In reaction to Mr. Black's statement Susan's jaw dropped. She regained her composure and asked, "You are not referring to sexual persuasion, are you?"
The corners of his mouth turned up to form a weak smile. "No Susan. If only it were that simple."
He stood still staring at the ceiling for several minutes as if formulating his next statement. He faced us and spoke slowly, "Mr. Bering, when you were here before, and I can only assume you were, I wasn't ... How can I put this? I'm afraid I wasn't exactly myself. I don't how else to put it, I was here ... but I wasn't."
Susan interjected, "I am, therefore I'm not?"
He answered her, "Yes. Precisely."
I winked at her for her clever reference to my book title. "I'm not liking the sound of this. I have just about forced my skeptical brain to grasp what has happened to you and Michael. Now I find myself wrestling with the possibility of a third party's presence?"
Susan stood up and moved between us, a perplexed look on her face. "Ben, Mr. Black, you're losing me," she said. She trained her eyes on me and continued, "First you convince me that Michelle and ... Michael were able to feel each other's emotions. Then you suggested they were able to 'read' the other's thoughts? And they did these things while they were ... f**king? " She moved away from where we stood and spoke again, "So now ... now I'm expected to believe that he is not Michael Black?"
I placed a hand on her shoulder and said, "Susan, won't you please say hello to Michelle Gray?"
Susan was shaking her head, obviously still confused. "Man, do I ever need a drink!"
Our host strode over to the full bar at the end of the room. Nodding to her he asked, "What would you like, dear?" He glanced at me, "Mr. Bering?"
"Why not?" I replied. "I haven't been drunk since this morning. Make mine a scotch, neat."
Susan walked over to the bar and said, "I'll have scotch also, but on the rocks."
After pouring the two drinks and placing then before us he tipped the bottle over a third glass. "I suppose I should make it unanimous and join you." He raised his glass and offered, "Salute."
Our host spent the next fifteen to twenty minutes explaining to Susan the nature of their research, and what they had been trying to achieve. "We were excited about our results with the dog and was certain we were on to something," Michelle in Michael's body said. "When we tried it on ourselves ... we were blown away! Think about it, Susan. We had made an important medical discovery. Our research could have revolutionized diagnostic medicine. Instead of invasive exploratory surgery, we could read a patient's brain and pinpoint any ailment in the body from a small blockage in an artery to a malignant tumor."
Susan was impressed and said, "That's wonderful. Think of the lives that could save. I don't understand why the military and some secret government agency took it away from you. What practical use could it serve them?"
I cleared my throat so that I could interject a thought, "Espionage. Interrogation. Torture, perhaps?" I glanced at one and then the other before adding, "How about the possibility that the research could be used for the extraction of information such as government or corporate secrets?"
"Those are very distinct and conceivable applications of our work. That especially became evident when we discovered that we could exchange thoughts - if you will, a crude form of mental telepathy. We learned that any enhanced emotional response can create enough electrical brain activity that when linked to another brain the same activity could be shared, felt and read. Of course the other sources of that kind of synaptic reaction, including intense pain, fear, thirst or hunger, deprivation of sleep, hate, et ctera, were impractical to say the least."
Susan grinned and made a playful growl, "That left the enhanced emotions of sexual intercourse. Yes, I'd have to agree that a good roll in the hay would be more practical." She glanced at me and winked, "...And a hell of a lot more fun!"
The man who was Michelle eyed us curiously and stated, "Quite!" Downing what remained of the scotch in his glass he said, "Do either of you wish another drink?" Both Susan and I declined while he was refilling his glass.
"When we learned that we had just the weekend left before we handed over the entirety of the research to them, we decided to conduct some more intensive research. As you so succinctly put it, Susan, we had an entire weekend of fun in the name of research." He paused and lowered his head staring at the counter of the bar for a few moments before speaking again, "That Saturday night, around 6pm ... that's when it happened."
Apparently Susan was not yet convinced that the man was in fact Michelle. With a sarcastic tone she said, "Ah, that would be when you began thinking you were Michelle Gray and not Michael. I suppose that Michelle thinks she's Michael?"
"I think Susan needs some convincing," I said. I moved to the sofa in front of the large screen TV and suggested, "Why don't you play the last disc for her, Michelle? ... The one when the two of you were knocked unconscious."
Michelle/Michael placed the disc into the drawer and pressed the 'play' button. "I'm not entirely comfortable being here while you watch this. Then again, you've already seen it, have you not?"
I nodded and studied our host for a few moments. My observations of the display of chain smoking earlier and then the questioned use of the right versus the left hand were confounding. Those points of question were being tempered by Michelle/Michael's apparent inability to remember my previous visit. The only possibility that made sense out of all these events that made absolutely no sense at all, was unsettling. I sensed that Michelle was battling the same thoughts.
Susan had been standing behind the sofa during the first of the lurid images of Michelle and Micheal engaged in sexual intercourse. After a few more minutes she slipped onto the sofa next to me. Shifting her weight until her hip was against mine she whispered to me, "They really are reading each other's thoughts! I thought you were pulling my leg."
Her eyes were riveted to the screen as the couple's bodies were being rocked with the tense spasms of synchronized sexual release. I felt Susan's hand on my upper thigh. Her fingers dug into my leg at the same instant that the on-screen lights in the lab began to flicker. Her labored breathing suggested that she had willed her self into a heightened state of desire. Her face was flushed and beads of perspiration were rolling from her forehead.
She was still gazing at the screen as the sounds of short circuiting electronics snapped and popped. Michael and Michelle, their bodies drenched in glistening perspiration lie still on their backs. For several minutes the only signs of life were the rising and falling of their chests, the labored respiration a result of their spent exhaustion.
Susan placed her cheek against my shoulder and whispered, "Ben, I felt ... I felt like I was there ... Instead of Michelle ... And I was on top of ... You! Like your dream. It was so real." She was still trying to catch her breath, "Ben, I ... God, I'm so embarrassed! I ... I came!"
I sat there in stunned silence. I thought of my embarrassing dream back at Rosie's house. How was it possible that she would have the same dream? Although in her case, she was wide awake! I placed a finger to her lips and said "Shh ... We'll discuss it later."
The couple on the screen began to stir. Michael, in a normal male reaction to such activity reached down to touch himself. He bellowed, "What the f**k!" He bolted upright in terror. Michelle, sensing something wasn't quite right shrieked "Oh my God!"
They looked up and stared at each other. Michael, his hand groping for his penis, was resting upon a damp triangle of hair. Beneath his chin a pair firm breasts jiggled with his movements.
Michelle released the semi-limp male organ that she'd been holding. In stunned silence she watched it bob when set free. Then she realized her breasts were gone, replaced by a flat slightly hairy chest.
She said Michael's name but it wasn't her own voice that resonated in her ears. When he spoke, he too heard a voice other than his own.
Susan was seemingly in as much shock as the pair on the screen. "It can't be! It isn't possible, is it? " She looked at me and then at our host. She raised her arm and pointed, "You are really Michelle Gray? And he's really you?"
Michelle, in the body of Michael Black nodded and replied, "Yes, it's true. Our minds were transferred to the other person's body. When I told you I was a woman trapped in a man's body, I meant it ... literally!" She pointed at one of the windows on the opposite wall and said, "Somewhere out there is Michael, a man trapped in a woman's body ... My body!"
The tears I'd thought I'd detected earlier were now clearly visible. Digitally captured, the pair on the screen could be seen and heard discussing their dilemma. "Look," said the male (Michelle) figure, "We've got to hook up again. We have to try to reverse this."
Michael in the female body responded, "We don't know if we'll be able to duplicate the power surge. We might be trapped like this ... for ever!"
For several minutes their actions became almost comical. Michelle began to flip at her new-found organ, giggling at its swaying and bouncing motion. Not to be outdone, Michael cupped his ample breasts and tweaked the nipples.
A visible flush to her face our host said, "Yes, with the mentality of research scientists we played around with our new bodies hoping to understand how the other sex copes with the various parts. I remember when Michael was touching his ... er my vagina, I said to him to remember what he was doing and where he was touching ... so that when we were back in our rightful bodies he'd know how to pleasure me better."
Susan giggled and it was me who began to blush.
Michelle walked over the bar and poured another drink and turned to speak to us, "Then Michael got this idea that we should get dressed and go out to a club. He convinced me that it would be an incredible education to experience the social scene in our new bodies. I have to admit that the idea did intrigue me somewhat. I thought it would be fun to interact with the women out there on the prowl. He was thinking the same thing, but of course with the men."
What our host had told us was still being played out on the TV set. Susan giggled in spite of herself as Michael struggled with that piece of garment that always tormented men - the bra. Exasperated he tossed it aside. After trying to figure out the front from the back he also disregarded the hot pink thong. He then slipped on a sexy red dress and admired the reflection in a full-length mirror. He grinned sheepishly as he massaged his breasts until the nipples could be seen poking through the material.
The three of us began to chuckle when Michelle was trying to figure out how to situate the penis inside the tight pair of BVDs. She repositioned it several times until she felt comfortable. She called to him, "Christ-sake! Does the damned thing always give you so much trouble?"
After they were dressed in the unfamiliar attire they left the lab. Michael tried to incorporate a wiggle in his gait without much success. He glanced up at one of the security cameras.
The image of Michelle Gray froze on the screen as the DVD was put on pause. I stared at the image of the beautiful woman against the backdrop of a blue wall. Reflections of the lab lights seemed to dance about her like miniature stars.
(To be continued with part 12, Monday 1/5, Who's That Knocking At My Brain?)