towards the mountains, and we started walking. There were no plants, no animals, no people, no other creatures, only us, the two of us, alone in this wicked world.
    We walked for quite a while until we reached the mountains. From up close they were much different that from far: their color was dark-green, there were many boulders and stones, and it was very easy to slip and fall. We stopped.
    “What do we do now?” she asked. I thought aloud, “If we stay here, we won’t have any hope of finding anything. I think we should climb to the peak and see.” It was getting dark, although by my watch it was 3:35. I was hungry, and so was Kate. When we climbed up about 300 feet, I stopped turned around. Behind us I saw a cliff of great depth. It must have been two miles to the bottom, where a thin yellow river could barely be seen. I heard something strange, something like the howling of a wolf, mixed with the wind. I looked into the sky. It was dark, but at the horizon bright-red light could be seen. I looked at Kate. She looked at me and asked,
    “What was that noise?” Since I did not know, I simply shrugged my shoulders, and we continued climbing. Soon it became very dark, so dark that only the stones in front could be seen. We climbed on another rock. The flat place had something dark was in front of it. It was a cave. I said,
    “Let’s go in, maybe it is warmer inside.” Carefully, we approached it. I felt warm air blow onto my face as I stepped in. Kate still remained outside. It was a small cave, and nothing was in there. I do not know why it was warm, but I still told Kate to come inside. We sat on the floor and waited…
    A storm began. The wind was blowing outside, and drops of rain could be heard. It became colder. The howling could be heard more distinctly now. Kate got closer to me. Since it was getting so cold, I took out my T-shirt and gave it to Kate. She thanked me heartily and put it on. Suddenly the wind outside started blowing with terrifying force. It was a hurricane, the strongest I have ever seen. It was very cold and scary. I felt lonely. Kate wanted to go home, and so did I. But there was not a known was to do so; we were trapped. It was all so confusing, so strange. The temperature in the cave suddenly dropped even lower. I was shivering. As I looked at Kate’s face I could see the same confusing questions. Suddenly, somewhere very close, a creature howled. It was a lonely cry of a hungry wolf or a mountain cat. Kate got very close to me. I could feel her cold hands. She whispered,
    “Oleg, I am scared.”    I took her hand in mine and said, “Don’t worry, it’ll go away and everything will be fine.” I was scared when I was saying it, but it was not reflected in my tone of voice. I waited. The howling creature was getting closer and closer. It was near the entrance to the cave. Then somehow there were two different howls, three, four. I suddenly saw a ray of light coming from the right. I whispered, “Look to the right. Let’s go.” I pulled her up and we started running. The light actually came from another cave, which also had an exit. As we were entering the passage, behind us I saw two red dots. Four. Six. They were the eyes of those creatures. They were getting closer and closer. We started running even faster. When we got to another cave, they were half-way through the passage. I looked in front but there also were two red dots. The sudden turn to the left, I let Kate go first, and followed her. The creature was quickly coming toward me. Ducking from the imminent danger, we ran outside and away from the cave. The wind slowed down, but it was still raining. I looked around. Nothing was there. No howling, no red eyes. The wind blowing rain in our faces was chilly, but I did not feel cold. Kate’s hand strongly held mine. We quickly walked upwards away from the deadly cave. We sat behing a large boulder, hiding from the wind. The temperature was about fourty degrees. I looked at Kate. Our eyes met and we quickly realized that we wanted only one thing: to be home. The rain soon stopped; we, wet and frozen to our bones, were sitting close together and shivering. I looked at my watch, it said 10:25. I suddenly realized I was starving. There was nothing edible in my backpack. I could not think of anything. I just wanted to go back home.
    The night went on for about three hours. I put my arm around Kate to warm her. She put her head on my shoulder and was starting to fall asleep, just as my arm. I was also getting tired and sleepy, but I could not, I needed to stay up. Far in the horizon a red line could be seen. It was getting brighter and brighter, and then an end of a circle appeared. It was yellow, just like the sun, but the sky was green. I looked at my watch, it was 3:15. The sun rose quickly, lighting and warming everything on the queer planet. Kate started to wake up, she opened her eyes and saw the sun.
    “What is it? And wha...?” She realized everything that happened, and said, “Good morning!”
    I replied, “Hi. How was your sleep?” She told me that she dreamt of a flower garden, lit by the sun. She met her friends in the garden in someone’s backyard while enjoying the view of the beautiful roses. Everything was warm and pleasant there. But now only the remainders of her unusual dream were left in her memory.
    We started going up. Behind us were the scary cave and the cold dark night, and in front were the high edges and the hope of getting back. Thus we climbed until we came close to the top. I looked back to see the sands, but there was a cliff just behind of us. The top was still close. We continued on, until the top of the mountain. Hoping to see something new, I looked and saw... another peak.
    “I am too tired to go on,” said Kate. “Let’s rest a little.”
    I also was exhausted. We sat down, talking about the night. It was over–nothing scary, nothing cold was there anymore, only vast desert and steep mountain. I looked at my watch, I saw 4:04. I felt that something would happen. Something had to happen, we had to get back soon, the same way we got here. I knew it, I felt it, I was expecting it. It was going to be 4:05 very soon. I noticed that every time something happens the number of minutes was a multiple of five. I waited. 4:05, nothing. Thirty more seconds. One more minute. Nothing.
    I got up and looked around. I thought about not getting back at all. It was scary, the thought of having to spend another night in this universe. We had to get back somehow. I decided to climb a little higher to see what is there. A little higher, a little more, soon I was on the peak of the second mountain. I looked back–behind me was a cliff, with no sign of Kate. I stared into the cliff. I thought nothing for a second, then I panicked. What happened? Did anything bad happen to her? Where did that cliff come from? How am I going to get back to Kate?
    I looked into the cliff, then I took a nearby stone and threw it down, watching it fly. The cliff was incredibly deep. I looked for a way of walking around it, and saw a swinging bridge far in the distance. I started to jog towards it, reaching it pretty quickly. Something was strange, for it seemed to me that I ran the distance twice as less as it seemed to be. The bridge was about fifty yards long. I kicked it and swung it–it looked strong enough to hold me. I took a step on it, looking at what would happen. Nothing. I took another step, looking only forward. A step, then another. Luckily the bridge did not swing much, and I could control it. Gradually I was in the middle of it, when I heard a crack. It sounded as if one of the metallic ropes tore, and thus only three were holding the bridge. It began to shake. My soul left me. I quickly realized that I had to move, and jumped. Then I heard another crack. I began to walk quickly to the end. I thought of Kate, how she alone would wait for me if I fell down. When I was close to the end, there were only two bottom ropes holding it. I wanted to lie down so I would not slip, but I kept walking, when I heard a big crack. I jumped, and barely landed on the other side of the cliff, when the bridge, held only by a single rope, tilted to one side. After some time the last rope was torn by the pressure and wind, and the bridge flew into the abyss below
    I walked to the place where I last saw Kate. I was fearing that she left to look for me, but she was there. I felt all the pressure lift off, and smiled.
    I told Kate what happened to me, everything about the cliff and the bridge. She was sitting the whole time waiting for me. I felt something warm inside me when she said that: she needed me.
    We stood up and started climbing. It was the same terrain, same dark-green mountains, same green sky, same yellow sun. The air was getting hot and dry. We were tired and hungry and reluctant to move, but we had to keep moving. As I was climbing to the top, I tried not to think of time. That is how I did not feel the hunger for some time. Kate was too weary to walk up, so I started to pull her by hand. Soon, exhausted, we reached the top. I expected to see another mountain, but what I saw I could not believe. In the distance there was a huge building, a castle made of metal, or a war base was well-protected. It was of great height and width. On the top there was a half-sphere, and on the sides there were slender towers. The whole building was gray. It dictated fear and belittled everything else around it. We were fascinated by the building, and kept looking at is as we moved on.
    We came close to the castle. We were like ants crawling to somebody’s foot, so immense it was. I spotted something that looked like a door, and we walked towards it. It was a heavy sliding door. We stopped. Kate wanted to sit down and rest. I said, “Kate, what do you think? Should we try to get in or try searching somewhere else?”
    “Searching for what? I don’t think that anything can be found on this planet. Let’s try to go in and see what this... thing is.”
    We came close to the door. There seemed to be some kind of technology that could open the door. When I came closer, I saw that it was broken: the pieces of metal were on the ground, and some wires could be seen. It looked as someone was trying to break in, and was successful. I looked more closely, and saw two wires of the same color almost touching each other. Carefully, I took then and made contact between them. I was not sure whether the door still worked, when something cracked in the door mechanism. I took a step back and watched. There was buzzing, and the door slowly began to slide open. When it opened half the way, it stopped. I looked at Kate, and by the look in her eyes I understood that she wanted to go in. We slowly and carefully approached the entrance and looked inside.
    It was rather dark. At last my eyes adjusted to the dim light and I could distinguish some things. I felt a smell of old food and clothes, and also of something strange but yet familiar. A thin layer of dust was on the floor and the near standing tables. There was noise inside, which was hard to hear. Kate took a few steps to look on the table. There were some papers, but they were torn apart and withered by time. I looked at all the equipment and saw something like a control panel. There was a white switch there; I wanted to see what it did, so I turned it on. There was a snap, and suddenly all the lights were on. Seeing what happened, I whispered, “Oh yeah! I can see everything now!” I looked at Kate, and suddenly realized that I was scared of that place, thus I was whispering. I looked at the control panel more closely and tried to see what the inscription said. It was written in the language, resembling one from Earth: the letters were a bit different, but still looked like English alphabet. There were other buttons, but I did not want to push them. I turned towards Kate to see what she was doing. She was looking at the papers. I came closer and asked her about that. She said that the language looked like English, and she tried to see some similarities between the two languages. She did not find any translating clues, and we went further to explore the strange place.
    We walked around it, and saw some tables, papers, some boxes that looked like computers, and some other things. There was a couple of stairs leading to the second floor, and we went there. On the floor there was a carpet, and many desks and tables. Suddenly, I heard the entrance door start to move; it probably closed. I said,
    “The front door: it closed.” That seemed to instantly answer the question Kate was about to ask.
    There were many rooms on the second floor. On the door to each room something was written in the alien language. One room had no door. We went in there and looked around. There were many tables and chairs; the room looked like it was a buffet. There were some shelves in the corner. I opened some. There were some small boxes, and inside the boxes were small tubes. I opened one tube and squeezed the contents out of it. It was something yellowish, like peanut butter. A bright idea came to my mind: I wanted to try the strange substance. Very carefully I took some of it and smelled it. The smell was rather delicious. I licked some of it. It was salty, sweet, and good. I took a small bite, and carefully chewed it. It tasted like peanut butter, and somehow like milk. I said,
    “Hey, Kate, I think that here is a storage of food.” I gave her another tube, and she tried it. I started to like the substance, and ate the whole tube. Then suddenly I felt that all the hunger that I felt was gone. I somehow was no longer hungry. I said, “Whatever this is, it seems to be very nutritional. I wonder if there are any drinks like this.” I went around looking for some liquid to drink. Kate also finished her “dinner,” and was also looking for some water. She found something and said,
    “Oleg, look, this looks like some beverage.” It was a big bottle of reddish liquid. I opened it and smelled it. It smelled like a strawberry drink. I looked around for cups, and I found some empty containers. Surprisingly, there was no dust on all of the second floor. The containers were clean. I poured some of the liquid into the two cups I got out and said,
    “Do you want to try it first, or should I?” She smiled, and said,
    “No, I am more important than you, you taste it and see whether that is some poison or not.” Audaciously I look the cup to my lips and swallowed some. It was a sweet and sour drink, tasting a little like earthly juice. I offered some to Kate, and she also liked it. The drink invigorated me and quenched my thirst. I said,
    “Whoever these aliens were, they sure knew how to cook.” When we finished eating, I felt a strong desire to sleep. I did not sleep last night, and I was extremely tired from all the climbing. I suggested to go up some floors to find the beds. There were stairs seen leading to the third floor, and we went there. The third floor was a computer lab. There were strange-looking computer boxes everywhere. In the center of the room was a large computer, the central one, I thought. There was a button on it, and I pressed it. It turned out to be a power switch: the computer turned on. There was no keyboard, only a device that I recognized was the mouse. The computer was actually familiar to me: everything was close to the computer I have. There were some buttons on the screen, I clicked the one with the picture of a planet. Then, to my and Kate’s amazement, among the many planets on the screen there was Earth. I clicked on it and waited to see what would happen. There appeared some buttons, and each one of them said something. I scrolled the window down and saw “Français.” Near it was the button “English.” Just for fun I looked for Russian, but, as always, it was not there. So I clicked on English.
    There was some buzzing in the computer, and suddenly a bright picture appeared. It was a hologram of a man talking. I looked very carefully at it: it looked so real. There was no sound. I looked on the screen and there was some texts, saying “Volume.”
    I said, “Hmm... How convenient, everything is in English. Ok, let’s see what it will do.” I pressed the conveniently located “Restart” button and turned the volume up. There were some chairs near, I placed two in front of the image. We sat down and listened. The hologram began.
    “Take heed of this message. I am the last person alive in this lab, and maybe on the whole planet. It is all out fault: by our actions these animals were created, and it turned out that we made our own deaths.
    “This was a beautiful planet in the system of six planets and a star. There is only one small moon. Sometimes other planets can be seen, and the view is beautiful. The name of the planet in our language is Mlacte. There are 19 hours per day, 254 days per year. We had technology far more advanced than you, people from Earth. We could transport people using special beams of energy to far distances. In the latest experiments we were trying to change the weather, so it could rain when we wanted it. But the experiments completely changed this planet. One day it started to rain without stopping. We could not slow down the process, and almost all the water from the atmosphere condensed. The huge floods wiped out whole towns, trees, plants, everything there was on this planet. Everything was gone: the beautiful works of art, the sculptures, the historical places, the buildings. This and some more labs survived by being high in the mountains.
    “The experiment went the following way: we tried to add some chemicals to the atmosphere, and then just spray other chemicals when we wanted rain. The concentration was too high, and not only did that start the rain, but also affected the nature. The fierce species on our planet, “derpu,” as they are called, began to mutate. At first they were just more fierce, but then they began to attack everything and everybody. They could not be killed easily: if they were shot in an organ not essential for life, such in their leg, they could rejuvenate. Millions of us were killed. People were not coming out of their houses because of the creatures, but the creatures could get into the houses by jumping over the energy fields into the windows. The derpu began to breed quickly, and somehow they were becoming smarter everyday. They could open the doors by pressing the buttons, or by breaking the door-opening pads. Nobody knew how or why that happened, but we tried to reverse the process. We trapped one of them and began to study it. We found out that derpu had red eyes that glowed in the dark, letting them see better. Also, their teeth were much sturdier than before, and they could chew through some metals. We tried to find anything that would change them without affecting us, but we did not succeed. We noted that they also eat some other animals, that is the reason that only we and they were left alive. The whole population of this rather large planet was decreasing quickly. By the scent of the captured derpu many others came to this building. We wanted to shoot them, but during the night they completely recovered in the near-located forest. It was noted, that they are afraid of rain. When there seldom is one, they try to hide from it, but many of them die. The phenomenon cannot be explained. We tried to splash water on them during the frequent attacks, but they were not afraid of water, just of the rain. One day they broke the front door and got in during the night. I do not know why, but they needed only three ours of sleep, as translated to Earth time. They attacked everybody during the night, and only a group of us was left alive. We suspected that there were no more than ten thousand people left alive on the whole planet...”
    I was terrified. Kate and I looked at each other. Those creatures wanted to kill us, and we did not know any means of protecting ourselves. I knew that Kate was thinking the same, we both were filled with terror. I looked at the hologram and listened.
    “... there were only three of us left in the whole lab. We tried to use the transports to get to another planet, but the derpu chewed through some wires and we could not fix it. I think that now it sometimes randomly selects one of 16 preprogrammed planets and takes living organisms from there to somewhere on Mlacte. I tried to stop it so nobody else would have to suffer on this planet, but I did not succeed. During the night they are everywhere, looking for us. Now we lock ourselves in the bedrooms on the fifth floor, but I feel that they shall soon get even into the bedrooms. If you can, get out of this planet right now. You cannot hide anywhere from them, you must leave, or else...”
    Here the message ended. After the recovering, I said, “We have to do something. Somehow we must fix the transport, or find another one. We cannot stay here.” She did not reply. She was thinking about the whole thing that happened to us. I did not know what to do. Would we die in the wicked world? Were we to fix the transport? Did all the derpu kill each other, and only a few of them were left? I was scared.
    Kate said, “We need to get some sleep. Maybe nothing will happen tonight, and we will be rested tomorrow.” We went to the fifth floor, where the hologram said some beds would be. The carpet on the floor was white, and so were all the walls. I let Kate pick a bedroom. She opened some doors to look for a nice-looking room. Soon she called me, and said that she found one. It was a rather nice room, with two small beds, one in each corner. The walls were white, and the lamp, hanging from the middle of the ceiling, gave unusual blue light. I said,
    “Wow! This is a really nice room.” I sat on one of the beds. It was not too soft for some reason, but I still liked it. The sheets were as good as new. I said, “Well, I suggest we say good night.” Kate lay in her bed and said,
    “Good night.” I closed the door, turned off the light, and said, with irony, “Sweet dreams!” I lay in my bed and very soon fell asleep.
    I woke up in the middle of the night. That was strange, for it is very hard to wake me up simply by low noise. Something unusual was happening. I felt that something was approaching. I sat on the bed and listened. Soon I heard something moving remarkably quietly. I could not tell where exactly that was, but it was somewhere below. It was not very dark in the room, and I could see Kate sleeping. I looked at her pretty face and her brown hair falling to her shoulders. I wanted to wake her, but I decided to wait a little. After waiting for a few minutes, I again hear some noise and woke her up. She opened her eyes and asked,
    “Hi. What’s wrong?” I said that I thought I heard some noise. We sat for some time, listening. There was nothing. I thought that maybe that was just my vivid imagination, when there was a sudden sound of shrill buzzing. The same buzzing as when we entered. The front door opened. Kate exclaimed, “Oh God! It’s them!”
    That moment I felt the terror that is always in the horror science fiction movies with people being in space: something unknown is on the ship, and there is no known way to kill it. We were alone in the building, and they were coming, searching for us. I looked at her. She sat so close that her shoulder touched mine. I did not know what to do. I could not think at first, but I forced myself to. We could run away and lock ourselves, waiting for them to leave and go to sleep. We could try to kill them by finding some weapons. No, it was already too late. I looked at the door. It was made of some fragile material, so we could not stay there. I said,
    “Kate, we must get out of this room and try to find some place with a better door.” I pulled her up and opened the door. I could hear them, but they were not very far. I looked around and saw the stairs. We started to run. When we were running, I heard them getting closer and closer. On the seventh floor, still finding no good place to hide from them, I heard them on sixth. We were running as fast as we could, running from terror following us. On the ninth floor I looked around and saw two of them. Four red dots were glowing with hunger and hatred. I panicked. Across the hall I saw a door. We ran to that room. I could hear the creature breathe behind us. When we got to the room, they were five yards behind. I shut the door, and just in time. They were there, trying to break in by using their claws. We were breathing hard. It was so scary knowing that we were separated from them by only a door. We sat on the floor, looking at each other. It was over, for now. We were safe. But only for now.
    After some time I carefully looked around. We were sitting in a strange narrow room. There was a strange structure far away. The walls were dark, and the ceiling rather low. It was like no other room in the building. It looked as if something important were in this room, for the locks and the door were very sturdy. I started to walk inspecting the strange room. There were some pictures on the almost black walls. There were some desks with computers on them. Kate decided to join me on my excursion, and we started to walk towards the end.
    The room was longer that I thought. The desks near the walls were indifferent, and only by the unusual items could they be distinguished. We were getting closer to the end. I could see the strange structure. It was a large pad with a ring surrounding it, like a place where people can stand on, put the virtual reality goggles on, and go to the different world. Near it was a large computer. I turned it on like the last one. I was getting used to the technology of this world: everything was easy to understand. On the screen was something written in the alien language, and I could not understand what it said. I pressed some buttons, wondering what shall happen, but nothing did. I asked, “Do you have any clue what this does?” Realizing that she had a life and I did not, I was not surprised to see her puzzled expression and her saying, “You’re the computer genius.” So I just kept pressing some buttons.
    Suddenly there was some buzzing in the machine, and it turned on. There were light on the ring. I looked on the screen. There was something like a map of the building. I looked carefully on it and said,
    “Look! Here is the whole building. I wonder what this red dot indicates.” There was a red dot, and by my calculations it was to the left of us. I looked on the left, and saw nothing but the wall. “There’s something over there. I don’t think that it’s the creatures, for there would be more that one dot.”
    “I don’t want to exit this room,” she replied, “for those creatures might be waiting for us.”
    “But we cannot stay here forever.”
    “No, let’s not go there yet but later.” So we decided to stay for now.
    I looked around to find anything else, but I could not. There were some boxes in the drawers, and in those boxes were flat-looking disks, probably for the computers. I could not understand anything that was written there. I looked at the computer, but did not find any place to insert them.
    I sat down on a chair. There was nothing to do. I could not use the computer program, I could not go anywhere. I was just sitting and remembering what happened in the past. I was thinking about a sad movie I once saw on TV. I read the book, but the movie was more sad even after reading the book. It was about an old man and his dog. He loved the dog, and the dog loved him. They went everywhere together: hunting, walking, shopping, fishing. Once the man got sick and had to go to the hospital. The dog was very lonely without its owner. It went everywhere to find him. During its quest, some cruel people hurt it because it was just an animal to them without any feelings. At the end the dog was captured by the dog-catchers and when the old man finally came out of the hospital and went to see it, it died because of loneliness. It was an extremely sad movie. I felt very sad and lonely that time. I also remembered a dance I went to long ago. It was excellent in the beginning, but toward the end everybody was sad and tired, making me sad also. I did not tell anybody how I felt. I just wanted the dance to be longer so I could dance the last dance with my date. I was really desolate because that did not happen.
    Kate woke me up from my thought by saying, “I think we should go to the other room.”
    We went to the door. I opened it and carefully looked around. No sight of the creatures. We stepped out of the room and started to walk toward the stairs. I looked around and I saw a door. It was next to the door that we just went through. I said,
    “Let’s see what is in there. Maybe there is something we might need.” I carefully approached the door and opened it. The door lead to a dark passage. I stepped inside. I felt a funny smell in the passage, which I have never encountered before. I looked for a switch, but did not find it; we were in the dark. We walked towards the end of the long corridor. In the distance there was some light. Soon we came to the end and stepped into a small room. There was a little lamp on the ceiling which gave the dim light. I looked around and suddenly felt something. I felt like we were in the right place, the last place we needed to go to. I saw a computer in the corner, and turned it on. When I did, something behind me started to buzz; I looked around and saw a pad. It was a pad similar to the one in the other room, but there was more light around it, and somehow it appeared to be working. There was no sign of this, I just felt it. I looked at the screen. Again there was a choice of 16 planets, and again I chose Earth, and then English. Then something new happened. I watched closely. There was a detailed map of Earth and something like a cross that I could move. I pressed the screen, and the cross moved to that place. There were some buttons, on which something illegible was written. I pressed one and watched. There was a message on the screen; then something was written, but I could not recognize what that was. I looked more closely, and after struggling with the letters I read, “Please stand on the pad.”
    “Hey Kate, I think we found something. I don’t know how, but this pad can actually transport us back. It says, ‘Please stand on the pad.’ Should we try?” This news made Kate rather cheerful. She said,
    “We can finally get out of here! This is great!”
    I looked at the screen again. I pushed some buttons trying to read what they said. I saw a button that said something starting with “Un...” I looked more closely and read “Undo last transport.” I said, “Wow, I think this is just what we need. I pressed the button and read on the screen, “Stand on the pad.” There was a picture on the screen of our school. I told Kate to stand on the pad, and we did. Then there was a buzz. I went to read it and read aloud, “One object at a time, please.”
    There was a pause. I saw by her eyes that she was very excited about the chance of going back. I looked at her vigorous expression and said, “Yes, you can go first.”
    “I didn’t say anything!”
    “I know ya didn’t, but I know that you really want to.”
    “Well... Yeah.”
    “And also ladies first, and also, what if something happens? I’m da ‘computer genius...’”
    “Yes...” She came closer and hugged me. “Thanks.” I smiled gloomily and replied,
    “Hey, ain’t that what I’m for?” I grinned sarcastically.
    But she didn’t reply anything to that. She just turned around and walked onto the pad. That sudden change of mood baffled me. I wanted to say something but I ignored it; I turned around and pressed the button. Everything started buzzing. The light around the pad started to blink, and some electrical charges could be heard. Then there was the same bright flash of light around Kate, and then she disappeared. I was not very surprised about that, for I knew that it would happen. I waited for some time, pressed the same button, and stood on the pad, waiting. There was buzzing heard, but then suddenly there was a puff and the pad began to smoke. I stepped off and looked. I did not work. The light went off, the buzzing stopped.
    I felt scared. I kicked it. I pushed some buttons. I tried to do anything to make it work again. It did not. For some time I could not understand the full meaning of that, and than gradually I understood. I could not get back. I had to find another way, and if there was not one, I had to stay on that planet. I was the only living person on the whole planed. And the wolves. I suddenly remembered that I was not alone, and they could attack me very soon. I did not know what to do. I could ask nobody, I could get help from nobody. I was on my own now.
    I was terrified. I ran out of the room looking for something. I ran back into the other room and started to open all the drawers to find anything. I knew that the creatures would come soon. I needed some protection from them. I opened yet another drawer and saw something that attracted my attention. It was a piece of metal that looked like a gun. I took it out and examined it. There was a handle to hold it and to pull the trigger. I tried it. Nothing happened. Then I saw something in the drawer. It looked like an extra charge for the gun. I looked at the gun, somehow opened it and recharged it. I pointed to the wall and pulled the trigger. There was a bright flash, and then I saw a great hole in the wall done by my shot. I thought, “Yeah, now those creatures don’t stand a chance against me!” I pointed to the wall and saying, “And that’s for you, Kate,” I made another shot. I chuckled softly as I imagined what she would think upon hearing my exclamation. Of course she would think that I was mad at her for something, or that I was a dumb violent individual. She wouldn’t understand me. She couldn’t. She didn’t know me. Why? At the moment the question puzzled me more that the search for escape. She didn’t care about me. Why? Why would she? Because we are friends. Why doesn’t she? We’re friends, right? Right? Maybe that’s it. Maybe she doesn’t consider me a friend. Exactly. I’m just a person, who, strangely, greets her sometimes. But why? Why is she... No! Not her, me! Why am I? Why do I expect people do act certain way? Why do I care about them? If they are not my friends, why do I vex them by calling them late at night asking stupid questions? It is I who is always trying to do things, to get attention, to care... That’s the way I am. Not them, but me! Me! I felt truly sorry for scorning Kate, even though I didn’t say or think anything of such a sort. She was a nice sweet person, and I was an dumb obnoxious jerk. Darn, I hated being so stupid! I laughed out loud because of my erratic thoughts. She wouldn’t get me, but no one would. Grow up!
    Thus an hour passed. There was no sight nor sound of them. I stood up to stretch my limbs. I walk around. Then I decided that waiting for them would be of no use. I looked at the door. There was nothing. I peeked outside, looking and listening. Nothing. I went out and walked to the first room. I was closing the door when I heard a noise. It was getting closer and closer, but nothing could be seen. I was scared. I shut the door and ran to the first pad. The steps were approaching me. Something was up on the ceiling. But it was not alone. I heard at least three different creatures. They were approaching me, and I did not see them. I stood up and prepared to shoot. Suddenly I saw one running towards me through the door. I shot at it. It fell on the ground, but continued running. When it got closer, I shot again. It fell on the ground without moving, but then the ceiling broke and I saw the three of them falling on the ground. I shot one of them. Then the other. Then the third one. They all appeared dead. Suddenly, one of them stood up and started to run towards me. I stood on the table. Then I heard something above and glanced for a second. Something was up there. I shot at the floor and then, just when the one on the ceiling was jumping at me, I started to run. I ran and shot behind me. It was alone, with nothing else. I pulled the trigger again, but nothing happened this time. I tried again and again, but nothing happened. The gun was out of charge. I saw a long thin pole along the passage where I was running. I took it and turned around. When the creature jumped at me, I hit it as hard as I could. It slowed down of a second, but then started to run again. The door was close. I dropped the pole and rushed through it, pulling it behind. I closed it and heard the creature hit it. I sat on the floor.
    I was doomed. There was no place in the lab safe from them. I had to find another transport pad, and get back home as soon as I could. I forced myself to stand up and walk. I walked around, looking for some other weapons, unsuccessfully. It was just me against them.
    I walked upstairs look for a pad, but even after a long search I did not find any. There was only one left, where the creatures were. I needed to eat. I went to the second floor and ate something. I could not think. I did not know what was the rational thing to do. I just did what I needed to do in the first place. I was hungry, so I would eat. I could not force myself to think that time: everything was too terrible. I was thirsty, and I drank something. I knew that I should have been thinking, but I could not force myself to do so.
    Then I sat down. I knew that it could not go on like this. I finally started to think. I was alone on the whole planet. There were creatures chasing me. I needed to fix the transport to get back. I had to, I felt that I could accomplish everything if I tried to. I started to think about my past, everything I learned. I remembered how I did not know how to do anything: I did not know how to play soccer, I was very slow when I was running, I did not know anything about computers, I only knew math. Math was my best subject. But then I learned everything I know today. Somehow I could not learn anything new anymore. I did not try. Now I had to try and to get back on Earth. I had to. I was determined to.
    I had to get back to the pad, figure out what is wrong with it, and go back. I could not comprehend everything done together, only the little steps. I remembered that I needed to sleep, but I could not. I was very tired, but if I fell asleep, the creatures would find me. So I had to stay awake for the whole time. I had to wait.
    I was sitting on the floor. I was slowly awaking from all the logical thoughts and began to think creatively. If the creatures would leave the room, I could try to somehow fix the transport. But what if the creatures did not want to leave? I had to make them. I thought for a while. How could I make them leave? They needed to go somewhere, where was something they wanted. A thought came to my mind, “Me!” I had to let them follow me, trap them, and then rush to the place and act quickly. That was the only way. Nobody could help me, I had to rely on my own. How would I trap them? I had to make them run into a room, lock it, and then leave quickly. I had to hide somewhere close to the exit. But why would they then go into the room? I shall let them know that I am inside, and I shall make something move at the far end of the room. Then they will chase it, and I shall lock them in. That was my plan for now.
    I felt really lonely at that time. I felt sorry for myself for being left alone. However, I was not mad at anybody. Not at Kate, not at anybody else. It was a strange feeling. I was calm. I did not feel anything but loneliness and sadness. I just waited for things to come. When Kate was transported back to Earth, I was not angry because of her but because of the fact that I was alone. I felt different and strange.
    I stood up and walked around. I had to follow my plan. I had to find a room in which I could trap the creatures. I walked upstairs looking for rooms but I could not find anything. Each floor looked different. Some were white with white walls and white carpet, some were dark. One looked like an office floor, another like a party place. However, I did not see any room on these floors suitable for my plan. I still kept trudging upstairs. I was already getting tired, when I walked up to the floor I was looking for. It was different from all the other floors in the building. It was a hospital with multiple corridors and doors. On almost every door there was a sign, probably saying what was in the room. I tried to open some, but they were locked. I tried some other doors, and I opened one of them. Inside was a large room with a strange furniture arrangement. I looked for the switch and turned on the lights. I saw something like an operating table in the middle, and many drawers near the wall. I returned to the corridor and tried to open some other doors. Some of them were also locked. The open doors all looked the same, with some medical technology inside. I turned around the corner and saw exactly what I was looking for. I saw a metal door leading to a room I imagined to be a freezer. I came close to it and opened it, with effort. Inside the air was cold and stinky. Everything was dark and I could not see a thing. When I saw the light I was shocked. A body of a creature was lying on the floor. I was getting ready to run when I noticed that it was not moving. I looked closer at it. It was dead. I looked around trying to see something else. In the wall I saw a large hole. It was definitely made by one of the creatures, nothing else could or would make it: there were pieces of metal lying around it. I thought, “Oh my God, it was chewed through. How could they do it, the metal is so sturdy!” I thought that probably the people who were in this lab before tried to lock the creatures inside, but most of them got out. The power of the creatures was scary: they could do almost anything. I came close to the hole and looked inside. The creatures chewed through the wall into another room. I looked into another room. It was a small dark room; there was a door, but it was closed. I squeezed through the hole, and opened the door. I turned on a light switch to illuminate the darkness. It was an ordinary room, with some tables and computers standing by the walls. I looked at the door knob, and saw a strange button on it. I did not know what it did, so I pressed it. I heard a buzz. Then I closed the door and pressed it. There was a click and nothing more. I tried to open the door, but it was locked now. I whispered to myself, “Oh yeah, now I know how to lock the creatures in here.” Then I squeezed through the wall into the freezer room and looked around. I was looking for something to cover the hole to trick the creatures, I needed to win some time. Then an idea came to my mind. I went to the neighboring room and moved a desk close to the opening. Then I moved another one. I put the first one against the wall and tilted the second one. I went to the freezer room and pulled the first desk. After I did that the second desk fell, thus making the two being in a row. I went out of the freezer room and sat down. I needed something to attract the creatures so they would go into the room. I started thinking, but nothing could come to my mind that time. I was getting thoughts from the past, things that happened to me before I went to this strange planet. I knew that I needed to find something attracting the creatures. I could not use the dead creature, it was dead already. I went out of the freezer room to the hallway, and opened some doors, finding nothing edible inside. I opened more and more doors, but still there was nothing. At last I have visited every room on that floor. Still the hope did not abandon me, and so I went to the next floor.
    It was a floor similar to the previous one. There were the same closed doors, same floor and ceiling. The hallway though was a little different, it turned to the left now and not to the right, a mirror image of the floor below. At the end there was a similar door leading to another freezer. Struggling , I opened it. And again it was dark inside. But now there was a strong smell of something old, as if some old food was forgotten there. I looked for a light switch and, turning on the light, I saw the nature of the smell. I saw something disgusting, something I sure would not want Kate to see. For a second a fragment of memory came into my mind. I remembered seeing a dead mouse, killed by a cat. Its left arm was torn out and was lying by the dead corpse. Everything was very bloody. However, I was not disgusted, I was just thinking of the sad fate of the mouse and how wretched the poor creature was. I looked again, more closely this time, but still I could not identify what that was. It was a piece of flesh, neatly lying on some white material. Somebody put it there for later use. This was just what I needed. I could use that to attract the creatures and then rust to the transport room. I looked at it again. There was still some blood on it left. It was not a very large piece, but it would attract the creatures. I took it and started walking. The piece was heavier than I thought, but I could manage to carry it to the floor below. There I put it on the floor and started dragging it, leaving a thin line made of blood. I dragged it into the freezer room and moved the door half-way open. I sat down and started to think. I needed the creatures to run and get the piece, and not get eaten in the meanwhile. How would I do that? I would have to make them follow me, run into a neighboring room, shut the door, and wait. Everything was simple.
    Suddenly I woke up. How could I make the creatures chase me? They would eat me and not go into the freezer room. I felt as if I were dreaming before. Everything was passing me by too fast for me to understand. I did not know how I got to that state, I did not know when I left it. I looked around. I felt wide awake; the contrast between now and then was scary. What was I thinking? Why was I like that? I needed to be very careful. I was alone, completely alone in this world. Alone on the whole planet. These creatures were after me. I had to carefully get their attention and run. I walked outside the freezer room and tried to open some doors. I chose one room to be the room in which I would hide. Then I tore a piece of flesh from the piece I brought. I sat down and started thinking again. After some time of reflecting I decided what to do. I stood up and headed for the stairs.
    Some floors down I started to walk slower. Soon I got to the floor where the room was located. I sat down on the stairs and waited, listening at the same time. Soon I heard a noise. I stood up and walked up some steps. I looked around and threw the piece to the door. Then I went to the next floor and watched carefully. Suddenly fear engulfed me. I did not really know what I was up against. There creatures could kill me easily. I slowly stood up and looked. I wanted to run back, to hide from everything, to be home. But I could not. I had to trap the creatures in the room. I could only wait patiently for them to come and do that. I had no choice, and that made me feel even more scared. I started looking around in fear that they were on this floor also. Then I heard another noise. I looked down and saw something moving. I saw a pair of red eyes approach the piece I threw. Then there were two creatures. Then three. They started howling and fighting for it, but one of them grabbed the piece and devoured it voraciously. It was a terrifying scene; I have never seen anything hungrier than that. The creature hardly chewed the piece at all, it just swallowed it with incredible speed. Then I started running. I saw them as they were looking and then chasing me. I was running very fast, but they were catching on even faster. Adrenaline powered me. I could hear them pant behind. Soon I reached the floor where I wanted to trap them and headed to the room. I turned around and saw them close by. I rushed inside and shut the door. I looked outside. The creatures ran to the door and tried to open it. I feared that my plan would fail; but soon I noticed that the creatures started sniffing the thin line of blood I made when I was dragging the large piece of flesh. They started following it and walked around the corned. My plan was working! I carefully opened the door and stepped outside. Soon I heard loud eating noise. I turned around the corner and looked. I saw the creatures in the freezer room, devouring the piece of flesh I brought. I quietly walked to the door, gathered all my strength, and shut it. Then I locked it, turned around, and started running. I ran to the stairs and down to the floor with the transport in it. I felt relieved and happy, I did what I had to do, and I was alive! I jumped up joyfully.
    I ran to the transport room. I felt that I trapped all the creatures in the room, although I did not even know how many there were. I opened the room and stopped. Inside the room I saw a creature lying on the floor. Then I remembered that it was the creature I shot, and I ran to the transport. I did not have much time. I turned on the computer and waited. Only few lights lit on the transport, the other ones were dim. I looked at them, looked around the transport, pressed some buttons, but nothing happened. I walked around the machine to find any wires, but there was only one. Then I looked at the computer screen. Once again, the font was very small and I hardly could read anything. I made the computer write in English, then I pressed the button saying “Transport.” I tried to make it active and do something, but the computer wrote something illegible on the screen. It was frustrating. I did not have much time. The creatures could get out from the freezer room soon. I did not know what to do. I started pressing random buttons to do something, and suddenly I read on the screen “Options.” I did not know how I got to the screen. With my heart pounding, I pressed that button. There were some statistics about the transport on the screen, and there was an editing field. I tried to change something, but nothing still worked. Then I looked closely, and I saw that the minimum and the maximum masses were incorrectly written. I changed it to my mass. Then I pressed a button and waited, trembling. I was getting disappointed, but soon I heard a noise coming from the transport. I looked at it and saw that all the light were lit. I felt happier than I ever did in my life. I fixed the alien transport machine without much skill and I could go home! I pressed some buttons to get to the screen where I was before. Then I pressed “Transport” and looked on the screen. I pressed a button and saw on the screen sixteen planets, I chose Earth. Then I chose North America, then I clicked on a place there. I was amazed at how exact the map was, the aliens knew everything about the planets. Suddenly I understood something. They knew so much because they studied all the planets, learned all the languages. They transported people from all these planets here to tell them about earth, to extract information from them. Then they transported them back. That was the answer for all the mysterious stories about how people disappeared and then reappeared on Earth many years later. But why did the people in the lab die? Why did they not transport themselves? I thought about it. Probably the same thing happened to them as to me: one person was transported, but not the others. They could not figure out what to do with it. It made me angry: the technology was so advanced that people stopped thinking by themselves. They only relied on the machines, and they were helpless without them. That was scary, for it was the fate of Earth as well. I realized that many people already rely on calculators and not themselves. I did not want that to happen, but what could be done to prevent that?
    I looked at the detailed map of the North America region, and then clicked on area near the school. Then, surprised, I saw a map so accurate that I could even see where my school was. Still, I could zoom in even more. I pointed to the exact location from where I was transported. The transport was ready to go. I clicked “OK” and started walking to it. But then an ideas came into my mind. I could take some of this planet’s technology back to Earth to study. I could take the gun, or the food, or something else. That would also be a proof that I was on this planet, if somebody would be dubious. I looked around, but I did not see anything I wanted. Yet I decided to get the food, and I walked towards the door. I opened it and walked to the stairs, when suddenly I heard a noise. I looked around, but I saw nothing. Then suddenly I heard something running down the stairs. I rushed to the transport room. The creatures were following me. I ran to the transport and stood on it, waiting. I looked at the screen and I saw that I had to press the button again. The creatures were running into the door. As fast as I could I ran to the screen, pressed the button, and ran back to the transport. I heard buzzing. The creatures were getting closer. They were only thirty yards away. Then twenty. I could not think about anything at that moment, I was terrified. I dully looked at the creatures. I could not do anything. Ten yards. There was bright light around me. I saw that one of the creatures jumped. I dodged, hoping that the creature would not touch me. I saw another flash of light, and at the moment when I was losing hope I found myself looking in the sky back in the school.
    I sat on the ground. I was still dark. I was breathing hard. How good it was to be back on Earth! I deeply inhaled the fresh night air. Many stars dimly lit the ground. I remembered that I was freezing and starved. I stood up and walked, suddenly feeling something under my feet. I looked at it and surprisingly found my backpack. I thought, “Wow, those aliens were smart, they even returned my backpack to me.” I looked into the sky and yelled loudly, “Thank you!” Then I felt joyful. I was alive. I survived on the alien planet and got home. It was the best thing to be back. I have not experienced anything happier. I realized that I did not need to take the alien technology or food, I was happy the way I was. I started walking. I looked at my watch and saw 4:05 a.m. “Wow,” I thought, “There is something about the number five!” The cycle was now complete, it started 12:05 and ended 4:05.
    I walked to the phone and to call home, but the phone was not working. Than was strange, but I did not really care. I walked to the parking lot and looked for any cars, but there were not any. I did not know what to do. All the buildings were closed, the phone was not working, so I just walked to the library and sat on the bench there. Soon I fell asleep.
    “Oleg, wake up.” I opened my eyes and looked. It was already brighter. Kate was standing in front of me. “Oleg, you’re back.”
    I woke up completely. I sat on the bench and said, “Hi. What are you doing here so early? It’s only... 6:50.”
    “I came here earlier because I could not sit home knowing that you could be here.”
    “Oh, thank you. What happened when you got back?”
    She told me that she got back when the school was over. She went home and told the whole story to her parents, to the police, and few more people. They did not believe it at first, but few witnesses confirmed the unusual light and the disappearance. The police searched for me, but they could not find me anywhere. She said,
    “I’m so sorry that I left you alone on that planet! I was really scared and I wanted to get back. I did not think about you, how you helped me and saved me from death. I am so thankful to you!” I snickered and said,
    “Oh, don’t worry about it. Now, I could tell you the story, but... it’s a little chilly here.” She realized that I was freezing and I had no food for a long period of time.
    “You should go home now. Let’s call your parents.” We went to the phone, but it still was not working. We went to a classroom with a phone inside. On the way I started telling her what happened to me. She was very interested in it, and she often said how sorry she was for leaving me alone. Soon the teacher from the room came and opened the door. I asked,
    “May I use the phone? The public phone isn’t working.”
    “Where were you yesterday?” he asked.
    “Ah, just on another planet...” I called my parents and went to the parking lot. Kate went with me. I told her some details of how I locked the creatures, how I made the computer work. When my parents came, I said,
    “Well, you are safe now, and so am I. I’ll call you later!”
    In the car I fell asleep, oblivious of everything but of my happiness. It was over, but it was also just the beginning.

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