I could hear Briana shouting my name, though it seemed to be a long way away. I started to turn to see if I could see her, and maybe reply, but the alien looked down at something it was holding, did something with its face that might have been a frown, and pushed at a dent on a small metal box. The box hummed and I got a blast of the aniseed smell again, and suddenly Briana didn't seem very important any more.
"What time is it?" said the alien, its head warping and distorting. Nearby two other aliens seemed to be having a conversation in a different language, and instead of their whole head changing shape they would lean in close to each other and ripples and waves would spread over their skin instead. I thought I ought to be interested, but I just couldn't muster the energy.
"Earth time?" My wrist seemed heavy, but I carried on trying to lift it up anyway to look at my watch.
"No...." The alien seemed confused, and I finally pulled by wrist to where I could see my watch. Somewhere, someone was shouting my name.
"It's about half-past five," I said, though the time was meaningless to me. Somewhere, so far away that the distance was measured by how long it took the fastest moving thing in the universe to get there, it was half-past five. I had no idea what happened at that time of day that it had been considered worth giving a name to.
"I was hoping that you could tell me if R'th'gabose had happened yet?" He clicked the apostrophes and I wondered if there was some hard surface in his throat to help generate such sharp sounds.
"What a Rutherford hose?" I said. The stars in the constellations looked like they were moving.
Another alien leaned in and ripples and whorls chased each other across his head in rapid, ever-changing, merging patterns. My interrogator's head responded, and his greyness lightened slightly.
"We are waiting for the ones who want to kill us to leave," he suddenly said, speaking quickly. "When they are gone we would like your help to return to our world. It will be easy, and we can then help you."
"Wha–" I started, and then everything turned inside out and squashed back down again and I was being hugged by Briana. In my hand, the steel straw had run and melted like ice-cream on a hot day and was puddled around my feet. Neither my hand nor feet were hurt.
"Do you think they were telling the truth?" said Briana after I told her what had happened. "It sounds very strange to me. Perhaps they're all prisoners somehow?"
"I... it could be, I mean, they could be." I was still feeling slightly confused. "But they're still part of the people who disappeared. I suppose we have to try and talk to them somehow."
"But suppose they're the reason that all the rest of them disappeared," said Briana. "Then we'd probably be next on their list of people to kill."
"How can we know that from one of them just talking to me? You're sounding hysterical, Bri. What's wrong?"
She didn't answer me at first, instead she held up an oddly shaped skull with a hole in one side.
"There's thousands of them in the hill," she said. "I think the hill might just be some kind of heaped up mass grave."
"Suicide?" I offered, but I didn't believe it either.
"So what do we do?"
"We pass it back up the chain of command," I said. "If we can get back to the Guinevere."
We both looked out at the sea of metal straws, all of which might be capable of taking us back to that other world, the place that seemed to be at right-angles to this one, that filled the area between us, the landing ship, and the mountains.
"Yeah," said Briana. "So, fancy your chances building a boat, or shall we go mountaineering?"