He’s walking home from the reading slightly buzzed and they scoop him up as he crosses Squalicum creek, zoop. A bright light and gravity reverses and he falls horrifyingly upward, too phobic to make a sound. They dump him on the floor and he barnacles to it, spread-eagled and tenacious, fingers and toes trying to burrow into its slightly warm plasticity.
Eventually someone lifts him like a sack of potatoes and slings him over one titanic shoulder. He’s more aware by that point, at least that gravity is down again and he isn’t falling, but still: he wraps himself around hir and whimpers.
The room xie takes him to is choked with plants he doesn’t recognize, not that that signifies; he’s not much of a botanist. Lots of leaves and vines and in the center a pod filled with a viscous orange gel. “Get in,” xie tells him, strangely accented, “and breathe.”
“I’m not breathing that gunk,” he says.
Xie leans down — far, far down — until something his brain refuses to parse as a face is at eye level. “Get in,” xie repeats, “and breathe. We will dismiss, once and for all, the myth that you animals produce carbon dioxide.”
“I won’t—” Alex starts, and all the vines twitch hungrily towards him, towards the hot promise of his breath, and he screams.