What Can it Be?

Alissa held it in her hands, keeping her face scientifically calm, though every thought, every part of her mind told her to drop it, run away, get away from...whatever this was.

Instead she asked Maddie, her mentor, “Where was it found?”

“Wrong question,” Maddie said, pushing her own hair back behind her ear. Maddie leaned over Alissa's hands and ran her hand over it. “Describe it, Alissa, tell me what you see.”

Alissa breathed in deep, and realized for a moment that the...thing in her hands had a smell, not unpleasant. It smelled of open space...and of...anise? Somehow that was calming.

“It...seems to be...about thirty...maybe thirty-five centimeters along one axis, and... ten centimeters by ten on the other two...roughly...tube shaped...except it has no...I can't find any place where it ends. Holding it, it's maybe a kilogram, but I can't exactly feel how it's resting on my hands. It looks like it's a gas, but it has coherence, if not...solidity.” Alissa was breathing harder now, trying to control her panic reactions. This wasn't a right thing, this wasn't something that should exist.

Maddie nodded. “What color is it?”

Alissa looked her mentor in the eye, almost angry, but she was more professional than that. “Color? What color is it? It's...not. Any of the colors. It's not dark, nor light, nor green or gray or blue...it's...” This wasn't what Alissa had signed up for. Or maybe it was. She had joined the Academy to probe the edges of human knowledge, to discover new things. So wasn't this...this thing in her hands exactly what she had signed up for? It was outside of any knowledge she had ever had, anything she had ever heard of existing.

Maddie smiled encouragingly, her eyes empathetic. “You're doing fine, Alissa. Ignore all the things that tell you this can't be and tell me what color it is. Don't analyze, just for a moment, that comes later. For now just describe.”

Alyssa breathed deep, again, three times, and felt herself grow more calm. “Okay. while its color seems to be consistent across the entire object it—”

And then it moved in her hands. She was only marginally aware of its weight, but it shifted, it wriggled, it—

Alyssa screamed, but didn't drop it, nor did she give in to the impulse to try to throttle it, to kill it.

“What is it doing, Maddie? What is it???

Maddie watched her silently. Watched Alyssa's tears run down her face, then gently scooped it out of her hands, and placed it back into the glass container on the table by her side. Then she reached out and held Alyssa closer for a moment, before sitting up straight, going from understanding friend to professional colleague in a second.

“You've done well, Alyssa. That could have gone worse in so many ways. Tell you what, let's go get some lunch, and then I'll show you the really weird stuff.” Maddie said, leading the younger woman out of the room.

The lights shut themselves off a few seconds later, the sensors recognizing that there were no people in the room.

in it's glass tank, it glowed dimly, illuminating only itself.