During sex his mind flooded with images rooted deep within his being. He saw globes of crystalline light orbiting the fragile, fecund Earth. Armies of soldiers crested rolling hills to combat an onslaught of graceless forces. He heard strains of music that tugged at his chest. Things grew. Days were born in starlight on a thousand different worlds. There was some connectedness he struggled to express in words. Finding none with the accuracy necessary to scratch the surface of the daydreams, he settled for stroking her hair and looking deeply into her eyes as if to spy the glow of her luminous soul.
When it was over the effect faded and gravity pawed at him, reaching up from the earth's core to pull him back to the elemental fury from whence he, as all life, had come. Between Mark Bessler and four thousand miles of rock were the foundation to his home, the blue, deep-piled carpet lining his bedroom, a mattress and box-spring combination he had purchased six months prior in anticipation of the potential of such activity, a freshly washed sheet that would need to be washed again, and the warm, damp body of Cathy Sorenson, the new administrator from the accounting pool who thrust her hips against him and knocked her heels against the small of his back.
"Was I, um, okay?" he said. She stifled him with an open mouthed kiss that forced her energy into him. Mark swallowed and ran his fingers through her hair again. Light and music from the living room stereo spilled into the darkened bedroom like evidence of a distant civilization they abandoned when they shed their clothes. They moved in dim shadows, a private world that escaped the thoughts of the rest of humanity.
"How. . ." he started, but she put her finger over his lips.
"Are you blind?" she said. "Was I here with someone else? You were fine."
"Just fine? Not great, or apocalyptic?" he said.
"Well, I usually don't. . .that is, I usually don't respond well in the missionary position," she said.
"Usually?" he said, wishing he had been able to be more creative.
She smiled and tapped her heels against him again. Her face tightened and she stretched her back, pushing against him. "Nothing personal," she said, "but I think I'm getting a cramp in my thigh."
"Oh, sorry," he said, and rolled quickly onto his back.
"I didn't mean it that way," she said. She lay her head on his shoulder, pulled herself against him, and ran a lacquered finger nail up his thigh, over the ridge in his waist left by the elastic in his abandoned brief, and up to the forest of his pectoral hair where she twirled a few strands around her fingertip. "Tell me something about yourself," she said, tracing a line with her nail from his lips to his chest. "Tell me something you've never told anyone."
Mark started a sigh, but he caught himself. A cold tingle ran down his spine. "You first," he said. It amazed him that she could make him do things he said he never would, and yet make him blush in public, embarrassed to speak intimately about himself. "I don't know what sort of thing you mean."
Cathy lifted her head and smiled. "Oh, you know what I mean," she said. She traced her finger down his abdomen and into the pile of pubic hair below.
"Okay, I'll go first," she said. "I dated this guy from the office at my old job. I knew he was kind of kinky. I mean, everybody told me he was like that but I didn't listen to them. I guess I was curious what he would be like in bed, you know?"
Mark stared at the ceiling and wondered what he would say to her. When she reached into his groin and squeezed he said, "Uh huh," and nodded slightly.
"Well," she continued, "like, we get to his apartment after dinner and he goes right to it. We didn't even get the door closed behind us and he was all over me. At first I was thinking, 'This guy is out of control.' But then I was into it--just for the adventure and all. I mean, everybody was telling me how kinky he was. I just had to see for myself."
Mark swallowed and fought the impulse to stop her. The warm breeze of her breath against his ear drew his attention to a sharp point inside her words.
"So we get naked, right?" she said, lowering her voice to a whisper, "and he disappears for a minute while I'm sitting on the edge of the bed. And I hear this chain clanking and these animal feet and like, he brings his dog in. This big black Doberman. So I'm thinking, 'okay, he needs to bring his dog in after being home alone all day. . .'"
As she spoke she stroked him in slow rhythm. He never thought it would work again so fast. Torrents of saliva filled Mark's mouth and he began a chain of unconscious swallows to keep up. He rubbed his hand against his face hoping the feeling would ground him. And when she lowered her voice to quantum silence, he found his consciousness sucked into the story floating over her words.
"'Nice doggy,' I say." Her voice, low and husky, carried him.
"'This is Max,' he says. 'We share everything.' I'm wondering what he means when he puts his hands on my knees and spreads them apart. And this dog, this huge black dog with beads of saliva dripping from it's teeth is lunging at me. He's holding it back by a chain and I've got my hands between my legs, protecting myself.
"'Hey wait a minute,' I say. 'I hope you don't think I'm going to let Rover get into the act.' Because the thought hits me he's going to let this dog fuck me.
"But he says, 'Calm down. Max is a special dog. I trained him myself. He won't hurt you, I promise.'
"Well, I'm not into it at all but he lets go of the leash and good old Max starts licking at my hands. He's prying at my fingers, squeezing his tongue between the spaces.
"'Dog's mouth is cleaner than a human's,' says the guy. 'Relax. Let it happen. Just let it happen.'
"And before I know what I'm doing, I move my hands and this dog is licking at me like his tongue is motorized. I lay back on the bed and good old Max knows what he's doing, moving his wet tongue over and over. All the right places. Over and over. . ." Cathy stroked him until he became hard, her words pouring like black syrup into his mind. "Over and over," she said. "Nice doggy. . ."
A moment of silence left him the opening he needed. He took his consciousness back and sat up. He rubbed his face and opened his eyes wide. "My god," he said. "That really happened?"
"Sure," she said, pushing him backward, one hand clamped around her accomplishment. Using the hand to position him, she slid herself down and straddled his hips. "Now, it's your turn. Tell me something. Tell me something you've never told anyone."
He sat upward under her and wrapped his arms around her midriff. Her grinding attracted the thought to the front of his mind, poured energy into him, crashed through glass reality. The world of his dreams spilled into his brain as the orgasm built in his belly. Glistening, crystal-sharp spheres of light floated past at the speed of thought. The sound of a note sustained on an electric guitar rose from a whisper to a wail and broke to a complex pattern of pure sound that tracked the lightning of his electrical thinking.
He pressed his cheek against her breasts. "You're not going to believe this," he said.
She said, "Try me. . ." and her voice trailed off as she threw her head back, arched her spine, and leaned backward on her outstretched arms. The tingling started at Mark's groin and traveled to his head--warm hands caressing him from the inside. He imagined luminous fingers and palms.
The materialization happened in an eye blink. Cathy reclined in front of him, her hips thrusting against his as he propped himself on his elbows. When the sputtering ball of light appeared between them he flinched. But the electric nerve reaction was blunted in mid-transmission and never reached his muscles.
That moment he knew he was paralyzed. He commanded his arms and legs to his defense, but he could only stare at his body frozen in humiliating repose as if it belonged to someone else. A thought flashed through his head as his mind raced in stark terror. Was his heart beating? Could he breathe? The ball of light hummed as it circled his head. He followed it with his eyes. It reached his ear and disappeared behind him. He could feel heat on the back of his head and see the moving shadow of his body cast against the bedroom wall as the light traveled.
Cathy remained frozen in front of him like a frame of movie film held before a table lamp--her eyes closed, her mouth partially open, her face half relaxed, half torn into a mask of ecstasy.
"What are you?" he tried to say. But his mouth wouldn't move.
The light hovered over Cathy's open mouth. It hummed and glowed blue white as it bobbed on microcurrents of air.
He heard the voice in his head. It shattered the sanctity of his mind with an abrupt disrespect, as if someone opened the door to a room in which a loud party was occurring. He never realized how soundless his thoughts were until he heard it.
"Hello Mark," said the light. The voice sounded synthesized, like the cheap talking alarm clock he had on his night table.
"What are you?" he asked again, trying to force his deadened tongue and lips to communicative service. The light heard his attempt.
"Messenger from the sons," it said. "Messenger from life to be, life that always was."
"What do you want?" he tried to say.
"The story she told you isn't true," said the voice. "You can tell her whatever you like as long as she doesn't believe you."
"What? I wasn't going to tell her. . ."
The humming sphere shot toward him and hovered an inch from his nose. White light burned his eyes. He tried to blink to block the light ignoring the voice as he struggled against the burning sensation.
"You were going to make her believe a secret you promised you'd keep."
"What promise?" thought Mark.
"The energy of reproduction is among the strongest man is able to summon. You're using it inappropriately. Think before you act. Say 'firefly pilot.' "
"Wait. . ." Mark tried to say.
The light burned brighter into his eyes driving a searing spike where the warm hands had been.
"Say 'firefly pilot.' "
Fear sent his thinking into circles. Images flashed before him. It took him a moment to realize he was planning escape routes from the bedroom--shortest distances to windows, calculated falls, whether shards of glass would hurt him badly as he and Cathy crashed through the window. The pain broke his concentration and he knew he had to obey to stop the burning. It focused him.
He said, "Firefly pilot," and felt the words escape him and trigger a restart of reality. It was as if a movie film began to roll. The light winked out. The wave of restrained fear flowed free of its containment and washed through him like a hot electric ocean. Cathy clawed at the sheets and kicked away from him. Where she collided with the bed's headboard she stopped and curled her knees to her chest trying to hide herself on the open mattress plane.
"What the fuck was that?" she said, her voice wavering from panic to composure in tremolo.
"Firefly. . ." Mark heard himself say. He shook.
"You have some mighty huge fireflies around here. That thing could have burned the fucking house down."
"Calm down," Mark said. He leaned forward to put a hand on her arm. She shrunk away, jamming herself helplessly against the headboard.
"Christ, it was talking to you. I could hear it."
Mark put a trembling hand on his face. He tried to steady himself. He searched his mind for an explanation. What had it said? Something about telling a secret. What secret? What was he going to say?
Then it was clear. He threw his feet over the edge of the bed and flipped on the night table lamp.
"It doesn't want me to tell you something," said Mark. He yanked open the night table drawer, pulled out a piece of paper, and fished around for a pen.
"What are you doing?" said Cathy, still curled in a fetal position, her arms vibrating as she clamped them around her legs.
"I'm going to tell you what I was going to tell you." He wrapped his fingers around a pen. With the back of his hand he brushed everything but the lamp from the top of the night table. The clock radio, paperbacks, and his cufflinks went clattering to the floor. He slammed the paper onto the night table and held the pen over it. Then snapped his head to the side and looked at Cathy. Her eyes widened. She tried push herself further into the headboard with her feet.
"Maybe you shouldn't tell me. . ." she said.
"You asked," said Mark, converting his fear to anger. "You asked and I'm going to show you. I am sick and tired of not owning my thoughts. I'm tired of them invading my privacy whenever it suits them. This has been happening since I was a kid and I'm tired of it. It's my life, goddamnit. You want to know a secret? You want to know something I've never told anyone else?"
"It's only our second date, Mark. You don't have to. . ." Cathy said. But he turned away from her and screwed up his courage. He imagined the pattern on the blank piece of paper. He had never been much of an artist, but he could draw the pattern with a precision bordering on computerization. His hands followed the lines in his imagination. Four lines, a semicircle, an arc, another line. It was over in five seconds.
He put the pen down and closed his eyes. Nausea welled from his stomach into his esophagus. "I've been able to do this since I was a boy," he said and stood beside the bed. "Watch the paper. Don't touch it or it won't work. I'll be right back."
He turned and made his way to the bathroom. The music from the stereo in the living room had given way to a commercial for a car dealership as he fumbled for the light switch and stood over the sink, waiting. He could hear her rustling in the bedroom. The hissing sound of skin against the sheets betrayed her movement. He splashed water into his face and looked up. Sickness rose from his stomach and made him hot. Saliva ran into his mouth. Sweat broke on his forehead. When she screamed he sank to his knees with his arms over the toilet.
He heard her running, bare feet padding over the rug, the tiles in the kitchen, into the living room. He heard her gathering her clothes from the living room floor, whimpering as she moved.
Mark forced himself to stand and wiped his mouth with a hand towel. "Cathy. Cathy, wait."
"This is crazy. This whole thing is fucked. Don't bother calling me, because I don't need this shit," she answered, as if trying to propel the words from her mouth with enough speed to avoid delaying her.
"Don't go. It's not dangerous."
She looked at him over the living room couch, clutching a pile of her clothing to her chest. "Dangerous? Who the hell cares--dangerous? You have talking road flares buzzing around your bedroom. You have spinning pieces of paper flying in your bedroom. Who needs this? I don't need this. I could be going out with a normal guy. I don't need Merlin the magician."
"But I am normal," said Mark. He walked to the living room and sat on the couch in front of her. She dropped the pile of clothes, pulled out her bra, and put it on.
"That paper is flying in there, Mark. It's spinning like a frisbee. It's floating in mid-air. You left me in there alone with flying paper."
"It's only paper," he said. A familiar feeling came over him and drove away the nausea. It was something more urgent than sickness. Something deeper. Something he had felt all his life. Separation. Loneliness. Dreams that left him feeling apart from the rest of the world had finally intruded his waking life.
He reached and put his hand on her arm. "Don't leave me yet," he said. "Let me explain."
"What kind of explanation do I need?" said Cathy, stepping into her panties. "You're some kind of witch. Wait. Warlock. You're some kind of Satan worshipper."
"Please," he said. "I was going to tell you in there. . .it's been with me all my life. I've never told anyone. I never wanted to tell anyone because it's so crazy I thought nobody would believe me anyway. That's why I had to show you."
Cathy slipped her blouse over her arms and began fastening the buttons.
"Please," said Mark. "Just listen to me. Nothing is going to hurt you here. I promise. Don't leave me like this. Give me a chance to explain."
She looked into his eyes and let her hands drop from buttoning. Then she flopped down on the couch beside him and sighed. Mark slid his arm over her shoulders and pulled her close to him.
Cathy said, "I don't know what you expected by making that paper fly in there. This is not normal stuff. It scares the shit out of me. What am I supposed to do?"
"I know it doesn't seem normal," said Mark. "But you know, it is really pretty normal. Think about it. You told me you read all those UFO books. You watch all those TV talk shows and read the grocery store checkout counter papers. People see lights flying around all the time. Outside. Inside. It's been happening forever. The ancient Romans saw flying lights. The Egyptians built pyramids for them. Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter saw them. We've got to stop thinking these are unique occurrences. It's a normal piece of our lives."
"You mean to tell me that was a UFO?"
"I dunno what it was," said Mark. "I don't think it was a ship. Sometimes that's the way they look when they talk to you. So far they've only come in my dreams. This is the first time I've seen one when I was awake. Can you believe that?"
Cathy squinted and said, "They? Who are, 'they?' Do you always have this trouble in bed?"
Mark laughed and shook his head. "No. It's not like that. Look, none of this would have happened if you hadn't started with, 'tell me your deepest secret.'"
"I didn't think I was fucking the Zodiac killer," said Cathy.
"You don't understand," said Mark. He put his hand under her chin and looked into her eyes. "That spinning paper in there, do you know how I did it?"
Mark said, "Those lines. All I know is when I draw those lines on things, the thing starts flying. And do you know how I learned how to draw those lines?"
Cathy shook her head and Mark let his hand drop into her lap. He said, "I learned it from. . .what I do. . ."
Cathy sighed. "Wait a minute. . . You do something that makes you draw lines on things so they can fly?"
Mark sat back against the couch and stared at the living room wall in front of him. He remembered he was naked and began to feel cold. "In my dreams I'm a pilot," he said. "Now it's become real. I'm a pilot in a war."
"A fighter pilot? You fly fighter jets?" Cathy smiled, pulled a leg under her and sat on it. "Oh, this is cool. You fly planes like in Top Gun? That's why you couldn't tell me. It's some kind of secret military project, isn't it? And I always thought you were just another dull guy from accounting. This is incredible. I won't tell anyone. You don't have to worry about me."
Mark shook his head and lowered his eyes. "It's not exactly like that. I don't fly fighter planes. . ." he said.
"Okay, so then, what? Helicopters? You're a helicopter pilot?"
He shook his head again.
"A boat pilot? A space shuttle pilot? What? What do you fly, or is that secret too?"
"The lines on the paper," said Mark. He stood. "The lights, they're from my dreams. But they're more than just dreams. They're like some other life. Some other place where I do things and have completely different thoughts. It's hard to describe. But I'm not the only one. I think in some way it happens to all of us. We're all involved in this, that's why we all see UFOs. Does that make any sense?"
Cathy looked up at him and shook her head silently.
Mark knelt in front of her and took her hands in his. He looked into her eyes. "I've never told anyone this. But you've seen enough now that maybe you'll believe me."
She forced a smile and said, "Okay."
"I'm involved in some kind of war in my dreams--dreams that are really another life in another place, another time. It's some ancient battle. I don't even know what started it or which side stands for what. It may have been going on forever, since the dawn of humanity itself. I'm a soldier in the war, Cathy. I'm a pilot. I fly battle craft. We call them 'lightships' or 'fireflies.' Here, when we're awake and we see them people call them flying saucers."
Cathy took a breath and held it for a second. Then the air behind her lips burst as she winced and laughed from the gut. She fell onto her side clutching her hand to her abdomen.
"You're a space cadet. I knew it from the moment I saw you," she said between convulsions of laughter. "A flying saucer pilot. Baby, I've heard some great lines in my life but this has to be the best."
Mark sat back on his heels and watched her laugh. He smiled slightly and said, "Didn't you see the paper floating around in there? What about that talking ball of light?"
Cathy put her hands on his shoulders and laughed. A droplet of saliva hit Mark's cheek. Cathy said, "You're wonderful. What a fantastic trick. Where did you learn it? You must have had some professional training. Do you know David Copperfield?"
"But it's not a joke," said Mark, lowering his voice. "There really is a war. You can only get there through your dreams. I've been involved my whole life. Cathy--the lines--they're controls. They pull energy from the fields around us and do different things. That's how I fly the lightships. There are patterns for flying, for firing weapons, for turning, for making distress calls. Those huge patterns carved into the earth on the fields at Nazca, they're the same thing. The circles in barley fields in England--we're using those to divert energy to strategic battle positions."
Cathy slid from the sofa to her knees and wrapped her arms around his neck. "This is fantastic. This has to be the kinkiest lay I've ever had. Do something else. Can you make that light come back?"
Mark said, "But I'm not kidding."
Cathy said, "Of course. Neither am I. God, you're beautiful." Her eyes glistened. She scanned his face, then she pressed her mouth against his and pried his lips apart with her tongue. Mark closed his eyes. He tried to speak.
"It's a real war--in another dimension. All humanity is involved. Even you."
Cathy pulled back. With her hands cradling his head she said, "Me too? What am I? A nurse? A footsoldier? An airtraffic controller for UFOs? Wait, I know. I'm Mata Hari. I fuck UFO pilots to get intelligence from them."
She kissed his chin, then ran her tongue down his chest. She put her hands on his shoulders and pushed him gently backward as she moved her mouth over the muscles of his abdomen in a shimmering wet line. He propped himself on his elbows and stretched his legs in front of him.
With his eyes closed, Mark felt the warm hands glow inside him from the point of her touch.
"They're not going to let you remember this," he said. "The soldiers from the other side of dreams--they never let anyone remember contact."
She poked her tongue into his navel. "They let you remember. How come you know all of this, smarty pants?" she said. Then, "Oh my, look. I should have said, 'smarty no pants.'"
"I think. . ." he said, searching his mind for a clue. Maybe he did have contact with the glowing spheres before. The images he had during sex--perhaps they were dreams, or perhaps they were images of things that he was supposed to have forgotten. Sex brought the images to the surface. Was he supposed to remember? Did they want him to forget? The dream images flooded into his mind as Cathy moved her mouth in a line from his navel to the space where his thigh met his abdomen. Conversations became clearer. Visions he had categorized as fantasy, dreams, all merged with the conscious reality of the living room floor and the warm wetness of her tongue.
"I think part of my job is bringing information from this side of dreams," he said. "I think I'm somehow involved with intelligence, gathering information." He stopped when he felt the wet warmth envelop him completely. An involuntary sigh escaped his lips.
She looked up and gripped him as he grew against her palm. "Oh really?" she said. "And what are you working on now? Spying on the enemy to identify troop movements? Locations of ammo dumps? Discovering battle plans? Power sources?" Her voice dissolved to warm movement against him that brought his dreams into focus.
And suddenly, a spark. A chill ran down his spine. He opened his eyes and watched her.
She stopped, looked up into his eyes, and smiled. Mark cocked his head and squinted as sexual energy turned to defense inside him. A pattern of lines materialized as if on a movie screen in his mind. It was a distress signal. He needed to send it. The ceiling above him began to glow deep red. A throbbing hum vibrated the walls and drowned out the sound of the stereo.
"Aww," said Cathy. "Don't stop now. It's still early and there's a lot more you can tell me."
The next old story is If it barks like a fish, it must be a duck
The last old story is The cheshire woman