It took a week before I realized she was human, after the month that had passed before I found her... I had gotten the house cheap on a foreclosure sale and the garage was the last thing I was concerned about. As a technical writer, I do most of my work from home. The local market was within bicycle distance. I had lived in the house over a month before I even thought to cut the rusted padlock off the garage. Getting the place cleaned out and habitable was a full-time job, on top of my freelance commitments.
I did not know why the prior owner kept a mannequin dressed as a bicyclist or a bicycle but both looked like they’d been there a while. There were cobwebs on both of them. The bike was looking kind of rusted. The mannequin was in better condition. It was easy to get the bicycle helmet and goggles off, but I did that just to admire the realistic detail. Moving a limb even slightly – I wondered if the hinges were hidden or if this was some new plastic – was an effort, so I left her shorts, gloves, and sports bra on. A mannequin’s smooth nudity was not something I felt motivated to explore. As she was, an athletic figure in tight clothes, she was fine. Why not bring her into the house? She’d be an easygoing roommate.
She was very light. When I got her inside, I noticed her shoes were a mess of mold. I laid her down on the floor and took the shoes off to throw out. I saw toes and toenails that were too realistic to be molded plastic.
I considered cutting her clothes off, but then I had nothing else for her to wear. If my impossible notion was right, just leaving her naked was not. I forced her arms and legs up and down, respectively, until I could pull off her sports bra and shorts. The revealed anatomy was thoroughly human.
Under conditions of panic I become very calm and methodical, which is a great help with deadlines. This was not taxidermy; I was sure. She felt like solid plastic, not like skin stuffed and stretched over wire. If she was a corpse, she had a very unusual case of rigor mortis and was showing no signs of decay.
There was only one thing to do. I went shopping. This was after a necessary delay to re-clothe her and put her upright in a closet. If the police discovered her, they would at least have to pause to reflect before drawing a chalk outline.
Making my purchases at the grocer’s, the hardware store, the stationery store, and so on, I responded to the proprietors’ usual variations on “how are you doing?” with “Settling in fine. By the way, can you tell me anything about who owned the place before?” Slowly, a story started to emerge.
Consensus was that the late Dr. Horace Fields, retired physicist, was cranky, daft, and more eccentric than age and science entitled him to enjoy. There was no mention of his being involved in mysterious disappearances or other nefarious activity. Funny, no one could agree on whether he retired from a university, the government, or a big weapons firm. Although he was badly in arrears on property taxes, the local law took a prudent and long-term view of the situation. Foreclosure and eviction were almost guaranteed to face a venomous resistance, plus he was rumored to have friends in high places, and evicting senior citizens made for bad publicity. Instead, they left him alone and waited for him to die. When he did, and when no heirs came forth, his property was confiscated and his house auctioned. The old man had been both unpleasant and a poor housekeeper – that last part I learned for myself after moving in – so no one had felt obliged to explore. If the place hadn’t burned down yet, it probably wouldn’t.
When I got home, I confirmed that my guest was still where I left her and then I went back to the garage. Prowling through boxes, opened and unopened, I soon found what I was looking for: soggy, faded notebooks. I would have preferred clean, dry notebooks with better handwriting but I would take what clues I could get. Similarly, the unexplored basement was full of large pieces of rusted equipment and other notebooks, in better shape.
Back inside, I made my way through the collected notebooks. I had just enough science background to get the gist. Whatever he had done before, in his retirement Dr. Fields was obsessed with the idea that objects’ passage through time was determined on the subatomic level. He called it the quantum circadian. I thought “atomic clock” was a better name. If you could modulate the clock, you could speed something up or slow it down. He had notes for high-speed toxic waste treatment plants, where the half-life of a toxin would be cut to seconds. He also wanted to create a way to preserve books and buildings against erosion, etc.
I had a pretty good idea what happened to my guest. From her expression, she had been alive and conscious when it happened to her. But could I reverse the effect, and what would the result be? A fresh corpse? Rapid aging? She had been there in his garage at least as long as Dr. Fields had been discovered dead, but no one had seen her. My working theory was that Fields had somehow halted – frozen – this young woman’s quantum circadian, could not unfreeze her, so he’d hid her in the garage against snooping eyes.
From what I knew of his history, Fields had stumbled upon the secret for privacy. Develop thorough paranoia and act as though everyone was watching you. No one will want to look at you.
The old phrase “jack of all trades, master of none” has a follow-up: “Oft-times better than master of one.” Fields was a specialist and could not undo what he did to this woman. I had smatterings of physics, chemistry, engineering, and pure math, along with a slightly greater sense of experimental methods. I figured out a way.
Unless she had been hollowed out somehow, she still had the same mass. But she felt lighter and had low inertia. So somehow whatever happened inside her was affecting how the external physical world, specifically gravity, acted on her. If she still had kept her normal weight, the elderly Fields might have died trying to drag her to the garage.
The human body’s center of mass is slightly below the belly button. It was easier to attach the device to her back. The best way I can describe it is as a sort of “reverse flywheel” – it took in energy and transmitted inertia. If the atomic time-locking of her skin was continuous with that of the rest of her, then a local increase would affect the rest of her, the way that a super-saturated solution could be disrupted by adding just one more crystal. Yes, it was basically a wind-up key, but I needed a power torque wrench to do the winding. I knew what she weighed on the scale, I could only guess at her true weight, and all of the other numbers were back of the envelope. And it worked.
I took the torque wrench away, the gizmo ticked along, and she began to move. Slowly at first, but soon she hit normal speed. Then she suddenly realized that she was not where and with whom she expected to be, and then looked about ready to hit me.
I put up my hands in “surrender” position. Then I realized I still had the torque wrench. I knelt slowly, smiling, keeping my hands in her sight and not taking my eyes off her.
“Relax, I’m not going to hit you,” she said, gingerly feeling her back. “If I’m right, I should thank you.”
“Were you awake when it happened?”
“At first. It sort of worked its way inwards. I couldn’t move, then everything seemed to get faster and faster. I could hear him try to wake me up and see him briefly as he kept moving around. I wasn’t sure what would happen to me, then everything became a blur. I guess you fixed it.” I admitted I might have.
We exchanged names. Layla – her parents loved Eric Clapton – was bicycling her way across the country. A wrong turn led her to these parts, and a sudden downpour got her headed back to the last house she remembered seeing.
“I just wanted to get dry and stay dry for a bit. Almost broke in; I thought the place was deserted. If I’d been a guy, the old man might have called the police. But even at that age, he wanted a look.” I could believe it. The living and moving Layla was evidence why ‘vivacity’ was normally considered a good thing.
“So, he decided to keep you around?”
“He said it was a camera. It looked more like a death ray, but he fired it at a table. Didn’t seem to harm it any. He wanted to try it on me… So I figured, play along. I mean, he was doing me a favor by letting me stay in from the rain, right? You figured out what came next.”
“Yeah. Stay. Indefinitely. You should tell your family you’re alive.”
“If I had any. My parents died a year or so back – maybe more; when is now?” I told her. “Wow. I guess I’m lucky it’s not longer. Well, no brothers or sisters; no attachments at all, really. So I figured travel around, and find a place where I wanted to stay. Kind of ironic, huh?”
I made her some coffee. With the ‘key’ glued to her spine, I had to find her a chair with a cut-away in its back so she wouldn’t knock it loose. I pulled out my laptop and did a news search on her name. No one had reported her missing.
“So much for no attachments,” she said, sighing. “But then, how would they know where to look for me? Say, how did you find me?” I told her, including about Fields’ passing. “Great. I’m salvage,” she concluded, wryly.
“I did once consider taking you to the flea market down the road. No, I’m not kidding.”
There was thunder outside. “I used to love the rain – when I wasn’t caught in it. Last time it stormed – that I remember – I got trapped into being a mannequin by a mad scientist. Until you found me and freed me.”
“Once again, proving the superiority of mad technical writers to mad scientists.”
It was great watching her laugh. She noticed me watching her and gave me a very wary smile. “Don’t get any expectations. I owe you, sure, but owing you isn’t enough to go to bed with you, OK?”
“I bought a cheap house in the middle of nowhere. Guess how my last long-term relationship ended.”
“I think I would like to hear that story sometime,” she said softly.
“It’ll be a while before I’m ready to tell it,” I admitted.
“So do you have cable?” she asked, changing the subject. “Oh damn; I bet all my favorite shows are cancelled.” That got us both laughing again, broke the tension. I had a subscription to a streaming-movie service, and so we could catch up on anything she wanted. We were watching a bad comedy that came out during her hiatus when she paused in mid laugh. Stiff as a statue again; I paused the film, checked my watch, and got the torque wrench. She had been alive for three and a half hours.
We finished the movie together, without as much laughing this time. We talked and walked and waited. Once again, she froze up after three and a half hours. We discussed our options. Going to a university for help? “I’d be a freak in a cage. Or a fishbowl if they let me out.” If my job ever got me in touch with someone who had the right skill set to help, and could otherwise be trusted, then we might invite them. Trying to reverse this weird effect on our own wasn’t a realistic option. I had no idea how to prevent an overshoot where she’d go through decades in seconds.
“Look, I knew people who got into accidents when biking. Brain damage, spine damage, and so on. I wondered how I’d cope if it happened to me. In a way, it did. But I can still function, completely, just only for a few hours at a time. Someone with a broken neck, who needed a wheelchair and a vent tube, might think I had a sweet deal. Besides, the first thing you did when I stopped was to start me again. You even paused the movie for me. And it wasn’t even a good movie!” We laughed again. Then she looked at me. It reminded me of that earlier wary smile, except this time not quite so wary. “OK.”
“I still expect you to be considerate. But you’ve been nicer to me – besides that my life depending on your stuff – than guys I have slept with. Do you want?”
I nodded. I was afraid to spoil it by saying the wrong thing. I didn’t.
It was worth the fight to get free from her the next morning. She was a hugger and it was a great hug.
Any relationship takes a certain amount of strategic planning to be sure everyone’s happy – in so far as you can be sure. We ordered her new clothes on the Internet, including short tops that didn’t get caught on her “key” and loose ponchos that she could wear outside.
Our cover story was that she was a pen pal who became a lot more. To a few selected people, we confided that she had an endocrine condition and needed a special pump to deliver her medication. Not too far from the truth, in many ways. She soon got tired of going from hospital to hospital and being a medical curiosity, although we were hoping to find an appropriately out-there specialist one day. It also explained her GPS wrist bracelet in case she had any kind of seizure – I could find her easily – and also why her visits to town were brief.
Our first argument was when winter came. This was one of those towns that gets snowbound. She wanted to hibernate. “I hate winter; just wake me up when it thaws.”
“I’ll get lonely,” I complained.
“You were happy enough to have me as a mannequin.”
“I like you better this way.”
“Get that plaster or whatever it is they use for body molds. Make things off me. Surprise me with Christmas presents.“ I looked online, but decided body painting and liquid latex were more fun. Over that winter, I woke her up several times. Each time was in front of a mirror with a camcorder on a tripod recording. Other than that, no two times were alike.
The first one was easy – red over her entire body and pasted-on horns, with a pitchfork from the garage in her hand. I even set up a “tail” just over the key, so the mechanical unwinding movement made the tail seem to twitch. Once she woke up, she saw me leering at her ‘costume’ and turned to threaten me with the pitchfork. “Foolish mortal! You dare rouse the princess of darkness from her slumber! Pleasure me or pay dearly! RARRGH!” It was so hilarious we almost both broke up, but we kept in character and I served my satanic mistress’s wanton whims until I was exhausted. Her infernal majesty, with back arched and hands kneading her nipples, remained kneeling with thighs spread for two weeks. First, I had decided I was not waking her up again this winter until I could do at least as well as this outfit. Then, I got used to using her lap as a pillow. But inspiration hit and after taking a last thirty or so pictures, plus video of circling her, I started looking for pictures for reference and material for props.
She woke up standing proudly as Wonder Woman and wrapped me in her golden lasso. “Confess to all your sins, villain! The lasso compels you.”
I had to answer truthfully. “I have taken total possession of the sexiest woman I ever met and I will never release her from my power! Never!”
“Then let’s see how you enjoy being a helpless prisoner! I’ll show you the error of your ways!”
No sex this time. For Layla, half the fun was taking on the character I painted on her. Except for the joke about the Invisible Man (“can you pull my cape out of my ass?”) Wonder Woman is high-minded and noble. But I watched the clock and I knew my comic books. As her time limit approached, I boasted, “I know your secret, Wonder Woman. Bound by a man, you will become totally helpless!”
“That will never happen!” Layla declared, as she loosened her grip on cue. I yanked on the lasso and wrapped it around her wrists. She cried “No! No! No!” repeatedly, shaking her head with an expression of horror. I timed it right. She froze that way. I stripped off her star-spangled bathing suit and took her into the shower with me as I cleaned us both off. Twice.
Next time, she woke up to discover I’d painted her entirely blue. I’d also put up blue wallpaper of the same shade. “Layla? Layla where are you?” I asked while standing right behind her, looking confused. She caught on like lightning. For the next round, she kept stealing my soda, poking me, tickling me, and stroking my crotch. Completely silently, of course. No sounds to give away the position of the invisible woman.
Not sure I’d call the alien successful. She turned to look at me in my Captain Kirk uniform and we both broke up laughing. A great prelude to the usual, but not the roleplay I’d hoped for. And the green skin really did not suit her.
None of her roles were docile. I liked Layla when she was being over the top. The one thing I decided I would not turn her into was a robot. She’d had enough mad science done to her, and too easy with the key in her back for that to hit home. It didn’t seem fair to let her wake up tied up, either, since she was already in a kind of invisible bondage.
But then we had the prisoner scene. She woke up white with black horizontal stripes, and I had a cop’s hat and badge. She was tough. I yelled at her, threatened her with incarceration, and told her she might get the chair, but she would not rat on her accomplices or admit her crimes. She held up her wrists and said, “Cuff me and take me away, copper!” enough times that I thought maybe she would like it.
Just to test, I started out putting a blindfold on her. If she didn’t like it, she could rip it off. I didn’t put anything else on her, waste of effort if she was not going to see it. I didn’t say anything either, even when she asked me where I was. She groped around, exaggerating being helpless, and I had my payback for her stint of invisibility.
I got a bit more adventurous next round. I couldn’t find gold liquid latex, but I went for yellow with gold sprinkles. I posed her standing straight with her arms folded over her abdomen. latex’d her arms down, and her legs together. I then put on a nice suit. She woke up to hear “I’d like to thank the academy for giving me this award, which I deserve so much. And I’d like to thank all the little people who have stayed with me, like Lana – I mean, Layla.” I kept up the self-promoting speech and fondling Layla’s butt until she finally broke character. “All right, you ham, take me to the casting couch!”
I followed direction, sitting at one end and laying Layla across it so her head was in my lap, facing down. I unzipped and enjoyed. After I finished, I lifted her head up. She licked her lips and said “you know what? Put me back down. After I do you again, can you stop that thing in my back? Freeze me with my mouth right. Then enjoy as much as you want.”
I couldn’t turn that down. The next day, I bent Layla at the waist so she would be standing while giving me head as I sat. It was such a good pose I left her like that for the rest of the winter.
Once weather got good, her prolonged absence was harder to explain. Also, I wanted to treat Layla a bit. I hadn’t spent all my time playing with her. I worked for a living. And I was a lot more productive, and getting more commendations on my work. Funny how being happy does that to someone.
And then something really funny happened. Layla was trying on some new summer clothes and she yelled for me. I ran up to see what was the matter. Layla was looking at the floor, scared. I looked down, expecting a rat or a bug. It was Layla’s “key.” And Layla was looking from it to me and back again. “I’m still…” she gestured helplessly. She wasn’t helpless because her atomic clock was stopped. She was helpless because the gimmick that restarted her clock had fallen off, and she was still OK.
I put two and two together. I might have gotten twenty-two, but I thought I had the answer. “Watch this,” I said to her. The key was still going. I stopped it. She froze instantly. I went to the next room and restarted it. I grinned when I heard her call my name. “Honey, could you go to my computer and look up the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox?”
The EPR paradox has to do with entangled particles. Change the spin of one, you change the spin of the other. Move them far apart, and they would both stay coupled. To Einstein and chums, this was an argument against quantum physics being complete as it implied faster-than-light communication, which was impossible. To us, it meant somehow Layla’s key had gotten ‘entangled’ with her quantum-twisted body and that she no longer had to physically wear it. In fact, it no longer even had to be portable. A bit of tinkering later, and it would run indefinitely on a constant power supply with emergency backup.
“You can still stop the thing, right?” she then asked me.
“You’d want that?”
“I kind of like being your toy and waking up to surprises. And face it, you’re not so much fun when you’re working.”
“That’s what my last girlfriend said, but not so nicely.”
“Well, that was her problem. She needed an off switch. Then she could just wait you out.”
Everyone in town was delighted; of course, that she found a new medicine that freed her from that awful pump. It was kind of a mixed blessing for me. She liked being able to go to parties again, and I never missed them. I decided I liked them the time a young, handsome and inebriated man made his pitch that he was by far a better deal than some hack writer (who at that point was ducking the party by handing around the hors d’oeuvres.) He could buy her furs, diamonds, cars, you name it.
“And what would you do for me if I got sick again and needed care?”
“Hire you the best!”
“Thanks, but I want a man who does it himself.” She said it calmly without raising her voice, and yet from the whoops most of the party heard it.
Later, on the walk home, she told me that she never liked guys who were focused on control.
“I never understood them. I mean, I never know what you’re going to do or say next but I damn well enjoy finding out.”
She looked at me for a moment. “Next thing you’re going to do is combine that key of yours with a VCR.”
“You want to record movies?”
“No, silly. I want it to be programmable and have a remote. Why should I have to wait for you to flip a switch?”
“I’m in for more surprises, aren’t I?”
A week later, I got up from my office chair to discover Marilyn Monroe in a white dress and wig, straddling a fan that was put on the floor to blow her dress up around her legs, her lips parted in a breathless – and conveniently spaced – pout.
And some days after that, I came up to bed to discover her laying there, spread-eagled, with her arms bent up like a blow-up doll. She had one dildo in her pussy and another in her mouth. As she was frozen, both sets of lips stayed in position when the dildoes were pulled out. The only thing she wore was a post-it that read, “I’m out of town visiting a sick cousin. Have fun as long as you want. Just take pictures.”
Her cousin was sick until the next winter, almost. I realized she had to ‘return’ before we got snowed in again. But I set up an early Christmas gift for her. She woke up wearing a pair of those panties with a built in vibrator with an untied ball gag around her neck and holding a plastic grip control. I was not in the room, although the camcorder was on. I left a post-it note on her, which she read aloud for the camera. “The harder you grip, the harder the vibration. When you let go completely, the vibrator stops and so do you.” She put the note down and then ad-libbed. “Erotic statue number one.” She then put on the ball gag, squeezed her thighs together, and pressed the grip. As her hand got sweatier, it was harder to hold the smooth grip. She might have grunted something like “oh, you bastard” as she realized how it worked. She yelped just as the grip slid out of her hand. I then took the ball gag and panties off Erotic Statue Number One. The ball, and the vibrator, had left the holes just the right size.
I’ll wrap up here, since Layla just walked by wearing her panties and strings of tinsel, saying “Happy Christmas. I’ll be in the bedroom.” I should explain why I’m writing all this. By my estimate, with all our games, Layla’s “alive” maybe two or three full days out of the month. I’m already ten years older than her. In forty years, I may be dead and she’ll just be four years older. She won’t talk about planning for it. But I can see you, or someone like you, coming into this house and wondering who left a beautiful mannequin there.
That would be Layla.
Make her happy. It’s worth your while.