Strangers in the Night
This is a story I wrote for an exchange a few years ago. It was inappropriate at the time, but now that Halloween is coming, perhaps it is more appropo.
Warning: this story does not have a happy ending. If this bothers you, don't read it at all.
The following contains sexual situations, course language, and scenes not intended for younger (or overly optimistic) readers.
Actually, the drink was more to settle his nerves and clear his head than to celebrate. He had received a letter from an editor at Science Fiction Digest that day. The editor had read one of his stories as a favor to a friend, and was interested enough to request a 'more heartfelt piece' from him, restricted to a maximum of 5,000 words, for potential publication in SF-D.
The only problem was, reading the letter had chased all creative ideas from Steven's mind. It didn't help that he didn't know what aspects of his writing the editor liked, or what qualified as 'more heartfelt'. This could be his meal ticket, the true beginning of his career, if only he could pull off this one story.
As the alcohol began to dissolve his tension, his eyes wandered, and he found himself gazing at an attractive young woman he had never seen before, a few seats away, who was well into her second drink. Looking the other way, the woman chose that moment to let her hair down, literally, setting to combing out the pony tail with her hand into auburn locks cascading down her back. Her poise suggested a woman with class, yet she was dressed as casual as any college freshman; she wore a black trenchcoat which she kept wrapped around her shoulders despite the warmth of the club, and the legs of blue jeans were visible under the coat's hem, ending in a pair of new sneakers that shone white in the club's dim light. She seemed oblivious to everyone around her, which was body language that all but the most confident of suitors read as 'leave me alone'.
When Steven's eyes came back up her body, he found her turned toward him, watching him with a coolness in her eyes. Her face glowed with a light sheen of perspiration, making her seem even more beautiful than he had expected. He figured she was in her early twenties, probably a college student after all. She wore no makeup; she didn't need any, and she probably knew it. He blushed, quickly muttered an apology she couldn't possibly hear, and looked elsewhere.
A moment later, when he felt motion next to him, he glanced up and was surprised to find the woman had taken the bar stool beside him. Her demeanor had changed: She had put on a sophisticated-looking pair of glasses, and her full lips were smiling at him in a friendly manner, and her green eyes, while warmer, maintained an intensity of purpose. "Hello," she said politely as she slid her drink into position in front of her. "My name's Josephine, though my friends call me Jo. What's your name?"
"Steven," he replied, wondering what was up. "Are you a student at the university?"
"Hm? Oh... maybe..." she answered distractedly as she glanced around. "I'm new in town, and... Listen, can we go somewhere? I don't really like this place."
Steven wondered briefly at her behavior. He didn't think the live band was that bad, but if she wasn't a club member and somehow snuck in, it could explain her nervousness. This woman wanted to talk to him, and he was becoming more intrigued by the minute. "Sure," he said, standing up.
Jo put a ten-spot on the bar, took Steven's hand, and led him toward the door.
Once outside on the sidewalk, she slowed and seemed to calm down somewhat, though she kept hold of his hand. She turned and smiled up at him. "Believe it or not, I'm not in the habit of picking people up at bars. I would just appreciate it if you could show me around a little."
Steven showed her a few sites and they got something to eat. Whenever people would walk by them, Jo would step closer to him, and sometimes, to his surprise, put her head on his shoulder.
As they walked, Jo told of how she had been passing through when her car blew something-or-other, and now she was stranded in town for at least the night. "I can't really afford a hotel room," she admitted, looking at the ground. "Would it be all right if I came home with you tonight?"
So, that's it, Steven thought to himself, though he wasn't completely convinced. "Hmm," he hedged, considering. "All right, but a few conditions."
They stopped walking and Jo glanced up at him, waiting.
"First, my apartment is a bachelor's apartment. Rumors about bachelors don't exaggerate when it comes to cleanliness. Can you deal with whatever you might face up there?"
Josephine smiled a bit apprehensively, but nodded.
"Second, there is only one bed, but it is a big one. Are you willing to share it?"
The woman blushed slightly, but nodded with resolution.
Wow, he thought. She really is in a tight spot. Leaning closer to her, he spoke softly, "And lastly, on the condition that you tell me the truth. All of it."
Josephine blanched, looking panicky for a second. A second later, her expression was back in her control. Her lips firmed and her green eyes studied him intently. "All right," she said finally, "if you insist. But not here. Not now."
Steven's place was a standard one bedroom apartment, decorated with discarded clothing that were in various states of cleanliness. The only free zone seemed to be his computer desk, where his Gateway computer sat, a shrine where he toiled and prayed for inspiration. "Don't say I didn't warn you," Steven declared, by way of introduction. Knowing that it wouldn't make much difference, he didn't even make a token effort to clean up.
Jo walked slowly into the apartment with her hands clasped behind her back, drinking it all in. "It's very... homey," she allowed. She seemed preoccupied.
Steven closed the door behind her and locked it. "Now, where were we?" he prompted.
Jo turned toward him and gripped his shirt front. "Is it warm in here, or is it just me?" she asked. Indeed, she was looking somewhat flushed. Her breathing had quickened, becoming more audible through her mouth.
"Are you all right?" Steven was about to ask, when the woman pulled him down into a long kiss and wrapped her arms around his neck.
Steven barely got them to the bedroom before his pants dropped around his ankles. Jo pushed him down onto the bed and crawled on top of him, so full of passion that she seemed possessed.
They made love for over an hour before she finally collapsed beside him and they fell asleep.
The next morning, Steven opened his eyes. He was feeling pleasantly relaxed from the night's festivities and he had a beautiful woman sleeping next to him. Sober, and in the morning light, she looked younger than he'd thought. He peered closer at her sleeping form. Her round, peaceful face made her look a lot younger. Uh oh. Steven began to worry that he may have committed a felony. Please be eighteen, he thought desperately to himself. With his luck, she was a rebellious kid who ran away from home to lose her virginity and get back at her parents for something.
He began to gently shake her shoulder. "Good morning," he whispered in her ear.
The girl stretched her thin arm over her head and yawned, then opened her eyes.
Stark terror filled her green eyes and she screamed, startling him. Scrambling out of bed, the girl ran to the bathroom and slammed the door shut.
Oh man, now what, he thought to himself as he got out of bed and quickly put his pants on.
The bathroom was quiet when he knocked. "Jo?" he called.
"Go away!" came her voice. She even sounded less mature than last night.
"I have your clothes here..."
"I'll just leave them outside the door, okay?" He found himself talking condescendingly, trying to calm a wigged out teenager.
A moment later, the door opened. Out stepped a chagrined Jo, wearing one of Steven's shirts which reached down her thighs and covered her hands. "I'm sorry," she said, not looking him in the face. "I... forgot where I was."
Steven nodded, looking concerned. He took her hands and looked into her young face. "Are you okay, now?" he asked her.
Jo nodded, and looked up at him. She seemed more fragile than she had the night before. Less confident. And... maybe shorter. Her auburn hair glowed a lighter red in the daylight.
"I'm sorry about last night," Steven began.
"No, that was my fault," Jo replied, her assertiveness returning. But her voice was definitely higher. "Look, do you have any alcohol? I need a drink."
"Er, well, it's too early for that," he replied, deciding not to add to his list of felonies. "Why don't I get us some breakf-!" Suddenly, Jo French kissed him again. Her face was flushed, and she started panting through her nose. Steven could feel her breasts pressed against him, and he had no doubt that they were smaller than they were last night. With considerable self control, he carefully took her wrists and extracted himself from her embrace. "Stop," he started, catching his breath. "What is going..."
The aroused, captive girl before him slowly, almost imperceptibly, shrank. He watched as the top of her head sank about three inches lower in his vision. Her flushed cheeks became even rounder, her orange-sized breasts pulled in on themselves until they were apples. The shirt she wore rustled as it repositioned itself on her thinning frame.
The twenty-year-old from the night before, who had looked like she was barely seventeen this morning, now looked like a gawky fifteen-year-old.
Jo sat on the bed, sniffling back tears, with Steven's arm around her shoulders as he tried to comfort her and waited for her story to begin. He had agreed to let her have some of his Tequila, which she drank quite freely before she was willing to speak.
"I'm screwed," she began, rather appropriately for someone of her apparent age. "I was working as a lab assistant near here, on a 'Skunk Works' project. That's what they call experiments that aren't exactly legal. We were testing a new nanobot technology. It's years away from FCC approval. Hell, any nanotechnology is at least a decade away! The bots were programmed to regenerate tissue, even regrow limbs, by reading the patient's DNA/RNA map and building whatever cells were missing. And it worked." She wiped her eyes on her sleeve. "Sherry... my test monkey... regrew her finger and became perfectly healthy. But then something went wrong. The bots wouldn't stop. They started a new cycle, this time reading the previous stage of the DNA/RNA sequence. They reformed Sherry to an earlier stage. They made her younger! And they cycled again, and again..."
She stopped and blew her nose. "When we analysed her remains, we found the glitch in their programming. They had an extra routine meant to allow them to repair damaged DNA. Instead, though, they started reverting the RNA, stripping pieces of it and executing the new mapping.
"When I was handling her... remains... I was careless." The girl looked up at her new friend with fear and sadness - doom - in her eyes.
Steven's mouth was dry. He withdrew his arm from around her. "We should call someone," he stated, his mind racing.
"No!" Jo put her adolescent hand on his. "There's nothing medical science can do. They've never dealt with anything like this before. By the time they finished analyzing me, it would already be too late."
"There must be something!" Steve insisted. "Irradiation... chemotherapy?"
Jo shook her head emphatically, tossing her hair around. "The amount of radiation it would take to disable the bots would kill me. Chemicals don't affect them; they use chemicals as building blocks in their work. I've been drinking because the alcohol seems to help slow them down. Probably only because it slows me down."
"Then go back to your company!" He was getting angry, frustrated at her negative insistence.
"Steve," she said softly, the calm voice of reason. "They are hunting for me now, with only one thing on their minds: damage control. They can't risk being exposed. If they locate me, they will activate the self-destruct routine in the bots. I'll just become another X-File, another case of spontaneous combustion." She held his hand in both of hers. "Just hold me," she pleaded.
"How... how is it transmitted? Am I in trouble here?"
"You shouldn't be. Th-they stay mostly in the blood. That's how I contracted them. Don't touch my blood, and you should be all right."
Steven held her as he tried to think. After a few moments, he felt her lips on his neck. "Er, Jo," he started, not really interested.
"It's these hormones," she whispered breathlessly in his ear. "They've started again... the body's own little instruction set... reprogrammed..." She shifted against him, pushing herself into his lap to straddle him. "Please... give me this one last thing," she panted, pushing him down as she worked on his pants.
Steven could feel how much lighter she had become since the night before, the last time she took control. He could topple the young teen easily, he knew. But he didn't. She was still beautiful, though her womanhood was much less pronounced. Her passion gave her young body a sexuality he wouldn't have believed from any other girl her age.
He opened her shirt and started caressing her small breasts, imagining he could feel them dwindling in his hands. Her breath caught as he thumbed her nipples, and she jolted at the sensations, arcing her back and bucking against him. With a small smile, he pulled her down to him for a kiss, then rolled her over to take control.
He parted her thighs and entered her carefully, finding her incredibly tight. She winced but voiced no protest. Taking her wrists in his hands, he effortlessly pinned them to the bed as he slowly rode her, watching her sweat-drenched face as she writhed beneath him. He imagined he could feel her vaginal canal narrow around his member as her chest and hips slowly narrowed. The bed was soaked with her sweat now, and a peculiar smell had filled the air around them.
Just as Steven decided he should stop or risk hurting her, the girl bucked and orgasmed. He pulled out, and the girl lay there, soaked and panting. Her breasts had reduced to puffy nipples, and even they faded away as her chest heaved. Between her legs, the last remnants of pubic hair had also faded away.
The preteen looked down at Steven's still-stiff member and said, "I'm sorry. Let me-"
"That's quite all right," the man replied, moving away from her reaching hand. "That would be... just too weird." Jo's final transformation had changed Steven's feelings. His erection quickly subsided. Now, an adorable, though naked child with cherry-red hair was laying on the bed before him. All he wanted to do now was protect her -- and decently cover himself in her presence.
Jo let her skinny arm drop back to the mattress. "Suit yourself," she panted, then closed her eyes and smiled, reveling in the glow of her recent orgasm. She barely noticed when her lover covered her with a blanket.
"What's that smell?" Steve was almost afraid to ask.
"Hm? Oh. I guess it's all that stuff my body is purging."
"Oh." Ugh. "I think I will go get us something to eat."
He paused in getting dressed, looking at her with unvoiced concern.
She peered up at him. "I'll be okay," she assured him, her high, childish voice not lending any support to her claim.
Steven nodded and went out.
Getting some air was a wonderful thing, and not just because of the weird smell now pervading his apartment; he needed time to wrap his head around the mind-wrenching turns his life had taken in the past twelve hours.
When he returned home with a pizza (a breakfast of champions), he found that his bedroom window was open, and Jo was nowhere to be found. Suddenly scared, Steven rushed around the apartment, looking for his guest, hoping she hadn't run off.
He found her soaking in the bathtub, the door slightly ajar. She looked peaceful, but... the water was dark. His mind clicked into autopilot and he charged into the bathroom, grabbed her under her arms and hauled her out of the water. It was then that he could see the gashes in her wrists, bleeding freely. Snatching towels from the floor, he wrapped her wrists tightly and carried her to the bedroom.
Dropping her on the bed, he snatched up the phone and pounded '9-1-1' on the number pad. "9-1-1 operator. What is the nature of your emergency?"
Steven was about to answer when a small finger hit the hang-up lever on the phone.
Little Jo was looking up at him, half with anger, half with dread. "No!" she piped sternly.
Steven tried to push her onto the bed, but she grabbed the phone's cradle and refused to let it go. A tug of war ensued.
The man stopped when he realized that the towels had fallen away from her wrists. They lay on the bed, stained with blood, yet blood was no longer spurting from her wrists. In fact, there was no blood on her wrists at all. "What the fuck?" he almost screamed, reality having taken another turn without filling him in.
Jo put the phone down and rubbed her wrists, then looked up at him. "They fucking heal me, that's what the fuck!" she cried.
Steve felt woozy with shock. "Don't... don't ever do that again!" Anger welled up in him. He grabbed her arm and yanked her around, then landed three hard swats to her bottom.
Jo shrieked and started crying, unable to help herself. Yanking her arm free, she scampered away from him to the other side of the bed. "What the fuck are you doing?" she squeaked.
"Don't ever do that again!" he repeated. "You might heal, but what about all this shit?" He gestured at the blood-stained sheets. "Are you trying to get me infected too?!"
Jo blinked. "I... I hadn't thought..." she stuttered, too abashed to know what to say.
"That's exactly it! you didn't!" Steve sat on the bed, trying to calm down and think.
Jo inched around the bed and sat beside him, one hand covering her crotch, the other wiping at her drying tears. She was less than ten years old.
"Here is how it's going to be," he stated firmly, having made up his mind. "You are going to follow my rules, or you are going to leave. You got that? This is my place, and you are going to respect me!"
"All right," the girl said in a small voice.
"First rule, no more suicide attempts. You want to try that crap, you go somewhere far away from me."
The girl nodded.
"Second, you are going to get dressed. Well, at least keep yourself decent. I can't afford to buy you an outfit, but you can at least wear some of my shirts.
"Third, you are going to clean up your mess and drain the bathtub. If I end up infected, I am going to be really pissed off!
"Fourth.... well, basically, whatever I say goes. Got it?"
Jo leaned against him and kissed his cheek. "Thank you," she whispered, looking extremely grateful. She shivered in the cold draft from the window.
Steven cleared his throat, embarrassed for some reason. "Oh yeah, why is the window open?"
"It stank in here," the girl replied simply.
"Okay. Let's get this place cleaned up and have some pizza. I hope those damn robots are biodegradable. I'm... going to go wash my hands."
Jo seemed to adjust well to the new situation. Perhaps the suicide attempt was cathartic, or perhaps what she had needed was for someone else to take charge, to care for her in her weakened state. She thoroughly enjoyed the pizza, joking that her diet was finally over. She happily sat in front of the television and watched whatever she could find. The Discovery Channel was her favorite station.
An idea came to Steven as he sat down in his computer chair. He looked over at the eight-year-old, who had built a little nest for herself from his abundant and aromatic clothing. She'd told him she didn't mind the smell, since it smelled like him. "Jo? Why don't we email your story to someone in the government? Blow the lid off that secret project."
The girl looked over and shook her light auburn hair. "They wouldn't believe it, or they'd never catch them."
"But you are living proof."
She shook her head again. "They have connections on high. And it is still my decision, and I say no. Please respect my wishes."
He smiled sadly even as he grudgingly agreed. The girl still had class, her poise revealing itself every now and again to bely her childish appearance.
The girl grew younger as the day grew older. At one point, her largish feet made snapping noises as they reduced to a more suitable size.
Steve let her watch some of his DVDs, but when he noticed she was hiding her face during some of the scenes, he decided to keep her from watching the ones with the Restricted rating -- which was just about every DVD in his collection. When he put a Pokemon tape into the VCR, she gave him a wry look, but didn't protest. When she would grow bored, she would play with Steve's figurines of Freddy Krueger and a plastic rendition of the Abominable Snowman.
Steven had finally been inspired for his next story. He spent his time at his computer, half typing, half listening to the child behind him.
By dinner time, the girl had shrunk to six years old, her body preparing for another backward growth spurt. Her limbs were stick-thin. She had taken to singing the Pokemon theme as she played with her figurines.
When Steven realized that she had fallen silent, he looked around for her. He found her in the bedroom, curled up in the bed, fast asleep with the Abominable Snowman clutched to her chest. He was just in time to witness the growth spurt. The girl's skinny limbs began to shorten and swell with baby fat and her hair lightened to almost a strawberry blonde. Her cheeks began to puff as well, her nose shrinking to a button as the girl slept on, mercifully unaware as her body reverted, appearing to become almost as much baby as child.
The girl had ceased to change by the time Steven gently shook her awake. The man carefully lifted the four-year-old into his arms and carried her to the kitchen as she rubbed her eyes with a dimpled hand. "Time to eat, sweetie," he crooned, almost unable to believe that his beautiful friend had been reduced to this fifty-pound baby. The billowing sleeve of her T-shirt covered her arms almost to her wrists, and the hem easily reached her ankles.
Sitting atop the counter before Steven, little Joey was able to eat a few pieces of cut-up pizza before she was forced to stop. "Stevie," she whined, "I don't feel so good." With that, she threw up, sending the chunks of pizza to the floor and staining her shirt with bile.
Steven turned her to the sink until she was finished retching, then picked her up and hurried her to the bathroom, where he sat her on the toilet and drew a shallow bath.
The little girl began to cry as her guardian removed her shirt. "I can feel it," she sobbed. "My muscles... I'm getting weaker... lighter."
Not knowing what to say, Steven wordlessly sat the three-year-old into the bath and began washing her. She was visibly shrinking by this time, steadily slipping backward instead of the sporadic growth spurts. Her hair was thinning, and her voice was taking on babyish tones. She stopped talking and began to wail.
Finishing the bath quickly, Steven lifted the two-year-old into a towel, took her to the bedroom, and sat down on the bed and cradled in the towel. He shushed her, trying desperately to comfort the baby that was quickly fading in his arms.
Crying himself, he closed his eyes tight and didn't open them again until her voice had been silent for some time.
He carefully folded the towel, with the reverence of a statesman folding the American flag at a funeral.
Steven's story submission was indeed heart-felt, about how a beautiful woman was destroyed by a technology intended to make dreams come true.