scientist

1




I am a scientist. I am a man of conviction and not a little bit of grandeur, a colossus of erudition, master of chemical and physical applications, well versed in the theoretical as well as the concrete laws of this, the very universe.



That is how I wish my tale of genius would begin. Perhaps it was nothing more than egotistical hubris. Regardless of my once lofty aspirations I could not begin any retelling of my scientific breakthrough in such fashion without discounting a great deal of the truth. So how do I really begin? The carpool, probably.



I was driving my daughter and her best friend Amber to school. The girls had been close since the Institute relocated to Colorado and brought its research, funding and experts along with it. I was among them. We had been generously bankrolled by the federal government to develop new methods of close-quarters combat. My wing of the Institute was focused primarily on stealth. It was a dream come true.



Unlike my colleagues I had almost no interest in the applications of our work. My desires, from my earliest memories, were always in the realm of achievement. Could I excel beyond my peers? Could I disprove my professor’s seemingly groundbreaking theorems; hell, could I propose my own thesis of molecular epistemology and get away with laughing in his face when he tried to pass off my work as his own? As he had. And I could—because my professor’s people knew his talents. When he brought my research before the university’s board they almost immediately recognized that the formulas displayed an understanding of cellular and electromagnetic potential beyond anything previously discussed. As such my professor was thrown out on his ear and I was immediately eligible for a doctorate in applied physics. I was nineteen.



It was a good thing, too, because my girlfriend at the time, an ardent catholic, had recently become pregnant. We were married the day after I was accepted to the Institute. It was a mixed blessing.



But I was talking about carpool. Amber was my daughter Rebecca’s oldest friend. We had moved to Colorado when she was nine. The girls were now eighteen and in the last year of high school. A rather abrupt scandal had rocked the Institute involving the team in the cyber combat wing and the rest of us were ordered to lay low for a period of time until the Institute could salvage its reputation enough to woo the military back into our good graces. It was not a pleasant experience for me. I still taught a weekly class for the local university and had more than enough grant money to sustain me and my research. But being remanded to my basement laboratory did not please my wife, who had grown accustomed to being the kept woman of an elite engineer. She had never enjoyed housework, but having me work from home was apparently too much for her pride. Though I kept to myself (and had since our shotgun wedding) she was never remiss to question when I would return to the Institute full time and leave her tidy house in peace.



Margaret, my wife, did not approve of my work, specifically as it related to the manipulation of matter. It was against God, she said. I said that her delicate religious sensibilities did not put food on her table, nor indulge her every modern furnishing desire. She was not amused.



When I was not buried in my work I took every opportunity to escape the house. Thus, carpool.



Where was I? Amber and Rebecca had been best friends since we moved next door to Amber’s parents and they had both grown into beautiful young women. I say this out of surprise more than filial respect. Margaret is not an unappealing woman but I am by no stretch an astonishingly handsome man. At my best I have always managed to look exceedingly ordinary. I am vain enough to say I am not an ugly man. But no aspect of my mortal body is glamorous. Rebecca meanwhile is quite beautiful. She has my dark hair and her mother’s curls and brown, kind eyes. She is shorter than Amber but more curvaceous. Amber, meanwhile, defies the genetic failings of her parents, who are sweet but simple people who look like they would be at home as extras on the set of a sitcom. They are both cheerful, portly people. Amber is slim and tall, with chestnut brown hair and glasses (or had, until Rebecca convinced her to wear contacts). She is a runner, with a runner’s muscles. For a time she and I would pass each other at 5 in the morning. I would be running after a lengthy night of working and not sleeping. She would be awake early getting in a run before meeting the rest of her team at school. She had a beautiful smile and absolutely no self confidence.



Rebecca was a bright fixture in her school’s population. She was student council, theater, cheerleading, everything her mother could persuade her to join she excelled in. Amber was nearly the opposite, strong academically but sometimes cripplingly shy. Amber was Rebecca’s study partner from the first. Rebecca was Amber’s escape from total social obscurity. It was downright Darwinian.



As I drove our family’s minivan to school I tried to cool the engine inside my head. Something was happening in my experiments that I had not expected to see for several months (years, even, when I consulted my notes). I had to remove myself from my basement to calm myself. Was it an accident or hard work that suddenly accelerated my research? Cutting through my inner calculations and refutations I heard Amber and Rebecca discussing prom or some other high school event. Rebecca kept trying to set Amber up with some boy or other, and Amber was adamantly opposed to them all.



“What about Rob?” I heard Rebecca ask.



“You tried to set me up with him before,” Amber said.



“Didn’t you like him?”



“He wanted me to…” In the rear view mirror Amber glanced to see if I was watching. “You know…” she finished.



Rebecca gave an exasperated sigh. It was the same one her mother made when I tried to explain that I had yet to find any angels dancing on the heads of my electrons. “You’re going to have to…” This time Rebecca glanced at the rear view. “You know…eventually.”



Amber shrugged her shoulders uncomfortably. She really was very fetching. That the boys of her school would want to “you know” with her was not so strange. But I had never been a desperately lustful man and my observations were clinical at best. Clearly Rebecca, who was buxom in all the ways Amber was not, already knew much more about what boys wanted than perhaps either Amber or I would ever know. As to my daughter’s sexual activities, I made it perfectly clear to her that while her mother would bring the wrath of God upon her should she ever catch wind of any shenanigans, I could not be bothered to monitor her choices. I made two things clear, however: always bring condoms and always make sure he wore them. Rebecca was the beautiful result of my teenage impropriety. Had I the capacity to invent a time machine, intervening before the moment of her conception would be a troubling choice. But I suppose I had the luxury of Margaret and me never pretending that we loved each other…



Amber and Rebecca left the car with the two of them still bickering over whether Rebecca should have a boyfriend before her first year of college. I was already far beyond caring. My mind was on the eight hundred and sixty first mouse in my laboratory.



It had disappeared.



The one positive aspect of the Institute banishing my team and me to our homes was that I was now free to work completely alone. And unsupervised. My interests always pointed first at achievement. What average men made of my superior talents was not relevant to me. That I was paid was. That I was allowed the free reign to use those talents was. That I was recognized for having created something their small minds could only use but never understand was paramount. I am a scientist and a prideful man and my life begins and ends there. I am not the sort of man who invents a weapon to make the world a better place. I am the sort of man who makes things lesser men fear. I want the credit for those nightmares.



Which is not to say I am a nihilist. Of course there is a great deal of good that can come from my research. It simply does not interest me what kind.



The mouse had disappeared at 3:47 AM. At 3:45 AM I watched it drink from a bowl of lightly irradiated particles (the ingredients of which I will not disclose here) and sit back to rub its whiskers and face. Unlike the previous subjects there was no increased heart rate, no muscle spasms, no neurological anomalies. At 3:46 AM the mouse seemed to be levitating. Its feet had become two pink blurs. I rubbed my eyes. When I opened them again, the feet were gone as well as its naked tail. The mouse seemed unaware. After another minute only the mouse’s head remained. It floated over its cage, ran in its wheel, munched on a pellet of food. And then the head too was gone. All that remained was the mushy remains of the pellet floating somewhere inside of it. But that disappeared too after another few minutes: an unexpected side effect. I had hypothesized that the lining of the stomach would produce enough of the stealth enzyme to veil any of its current contents, but newly-introduced matter would remain visible. This was so, but only for a matter of minutes. The elixir seemed to work faster than I planned, making it that much more effective.



Fittingly, however, or perhaps humorously, I lost track of the mouse until it left a solitary dropping in the northwestern corner of its cage. It seemed that elements that left the body were stripped of the invisible property. I waited to see if the creature’s little heart might stop or if it might reappear. But neither occurred. When I had left that morning to take the girls to school it had taken a full 4 hours and all that had returned was its tail.



Back at the house, ignoring my wife’s calls from upstairs, I descended into the basement and made a beeline for the mouse. There it was, whole and undamaged. I immediately ran it through a series of tests, took a blood sample, and gave it a nice chunk of cheese for its efforts.



I am well aware that I am a genius. Still, I felt pretty fucking smart.



2




I must have slept. It would be impossible to carry out the gauntlet of examinations and seven-fold tests, checking and rechecking the data. I should have dissected the eight-hundred and sixty-first mouse but the vanishing rodent stirred a sentimental chord within me. The creature had been the first live organism in the long history of our planet to completely escape light’s all encompassing touch. I thought about that in my half waking state of diligent notation in a much more philosophical sense than I’d previously done. Eight-six-one had done what only black holes before it had ever accomplished: subdued the light. The mouse, obviously, did not swallow photons. Instead it achieved a more subtle mastery: it convinced the sun that it wasn’t there. Not too shabby for a mouse. So, no, I did not sacrifice him in the name of science. If nothing else—and the remainder of my career was spent grasping desperately at the same result—that mouse and I would know. But of course eight-six-one was not the only mouse to disappear that week. That first day I tested five more mice. Three of them disappeared. The other two just got hungrier. The second day I tested ten more mice. Nine of them disappeared. The last gorged itself from its food dish until it passed out. I understood the feeling.



I don’t remember dreaming. I sat up all night testing and retesting and correcting my numbers until after the fourth day I had a nearly 100% conversion rate. Most of the mice disappeared for three to five hours at a time. They tended to be exhausted by the experience and quite hungry but I have no idea how much of that was due to the anxiety of staring through one’s own paws.



I worked straight through the night and then departed my basement at 5, taking great care to lock the door. Then I ran. I ran from my house to the outskirts of the neighborhood. On more than one occasion I passed Amber in the dark blue hours. Always we crossed paths in the opposite direction. She kept her eyes straight forward until we were just within yards of each other, waving her hand with a breathless smile and then skipping out of view. I ran like a man possessed. Then I returned to the lab, locked the door behind me, and collapsed.



My wife was displeased. I didn’t care. I missed carpool. I didn’t care. Eight-six-one and I were blessed with enlightenment. I recorded several sessions of disappearing mice and made copies. One went into my safe deposit box in town. Two went on external hard drives that could only be found by me.



At long last, that Friday or Saturday, the work was complete. I had the formula. I knew, at least as far as mice were concerned, what the side effects were, and they were negligible. In fact, they were better than anticipated. Of course the psychological shock of the body watching itself become invisible was really the most dangerous part. Keeping the mind anchored to the physical sensations was paramount and I made a note to bear that in mind when human testing began.



But…I suppose that was the problem. I am a scientist. I wanted to know. What did it feel like? I imagined it was cold. Could it perhaps feel like nothing at all? These were questions for months, maybe even years down the line. Long term testing had yet to be made. Maybe the serum wore off after a week? Suppose the conversion of photons harmed the anatomy in some way? Triggered cancers? What didn’t I know?



I wanted to know.



It was late at night. It must have been ten, eleven—perhaps not so late where you come from, but for a small, secluded town in suburbia, even a Friday or a Saturday on the right block can be deathly still. I ran.



I had actually slept the night before—the long, contented sleep of faith rewarded. So as boundless as my attention and energy normally were, tonight it was racing through my veins. Curiously, Amber was also running. I had never known her to run so late at night. What’s more, she was running ahead of me, in the same direction. I began to close the gap.



I watched Amber’s gait and studied the way she jogged. Her long, muscular legs kept her in the air with the grace of a pursued gazelle. Yet there was never anything spindly about Amber. She had never been bony, all elbows and knees like many of her track mates tended to be. She was built with stamina. Her metallic blue track shorts whipping against her thighs, her gray tank top stained with sweat. Her auburn hair was swept back into a wet ponytail and it bounced from shoulder to shoulder as she went.



If every day we crossed then today would be no different. I would pass her. It didn’t matter why—it only mattered that it took my mind away from the racing and dangerous hypotheses of my brain. So I closed the distance between us. I overtook Amber on her left and made a friendly wave over my shoulder.



I have never personally known Amber to be competitive. I suppose it should have been intuitive, given that she was an athlete (and the school’s prize runner). But it never occurred to me. What I knew of her rarely fell beyond the context of my daughter Rebecca, who strived always to be the center of attention and seldom was denied it. Amber was never in her way because Amber was never after the same thing.



The girl swept past me like perfumed wind. It wasn’t perfume, though, it was the natural scent of Amber’s sweat. It was a bright yet robust odor. It whipped around her caught in the turbulence of her forward motion. In my mind I analyzed the intricate whorls and currents of the disturbed air molecules around her. Then I sprinted past her again.



The neighborhood was dark, the lights blazed past us like heady haloes of suburban madness. The slap of our rubber sneakers ground against the wet pavement and echoed back to us against the houses. We were running side by side. I don’t think either Amber or I had made eye contact with the other. And yet, suddenly, we were almost shoulder to shoulder, racing. I ran when I was in school; never competitively. But I ran almost every day. Amber was adapted to running. Her lungs knew how to filter efficiency and power from the air. Her flushed cheeks were slapped by the wind and invited the breezes to push her bangs away from her nose and forehead to allow her an uncompromised view of the street and the sidewalk, her eyes tearing just enough to keep her vision from blurring. All of these things were on her side. But I was trying to escape myself. And a man can bolt when he tries to outrun himself. A man can practically fly when he senses the need.



I promised myself that so long as I was willing to even consider ingesting the serum (just to know what it was like!) I would run. I would run until I passed out or exploded. I did not know Amber’s desires. Perhaps she was just a girl who liked to run. But for whatever her personal reasons she never gave me quarter. We ran side by side for the first mile out of the neighborhood in silence, then the second. The last mile we ran all out. It was the last one for me—maybe the girl could have gone another fifty. But it was nearing midnight and my lungs were ready to split.



We hit the edge of an unknown cul-de-sac and slowed (she at least a solid yard ahead of me) until our sneakers made rhythmic clops on the pavement. And then I bent over and put my hands on my knees to suck a hearty packet of air from the silent neighborhood. I looked up.



Amber was breathing hard, her hair sticking back from her forehead, sweat collected in an oblong splotch down her front, her nose and cheeks flushed a bright, pretty pink. The wet tank top molded itself over her breasts. She had her fists pressed against her hips and suddenly smiled, her mouth still open to force the good air in and out of her body. Her white teeth glinted at me under the streetlamps and the moonlight. Our eyes connected and she laughed breathlessly.



I smiled back. I don’t know why. But I had to refocus on pulling air down into my gut.



Amber put two fingers to her throat and checked her watch. She counted quietly for sixty seconds and then steadily brought her wrists down.



“You okay?” she asked. She sounded a lot better than I felt. In fact, she sounded stronger, huskier than I’d ever heard her around Rebecca.



I grimaced. “I’ll live.”



“Are you sure?”



I stood up straight and turned around. Amber bounced into step beside me. I looked down at her beside me and watched a small droplet of sweat run down her chin and dance on the edge of her neck before dropping into the hot expanse of her bare chest and staining the sports bra that covered the entirety of her cleavage. Amber was not a busty girl (running at her pace would have been impossible) but she was agilely shaped. Her breasts were not insignificant, but she contained them well in her sports bra and tank top, the two of them appearing very round and somewhat high on her chest. Amber glanced at me and I shifted my gaze to the alien houses on her left. The blood pumped over my ears and neck and I was embarrassed.



The first mile we walked in silence.



During the second mile, Amber said, “You usually run in the morning.”



I grunted.



Amber wiped a sheen of sweat from her forehead and smeared it on her hip. “I run at night during the summers,” she went on. “A lot,” she murmured.



I coughed. I wanted to hawk the phlegm that had collected in the back of my throat to the sidewalk but the present company compelled me to swallow it. Which was unpleasant. “What day is it?” I asked.



Amber turned to me. Suddenly I saw her as she would be in five years’ time, after college, as a young woman. The expression on her face was a slightly patronizing one, but quizzical, intrigued, ready to laugh. The line in her forehead slanted slightly from her right eyebrow. The dimple in her cheek tugged her lips, deep red from the blood flow, into a wry, good-natured smile.

Amber wiped her slender fingers together and patted them again on her hips. “It’s Friday,” she said slowly. Then she amended: “Well, maybe it’s Saturday now.” We both looked up at the night sky reflexively but just as certainly as if a clock would present itself to us from the firmament.



“You run well,” I said simply.



“Gee,” said Amber, and smiled again. “You’re a professor, right?”



Scientist. “Yes,” I said.



“You missed carpool, cooped up in the house, is that why you don’t know?”



“Why are you running on a Friday night?”



Amber’s eyes flashed. I watched her jaw muscles tighten under her soft cheeks. “That’s not very polite.”



I was confused. “Why not?”



“Well I’m probably running tonight because I don’t have a boyfriend.”



I was uncomfortable. After a moment I slowly asked, “Is that why?”



Amber gave a bright laugh that echoed between the darkened houses. “Yes, Mr. Beal, that’s probably why…” She turned redder and moved her eyes to the sidewalk. I realized slowly that I may have embarrassed her more than myself.



“But you run all the time,” I tried to argue. “Surely—”



“Well Friday nights are a little harder to get through when everybody’s having fun.”



“Rebecca—”



“Loves to have fun,” said Amber. She looked at me quickly. “I just— I don’t.” She smiled nervously. “It’s different.”



I pulled my swampy shirt away from my chest and wiped at my hair. We continued our long tramp back to our homes.



“You’re weird, a little bit, aren’t you?” said Amber.



“No,” I said immediately.



“You’re different,” she said.



“How?”



She laughed again. “Like that. You don’t really act like my parents.”



I couldn’t hide my disgust. “I am not like your parents.”



“Right,” agreed Amber. “Why were you running tonight?”



“Do you really want to know?” I said.



“Uh huh.”



“I don’t know what to do next.”



Amber pressed her lips together and kept her eyes on the sidewalk ahead. “What do you mean?”



“You know what I mean,” I said. “You ran tonight too, with the same tenacity. To block out this…drab neighborhood. To block out yourself, maybe.”



“I guess you’re not weird,” said Amber.



“Perhaps you are.”



Amber smiled. “Amen. So you can tell all of that from the way I ran?”



“No,” I said.



“Rebecca said you were smart.”



“I am exceedingly intelligent.”



Amber laughed again, brightly. She took a moment before sniffing and replying. “Thanks for running with me tonight and talking. I actually feel a lot better.”



“Was something wrong?”



She turned to me and I realized she was crying. Silently. I felt absurdly out of place, without a basic notion as to what I’d done or said or how long she had been doing this.



“No,” she said, wiping at her face. “No, I’m just stupid. I’m not…I want.” She made a deep sound and shook her head. “Will you not tell anyone?”



I turned about myself. “Who on Earth would I tell?”



She smiled. “Rebecca says she thinks you think you’re better than everyone.”



I didn’t hesitate. “I’m simply the best at what I do.”



“No ego there, huh?”



“All ego,” I said. “However, it does not hinder the truth.”



“Well I’m not smarter than everyone and I’m only slightly better at running than anyone.”



“I agree,” I said.



“Did you date when you were in high school?”



“I finished high school early. I dated in college. Why?”



“I dunno. I can’t really talk to my mother about…boys and Rebecca, well, I don’t think she remembers what it was like to not know what to do.”



“What do you mean?”



“I don’t like any of my classmates but I want—” She stopped herself. Red again, she started again. “It would still be nice to have someone to spend…time with. To feel,” she made herself continue, “wanted.”



It was my turn to laugh. I snorted. “Best not to rely on a man for that, Amber. Or a woman, really.”



“I know,” said Amber testily. “That’s not what I mean.”



“Hm,” I said to myself. But thick as I was at that moment, I suddenly understood what Amber meant. “You’re saying you wish you had someone in a romantic sense.”



Amber, for the last time that night, burst out laughing and stopped. “That’s exactly what I’m saying, you…” She smiled jubilantly. “I don’t know if you’re being silly or making fun of me but thanks,” she said.



I wasn’t sure what I’d done but I assumed my overall cluelessness had somehow alleviated her mood.



She sighed. “I don’t know what to do with myself half the time, when I’m not running.” She flexed her fingers in a suggestive way, stopped, wiped them on her shorts again and consciously played off whatever it was she’d suggested.



“Oh I’m sure you’ll find something constructive,” I said, trying to relate.



“And in the meantime, I’ll just keep controlling my urges by running at odd hours.”



“Urges?”



Amber blushed. “I don’t have a boyfriend and it’s Friday night. Why do you think I run all the time?”



“I—” But we had already come to the girl’s house. She waved at me quickly and bounded up to her steps, letting herself in after bending toward the door and trying to find the keyhole. I couldn’t help myself from watching the way her body easily flexed over, her behind the only bright thing on the dark front step. It caught the sheen of the streetlamp and flared. Then she was gone, disappeared inside the house. And I stood and stared at my own house, at the basement window leering at me like an accusing socket. For a time I had ignored what I’d come out here to ignore.



Before I knew it I was tromping up the back steps.



Before I knew it I was locking the door behind me.



Holding the vial in my hand.



Watching the light glint through its fluorescent contents.



Don’t, a voice within me said. But it was quiet and I knew it wasn’t convinced.



“For science,” I said, and drank the bitter serum down.



3




It took less time than I expected. As my hands began to disappear I held them over my face, bringing them closer as they blurred from view until I actually poked myself in the eye with a digit that I couldn’t see. I laughed to myself and pulled up my shirt. My stomach. It was disappearing!



Hastily I threw off my clothes as the last vestiges of skin and muscle retreated from my shorts and socks. I must have looked like a ridiculous circus act, tossing off clothes and bouncing across my laboratory while jumping on one foot and—all the while leaving the visible spectrum! I pulled off the last sock just in time to see my hairy ankle shrink to a bony point. And then, at last, I was gone. A ghost, I thought, that’s what I am. Giddily, I grabbed one of my lab coats and made it float across the lab. I’d never been so excited!



“Ooo-ooooo,” I moaned, flying the lab coat over the tables and chairs, making sure not to overturn any of the vials. I laughed. It was stupid, a man of my achievements behaving so garishly, but damn it I was invisible! I was totally gone!



“Abednego!” came the voice of my wife. I froze. I never kept clocks in my lab but I hastened to where I’d left my watch in the pile of my clothes. It was almost one. “Abednego!” my wife called again. I ran up the stairs and locked the door behind me—no! I couldn’t lock the door because the key, my pockets, were in a crumpled heap on the floor. I looked down. I saw nothing. Dizziness suddenly threw my equilibrium off course. I slammed the door behind me and ran through the house. My wife was on the stairway dressed in her nightgown and I stopped.



“Abner!” my wife called again. “I can hear you down there—what are you doing?”



I stood at the bottom of the stairs. Margeret was six, seven steps above me. She stared right through me. She looked mad and disheveled. “I swear,” she swore, and tramped down the steps. I took a hasty sidestep and followed her as she banged on the basement door and called my name again. When that didn’t work she pulled at the knob and stepped out onto the landing.



“Abner?” she said, concern creeping into her voice.



I was clearly not in the basement. But that was not so strange. Yet it was peculiar tonight, for she had heard my stupid gallavanting below. But she was tired and had expended most of her anger. She grumbled something unintelligible and turned back.



I walked backwards in front of her, incredibly heedful of my feet padding on the tile but realized under the sweep of her nightgown and her own sounds that my footsteps were hidden. Experimentally, I waved and waved in front of her face. But she didn’t see and soon mounted the stairs, loudly, shuffling, unaware.



I was outside in a moment, having gone out the side door through the kitchen. The Colorado air was cool but pleasant. The sweat had dried on my skin. I lifted my arms into the sky and proudly strode naked over my lawn at one in the morning. I realized abruptly that I had to urinate but going back into the house was sure to disturb at least one of the sleeping inhabitants. I cut back around my house and made it to the backyard just as my bladder seemed to burst inside me. Once in my yard I let go—



And was shocked to see a sudden, pressurized piss appear in the air just below my hovering eyes. It must have been a doubly peculiar sight for whatever curious passerby there might have been that night. But of course I suddenly remembered, fluids and waste which left the body regained their visibility. Not to be coarse, but as I pissed I snorted and hawked a ball of spit to the grass. No, nothing. Except… As I finished urinating I crouched down at where the grass had been disturbed. There, glistening, was a foamy little ball of saliva. It had appeared; it had just taken longer.



I crouched in the grass feeling primal and sure. It felt good. It felt, in the classical sense, awesome.



It wasn’t cold but it was brisk, so I couldn’t go just anywhere. But a nighttime tour of the neighborhood was certainly possible. However, my increased metabolism and mass almost ensured that I would appear sooner than the mice. It did occur to me that there was a chance I might never appear again—perhaps a strange human side effect of the serum. Yet, I reflected, an invisible man had a much better chance of making a case for his work, and I could give up shaving with no one the wiser. I laughed strongly. Yes, there was little that could darken my mood tonight. I set off at a jaunt through the dewy grass towards Amber’s parents’ house.



I smiled to myself, the refreshing breeze of the evening dancing over my freed scrotum. Now why had man ever invented pants? Happily, I set off along the side yard of the house, studying the chipped paint and weedy lawn. I suddenly realized how conscious I was of ever letting my gaze linger too long—on anything. I laughed. I stopped. I laughed again, anonymously. Never stare too long at others; they can always feel it and eventually look at you disapprovingly. Why would I have ever stared for so long at Amber’s parents’ house? Noticed their chipped paint? Hell, my house was probably chipped too but I’d never spent the time to really stare at the house. That would seem peculiar to the neighbors. But now all peculiarity had vanished along with my body.



I was less than a ghost, I reflected, because there was nothing malevolent about me. There was no pervading aura of dread, no unfinished business. In fact, the very business I had labored the better part of a decade for had been accomplished. I was… Damn it I was happy, I finally understood. I was serene. I was less than a ghost and simply a roving observer, a wondering consciousness looking into windows, bright windows, in backyards where…



Amber was standing naked in front of her window. Without clothes. Her young but fruitful breasts hung delicately away from her chest like two pale pears. Instantly I ducked down. But this was stupid for two reasons.



The first was that I was invisible and standing in her backyard, having wandered there completely oblivious and only drawn to the window because of its brightness. The second was that Amber was not looking at me. In fact she wasn’t really looking at anything.



The girl was roaming slowly about her room, eyes half closed, her curtains half drawn and the window half open. She drew a hand over her left breast and reached down to a pair of slim white panties that even from my vantage point appeared soaked. So did her hair actually, and indeed her entire forehead glistened from her overhead light. She hadn’t showered yet and was still wet from our run.



Amber’s room faced the backyard and was more or less level with me. Thus I could see the ruffled bedspread, her running shorts and sports bra tossed messily atop it, her chest of drawers and mirror, the door to what I assumed was a bathroom. Since the yard was walled in by trees and faced no other house on the other side, she no doubt left the curtains open regularly.



The only other way to account for her actions was the aggressive urgency with which she was pleasuring herself before my eyes. It was mesmerizing. Amber was pacing in her room, her long, lithe legs carrying her absently from one side to the next. With her fingers she squeezed her chest until her forehead creased and she almost cried out. The look of pain on her face was hideous. The girl wasn’t—could never have been. No, in fact, her slightly matted hair and flushed pallor gave her an indecent sensuality. What was crushing was that the pain she exuded was almost palpable. Then she stopped her pacing and bent her legs slightly, crouched before the window. I…forgive me, reader, but I could not help myself. I came closer. I came as close to the window as I could until my transparent fingers clutched at her window sill. Amber crouched in a most unladylike way and cupped her vagina through her panties. She seemed to want to rub herself out of existence. She bit her lip roughly and furrowed her brows. Were her fingers trying to burrow through the sopping fabric?



Amber let out an anguished sigh and released herself. I felt something press against me and nearly yelped.



I leapt back trying to locate whatever it was that had touched me. I looked down. Of course: I was hard (extraordinarily hard, as a matter of fact). I had come so close to the window that my erection had risen to the cold surface of the house. I tried to banish the notion to respect this girl’s— Well, let’s be honest, I was using invisibility for the exact purpose that so many imagination-less peons had thought to put its use. Surely a man was more than his corruptible instincts… Surely.



I looked up.



I am not a sentimental man, but what I saw sent throbs of confused longing throughout my body. Amber had seated herself on her bed and had pulled her panties down. She stared at them dejectedly, at where the fabric had worn thin, dropped them, and tried to gently brush her naked vagina. She had a trim tuft of pubic hair, conservatively shaved into a brunette strip. But now touching herself seemed to bring only bitter pain. I saw now that she was breathing quickly, her ripe breasts trembling, her flat stomach quaked. Beads of sweat tumbled from her neck down between her breasts and glided to her bellybutton. What must have gone through her mind? Did her friends or teammates go to parties on Friday night? It was almost the end of the year—didn’t she have someplace to go, some other means of—



But that was ridiculous. It was almost two in the morning. And Amber was wide awake, almost shaking, alone. Invisible.



Invisible. My God that longing wasn’t invisible. Her whole body was red, her eyelids shut but doing a poor job of keeping back the moisture borne less from pity than aggravation. With a restless growl she kicked herself back on her bed and set about massaging her thighs. I was treated to a full exhibition of her healthy folds. She opened her legs to the window as the breeze gusted past my shoulders and rippled over her supple skin. That seemed to soothe her but she still touched herself obsessively.



All the while I felt my foreskin strain from the blood that filled my penis in a way it had not in years. I was thirty-seven. I had been with my wife, a handful of other women. I had never been Casanova but I had at least had my luck and a few patient lovers who had taken their time to teach me how to love them. I grasped myself. I let myself go. No, man was more than his corruptible instincts. This was not what I had slaved sleepless nights for, to masturbate outside ladies’ windows like a perverted creature from some mad fantasy. I could turn away. I would turn away! Right now I would turn away—!



But I had to know what she was saying first. Had to. I had been uniquely blessed to come this far, to witness this ultimate moment of privacy, to see another person so fully convinced they were alone, not surrounded in a crowd, not cuddling with a lover, not with twenty-five cameras in their face, not scripted, not anonymous on the internet—someone truly alone. Alone! Amber was murmuring something and I had to know.



I quietly lifted myself up to the window (harder than you might imagine as it is confounding to climb on anything when you cannot see your fingers, or your feet, and you have a truly heroic erection). If Amber had not been so distracted she would have heard my awkward shimmying through the portal and the somewhat muffled thump as I sprawled over the carpet.



What adrenaline hadn’t been coursing through me before now released in a wave of almost nauseating power. I felt my whole body shake, my fingers and toes literally tingle, my knees flexed and I felt an ache in the small of my back. I stood slowly, feeling huge in this alien room and Amber not three paces from me. She was naked, her feet up on the edge of her bed, her heels pushing into the mattress. The comforter was a mess and she squeezed the skin of her thighs between her thin, hard fingers. Her nipples pointed rigidly to the ceiling while she ground her ass into her sheets, her neck arched back, her open mouth pleading with her locked door. It was very definitely locked.



I could smell her. It was a thick, bold smell, the smell of a young woman in primordial heat, the smell of a healthy runner’s sweat, the smell of the night barely added to the mix and buffeting the perfume of her wet sex into my face and nostrils. Shaking, I came closer. I stared down at the impressions I made in the dense carpeting. If she suddenly sat up and saw the invisible footsteps coming toward her, she’d scream. She’d have to scream. But I had to know. Hadn’t I? For science? For myself? For what?!



Suddenly I was leaning over her, at her side. I could taste her frustration, the struggle to release herself from her body. It must have hurt, because she said, “Please…”



That’s all she said. That’s all she was saying. “Please… Please…” she went on, breathing it. Her breasts flattened and jiggled as she lay on her back and she seemed to fumble between gripping herself, her abdomen, and running her fingers back down to her vagina but all the while she kept saying, “Please…”



If I were a demon I might have ravished her. If I were an angel I might have flown away. But I am just a man.



I came around the bed. I kneeled down. I took a moment to stare, fixated, at the swollen, sopping lips of Amber’s pussy. That’s what it was, and her fingers needed desperately to calm it, but they couldn’t calm it. Instead they teased it, frustrated it, missed her clitoris or panicked it. I braced myself for what could very well lead to a broken nose, a kick in the face. Any explanation I could give would only snap against the one solid truth in this room: that I wanted her, to release her, to taste her.



I set my hands on either side of her round bottom and leaned in.



Several events happened at once. I do not have the ability to describe them all in perfect detail but imagine if you will these five things:



A tiger in a young woman’s belly.



A clam made entirely of wet muscle snapping shut on your neck.

Thanks to so many of you for encouragement over the last 2 months. Good news, I am now healing from my illness instead of still dying from it, and getting back in good shape has been occupying most of my time! Thanks for hanging in there. I hope to write at a faster pace now that I am feeling better! Remember to vote and that I live for your comments! – Rosamundi



*



Full and a bit drowsy, they relaxed together as the afternoon faded, forgetful of the time. Addy looked at Hal longingly across the fire, “I’m fairly skeptical about the idea intellectually, but that true mate notion seems more plausible by the moment to my body. And…” she trailed off, looking down shyly. It was adorable.



“And your heart,” Hal replied quietly, gently. “Mine too.” He unfolded himself gracefully and moved to her side, then lay down with his head in her lap again. Her skirt was damp from washing up and cool against his nape. He closed his eyes and smiled, basking in Addy’s softness and scent. Content.



Addy’s hand soothed Hal’s forehead, she stroked it slowly and rhythmically, running her fingers through his thick wavy hair as she had longed to at first glance. From afar it looked solid grey, but she noticed as she gazed down at him fondly that it was a mix of white, silver and charcoal, like his beard and his fur when he took wolf form. Why did men always get the perfect hair? Her fingers moved down to his whiskers, scratching lightly. Hal tilted his head back to grant her better access and sighed happily, exposing his throat without a second thought. Addy didn’t know much about werewolves, but suspected she understood what that meant. They just didn’t go around making themselves that vulnerable, she was sure. His trust in her moved her deeply.



She felt curious, but didn’t want to talk just yet. Instead she gently stroked Hal’s throat with her thumb, as he had done with her. He turned his head and kissed her belly, then snuggled into her with a tiny growl, a blend of cute and erotic. She returned to scritching his whiskers, something every bearded man she’d ever known enjoyed. Tired but comfortable, Addy took in the bubbling sound of the stream, chirping of birds and wind in the trees as a sense of peace and joy welled up in her. She could stay like this forever, Hal in her lap and the forest all around her.



Touching just Hal’s head and neck, Addy suddenly understood as she never had before why heroines in her favorite classic novels considered such modest touching love making. It was. She was falling in love with Hal at every pass of her fingers. Though slow to engage in relationships, once in them Addy’s lusty nature had always prevailed and her fondness for kink assured that rough and ready sex quickly followed. Now the strongest lust she’d ever known warred with a new urge to take things slowly, explore every millimeter of Hal’s handsome body at her leisure and for his pleasure. She recalled the old Anglican wedding vow, “With my body, I thee worship.” It seemed profound to her in this moment, describing her desire perfectly.



She sighed out, “Hal, do we really have to wait? Date for a long time? I will if you feel unsure, but I feel that I can trust this instinct. Sometimes they are right, most scientific progress is based on gut feelings that we eventually demonstrate with evidence. I’m content with the evidence so far. I want to be with you, be one with you.”



Hal opened his dark eyes and looked into hers solemnly. He did not speak for so long that Addy started thinking how she could back out of what she had just said. She’d never made such a bold declaration of love, and the thought of rejection pained her. She was about to stammer out an apology when Hal stopped her with a joyful murmur.



“It seems we already may be one with each other, sweet. And there’s nothing I want more than to make you mine forever. There are things you need to know though, you have to understand what mating entails. It’s more than just a marriage, though it is that. And we don’t know anything about each other, if we could make a happy life together, if we’re compatible.”



“Well, I don’t feel like running twenty miles to my car, even downhill. You wore me out, remember? We could camp out and talk. I don’t have to work ’til Tuesday. Give me some parameters, here. Any relationship deal breakers, ideas about what makes a good mate and whatever facts you think I need to know about mating, how we go about it.” Addy proposed.



“I’d love to. Let’s switch places.” Hal said to her, obligingly sitting up so she could move. He stretched and smiled at her affectionately as she scooted away from the tree trunk.



“So now I get to lay in your lap?” Addy asked brightly, biting her lower lip with twinkling eyes.



Hal had Addy pinned to the earth before she knew it, hands held down on either side of her head.



“Bad grammar isn’t a deal breaker,” he growled, “but it doesn’t go unpunished either. It’s ‘lie in your lap.’ Would you like to know why I’m off until Tuesday as well, before I start?”



“Hal, I used perfect grammar. I had no intention of just lying there forever.” Addy said as innocently as possible: not very.



“That just means you’ve gone from bad to wicked, and I have to punish you twice, or twice as much, or twice as long. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, but since we have the long weekend, I’ll let you pick.” Hal allowed with an amused yet feral grin.



“Even good grammar warrants being pinned to the ground and punished? Now I’m officially in love with YOU. But what does this have to do with having Monday off from work, of all things?”



“Safe, sane and consensual hardly requires a warrant, my dear. Though I do plan to search your person thoroughly. I’m holding you down so you don’t hurt yourself when you swoon.” Hal transferred her wrists to one hand and pulled them above her head, starting to unbutton her dress with the other while fighting to keep a straight face.



“Well, since you evidently know how to cope with a swoon by unfastening my completely loose dress, please tell me whatever it is with perfect confidence for my safety.” Addy entreated sarcastically.



“Triple punishment for disrespect. Now, if you wish to mate with me you must first be made aware that I am…” he licked down her throat.



“…the Henry Fielding…” then down her collarbone to her gaping bodice.



“…Professor of British Literature at our fair University. We both have Monday off because we both work there. Some administrative thing no doubt.” Hal kissed and nibbled the tops of her breasts once he finished speaking.



“I have to give you credit for knowing how to make me swoon, Hal.” Addy gasped out after a long low moan of approval for his words as much as his actions.



Though unsurprised, delight bubbled over in her knowing he was both a fellow scholar and Car Talk fan, though they were nowhere near Cambridge, Mass. Then there was his ardent treatment of her bared flesh, and the way he was keeping her firmly pinned and grinding his reinstated erection into her. Hal bit rather hard at her left earlobe then licked apologetically at her startled yelp. Addy struggled to free her hands so she could likewise explore him, and she was strong but he was stronger.



He sing-songed into her ear as he traced the shell with his lips, “And I have tenure. Health insurance. Paid conferences all over the UK and Ireland. Familial tuition forgiveness. So I’m looking to start a family, say, this minute. Or at least begin a few years of constant practice. You’re an admitted thespian, I expect your help rehearsing this production over and over and over, Addy.”



She felt perfect beneath him, downy, slightly cool compared to lycan women, with the smoothest skin he’d ever felt. Addy’s futile struggles inflamed his lust, the more because he read the same heated reaction on her countenance. He sprinkled kisses over her face and then took her sweet rosebud of a mouth again, hard and demanding. Her tongue caressed his, she dueled her way into his mouth then tantalized him by curling it around or switching to quick little laps followed by outright sucking. As she played his tongue as he knew she would his cock, Addy moaned and her thighs started to part unconsciously. Hal’s passion rocketed, but he exerted control by squeezing her legs shut again with his own. He pulled back from the kiss and gazed down at her, anticipating her reaction.



As if on cue Addy fought him and gasped in protest, “Hal!”



“You’ve earned a few punishments, as I recall.” He deliberately thrust his arousal against her yielding belly as he grinned sadistically down at her. Addy looked even more beautiful to him as helpless fury overtook her.



“This is completely unfair and disproportionate punishment. How can you tease me this way? I need you, Hal!” she demanded.



“Topping from the bottom, Addy? You know better than that, I hope, or you will when I finish with you. That could mean punishment four, but I’ll just lump it in with your previous disrespect, since I want no more delay before I check our compatibility in fit.” Hal leered cheerfully, “Now, will you finally follow orders like the good sub you’ve implied you are?”



“Yes, sir.” Addy breathed with the most glorious smile he’d ever seen.



Hal climbed off of her reluctantly, ignoring the groan of disappointment. He rose to his feet and glared playfully down at her still prone form, his wolf going wild over sexually dominating his mate as well as her eager submission. His cock pulsed as he ordered her to stand and she complied instantly, lowering her eyes after casting him a bright green sultry glance. Goddess, he wanted to bury himself between her thighs, but it would have to wait while they tested limits first.



“Safe word?” he snapped.



“Shamela.” she answered without pause, and he fought down a snort of amusement.



“Fine choice. It’s the last one you’ll have this night, agreed?”



“I understand and agree wholeheartedly, sir.”



Having asked for and been given Addy’s enthusiastic consent, Hal settled into his role as Dom.



“Strip.” he growled. “Slowly, mate.”



Hal was a living, breathing fantasy, Addy concluded, trembling with desire as she raised her fingers to the remaining buttons on her sundress. They were tiny and placed all the way to the skirt hem, which produced just the sort of halting strip tease both desired. Inch by inch she revealed her body to her mate for the first time, skin tingling, captivated by Hal’s heated scrutiny.



With human vision the rich variety of colors on Addy’s exquisite form rushed upon him. He marveled at the honeyed tones of her skin, and eyed the abundance of darker brown freckles with a silent vow to tease every one with his tongue. Tan lines appeared revealing that his mate enjoyed swimming and predictably didn’t mind wearing a two piece suit, since her rounded midriff glowed the same dark gold as her shoulders. When Addy’s tapered fingertips reached the gathered waist, he commanded that she slip her shoulders out of the sleeveless bodice.



The lacy cups of the black bra he’d only seen a peek of pushed her breasts up in a breathtaking display, and Hal decided tithing to corsetiers was definitely in his future. As the top fell, Addy’s dress slid precariously down her hips for a moment, but stayed in place. Hal’s breath quickened as he gazed raptly on the flow of her hourglass shape and he didn’t know whether to feel disappointed, or thrilled at the prolongation of the enticing show. Each subsequent button carried suspense, until the fourth caused the pretty orange calico to succumb to gravity and fall in a heap at Addy’s feet. She paused for a moment, looking up for his response, heart in her throat at Hal’s wondering admiration. They simply stared into each other’s eyes for a few endless moments, until he spoke softly in a ragged voice.



“Let down your hair now, Addy.” The setting sun caught red in her walnut locks, which rippled down to her waist as she unravelled her braid. Hal anticipated stroking that fine hair from scalp to ends. He nodded for her to continue undressing without lifting his eyes from her body.



Addy slipped out of her cross trainers stepping toe to heel, then her anklet socks by stepping heel to toe. She gracefully leapt out of the pile, contemplating whether to shed her bra or bike shorts and deciding on the first, since it was the only sexy garment left. When she reached for the front clasp she heard Hal gasp with surprised approval. She couldn’t help the sly smile that stole over her countenance as she teasingly revealed one breast at a time, an advantage to that front clasp she’d never fully appreciated before. Then again, no man had ever gazed upon her with such fascinated intensity until this day. His very expression hardened Addy’s nipples as she dropped the bra on the pile behind her, bare toes curling into the damp forest floor.



Hal looked on mesmerized as she stood dressed only in that alluringly shiny fitted garment that had intrigued him earlier, riding just below her hollow navel.



“Oh, Addy love,” he breathed and quoted,” ‘Thy navel is like a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor: thy belly is like a heap of wheat set about with lilies. Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins.’ “



“‘A bundle of myrrh is my well beloved to me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.’ ” She invited in turn.



Having exhausted the fun clothes and more than ready to bare herself entirely to Hal, Addy hooked her thumbs carelessly into her waistband.



“Freeze right there!” he scolded, stalking toward her then tracing the lace edge all around one thigh until he stood behind her, nuzzling the nape of her neck, “What kind of lingerie is this, I’ve never seen it before?”



Aroused or not, Addy couldn’t help laughing, “Lingerie? These are just bike shorts, Hal, they’re not sexy! You’ve seen them millions of times. On men too. They’re for modesty when I decide to rock climb instead of outrun horny werewolves.”



At a quelling rumble, she attempted to resume respectful submission but her lips still quirked as she belatedly added, “Sir.”



“Forgive me,” he whispered in a husky voice, “if a skin tight, lace edged, black, silky undergarment didn’t immediately strike me as modest, sweet. And you didn’t outrun me, as I clearly recall. I was conscious and quite memorably tasting you for the first time. How many of these do you own, by the way?” One hand trailed up her inner thigh while the other caressed her ass.



“Sir, it’s hard to think while you do that. I bike to work when I can, so four or five.”



“Let’s triple that.”



“Your wish is my command.” Addy sighed as Hal continued to fondle her.



“Yes, it is. That’s more like it. Delightful as you look and feel in your completely unsexy bike shorts, I’ll be taking them now.” He slid his hands into the waistband and ran his hands down her satiny hips, thighs, calves and ankles as he claimed his prize. When she had stepped out of them he stood and slapped her derriere. “All right, go find a switch, my little switch, and we’ll sort out who the top is and who’s the bottom. You won’t be able to forget about yours for a week.”



“You can’t be serious.”



“This will be a lot more serious for your adorable ass if I choose the switch instead of you. I’m inclined toward hardwood branches, personally.”



Addy made no reply other than swinging her hips saucily as she disappeared into the wood for a moment and quickly returned holding a thin, flexible switch with leaves intact. She knelt and offered it to him silently across her upheld palms, noting with forgivable pride the way his cock bounced as if reaching out to her in response to that classic submissive pose. Keeping her eyes lowered was sometimes its own reward.



“Already you improve, Addy. Go ahead and look into my eyes. You’ve earned a good strong set of bonds, but since I lack rope, let alone iron manacles, you’ll have to submit to my will alone instead. If you don’t succeed, at least I know as a scientist you can likely count pretty high.” She shivered with delight at his words as Hal took the offered switch and pointed it left, stripping off leaves. “Walk to that birch and lean over with your hands around the trunk.”



Addy complied fluidly, and Hal silently noted that he should ask later how long she had danced. Yet another pleasure to share with his mate. With a frown he realized her inability to stop shifting her feet in discomfort. He walked over and set her aside gently.



Her heart warmed as Hal cleared the ground with his feet, then lifted her own one by one and brushed off the soles tenderly before setting each down in the soft silt. As a result she gasped when he immediately kicked them apart roughly, but recalled her wits and leaned again to encase the smooth papery bark in her hands.



“Don’t start counting yet, this is just a warm up.” Hal breathed into her ear, then ran his left hand through her hair and all over her breasts, belly and thighs while he spanked her with increasing vigor using his right. Her beauty of mind and heart, while endearing, receded to the background as he fully beheld Addy’s beauty of person. Had he played Pygmalion and sculpted his ideal woman, when the statue came to life she could not possibly please him more.



Addy was soon panting raggedly and obviously trying to curtail the welcoming thrust of her bottom into his hand. That might be cheating to a purist, but he wasn’t about to call her on such ardor. Sexual domination was definitely more about sex than domination for him, seeing Addy similarly focused neither surprised nor bothered him. Had it been otherwise, the breathtaking little moans she made would have converted him to her view before long, he was certain. And done with the warm up – he whacked her firmly with the switch.



“One, thank you sir.” Addy cried out unprompted, savoring the sting while trying to remember what comes after one. “Me, apparently.” she thought to herself.



“Well spoken, Addy. No need to thank me though, just numbers for now and you can convince me of your gratitude later.”



Addy scarcely counted into double digits before Hal dropped the switch with a shaking hand, brushed her satiny hair over one shoulder and commenced nibbling and kissing from her nape to the small of her back. Sinking to his knees, Hal feasted on the proof of her arousal. Her quim, covered in uncut curls, tasted sweet as the fluid that soaked it and ran down her thighs. Addy’s uniquely addictive scent had been calling to him all day. He could never give her up now that he’d actually tasted her, he’d rather flop belly up and offer his throat to Rob every day for the rest of his life in apology for doubting him than go without.



Hal caressed and nipped lightly at Addy’s warmed ass cheeks, noting that though she was not the sought after pale and creamy sub, her darker skin marked beautifully. Her wide stance left her sex open to him, and he did not prolong his frustration, but parted her slick folds with his tongue, relishing her cry of pleasure. He was finally touching, tasting, seducing his mate. He quickly had Addy panting just from gently exploring from the outside her lips to her budding clit to its hood at the top of her mound. When she seemed on the verge of hyperventilation, Hal backed off, licking her arousal off her soft inner thighs and kissing down to the backs of her knees. Tiny nibbles there drew out helpless giggles and much squirming, which he rebuked by slapping one thigh sharply, and firmer small bites coaxed out moans so sweet he switched legs to see if there was a match. There was.



Addy soared with happiness and arousal, she thought her legs might collapse, but didn’t feel a shred of the usual self consciousness at the idea. She felt sure it would only elicit a new variation from Hal’s unending collection of smug expressions.



“Please, Hal…” Addy started begging, and he hastily replied, “Come for me, love.”

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