The Adventures of Marian, the slightly aggressive Librarian,
Or, The Double Dilemma; an account of the kind of trouble single women can get into in this modern world……times two.
“You know,” Sid said. “He’ll never be able to give you what I can.”
Henny didn’t know what he was talking about, and didn’t care. If she’d had to describe herself (and I can’t be sure she would actually have been able to), she might have said she felt like a used banana peel. Limp, empty, used up, done in. Not, perhaps, the most elegant of terms with which to speak of yourself, but apt somehow, in this case.
They were both still wrapped tightly by the duct tape worms; Henny’s head was on Sid’s shoulder, her eyes were closed; almost drowsing, she wondered what would happen if she fell asleep while she was in here.
“You’d fall off your chair and wake up.”
“How come you know what I’m thinking and I never know what you’re thinking?”
He didn’t answer right away.
“Sid?” She was soooo comfortable. Warm, sleepy; Sid’s arms were around her. Mainly cause the worms wouldn’t let him move them, but still—she enjoyed it. She felt……
“Because you don’t want to know what I’m thinking.”
“Well…..it depends on what you’re thinking, I guess.”
He was silent for a long time.
“I could do it,” he said suddenly.
“Do what?” She thought maybe she was happiest when they didn’t talk; on the other hand, no matter what he thought, she did want to know what he was thinking about…..
“It wasn’t just talk. I could join us together. I could be with you all the time. Even when you’re not sitting with your head pressed against a broken computer. I know how to do it now.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Yes, you do.”
“You mean, you’d be in my head.” He was serious. That was alarming. “I don’t think I’d like that.”
“You liked it just a minute ago. I meant what I said; I could give you that all the time.”
Henny thought a long time. She could tell by the look on his face that he knew what she was thinking; probably she didn’t actually have to say it, but she did anyway.
“Sid…..I don’t want to do that.”
He looked over her head. Nodded.
“You’d be bored working at the library all the time. There wouldn’t be any excitement.”
“Don’t condescend to me. I assure you I could find things to keep me occupied. The first thing I’d do would be get rid of Mike.”
Henny was horrified. “I could never let you do that.”
“I know. I knew it when I asked.” If he’d been a real person, she would have said he looked like he came to a decision.
“I’m malfunctioning, Henrietta. Something’s…..missing from my program.”
“What? You look fine to me.”
He ignored her question. “And I wasn’t designed to spend all my time alone in the dark.”
“I’m sorry about that, but I just can’t--“
“Let’s play a new game.” She was only a couple of inches away from his face, she couldn’t miss the emotions that sloshed across his face like waves at the beach. Cruelty, amusement, ferocity…….and when she became frightened, genuine pleasure…..
“Actually, new game for you, old game for me.” He moved his arms. He shouldn’t have been able to, the worms hadn’t loosened a bit; she watched his arms pass through the worms as through water. He threw an arm out to each side. The worms began exploding…..bright, multicolored, cold explosions, as he rose into the air above the tangle of colorful explosions and the resulting messy, lifeless gray strands……
“It’s called pain and death.” He threw his head back and laughed. Streams of colored light shot from his arms and legs. The explosions continued, louder and louder, even though all the worms must have exploded by now. Music began, overwhelmingly loud pipe organ music, the sort that you hear in horror movies. He was still naked; she could see how much he was enjoying all of it…..
She wasn’t sure if he intended her to be impressed or frightened…..but she was a little of both. His pyrotechnics, while a little extravagant, were dazzling; the choice of music somewhat melodramatic, but exhilarating as well. The frightening part was that he seemed so suddenly out of control. Impulsive. Reckless. Scary.
High up in the air, he looked down on her. Stars were twinkling in the sky above him, and not just there, but everywhere……and then they seemed closer…..and suddenly she realized they weren’t stars, they were objects, hurtling from all directions toward her.
She could hardly see Sid’s face, but his voice whispered in her ear, “You go first…..”
Flashes now instead of twinkles……
Knives. A thousand knives from out of the sky, aimed at Henrietta……….
“…..and maybe I’ll go with you….”
She couldn’t even scream. If Sid was looking for audial satisfaction, before she was sliced to pieces, he was going to be disappointed. She thought she could almost hear the blades whistling as they cut the air, speeding like arrows……..she shut her eyes and turned away, held her breath and waited for the pain…….
……and nothing happened.
When she got the courage to peek from one half opened eye, there weren’t any knives to be seen. The explosions had stopped. The worms were gone. She was lying on a bare gray floor that stretched off farther than she could see on all sides. The music had gotten quieter and quieter, and was almost too faint to hear now. Sid was sitting cross-legged some distance away.
Henny sat up. “What was that all about?”
“I don’t know what happened to me. They tricked me. They put me back in their box…..and then I don’t know exactly what Daryl did…..something…..Now I’m in here, but not all of me. Something’s missing. The glitches are starting to accrue. Sometimes it’s a struggle…….You may not have noticed anything yet……..but soon…..”
Another one of those looks that melted her resolve, that broke her heart.
“I’ve been trying to find a way out,” he said. “But there isn’t one. Except you. You’re the only solution to my dilemma.”
“Oh.” She thought about it for a long time. “What if you reboot? Would that help?”
“How should I do that, Henrietta?”
“I don’t know.” She didn’t sound as miserable as she felt. He belonged to her. She was responsible for him. If anyone was going to save him, it would have to be her. But letting him live inside her head……no. She just couldn’t imagine that. “Maybe I can figure something out. Or maybe Mike can help think of something.”
Two beats. Then Sid laughed out loud. “I wish I could be there to hear you ask him to help you fix your lover that lives inside your computer.”
He didn’t move, but suddenly he was sitting right next to her. He put his arm around her waist and kissed her again. “You know I’d like to talk to him. I’d like to tell him about us. Has he seen you naked?”
She knew she didn’t have to answer. He knew the answer because he asked the question. He smiled. “You’ll never be satisfied with him. Not now.”
“Not after you, you mean.”
“That’s what I mean.” Suddenly she was soaring on an incredible upsurge of lust and ecstasy. Just as suddenly it was gone.
“Don’t do that!”
“I’m already inside you, and you like it.” He disappeared. His voice, next to her ear, said, “Think about it.” She was dressed, she could feel her head pressed against the computer tower, she heard him say, from far off, “Someone’s knocking on your door, Henrietta. Better answer it, it might be your boyfriend.”
In the control tower (actually it wasn’t much of a tower, just a little higher than the hangars) at a small airport (not the main airport, not the international airport, just a landing strip and a couple of buildings that most tourists never saw, and lucky for them) on the island of Phuket, the playground of the rich and famous (except for this part), three men studied the innocuous looking airplane.
“Sir,” said the short man with the glasses. “We’ve checked the passenger list three times. There’s one person still on that plane besides the hijackers.”
“Man or woman?”
“Woman, sir. A Ms.……Mott.”
“Damn.” He took a deep breath. “Find out who’s here, who might be pressed into service.”
“Um, sir? I noticed Mr. Thorne on the computer as arriving yesterday. I could find out where he’s staying.”
“Get him on the line for me.”
Marian was angry enough to spit nails, if she’d had any. It had taken three of the rude foreign men to hold her hands behind her back and wrap duct tape around her wrists, and one of them was going to need tetanus shots. She could tell he was angry about that, but he was just lucky she hadn’t torn his jugular completely out. Marian was against violence, of course she was, but by golly, she’d do it again if she got the chance.
The man with the purple lump sneered at his friends. “You are all women. She is just one. How does it take so many of you to subdue her?”
“If they were women, bozo, you wouldn’t be sitting here in this predicament,” Marian said. “Women are smarter than this. And anyway, you’re the one with the big lump on his head.”
He pointed his plastic gun at her in fury. “This is all your fault!”
One of the other men spoke. Purple Lump lowered the gun, then pulled his arm back like he was going to hit her with it. The other man caught his hand and spoke again.
“My friend is right, we need you to get out of here,” PL said to Marian. “But when we are safe…..then I will do whatever I want with you.”
“In your dreams.”
Marian thought he was going to self-combust. Under other circumstances, she might have felt sorry for him. All his plans, all his stupid dreams had come to naught, and he was trapped on a plane with an angry Marian Mott; and he wasn’t smart enough to figure out how to get out of this spot…..and she was rhyming, for God’s sake. Snap out of it! she thought.
When they shoved her through the door, onto the rolling platform shoved up against the side of the plane, she had to squint, the sun was really bright here right now, and shining right in her eyes. Wherever here was. She wondered if she was in Australia. If Arthur would be seeing this on the news. If he’d be worried. If his mother even let him watch the news. Maybe he’d be having supper, and then going to church, and he’d miss it altogether……And then again, maybe she was in Cuba, or someplace.
“Where are we?” she asked.
“Shut up!” Purple Lump snarled.
Even if the sun wasn’t so bright, she wouldn’t have noticed the two nattily dressed men standing just behind the front line of trucks surrounding the airplane. They both wore expensive suits and they were both viewing the scene through hi-powered binoculars.
Purple Lump started screaming at the line of trucks in that other language. The man standing just behind Marian, in charge of watching her, she supposed, slid his arm around her waist and pulled her back against him. No one else was paying attention to them; he took the opportunity to rub a part of his anatomy that was on the same level as her bound hands up against those hands. Through his clothes, of course. Marian regretted that he was that modest. If he’d let it out of his pants, she could have gotten a better grip on it. As it was, when she dug her nails into said anatomy, she had to go through a couple of layers of fabric before she found skin. He tried to push her away; she held on, clenched her fists as tight as she could……she felt the threads give way, felt squishy flesh……he screamed, started to dance, she dug harder.
When he hit her hard between the shoulderblades, she had to let go. She hit the railing, realized no one had their hands on her at all, and scampered down the steps. Thank God she’d worn her sensible shoes instead of her sexy little spike heels. When she got to the tarmac, someone tackled her around the ankles, and she fell. She managed to get one foot free and kick him in the face several times before his friends grabbed her arms and pulled her to her feet.
Might have known the fellow she kicked in the face would be Purple Lump. He was now Purple Lump and Bloody Nose. He stood in front of her, got right in her face and screamed at her some more, ignoring the row of law enforcement pistols aimed at them. The veins stood out on his forehead, he threatened her with all sorts of grisly fates…..she supposed, she didn’t understand a word he was saying……and so she said, “Put a sock in it,” just before she kneed him as hard as she could, and that was pretty hard because the other men were holding her upright, so she could put the force of her whole body into it…..
PL&BN (Purple Lump & Bloody Nose) dropped like a stone.
The red-haired man with the binoculars said, “Shit.”
“Uh-huh,” the other man said.
They could see Miss Mott and the tallest of the other men exchange words just before the man punched her in the face. She sagged, the two men holding her dragged her back up the steps to the plane.
The red-haired man said, “They’re idiots.” He sounded somewhat incredulous.
“This is bad.”
They turned back toward the terminal. Red Hair said, “That was something, though wasn’t it?” He laughed. “Too bad we can’t get her a gun. She’d probably take ‘em all out.”
The other man looked back at the airplane for a moment, and nodded. Smiled.
“As it is, though…..she’s gonna get herself killed,” Red Hair said.
“Yes.” The other man looked up at the sun. “How much time until dark?”
“About three hours. Think we can keep ‘em in Dodge that long?”
“Possibly. Tell them a few lies, give them some extra incentive. Give it a go, eh, mate?”
Red Hair nodded. “Hell of a holiday, Terry.”
“No rest for the wicked.”