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Present–Beaumont, Montana, USA
Misty-eyed Morgana Jones stared at the lush green forest sprawled before her. This was where she first saw the stranger.
He had penetrating green eyes–eyes that seemed to see into her very soul. She shivered slightly in remembrance.
“I miss you, my friend,” Morgana whispered.
He said his name was Quinn Baxter, and his occupation was that of a biochemist. He also claimed that he lived in Beaumont, which she doubted. She knew everyone in the small town of Beaumont and couldn’t ever remember seeing him before.
Morgana’s eyes were moist with unshed tears. She wiped them away with her index finger. She shouldn’t think about him. He had been gone for a year now.
She hadn’t known him very well at all, but she wanted to. She was desperate to learn everything about him but didn’t have the time or opportunity.
The calming effect of a quiet forest helped resurrect stored memories of the last few times she had seen Quinn.
Some time ago…
Morgana finally took a much-needed short break from her hectic job as senior pathologist at a nearby hospital. Two days off was just what she needed.
She went to a river near a park and put her achy feet into the cool water.
“This feels good,” Morgana mumbled.
While her feet dangled in the water, she moved them slightly, which stirred the water and created ripples. The water swirled through and around her toes.
She watched the water move in rhythm with her feet. She withdrew her feet from the water, dried them off with a small towel, and put on her shoes.
Before she got up, however, she decided to lie down on the oversized towel she had been sitting on while her feet had rested in the water. For some reason, she could no longer keep her eyes open. Lying down, she quickly dozed off.
He didn’t believe he would ever meet a woman as lovely as she. She was the perfect woman, but a lasting relationship with her would not be possible. He knew this.
Slowly, he walked closer to her as she slumbered. He stopped when his feet were near her head.
Fluffy, short brown hair framed her round face. He guessed at the color her eyes. They would be black as coal. Moreover, those lips–they were perfectly formed and kissable.
Such thoughts were going to get him into trouble.
Morgana woke with a start to find a man standing over her.
Before she could question him, however, the man caught her off balance with just a few words.
“You’ve been here before, but with a man. He cared a great deal about you.”
“He wants to marry me, but I am not sure he is the right man,” Morgana remarked, blushing slightly.
She didn’t know why she told the stranger about her friend, Bob Cantrell. The stranger didn’t need to know. She found, however, that for some inexplicable reason, she could trust him.
The man extended his hand to help her get up. She took it. He pulled her up close to his body.
“Who are you?” Morgana whispered.
He felt her warm breath on his heated skin. He was tempted to kiss her but thought better of it.
He left her standing while he walked over to the river that had caressed her small feet earlier.
“The Rambling River is beautiful, isn’t it? I might just put my feet in it, as you did. You seemed to be enjoying yourself earlier.”
“I was. This is my first few days off in a long time. I am tired, and I needed to rest. You haven’t answered my question, however. Who are you?”
“Morgana Jones,” Morgana extended her small hand, which he encompassed with his.
“Nice to meet you,” Quinn responded.
“I need to keep an appointment. We’ll meet here again,” Quinn added.
“Sure. Until then,” Morgana stated.
Morgana watched Quinn walk away, away from her and her dented vanity. She frowned and thought him to be strange or was mysterious a better description?
Her gut feeling was that he was not who he said he was. He was hiding something.
She had one more day off before she went back to work. Would she see Quinn near the forest again? She hoped so.
Quinn knew he shouldn’t have approached her when he did. He was treading in deep water, but he couldn’t stop himself–nor did he want to.
He had yet to decide just how much he should tell her about himself and why he would soon be leaving.
Once he was completely out of her view, he turned around and headed for the forest. Little did she know the forest was his temporary haven.
He must stay out of sight for as long as he could. If they found him… ‘They’ were an elite security squad from his home planet.
He dreaded it. His very existence was in jeopardy.
Before he entered the lush green forest, he couldn’t help but admire the sheer beauty of the forest, with its various shades of green and yellow foliage and its countless varieties of wildlife. This was very much like home to him.
Home. His home planet, Kron, is an exact replica of Earth. He doubted he would ever see his home again.
Life there is not life. It is madness and tyranny in their truest forms. No. Going home is not a choice for him. However, hopping planets is.
Quinn would sorely miss Earth. He knew that; he had no doubts at all.
In addition, he would miss Morgana–lovely Morgana–the woman who gave his humble existence meaning.
Once he entered his home, he acclimated himself with its smooth metal walls, glass ceilings, textured floors, and sculptured, plush chairs for comfortable seating. He had made and created everything himself.
An impenetrable, invisible dome protected his humble abode from uninvited visitors.
He meandered to a full wall screen monitor and spoke to it in his native dialect. The screen came to life in various colors of pale yellow and green.
The screen displayed planets in the Omega Solar System that were habitable. He had exhausted the habitable planets in his own solar system.
“Display preferred hospitable planet this quadrant, Z2, V322,” Quinn commanded.
One bright red globe appeared before his eyes. Home. His new home was on display for him to view.
Quinn continued to stare at the screen, feeling cold and empty inside.
Morgana did not see Quinn the next day. Her employer had called her quite early that day and requested she come in to analyze a surgical specimen.
Bob Cantrell, her closet friend and fellow clinical pathologist, met her when she entered the lab.
“Good to see you. Ready for another hectic day?” Bob remarked with pent-up enthusiasm reflected in his voice.
“Of course,” Morgana responded.
He helped Morgana, as he had done over the years, while she painstakingly evaluated a surgical specimen and supplied a diagnosis. She was never wrong in her evaluations or diagnoses.
After providing the chief surgeon with the results, she and Bob headed for their favorite haunt–a café found one half mile from the hospital.
The café was crowded on that Sunday afternoon, but this didn’t prevent Morgana and Bob from getting a soft booth in a secluded corner. Once seated, they sat back and relaxed. Both were bone tired, but Bob was anxious to tell her what was on his mind, and now was the time.
Just as Bob was about to speak, however, the server approached. Great, he thought, an interruption he didn’t need.
“We’re not ready to order. Please return in a few minutes.”
The server took his dismissal in stride as she quickly made her way to another table.
“Good job today, you workaholic,” Bob announced while Morgana studied the menu.
“Thank you.” Morgana remarked and placed her hand on his.
“We have always worked well, together as a team, haven’t we?”
“We certainly have,” Bob replied.
“What do you say we see a movie next weekend?” Bob suggested.
“I don’t know. Let me think about that, Bob.”
“What’s bothering you? Something is on your mind. Would you care to discuss it?” Bob queried.
“Yes, I would. I met a man recently. He called himself Quinn Baxter. He had the most gorgeous green eyes I have ever seen. There was something strange about him, however.”
“How strange? Explain, please,” Bob asked.
“That’s just it. I can’t explain, exactly. Although, I have the strangest feeling that he is not one of us. He comes from somewhere else. I don’t know where. Damn! I must be losing my mind.”
“You’re not losing it, Morgana. You’ve lost it. You say he comes from somewhere else. Where do you think he comes from?”
“That’s just it. I don’t know where he comes from. Although, he says he is a resident of Beaumont. I know all the people here. He is not a resident. I don’t know who or what he is, Bob. He scares me a little.”
“Let me find out what I can about him.”
“Don’t waste your time. He is probably married and has a slew of children,” Morgana responded.
“Perhaps. I’ll see what I can find out about him. Humor me.”
Quinn was happy to see Morgana, happier than he had felt in a long, long time. She was a breath of fresh air.
He had to earn Morgana’s trust. This was important to him, because just a few days ago, he had received a message from a colleague. This message revealed that the Kron security squad was closing in. His time on Earth was extremely short. Scarier, however, was that his brief time with Morgana was also ending.
Quinn decided to risk seeing Morgana for the last time of their brief acquaintance.
Exiting the forest, he spotted her. His heart skipped a few beats.
“Quinn,” Morgana uttered.
He held out his hand and she took it. Her touch meant a great deal to him.
“I’ve missed you.”
“And, I have missed you,” Quinn remarked. “Come. I want to show you where I live.”
She backed away from him.
He saw her fear reflected in her face and understood.
“No harm will come to you. Trust me,” Quinn remarked.
Morgana watched as Quinn raised his arms in a wide arc. Before her eyes, what was a huge oak tree turned into a furnished modular home of sorts. It was different from anything she had ever seen before.
“Come in,” Quinn said softly.
Her legs wobbled as she entered his home.
“I was right,” She whispered. “You are not of this world. Where do you come from?”
“Morgana, sit down before you fall down.”
There was a touch of humor reflected in his voice.
Morgana removed her cardigan sweater and draped it over what looked like a sofa. Then she sat.
Quinn didn’t let her sit long. He bent over and pulled her up and away from the sofa. Carefully, he placed his arms around her body. She was where he wanted her.
“I shouldn’t do this to you, but I want to give you something to remember me by. Do you still trust me?”
“Yes, I do, I think, but I…”
“No,” Quinn said firmly. “Don’t say anymore. Let us begin. Now, hold very still.”
Quinn caressed her face, neck, and arms. She closed her eyes to savor the feelings his touch evoked.
His intoxicating caresses consumed her. She felt anxious and had difficulty breathing. Highly sensually aroused, she couldn’t open her eyes to look at him.
In the recesses of her mind, she could hear Quinn say that there was more than one way to make love.
“This is what love is all about,” Quinn whispered.
She could feel him twist and turn inside her body. She was thrilled beyond words.
She would never have believed she could feel this way. She was writhing in ecstasy. Then, as quickly as it began, it ended.
When Morgana opened her eyes and realized she was still standing, she turned red. She was embarrassed and couldn’t quite understand what had truly happened.
She wasn’t sure she was in her right senses. She wasn’t sure of anything at this moment.
When she became more coherent, she looked for Quinn and found him standing in front of his fireplace with his arms hovering over the low burning flames.
She saw him glance back at her, and then he resumed his stance and continued staring at the burning flames.
“There are many, many ways to make love; and there are many forms of love. I have just made love to you; and you are surprised at how I did it. Don’t be angry with me at my method.”
He turned his body away from the fireplace to face her.
“I’m not angry. I’m in awe. I think you know I’m attracted to you and have been since I first met you. What just happened was beautiful.”
“Yes, it was beautiful, I know. I am attracted to you, as well. However, I can’t stay here, on this planet, and be with you. I must leave soon. I must find another haven.”
Morgana put her cardigan sweater on and walked toward him.
“Quinn, tell me about yourself. Where do you come from? Why are you here? Why must you leave?”
“My people live on Kron, a small planet in the Orion Solar System. Most of us are scientists. We wanted to live in peace. There was a time when we did live peaceably.
“Things changed, however. Somehow, and I don’t know how this really happened, a dictatorial government came into power.
“The government controlled our every movement, and our every thought. We lost our precious freedom. The government even selected our mates for us.
“I and my fellow scientists were unable to tolerate this type of government. Therefore, some of us, ones who had no families to leave behind, devised an escape plan.
“We used a special molecular process, which reduced us, in size, to that of a pebble. This made it easier for us to travel through space. This was risky, but we were desperate; and desperate people take risks. They have no other choice.
“We felt that wherever we landed would be better than staying on Kron. In addition, my people have chameleon capabilities. We can assume the appearance of any indigenous life form we choose.”
“That’s incredible,” Morgana remarked in awe.
“Don’t you want to know what I really look like?” Quinn asked.
“I’m not sure that I do. I like what I see here and now.”
“I understand. Then, allow me to continue. What none of us counted on was retaliation at the hands of the government. They labeled us fugitives. This enabled them to assemble an elite security squad to search and find all fugitives. Once found, that person and/or persons must surrender and face the consequences.
“Recently, I was apprised that the Kron security squad had found out where I was. They will arrive anytime now. I must leave this planet and find another. I can’t go back to Kron; and I refuse to surrender.
“I’m a fugitive and that status will not change unless Kron’s present government is overthrown. I don’t see that happening soon.”
Morgana reached for Quinn, but he backed up and moved away from her. He couldn’t allow her to touch him. He had become too susceptible to her charms.
“Morgana, please don’t come closer. It is difficult for me to leave you and your planet. I have found peace here. Most of all, I have found you. I can never forget you, nor will I try.”
Morgana turned away from him. Her eyes watered. She wanted to go with him. Dare she ask?
He must have read her mind, because he risked a final embrace. He cupped her head in his strong, alien hands. He now had eye-to-eye contact.
“Morgana, if it were at all possible to take you with me, I wouldn’t hesitate to do so.”
“I understand. I don’t like it, but I understand.”
He released her head and held her hand. He walked with her to the edge of the forest. For a short time, they stood side by side, watching the Sun set.
Morgana felt Quinn slowly withdraw from her side and watched him retreat into the forest. She suspected she’d never see him again.
Someone was knocking on her front door. No, make that someone was pounding. Who would disturb her sleep so early in the morning? Darn and drat!
Morgana did not want to wake up yet. She hadn’t slept well the night before. She rolled over in her soft bed and covered her head with her firm pillow. It felt good to hide.
However, she couldn’t hide from the persistent knocking. Whoever was on the other side of the door had better have a good reason for waking her, or she would have their hide.
She would prefer to be snuggling with Quinn, but now that would never happen. Comfort by way of a pillow and the blanket were all she was going to get.
Bang! Bang! Ring! From pounding to ringing. Great! Oh, for cripes sake. She got out of her warm bed, grabbed her robe, and put it on haphazardly.
She flung the door open to find Bob, of all people. She would much rather have seen Quinn. Her facial expression reflected her dissatisfaction, she was sure of that.
She knew Bob didn’t miss much. She was sure he noticed the look of disappointment on her face. She simply did not care. Besides, she wasn’t fully awake.
“Come in, Bob. What are you doing here at this time of the day?” She asked as she tied the matching belt to her robe that hung around her tiny waist.
Bob walked in and sat on the nearest chair. She noticed a worried look on his face coupled with bewilderment.
“You look puzzled. I gather you have learned something about Quinn. Well, save your breath. I don’t want to hear it. Besides, he is probably gone already.”
Inwardly, Bob cringed. She was clearly upset, but not with him.
“My, my. Little testy, are we?” Bob commented.
“You mean, you didn’t find out he was an alien from outer space? You must have been disappointed,” She said jokingly.
She couldn’t tell him where Quinn came from–he wouldn’t believe her anyway. She hardly believed it herself.
“No. Afraid my informants didn’t give me that earth-shattering news. Besides, you can’t believe there are aliens on Earth. That’s just talk, and always has been. There are no UFOs or creatures from outer space.”
Morgana’s face turned white as paste at Bob’s statement.
“Hey! You all right? You turned white when I mentioned aliens,” Bob remarked.
“I’m okay, Bob. What did you find out?
He put his hands in his pant pockets and paced the room.
“My information source revealed that Quinn has a high-paying job with our government. He tests planes, which means he’s a certified pilot. His IQ is off the scale. Damn, but I really didn’t believe this person existed, until I had him investigated.”
Bob waited patiently for Morgana to make a comment. She didn’t, however, which made him wonder what she might be thinking.
He now wondered if Quinn might be an alien disguised as a human. He doubted this. He was not a believer of aliens from outer space.
“Well, tell me what you are thinking, my dear. No. Better yet. Do you know if Quinn is an imposter? Perhaps his credentials are falsified?”
“Let’s say that his credentials could be fake, and that due to circumstances beyond his control, he is headed to another town. I wish I could have gotten to know him better.”
“You really liked this guy, didn’t you? Did you love him?”
“I am fond of him, Bob. I think if he stayed here, I could have fallen in love with him. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
“I see,” Bob replied.
“You are such a good friend.” Then, she broke down and cried.
“I am sorry, Morgana. Who knows? He might return someday.”
Bob’s encouraging statement made her heart skip a beat. Would Quinn return? She could only hope.
Quinn entered his escape pod. He walked over to one of the pod windows and glanced out. He vowed to remember everything and everyone, especially Morgana.
At the right time, via a special molecular process, he will be reduced to the size of a small pebble. Then, he will enter the cold and dark void of outer space.
He is heading to a new world which will become a temporary haven, because Quinn Baxter is a Kron fugitive, forever on the run from the Kron security squad.
This story was first published in Soft Cartel.
Edited by Steve Hovland
Gerri Zimmerman lives in Crest Hill, Ill. and likes to write sci-fi and fantasy stories that challenge the reader to think and wonder. She has two published novels to her credit. A few of her short stories have appeared in Soft Cartel Magazine, Literary Yard, Scarlet Leaf Review, Ariel Chart Literary Journal, Aphelion Webzine, and Metastellar Magazine. Follow her on Facebook.