Category Archives: Proto-Novela

The Our Little Secret Travel Agency – Chapter 16: The Fortune Cookie


Rain’s Mystery Man had unmoored her, and set her adrift in a stormy sea of orgasmic waves. Her ecstatic participation in this tight yet out-of-control Tango would have left her real-life mother scandalized, shaking a fierce finger in her face. Scandal be damned!

As their dance ends, Rain’s Mystery Man gently gathers her in his arms.
The unobtrusive Westminster Quarters begin to chime as a gentle reminder that the eight-hour visit is coming to an end.

Their faces had lightly touched during this whole time. Their lips had grazed each other’s lips during this orchestrated dance frenzy. Now, locked in a magnetic embrace, their breath mingles and their souls ride the currents of their sighs. Rain’s Mystery Man buries his face in her neck, the stubble of his five o’clock shadow producing a friction that draws Rain even closer to him. She wraps her fishnet-stockinged right leg around his left leg and her fingers, wending their way through his thick hair, pull his face to hers. Their lips meet so slowly, the sweet softness yielding to a hypnotic draft of a magic elixir to be both inhaled and sipped, whose fill could not be had.

Entranced, her Mystery Man whispers, “It’s time to go…,” and reluctantly leads her out of the darkening dance chamber, down the glass hallway where the snow shimmers outside against a deep purple sky edged with pink and gold. From time to time, they stop and kiss, then tear themselves apart to continue on to Rain’s room.

Mourning her impending loss, Rain feels emotionally exhausted. She is wracked with sexual urgency and addictive longing, and at the same time, buoyed by the hopeful elation of falling hopelessly in love. Overwhelmed, all she can do is want this man more than she’s ever wanted anything or anybody in her entire life.

Once inside her room, Rain’s Mystery Man helps her out of her clothes by pulling the hem of her black cocktail dress upwards, gathering the dress in his hands as they glide teasingly up her sides and guiding it over her head with tender care, slipping her shoes off each foot, peeling the lacy panties and the fishnet stockings down her legs, and unhooking the black push-up brassiere.

Rain doesn’t question his assistance, but keeps going back for more kisses which he doesn’t resist. He tries not to stare and distracts himself by putting her little black lacy underthings back into the lingerie drawer.

Rain follows him and plasters herself against his back, nuzzling her face into the nape of his neck. Realizing she must be cold standing there in all her splendor, he turns around to envelop her in his arms. Her naked body, grateful for the heat radiating through his black suit, revels in the delicious texture of his suit against her bare skin.

How he gets away from her, she does not remember, but once again Rain enjoys the feeling of his hands helping her into her little white chemise. She watches him with helpless desire as he hangs up her dress and puts her shoes neatly back on the carpeted floor of the closet.

He returns her gaze with such longing. Sighing, he walks Rain to her bed, which feels so fresh and welcoming. She lies down and her Mystery Man smooths her chemise before bringing the coverlet up to her shoulders. He spreads her hair out onto the pillow, lies down beside her, and kisses away her tears until she floats away to her transfer.

Morgana wakes herself up giggling with titillation, embarrassment and excitement. She is smiling so much her face aches before she fully realizes why.

Morgana had learned about sublimation in her high school sex education class. Way back then, dancing, especially the dances they learned in gym class, was considered to be a good substitute for sex (well, OK, not THAT good!). In particular, she remembers enjoying the Greek Misirlou and the Italian Tarantella. But now, knowing what she knows about the Tango, she can see why it wasn’t taught in high school gym class–it would have been like throwing gasoline on smoldering embers.

Taking a deep breath, she sits up and stretches, feeling remarkably energized. Remembering that she is going to the hospital today to see Jack in his new room and to talk with his doctor about his new regimen of care, she looks at the clock and is relieved to see that it’s only 6:00 am—she has plenty of time before leaving for the hospital.

She surprises herself by lying down on the carpet on her stomach and then pushing herself up into a cobra pose. She’s a little stiff, but it feels great to loosen up all those vertebrae. Ahhh…

Remembering to reverse the stretch, she rolls over onto her back to bring her knees up to her chest. Another good stretch! She struggles to get her legs up in the air. Ugh, she thinks, this is going to take some doing, but she manages to do it anyway. Thinking she’d like to get her hips off the floor and attempt something resembling a shoulder stand, she rocks on her back until she succeeds. Not a great shoulder stand, but it’s a valiant effort. She holds the pose as well as she can with her legs flailing in the air until she feels as if her innards are going to slide downwards into her throat. After a minute or so, she relaxes the pose, bringing her feet back down to the floor with a loud thud.

She sits up and feels quite positive about this inauspicious start to what just might be some kind of daily exercise routine. You’ve got to start somewhere, she thinks, so why not right here and now? Good enough for starters, she gets up and thinks that tomorrow she will not be as ungainly as she is today. Feeling kindly towards herself, she imagines an upward trajectory of progress.

One leisurely bubble bath, one steaming cup of rich, black coffee and one crunchy toasted Asiago bagel (without butter) later, Morgana blow dries her hair, actually getting it to curl under into what her mother used to call a “Page Boy.” So encouraged is she by this unexpected result that she locates her old tube of lipstick, some still-viable mascara languishing at the bottom of her dresser’s last drawer, and a never-used, little free sample of blush that she’d picked up while racing through the cosmetics section of a forgotten department store. The three beauty aids bond as if they are a seasoned Special Facial Ops Team. They all do their magic.

Now the clothes–always a problem!

The trouble was that nothing ever looked that good to her, and then when she’d try it on, it looked even worse. Ugh! How she hated shopping for clothes! Sometimes, she’d spend a whole day trying things on, then buying something she wasn’t crazy about just to have something instead of nothing. Then, either the thing grew on her and somehow became her favorite article of clothing, or it kept a low profile, hunkering in the shadows at the back of her closet until she’d given it to the Salvation Army with the tags still on it some five or ten years later.

She digs the blue pants back out of the closet, and then remembers a white sleeveless top she never wears because she hates to expose her flabby arms but it occurs to her that she can pair the otherwise nice-looking top with an almost-tailored, light-weight, short black jacket. Her arms will be out of sight since she shouldn’t have to take off the jacket until she changes into a whole other outfit.

Done and done! She puts the bangled earrings back on, steps in front of the mirror and has to admit that she looks pretty sharp—actually a lot sharper than yesterday.

“Yowzer!,” a word she never says, springs from her mouth. And she laughs!

Walking into the hospital, she feels slightly nauseated by the familiar smells but ignores the sensation. Locating Jack’s room, she is greeted by a nurse who is doing some medical housekeeping chores. Jack looks well enough, but of course, he is still sleeping, or at least his eyes are still closed.

“Hello, my name is Morgana. Jack, here, is my husband. I’m here to meet with Rocky and someone from Jack’s care team.”

“Good morning, Morgana. I’m Rosie—Jack’s day nurse. Rocky should be back momentarily,” says the nurse, as she bustles around. Have a seat and make yourself comfortable. He shouldn’t be too long.” Rosie pat-slaps Jack on the face and says loudly, “OK, Jack, don’t forget to behave yourself!”

On the overhead TV, The Today Show’s Hoda and Kathie Lee are giggling away and swilling huge pours of Chardonnay, providing a good-natured banter that Jack could have withstood only by swilling huge pours of Chardonnay himself; otherwise he would have poked all the wrong buttons on the remote until he’d shut the TV off and flung the remote clattering onto the coffee table in a burst of pissed-off annoyance and headed back down to the basement to commune with his best friend, that rotgut Boney Stalker Scotch.

Standing at the side of Jack’s bed, searching his face for any signs of life, she sticks her hand in her jacket pocket and pulls out two little slips of paper from a fortune cookie. One says, “Life as you know it will change,” and the other slip says nothing—it is blank. It all comes flooding back to her:

She’s wearing that same black jacket just a few months before. They had just moved into their new apartment after having downsized from the house they’d lived in for so many years while the kids were growing up.

Morgana and Jack are sitting in the latest Chinese restaurant to be hailed by Johnny Funcheap, an on-line news blast of free or reasonably-priced things to do, places to go, and sights to see, such as restaurants, music venues, art shows or naked bike rides, to name just a few, all with some degree of quirk.

“The Moo Goo Guy’s Pan,” except for the name, is not obviously quirky. It seems to be just another Chinese restaurant in China Town, which she adores. She tells jack she will stick with a nice low calorie vegetable stir fry with brown rice, if they have brown rice—the real authentic places just have white rice.

Jack, on the other hand, just to derail her good intentions, as usual, orders a big plate of barbecued spare ribs as an appetizer. OK, so after she gets over her initial snit over his unwillingness to accommodate her, she acquiesces and takes just one spare rib and a big glob of sauce. Before she knows it, she’s eaten a quarter of the plate. Thank God Jack’s already hoovered up the other three-quarters, or it would have been even worse!

Then, of course, Jack orders their favorite, which she vows to not touch: General Tso’s Chicken, which is at least 1,300 calories and half a day’s worth of sodium! She knows from reading all those ladies’ magazines that you should run the other way at the mere mention of General Tso’s anything, especially if you’re already in bad health and/or trying to avoid a stroke or just trying to de-bulk your girth.

“Do you happen to have Boney Stalker Scotch?” inquires Jack.

“No,” says the waiter apologetically, “but we do have traditional rice wine. Would you like some of that?”

Not that Jack objects to drinking lighter fluid, but he really has his heart set on Boney Stalker. However, the word “tradition” speaks to him, so under the guise of wanting a cultural experience, Jack asks, “What’s your best traditional Chinese beer?” What he really wants to know is the alcohol content.

The waiter pulls the sticky, plastic drink menu standing sentinel between the bottle of soy sauce and the glass jar of plum sauce, and hands it to him with a slight bow from the waist. Jack considers the choices with the same gravity usually accorded to finding loopholes in the tax code. Morgana watches his eyes zeroing in on the beer with the highest octane level.

“I’ll try the 2400 Trigella,” says Jack in his most authoritative, discriminating voice, slapping the plastic menu closed with an air of finality. He hands the waiter the sticky menu. The waiter bows respectfully from the waist once again, and jimmies the menu back into its role as peacekeeper between the bottle of soy sauce and the glass jar of plum sauce.

As the waiter heads back to the kitchen, Jack tells Morgana, “You know, the Trigella is called ‘Boutzwa’s snooty cousin.’”

“Oh, yeah?” she says, not really interested, knowing that his sudden cheerful chattiness is only because he’s anticipating the imminent arrival of the beer. She already knows that all his knowledge of  is limited to what he’s just read from the plastic menu, but she engages him because it’s more fun than just watching him ignore her.

“Why’s that, do you think?”

He considers her question and then sits a little straighter and stares into her eyes as if to impart some very important information.

“Any beer maker worth their salt has a premium line, and this is Boutzwa’s!”

Morgana wants to see how long he can keep it up (the conversation, that is).

“So what’s so premium about it?”

The waiter arrives with the glass of beer that’s just been poured in the kitchen from a lowly can, and places it on the table in front of Jack. Ignoring the waiter’s polite bow, Jack takes a few noisy gulps of the beer, while Morgana thanks the waiter, seeing as how Jack is momentarily distracted from the niceties of civil comportment.

Warned by a rumbling from his stomach, Jack sequesters the resulting belch in his closed mouth and then opens his lips to release the belch as it hisses through his teeth. Morgana looks at him with disgust, but he doesn’t notice.

As if he is reflecting on the beer’s excellent ability to produce a belch, he regards the glass which he holds in his hand at an angle. Sounding like a commercial, he quotes from the menu, “This beer has a stronger, manlier taste.”

“Manlier?” she asks.

He finishes the quote by adding, “It’s a bit more malty than regular Boutzwa, but it’s kind of sweet, too.”

By the time dinner is over, Jack has downed four of these bad boys, one of which while she is in the restroom. It was a mystery to her how his stomach doesn’t burst, but it is rather capacious. If Jack had been a broader man, his stomach would not have seemed quite so prominent, but he was a tall, skinny guy, actually quite good looking—nice, thick hair, pretty blue eyes, strong hands, but his gut? Well, let’s just say it looked like he had swallowed a wrecking ball.

The waiter brings them the bill on a little plastic tray carrying some nice, big slices of orange and two fortune cookies.

Morgana takes the one closest to her, cracks it open and reads aloud, “Life as you know it will change.”

“Well, that’s safe to say! Every day is different from the last!” says Jack, as he reaches for the second fortune cookie. He places it delicately in front of him and then smashes it with his fist. There is a hush throughout the restaurant as the other diners turn to look at Jack. He picks the little tab of paper out of the crumbs, and examines it.

“Well, this one’s even worse than yours! Mine doesn’t say anything!”

The beer must be kicking in pretty good because the volume of his voice is beginning to attract more attention. Morgana nudges his foot with hers under the table as a non-verbal cue to get him to lower his voice, but he must not catch on because he kicks her hard in the ankle. She doesn’t react because she knows they are being watched. And just to give the gawkers something to look at, he sweeps the crumbled fortune cookie off the table and onto the carpet with the side of his hand.

Jack’s mini outburst draws more than a few dirty looks from the other customers, and everyone seems to be talking about them.

“Jack!” she scolds, whispering. “Please turn it down! And please be nice!”

As the waiter picks up the tray with their credit card, Morgana makes a request.

“Sir, could you please bring us another fortune cookie? My husband’s cookie had a blank fortune in it.”

The waiter returns with the credit card, the credit slip and one more fortune cookie, which Jack grabs and stuffs into his pocket.

Back out on the street, Morgana tries to act as if nothing had happened and tries to engage him in pleasant conversation, so she reminds him to open the fortune cookie.

He takes it out of his pocket and sputters, “This is such bullshit!” and he lobs it at a stray dog picking at some muddy French fries scattered in the gutter. The fortune cookie bounces off the poor dog’s head, and once he locates the cookie after a short, frantic search, he eats it, paper and all. Wagging his tail with gratitude, the dog licks his chops, savoring his good fortune.

“Jack! Why the hell did you do that? Was that really necessary?”

“Oh, cut the crap, Morgana! Forget the bullshit fortune cookie already, OK? Can you do that for me? Can you just get off my friggin’ back for five minutes for a change??? I mean, CAN you?”

She says nothing more, and the two walk in wounded silence back to their new apartment. Her ankle hurts where Jack kicked her. Inside, she’s seething with rage, and can’t believe that she’s got nothing better to do than to stay with this low-count blowhard. And whose fault is that? Why, hers, of course!

That was the same night that her life as she knew it was changed forever. And that was the same night that Jack’s fortuneless future began.
The Strokes, “Last Night”

To Be Continued in Chapter 17: The Mind Readers

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Filed under Proto-Novela, Science Fiction, The Our Little Secret Travel Agency-The Novel

The Our Little Secret Travel Agency – Chapter 15: Tangled Up in Tango

maxresdefaultIt’s been such a good day! Morgana, tired from a productive, fun day at work, still remembers to stay in regal countenance mode with her head held high and her shoulders back. She reflects on the benefits of trying just a little bit harder to look and feel better.

Instead of taking the elevator, she opens the door to the gray, gloomy stairway to tackle the six flights up to her apartment. As she schlepps up the stairs, her footsteps echo and bounce around her in the cavernous void. As exhaustion takes center stage in her mind, her mood begins to flag and a sense of foreboding seeps into her spirit.

Morgana fumbles with the key to open the door to her apartment. Uneasiness washes over her as she realizes at a very visceral level that Jack is not there and that she is alone, really alone. The emptiness feels so very big.

Out of habit, she heads to Jack’s room, and opens the door with a feeling of dread, knowing that she will still be shocked to see exactly what she expects to see: The room devoid of Jack and his hospital bed. The only thing that remains is a resounding sense of loss, together with small flecks of paper, bits of fuzz and hair and an errant paper clip or two suspended among the springy loops of the new Berber carpet. The tracks in the carpet made by the rolling hospital bed being pushed, pulled and cajoled out of the room bear silent witness hours later to Jack’s retreat to the even-further estranged margins of her life.

Almost reverentially, she slowly sinks to her knees and runs her fingers through the tracks on the carpet, as if trying to wrest from the carpet’s fibers the essence of Jack’s departure. She can almost feel the jostling of the bed’s dense rubber wheels kneading the carpet, the small vibrations waving through and rocking Jack’s almost-lifeless, debilitated body. She wonders what he was thinking, if anything, as he watched the ceilings and the tops of the door frames slide over him. She wonders if the morning light had kissed his pale face and warmed his heart, lending him the hope he knew he couldn’t keep. Her elbows dig into the carpet and she rests her head on her forearms. Big, hot tears of remorse spill onto her arms and hands. She stretches out her legs and, now flat on her stomach, surrenders her sobs directly onto the carpet’s tracks.

After half an hour or so, she gets up and feels not only light-headed but physically lighter. Back in her own room, she hangs up her blue outfit and puts on some floppy grey sweat pants and a grey hoodie. Not a good look, but who’s looking?

In the kitchen, she picks up and reads a note propped up against the wooden pine tree napkin holder.

“Dear Morgana, Jack’s doing just fine. We’ve got him downstairs, all set and ready to go. Just a reminder not to worry—he’s in good hands. See you tomorrow morning around 10:00AM. His new room number is 504. Get a good night’s sleep! As ever, Rocky.”

Everyone acts as though Morgana still loves Jack—even Morgana. She wishes she could stop loving him as he had stopped loving her so many years before. She actually thought for the longest time that she was so over him. Then he just had to have this stroke, he just had to become this helpless person who still has the power to stake a claim on her present, her future and her emotions. And she can tell no one how trapped she feels, how not in control of her life she is, sitting at this long, interminable red light forever, stuck in the local traffic of The Void, the resentment building inside her as she continues going nowhere, doing nothing—she can tell no one how she feels, except Jerinda. And Jerinda! Oh, God! What’s up with Jerinda? Oh, how she misses Jerinda, her emotional right arm! Where is she, other than somewhere in Switzerland? Is she dead? Is she alive? Well, maybe she can talk to Dr. Valenzuela…

“I know,” she thinks, “I’ll make tomato soup.”

Tomato soup is the one thing that always makes her feel better. She opens up a large can of crushed Italian tomatoes, and empties it into a pot, along with a can of water. She turns the stove on, and proceeds to throw in a few whole cloves of peeled garlic with about 1/2 of a teaspoon of salt and about ½ of a teaspoon of black pepper. Usually, she pours in a few tablespoons of olive oil, but thinks better of it considering the calories she’s now hell bent to avoid. Once she brings it to a boil, she whisks in a few shakes of curry powder, onion power, and a little lemon juice. She sets the timer for 30 minutes, covers the pot, and turns the burner’s temperature down to “simmer.” Her mother used to say, “When in doubt about how high to crank up the burner, just remember that ‘simmer’ always knows what you want, even if you don’t.”

Her cell phone’s harp sound alerts her to an incoming text. It’s from Gerri!

“Hi, Mom! Working late tonight, but just in case you need me, text me and I’ll call you. Otherwise, see you this weekend.”

Morgana smiles. That Gerri! How did she ever get such a great daughter? Just knowing that Gerri is always looking out for her is such a relief. Morgana does her best not to be a burden to her daughter, but the trust she has in Gerri never fails to fortify her wounded soul.

She taps out a quick message: “Hi, Sweetie! All’s well! Not to worry! I’m all set to visit Pop-Poo tomorrow at 10:00 AM. I don’t anticipate anything new to be happening, but I’ll give you a quick update then. Don’t work too hard!”

The soup was just what she needed. Two big bowls later, she soaks in a nice hot bath, clearing her mind of everything except that warmth that smooths the kinks out of her tensed-up muscles, gently untangling the knots of her emotions.

She eases herself into bed, swaddled in her lumberjack nightie, grateful for the toasty comfort of home, even if she is alone.

Her thoughts gravitate back to Jack. She exhales a long, pent-up sigh, and admits to herself for the umpteenth time that she no longer loves him, that it is only her guilt that is holding her hostage. But what does she have to feel guilty about? What does she owe him? Keeping up appearances for the kids’ sake as the dutiful, long-suffering wife? She’s already done that for way too many years now. The marriage is dead—it’s been dead for almost forever. His fault, her fault? At this point, who gives a rat’s ass?

She’s tired of thinking about it, but not too tired nor disillusioned to focus on something a little more indulgent. After all, she still has a life to live, doesn’t she? Some other voice in her head obviously agrees—she can almost hear it shouting, “Yes, you do have a life to live, goddammit, so stop futzing around and get to it, already!”

Hmmm….Maybe this would be a good time to transfer to Rain? Maybe?

A thrill wells up inside her, just like the feeling she used to get on a Friday afternoon, before she married Jack, when she would suddenly remember that the work week would soon be ending, and that she’d be out that evening, laughing hysterically with her tipsy girlfriends, roaming the city in search of adventure, magic and romance, decked out in party clothes, the languid night stretching out before them, beckoning them to partake of the pleasures that were hopefully lurking just around the next corner…

And just like that, she activates the transfer by concentrating on her password.

She awakens as Rain, just as she left her last time: In her cute little white chemise, her gorgeous hair splayed out all over the pillow.

This time, there is nobody sitting by her bed. She’s surprised to find that she’s on her own, but given that she already knows something about how to proceed, she is unperturbed. She gets up with deliberate, smooth movements, walks to the foot of the bed and looks in the mirror, just to reassure herself that she’s still Rain, that Rain is still perfectly stunning in her little white chemise. She twirls slowly in front of the mirror, and smiles coquettishly at her incredible reflection.

The image of her Mystery Man flashes in her mind’s eye and once again, a hot, steamy sensation works its way up her spine. A sense of joy steals upon her as she makes a beeline for the closet. The only thing hanging there is a black cocktail dress just made for dancing—an uneven hemline with a dramatic split that would free one’s right leg to pin down a passing love interest just as a black widow spider might nail down the object of her desires. She smiles at the absurdity of imagining herself as a black widow as she locates her lacy black panties and her matching push-up brassiere in the lingerie drawer of the dresser. She also finds a pair of black fishnet stockings. Ooo-la-la! A little kinky, she thinks, but why not? Kinky never made it into her first 47 years, but the next 47 aren’t spoken for yet, so…. She perches on the edge of the bed and guides the stockings over each foot and eases them slowly over her long, silky, shapely legs, wondering how they will stay up without something like a garter belt—not that she’s ever had one of those! Oh! She doesn’t even need one—the stockings stay up all by themselves, gently hugging her non-jiggling, firm thighs. Now, that’s a nice pair of stockings! Back to the mirror. Oh, my goodness, she thinks. What would my life have been like had I ever looked like this? She probably wouldn’t have settled for Jack, that’s for damn sure, but she’s sure not thinking of Jack right now, even if she were able to remember his name!

She slips the black dress over her head and wriggles into it as it slithers down her slim, smooth body, coming to rest at all the right places. She can only assume that this marvelous dress was made just for her. She slips on the shoes—a pair of strappy, black, open-toed dancing shoes with 3 inch heels! Oh my, she thinks, I wish I knew how to dance!

Back to the mirror. As Rain regards her image, she becomes impatient to leave the room, and see what the day has to offer. Before leaving, she wonders if she needs any makeup, then laughs at the thought! Ha! Makeup! Why bother improving something that has already surpassed “perfect”?

She heads straight to The Lounge, enjoying the sexy stride and the rhythm of her hips, this new posture and gait courtesy of her high heels. In her real life, she’d be concerned about a devastating fall, developing plantar fasciitis, and future bunions, but thankfully, no such problems will ever be an issue for Rain. She practices holding her head high with her shoulders back, restricting her arms to a slight swing, tilting her pelvis just so in order to walk like a model sashaying down a runway.

Opening the heavy, smoked glass doors, she finds herself in a crowd of people all learning the Tango! She quickly finds herself a place in line with the women who are wearing different colors and styles of dance dresses and high heeled shoes. Facing them is a line of men who are wearing suits of different colors and styles, but all with white shirts opened at the collar. The two lines watch each other through the dim light. Excitement crackles through the air like an electric current frantically seeking a lightning rod.

The first melancholic strains of accordion music send a collective shiver through the crowd as the women step forward in unison to meet the line of men. The two lines dissolve into pairs, each couple locked in an embrace which is at once formal and sensual. The man who is Rain’s partner leads her expertly through the Tango, and she is amazed at how she already seems to know the dance. Her mother from her real life had always told her that with the right partner, you could be a total klutz and no one would ever know that you had two left feet. Once again, her mother was right!

She and her partner do not speak. She notices at the beginning of the dance that although he is a pleasant-looking fellow, he does not seem particularly attractive to her. But now, as he holds her tightly, guiding her while her feet glide, tap, cross over and trace deft figure eights, their eyes lock into a closed-circuit communication that seems to generate a searing heat between them.

Rain suddenly remembers the time in her other life as a teenager when she once giggled from the sidelines as she watched a rather unattractive couple in a dance contest take the floor. They stood watching each other, and as the music started, they embraced and began a highly choreographed, torrid Tango. As the dance progressed, the tension between the two increased as their faces grimaced slightly, betraying an intense passion that transformed the pair into an instrument of the music itself. She found herself wishing that she were that woman, locked in the throes of this libidinous conversation spoken by rhythm ignited with desire. All of a sudden, the same man, who had seemed so unattractive before, now exuded an animal magnetism that left her stunned and incredulous. How could it be that a dance had this kind of power?

For how long does Rain dance the Tango? Who knows? All she knows is that they dance and dance for hours that she wishes would never end, and although she doesn’t laugh once, she has the best time she’s had in years. It is so extremely satisfying to dance with such passion and synchronicity! How she has never before experienced that particular joy, she does not know.

The music finally stops, and the couples split apart, as if an electromagnet has been abruptly shut off, instantly releasing everyone from an invisible bond. The whole chattering, excited crowd of dancers moves on to the Piano Lounge, where pizza is being served. Oh, pizza! How she loves pizza!

Rain finds herself a seat in one of the little circles of armchairs and sinks down into the soft cushions. Unbidden, the waiter brings her a glass of red wine—he must have remembered her preference from the last time!

“So what did you think of the Tango?” asks the red-haired beauty to her right, who also hands her a slice of pizza from the small round table in the center of the circle. Rain smiles and thanks her as she accepts the pizza.

“I loved it! I can’t believe that I learned it so easily! It must have been the partner I had. He just seemed to push me in all the right directions–but that doesn’t explain how I knew how to move my feet. I’ve never had dance lessons. What about you?”

While the red-haired beauty answers, Rain savors her first bite of pizza! It’s soooo good! In her real life, she would have scarfed it down in two minutes, but the pleasure she is taking from that first bite needs no intensification. She sips her wine with the same pleasure.

“No, me neither! I thought it was great! In my real life, I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time! I’m really loving this! I wish I could stay here forever! By the way, my name is Graciela.”

Rain takes her hand and says, “My name is Rain. I feel the same way. How long have you been coming here?”

“I’ve got another ten visits and then that’s it.”

“I’ve only been here once before, so I guess I’ve got 29 more visits.”

“So you probably don’t know much about this place yet, do you?”

“What do you mean? How much more is there to know?”

“Oh, quite a bit. But I don’t want to spoil it for you! You’ll discover everything on your own. The more you discover, the harder it will be for you to give it up. Or not! Who knows?”

“Alright then, one question, Graciela….How do you think we learned to dance the Tango so fast?”

“Well, that’s easy—Have you ever heard of ‘machine learning?’ That’s what it’s all about! As you must know, we are like robots, right? We’re transhumans!”

“So this is all programmed?”

“Well, yes and no. This experience is not programmed—it’s real and we are really here in real time…but, you already knew how to dance the Tango before you tried it because someone else has already danced the Tango in your tenem—while you weren’t in it.”

“What?” Rain puts her pizza down in the middle of the table. It hasn’t occurred to her that anyone else would be inhabiting her tenem, at least not for the duration of her 31 visits! She feels the sting of being scammed, as if she’s just bought the Brooklyn Bridge from Peaches O’Day.

A light tap on the shoulder distracts Rain from Graciela’s unsettling revelation. She looks up and is instantly captivated by the mesmerizing gaze of her Mystery Man! He holds his hand out to her, and with as much grace as she can muster, she puts her hand in his, rises, and without so much as a backwards glance at Graciela, she allows herself to be led away from the Piano Lounge.

The two walk hand in hand in silence down the glass hallway which leads them to a large empty room with bare floors, which is dimly suffused with a magical twilight glowing through a wall of windows. As the door closes heavily behind them, he takes her in his arms, and they stare into each other’s eyes.

From only God knows where, beautiful Tango music permeates the room and Rain is swept off her feet by the sexiest man in the world. This would be a swoon, but not exactly—she is dancing in a trance from which she hopes to never emerge.

Video Credit: youtube, Tango Sexy Dance Santa Maria HD video HQ audio, by Gotan Project: “Santa Maria,” (

Photo Credit: Dancers Mauro Caiazza and Daniela Kizyma


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The Our Little Secret Travel Agency – Chapter 9: The Initialization


Morgana’s eyeballs feel like they are being sucked into an electro-magnetic vortex as her consciousness corkscrews through some other dimension. The Brain-Computer Interface has been activated and fully initialized.

Her inert body, now covered head-to-toe with a lightweight insulation blanket, lies cadaver-like on the gurney in the pink lab. Her body’s functions have slowed almost to a standstill and her skin takes on a greyish pallor. Its flame of sentience reduced to a flickering pilot light, her old body is a mere flabby bag of bones, an empty house: lights off, nobody’s home.

She slowly wakes up in her new body, hot off the 3D press.

How strangely different is this new body! Relaxed just short of the seductive tranquility of death, she subliminally perceives the undulating sensation that she is floating in a warm, blue sea of peace.

Her tenem opens its eyes, their gaze fixed on sylph-like hands as they show themselves off to her newly-dawned and utterly-amazed awareness, each of their long, tapered, young, flawlessly-manicured fingers moving gracefully. The hands seem to be on a reconnaissance mission as they reach for the top of her head, the fingers burrowing into the soft tangle of long curls. They trace their way over her high cheek boned, dewy face, the smooth contours of her long, willowy neck, over her satiny shoulders and trim, toned arms, the smallish breasts, soft yet so firm, the tiny waist, the slim hips, and the flat abdomen with just the slightest hint of roundness. Her “delta of Venus” is already pulsing with new life. She wiggles her new toes, flexes and stretches her feet and ankles, stiffens her legs and then bends her knees and hugs them up to her chest. The hands massage her left foot, and then her right, caressing the curves of both legs as she draws them gently upwards, exploring their cool perfection. This new body, so deliciously alive!

“Rain? Can you hear me?”

She now realizes that not only is she naked, but that she is not alone. Instantly, she is embarrassed that the sensual delight she has just experienced has been observed.

Rain turns her new head and sees an attractive older woman in a white lab coat sitting next to the bed, making notes on a clipboard.

Disoriented, Rain tries to remember her “real” name, and cannot. So powerful is this urge to remember who she really is that she almost cannot think of anything else.

“Rain,” says the woman, “My name is Veronica. I know your mind is racing, trying to reconnect to your real, physical self, but please focus on me, right here, right now.”

“Who am I?” demands Rain. As the words come out of her mouth, she is surprised not only because she uttered them, but even more so that she doesn’t recognize her own voice.

“Your name is ‘Rain’—the name that you chose for yourself and your ‘tenem,’ your new body. Your real name is not accessible to you while you are in tenem mode.”

Veronica checks Rain’s facial expressions to see if she understands.

Rain nods her head. “Yes, it’s coming back to me now.” She likes this new voice of hers, and thinks it’s an improvement over her old voice. The pitch is just a tad higher and has a mellower, more pleasant quality—not at all nasal—not that she ever thought about it before. Even though she’s not quite sure how to classify the accent, she does know that it sounds rather refined.

Veronica continues slowly, careful to enunciate clearly and evenly. “Good, very good. Your memories are somewhat accessible, but you will not be able to recall the city or state that you live in, the names of your family and friends, employers, etc. You will recall enough general information so that who you are as a person remains intact, but not enough to enable you or anyone else to encroach upon your present, real-world life.”

Rain’s focus sharpens as Veronica’s silver curls and soft features fill the frame of her vision.

“Yes, I remember now…The Our Little Secret Travel Agency…I’m finally here—in Switzerland…”

Veronica smiles. “Good! We’re on the right track! Let’s work the kinks out of your tenem and see if there’s anything that needs our attention. Before we do anything, though, let’s make sure that you can see properly—it just wouldn’t do to have you stumble around and ruin that beautiful face the first day you’re using it, right?”

As soon as Veronica props Rain up in bed with two fluffy pillows and tucks the sheet modestly high across her chest and under her arms, she produces a stack of large cards with random pictures of shoes, a truck, vegetables, a computer, and other items. Rain’s task is only to name what she sees and does so with no hesitation. A quick examination using an eye chart confirms that she has 20-20 vision. Veronica’s check list of mini-tests shows that Rain is able to track motion with no delays, and has the peripheral vision, depth perception and hand-eye coordination of a teenager.

Next, Veronica offers a hand mirror to Rain. She sees herself for a delighted instant and her image is immediately blurred. She blinks away the first few tears of emotion, and her vision is even sharper than anything she has ever experienced before.

She takes a deep breath and exhales a very contented, peaceful sigh.

Veronica gets up from the bedside and opens the closet behind her. A rack of beautiful, brand new clothing is illuminated by soft interior lighting.

“Any special requests? We’ll be taking a tour of the Spa facilities! Anything you choose will be appropriate. For today, we will not be going outside since this visit is just to get you accustomed to your tenem and to acquaint you with the Spa and some of what it has to offer.”

And just because she can, Rain chooses a slinky, strapless, orange tube mini-dress that fits like a glove with high platform shoes.

“The shoes are great, Rain, but I’d go with something lower until you get your bearings. Walking shouldn’t be a problem but your equilibrium has to refine itself. Those platforms will still be waiting for you next time.”

Rain considers the wisdom of practicality and quickly agrees.

Veronica locates the perfect alternative and holds them out for Rain’s approval.

“Meanwhile, how about these cute little cork-wedge sandals with these sparkley orange and turquoise gemstones?”

Rain slides her feet into the sandals which fit perfectly!

“I would never wear something like this in my real life. The old me would look incredibly ridiculous in this whole get-up,” she laughs.

Veronica guides the sheet-draped Rain from the bed to the dresser, where she chooses a pair of black, lacy bikini panties and a matching strapless push-up brassiere. Her modesty gone, she quickly dons the sexy underthings and wriggles into her orange tube dress. Veronica hovers nearby to make sure she doesn’t fall.

Looking this good, feeling this toned, this sexy, this attractive, is a new experience, almost spiritual if it weren’t so carnally exhilarating! This could never get boring, she thinks, as she remembers not her name but her real body, the one lying inert on the gurney in the pink lab. Oh, how she hates to be so wrapped up in her physical being, but how delectable it is to have a physical being such as this to be wrapped up in!

“What are you thinking, Rain?”

Rain twirls and sashays in front of the mirror, totally smitten with her reflection.

“I can’t believe this is me! I’ve got to be dreaming.”

“You will be happy to know that you will always be delighted by your tenem because the contrast of going back and forth between your real body and your tenem will keep this thrill alive for the duration of your ‘travels’ with The Our Little Secret Travel Agency.”

Rain tries not to think of the day when her tenem will no longer be hers.

“Are you ready to see the Spa?”

Rain does a final twirl in front of the mirror. “Absolutely!”

Veronica puts her chart on the dresser, takes off her lab coat, folds it and places it on top of the chart. She is dressed to the nines. Suddenly, she doesn’t look that old. Old people just don’t have faces and bodies like that, right?

Offering Rain her arm, she says, “Shall we go?”

Rain takes Veronica’s arm as the door closes behind them.

“Oh, how lovely! It looks like I’ve got a heart-shaped birthmark on my hand!”

“Oh, my!” says Veronica, examining the back of her right hand. “Indeed you do! I’d take that as a lucky sign!”

They walk slowly down a plushly-carpeted hallway with glass walls to keep the blue-cast, glacier-covered mountains at bay. Gaining momentum and fluidity, Rain’s first tentative steps turn into a confident, graceful stride.

“The first stop is The Lounge. You can come here anytime you like. We have twenty-four hour a day live music, if you’re in the mood—and around here, it seems like most people are! And there’s always a good crowd of people in there. Do you like to dance?”

“Oh, yes! How I love to dance! I just haven’t done it in years!”

“Well, good thing you’re here now. I have the feeling you will make up for lost time!”

As they approach the lounge, a small crowd of gaily chatting and laughing people exit through the smoky-glassed doors, bringing with them the driving, deafening music that would wake up the deadest of the dead for one last dance:

Music Credit: Embedded Youtube Video, ‘Ca plane pour moi’ version 2010, by Lou Deprijck

Illustration Credit:

To Be Continued in Chapter 10: A Rainy Day with the Spabots

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