Their love was too perfect to experience
a second time
"One Night With You"
by Ross R. Olney
Vol. 2 No. 1 1960
it was the middle of September,
the hot Los Angeles sun wasn't able to penetrate the dim, air-conditioned
interior of the Porcupine Lounge on the strip. The low hum of conversation,
the piped in music, the occasional outburst of discreet laughter, nothing
swayed Mark Landers' obvious study of the vision seated alone at the small
table across the dark room. She was a redhead, but not the loud, flashy
kind who always show up in bars ready to prove to all comers, for the price
of a drink, the true coloring of their hair. No, this one was different.
This one had a cool
beauty, with red hair sweeping back from a calm, perfectly proportioned
face and a figure to match, hidden, yet subtly revealed by the expensive
black dress. He wondered why she was alone, then how he could change that
unpleasant status. Somehow he sensed that the usual approaches wouldn't
work. Boldly approaching her, or even sending a drink to her table, wouldn't
do he knew. This one was different, and brother, what a difference. The
bartender had told him her name was Marlene Storm and that she was a hot
property around the studios.
One night, just one
night, with her and...Mark sighed and turned back to his Scotch and water.
Like last night at the beach house--if only he'd been with her instead
of alone. Last night he'd ached for a woman. He had been alone though,
walking the beach...alone on the beach, and then...funny, he couldn't remember...
THE MOON, so recently
violated by man, looked down serene and un changed. A night for love, Mark
Landers decided, kicking at a conch shell recently brought ashore by the
coming tide. He watched the diminutive tip of a breaker lick at it, try
to pull it back, then retreat unsuccessfully. Alone on a night like this,
he cursed to himself. And miles to the nearest town and women.
Originally, it had been
a good idea, taking this beach place miles from any distraction. If Barstow
and Dunn accepted his drawings of the new Van Nuys shopping plaza, he was
made as an architect. It was the break of a lifetime and he'd poured his
heart into it. But now it was finished, lying back at the shack ready for
submission, and damn good if he did say so. Now he wanted to relax. He
sighed and turned back towards the beach house.
The first moment he
heard the sound it seemed as if it was coming from inside his head. Then
it grew louder and came, from directly above. He looked up, trying to see
through the darkness. There was nothing. Probably one of the new jets the
air force was working on, he decided. He continued on down the beach.
Only the beach wasn't
there. It wasn't under his bare feet where it should have been! He was
The room around him
swam into view.
It was blue in color
and contained no furniture except whatever he was lying on. The pleasantly
dim light seemed to originate from the walls around him. He raised himself
to a sitting position.
"We were momentarily
worried, humanoid," the voice said. Or...came to him, at least.
He looked around, panic
stabbing at him. He was alone in the room.
"Who...who are you...?
Where are you ...?" Mark managed through clenched teeth.
"It matters not who
we are." There was no voice, no sound. The answer to his question was coming
from within his own mind. "As to where we are...? We are here, around you."
"But...but I don't..."
"Have no fear. You cannot
see us but you will not be harmed...if you cooperate."
Mark tried to
understand what was happening. First he was on the beach, then he was here,
in this room...and hearing voices in his brain. What did they mean, cooperate?
"Yes. You will be required
to give us certain information. If you do, you will be released, unharmed."
"Wh...what sort of information...
"You are in a vehicle
millions of miles in space. It will be generations before any of your kind
approaches what you and your companion are experiencing."
Fear stabbed at him
again. This couldn't be...He was 'dreaming. He'd fallen on the beach and
hit his head on a rock or something. He'd wake up soon. A companion? He
didn't have any companion.
"Yes, there was another
of your kind, or similar to your kind, brought up with you...
Their habit of reading
his thoughts was getting under his skin.
Mark stood abruptly.
"I don't see anybody. Who is he...? Where is he...?"
Laughter came through
"You will meet him presently."
For some reason it bothered
him to be dressed only in a brief bathing suit. If they'd thought to bring
him some pants he would have felt a little better. Not that he was ashamed
of his build, women seemed to love it, but right now that didn't seem to
help at all.
"Time is valuable, we
must get on. Observe the wall, please," the voice ordered.
Mark braced himself.
Apparently whatever device they planned to torture him with had something
to do with the wall. Cold sweat began to break out on his forehead, but
he kept his eyes glued to the bare will before him. He wasn't even sure
if that was the wall they meant but he had a feeling that if it wasn't
they'd soon correct him. He sat straight. He'd go out like a man.
The wall began to dissolve
before his eyes. One minute it was solid and impregnable, the next it was
wispy, like a curtain. Even in his shock, the thought crossed his mind
what he could, as an architect, do with a trick like that. Things beyond
the wall started to take shape. It looked almost like a bedroom, no, not
a bedroom exactly, though there was a bed or something in the middle of
the room. He stared, trying to penetrate the filmy haze. The wall was almost
completely dissolved and forms, smaller forms, were beginning to show through.
Then Mark saw her.
She cowered on what
looked like a very earth-like chaise lounge and was trying desperately
to hide her striking figure with a shorty night gown that offered very
little protection. She was crouched on legs doubled beneath her and her
tanned arms were crossed fearfully over her breasts. She too was watching
the wall intently.
Mark was about to speak
when the voice came again.
"Humanoids, you are
now visible to each other. Do not fear, please."
Visible, Mark decided,
was putting it mildly. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
Flaming red hair, smooth skin, small, upturned breasts, peeping out where
her slim arms and the scant nightgown failed to hide them. His bathing
suit felt suddenly more ample when he stood to greet her.
"My name is Mark Landers,"
he said. "Do you know what's going on?" He forced himself to look her in
the eye as he spoke.
"My...my name is Marlene
Storm..." He could see that she was terrified. She ignored his question
in her fear.
he stammered. He knew it sounded ridiculous in view of her obvious human
attributes but, with all that had happened, he wasn't taking any chances.
"Yes...yes, of course,
and...and I'm afraid...so afraid..." she said, on the verge of tears.
The protective instincts
a man feels for a helpless woman flowed through Mark and he walked to her
bravely, disregarding the aliens and completely forgetting the wall that
had been between them. He was through before he remembered. Turning, he
walked back and waved his arms like a sleepwalker, trying to feel where
the wall had been. He remembered they weren't alone when the laughter again
came to him.
"An interesting reaction
humanoid, and more advanced than we expected."
No matter which way
Mark turned, he couldn't seem to face in the direction of the voices. Finally
he settled by facing in a general direction away from the girl, thus putting
himself between her and them. "Now look you..." he started.
control. You are in no position to get angry," it warned.
Mark knew they were
right. He couldn't fight what he couldn't see.
"Where are you...?"
It was weak, but it was a demand. "Let me see you...if you dare," he added.
For a moment there was
complete silence, then, "Hmmmm...perhaps you are right. Perhaps it would
be easier if you could see who you are dealing with."
Then the faces began
to appear, hazy at first, then more clearly. There were several of them,
but one seemed to dominate the foreground. It was not a cruel face as he
had expected, but a pleasant, almost happy countenance topped by silvery
hair. The faces started to fade again.
"No, stay here where
we can see you," Mark demanded.
"If you wish," the leader
answered and the faces remained, hazy but visible.
Marlene cowered behind
"What we wish is simple.
We have been observing your development for some time. Your culture, your
warfare, your attempts to conquer space, your advancing intelligence. Our
reports are nearly complete, except for one small detail...
"Which is..." Mark asked.
"The preoccupation of
your culture with...sex, I believe you have named it."
Mark swallowed. "S...sex...
"Yes. It is difficult
for us to understand why, in your relatively intelligent search for so
many things, you continue to be the only culture left without mechanical
reproduction. Why you remain bi-sexual. It is quite obvious that among
you there are two types, each with certain basic physical differences."
Mark backed to the bed
and sat down. It made him feel less like a goldfish in a bowl.
"We have found that
mechanical reproduction is so much simpler, less bothersome, and have,
as a result, become uni-sexual."
"You guys are nuts,
do you know that?" Mark stormed. "Crazy...
"We would expect such
a reaction from you," the hazy face said, "however this does not solve
our problem. Why do you rush headlong into each other's arms with reproduction,
many times at least, not at all the object? Most difficult to understand...
Mark could see it shaking
"So, what do you want
with us?" he asked, though deep down he had begun to suspect.
"It is very simple.
We wish to observe a demonstration of this process here in our clinic so
that we may study and record thoughts and feelings that proved impossible
on your planet away from our instruments. Now if you will...
"I'll be damned if I
"Would you rather die?"
the face was still smiling pleasantly.
"But, I...I...," Mark
started. "Die, did you say...
We do dislike using force but, we feel sure you will cooperate. I trust
you do not find the partner we have selected...uninteresting...
Mark looked at Marlene.
She was beautiful.
"Well, no, as a matter
of fact," he answered.
"You, humanoid," the
face said to Marlene, "is this humanoid repulsive to you?"
Marlene looked up at
Mark. "No...no, of course not."
"I thought not. You
will proceed, please."
"But why us?" Mark asked.
"Why pick on us...
The face moved closer
until it was suspended in the air only a few feet from them. The others
held back. "You were both carefully selected for physical perfection,"
it explained patiently. Mark sat a little straighter. "...and mental....er
...appropriateness, if I make my self clear. You," it said to Mark, "have
never, in your adult life, refused. You," to Marlene, "though not as practiced,
show tendencies to yearn for one such as this. Now begin."
"And if we tell...?"
Marlene asked timidly.
The face again laughed.
"You threaten us?" It laughed harshly. "You do not seem to realize your
position. Well, it matters not. Very simply, all recollection of this night
will be removed from your minds before you are released. Now, time is wasting.
After all, we are only asking you to do what you are either doing or dreaming
of doing normally."
Mark knew they had him
there, but he decided to try one more time. "But I... that is, she...
The patient look faded
from the face and anger replaced it. "Proceed please, we haven't all tri-sec."
He felt Marlene lean
into him and turned to her. She looked up at him.
"But...but we can't...can't
"Got any ideas?" he
asked quietly. ''No," she answered, trying to control her sobs.
Mark felt drawn to her.
She wasn't the type to be prissy or overly modest, he knew. If she wanted
to, or if she loved him, hell or high water couldn't keep her from it,
but if she didn't...The honesty he saw in her eyes was a rare thing for
so beautiful a woman, and he appreciated it.
"I don't know why I'm
fighting it," he tried to joke. "You're pretty terrific, you know."
She smiled timidly.
"You're okay yourself, and maybe some other time, some other place as the
"Yeah, I know."
"Maybe we could escape,"
she whispered, hope brightening her eyes. The faces looked on, smiling
"Maybe..." Mark didn't
think so. He knew there was no way, no door or window. He knew this thing
was beyond their comprehension. Still nothing ventured, nothing gained...
"Do not do anything
foolish, humanoids!" the face said sternly. "You have no choice."
No door or window, just
plain blueish wall and ceiling still, the last wall had been an illusion.
Maybe the others were too. Mark leaped to his feet, made a choice of walls
and bolted toward it. If he could get through, maybe he could figure out
what was happening, rescue Marlene, anything. It was better than being
a guinea pig in the hands of powers he didn't understand.
As he leaped he heard
Marlene's cry, "Mark, be careful!"
It felt as though he'd
attacked a locomotive under a full head of steam. Pain smashed through
his whole body as he was hurled back like a rag doll to land on the floor
by the bed. He hadn't gotten near the wall, something, some unseen thing,
had slammed him back. He was dazed and sore but he could see Marlene.
She had jumped up and
was standing over him defiantly facing the unknown voice. Like a tiny kitten
protecting him from a pack of wild dogs she planted her fists on her hips
and glared. Even through his pain Mark could see that, no matter how hard
she tried, she didn't look very tough. She looked soft and wonderful.
she cried, "you've hurt him...
Then she stooped and
cradled his head against her soft breasts, rocking slightly, holding him
gently. "Are...are you hurt badly, Mark?" she soothed. "Can you answer...please
He was beginning to
feel a little better as his head cleared. "I'm... I'm okay, I think...but
don't stop," he said, smiling up at her. She continued to hold him gently.
"I warned you, humanoid,"
the voice boomed. "Now will you cooperate?"
They were on a desert
island, the two of them. He looked up into her dark eyes and saw realization
dawn in them, realization and resignation. They were trapped...helpless.
She looked down at him.
"We'll have to do as they say, won't we?"
"You tried Mark. I know
that," she whispered. "Somehow I...I rather look forward to it now..."
Color again came into her face.
Mark put his arm up
around her shoulder. "Marlene, I...I love you," he whispered back. She
started to protest. "No," he continued, "really. Right now I love you more
than anyone I've ever known. You may be the last woman I'll ever see. I...I
can't think of anyone I'd rather be with than you."
He felt her begin to
relax, lean more against him. She looked at him. "Do you...do you think
they'll let us go...after?" she said softly.
"I don't know. And right
now, for some reason, I don't really care."
"Help me up," he whispered.
With her help he stood
slowly and tested his arms and legs for breakage. Everything seemed to
be working normally. He turned to the large bed and they sat down together.
He turned and, for a few seconds, studied her soft, warm lips, then gently
kissed her. Her arms, at her sides until then, slowly curled around him
and she returned his kiss.
"I said I loved you,"
"And I love you," she
"For some reason I...I
love you completely. Maybe it's because we're going to die, or because
you tried to help me instead of...I don't know. I only know I love you."
He held her closely.
"And if we get out of
"I'll still love you.
I'll always love you, my darling."
"They said we'd forget,"
he reminded her.
"Can you forget this?"
"No." He couldn't, he
The faces moved in and
hovered in the air around them. He suddenly wished they would go away,
disappear, but they didn't. Quietly, they watched.
He slowly leaned back
onto the broad pillow, pulling her down with him. Then, gently, he took
the hem of her gown and moved it past her smooth rounded hips. She raised
slightly to help him. Blood pounded in his temples and the faces seemed
to fade slightly as the gown bunched around her waist. She lifted her self
on one elbow and looked into his eyes as he moved the gown slowly higher.
Suddenly she pulled away and tore the gown free revealing completely her
small, perfect breasts. Then she threw herself against him and he could
feel the warmness of her body match the curves of his own, her lips against
his forming the words, "I love you, I love you...
He felt her small
hands moving and caressing him. He'd never known a woman like her.
She pushed and twisted
and matched his every move as though she'd known him and loved him always,
and it made him love her more. When they got out of this, if they got out,
they would see each other again...many times. He visualized them together
at the beach house miles from anyone...he could see the moon, hear the
waves whispering on the shore. He lost himself in her loveliness...they
WHEN THE voice
came again they were resting side by side, her head in the crook of his
arm. They didn't know how much time had passed, nor did they care. They
were together. They had found each other forever. She reached across his
chest and her hand felt cool and soft on his shoulder. He turned slowly
and kissed her forehead. She made no attempt to cover herself, but lay
trusting in his arms.
"You have done well.
You have told us what we wanted to know," the face said, hovering again
before them. Only then did Marlene attempt to cover herself by turning
against him and pulling his arm around her waist. "We see now why you remain
as you are...
Mark was sure he detected
a note of envy in the voice going through his head, though the face didn't
show it. At least the voice had snapped him back to reality. Now they would
see if the aliens would keep their word and release them. He realized,
looking at Marlene, how important it was now for them to be released, to
have a future together.
"You will be returned
from where you came. Are you ready?" the hovering face asked.
"I want to be with Mark,"
Marlene cried. "Send us back together," she pleaded.
"It would do no good,"
the face answered. "As I warned you, all memory of this night will be re
moved from your minds."
"Now wait a minute,"
Mark protested, "why can't we...
"It is necessary," the
voice said simply.
"I won't forget," Marlene
"You will forget," the
Mark looked back at
her and the terror he saw in her eyes was even more than when he'd first
met her. As if she, like he, had found some thing too precious to be lost.
They wouldn't forget, he told himself, they wouldn't...but then he remembered
the intelligence, the overwhelming power of the aliens...
"I am sorry." For the
first time Mark noted a touch of sympathy in the voice.
''But you can't,'' he
started, ''We...we..." then the room started to fade. He felt himself start
to fall. He reached out for Marlene.
she sobbed desperately.
The face, the room,
was fading. "I am sorry," the voice said, then paused, hearing Marlene's
frantic please. "Remember...remember the word Zulo..." it relented,
cried, but her voice was going, fading...
HE SIPPED HIS scotch
and water slowly. He remembered getting up this morning with an odd longing
that he couldn't identify. Like he'd dreamed and then forgotten. Well,
that wasn't getting the redhead for him. Not only was she a knockout but
there was something vaguely familiar about her.
"Well, nothing ventured,
nothing gained," he muttered.
"Pardon, sir?" the bartender
said. "Er...nothing," Mark said, sliding off the stool. He threaded his
way among the tables toward her. He noticed her turn away when she saw
"Pardon me miss," he
started, "But your name doesn't happen to be Zulo, does it?" Now that was
a jerk thing to say.
"Listen Mister, can't
a girl have a quiet drink without some guy trying to pick her up?" she
said crisply. "Now go away."
Mark turned and started
away. Nothing familiar there.
"Mister...?" He heard
her calling him. "I...I don't know why, but...but sit down, won't you.
The name rings a bell."
Mark didn't notice,
in turning back to the table, the smiling, hazy face hovering near the
smoky ceiling. As he sat down, it slowly faded away.