Dr. Omar Williams sat stunned. He had just gotten a phone call from a Dave Dalvalle at Mediplex. It seemed at Mediplex had sent him the wrong medicine. The pills marked “weight-loss trial” were meant for another customer. Delvalle didn’t say what the medicine was, but he was not happy to hear that Dr. Williams had given out a sample. He said it was vital to recover those pills before his patient could take one, because they could have permanent side effects, and was there any way the doctor could get to his patient. “Great, just great,” the doctor thought. “What happens if I don’t reach her in time?”
v v v v v
Rashida Torres thought about what the doctor had said as he gave her the diet pills. Something about a trial, and being perfectly safe, and above all to change her eating habits. After leaving the doctor’s office, she started to stop in at McDonald’s for a quick lunch, deciding instead to get a salad and start her diet right away. “What the heck,” she thought, “I might as well take the rest of the day off. I’m due a break.”
v v v v v
Dr. Williams grew more concerned by the minute. It had been over an hour since he left word at Rashida’s job to have her call him as soon as she came in. Finally, the phone rang.
“Hello, Dr. Williams speaking.”
“Hello, Doctor. This is Gina Diaz, Rashida Torres’ coworker. She just called in to take the rest of the day off. She didn’t speak to me personally, so I couldn’t give her your message.”
Dr. Williams sighed and said, “Thanks, anyway,” and hung up. He tried Rashida’s home number, leaving a message for her to call him immediately when she got the message. Not being able to reach her was making him a bit nervous. Not knowing what he had given her was making him more so. He said aloud, “I hope I find her before anything happens.”
v v v v v
After a bit of shopping, Rashida went home to eat, and as soon as she walked in the door, she took one of the pills, washing it down with a Pepsi. She noticed the message light flashing on her answering machine, but did not check the message. Instead, she took out a snack tray and fork, and with her salad on the tray she went into the living room to watch some TV while she ate. As she sat, she felt a little lightheaded. She turned on the TV and found a soap opera. As she put down the remote, she tipped over her soda. Reaching for a napkin, she let out a shriek — she couldn’t see her hand! Then, shrieking again, she looked down and was able to see the couch beneath her right through her legs. She jumped up, putting down the snack tray, and ran to the full-length mirror in the bathroom and got the shock of her life.
In the mirror she saw her black-and-white-striped t-shirt, denim shorts, and shoes, but couldn’t see herself. She had turned invisible.
Trembling, she ran to the phone and slowly dialed her doctor’s number. She had to dial slowly since she couldn’t see her fingers. After two wrong numbers, she reached the doctor’s office, with no answer. She hung up without leaving a message. After mentally retracing her steps, she decided the pill must have had something to do with it. She tried the doctor’s number a few more times, not reaching anyone or leaving a message.
She then went back to the mirror to look herself over. Although she was worried about how long she would be like this, the sight of just a shape inside her clothes gave her a new perspective; she decided she wasn’t quite the “fatso” she thought she was. “This could even be fun, for a little while at least,” she said out loud, deciding to do a little modeling.
She took off the t-shirt and shorts and put on a clingy jumpsuit she had bought but was nervous about wearing in public. Looking at this curvy outfit in the mirror, she decided she looked pretty good. “Wonder if Troy would think I was just ‘okay-looking’ if he could see me like this,” she said. She then took off the jumpsuit and put on a white bandeau tube top and black biking shorts, liking what she saw even more. Finally, she put on a green tankdress she had decided that she would never wear again because it “made her look fat.”
“What was I thinking?” she said aloud. “I must have been crazy?Too bad I can’t go out in public like this.” Then she had an idea.
v v v v v
“What’s going on here, Harris?”
“I don’t know, sir. People came runnin’ outa the store, screamin’ somethin’ about a ghost.”
“A ghost?” the first officer repeated. “Go in and check it out. I’ll keep things under control out here.”
“Sorry, Sarge. I don’t deal with no ghosts. How about if you go in and let me keep an eye on things out here?”
“Fine,” the sergeant replied. “Stay out here, like a girl. Let a man go take care of things.”
The sergeant went into the store, where, about 50 feet away, he saw something he was sure could not be possible. He blinked and shook his head, sure that something must be wrong with his eyes. In front of him was a long-sleeved white sequined dress hugging a voluptuous figure, as if there were a woman in it, but there wasn’t anyone there he could see. A female voice said, “Can’t a girl have some privacy while she’s getting dressed?”
The sergeant froze, unsure of whether to run screaming or just scream from where he stood. The voice then said, “What’s wrong, officer? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” The sergeant looked around to see if someone might be playing some kind of trick on him. He had no idea how someone could pull off something like this, though.
After he was sure this was no gag, he put his hand to his head and said, “My mind is playing tricks on me. It has to be, because what I see can’t be happening?I need some rest.”
“That’s right, officer,” the voice continued, “you’ve been working too hard. Why don’t you have a seat and let me help you get relaxed?”
“I — I’m being propositioned by a ghost? I really do need some rest!”
“That’s right,” the voice said, stifling a giggle, “you deserve a break. Why don’t you take the rest of the day off, and go home to bed?”
“That’s what I need. I’m going home right now,” the sergeant said out loud. As he turned to leave, he heard laughter from the same female voice. He turned around and saw the dress was now in a pile on the floor. There was no one else visible in the store, but someone was there in the store, laughing at him. He turned and slowly walked out of the store.
“Well, Sarge?” Harris asked. “What’d you find?”
“I found I need some rest, and I’m going home to get it right now.”
v v v v v
Dr. Williams pulled up at Rashida’s house to find four cars with US Government plates parked there. Two men in suits were talking with her landlord, who had come downstairs to let the men in. Others were inside, looking through the house.
The doctor got out of his car and approached the house. One of the men on the porch said, “Something we can do for you…?”
“Yes,” Dr. Williams replied. “I’m looking for Rashida Torres. Is she in some kind of trouble? I’m her doctor.”
“We’re looking for her too, sir. I really can’t tell you anything else.”
“I see.” He began to suspect a connection between these men and the mixup with the pills, but, not knowing for sure, he figured he’d better keep quiet. One of the men was called inside, after which another came running out.
“Dr. Williams! Wait a minute!” he called out. The doctor recognized the voice but said nothing. The other man said, “I’m Dave Delvalle. We spoke on the phone earlier.”
“Delvalle? I thought you were from Medi– wait a minute! How did you know who the patient was?”
“This is a matter of national security,” Delvalle answered. “We had to access your office records the quickest way possible.
You weren’t there, so…”
“So you broke in.” The doctor wanted to object, but he figured this was par for the course when dealing with the federal government. He sighed, then said, “What kind of trouble is Rashida in, anyway?”
“That depends on whether she had taken any of those pills. Please let me know the minute you hear from her. Here’s my card.”
The card identified Delvalle as a Secret Service agent. An alarm went off in the doctor’s head, but he said nothing, putting the card in his shirt pocket and walking back to his car. As he opened the door, he turned and called out to Delvalle, “What happens if she has taken one?”
“I really can’t say, but it wouldn’t be pleasant for her,” he said with a bit of menace in his voice. “The side effects can be unpredictable.”
“Are we really talking about side effects here?” the doctor asked.
Delvalle answered, in measured tones, “She may run into…other complications, if that’s what you mean. We have to control access to those pills you gave her, which is why it would be really beneficial for her if we were to recover that bottle of pills still sealed, otherwise…” he trailed off. Dr. Williams then heard a gasp-like sound from his back seat, and a squeak from one of the seat cushions.
“All right. I’ll let you know if I hear anything,” the doctor said as he pulled off. When he had reached a safe distance, he said aloud, “Am I hearing things, or is someone back there?”
After a few seconds of silence, he heard a sigh, then a familiar voice answered, “Yes, Doctor. It’s me, Rashida.”
“Rashida — what happened to you? And why on earth is the Secret Service after you? What did you do?”
She sighed. “All I did was take one of those pills you gave me, and this is what happened. What is this stuff, anyway?”
“I honestly don’t know,” he told her. “They said there was a mixup at the plant. Evidently I was sent a box that was supposed to go to the Secret Service. ‘A matter of national security,’ they called it, and I think I can see why. How many did you take, anyway?”
“How long ago?”
“About four hours ago.”
“And how long did it take for you to–” he started.
“Five minutes, max.”
“Well,” he continued, “they sent a case, and it seems to be all the same stuff, so the effect must be temporary, at least in such a small dose. You might be better off staying with me until it wears off.”
“If I do,” Rashida asked, “can you get me some clothes? I’m getting cold. I could use something to eat, too.”
“I have a friend,” the doctor said, “who lives in this area, about your size, who could lend you some clothes. I’m getting hungry myself. How about McDonalds?”
“McDonalds?” Rashida repeated. “But what about my diet?”
“Good to see you still have your sense of humor. You may need it before this is all over.” They chatted easily as the doctor pulled into the McDonald’s parking lot and ordered for both of them at the drive-thru window. Pulling away with their food, he found a remote spot in the parking lot and started eating. Immediately he realized his mistake and began to apologize.
“No problem, Doctor,” she said. “I’ll just come up there.”
The rear passenger-side door opened, then closed as the front passenger door opened. The bag containing Rashida’s food rose into the air as the front seat cushion sank somewhat under an unseen weight and the front door closed. The rolled-closed top of the bag unrolled, and a sandwich and container of fries rose from the bag, which then lowered onto the seat. The wrapper removed itself from the sandwich, then the sandwich rose into the air, stopping just as a chunk of it disappeared. Dr. Williams watched all this in quiet fascination. Rashida noticed she was being watched.
“Something wrong, Doctor?” she asked. “Besides the obvious, I mean. Am I becoming visible again?”
“I’m sorry,” he answered. “It’s just that the food…it disappears. I would have thought — never mind. You are eating.”
Rashida sighed, then replied, “That’s OK, Doc. If this stuff is for the government, some kind of secret mission, then whoever uses it has to be able to eat and drink without being detected, right?”
The doctor thought it over for a moment. “Yes, I guess so,” he said finally. “Amazing, isn’t it?”
Sarcastically, Rashida answered, “Yeah. Really amazing. I had plenty of time to sort that out in my mind while I watched those bozos going through my place.”
“You were in there with them?!” Dr. Williams asked incredulously.
“Yeah. I thought I might be able to grab some clothes and duck out with my car, but I reconsidered when I thought about the attention a ‘driverless car’ might bring.”
The doctor thought about that for a second, chuckling at the idea. “Good thinking,” he said. “Speaking of clothes, I’d better go see what I can get for you.”
He pulled into a parking lot outside the Kensington condominium complex just off Pulaski Highway and began looking for his friend’s car. He spotted it and parked alongside it. “I’ll just be a minute,” he said. “If you want I could leave the keys so you can listen to the radio.”
“Sure,” Rashida replied. “Music might take my mind off this for a little while.”
v v v v v
The doctor went inside his friend’s building, hoping she wouldn’t ask too many questions. Once there, however, he was subjected to a thorough grilling, which he had to make it through without giving up Rashida’s secret or her identity. After intense questioning, he was able to secure some clothes. While the friend went to get the clothing, Dr. Williams walked over to the living-room window and looked out into the parking lot.What he saw made his heart jump. “Oh, dear God, no!” he said.
v v v v v
“Boy, it’s taking him a long time to get me some clothes!” Rashida said aloud. “Wonder what else he’s doing up there. I’d better turn on the radio.” She started station-hopping until she found something she liked, “Tell Me Something Good,” by Rufus. Losing herself in the music, she forgot herself and started singing along. Out loud. She was so wrapped up in singing, in fact, that she didn’t notice an elderly man approaching the car, eyes and mouth wide open.
He was out for a walk when he heard a loud female voice singing, but the voice was coming from a car that seemed to be unoccupied. He walked over to the passenger side of the car, where the voice was coming from. He stood there by the open window, seeing no one inside but hearing an unmistakeably feminine voice singing loudly. He could also see a depression in the seat, moving slightly, in time with the music, as if someone was there.
Suddenly the voice stopped and the ignition key turned slightly, turning off the radio. Curiosity drove the man to reach inside the open window. As he did, he heard a gasp, then squeaking from the seat cushion as the depression shifted under an unseen weight. He reached further inside, by now leaning inside the car. His hand did brush against something he couldn’t see that felt like skin, just before he was pulled out of the car.
It was Dr. Williams. He was livid.
With great restraint, he calmly but angrily asked, “Just what do you think you’re doing, sir? Why were you reaching inside my car?”
The man answered nervously, “I wasn’t tryin’ to steal it or nothin’. I heard singin’ and didn’t see nobody, so I came over an’–”
“And trespassed. I don’t know why you were reaching inside my car, but it is my car, sir. My property. From now on, stay out of it.” He then got in the car and drove off, leaving the elderly man standing there, looking bewildered.
“Rashida,” said the doctor, practically yelling, “unless you want to end up as a federal guinea pig, you’d better be a little more discreet. God only knows what that man might do, or who he might call.”
“I’m sorry, Doc,” Rashida answered. “I turned on the radio and just started singing. I wasn’t thinking about anything else. I will try to be a little more careful from now on, but to be honest, I’m not that worried about being found out. I don’t think I wanna be stuck like this forever. Maybe the Feds can change me back.”
“Yes, maybe they can,” Dr. Williams started. “And if they do, then what? Once they know their formula works, and the antidote works, what do you think will happen to you? Or to me, for that matter? You think they’ll just let us walk away, like nothing happened? They’ll get both of us, because we both know about it. You just have to stay out of sight until you become visible again.”
Rashida laughed at the doctor’s apparent joke. He had to chuckle himself, before continuing, “I’m serious, Rashida. If you slip at the wrong time, you’ll wind up wired like a Christmas tree. Did you happen to put on any other ‘displays’ today?”
“Um, yeah,” she answered. “Just once. Right after the stuff started working, I went to Worth’s department store downtown and tried on some clothes.”
“That’s not so bad,” the doctor replied.
“…On the sales floor…”
Dr. Williams let that sink in, then asked, “Did many people see it?”
Rashida said, “The store was packed, and I emptied it. Who knows, maybe nothing will come of it.”
The doctor thought for a moment, then said, “Well, it’s too late to try to do anything about that now, but in the future, try to lay low. You’re welcome
to stay at my place until the stuff wears off. It’s too dangerous for you to go home tonight.”
Rashida was unsure about the doctor’s motives but, not seeing any available alternative, she reluctantly accepted his offer.
v v v v v
“Doc,” Rashida said, “what’s your friend trying to do, turn me into a model? These aren’t ‘sitting-around-the-house’ clothes.”
“She’s a very sharp dresser,” Dr. Williams answered. “Even a t-shirt and jeans look classy on her.”
The doctor saw some motion in his living room; his friend’s suitcase unzipping, clothes floating in the air, each piece hugging a shapely body he couldn’t see. He tried to avert his eyes. “After all, she’s my patient,” he thought. “I should afford her some privacy, but…” Try as he might, he couldn’t avoid looking while Rashida dressed. He thought about asking her if she wouldn’t rather get dressed in another room, behind a closed door, before realizing that she had been naked in his presence all along. He just couldn’t see her. As he watched Rashida dress he wondered if she even noticed she was being watched.
“How do I look?” she asked, when she had finished. She was wearing a green knit v-neck sweater and tight blue jeans.
“Like a shapely ghost,” the doctor cracked. “I don’t know why you thought you had to go on a diet.”
“The same reason every woman does,” Rashida answered with a giggle. “I thought I was fat. Now I know better.”
“Good.” The word slipped out before he was able to stop it. Not being able to see Rashida’s face, though, he couldn’t know if she noticed it or not, but she gave no sign, so he continued, “Now I need to get through to someone at Mediplex without stirring the Feds.”
“Mediplex?” Rashida repeated. “This stuff comes from Mediplex?” The doctor could hear a smile creeping into her voice.
“Yeah, Mediplex,” he answered. “Why?”
“My friend Troy works there,” she said, as she started undressing. “I might be able to fix this situation myself.” After she took off the last piece of clothing, Dr. Williams could see the impressions her feet made in his carpet as she headed for the door.
“Where are you going?” he called out after her. “It’s way too dangerous for you to go to Mediplex now. Why not wait until–”
“Don’t worry, Doc,” she said, as she turned the doorknob. “I can handle things from here.” The door opened and closed, and she was gone.