Vikas opened his eyes. He could faintly make out some diagram written on a white board, but it was tilted horizontally. And the light was dim. He slowly lifted his head up and reality hit him hard. He was at his desk, and the white board was his.
Shit, he was still in the office. He looked at his wrist watch and gawked. What the hell? The dial on his watch had turned a blank white, with nothing on it.
His cubicle was on the far side of the eastern block of his company, housed in building number 3 in the software park where he worked. Damn. He must have fallen asleep. But it had never happened. The lights on the false ceiling flickered between dim and dimmer every minute. A static type noise came from some cubicle nearby. God, that din. It was pretty loud. Like a crackling radio. Some nut had left some device on in his desk.
But Vikas knew that there was nothing to worry about. It was not the first time employees had fallen asleep at work. Especially at night. The security personnel knew this and they seldom woke the overworked guys up. The office was accessible to employees 24/7, provided they had their badges. He yawned and looked for his sling bag. Then he noticed something. Where was his laptop?
Fuck, the laptop was stolen. 250 laptops were stolen from our campus last year. We request employees to be careful… These lines from the HR mailer raced in his mind. Now his laptop was also a figure in the statistics. For this year.
But what struck him as odd was, there was not a single soul in sight. Ok, so he dozed off. Big deal. Happened so many times to so many folks. But the office never got so empty. And whatever was the matter with his freaking watch?
He strode across to the main lobby. Come on, somebody had to be stationed there. That was never empty. But he was out of luck; there wasn’t anybody there either. What the hell was happening? He went to the elevators, but none was working. Damn, damn and more damn. He was on the 10th floor, and the stairway was pitch dark. He ran back to the reception. Maybe the guys at the main lobby could help him out. But none of the phones were on. Every damn communication device was dead. And the lights continued to flicker, to add to the misery. He walked upto the visitors couch and plonked himself. He patted his breast-pocket for his cell phone. Better make that call to his room-mate. But the pocket was empty.
Just then, he heard thumping. Deep and resonant. Steady. Slow, but steady. Like in that movie, Jurassic Park, when the dinosaurs arrived. He looked up and around. Something was moving in the office. He slowly rose and walked to the main block, the working area.
He couldn’t see anything in the dim lighting. But the sound seemed to be getting closer to him. He backed off and started walking back to the reception. The sound followed him. Then when he stood by the reception desk, suddenly out of nowhere two forms appeared, making him jump out of his skin.
“Fuck, you guys scared me,” he said, wondering why he said that. They didn’t look human.
They looked like nothing you saw in those sci-fi movies. But they had a definite form, a mix of something that looked like metal, but had the texture of cloth. Or was it paper? He couldn’t fathom. He laughed when he actually pinched himself. Ouch, that hurt. He was awake.
The form to his left, he decided in his head, to call it A, made some funny sound, a cross between a baby’s gurgle and the grating of a chain-saw. The second form, B, made a similar sound, but it wasn’t the same. Were they speaking to him?
“Uh..look, guys,” he put up his hands, “…I..I’m Vikas,” like it made any difference to them.
“Hi,” he continued. The two forms stood still.
“I..uh..could you please care to explain what this is all about? Is this an alien invasion or something?” His voice quivered. He could mentally picture thousands of such similar looking creatures prowling all over outside, maybe taken all the other employees hostages in the basement or something. Maybe this was it. Doomsday. End of human kind. Might as well die a valiant death. He straightened.
B, in a funny but swift move, whirred, spinning on its own axis and produced something like a communication device. He made another sound, but this time it sounded totally different. The moment he did that, a holographic image appeared and stood beside him. It looked more human. Not exactly human, but close.
Hey, actually it looked like himself, Vikas thought. Did this guy just “draw” his likeness and produce this image? Anything could happen. These bozos looked like they came from some other planet anyways. Cool, they can do these things. Maybe I can ask to be taken to their planet with them. Did they have women there? Gosh, not like them. Please.
Maybe they’ll just pulverize me and gather all my body energy. "Shut up, Vikas," he reminded himself. And then the holograph spoke.
“Greetings,” it said.
“Ah, Thank God,” Vikas said, heaving a loud sigh. “At last, language I can understand. Greetings, greetings..hi, hello. Just what the fuck is this…” he said, blurting it all out at once.
The holograph suddenly made funny and fast noises looking at B. B looked confused. A looked more confused. Was he translating? Maybe he went too fast for them, because they sure didn’t understand a thing. Now, A said something slowly.
The holograph looked back at Vikas. “Please repeat.”
“Umm..sorry. I was too fast, I guess. I apologize. I meant to ask – what is happening? Who are you…and,” he chuckled at the absurdity of it all, “…why are you here? Where are the others?”
The holograph translated it for them. They spoke something back, which the holograph translated back.
“We not here. You here.”
Vikas slowly nodded. Right.
“What the fuck’s that supposed to mean?”