By Frank A. Baburek
She was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. At least by 28 year old Phillip Shelby's opinion of what the perfect girl would look like. Ever since his early boyhood thoughts of girls as an avoidance and annoyance changed to wonder and exploration, he built up the characteristics of his ideal woman. This of course was with help from Women's magazines and Playboy. Short, silky, natural blond hair, deep blue eyes, facial complexion smooth and unflawed all in a partnership with a figure in all the right proportions. She now sat before him at a small table drinking a Coffee Latte and reading a Newspaper.
He first laid eyes on her a week earlier when he had altered his morning routine one day and stopped at a different Coffee Shop on his way to work at a downtown office. With the absence of any rings on her fingers and any companions at her table, his time was now occupied with figuring out just how to meet her. Most of the advice he got from friends and fellow employees was just too ludicrous to the point of being so obvious. He wanted to make a good impression from the beginning so that any relationship would have a chance to take hold and flourish. As it happens, the introduction came unexpectedly this very morning when he was passing her table and got bumped by an impatient man in a hurry to catch a bus. His hot latte spilled across the table and some of the foamy liquid made it onto her lap. He was horrified at the event.
"Oh Gee, I'm truly sorry," he pleaded. He just knew his face had turned several shades of red as he hurriedly tried to sop up the mess with the napkins he was carrying. This was not the way he envisioned their first encounter.
"That's O.k." she replied standing up to minimize the damage. "I didn't quite like this outfit anyway."
He was pleasingly surprised at the calmness of her response and the sound of her angelic voice.
"If I can pay to have it Dry cleaned or anything I will," he said as he continued to mop up the liquid from the table with the few napkins he had.
She smiled at him and he felt his knees grow weak while the hot coffee burning his fingers went unnoticed. Her flawless auburn complexion was accented by deep blue eyes which sparkled from the neon lights decorating the coffee shop walls. He wanted to take her in his arms right then and there and declare his love and his forever commitment to her, but somehow common sense filtered through his fervid struck mind and told him that would be wrong, big time.
"That won't be necessary, I have time to go back to my apartment and change," she replied as she wiped off the remaining liquid from the front of her dress.
"Let me pay for a Taxi to take you home. I feel I owe you that much," he said while his heart continued it's racing pace and his mind kept drifting off about thoughts of him and her together.
"No need, I live within walking distance and I'm sure I won't be the only one on the street wearing questionable attire." They both smiled briefly at her comment.
His mind now shook off its euphoric state and went into overdrive. He had to make a move, she was getting ready to leave. Whether he liked it or not, his one chance was now or never. He began to sweat. He felt like a young boy asking a girl out for the first time.
"My name is Phillip Shelby," he said holding out his hand, "I owe you at the very least a Dinner. Please, let me make up for your inconvenience. My intentions are honorable." He immediately regretted adding that last statement. It sounded dumb.
She hesitated and looked at him for several moments which to him seemed like hours. His thoughts were now racing because if she declined, his fantasy, his hopes and the dream of him and her being a couple would be dead and buried with little hope of resurfacing.
"Theresa Calvert," she finally replied taking his hand, "my answering service number is in the book."
The moment her hand touched his it felt to Phillip like a mild electrical shock that ran through his entire body. He didn't want to let go, he wanted to hold it forever feeling its warmth and the excitement it stirred within him. But again, common sense told him to make it brief and friendly. As she turned and left, he stood there watching her walk out the door and down the street. As she disappeared from sight, he only then realized he must of looked like a drooling idiot to the people around him, but he didn't care. He had done it, his foot was in the door and now he had to make sure that the door would open completely.
She was by no means easy to persuade. Reluctant at first to start any kind of a relationship after that first dinner date, Theresa finally gave in to Phillip's tenacious pursuit and the fawning he exhibited. After the hard fought acceptance, his life was turned upside down. Over the next several months he was dancing in the clouds of heaven. His job became wasted time away from her. He ignored for the most part his co-workers and friends. His whole world was centered on her now, and he loved every minute of it. They partook in all that New York city had to offer. They attended Plays, movies, Concerts and dined at the finest of restaurants to the street corner Hot Dog vendors. He had fallen into the vortex of love and though she was secretive on so many personal aspects of her life, he knew she was the one he wanted to share the rest of his with. A whole new World had been opened up to him and she was the main attraction. He never wanted to lose her, so the decision to ask her for her hand in marriage was the obvious next step to keep her by his side. That step, he concluded after much debate with himself, would be implemented after an early evening carriage ride one Thursday evening.
"So where should we go to eat tonight?" he asked helping her out of the carriage with the ring he had purchased earlier in the day in his pocket. It was now a matter of building up his courage and waiting for just the right time which favored the asking of the question.
"How about Svobodny's on fifth, I heard they have excellent Eastern European cuisine," she replied while looking up and down the street for a taxi.
"Fine with me," he said as his stomach turned with the thought of what he wanted to do. Was it to early in the relationship to ask her to marry him? Maybe he should wait another month or two. The finalization of the conflict he had with himself earlier was unraveling. The thoughts rattled around in his brain while they waited for a passing Taxi. His discord was finally settled however when they sat down in the back of the cab and she slipped her hand in his.
He went through the motions of eating his meal never tasting the spices which enriched the pork, sauerkraut and dumplings. The wine she selected might as well have been water. His sense of taste was gone, lost in the emotional tidal wave which swept over him. He was never so engulfed with such intense passion in his life.
As the waiter left after returning his credit card, he turned to face her. Reaching out across the small table, he gently held both her hands. Her eyes where like shimmering pools of blue Hawaiian waters and her face radiated with a beauty far more then any woman he had ever known. He froze for a moment absorbing that beauty before finally speaking. "There is something I want to ask you." he said. His throat was dry, his heart was racing, "Theresa, will you marry me?" He almost choked on the words but got them out correctly.
The transformation of her smiling facial expression to one of shear fright was immediate. "Oh my God, what have I done."
Phillip was confused at the reply.
"You don't understand," she continued, her voice now quivering, "I can't get married, I can't have kids or live in the suburbs, I won't even be around much longer."
His heart sunk to his knees kicking his stomach on the way down. He was dumbfounded and felt like he was hit in the face with a brick. There was always that slight chance of a turndown in the back of his mind but he kept it buried, deep, not wanting to give it the possibility to come to the forefront.
She slid her hands from under his and got up. "I'm so sorry I misled you," she said almost in tears, " please forgive me", then she turned and at a quick pace, left the restaurant.
Phillip was stunned. He sat there, arms still stretched across the table. His mind kept going over what had just happened. What mistake did he make. Her response was puzzling to him. They were getting along together just fine. She seemed to feel towards him the same way he felt towards her yet should he have waited till he found out more about her. He had never been inside her apartment. He had only a vague idea of where she worked. He knew nothing of her family or even friends. But none of that should have mattered. Somehow, someway, he must have blown it.
The next day was Friday. He decided to call in sick and spent most of the day in a deep depression. In the evening he finally decided to call Theresa if only to apologize although he wasn't quite sure what for. He got her answering machine. His first reaction was to just hang up but thought better of it. "Theresa this is Phillip, we really need to talk", he said, then he gently put the handset back in it's cradle.
Over the course of the next several days he left numerous messages with her answering service but never got a response. He couldn't understand why she would cut him off so completely. She had now once again turned his life upside down but this time for the worst. She had become such a part of his existence that it hurt immensely now that it was missing. The euphoria bubble she had wrapped around him had now burst. He felt alone and he didn't like it. What had gone wrong? He just couldn't let his feelings for her be ignored or worst, banished. Phillip needed answers.
The morning Sun illuminated the cloud cover to a milky grey. He felt like a stalker as he sat in his car a block away from the old converted warehouse where he had picked her up and dropped her off many times while they were dating. The area was being renovated with the brick buildings being outfitted as upper-class condominiums. She would never let him inside and at the time it really didn't matter to him but now he was curious. Maybe something inside her condo would give him clues to understanding her rejection.
At just past 9 A.M. she appeared outside the building. A deep yearning swelled inside him and the memory of her touch flared within his mind and body which left him motionless as he watched her step up to the curb and wave a Taxi down. After getting in the back, her cab pulled away and disappeared in the morning's shadowy light. His resolve returned to the forefront only upon her absence. He got out of his car and crossed the street. In the doorway of the apartment complex he looked over the list of occupants, each having their own name tags and a small buzzer next to it. Calvert was listed in 7B which was on the top floor. He glanced at the entry door and its impressive locking mechanism. Looking through the glass facade he saw a small foray and beyond an elevator with hallways leading off to the right and left.
He was stymied. The insight of a locked outer door never occurred to him. As he thought of how to get into the building his eyes watched a young boy came bouncing out of the elevator, through the foray and out the front door. Phillip grabbed the door before it could close. He smiled briefly to himself and the boy. The first obstacle was conquered. He took the elevator up to the seventh floor and briefly looked up and down the hallway before stepping out. With no one around he checked the markings on the doors until he found 7B. Obstacle number two was getting into the apartment. He remembered how on TV they would take a credit card and work it in the breach of the door to slip the locking bolt back so the doorknob would turn. He took out his Visa card and shoved it into the crack between the door frame and the door lock. After several attempts his credit card split in two. Scratching his head he decided to give it another shot. This time he took out his American Express card which he never used because of the high interest rate and tried again. After several minutes when he was on the verge of giving up, the door handle turned just enough to allow the locking bolt to slip out of the door frame plate. He smiled briefly again. Maybe he should have been a burglar.
He slowly walked into a dimly lit hallway. Off to the left was an entrance into a kitchen. In the meager light he could make out the stove, refrigerator and the sink but something seemed odd. He felt for and found a light switch then debated with himself for a moment. She was gone, neighbors may or may not know that. The light may attract attention. Then again maybe not. He was already inside. He persevered and flipped it on. As the light illuminated his surroundings, he noticed that there was nothing on the countertops. No dishes, no glasses, no toaster or containers of any kind. He opened some of the cabinets and drawers and found nothing inside them. The refrigerator and its freezer were also bare. Maybe she couldn't cook he reasoned, then conceded it made no sense. He proceeded into the living room area. It was completely empty. He now questioned whether or not he was in the right apartment or even an occupied one. As he tried to make sense at his findings a slight humming sound invaded his thoughts. Walking over to a closed door which he presumed was a bedroom he put his ear to its edge. After several seconds and some debate, he opened it. There was no bedroom furniture at all, but in the far corner of the room was a collection of what looked like electronic equipment with lights, switches, gauges and monitors. He was confused. After finding the light switch for the room and turning it on, he walked over to the apparatus. It stood about eight feet high and eight feet across. Several of the monitors flashed symbols of which he had never seen before. Above the switches and lights were other foreign characters. At the far end was a monitor which had a CNN newscast on. An explanation for what he was looking at was illusive. None of what he was seeing made any sense. Why in the world would she have all this electronic stuff. Was he even in the right apartment he wondered. As he was looking over the perplexing collection something eerie developed. He was overcome by a feeling of vulnerability and the need to vacating the premises as fast as possible overtook him. He succumbed to the perceived threat and retraced his steps, shutting off the lights and making sure the door was locked behind him. He then left the building.
While laying in bed that evening he was now confounded by the thoughts of their past relationship and what he had seen in her apartment. Confronting her now was not an option he wanted to think about. The stuff he had found and its purpose was baffling. It had answered none of his questions and had just raised more questions. He needed more info. Tomorrow, he decided, he would follow her to her work. Maybe a better insight could be gained by finding out just what she did for a living.
The morning was cold and misty. He sat behind the wheel drinking his Latte after paying the atrocious price of $6.50. He only took several sips of the drink before she appeared. Attempting to place it in the cup holder it spilled onto the passenger side floor. He hastily maneuvered out of his hidden parking space to follow the Cab she had gotten into. The traffic through town was terrible but he was able to follow her across the city toward a warehouse district on the Westside. Most of the buildings and factories here had long been abandoned and left to rot leaving a decaying legacy of the area's glory years. She was left out in front of an old red brick building which had a faded sign that read "Konislav's Storage". He hid with his car aside an abandoned truck trailer about fifty yards distance and watched her disappeared through a door on a loading dock.
He wanted to follow her in but he was afraid of running into her or anyone else that might be there. Phillip sat in his car deciding what to do next. The lack of people or traffic made it impossible to approach the building without being noticed if anyone were looking. With no options available and the smell of his spilled Latte attacking his nostrils, he existed his vehicle and took the risk of simply walking up to where she had entered. After a moments hesitation he turned the doorknob slowly and quietly slipped into the building.
It was dark, but not dark enough that he couldn't see. Light was filtering in through the grimy stained windows which ran across the far wall near the ceiling. The cavernous room was empty except for garbage sprawled across the floor and then there was the odor. It smelled like a well used dumpster. He wondered what in the world she was doing in a place like this. She certainly couldn't be working in this dump. With such surroundings, as dingy and dark as they were though, they did give him confidence in his concealment. He moved ahead as quietly as he could.
He came upon metal stairs which showed promise with signs of having recently being used. Silence at this point was his main goal as he climbed the stairs and listened for any noise of someone else's doing. He was greeted by a huge room void of anything except garbage and the pillars holding the floor above. He traveled up 3 more floors each like the one before it. On the fifth floor he heard a faint but familiar sound. It took him several moments before he connected with were he had heard it before. It was the same sound he heard in her apartment and it was coming from the next floor up.
The stairs beckoned him but he didn't move. His indecision came from what he may find. He stood there at the foot of the stairs thinking how the love of his life had become a first class mystery woman. He had spent over 3 months with her, almost everyday, and yet he didn't know her at all. What in the world was going on. There just had to be a logical explanation for his discoveries so far.
"What the hell are you doing here?" The loud voice came out of the silence from behind him and startled him enough he could swear he soiled his pants.
He turned, recognizing the voice though never with that much anger in it. "You scared the crap out of me," he said.
"Like I said, what are you doing here?" Theresa replied. Her voice softer and quieter but still firm.
"You walked out on me, you didn't answer my phone calls, I just can't forget you and act like I never met you. I still love you," he replied.
Her arms which were propped on her hips now fell to her sides. She lowered her head and half turned. "I should have never got involved, it was a stupid mistake on my part."
"Why?" he said searching for an answer, "Are you married? Do you have kids? Are you Amish?"
"You wouldn't understand," she replied, " I'm not suppose to get close to anyone."
"I'm not just anyone and you know it," he said as his confidence began building inside him. "We have something special together and I'll do anything to keep it, anything." He needed and wanted her no matter what.
She turned and looked at him in his eyes. "I am not like you," she said.
"No kidding," he replied, "it's one reason why I'm attracted to you."
"No, you don't understand," she said then hesitated, " I'm not like you, I'm not... Human," she said with a sadness entwined in her voice.
"What?" It was all he could think of to reply to her declaration.
"I am what you might call, a Holograph." she said as her demeanor became complacent. " More advanced then what you here on Earth are capable of, but basically a 3D image. I have Artificial Intelligence supplied by a bio-computer which builds intelligence into my image. Over time it gains knowledge and I can act on that knowledge. In this case, it has gone farther then it maybe should of."
Phillip stood there completely bewildered. Was she kidding with him or could she maybe be mentally unbalanced. This had to be a joke but why was she doing this to him?
"I can see you don't believe me," she said reading the confusion written across his face. She grabbed his hand and pulled him up the stairs.
The room was huge but mostly empty. In the far corner was what looked like the same kind of equipment at her apartment. It occupied a small section of the far wall. She lead him over to it.
"Stand here," she ordered as she maneuvered him over to one side. She then walked over to the equipment and operated some switches and knobs. "Now watch me."
Within moments she began to fade into a ghostly figure. He could see the glowing lights and the equipment directly behind her. The scene reminded him of the Casper the Ghost movie only this Ghost was the girl he loved.
"But I don't understand, " he said as the shock of what he was witnessing lessoned. "I held your hand, I kissed you, we even were... you know,... together. How could you not be real?"
She returned to normal as quickly as she had faded. "In a sense, I am real or maybe I should say as 'solid' as you are. I'm just not organically composed like you," she said walking up to him. "Now granted I don't need to eat or sleep but I can, and along with my artificial intelligence I do have your full range of emotions and senses. After all, isn't that what your species use to rule and thrive on this planet?"
He didn't know what to say. She had given his life a new direction and brought such joy and happiness into it, but he never could have imagined what was now being laid out in front of him.
"I see the bewilderment in your eyes," she said taking his hands in hers, "Let me try to explain. I was placed on this planet about a year ago, your time, by a superior intelligence from another planet outside your solar system. My mission was to collect data about you humans for the possibility of contact. My creators have recently decided to delay that contact and give the Earth inhabitants another hundred of your years to mature and rid yourselves of your aggressive nature before considering any interaction," she hesitated squeezing his hands within hers, "Although they have plans to remove me and the associated equipment, I have come to realize that I too have very strong feelings for you. I might be able to convince them to let me stay here on Earth and observe till my power source fails. Calculations indicate I should be able to spend at least the next 50 years here before that happens. The question now is," she looked directly at him with those sparkling blue eyes, "do you want me to stay?"
He stood there motionless. Alien beings spying on Earth. A girl built with 3D images and an Artificial Intelligence. Other varies thoughts and questions raced around inside his head. Was this for real or just his imagination running amok. He wasn't sure of anything but she had asked him a question and was waiting for an answer. It was now up to him. It didn't take him long to toss aside the doubts and fears he was feeling and the logical answer to that question. He decided to just follow the yearning he felt in his heart and soul. He didn't want to live without her. "Stay," he said softly.
They both smiled and fell into each others arms. At precisely the same time, they whispered in each others ear, "I love You".