Dream Girl

A Short Story by Charles Alverson

'Match me, Big Boy,' Milo looked up from the bottle of beer he was nursing at the end of the bar to find a platinum-blonde bombshell in a low-cut black dress extending a cigarette in a mile-long holder toward him. She looked somehow familiar, but that didn't lessen the terror he felt. Milo's scrotum begin to shrivel as 'real woman!' alarms ran up and down his spine. His pale-blue eyes cast around desperately for an escape route. But, even early on a Friday night, Murphy's was jam-packed with singles from local Federal government offices and businesses. Milo, himself, was at Murphy's only for his ritual single beer before going back to the lab across Pennsylvania Avenue where he worked as an experimental biochemist. Would fleeing, he wondered, be more embarrassing than actually staying there and lighting her cigarette? If Milo had a match. Which he didn't. But while Milo's scientific if unsophisticated mind was working out this computation, the femme fatale, the vamp wearing his month's salary on her dangerous, white shoulders, was changing. Swiftly, subtly, elusively, inexplicably, but definitely. Her hair, while still blonde, faded several shades; the dress, still black and expensively plain, covered much more of her breasts which, themselves, had shrunk at least a size without serious loss of sex appeal; her make up had dimmed from challenging to alluring to appealing. And, equally amazing, the long holder and cigarette had vanished with a suddenness which left Bing, head bartender and Murphy's' cocksman extraordinaire, lunging foolishly, his fabled Zippo lighter ablaze where the cigarette had been a nanosecond before.

Without even glancing in Bing's direction, the girl blew out the proffered flame. 'Thanks,' she said dismissively, cramming a thousand words of rejection, humiliation, abnegation and repudiation in that single, soft word and sending Bing reeling a dozen feet down the bar as if on springs. He had ceased to be. For that alone, Milo, who had suffered almost legendary humiliation at Bing's hands, would have loved her forever even if she hadn't been the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. Even if her eyes, a shade of gray-violet he'd only dreamt of, hadn't been fixed softly on his ordinary face as if it were the most fascinating thing in the world. Even if she hadn't been saying to him: 'Would you think I was terribly forward if I asked if we could talk for a while?' At this point, Milo wouldn't have thought she was terribly forward if she'd taken out a breast and stuck it in his ear. To this suggestion of lesser intimacy he could only shake his head hopelessly and pray that she understood. 'But not here,' she added. 'Perhaps over there?' She nodded in the direction of the booths in the darkest corner of Murphy's, an area which was as unknown to Milo as the other side of the moon. 'And the bartender might bring our drinks to us?' she added softly as if conferring on the non-person Bing one last, evanescent grab at redemption. Milo heard a strong, firm voice say: 'Bing. Take our drinks over there.' He knew that voice. It was his. It was the voice Milo practiced in private but which had never before been out in public. Even more amazing, Bing was hurrying along the bar, saying. 'Right away, Milo. No problem.' Afterwards, Milo could not have said how they got to the booth, but they were there, and she was sitting as close as possible to him.

'My name--' Milo said after clearing about half a pound of lump from his throat. 'Your name,' she said. 'is Milo Saddler. You're 28, single, work as a biochemist for Amalgamated Pharma-Chemical Industries. You share an apartment with Judd Hirshmann, a co-worker at the lab. You don't have a girlfriend. You've never had a girlfriend.' She imparted this information softly, confidentially, leaning toward Milo as if she were uttering intimacies forbidden to the rest of the world. As she spoke, Bing watched them from behind the bar, pretending to dry glasses and plotting Milo's sudden, violent and painful death. 'How do you know all that?' Milo asked with wonder. 'Are you investigating me for the FBI?' Even this possibility didn't lessen his fascination with her or make him move back a millimeter. His nostrils reveled in a wonderful odor, not of perfume but some fragrant emanation as unique to her as the color of her eyes. 'No, not the FBI,' she said, leaning so close that her cheek brushed against his. Milo felt a thrill like a electric shock. 'But I have to be honest with you, Milo. I have investigated you. I know all about you.' 'What's your name?' he breathed. 'You know my name, Milo,' she said. 'Think hard. You know my name.' Milo concentrated. And he did know. He recaptured a dream he'd had more than once, and a name swam into his mind. 'That's right,' she said. 'Call me Laura.' 'Is that your name?' 'It is now. Do you want to kiss me, Milo?'

Did Milo want untold wealth, universal recognition, the Nobel Prize? No Lancelot sought the Holy Grail more devoutly than the treasure she was offering. And then her lips came closer, closer until they touched his own--soft, firm moist, yielding, and, with an alchemy he couldn't have begun to explain, Milo achieved bliss, celestial glory, nirvana. His life was complete. There was a sharp CRACK! as the cocktail glass shattered in Bing's hand. 'Who are you?' Milo gasped as their lips parted. 'I have to be honest with you,' she said. 'I am not a human being.' 'I didn't think so,' Milo said as if this were the most common thing in the world to hear early on a Friday evening at a Washington singles bar. 'But what are you?' 'It's hard to explain in human terms,' she said, gazing into his eyes. 'We're mostly Hydrogen based with traces of elements which are as yet unknown to human chemistry. But I suppose, in human terms of chemical composition, I would rank somewhere between a high-quality plastic shopping bag and the contents of an economy-sized canister of pine-scented air freshener.' 'Fluorocarbons,' Milo murmured. 'Yes, I'm afraid so,' she said, 'but where I come from that is a good thing.' 'But where's that?' 'Far, far away,' she said. 'Our galaxy is so distant from yours that it is hard to express in human terms. But do you remember, when you were seven years old, how long it took your father to drive to your Uncle Phil's new house to see a litter of Collie pups?' Milo nodded, not even bothering to wonder how she could know about that. 'Well,' she said, 'it took me even longer than that to travel to your solar system. A lot longer.' For the first time, Milo began to truly appreciate the enormity of space. 'And I traveled in a projectile so small as to be undetectable by the human eye.' 'But...' he said. The single word conveyed the impact she had on his body, mind and soul. 'Oh,' she said with a soft, low laugh which caressed his auditory system, 'Once I got here, I had to adopt human form in order to contact you. During the long, long voyage from my galaxy to yours, I had plenty of time to determine the form most likely to appeal to you. 'Once I got within reach of terrestrial wavelengths, I was able to receive endless old American movies from your television to enable me to simulate the form of your perfect woman. I had lots of images to work with.' 'That's why...' She laughed again, and no music was ever sweeter to Milo's ear. 'Yes, that's why I came on so strong a few minutes ago. I thought that a combination of Jean Harlow, Jayne Mansfield and Mamie Van Doren--blonde, brassy and overtly sexy--would be your perfect woman. But then I read your reaction and quickly modified my approach, losing Van Doren and Mansfield entirely, toning down Harlow and adding elements of Deanna Durbin, Judy Garland and Pier Angeli, but retaining the blonde hair. Is my hair the right shade now?' 'Oh, yes,' Milo breathed, unable to take his eyes from her face.

'But it wasn't until I was able to lock into your mind, imagination and dreams,' she continued, 'that I was able to accurately simulate all that you desire in a woman. Have I succeeded?' 'Oh, yes!' Milo said again, hypnotized. 'Are you sure?' Laura asked. 'I could have bigger breasts, longer hair, blue eyes, a heart-shaped face. Anything you want, Milo. I am truly your creation. How can I change to please you?' 'No, no!' Milo stumbled. 'Please. Please don't change. You're perfect as you are. Just...' 'All right,' she said softly, kissing him once more. 'If you're sure.' No human kiss was ever so sweet. 'I am,' Milo said, when he could talk again. 'But what do you want? What do you want from me?' 'I need your help. We need your help. Unless you can help us--tonight--my planet will--to put it in human terms--die. We will be no more.' Despite himself, Milo started to smile. 'Oh, I know,' she said, 'it sounds like the plot of a very bad science-fiction movie, but everything I have told you is true. Please believe me. Will you help me--us?' Somehow--despite Milo's recent reassurance--her face changed imperceptibly to become even more adorable, more desirable. He would have done anything for her, committed any crime--theft, treason, murder. She didn't even have to ask. 'Of course. What is it?' 'In your laboratory across the street, you have all of the chemicals necessary to save my--for lack of a better word--people. And you, Milo, have the genius needed to combine them.' 'Me? Genius?' 'Yes, you, Milo. That's why I chose you. Can we go to your lab now? I don't like to hurry you, but I have a long way to go to get back home.' 'Security will never let you in the lab,' Milo said. 'They will, Milo, they will,' she reassured him. 'Shall we see? But first--' She kissed him again, and Milo felt such an acute surge of ecstasy that he thought his heart would burst. As they slid from the booth, Laura said, 'If you don't mind, I'd like to leave by way of the bar so that I can say goodbye to Bing.' 'Sure. If you want to,' Milo said, trying to keep disappointment from his voice. As they walked toward the bar, he saw in the mirror behind Bing that her appearance was changing yet again, reverting to the image she'd had before. Her hair was purest platinum, her breasts swollen to fantastic proportions, and the black dress, shrunken accordingly, clung desperately to them, revealing a monumental cleavage. Her lips also swelled and took on an incandescent red color of blatant seductivity.

The crowd opened miraculously for them as they approached the bar where Bing stood, his right hand bandaged. He was trembling uncontrollably and staring at Laura--his Laura. At the last moment, Laura glued her hip to Milo's, put her right arm around his waist and turned him at a right angle to the bar, her eyes sliding across Bing as if he were made of glass.. Just before they got to the exit, her hand slipped to squeeze Milo's right buttock. Milo heard a loud groan behind them. As they reached the street, Milo looked over to find that Laura was once more the girl in the booth only more so. 'I thought you were going to say good-bye to Bing,' he said. 'I did, Milo,' Laura said. 'I don't think you'll have any more problems with Bing.' All the way across broad Pennsylvania Avenue, Milo worried about getting Laura into the lab. But when they entered the building, he was amazed to hear Fred, the night security man, say to her: 'Good evening, Mr. Hirschmann. We don't often see you in the evening.' 'Even I have to earn my living some time, Fred,' Laura said, signing the book in Judd's bold scrawl. Milo's hand trembled as he signed his own name. Once they had entered the lab, Milo turned to Laura: 'How did you bewitch Fred?' 'I Just made him see--and hear--Judd Hirschmann,' she said. 'It wasn't hard.' 'Now what?' Milo asked. 'Now we get to work,' Laura said, kissing him even more sweetly than before. If Fred had only seen that! For the next eight hours, Milo worked harder than ever he had in his life. Under Laura's exacting direction, he ransacked the laboratory for ingredients he had no idea existed, mixed them in combinations and under conditions he would never have imagined. Overnight, he unlearned and relearned seven years of university education and four years of experience. Throughout the warm June night, Milo sweated, swore and despaired, while Laura--fittingly for a creature composed of 99 percent hydrogen--remained cool, serene and perfect. Every time Milo, moving beyond fatigue to despondency, was tempted to give up, a look at her perfect face, a touch of her perfect lips sent him back to his equipment and calculations with renewed fervor. Finally, just before four in the morning, Laura stood with a flask of iridescent blue liquid in her hand and studied a read-out from the computer. 'This is it,' she told Milo. 'Are you sure?' 'As sure as I can be,' she said. 'There's only one way to be positive. I'll have to try it.' 'Will that be dangerous?' 'I don't think so,' she said, 'but it will have one definite side-effect. I will disappear.' 'Oh.' Milo had taken her presence so for granted that he had virtually forgotten that the entity working at his side was not a woman but a creation of his own imagination and yearnings. 'You realized--of course,' she told him softly, 'that I could not stay.' 'Yes, of course,' Milo said, feeling like a fool. 'But...'

'But...thank you again,' she said, kissing him gently. 'It may sound corny, but you have saved my planet from extinction. Soon, I must start the long trip back, but first...' She glanced over at the battered old sofa in the corner. 'If you would like...' She began unbuttoning the simple, black dress. 'No,' Milo said, reaching out unconsciously to stop her. 'But thank you.' There are some dreams you dare not touch. 'I suppose it is best,' Laura said. She stuck a hypodermic needle into the flask and slowly filled it with the luminous blue liquid. She recorked the flask and put it into the black handbag much too small to hold it and turned toward Milo. With no more words but a searching gaze into his eyes which said everything, she inserted the tip on the needle into an invisible vein of her smooth, white arm and pushed the plunger. Good-bye, Milo, I'll always love you.' 'Wai--' But she was gone. He was alone with only the evidence of the shambolic lab to indicate that anything had happened there that night. Milo, feeling the most profound loneliness of his life, staggered toward the sofa and collapsed on it. In an instant he was asleep.

By the time Milo reached Murphy's the next Friday night, it was packed and cigarette smoke hung in the air like fallout. Looking toward the teeming bar, Milo considered skipping the ritual drink and was turning away when Bing spotted him. 'Milo!' he shouted. 'You two! Make some room for Milo!' Sheepishly, a rising, young White House assistant and an apprentice spook from the CIA gave up their seats at the bar, and Bing shoved a Grolsch in front of Milo with his bandaged right hand. 'On the house, buddy,' he said before turning back to snarl at a Supreme Court clerk crass enough to ask for a drink. A few minutes later, Milo was lost in thought when he heard a voice say: 'Don't you find it terribly smoky in here?' Startled, Milo looked up, and it was her. Gone were the sexy black dress and movie-star hair. Instead, her white, working-girl's blouse was wrinkled; her pale blonde hair badly needed a beauty parlor. But, that face, those eyes. It was her. 'I thought you--' Milo began, then stopped. Instead, he surprised himself by saying 'I think you'll find it's not so bad back in the booths. Shall we see?' Milo pushed away from the bar. He saw that she was doing the same thing. 'Bing,' he said, raising his voice, 'another couple of drinks back in the booths, okay?' 'Sure thing, Milo,' Bing said.

2000 Charles Alverson

Author: Charles Alverson chas@eunet.yu Agent: Lora Fountain