I'm looking for a short story that I've read a long time ago, I hope you can help me. The plot goes like this : a man wakes up in a strange room, he has no memories of how he's got there. He finds other people in different rooms, but they can't touch each other, there's something around them that prevents them from doing so (like a force field). They start to feel sick if they try to get near someone else. They start to refer to the place as "the box". That's all I can remember. I hope you guys can help me, thanks!

  • 3
    Roughly speaking, how long was "a long time ago"? 10 years? 20 years? Do you recall if you read it in a magazine, anthology book, or something else? What language was it in? Even tiny details could help us find this.
    – phantom42
    Commented Feb 17, 2015 at 18:03
  • Am I living in a box, Am I living in a cardboard box?
    – Omegacron
    Commented Feb 17, 2015 at 22:41

1 Answer 1


This sounds like "Zoomen" by Fred Hoyle published in the collection Element 79 published in 1969.

In it a group of Terrans is kidnapped by aliens and locked into a series of "boxes" which turn out to be an interstellar spaceship. The title "Zoomen" refers in part to the fact that the members in the "zoo" are kept separate from each other by various means including inducing vomiting when they try to get too close to each other (particularly male to female contact). The group has 9 people including a man and woman from England, an American, an Asian woman (Chinese I am pretty sure), an Irishman, an Indian man from New Dehli and some others.

We find out that the aliens have kidnapped the specimens to study:

how humans interact with animals as hunters/predators as well as being meat eaters. In the case of the Indian man , the "zookeepers" learn that he does not eat meat and ethically abhors violence against animals so he is suddenly returned."

At the end we find

The zoo "specimens" are allowed to get together. The question is asked what it means. One answers, "It means we are nine months from our destination."

The story then reverts to a flashback in which

we find that the whole event is described by a scouting party from Earth which finds a journal worshipped as sacred by a group of humanoids who in no way should be where they are in the galaxy. The humans have red hair and green eyes as the dominant features from the limited specimen group.

Wiki Element 79

  • Can't see quotes Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 18:52
  • Try holding your mouse over the quotes. They are spoilers, which by default you can not see.
    – Basya
    Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 7:22

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