“I take it you were the one who set up that last program.” I momentarily lifted my eyes from gazing at the slow pendulum sweep of the terry cloth belt and found that she was waiting for me to finally look her in the face. Her features, which up until now had only been a blur, now appeared quite striking. It would appear that I had been the target of her hunt and that I was now within reach.
“Did you find your time in the holograph session to be enjoyable?” Her question was accentuated when she took the folded cloth belt with her two hands and snapped it taught at arms length for effect. She had the option of observing the entire session as a necessary part of her work. It was much more than a possibility that she had gone past the point of professional involvement and had turned her attentions toward a personal agenda.
“I think so.” I felt a twinge in my solar plexus as she took control of the conversation and led me to what ever intended finish she had planned for me. The profile that she had worked up on me had pin pointed some of my inner most thoughts. These thoughts could be listed in any of many categories; fears, hopes, desires, pain and pleasures that were so close that they had become indistinguishable longings of mine; temporal and spiritual. She had gained access to the very center of my being. There was no point in telling her that it wasn’t so.
“Would you like for me to go over some of your concerns; concerns that may have surfaced as a result of your having been confronted with your own inhibitions while in the holograph session?”
I was hard pressed to tell whether she was asking as my psychologist or if she was asking for herself. In either case the answer would be the same. I began to feel a strange sexual attraction to her, something that surprised me, as we began to talk about my session.
“I suppose so.” I answered in a hushed voice; not wishing to look her directly in the eye as the words avoided a definitive yes or no.
“Vernon,” Drawing out my name until she forced me to look up; much like a school teacher over powers a young student, “Why won’t you look at me? Are you afraid of me?”
That wasn’t it, or at least I don’t think it was.
“Some of my friends call me Vern. I never use Vernon at all. Some call me V.B., it depends on the context.” I suppose it was just another way that I avoided being too close to most of those who I came into contact with. I found myself letting go of yet another of my outer defense mechanisms as she continued to talk with me. Somewhere inside of me there was a need that was not being taken care of. Maybe she was going to be the one to take care of that need; to be the one who would take care of the total me.
“I’ll call you Vernon from now on, V.B. is so; what is it, cold? You can call me Beth. It will make it easier to work together; don’t you think? “ She reached down and took my hand and gently lifted it, just a little, not as if to shake hands; more like a lover touches and caresses. I felt the warmth that she was generating.
“Yes Mammm. . . I mean, Beth.” I looked down at my shoes again as there was a nervous lump forming in my throat.
“Vernon,” pausing once again until I would look into her eyes. “I want you to be completely relaxed when you are with me. You know that I could never hurt you or violate your trust. Do you believe me ?” I felt that she was sincere. I hoped that she was and yet there was a hollow spot of fear still holding part of me back.
“I would like to have it that way.” The answer was an avoidance that she picked up on. I still was unwilling to let go, at least, not yet.
“Why don’t we talk some more, say in my quarters. We can just be ourselves and enjoy some time together. We could have a bowl of ice cream and listen to some music.”
“I like ice cream. My favorite is Original Vanilla Bean.” The Center’s food replicators had the Blue Bell formula down almost to perfection; unlike the hamburgers which left a large area open for improvement. “Did you say music?” I found myself watching the hour glass form that lay beneath the white nurses uniform. How could I have not noticed how nice she was to look at during the previous interviews? I was afraid that she had caught my look of desire as the words just blurted out.
“Yes, I have an antique unit that plays a pre-programmed format called CD. They were very popular at one time; you had the opportunity to enjoy the use of one while in your holograph session. I made sure to include that as part of the setting.” She continued walking in the direction of her quarters; my hand never being released; not wanting to be released.
“I would like that. Yes, I think I would like that very much Beth.” I felt an awkwardness at having said her name. All the same it was a pretty name and her hand felt as if it had danced in mine the moment that I had said it. We walked down the corridor of level four to the platforms where we were lifted to the private quarter decks on level twelve.
“Mine is down here in the blue section.” We stepped off the platform and she tugged at my hand, only slightly; but enough to let me know that she was in the lead. The modular sections of corridor were a soft blue in this area, like that of a robin’s egg, at eye level; then, nearer the floor it became a deep blue, like the sky just after the sun has disappeared when you look back to the east and see the first stars of the night. We walked and I began to notice that she was wearing some kind of fragrance, a faint whisk of something that I had not noticed earlier. I wondered if she had ever worn it before; that is, during one of our professional interviews.
“You smell very nice.” That came out sounding corny. I had never been comfortable expressing such flatteries. I should have kept quiet and just enjoyed it.
“Thank you for noticing, I was wondering if you would.” The way she said it made me wonder even more. She stopped in front of the entrance to her personal quarters and she placed her hand on the palm recognition square. It only took a few moments and the door slide into the recess silently. She stepped inside and as I stood there peering in, I noticed that there was something very familiar about the arraignment. Just to the right was the food preparation area, as it had been in the holographic chamber. She studied my reactions and smiled as I nodded my head.
“You did a very complete job, I mean, the details of the session appear to be nearly the same.” As I continued to view her quarters, standing outside the entrance, as if by doing so I might distance myself from the reality of the moment, I felt her tug on my arm. It became difficult to swallow as my throat once more became blocked with my own inhibitions. I wanted to remain outside and at the same time something deep inside of me needed to surrender to her.
“I had hoped that you would appreciate the effort.”
Most of my other sessions in the holographic chamber lacked a realistic amount of detail. For instance; the Old West Bar session that I had been in was rather bland by comparison. She had not missed one detail when it came to generating the holographic living quarters. The amount of time it took must have been enormous, which caused me to wonder if I had been the only one to have been prescribed such a session. The lamps, the music reproduction unit, everything was the same as I was led to sit down next to her on a large couch. She spoke into the computer, looking at me as if she wanted a confirmation; her eyebrows raised into a universal question mark expression. “Vanilla Bean, Blue Bell Ice Cream ?”
“Yes please.” It was a relief to hear something that was non-threatening.
“Please call me Beth. I want you to relax and enjoy this.” She continued to instruct the computer to replicate two bowls of ice cream, “Did you want chocolate syrup or anything on that ?”
“Yes ma… I mean Beth.” Taking a deep breath and swallowing again. I could feel the lump in my throat as it hung there in the middle.
“I promise not to jump on you,” she smiled at me until it looked like I was hearing her. “Later on I might change my mind; but for now you are safe.” The ice cream was ready and the replicator light blinked until she opened the stainless steel door. She handed me a bowl and spoon as she sank into the over sized cushions of the couch.
“This tastes just like I remember.” I said shoveling a larger than proper spoonful of ice cream into my mouth. I figured that if I could keep my mouth full then all I would have to do would be to nod or grunt. It would have worked had I been able to eat half a gallon or so of ice cream. As the spoon scrapped the bottom of the bowl I got up and wandered about the room commenting on the way the room looked. She got up from the couch and walked further into the living quarters.
“I want to show you something.” motioning for me to venture closer as she went into the sleeping area. “What do you think ?”
I nodded and yet I could not remember that part of the holographic session as well. I did not want to follow her as she continued on to the personal hygienic area; all the same my legs took me along. With only the soft light from above the mirrored counter top to illuminate the room, it was very inviting. From the corner of my eye I could see the small porcelain elephant off to my right. I tried not to look directly at it and yet I felt myself being drawn to it.