Pauline got up from the sofa and excused herself, leaving Allen mid-sentence, while she made her way over to Gary and Jack. Allen got up and followed her, tapping on her shoulder gently.
“Since when do you excuse yourself, Julie? That was so polite of you.”
He watched her intently with his big, brown eyes and for some reason, she felt like he was somehow privy to her secret.
“Oh, um…” Her mind scrambled to find a suitable response from that era; something that Julie would’ve said in response to Allen. “Well, Al – I guess there’s no time like the present – you dig?”
All three men stopped and stared in silence – then Jack laughed loudly with a short “Ha!” and shook his head. Gary smiled kindly and passed her a glass of wine.
“Oh, no thank you. I better not.” She advised.
Allen gave her another look as she tried to get Jack’s attention.
“Jack, could I talk to you in private?”
Again the men stopped and stared. Jack was nervously glancing at Gary while Gary smiled with a slight frown creasing his brow. She liked the way he smiled and frowned at the same time, but she really wanted to learn more about the possibility that Jack was Jon’s previous incarnation. Allen seemed to be embarrassed – looking down at his drink and lighting a cigarette – while Jack obviously struggled to respond.
“Well, I don’t know. That’s up to Gary, right?”
Gary was still looking at her, like he was trying to read her mind. Before she could explain or lie about why she wanted to talk to Jack, she felt a sharp stab in her head. Unlike a migraine, it felt more like a quick pulse that went away immediately. She staggered backwards a little but managed to stay on her feet. Gary reached out for her arm but she pulled back as another bolt of pain struck.
“Oh my God!” Pauline gasped.
“What is it?” Gary asked while hovering close.
When she started feeling the familiar fainting sensation, she remembered the library and wondered if she had to make her way back. Noticing that Julie’s thoughts were beginning to break out of their mental holding pen, she became confused with the random words and barely noticed that she was muttering while holding her head.
“Who’s in my damn head? Geez – I’m not even Dixie fried!”
Gary grabbed her arm and tried to steer her over to the sofa but she moved away and heard Julie’s voice louder this time – obviously taking control. Pauline tried to keep calm but the feeling of another person in this body gave her an overwhelming sensation of claustrophobia. She continued stumbling around the living room – blathering and ranting.
“Man, I can’t noodle this out! Allen – can you get me some cube juice? Or maybe some tea? I gotta be possessed!”
While this was going on and the men stood back, Pauline started having a panic attack. All she could think about was getting home – somehow. Then she remembered the Oversoul’s answer. She had to get to the initial entry point. While she struggled to get her thoughts in order, Julie scrambled them again.
“Home? I don’t have a home. I’m not leaving Gary. Man – some spirit’s jawing at me! Gary – call the doc! My noggin’s haunted by a ghost who wants me to go to some entry point.”
Gary rushed over to the phone while Allen tried to calm her down.
“Jules – let’s have a seat. Come and join me on the sofa. We’ll smoke some tea.”
Gary put the receiver against his chest and hissed at Allen.
“No tea! I’m getting her doctor to come.”
Jack retreated to the kitchenette but it didn’t matter. Pauline was finally able to “stream” her thoughts in another channel away from Julie’s. It suddenly dawned on her that the initial entry point was the café. She didn’t even wait to explain or grab the duffel bag – not that she needed it. While racing for the door, Julie’s panic kicked in.
“I don’t want to go to the Goddamn café! Who’s taking over my fucking body?!”
Pauline focused on keeping control of the body, even though – from time to time – she found herself either spinning on the spot or darting back towards Gary’s place. Allen and Gary were already giving chase, calling out carefully as they were trying not to draw too much attention.
It was still the early hours of the morning but it was dark and the rain was falling gently on the city streets. Pauline noticed a portly policeman leaning against a bench, talking to a prostitute. He looked up when she ran by but stayed put – even when the men followed soon after. She was relieved when she saw the café – then dismayed when she saw the locked door.
Julie’s voice stopped her in her tracks. She spoke directly to Pauline – out loud – while Gary and Allen caught up, doing their best to drag Pauline back. All three voices coalesced into a messy roar in her ears, with only random sentences rising to the surface – starting with Julie.
“It’s closed – you nut! Get out of my head or I’ll get a priest, you dig?!”
“Jules – let’s go back and wait for the doctor. You’re freaking Gary out. He loves you. We love you!”
“Julie – Sweetie – please. What are you trying to do?” Gary pleaded.
Pauline did her best to ignore them and looked back over their shoulders for something to throw through the window. As she spotted an old paint can in the gutter, she wrenched herself out of their grasp and ran over to grab it.
“Julie – what are you doing?!” Gary yelled.
Julie broke through her thoughts and for the first time – was on Pauline’s side – for some unknown reason.
“YES – DO IT – DO IT!”
Pauline launched the paint can through the window with such force that some of the props and musical instruments spilled out into the street, while the backdrop caved in and allowed Pauline to climb up and over it. As she scrambled through, she heard Julie laughing loudly in her head, while Gary and Allen followed her through. None of them saw or heard the cop behind them.
When Pauline made it past the chairs and tables to the dance-floor, she tried her hardest to remember the exact spot where she’d “arrived” the night before. She was annoyed when Julie started humming. She couldn’t help but dance, while Gary grabbed her from behind and tried to drag her over to a table.
Screaming and trying to get out of his grasp – dragging and digging her toes in – the last thing she saw was Allen and the cop grappling with each other.
Then all she saw was a void.
At first, Pauline truly believed that she was tumbling through a dark tunnel in a dream. The sensation was almost pleasurable. Slow – like sinking into a warm bath – she continued to tumble and weave through the strange, seemingly bottomless abyss.
After a long time, she began to see shimmering blue light. It was metallic and glistening. The air became crisp and soon Pauline felt like she was in an electrical current inside a vacuum. At first she thought that she was consciously experiencing the trip back to her life in 2016.
Doing her best to stay alert, she strained her eyes to see if she could detect the library. When a bright flash of brilliant, white light blinded her, she felt the sensation of being funneled into a tight vessel. As the bright light subsided, she saw what appeared to be a large white room, but the transition was so subtle that it took a while for her to recognize that she’d arrived somewhere.
Looking down at what she assumed would be her body back in Melbourne, she was distracted by a message in red across her field of vision.
“Warning: Anomaly detected. Scanning initiated.”
She wasn’t sure if she was watching a vision in her own mind, so when she lifted her head back up and saw the red swirls, the realization that she was still far from home hit her hard. Then, something else diverted her attention. The cold sensation and mechanic movement of her neck alerted her to the fact that something was wrong with her body.
Looking down again and trying to look past the red swirls – which were rolling faster and faster in front of her eyes – she saw a shiny, chrome body. Gasping loudly, she shocked herself with the electronic voice coming out of her mouth. The red swirls stopped abruptly and another message scrolled across.
“Infiltration of unknown source. Tracking data time-stamped and transmitted to HQ.”
Pauline panicked and started running around the cold, white room. She felt the sensation of stiff limbs and rubbery tendons and joints jarring against the expected, flowing movement of her usual body.
“What’s happening?!” She yelled – sounding like a loud, monotone robot.
She saw a door in the far right corner appear out of nowhere. A tall, male cyborg came striding in. He held a kind of crystal tablet in his hand – tapping it calmly. Then he looked up and over at Pauline while she backed against the wall – panting and crying in her metallic voice.
“Please. Please don’t hurt me. I don’t know what’s happening!” She begged.
His laser-blue eyes widened in their chrome sockets. She saw that his body had been modeled on a strong man in his prime, while his head was formed like a typical, ultra-modern robot – masculine but shiny chrome – without hair. She instinctively moved her hand up to her own head.
It wasn’t like she sensed the smooth, metal head like a physical hand would. It was like rubber on metal. Then she looked at her hand and saw the chrome fingers. Turning it around she then saw the black, rubber-like skin – with her knuckles fashioned with inter-connective, black cords.
When she looked back up she saw the blue focal signals tracking the large male cyborg – who was walking quickly towards her. She held her hands out defensively.
“No, no – please. I’m human!”
Then he stopped and cocked his metal head. She nearly screamed when she heard his loud, controlled voice.
“State your quantum entanglement!” He commanded.
“Pardon?” She replied meekly.
He looked back down at his tablet and tapped it a few more times. A hologram appeared above it in the shape of an inverted triangle. Another male cyborg appeared in the hologram.
“Report.” He stated flatly.
“Doela 9 is malfunctioning. There seems to be an anomaly in her behavioral program.”
“Bring her to the base for a sweep. Initiate behavior inhibitors.”
The triangle disappeared and the cyborg tapped the tablet once. Pauline saw more red lettering across the screen that she’d assumed was her mind’s eye. She now realized that she had entered a strange world run by robots and that this “body” she’d slipped into was another cyborg. The letters scrolled across the screen like the previous warning.
“Behavior inhibitors initiated. Basic function mode responding. Reverting…Reverting…”
Pauline tried to protest as the cyborg approached – his face passive yet determined. She felt her metallic body ignoring the screams in her mind. It was inert and responsive only to the cyborg’s commands.
“Doela 9 – you will follow me.”
He turned and walked beside her as they both made their way to the wall, where the door materialized. She found herself following the cyborg into a white corridor, which was windowless and seemingly never-ending.
Every thought was targeted by the internal program, with responses scrolling across her screen.
“Internal monologue detected. Inhibitors reverting and recording.”
The urge to cry and scream was so strong that she felt like she would explode – like a lizard trapped in a tin with no oxygen. The internal program continued to advise that whatever she thought or felt was being recorded. She wondered, “For what purpose?!”
They soon came to the end of the corridor, where a large entrance appeared – revealing what appeared to be a circular, silver pod. Once they walked inside, she saw that it was opaque and detached – suspended by black brackets. It was obvious that the pod was a vehicle, with supposedly random touch screens circling around the inside of the walls of the pod.
The cyborg touched one of them and it flew out from the wall – hovering only inches in front of his face. He spoke into it with his calm, robotic voice.
“Base station. Sector Seven.”
A soft female voice responded. “Affirmative. Jinn 8 is waiting.”
Then the touch screens evaporated and Pauline could see through the silvery walls of the pod. She gasped – with the internal program continuing to scroll messages advising that she was being blocked and recorded – as she looked down and saw a magnificent, futuristic city-scape. There were many glass domes, with some white and silver domes dotted throughout in a uniform fashion, like a beautiful, jeweled mandala. A huge, black dome was in the center – shiny like black glass – with a tall, black tower jutting out and reaching up to the white sky.
She saw many orbs flying about and soon realized that they too were pods, darting around here and there to various destinations. She couldn’t move, so her eyes drank everything in – to her utter amazement. She saw that the sky was rolling like one, huge cloud. There were several towers in the distance – reaching for the sky – amid many different mandala-type, domed cities.
The pod brought them to the first black dome and started to descend. The cyborg waved his hand across the silver wall and at first – Pauline assumed that he was waving at someone. When another screen materialized, she saw the other cyborg appear in it.
“Tan 9, we are waiting at the dock-point.”
“Affirmative.” He responded quietly.
The screen disappeared and Pauline gasped again when she saw a sudden burst of electricity shoot out from the top of the black tower – connecting with the other towers in the distance – forming a beautiful grid of pure energy for a brief moment. Then she saw a small section of the black dome opening up at the bottom – like the entrance of a hangar – with little brackets opening up like hands appearing on a small platform.
Once the pod had docked, the doorway opened up and they stepped out. Another male cyborg was standing to the side, but Pauline was distracted by the interior of the dome. There were a lot of opaque, black walls – in contrast to the white walls she’d seen at the previous dome. She could vaguely see through them, where several different cyborgs were walking around or sitting down at screens and strange machines.
The other cyborg greeted them. “The Hexascan is primed.”
“Thank you, Jinn 8.”
Pauline looked up and realized that she was the smallest one – being at least half the size of the others. Then she looked over to one of the shiny, black walls and saw her reflection. She looked like a small, childish version of the other cyborgs. The eyes were blue like the others – but larger. The face was sweet and innocent – as much as a robot could look as such. She was simultaneously fascinated and horrified with her appearance and she wondered if she would ever make it back to her own body.
The screen continued to scroll messages across her mind’s eye while she once again felt an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia building.
They began to move along the circular corridor and soon came across a doorway which linked them to another walkway. As they continued, she saw that it led to a large room with several cyborgs moving around what looked like a six-sided container, approximately ten feet high and ten feet in diameter. It was silver and pulsing with a blue energy field.
It was standing on a large, circular stage – with several small towers adjacent to each of the six corners. The cyborgs were looking down at a table in the shape of a crescent moon – tapping and talking among themselves in a quiet manner. They all looked up when Jinn 8, Tan 9 and Pauline entered the room.
Without communicating verbally, Tan 9 brought Pauline over to the table and tapped on his tablet. She sensed a lifting of the inhibitors but she remained quiet – suddenly fearful of blurting out that she was a human trapped in the body of a robot. Tan 9 did it for her.
“As protocol dictates – this is confidential. My student is exhibiting different behavioral modalities to what she has been instructed. It appears to be a type of quantum entanglement – although it is not apparent to me. Also…”
He paused – like a human pondering the best way to continue. Jinn 8 prompted him.
Tan 9 looked down at Pauline and for the first time, she sensed a human element in his gaze – almost like he was trying to protect her.
“She mentioned the word – Human.”
There was suddenly a buzz of excitement throughout the room. One of the female cyborgs walked over and held her hand out to Tan 9. He gave her the crystal tablet and she tapped it twice. A hologram appeared – projecting a recording of Pauline freaking out when she was running around the room back in the white dome. They all watched and listened to Pauline’s ranting. She was surprised and embarrassed to feel a sense of shame – which was immediately projected as an external alert from a space in her head.
“Emotions detected. Downloading records.”
While they all watched, the hologram started projecting all the gasps, screams, crying and thoughts Pauline had internally expressed since the cyborg walked her out of the white room.
She’d never been so scared. All the cyborgs turned their heads to look at her. For a moment, she thought that it was fear on their faces. Now she couldn’t keep her mouth shut.
“Please don’t hurt me. I can explain. This isn’t my body. I’m a human and I’ve accessed a portal. I think I arrived here by accident. See – I was trying to make my way home. I think I’ve stumbled across an alternate universe, or something. Now I’m trapped in this body – this cyborg body. I don’t know why this is happening but it is – so – please don’t hurt me. If you like – I can try to leave!”
She suddenly remembered her Oversoul and grew excited over the fact that she could call on him to help, but Tan 9 grabbed her by the hand – making her gasp again.
“Jinn 8 – contact the Overlord. He must be advised.”
“Contact initiated. Place her in the Hexascan. We’ll hold her there until he appears.”
Jinn 8 waved his hand over his own tablet and a large hologram appeared – this time, in the shape of a hexagon. Pauline screamed, cried and pleaded while Tan 9 dragged her towards the Hexascan. The electrical pulse had died down and an entrance appeared, revealing a dark interior. She fought hard but Tan 9 was too strong. He pushed her in and then stood back, while a blue field washed over the Hexascan.
With one last scream, Pauline watched the space over Tan 9’s chrome head, where a frightening image of a large humanoid face appeared in the hologram. Its eyes were like yellow fire in a blue visage that seemed to swarm like molten metal. When the door of the Hexascan closed over, a pulse of blue light shot through her system.
She heard the words, “Specimen contained. Scanning commenced.”
Once again she was rendered immobile as waves of blue energy began to roll over her.
Then she heard a terrifying voice – booming, “Bring the intruder to me!”
Stay tuned for Chapter Five next week!