A short story about a woman and her otherworldly boyfriend. This was written for the GentleApril18 story contest.
Isabel rummaged through the cabinet, trying to find the small saucepan. Today had been exhausting; she had spent the morning with unenthusiastic undergrads, and then she had a less-than-pleasant meeting with the department head, who kept calling her “Jane” even though she had been working at the university for three years now. And to top if off, the T had been late again and she had barely managed to wedge herself into the subway car.
Now she couldn’t find the saucepan, and the pots spilled out of the cabinet in an avalanche, crashing onto the floor. Sighing, Isabel picked up the pots and put them away. She was closing the cabinet door when she heard the shouts and honks from outside, and her stomach sank. It’s probably nothing, she thought. Just a car accident or something. After all, we had a long discussion about why it’s not okay for him to just show up.
Reluctantly she peeked out the kitchen window. An empty lot was across the street from her apartment building, or at least, it had been empty. It was currently occupied by a towering green statue, a familiar landmark that was supposed to be in New York City and not Quincy. All around the base of the statue, people were staring and pointing and taking photos.
He was involved with this, Isabel knew it. How else could the Statue of Liberty have ended up here?
Everyone’s focus was on the statue until the sky darkened, the wind picking up and stirring the dead leaves and litter. The clouds had gone from a charcoal gray to the purplish-red of a bruise, and as Isabel watched, they solidified, swirling downwards like the funnel of a tornado. Except this tornado was sprouting limbs, gigantic arms and legs that were bigger than the misplaced statue’s. A huge face appeared in the cloud mass, large eyes and angular cheekbones and a sharply defined nose. The eyes glanced in the direction of her apartment, their blackness dotted with tiny star-like pinpricks of light.
“Hi, Lem,” Isabel managed to say. “I wasn’t expecting you.”
She had only been teaching for a year when he had appeared in the back of her Calculus II class. It was impossible not to notice him; there was an eerie perfection to his features, a sort of uncanny valley quality that made Isabel uneasy. Somehow, Isabel had known that she wasn’t looking at a person. No, this had been something that was trying to make itself resemble a person.
“Are you new to this class?” She had asked, and the man had answered in a slow, thoughtful way.
“No, I’ve always been here.”
“I see,” Isabel had said, wondering whether he was pulling her leg. “What’s your name?”
“I don’t…” He had seen her expression, then answered, “Lemniscate. Or Lem. Is that an acceptable name?”
He probably wandered in from the street, Isabel had thought. Maybe he’s drunk.
But his eyes…they hadn’t been normal eyes. They had been so black, and with the strange lights gleaming within them, they had reminded Isabel of space. And when he had reached out and gently took her hand, that was where he had brought her: to the farthest reaches of the cosmos, a thousand worlds spinning in between them. Isabel and Lem had been astronomical, their size defying all rational thought.
“You have a lovely mind, Isabel,” he had said, and she had trembled when she realized that her assumption had been correct. He wasn’t human at all.
Since that first meeting, Lem had brought her gifts: flowers from the rainforests, beautiful stones from the moon. There was a sweet gentleness to him that she loved, although she could sense something else as well. A vast power, terrifying in its scope. The sort of power that could end worlds.
“I can give you everything,” Lem had told her once, and she hadn’t known how to respond. There it was, the chance to give up teaching at the university, to live in a sprawling mansion, to never long for anything. In the end, she hadn’t accepted his offer, though. Despite his good intentions, Lem’s thought processes weren’t even slightly human, and she feared the consequences of his adoration.
Like this, the Statue of Liberty looming over her neighborhood. No doubt it was some sort of gift, like the flowers and the stones; unfortunately, he had no idea that it was causing all sorts of chaos. Lem’s presence was only making things worse, and people screamed and fled from the giant.
“Can we go somewhere else, Lem?” Isabel asked, afraid that he would damage the nearby buildings. Despite his benevolent nature, he could also be chillingly thoughtless at times, as if he didn’t understand his own destructive potential. His cosmic eyes were still resting upon Isabel, and one second she was in her kitchen. The next, she was standing on a tropical beach, the air warm and humid against her skin.
She immediately spotted the colossal figure in the ocean. Lem was surrounded by turquoise water, his size making him look like a landmass. His slightest movements — a twitch of his leg, a flick of his hand — generated impressive waves, and they rolled toward the shore, splashing against Isabel’s legs.
Lem stood up, walked toward the beach and her. The ground shook rhythmically beneath Isabel, mini-earthquakes that threatened to tip her over, but she wasn’t afraid. She was relieved that this island seemed to be uninhabited; if anyone else saw a titan striding toward the shore, they would have been frantic with fear.
He stopped a few yards away from her, his feet sinking deep into the powdery sand. Isabel couldn’t look at both of his legs simultaneously; they were too massive and too far apart, so she chose the right leg, following it up the long length of his body.
A few times Lem had asked her what shape she preferred. Confused, Isabel had asked for clarification.
“Male, female, anything else,” he had said. “I can look like anyone. I want to be pleasing to you.”
She had been surprised, not sure how she’d describe her perfect partner. But Lem had closed his inky eyes, his features fluidly rearranging themselves. His hair had become a dark brownish-black, and his body had become less perfect, more like an actual man. Isabel had found herself more comfortable around this flawed being. Somehow, his imperfections had made him more attractive, humanized him.
Isabel studied that flawed yet handsome face as Lem bent down on one knee. Cool seawater dribbled down from his hand, pattering all around her, and his outstretched hand quickly replaced his face in her field of vision. Lem was reaching for her, and she told herself not to panic. It was difficult, of course, especially when such an immense hand was descending down from the sky.
Lem’s fingers brushed up against her, and he was so titanic that she could feel the raised ridges of his fingertips sliding over her back and belly and legs. She looked upwards, into the fathomless darkness of his eyes. Trust me, those eyes told her, and so Isabel leaned back against his palm and allowed his fingers to close around her. Beneath the warm softness of his skin and muscle, she felt the solidness of his bones, bones larger than the steel girders supporting skyscrapers.
The world rushed by in a blur of bright emerald and blue as Lem picked her up.
Usually Isabel wasn’t afraid of heights, although she was keenly aware of how high up she was. From this vantage point she could see most of the island, a lush carpet of palm trees spreading out before her. She shivered as her lover uncurled his fingers and she knelt on the broad expanse of his open hand.
He won’t drop me, Isabel tried to convince herself. Despite her worry, he didn’t. Lem was too intent on examining her little body, running his finger over her mop of curly hair. He seemed endlessly fascinated by her delicacy and smallness, and his gargantuan digits roamed over every inch of her being. The sensations were wonderful, and her muscles loosened and relaxed from the massage-like stroking.
Lem lifted her higher, until she was level with his full lips. With both hands she reached out, touched his plush lower lip. It was pillowy-soft, and her fingers dimpled the pinkish flesh. Lem’s face moved forward, pushing her down against his cupped hand. Surrounded by the heat of his palm and lips, Isabel squirmed. When his lips parted, she briefly felt his teeth, wet with saliva; then the tip of his tongue probed delicately at her lower neck and breasts, tasting her.
She was wearing her clothing from work, a boatneck sweater and a plaid skirt, conservatively long. Or to be more precise, she had been wearing those clothes. They were gone in the blink of an eye, whisked away by Lem’s otherworldly powers. The first time this had happened, Isabel had been embarrassed, instinctively shielding her nudity. But after seeing the way that he looked at her — so affectionately and curiously — she had shown herself to him. In that moment, she had felt like something rare and beautiful. Something that was so much more than a quiet mathematics professor.
He had explored her so tenderly then, and he did now as well. His tongue crept down over her stomach, savoring her, and she gasped with delight as the mass of muscle slipped between her legs. She became transcendent, and as her body twitched and heaved with pleasure, she gazed up into the starry galaxies of Lem’s eyes.
Isabel’s back arched, her fingers and toes tightened and clenched. For one instant, her consciousness merged with his own, blending together into something incomprehensible and infinite. Part of her mind was still on the island, her body spasming with bliss, and the other part of her mind was somewhere else.
It looked like space, and as Isabel watched, her lover’s hand closed around a gas giant, his long fingers curving around the planet and causing the gold and scarlet gases to dissipate into the ether. The solid core collapsed majestically within Lem’s hand, the world reduced to rocky fragments. He didn’t give it a second glance. Destruction, creation, it was all the same to him.
And then Isabel was alone, panting, her wet body held within the safety of Lem’s palm.
“Oh god,” she croaked. “What did I just see?”
“The past, the present, the future.” The side of his thumb touched her cheek. “Does it matter?”
“Yes, it matters,” she replied, and for the first time since she had met him, he frowned. The humanlike quality had left his features, and now he once again looked perfect and so very cold. Like living marble.
“Why does it bother you?” Lem asked.
“It’s just…the destruction. I know that it’s all the same to you, but it’s not to me,” Isabel told him.
He considered this. “I think I understand.”
She supposed that if she could catch glimpses of his mind, he could also see her thoughts. Deep down, Isabel liked to think that he was becoming more human, or at least more sympathetic toward the fragile, finite creatures that existed on this little world.
Stretching out across the sand, Lem deposited her onto his chest. The sun was beginning to dip below the horizon, but the lingering rays still managed to warm her skin. She curled up near the sloping hill of his collarbone.
“What are you, Lem?” Isabel asked, listening to his heartbeat, which sounded like powerful, faraway booms.
When he said nothing, she tried another question. “Are there others like you?”
“No, I’m alone,” Lem said, and then he corrected himself: “I was alone.”
A small hint of a smile appeared on Isabel’s face as she listened to his heartbeat and the waves crashing against the shore.