The Adventures of Marian, the slightly aggressive Librarian, #5 :
Love and Peril Behind the Check-out Counter
She’d been asleep the other time. She was awake this time, and it was a little like falling from the sky, and landing in his arms. Not a lot.
She opened her eyes and looked into his beautiful green ones.
“I know what you want,” he said. And he smiled that beautiful smile, even white teeth gleaming, before he put his mouth on her neck…….
“I’m here,” she said. “See, I’m inside here with you.”
……and bit her. She yelped. “Don’t bite me. I don’t like that.”
“But I do. I like to hear the sounds you make. And you’re not ‘inside’ anywhere. You’re just where you were before. And I’m still just where I was before, stuffed inside this tin can.”
“OK, then how come—“ She had to stop talking because his tongue was in her ear, and she couldn’t talk and shiver at the same time.
“Your brain’s a network, isn’t it? And there’s a network inside this thing, primitive as it is, right? Somehow, you’ve connected the two.”
Henny giggled. “So that means…..we’re networking?” She couldn’t help it, she had to laugh.
He didn’t laugh. “You’re not afraid of me anymore, are you?”
“I guess I’m not.”
She watched his lips turn up. “We’ll have to do something about that,” he said.
Her smile faltered. That didn’t sound good at all. He still held her, one arm snug around her waist; she tried to push away, but she couldn’t. He pulled her closer yet; she felt like she could hardly breathe.
He fingered her dress and tsked. “Why do you persist in wearing these things? Surely not because you like them.”
She could see he didn’t need a reply. It was almost as if he was talking to himself. She supposed she would need to make allowances; he’d been alone a long time.
“I think I’d like something more like this,” he said, and Henny felt…..a difference. She didn’t notice her dress disappearing, or anything replacing it, but when she looked down, she was wearing……oh dear. Or not wearing. It was sort of a…..black corset thing….and it didn’t leave anything to the imagination. In fact, it didn’t even pretend to cover those things. Her bare breasts were pressed up against his suit coat, and his hand was smoothing up her bare thigh. The thing was mostly just around her middle, for decoration, she supposed. She blushed.
He caught her bottom lip between his teeth……and there must have been strings in the back of the corset, because it felt like someone was pulling them tighter….and tighter…..and tighter……
She would have told him she couldn’t breathe, but he was kissing her, and he didn’t stop, and at some point she dimly realized she didn’t need to breathe. The hell with it.
“I know what you think we’re going to do next,” he said into her mouth. She opened her eyes. He smiled brilliantly. “But you’re wrong.” He held up his hand. It was a fist around something…..and there were long razor blades protruding from between his fingers. Three of them. They glinted in the gathering darkness.
“Um, um, Sid……..”
“Are you frightened yet?” Asked just as if he didn’t know the answer already.
“Maybe…..just a little…..”
“I think I need more than ‘just a little’.” He touched the points of the blades to her skin, just above her left breast. “Can you scream, do you think?”
She told herself it wasn’t real, there weren’t any razors, she wasn’t actually here, at all. “Sid, don’t—“
He pushed. The points penetrated her skin. “How about now?”
She whimpered. It shouldn’t hurt, it wasn’t real….but it did. It hurt.
“Oh come on, you can do better than that. Let’s have a big one. Scream.”
Tears ran down her face. “Sid, don’t…..why are you doing this?”
“I told you I would.”
He had. She’d thought it would be just a little, not like this……”Last time—“
“Last time, we did what you liked, and then you left. It’s my turn.”
He drew back the hand with the razors, and then slashed. “Scream!”
Sid smiled. “That’s better. See, you can do it. Now let’s try that again.”
It was hard to think, the pain was so bad, she was screaming and Sid was laughing, and slashing and stabbing, and she should have been dead……but it wasn’t real. In the very back of her mind, a little voice whispered, “All I have to do is raise my head. To get out, all I have to do is raise my head. I can leave and never come back, and all I have to do is raise my head.”
The pain stopped. Sid said, “No.”
He touched her face, she flinched; but the razors were gone. She was back in her dress, Sid was holding her around the waist, looking into her face. No cuts, no blood, no nothing……..it was just as if it never happened.
Henny shook, cried, tried to shove herself away from him.
“You can’t go,” he said. “Henrietta. Don’t leave. Don’t leave me.”
“Let go of me!” She struggled, hit him, kneed him, kicked and punched; and he held her tight.
“Henrietta. Let me—“
“What kind of a crazy person are you? Let me go!”
“I’m not a person.”
She wore herself out struggling; finally she rested her head against his shoulder, and cried. “I want to go home.”
“It can be your turn now. You wouldn’t want to miss that.”
“You’re a monster. I couldn’t…..I don’t want to do anything with you now.”
“A monster……..I don’t have a choice. I have to be who I am. I can’t be anything else.”
All I have to do is raise my head, she thought.
“Don’t. Henrietta. Don’t leave me alone.”
I should, she thought.
“I’m not stupid,” he said. He sounded bitter. “I know my situation. I was created to be interactive, and you’re the only person I can interact with. I can’t compel you. I can’t force you to come to me, to be with me. I can only try to tempt you. If you leave and don’t come back, I’ll be alone.”
“Forever…..,” she murmured, her eyes closed.
“Not forever. Only until this tin can is dismantled, or crushed and thrown in the trash heap. Until I die with it.”
She was exhausted. They were laying down on something she couldn’t see, but it was soft.
“It would certainly be in my best interests to do only those things that you like to do, so that you enjoy being with me. But I can’t be someone else, any more than you can. I suppose the difference is, I don’t want you to be somebody else.”
She thought, I should just leave. But she didn’t.
After a few minutes, Sid said, “You have a very distinctive scream. I like it.”
A compliment, apparently. She shuddered.
“It’s your turn now. I can give you what you want.” Her clothes were gone again, his hand was on her breast, he kissed her.
“No,” she said. “I don’t want anything from you.”
She examined herself, inside her mind, she concentrated; she was lying in Sid’s arms on something soft and invisible, and she was also sitting in her chair, with her face against the computer tower, she could feel it against her skin. All she had to do was raise her head.
“You won’t come back, will you?”
“I doubt it.”
Something strange happened to his face. It looked almost feline, for a moment, then it wavered, like the signal was going bad. “I should just kill you, then.”
He didn’t. Henny said, “Could you?”
“Probably. But we’re networked. It could be that if I toss you out of this life, I’ll go with you. Like star-crossed lovers, leaping off a cliff together.”
Usually lovers are in love, Henny thought.
“Not always,” he said, and then he was on top of her, between her legs, and then…….she gasped. “Are you sure you don’t want anything from me? I know what you’ve been thinking about, Henrietta.” He didn’t move, but something happened, and she gasped again. And then again.
It was hard to talk, but when she was able, she said, “Having problems with proportion again?”
“Disproportionate body parts can look extremely unattractive……but I thought as long as you can’t see it, you might like it……”
“I’m not complaining.” And she didn’t complain for quite a while.
“I thought you’d like that,” he said. He sounded very satisfied with himself; rather smug, in fact.
“Mmmm.” She felt sleek and sexy and----
“Henrietta. It’s my turn again.”
She sat up and looked at him with wide eyes. He smiled. “I like it when you’re frightened of me. I can feel it. It makes me feel like…….like a god.”
“I’m pretty sure you’re not a god,” Henny said.
“No. But I feel like it, for a second. And when you scream……..I can’t describe it……would you like to see what it’s like for me?”
“Do I have to scream?”He shook his head. Just for an instant, she was flooded with pure, soaring happiness…..
“Ohhhhhhh……..Sid, do that again.”
Again, just for an instant……..
“You see,” he said. “I need you.”“Can’t you do that, what you just did for me, can’t you do it to yourself?”
“That would seem to be the answer, wouldn’t it? But no, I can’t. I need you. I can’t do any of this--the visuals, the sounds, the feelings--none of it, without you.”
“I can’t. I can’t let you do that to me again. Unless……maybe you could make me feel happy….while you’re doing it?”
He laughed. “That would defeat the purpose, Henrietta my love. But you see what kind of compensation I can offer you. Don’t you like the way I make you feel when it’s your turn? Of course you do. And I know what you want. I know your innermost desires.”
A blur……and then there were two Sids. “This is what I had in mind to do the next time it’s your turn, you know.”
She was speechless at first. And after that, she was still speechless. Nothing at all came to mind……except what a woman could do with two Sids.
“Or maybe,” he said, “you’d like someone else.”
Another blur….and instead of a second Sid, there stood the character from the movie she’d seen a couple days ago……and then rewound and watched again……and then rewound and watched again. A very young man with short chestnut hair, and a bandaid over his left brow. And he looked at her like he’d looked at the older woman in the film just before she’d enticed him the first time……
“Dear Lord,” she said. “How do you do that?”
“You don’t really want me to explain it to you.”
She took a deep breath (alright, she didn’t really, she just thought she did, OK?).
“Sid……I just can’t. I can’t let you do that to me. I couldn’t make myself come back if I knew that was waiting for me.” She wasn’t talking about the young man with the bandaid and they both knew it. “Do you absolutely have to torture people?”
“It’s what I do. It’s who I am. It’s why I exist. Beyond that…..I want to. I like it. It makes me feel good.”
“Then I guess I’d better go.”
She had her dress back when she stood up.
“I don’t have anything else to offer as compensation. Or temptation. Just these little…..amusements. Nothing else.”
His face changed as she watched it. It made her uneasy.
“But it’s not enough is it?” he said. A pause. He looked angry. “I should just kill you.”
“Good-bye, Sid.”“I’ll be alone.”
She closed her eyes and searched in her mind for the feeling of the hard painted metal of the tower against her temple.
She opened her eyes in the library. There was no one there. She’d been half afraid she’d be opening her eyes to the sunrise, but it was still dark. She checked the clock on the wall. And then checked it again. That couldn’t be right, but her watch said the same thing, just a little more than half an hour since she’d laid her head against the crack in the case to visit her lover.
On the monitor, her name.
it’s dark in here without you
don’t refuse to talk to me
She took the mouse, clicked on Start, and told the computer to shut down.
She sat in front of the screen for a long time after it went dark, thinking about a man (because he was, it didn’t matter that he wasn’t human, he was certainly a man) who had no choices.
She had choices. She needed to choose to be good to herself. Sid’s needs weren’t more important than her own. He was trying to provide for himself and she needed to do the same.
She didn’t understand how he came to be, or even what he was; didn’t know why he thought he couldn’t be anything but a monster.
But she could weep for him. She could do that.