AUTHOR'S NOTE: The original seed of this tale came from a fellow writer here who asked me for a critique and to possibly illustrate or do a graphic version of it at some point. The basic concept and storyline is Cespenar's; I fleshed out the characters, backstories and settings and made a few changes. I do not often engage in collaborations of this sort, but when I do, I find those occasions to be quite rewarding. We hope you will enjoy this soft-core tale of lost love and the supernatural.
Dr. Carol Ponsonby looked down at her monitor. "Seven-point-five," she replied.
"Aperture?" asked her colleague – and current lover – Dr. Alan Grimm, who was watching the video screen displaying the portal in the next room.
"We're at eighteen hundred point six-two-four centimetres," Carol said.
The metallic whining that had been in the background was becoming louder as it rose in pitch. That isn't right, Carol thought. She looked up just as a bright, blinding flash of light like an arc welder's flame appeared on the video monitor. For a brief second, she thought she saw something in that preternatural flame – then quickly shielded her eyes, despite the dark goggles she wore. At the same time, Alan quickly turned away, throwing his arms over his face. There was a loud pop! - then nothing.
As the whining noise began to subside, Alan looked up at the video screen and the portal.
Nothing except for a few sparks around the opening.
"Bugger all," Alan muttered.
Later, Alan walked Carol out to her car, parked near his in the lot at Otherworld Research, Inc. As they strolled out the door and into the damp autumn evening, Carol held the brooding Alan's hand. It was the third time the Crossing Device had shorted out and failed.
"Perhaps we're going places we aren't meant to go," Carol said.
"What sort of rubbish is that?" asked Alan. He stopped. "Carol, you know how important this is."
"For what?" Carol asked.
For centuries, religious traditions throughout the world had held to the concept of an "Afterlife" – another plane of existence where that which was called the "soul" moved and lived after the physical body had died. After his son, a lieutenant in the Royal Marines, had been killed in Afghanistan, Alan started the Otherworld Project as an attempt to bridge the gap between physics and spirit – trying to cross from the world of the living into the world of the dead through manipulation of the time-space continuum at the quantum level. "After all," he frequently said, "religion and science are simply two different languages that attempt to describe the same phenomena."
Carol didn't disagree with the premise – and she understood Alan's obsession. She herself had lost someone she loved a few years previously. It was part of what had brought them together. Carol supposed she "loved" Alan on some level, but realized that, aside from their passion for science and discovery, they had very little in common – other than the fact that they were both wounded people, attempting to find some kind of healing – or at least relief from the pain – through sex.
Carol would never be "in love" with Alan. Not the way she had been with Therese.
As they arrived at Carol's car, Alan turned, looked into her gray-green eyes and gently brushed the light auburn curls away from her aristocratically beautiful face. "May I come stay with you tonight?" he asked.
Carol smiled at Alan. "I'm feeling rather drained," she replied. "Tomorrow?"
Alan nodded. "Of course." He leaned in to kiss her. She turned and offered her cheek. For some reason, she didn't want physical contact with him right now.
"Goodnight, then," Alan said. He turned and started over toward the vintage Jaguar XKE that had been his son's pride and joy.
At thirty-two, Carol was a good twenty years younger than Alan. He's a good chap, she thought, watching the aging – but still handsome and virile – Dr. Grimm moving toward his car. A shame I can't love him the way he deserves.
As she got into her own vehicle, Carol thought about what the poor man had been through – losing his wife of twenty-five years and then his only son within the space of six months. Small wonder he was obsessed with the Otherworld Project.
Driving home to her flat, Carol suddenly remembered what night it was.
Carol and Therese had been close childhood friends. It was an odd friendship. They were opposites in many ways; physically, Carol had been a pale, homely-looking girl with freckles. Therese, whose mother had come from Barbados, was a dusky-skinned beauty with dark eyes and hair. But those were just the superficial differences; Carol had been a withdrawn, moody and studious child, while Therese was talkative, merry and outgoing. Perhaps it had been their differences that had drawn them together.
Then, Therese's parents had divorced. When they were twelve, Therese's mother took her back to Barbados. Carol had been heartbroken, but the two kept in touch through letters, then later, through e-mails and online chat rooms.
During her teen years, the awkward, plain-looking girl who was Carol Ponsonby blossomed into a beautiful young woman, with a stunning face and figure to match. By the time she started her studies at the University of Cambridge (which she chose primarily because it was the alma mater of Stephen Hawking), she found it difficult to avoid the constant attentions of men. She availed herself of lovers periodically, but refused to get emotionally involved with any one man. To Carol, sex was simply an appetite, like hunger or thirst. Still, she had found her experiences with men to be unsatisfying in some undefined way – even with men skilled in sexual techniques and able to bring her to orgasm repeatedly. Most often, she simply took matters into her own hands.
When Carol was twenty-seven, two things happened. First, she received her doctoral degree in theoretical physics.
The second thing was Therese's return from Barbados. It was her intent to pursue an acting career on London's West End. She had also fallen in love with a fellow actor who appeared in frequent productions.
Their reunion was joyous. Therese had become as much a beauty as Carol. They spent almost all their free time together, picking up their friendship where it had left off years earlier.
Eventually, they rented a flat together. Therese's boyfriend, who had immigrated to the UK from Romania, was an odd bird. Therese had met Radu Tepescu when he'd come to Barbados on holiday. Carol met him on a few occasions when Therese brought him home to their flat. He was pale, with piercing dark eyes, a hawk-line nose, almost arrogant cheekbones, a chin chiseled from stone, and black hair. He spoke very little. He made Carol nervous – but she supposed that if he made Therese happy, that was that.
One night, Carol awoke at one in the morning to hear sobbing. She rose and wandered into the front room to find Therese in tears.
"Would you care to talk about it?" Carol asked gently.
Therese shook her head. She turned to Carol, who took the other woman in her arms. They held each other for a long time.
Therese wouldn't talk about what had happened. Over time however, it was hard not to notice Radu's absence; suddenly, he wasn't there. Carol supposed the two of them had broken up, and that Therese would speak of it when she was ready.
Therese and Carol had shared a double bed since moving in together. Even when Therese had been dating Radu, it had not been unusual for she and Carol to fall asleep holding each other.
The change in their feelings for each other happened so gradually, neither of them realized it at first.
One night, Carol awoke to the sound of Therese's crying. She sat up and placed a hand on her friend's bare shoulder. Her chocolate-colored skin was soft and silky...
"Sweet one...please talk to me," Carol said.
Therese looked up. She's so beautiful, Carol thought to herself.
"I - I'm sorry, luv," Therese said tearfully. "I – I simply can't..."
Again, Carol gathered Therese into her arms. "I love you, Therese," she said, caressing the other woman. "You can tell me anything – you know that, don't you?"
Therese looked up into Carol's eyes...she placed a hand against the other woman's cheek...
Before either of them knew what was happening, they were kissing. It was gentle, at first...then, their kisses became more lingering. Lips parted, tongues met...
Soon, the two young women shed their nightclothes as they began making exquisite love.
As they explored each other's naked bodies, legs and arms entwining, their mouths joined in deep, probing kisses, Carol finally realized what had been missing from her other sexual experiences...
Therese rolled Carol on to her back, lying on top of her. As she caressed Carol's tongue with her own and they savored the taste of each other's saliva, she whispered, "I love you, Carol...I love you..."
"And I love you...more than words can say," Carol murmured in responce.
After that night, Carol realised there could be no-one else but her beautiful Therese. There was a tenderness, a beauty in their relationship that Carol had never known – as well as an unquenchable passion. They would make love nearly every night and for hours at a time on the weekends. When Therese was doing a show in one of the theaters on the West End, Carol would send her a dozen red roses. They would go out together, sharing candlelit dinners in small cafes, gazing at each other as only lovers can...take long walks in the park, arm-in-arm...go on holidays at Brighton...
Over the next two years, their love grew deeper and ever more passionate. At one point, Carol began thinking about asking Therese to marry her. It was not possible in the UK, though a few countries at that point – including the Netherlands and Belgium as well as the American state of Massachusetts and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Quebec had legalized marriage between members of the same sex. Perhaps they could move to Canada...
One day, as the second anniversary of the night they had become lovers approached, Carol found a pair of rings that were not terribly dear. Therese was performing in a production of a new play that night, but Carol planned to meet her after the show, take her to their favorite Indian restaurant, and propose marriage.
Carol wasn't entirely certain what sort of life they would have together – but she wanted to spend that life with the woman she loved.
Carol went to the theatre that night and waited near the back door. As the actors came out, she looked for her beloved Therese.
She was not among them. Puzzled, she went inside. First, she went to the dressing rooms. "Therese?" she called.
"Can I help you, Miss?" asked a kindly voice.
Carol looked up to see a gray-haired man in spectacles, wearing a black beret on his head and dressed in baggy denim trousers with a tweed jacket over a sweater. "I'm just looking for one of the cast members – Therese Devaro...she's somewhat African-looking, about so tall..."
The man nodded. "She didn't show up tonight," he said sadly. "We had to send in her understudy..."
"She never showed?"
Again, the man shook his head. Suddenly, Carol got a very bad feeling...
The next few days were agonizing for Carol. She filed a missing persons report with Scotland Yard, but being as so many people had gone missing in recent months and Carol was not proper family, the case did not get the priority it deserved...
Carol never saw Therese again. Nor did she ever know what had become of her. Carol cried every night for months, falling into a black state of despair. She tried to numb the pain with alcohol and various narcotics, to no avail.
She had been seriously considering suicide when she received a call from one Dr. Alan Grimm...
As Carol drove through the fog and the drizzle, she realized that tonight marked exactly three years since Therese had disappeared. Since Alan had thrown her a lifeline in the form of her present position with Otherworld Research, Inc., work had become Carol's drug of choice. She had thrown herself into the project with abandon, frequently spending fourteen hour days in the lab, working herself to exhaustion. And when that wasn't enough to help Carol to forget her lost love, she settled for allowing Alan to give her a good shag. He was a lusty fuck who knew how to use his tongue on her clitoris in so many creative ways – and once he had it up (it took longer for Alan than it would have a younger man - which for Carol, was not necessarily a bad thing), he could drive his stiffened willy into her long and hard. He could also be very amusing and was always good for entertaining conversation.
But, as much affection as Carol felt for Alan, she knew in her heart she would never love him as she had Therese.
No...she could never love anyone like that ever again.
The road ahead blurred. Carol pulled over to the side of the road, sobbing. "Therese..." she whispered, putting her head on the steering wheel.
I'm here, my dearest love.
Carol felt something on her neck. She sat up with a start, her heart pounding. She touched her neck where she had felt the caress...
Therese had known all of Carol's erogenous zones – and how much pleasure Carol got when she would caress, kiss, lick and gently suck the soft skin of her lover's neck...
Carol shook her head violently. Pull it together, you soft git, she chided herself.
Slowly, she put the car in gear and continued on home to her flat.
Carol undressed and showered before heading to bed. Naked, she entered her bed chamber – then stopped in front of the full-length mirror. She gazed at herself...her soft, auburn hair, the clear, soft skin and gray-green eyes that gazed back at her...her still full, shapely breasts...her stomach and the swell of her hips...the patch of soft, curly auburn hair at the juncture of her voluptuous thighs...
She reached into that place, seeking her own pleasure. Suddenly, she felt incredibly randy...she stared into her own eyes, watching her other self exploring that womanly centre...as her clitoris became erect, she licked her thumb and forefinger and began caressing it...slowly, tenderly, the way Alan – and before that, Therese – had done with their lips and tongue...
With infinite tenderness, Carol stroked her nether lips, feeling herself become damp...her breaths became faster and more ragged...she closed her eyes...
She gasped as the orgasm shuddered through her hips. As the pulsating sensations rolled up her body, she opened her eyes and looked in the mirror...and saw...
The apparition was gone as quickly as it had come.
"Therese...?" Carol called out to her reflection.
Slowly, still naked, Carol walked over to the bed and lay down. Rolling onto her back, she gazed up at the ceiling. Tears leaked from her eyes. She wondered if there would ever be a time in her life when the pain of Therese's absence wouldn't be a constant companion...
Carol began to stroke the inside of her thighs gently. Again, she took her clitoris with the thumb and forefinger of one hand while continuing to stroke her inner thigh with the fingertips of the other.
And she remembered how she and Therese would make tender, passionate love with each other.
Gradually, Morpheus took possession of Carol as her eyes closed and her brain drifted into the nether realms of deep, restful sleep...
As she entered the state of rapid eye movement, she dreamt of being tenderly awakened by the sensation of soft, gentle lips kissing her shoulder. In her dream, she looked up.
"It is I, my sweet darling," Therese whispered.
"Therese..." Carol slipped her arms around the other woman's body and pulled Therese's face to her own...their lips and tongues met in a series of long, deliciously sweet kisses. Tears streaming down her cheeks, Carol whispered, "Where did you go?"
Therese smiled. Her eyes glowed in the dark. "It doesn't matter, my love," she said as she licked Carol's lips sensuously. "All that matters is...we are going to be together...forever..."
The eyes. They weren't the deep brown eyes that Carol remembered. They glowed with an eerie amber light...and the pupils...
My god, what's happening?!? Carol thought.
Her lover had pupils like those of a cat. They dilated as Therese's sweet, beautiful tongue – a blood-red tongue – again emerged from between her full, sensuous lips, sliding deep into Carol's mouth.
Carol was suddenly terrified...but as their kisses became deeper, she was overcome by passion, entwining her legs with Therese's clasping the other woman in her arms, their breasts squeezing together....Carol gently sucked on Therese's tongue, savoring the sweet, honeyed taste of her saliva...at the same time, Therese drew Carol's tongue deep into her own mouth, tenderly gnawing and massaging with her own tongue...
As they drank each other, Carol thought she saw someone else in the room out the corner of her eye, watching them...a pale figure with dark, piercing eyes and black hair...
Therese's lips and tongue found that special part of Carol's soft neck. "Oh yes, darling..." Carol gasped.
Therese kissed that special secret spot...running her tongue over Carol's silky flesh, sucking gently...she began to nibble...Carol gasped and laughed...Therese bit tenderly...then more insistently...
Suddenly, Carol felt a sharp pain, as if Therese were trying to bite through her flesh – yet for some reason, she could not cry out. It was in fact an oddly pleasant pain...accompanied by a warm sensation as Therese continued to suck and lick...
As the pain in her neck reached a crescendo, the throbbing, pulsating waves of ecstasy started to emanate from between her thighs...the intensity increased...
The tsunami of orgasmic pleasure that shuddered through the core of Carol's being threatened to split her open. The mixture of pain and ecstasy, more intense than anything she had ever known, overwhelmed her. Time itself seemed to stop in its tracks. She wanted to scream...
...and found she could not.
It was over. For what seemed an eternity, Carol felt as if she were floating in time and space...
When she opened her eyes, she saw Therese standing at the end of her bed, wearing a diaphanous red gown...and standing next to her, dressed in a red robe, was the young man Carol remembered...
Therese smiled at Carol. "I love you, my most precious darling...and I promise...we will be together...always...and forever..."
The two figures faded from sight.
Again, Carol's vision blurred as again tears came to her eyes.
But they were tears of joy...
Carol woke up the next morning feeling more refreshed than she had in months. She recalled having strange and disturbing dreams...something about her lost lover, Therese...but she couldn't quite remember any details.
She walked over to the window and pulled back the blinds. It was a glorious autumn day, with the sun shining on the red and gold leaves of the trees lining the street.
For some reason, the light seemed very bright...it almost hurt her eyes.
Carol went into the bathroom to wash her face. She looked into the mirror – and stopped.