What was supposed to be a fun weekend camping trip turns into a dangerous hike across another planet when three teenage boys are abducted from Earth. Their only hope of ever returning home is to escape from the laboratory that captured them and make their way across the alien deserts, oceans, and mountains. But while their journey is full of monsters all eager to attack the boys, it is their friendship and religious beliefs that are ultimately pushed to their limits.
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“Another planet…” Eric said quietly to himself.
Such words were hard to believe, were actually piercing, especially coming from his own lips. He smiled at the thought, and a wave of excitement shot through his body. But maybe he was jumping to conclusions, being too trusting of these strangers. They could just be pulling his leg, after all. It could still be nothing more than an elaborate prank, a laugh at his expense.
The lights in the room slowly came back on, striking every caged individual in the eyes. Eric scurried to his knees and pressed his face against the bars, looking fervently for the scientist from the day before. Footsteps could be heard to the right. After a few digital-sounding blips, every cage door simultaneously swung open on silent hinges. Eric jumped to his feet and bolted out of the cage, then stopped abruptly to look around.
One by one, strange, new creatures began to emerge from the other cages. Eric choked on his saliva, surprised by what he saw. A cage diagonally to his right housed a large, dog-like creature. It bounded affably out of its own cage and stopped in its tracks once it saw Eric. The dog was about half the size of a human, wrapped in tight, dark purple, scaly-looking skin. Its plump belly hung almost to the ground. A long, ugly tail swished back and forth. It flapped its ears at Eric, then trotted off down the aisle of cages to the right and disappeared through a door at the end wall.
Two cages down, near the doorway, another strange creature stepped out. This one was smaller than the dog. It had the body and posture of a monkey with soft fur that was blindingly white. It dragged its knuckles across the floor next to its large, flat, rabbit-like feet. Its head was horizontally oval in shape, with two large, wide, blank, yellow eyes looking at Eric curiously. The creature studied the boy for a few seconds, then turned around and skipped through the door, trailing its tail behind.
The freak show didn’t stop there. Another creature came into view from behind the block of cages diagonal to Eric’s. It was a huge monster, rising a few feet over Eric, and resembled a giant, fat, whitish worm. Its upper body rested on its plump tail as it slithered towards Eric. Two stubby, inadequate arms hung from underneath its wobbly, nasty head, a head full of jagged, spotted teeth. Triangular, black eyes connected with the short ears protruding from the top of its head.
The beast stepped up to Eric, who was trying his hardest not to faint from shock. Then the monster spoke in the same, familiar voice Eric had heard last night. It grumbled, “You must be— the new one, the one talking— last night. You— look like the scientists. I don’t think— we can trust you.” The monster turned a little to the side and addressed someone nearby, “Be careful— with this one.” And then the beast lumbered towards the same door every other monster had exited through.
From the cage to Eric’s left appeared another peculiar creature. It stood at Eric’s own height and looked like an upright gecko of some sort. It had green, porous skin and a compact head with two large, red, shiny eyes. The creature was well-built and, unlike the others, actually wore something: thick plates of blue metal covering its chest, pelvis, wrists, and ankles. When Eric looked at the armored creature, it quickly averted its gaze and headed after the giant worm.
Thankfully, there were no more surprises. Eric swayed in place. His heart and mind were spinning and pounding with confusion, fear, and excitement. It was difficult to get his legs moving again. He headed towards the opposite wall of the room. Upon reaching the other cages, he saw his good friends, Nathan and Todd, standing to the left, looking even more bewildered and roughed-up than he. These two immediately pounced on Eric, firing off questions and frantic hand waving.
Todd stammered, “Did— did you see that? There— there was a… I don’t know what to call it. A monster…”
Eric looked past Todd and Nathan and saw a line of miniature cages against the wall. He slipped around his friends and walked up to the displays. Inside the glass cases were insects and fish and other creatures, arranged in two rows, one on top of the other.
“What are these?” Eric asked incredulously. He walked down the line of cages, gazing at the smaller specimens, none of which looked at all familiar to him.
“We must be in a laboratory,” Todd said, standing behind Eric.
Without turning around, and almost dreamily, Eric said, “I talked to a scientist last night. He said we’d been taken to another world… another planet.”