I stared in disbelief at the bizarre landscape. This can’t be real, I told myself. I must be dreaming. Or hallucinating.
“I’m sorry,” said Aksel from behind me. “I was just as shocked when I first woke up here.”
I whirled around. “Where is here?” My voice came out shrill. “Where on earth are we?”
Aksel shook his head. “That’s the thing. We’re not on earth anymore. They brought us here, to the planet Bixsi. Thousands of light years away from earth.”
“Who are they?” I grabbed his hand. “Who brought us here?”
Aksel pressed his lips together in a grim line. “A family you know all too well. The Bergfalks.”
The blood drained from my face. The Bergfalks? My host family, who had been so kind and perfect? I didn’t want to believe it. Aksel spoke in a rush, explaining what he knew about the planet, Bixsi, and what he had learned about the Bergfalk family.
“They’re fakes, Phoenix. You have to believe me.”
I shook my head vigorously. “No! You’re lying.” Arvid Bergfalk was not a fake. He loved me. He wanted to marry me. He’d said so.
“I’m not lying. Listen to me – they’re dangerous. They’re not what you think.”
“Yes, Aksel,” said a voice. “Shut up and stop boring the poor girl.”
I spun around. Then I screamed.
“Really?” said Arvid. “That’s how you greet the love of your life?” He rolled his eyes, which were no longer his eyes, but round and bulbous. Alien eyes. His skin was a sickly shade of lizard green, and his thorny ears pointed toward the purple sky.
“You’re not…you’re not…” My words came out in gasps. “Arvid, what happened to you?”
Arvid’s eyes widened in surprise. “Nothing happened. This is the real me. Ta-da!” He grinned, then leaned forward, lips puckered.
I step back. “Don’t touch me! You’re a…a monster!”
There was a silence. Then Arvid’s alien face twisted into an ugly sneer. “Oh, so that’s how it’s going to be?” He clicked his tongue. “Very foolish girl. Well, until you’re ready to be my girlfriend again, I’ll just have to treat you like my other slave.” He nodded toward Aksel, who stared quietly at the ground.
Twenty minutes later, I was wearing the most humiliating outfit I’d ever been forced to wear. It was uglier than my school uniform in China. “I’ll never be your girlfriend again!” I yelled at Arvid. “And I’m not your slave, either.”
My legs trembled. He would starve us both? What else would this new Arvid do? I swallowed down the sobs that rose in my throat. “Okay,” I said in a whisper. “Okay, I’ll do it.”
Arvid smirked as I stooped over the nearest plant and began to yank weeds from the ground. “Good girl,” he said.