He entered the conference code and pressed #. A swirling blue portal suddenly appeared in the center of the room, and before he could even think or react, he was sucked into it. Grasping for any purchase to stay his egress, he caught hold of only his coffee cup and an ornate pen holder that had been a gift from his last employer on the occasion of his 5th anniversary with the company. He dragged them along with him into the opaque vortex. It felt like he fell for an eternity, but when he landed upon dense vegetation in an alien forest, the impact was little more than a drop of a few feet.
Quickly gauging his surroundings, he thought that perhaps it was not so alien a landscape as he first feared. The temperature was warm, but not uncomfortable. Hesitantly, he drew in a deep breath, and found the air not unpleasant or noxious. Dusting himself off as he stood, he spied a prominent tree nearby with low branches, comfortably spaced for an easy climb up to a more advantageous height to survey his surroundings. Setting his odd bric a brac aside at the base of the tree, he scrambled upwards. The flexible souls of his house shoes, thankfully, proved adequate to the task of climbing.
No more than 3 meters up, and not yet high enough for an effective look out at the geography, he felt as much as heard, a low rumbling growl from the ground beneath him. Not pausing to look back, he hurried his ascent and did not pause until was a good 10 meters up the tree. Hoping it was enough, he straddled a sturdy limb and looked down for signs of pursuit. A dark squat four limbed beast sat casually surveying him from below.
Something between a pig and gorilla, it gazed up emotionlessly, idly rolling his coffee cup back and forth with the sole of its foot, which had a sort of thumb on either side. It said nothing. He was unsure if that was unusual. Everything was unusual about this, of course, but he was unsure if it was any more unusual than the new standard. It looked intelligent, but not in overtly civilized way. It wore no clothes, and had no signs of decorative markings or tools that it used to hunt, or whatever it was doing at the moment.
They both seemed content to leave things at that for the moment, and he forced himself to look away from the beast, so he could gather more information about his predicament. Looking around, he found that he was amidst many trees of similar height, spaced a comfortable distance from each other. He might be able to jump between branches, but he didn’t find the idea particularly appealing. He was certainly no gymnast or Tarzan to be leaping between trees or swinging on vines, had there been any. Drooping from a slim branch near his current perch, though, he spied a round purple ‘fruit’ amidst a cluster of small white flower petals. Curious, he tugged it loose from the branch. It came away easily, and smelled both pungent and sweet.
‘Not hungry, thanks’, he quipped under his breath. A faint rustling below dragged his attention back to the beast at the base of his trees. It was not enough commotion to make him fear it was climbing up after him. Perhaps, he thought darkly , it was content to leave him treed for the time being while its friends gathered kindling for the cook-fire. It regarded him, still cooly, but slightly more focused. The brown leathery nostrils of its snout seemed to sniff curiously up at him.
‘Of course’, he said amicably, ‘happy to be of service.’ Dropping the fruit just far enough to the side to be clear it was not intended to be a missile, he chuckled wryly as the pigilla (which he had only just now dubbed his fierce looking visitor) picked up the fruit, and regarded it carefully. Reaching out more delicately than he would have guessed it capable, the creature plucked out the small dull letter opener from his commemorative pen holder, and pushed it into the top of the fruit. Dark spray, that reminded him uncomfortably of blood, squirted from the pod.
The creature set the opener down, almost gently, next to the cup, and used the small puncture as purchase to begin stripping back the dark purple peel. Once the fruit was peeled, revealing something not unlike a blood red grapefruit, it delicately separated it into segments. It casually ate all but two, keeping an alert awareness of him, high amidst the tree. Seemingly satisfied, it tucked the remaining two pieces into his coffee cup. It retreated a few meters from the base of the tree, and regarded him expectantly.
Thinking perhaps the better option would be to wait for the Pigilla to grow bored and wander off, but unable to restrain his innate curiosity, he hesitantly clambered down a few branches lower to gauge the reaction. The beast, and he could no longer consider it just an animal, regarded him patiently. It was, he realized, better suited anatomically to climbing than he. A bargain, of sorts, seemed to have been made. It was curious, too, he decided. ‘Better to die of foolish optimism than boorish incivility’, he quipped, hoping it took his grin as friendly rather than threatening.
He scrambled the rest of the way down, and gathered up his stash of desktop treasures. Regarding the fruit in his cup, he took a polite bite, thinking it would be rude not to complete the ritual exchange of bread that they’d seemed to have compacted together. Following behind silently, he wondered where he was being led, unsure if he was making a mistake. No more than 50 meters along what he recognized to be a trail of sorts, he spied another swirling blue portal, much like the one he fell through to reach this alien world. This portal, however, was calmer and exerted no rushing intake of everything around it. The Pigilla stood to the side of the vortex, and made no gesture or exhortation.
Seeing the way of things, as clearly as he could reasonably expect under the circumstances, he stepped through the gateway. His feet stood once more upon the carpet of his hotel room. Looking back, there was no sign of any shimmering portal. The room was calm, and seemingly undisturbed. The only thing amiss was the pen holder and coffee cup he now clutched to his chest awkwardly. Looking down, he pondered the last dark wedge of blood fruit sitting defiantly in his cup. A few scant moments later, a soothing voice crackled from the phone’s speaker. ‘Thank you, Mr. Smith, we’ll be in touch.’