I had just polished off my last brew and was trying to decide whether to quit for a while or go for more when in stomps Lyssa, my best girl. She was really steamed. I could tell by the way the plates on the table rattled.
"Men! You're all alike. Never look at me as a person, just a bod."
"Did Gianelli make a pass on you again?"
"Yeah. And when I wouldn't play along, he booted me!"
"You got fired?"
"Damn straight. It was a slarmy job anyway. Just an office flounce; I hardly even used the steno." She headed for the fridge and rooted around a bit. "No beer?" Came back into the room with a rumcola, threw herself into a couch.
"Last one," I said, pointing to the dead soldier. "What'cha gonna do now? You want to travel around some?"
She sipped a bit, and then shook her head no. "Figured out a way to stick it to all those guys who just want to grope and hope. If all they care to do is gape at my gams, then that's all that they'll get."
I glanced over at her, a quite pleasant sight. An athletic blonde with exquisitely long legs and a vivacious face, Lyssa was stunning. She wasn't only good grooves and gloss though. Inside that lovely noggin, she had a mind to match. She'd earned a degree in Archeo-mathematics ... could finesse all our money and even had a bit of time left over for some clever dodges on the taxman. Looks plus smarts, that's Lyssa. She's not my favorite skirt for nothing. But her attitude didn't seem too sharp right at the moment. "You gonna hook, Lys?"
"No way. Talked to a store in Uptown this afternoon. I'm going to be one of *Mart*'s newest mannequins!"
"A fashion model? That's just a racket. Mostly snakes."
"No, display modeling. It's the latest. They've got a gadget now that can make you hold a pose for weeks at a time. So all the big stores are tossing out their plastic window dummies and using live ones. It's the fashionable thing." She started digging around in her satchel. "Here, I did a test," passed over a pix of herself all dolled up like a 'Vegas showgirl, looking oddly distant.
"Lyssa, that is the silliest thing I have ever heard of. Stuck out into a storefront all day like a wooden Indian, having folks gawk at you. You'd have to get bored!"
"Nope. When they zap you with that widget it's like you are switched off, or something. The hour or so that I was in that position didn't seem to take any time at all -- to me. " She stood up and started fastening her wrap. "Anyway, they like the way I look and the store really wants me to pose for them. I start tomorrow for a week's trial.'
"What about me? Did you forget, we have a date Saturday. Lys? You're not leaving, are you?" (Sometimes her temper got quite short-fused.)
"Of course not," She said brightly, walking toward the door. "Just hopping up to bring back some dinner. I'll have to skip out on the date; but let's have some fun tonight, okay?"
We made up that night; for the date, and for a few other things too.
In between, laying in the warm darkness, we talked. Of plans, of common
frustrations, of opportunities both missed and taken. I tried my best to
convince her that she was making a foolish move. She should have been able
to get a good job, one where she could use her mind. Not now, though. Lyssa
was bound and determined to get back at her ex-boss with the fast hands.
She had it figured; had even sent him an "invitation" card to
meet her at the store!
The next morning I woke to the pattering sound of the 'fresher. A shower alone is a shower wasted, so we shared. An all too brief breakfast and then she was saying her quick goodbye at the door.
"I'll be thinking of you. The week will go fast." The parting kiss was slow. "Look for me in the Mall display."
"I have to. Just to try it." The lift doors clicked shut and
she was gone.
The first part of the week passed without much notice. I was busy taking
care of all of the little minor things that pile up during restday. Work
is tough enough without having to argue things out with a grousy computer
'agent' program (named Chip). My evenings were unlikely quiet; mostly package
dinners and 3V dramas. A glance at Lyssa's foto and the remembrance of
her caress. I missed her.
Finally, towards middoch, emotion got the best of me. After work that day my path homeward strayed Uptown, toward the tall towers and bright lights. I poked around, browsing the colorful displays until I came to *Mart* and a familiar figure in one of the windows. Lyssa stood in a grouping of several other elegantly styled mannequins, every one posed from life.
The test picture she had shown me earlier hadn't prepared me for the eery stillness of the scene portrayed in the tableaux. It was if the flow of reality itself had been stopped like a freeze-frame on a 3V. The theme of this window seemed to be lingerie, because the set was decorated as a sleeproom with lavish platinum fixtures and a satin-sheeted bed. Multicolored spotlights shone down, highlighting the waxlike models and the sheer garments they rigidly displayed.
She was positioned walking, in mid-stride, looking over her shoulder at the (imaginary) ceiling. Her delicate lips were parted, as if beginning to smile. Somehow Lys had drawn the shortest slip of the lot, a plum-colored number which showed off her shapely legs well. The other figures, even those engaged in an unmoving pillow fight, seemed to fade into the background.
I had seen her in such instants before, but they'd always flowed quickly
into other, more intimate moments. Now here she was, in front of everyone,
stiffly strutting her stuff. It was too personal for me; I stepped away.
From a distance, Lyssa became only another statuesque display figure in
a shopfront window. Just risque and cute; enough to catch a jaded patron's
eye. Even so, seeing her remain so motionless there made me uneasy. Most
of the night I didn't sleep well. I wondered if Gianelli had come for their
The next day was lost at work. I couldn't concentrate ... the programs were winning all the arguments. After about two weeks the day ended.
Making it home by pure habit, I began to feel a nagging curiosity. I
found myself being drawn back Uptown and discovered that I had brought
the VidSnap. Too late to turn back. The time spent in the tube flashed
past and all at once I was looking into her bright showcase once more.
The display figures in the scene had not changed, of course. Like the synthetic mannequins they had replaced, Lyssa and the others were now simply attractively sculpted forms with clothing draped on them; fixtures within their static environment. A small sign in the corner of the window titled it "Pillow Time"; crediting the set designer and models. Lys' name appeared about halfway down as 'Dreamer'. I heard a camera humming and realized that I was framing. There was something about the theatric lighting that emphasized the sinuous curves of her physique. Almost at once the disc was exhausted.
After a final look I turned away. Not homeward, but inward to the store. The changeover to the "new style" had already spread to most of the floor displays. The few remaining old-type mannequins looked absurdly crude. Whoever had chosen the live models had done an outstanding job. The ladies were, to a one, showstoppers and the men were properly handsome. I bought the slip that Lys was wearing as a surprise gift for her.
How many days until she returned? I had no idea, but they suddenly flew.
The evening of the awaited day was suddenly now, and the ring on the buzzer
was surely hers.
It was! I drank in the sight of her moving ... a living person again ... walking, smiling, embracing, kissing. Without a word we shifted to the bedroom, emitting clothes along the way. She managed a quick "I guess you missed me..." before the lights went down. Oh, brother, did I miss her! Didn't get a whole lot of sleep that night...
That restday we spent together, topside, in the big regional park. A golden day in the hazy autumn sun. The leaves on the trees were just turning color and the soft breeze held a nip of winter. Soon the park would be closed for the season. For this day it was ours.
Lounging under an ancient oak, head to head, we lay looking up into the branches. I decided to broach a subject which had been worrying me.
"Now that your fling is over, we should make some plans. I can get you a spot at my shop, doing some real research." Actually, it mostly meant cataloging old algorithms, but it was the best we had open. "It pays pretty good, too."
She sat up on one elbow, irked. "What do you mean? I already have a respectable job."
"As a window dummy?" I couldn't believe her.
"Sure. The pay is good and I don't even have to lift a finger," She chuckled. "I got nice ratings for last week."
"Yup. The store keeps track of how many customers buy the things we exhibit. The models get a commission. They moved a lot of my lingerie."
I could understand that. One of those customers had been me. "Plus we get a benefit I'll bet you never even thought of." She came up to sit cross-legged.
"The future. While you're posed, time doesn't hardly pass. Right now I'm medically about a week younger than I would have been otherwise. Soon that will build up to a month, then a year, and so forth. If I keep on doing displays, I could see the next century before it's too late to enjoy it. I sort of like that idea." She was beginning to get her dander up again.
"You can't be serious!" I shook my head. "Time travel in a window? (there was an old flat movie once that showed such a scene) You're not going to go through with this nonsense..." I said the last with a firm tone that just rankled her even more.
"I sure as hell am!" She jumped to her feet. "You just watch me." She turned and started away.
"Hey! When will I see you again?"
"Would you want to?" Her anger softened a bit. "Oh, you don't understand. I felt good doing the window. It was a chance to express myself, sort of like a ballet dancer or an actress does. Maybe it seems silly to you, but I peeked at the pictures you took of me in that display. They were really super. That's what I meant; it's a kind of performance — an art — appearing as a mannequin."
She walked back and hugged me. "I'll be out in a couple of weeks. Of course you can come by and see me anytime. I know you stopped before; bought my teddy, too." She turned and struck a pose. "Didn't I do a splendid figure?" Before I could answer, she kissed me. Yes, Lyssa was superb...
We didn't say much for the rest of that day as we carefully avoided
the touchy subject; I never got a chance to try to talk her out of her
modeling whim. By the next morning she had vanished back into her unchanging
Again I went through a phase of trying to stay away from her window, but quickly succumbed. The scrapbook I'd started from the pix of her previous display had grown thin and old. There always seemed to be an angle missing or a subtle expression lost; I now could study her petrified beauty as one might appreciate sculpture or a painting. She haunted my dreams, but not with her person. I felt compelled to see her once more, even as a still life.
It was a mistake. Not that she wasn't there ... that she was. This time the display was of swimsuits and again she wore what seemed to be the sexiest outfit of the lot, a skimpy bikini of rather loosely woven buckskin strips. Maybe that was just my impression, but she was the only one in the whole make-believe beach setting with high-heeled pumps on. She gazed levelly from her setting, looking past the plexi to a million miles beyond. Her pale arms and hands were arranged gracefully at each side, reminiscent of Grecian statuary. The other mannequins' presentations also followed a classical image. In contrast, the rest of their guise came straight from the latest of high-fashion styles.
All of the figures had been lavishly made up with rainbow eye shadow, theatrically long eyelashes, radical coiffures and glitzy costume jewelry. Strangely it seemed to fit Lyssa, who usually used a minimum of cosmetics. They had done something extra with makeup to her face and skin to lighten it and add a sparkling, silky sheen. The effect was almost as if she had been transmuted into a flawless marble statue. Every model in the tableaux was individually placed within a shaft of dazzling light.
Lyssa's stance in the display brought her close by the front of the window, with one rigid arm just centimeters from the almost imperceptible plexi. Her captured expression for this performance was a study of subtle contemplation. What had she been thinking of when time stopped for her? This new arrangement in the window made it easy for me to get some very nice pix; including even a few of her side and back, aspects which had been more hidden in the previous arrangement.
While I was exhausting my disc, I happened to notice that the rest of the ladies in the scene were none too tough on the eyes, either. Of course Lyssa was still the finest among them. This time, although it was difficult, I did not purchase the scanty swimsuit she was modeling.
Two weeks can seem to really pass by slowly if you are waiting for someone
to return; my days crawled and dragged until I almost gave up hope. Going
back often to gaze at her outlandish display helped some, and the growing
picture book too.
Finally, after what seemed a two months, Lyssa returned. She wasn't upset anymore. We made up, then we got it on. Sex after such a long wait was really fine.
But she would not stay. A single day off, then back to her window for
weeks. Another brief visit, then absent again. She seemed to be tiring
of our restday lovemaking until it dawned upon me that what was to me an
interminable stretch of time was to her the very next day. After that we
loved less often, but more deeply. She continued to express her fascinating
aptitude in each new portrayal; my treasured pix of frozen performances
continued to amass. I had started a scrapbook. After she had been away
for a few days, I would take out one of the pictures, imagine what it would
feel like making love to her, and jack off madly to get a release.
One day, some months later, she offered to bring me along to see how her 'craft' (as she was now thinking of it) was accomplished.
By now the seasons had passed along to the point where winter clothes were most appropriate. So of course the store had decided to splash out some cheery spring colors and do a dancewear layout with Lyssa as the centerpiece. Lys had by now become their most popular mannequin; she was being featured almost constantly in the windows, advertising, and the catalog. This also meant that she always wore the most striking outfits.
The studio was on the top floor of the store, a walled off loft with a high ceiling behind the credit cashiers and complaint department. There were several changing rooms to one side of the main floor area, which was covered with a fine metallic mesh. Taped lines gave the borders of several window dimensions. Suspended from high above was another grid, of a slightly darker color.
Heavy cables ran over to a control panel littered with switches, indicator lights, and dials. Prop furniture, all covered with the same mesh, was scattered about. Over by the elevators on the other side of the grid was a group of hand carts with padded sides used for transporting the completed mannequins; some were occupied.
Lys had gone in to change and have her makeup done, so I struck up a conversation with the operator, one Aloyisius "Jack" King.
"Yup, kid, this is one helluva racket," he said. (I dislike people who call me 'kid'). "Freeze up, flip out, cash in! The chicks really love the time dilation; like a fountain of youth."
"Really?" I had noticed that Lyssa was tending towards longer and longer displays. Her last one was almost a month.
"Yup. See, when they're zapped, they don't age. Not a bit. The 'lectrinic field put up by this gizmo like heavy-duty protects 'em. No time, no change, no nothin'. It's great!" He swept his hand past the bulky equipment console. "If it wasn't such a pile of junk you could use them in floaters instead of safety belts to keep safe in crashes. But there's still a catch..."
"Catch?" I answered by reflex. Lyssa emerged from her dressing room and my attention wandered from his persistent patter.
"Yup. You see, the exposure builds up. If anyone stays under longer than eight hunderd hours or so, they'll freeze permanent. Never wake up. It's probably something they'll fix real soon, though. 'Course the time limit varies a bit for different folks..."
I had turned around to Lyssa by then and was ignoring King. The latest in dance togs was a shimmering, metallic wisp that clung to her voluptuous figure like a coat of silver-blue paint. A deep V at the bodice showed off her cleavage splendidly, while a wide elastic belt accented her slender waist.
She was made up in the usual display style, with heavy eye lashes, dark eye shadow, and crisply defined lips. Her metallic wig and nail polish matched the hue of the flexsuit; the belt and high-heeled shoes were shining silver. I gaped at her as she sauntered towards us. By now, he had seen her too, or smelled her perfume. I began to grasp why King liked his job so much. Perfume?
"Hiya, baby! Ready to do your living doll bit?" He jibed.
She nodded, primping, looking a little bit flushed. He went over to the controls and glanced at a clipboard of notes, muttering under his breath, "Hmm, window 4A, dance, Lyssa Mangin, featured; twenty-seven days. Ok, that's you kid. Four-Ay's the purple marking. You'll be standing stage center, doing a pull on the browsers."
She walked cautiously onto the uneven grid with her high heels, found her marks, and took her initial stance. While she held herself in place, a make-up lady came over with powder to matte any shiny spots on her nose. Another attendant made sure that Lyssa's wig was smooth and her jewelry sparkled. King explained that the stasis field actually extended a short distance around the subject; making a kind of shell which prevented the encased figure from being directly touched or changed afterward.
The assistants covered every tiny detail, polishing her shoes and dusting her dazzling skintight suit with a feather plume from head to toe to remove any lint. They even dabbed her painted lips with something to make them look moist. Finally all was ready. The entourage retreated and King began his final posing cues.
"Ok, doll, this one's for your boyfriend." Now it was my turn to blush. Lyssa turned, ever so slightly, to glance at me. She looked like a dream. I had a rock-solid erection from the moment she appeared.
"Yep, good. Get your arms set; you've been working out, he comes in and surprises you. You want to touch him, touch him all over. Ok, that's the way. Now look a little startled. You didn't expect to see him..." King was hovering at the edge of the grid, a pushbutton switch held in one hand. "You want him now — Let's see it!"
Lys was looking straight at me, eyebrows arched slightly. Through the
thin fabric, her nipples showed clearly. She took a deep breath as she
tensed her body. Suddenly, there was a high-pitched electronic shriek and
the air between the grids flashed a deep violet blue. Just for an instant;
a brief echo, then silence. King had triggered the stoner. A tang of ozone
permeated the still air.
I looked back at Lyssa and for a second didn't notice any obvious difference.
Our eyes still met; her body still yearned for mine. After hesitating a
moment for memory's sake, I walked out towards her. The enduring transformation
that had just taken place was then immediately obvious.
As I came nearer the full effect became more apparent as, instead of noticing me, she remained woodenly fixed in her attitude from the moment of suspension. Still as stone, she continued to gaze blankly at the spot where I had been. She did not breathe or blink. Others also slowly approached her svelte, unmoving form.
"Everything is done perfect!" the make-up lady clucked. She was fluttering around the freshly mannequinized figure with, of all things, a magnifying glass. Lyssa's supreme desire had once more been realized — she had become truly an object of art. Sort of a high-tech inverse Galatea; turned from life into a statue rather than vice-versa. I wondered if she felt satisfied? That is, if she could feel anything in her present aspect.
Meanwhile, King was busily filling out the stock form and other records with the date and time of suspension. He looked up and saw me gaping at her standing in place.
"Hey, kid, shake a leg! Give me a hand and lug your honey there over to the carrier. I got another one to unfreeze now." He handed me one of the tags. It said simply '02153-4A / 1'. Great; she didn't even have a name anymore. "Bring me back nineteen-oh- four".
A few seconds passed after I went up to her before grasping her solid, changeless contours. At first I was worried that she would feel cold or otherwise peculiar to my touch; in fact the invisible shell made her shapely form very smooth. She didn't seem to have any atypical temperature either. Oddly, though, there was still some residual fragrance that lingered around her.
I was undecided as to which way to lift Lyssa as I placed my arms around her unyielding waist. I settled for face-to-face which gave me the chance for a too-long look into her wide, unblinking eyes. Transfixed at the instant of stasis, she did not — could not — move in the slightest degree. Totally rigid, she looked like a life-sized toy from the set of The Nutcracker ballet. Almost artificial; as if somehow the real Lyssa had been spirited away and a flawless replica put in her place.
A simulacrum, yes; with body posed in studied grace, legs and arms placed in just the correct manner, features composed by the hands of a master. The original Lyssa was back at home waiting to resume the bedroom acrobatics we had shared all of yesterday. No, not quite; alongside the base of the figure's neck, just by the edge of the suit, was the faint dark smudge of a hickey that makeup hadn't covered completely. So tiny no one but me would have noticed, but it totally shattered the fantasy. That impeccable mannequin really was her.
Once in the carrier she looked lonely, so I sneaked a kiss upon those
perfect lips, savoring the memory to hold me until her return. At the last
moment, I remembered to attach the stock tag to her left wrist.
The girl marked '1904-10C / 5' was a tall redhead with seductive smile and twinkling green eyes. She wore a hot-pink ski suit and held her arms as if to grasp the poles. I carried her over to the center of the grid and walked back.
"Yep, that's ok; anywhere will do. Stand clear!" The violet light flashed again. It seemed as if the pitch of the shriek was different. The reanimated girl seemed to come out of it slowly, first blinking her eyes, then flexing her arms. Then she sneezed, shaking her head.
"Drat! That powder gets me every time." She walked slowly off the grid. "Hey, Jacko, how's the world? And who's this?" The last with a glance at me.
"The world, Mandy, is still the same sorry place it always was. As for my friend..." The silence stretched.
"Hmphm. I'm Randle, I improvised. Pleased to meet you."
"Mandy Grey; likewise. You with one of the stiffs?" She swept the loaded carriers with her eyes, pausing overlong at Lyssa I thought.
"No," I lied. "Just stopped by to see how it's done. I'm thinking of doing some display work myself."
"That's neat, Randy. Only don't get yourself all friz' up before we've had a chance to get to know each other." She sauntered over and placed my arm around her waist. "My guy is in the blizzard display and won't be out for another week." She pouted, a rather attractive expression. "And I go back in two days. You could think of something to do with a couple of days, couldn't you?" I could only trust myself to nod. "Good," She said. "Let me get out of this stuff and we can grab a snack. I haven't eaten in what seems a month!'
Mandy turned and pranced over to a dressing room. I turned back to Jack
King, who was shaking his head slowly. "Helluva racket, kid, helluva
As things turned out, Mandy and I did well with each other for the brief two days we were together. I came up to the display studio when she went under and we did a sort of repeat of the routine Lyssa had posed by. Mandy managed to express quite a bit of feeling despite the fact she was modeling a parka. Then she, too, suddenly became unavailable.
Wouldn't you know, just after Mandy went into the display, I met Felicia,
then Constance, Darla, Angeline, and so on. One or two days at a time,
all just short stands, but what the hell! In a way it was perfect for me,
because their display schedules kept them apart. One warm and loving, the
rest on hold in the windows. Patiently waiting.
I still went by almost daily to look at Lyssa in her dancer's display. Whoever had arranged the setting and the mannequins had done an amazing job. The elegant commotion of a rehearsal loft filled the window. To one side, a willowy lass in leotard and leg warmers poised 'on pointe' while others stretched at the barre. Over to the right, additional models were placed in line, some doing exercises. Others stretched or fixedly regarded the middle of the stage as if watching intently.
Centered in a flood of varicolored lights, Lyssa stood apart. Looking
right straight through the glass, that sexy sparkle captured in her eyes,
she was the star. My memory of her was so strong that I even picked up
the scent of the fragrance she had worn.
By now, her display shift was drawing short and very soon she would be alive in my arms again. Knowing this, though, did not keep me from 'playing in the window' as I had come to think of it. Then the fateful day came. I remember it well as I had already marked the next to the last 'away' entry on Lyssa's calendar and was planning something special for her. Usually I left a day's gap between models just to be safe; this was my last night with the acrobatic Monique.
We were up in the studio, shooting the breeze with King. The phone rang and he was called away, leaving us to lock up. Making love in her dressing room, we sort of lost track of the time. Jack never did come back. All the lights had been turned out. With only an exit sign for illumination, we made our way out into the quiet corridor. There were no night guards, or they were off somewhere.
Monique rubbed up against my side. She did not believe in overdressing and wore only a sheer leotard, short skirt, and heels. Getting up on tiptoe, she whispered in my ear. "Hey, ever done it in public?" She grabbed my arm and started leading me.
"Can't say that I have. Don't really want to, either."
"Oh, why be a party pooper? How about in front of some of our friends?" We had reached the front of the store and she pulled open one of the doors into the display windows. Shadowy figures stood within. The plexi was night polarized, Monique had said, so no one from the street could see in but we could see out easily. She prodded me past the dark doorway and flicked on the work lights.
By some odd chance (I thought then) she had chosen the dance display. The models looked from behind like a unwavering chorus line, flanking the statuesque silhouette of Lyssa. Monique elbowed her way to the front, moving one figure aside, then another. She had already started quickly undressing, draping her clothes on one outstretched arm of the mannequinized ballerina.
Pausing for a moment, she looked at me and beamed, "See, this sort of audience won't interrupt us!"
"I don't think this is such a good idea." Lys, with her startled expression, seemed to be scolding me.
"Nonsense. No more talking."
While she dozed afterward, I was restless. Feeling guilty, I went up to Lyssa and caressed her exquisite physique. Kissing her lightly, I whispered in her ear, "Only a few more days, my love, then we'll be together." I failed to notice that Monique had awakened and watched that one sided tryst with my luscious Galatea.
Later, after dressing, she remembered that her purse was up in the studio. So I stayed back to tidy up the window while she retrieved it. Together we searched out an emergency exit and slipped out into the night. Passing Lyssa's showpiece window from the outside, I suddenly realized it wasn't polarized! How many passersby had seen our horizontal acrobatics that night?
Although she denied it, Monique might have planned it that way... The next day I walked into work right into a whirlwind of troubles. Somewhere, up North, one of the programs had gone south in a big way. Plane tickets were shoved into my hand and before I knew it the jump-jet stratoliner had finished boost and we were coasting, weightless. I took the time to call Lyssa at home. She wasn't back yet, so I left a message.
When I arrived onsite I found that, if anything, they had underestimated
the damage. When an automated factory goes awry, it takes a while to figure
out where it all started before looking for an answer. I spent 20-hour
days, swilling coffeine and poring through machine logs. Finally, the bug
emerged. Just a little tiny thing, really. But like the nail in the shoe
of the horse of the general, it had compounded itself into a major problem.
Fixing it was easy. Finding what needed fixing was the tough part.
I arrived back early in the morning of what to me was evening of an already long day. Lyssa was nowhere around, so I dropped my stuff, grabbed a beer, and sat down to read my mail and messages. Heard my message of earlier in the week. Then an insolently familiar voice came on the recorder line.
"Randy, this is Jack King over at *Mart*. Please come by as soon as possible. There's been an accident with your lady friend Lyssa..."
The rest of the message was lost to me as I flew out the door, trailing my coat. Traffic to Uptown was agonizingly slow; finally I bounded up to the studio door and pushed through without knocking. King was waiting inside.
"I don't know how to explain it. We take every precaution..." "What! What are you talking about?" Without realizing it I had grabbed his shoulders and spun him around to face me.
"Lysanda Mangin overstayed her exposure limit. There was some sort of foulup with the schedule; somehow she got moved into a storeroom by mistake. When we found her she was eight days past time." He bowed his head. "You were her beneficiary."
It finally sank in. "So she's stuck in stasis?"
He nodded. "We tried everything we knew. Even tried changing the master phasing, blew out an oscillator. No luck. The tech folks say they may lick the problem someday though, so you shouldn't give up hope..."
"Where is she?"
He led me over beside the dressing rooms. Someone had covered her inanimate form with a sheet; I tugged it off. I don't know what I had expected; she was just as I had seen her last in the display window, clad in sapphire hues, a rigidly perfect mannequin where there should have been a living woman. Her beautiful, empty eyes met mine; her moist, china lips still yearned. Sculpted curves creating a vision of austere, ravishing loveliness. A transient moment of desire that would last forever. She had truly become a work of art, preserved as she was now for an endless time ... an effigy of herself.
King pulled at my elbow. "What do you want to do with the, ah, figure?" He couldn't say her name. We walked away.
"She'll want to go home."
I fixed up a place really nice for her, put in overhead lights and all. Just like her own window, so she'd feel comfortable. Every few days I would shift her around or change the spots to bring out a different expression by the play of light and shadow. Looking deep into her eyes, I know she's still in there, trapped. She seems to be trying to speak out, but silence endures. Maybe she has become satisfied now with her fountain of youth.
After a while, it came to me how Lyssa's schedule had gotten altered.
It happened on that one night of reckless whimsy. Jealousy can make a person
do strange things, indeed. I have just finished putting up another set
of lights in the alcove.
Tomorrow, Monique joins my private display group.