A story I wrote awhile back, obviously…
So it was Hug an Invisible Woman Day, and I had no invisible woman to hug. Paulette was still in Subreality, apparently waiting for me to somehow bring here back to… what do I even call where I am now in relation to Subreality? Reality? Out Here? I guess Out Here fits, since people in Subreality tend to refer to the outside world as Out There. And how exactly would I go about bringing her here, when I hadn’t sent her to Subreality?
I sat, staring at a blank screen as usual, and I heard a throat-clearing sound behind me. The voice was very familiar.
I turned toward the source of the voice. “Hello?”
“Hi, there,” the voice replied. Paulette?
“Is that you, Paulette?”
“Well,” the voice answered, “who else would it be?”
“Hmm… maybe yet another random unseen visitor trying to take advantage of me being by myself for so long while my invisible girlfriend traipses around Subreality?”
She chuckled. “So that happened, huh? You want to talk about that right now, or are you gonna greet me the right way?”
I figured the best answer wasn’t verbal…
I walked over to where the voice seemed to be coming from, with my arms out in front of me. I didn’t want to hit her by mistake.
“You look a little… confused,” she said. “You used to be able to find me with no problem, even if I was totally masked and not making a sound.”
“Yeah, I know,” I said, a little sheepishly, as I sensed Paulette approaching me. Apparently she’d decided to meet me halfway. “You were gone a long time.”
Her unseen arms made contact with my shoulders about a second before my arms wrapped around her waist. For some reason I was going for a hug when I first began approaching her, but at this point I was seeking out lips. She was too.
Our lips did meet, and a few moments later our tongues did likewise. But this wasn’t gonna be a carnal romp – I really missed her and was just glad to have her back home. Apparently she missed me too.
After a few moments she pulled away. I looked in her general direction and said, “You know, since you’re back home and all, you can uncloak now.”
“Sorry,” she said, a little sheepishly. “I got so used to not paying attention to that…” And with that, she appeared. Or her clothes did, at least: a gray tube top, tucked into white mid-thigh-length shorts, with white hosiery and white flats. I noticed right away that she looked like she’d put on a few pounds, but I wasn’t going to say anything about that, after she’d been in Subreality for… well, years.
She couldn’t have missed me checking her out. “I know,” she said with a chuckle. “I put on a few pounds. That’s what happens when you run a restaurant.”
“A restaurant ?!” I said. “How’d you manage that?”
“Well, that’s the weird thing,” she said. “It was my restaurant, but I didn’t really do it.”
“Remember the first time I went to Subreality?” she said. “And after I came back I was talking about how much I didn’t want to leave?”
I remembered. Her story made the place sound quite weird and yet, it made me want to go there and experience it for myself.
“Well,” she continued, “apparently when it was time to leave, wanting to stay so badly caused a copy to be made, and that Paulette stayed and set up The Unseen Scene.”
“So you mean there’s another Paulette there right now?”
“Uh-huh, and the Unseen Scene is completely staffed with invisible waitresses and… other helpers.”
I was in the middle of visualizing the unseen waitresses in their uniforms when the second part of her answer hit me. “Other helpers?”
“Mm-hmm,” she said, then after a pause added, “Vik was there too.”
“Oh, so you mean other helpers like Vik?”
“More or less,” she said. “So it might be an invisible waitress that takes your order, but when the tray comes floating out of the kitchen with your order on it, it’s more likely to be one of Vik’s… uh… people. Of course, your order taker could also be one of the intangible waitresses animating a uniform, too.”
I tried to let all that sink in. But… “So in the middle of all this… invisibility, how did you recognize the other Paulette?”
“She was visible. Don’t you remember? You were there!”
I remembered, and then I didn’t. I was there, and then I wasn’t. Subreality is hard to explain…
“I think some people get a kind of amnesia when they leave Subreality,” I fudged. “I can picture it like I was there, but I don’t remember being there.”
“You might have wandered into the wrong Subreal corner,” she said. “For me, the wrong corner is the center of everything that happens in Subreality City — the Cafe.” She took a deep breath, then continued. “Did you know I’m automatically visible in the Cafe, no matter what I do?”
“Really?” I said, taking note of the hint of distaste in her voice.
“Yeah, it’s weird. I can be totally cloaked, totally visible, or just my clothes visible anywhere else in Subreality, but as soon as I enter the Cafe I become totally visible, with no control over it. Creeps me out. I think that’s why the other Paulette started her own place.”
“Wait a minute — you can be visible anywhere in Subreality?!”
“Well, almost anywhere — it’s a shame you don’t remember it.” Then she gasped. “But that means — you don’t remember the kiss!”
“The kiss?” I hoped that wasn’t going to lead to trouble. Not remembering a kiss sounds like trouble.
“The kiss between… you and the other Paulette, the first time–” She paused and chuckled. “The first time ever you saw my face. Well, you know, her face. She said you actually started singing that song afterwards.”
“So you’re saying that I saw her, not fully realizing she wasn’t you…” I realized I was reaching here, but I got the feeling I wasn’t in too much trouble for that little “mix-up.”
“And then you kissed her and sang to her,” she said, finishing my statement. I couldn’t tell how she felt about it from her voice.
“So, you missed out on it?”
“No, I didn’t miss out,” she said, and I notice her voice softened a bit when she said it. “Remember, she and I are basically the same person. I mean, right now I don’t know what she’s doing, and she doesn’t know what I’m doing. But we have the same memories right up to the point where she… filled me in.”
“I can guess how she filled you in,” I said with a smile.
“You don’t have to guess, you know,” she teased.
“So, all of what you just told me means…” I started, as I approached her again. “That if we were in Subreality right now…” I wrapped my arms around her tube top, looking where I thought her eyes would be. “I would be looking into your eyes right now, and not at the wall behind you?”
Though I couldn’t see her, our faces were close enough that I could feel her breath. “You are looking into my eyes,” she said softly. And then we kissed again…
And for the purposes of Hug-an-Invisible-Woman Day, our story ends here.