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Their love was too perfect to experience a second time

"One Night With You"

by Ross R. Olney


Sir Knight

Vol. 2 No. 1 1960

     EVEN THOUGH 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 dizzy...dizzy...
     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..." Mark started.
     "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 again.
     "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.
     "You're...er... human...?" 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, humanoid, 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 Mark.
     "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 it's head.
     "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 will...Mark interrupted.
     "Would you rather die?" the face was still smiling pleasantly.
     "But, I...I...," Mark started. "Die, did you say...
     "Unfortunately, yes. 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 just...
     "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 saying goes...
     "Yeah, I know."
     "Maybe we could escape," she whispered, hope brightening her eyes. The faces looked on, smiling securely.
     "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.
     "You...you monsters," 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 answer, darling."
     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."
     "Mark, I...I...
     "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," he chided.
     "And I love you," she answered.
     "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 this...she murmured.
     "I'll still love you. I'll always love you, my darling."
     "They said we'd forget," he reminded her.
     "Can you forget this?" she whispered.
     "No." He couldn't, he knew.
     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 were alone...

     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 sobbed.
     "You will forget," the voice said.
     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.
     "Please...please..." 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, fading away.
     "Mark...darling she 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 him coming.
     "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.

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