They had died when helping thwart a plan to undermine the government of the United States. Now Ben and Susan have returned from the dead and they must bring that government down. Standing in their way are Michael Black and Michelle Gray, the bodies of whom they now occupy.
In a desperate attempt to save their lives, the minds of clinically dead Ben Bering and Susan Parsons had been transferred respectively into the bodies of Michael Black and Michelle Gray. That sacrifice would not come without a price.
The transformation should have heralded a long and happy life together for Ben and Susan. As they would soon discover however, life can sometimes get in the way.
Adapting to life in their new bodies had been an intense study in perseverance for the couple. In their minds, behind their eyes they were still very much Ben Bering and Susan Parsons. On the other hand, standing before a mirror those same eyes were greeted by reflections not of themselves but of those of Michael Black and Michelle Gray.
Accepting their composite existences had been one thing, but actually becoming the other persons had proven to be the most challenging part of their new leases on life. Fearful of losing their own true identities, they'd had to learn to emulate the personalities, mannerisms and idiosyncrasies of the former occupants of their bodies. Ben and Susan had to become Michael and Michelle, the inheritors of the vast empire of the deceased Bishop King.
Dealing with that duality had been necessary in order for them to maintain a public presence, but in private moments it had begun to drive a wedge between them. Although deeply in love, they had not been able to willingly allow themselves to be held in the arms of one whose physical appearance was that of a stranger. Hoping that time might dissolve their mutual rejections, in the end they had made a pact to stay under the same roof but to sleep in separate bedrooms.
Both Ben and Susan had come to the realization that if they were ever to become intimate with one another, they had to first become more comfortable and familiar with their own respective bodies. The fires of love and desire still burned within their souls and they were determined not to allow their emotions to become dying embers.
Susan stood naked before the full length mirror and studied her reflection. She had to admit that Michelle had bequeathed to her one fantastic body. She stepped closer to the mirror and twisted at the waist to better admire her breasts which were a full cup larger than those of her former body. The long raven black hair cascading onto her shoulders was in sharp contrast to the short sandy hair she'd always known. She retired to the bed and allowed her hands to seek out those newer areas most sensitive to touch.There had been numerous failed interludes during the initial twelve months following their "funeral services," but none of that sexual friction had resulted in consummation. Ostensibly their mutual rejections of each other had led to frustration and short tempered arguments. At one point their breakup had become imminent.
In his own private moments Ben had also been posing before a mirror. Michael had been six inches taller to support a more youthful and muscular frame. Of course, Ben was fifteen years the other man's senior. Where Ben had once fretted over a receding hairline, Michael sported the full crop of thick hair through which Ben's fingers now frequently coursed. The transformation had also provided a significant boost to his libido, thanks to the obvious increase of endowment.
It had taken but one moment in which they had found themselves frozen in the mid-act of physical violence that cooler heads had finally prevailed. Susan, a meat cleaver poised above her head, and Ben, his fist clinched ready to strike; they stood staring at the last persons in the world they would ever want to harm.
Acquiescing that their stubborn refusals to sit down and talk had to cease, Ben and Susan embraced one another for several tearful moments. If they were truly in love and if they wanted to share their lives together, they knew that they had to share their fears as well as their love.
It was Susan who spoke first. "You have to believe me, I love you with all my heart. I never knew love could be so wonderful. When I look at you ... I don't see Ben. It's Michael standing before me. Yes, I know that it's Ben in there, but it's almost like I would be ... cheating on the man I love," she said as tears cascaded down her cheeks. "There are other times when I look at you ... I want that man standing there. It's like I'm fantasizing and desiring another man! I feel so guilty and ashamed."It finally happened one night that their hearts, minds and bodies came together as one. Physically, the union had been an intense soiree that had fulfilled their pent up carnal needs in ways they had never imagined. In matters of the heart, their love had been cemented in an unbreakable bond. No less important, their minds had come to grips with the enigmatic duality that had threatened to tear them apart.
Ben touched her arm with one hand while handing a tissue to her with the other. He cleared his throat and said, "I've never doubted that you love me. I assure you that I truly love you too. I cannot imagine the thought of not spending the rest of my life with you." He leaned closer and kissed her cheek. Touching his head against hers he continued, "I have to admit that I was going through the same thing you were. The male animal in me wanted you and Michelle, but it was tearing me apart that I was losing sight of which was which, and who I desired the most."
The unlikely events of a year ago had resurrected four lives and had coalesced them into two composite entities. Ben and Michael had become one. Susan and Michelle had become one. It was only inevitable that Ben would propose and that Susan would accept, even though it would be Michael and Michelle who would walk down the aisle.
I was awakened by her restless tossing and turning next to me, her cries of anguish ringing in my ears. I gently shook her shoulder and called her name. Her eyes wide and her body trembling she bolted upright.
"That same dream again, sweetheart?" I whispered.
She moved into my arms and laid her head upon my chest. She nodded and replied, "Yes. I'm standing naked in the street. Behind me is the same motel somewhere on Route 66. I'm cold and I'm confused. I don't know how I got there. There are those same blue fluorescent butterflies swarming all around me! Next there's the wind, and it scatters them off into the night. I'm standing there alone ... so alone!"
"I know you don't want to talk about it," I whispered in her ear, "but we can't ignore the fact that there are others out there with access to the technology."
She nodded, "I know. It's just that my head is messed up enough, what with Michelle's trace memories and my own that I've lost. I don't need to be worrying whether or not someone is trying to get into my head."
I touched my finger upon her lips and said, "I understand, but surely you can see the significance of the butterflies."
She sat upright and with her arms folded about them pulled her knees up against her bare breasts. "Of course I do! How could I not?" She twisted her head until she was looking over her shoulder at me and added, "This butterfly tattoo ... down there where the sun never shines ... I might not be able to see it, but I know it's there!"
"Yeah. I envy it, always so close to the nectar," I muttered with a lighthearted repartee.
"Oh, please!" she exclaimed looking up to the ceiling.
I placed my hand on her back and with a finger traced a path to the base of her spine. "I'm sorry, honey ..."
She bolted from the bed and glared at me. "How would you feel if they'd tattooed a butterfly on your ... your balls?" She grinned in mock satisfaction when without hesitation my hands covered that same exposed area of my anatomy.
"Your point is well taken," I replied in sheepish resignation.
It was at the moment that telephone on the nightstand interrupted our exchange with its rousing rendition of the William Tell Overture.
"You and your Lone Ranger ring tone!" she said as she picked up the receiver. She hit the speaker button and voiced, "Hello?"
" Michelle!" cried the woman on the other end. "It's Rosie! She's gone!"
"What? What do you mean ... she's gone!"
I scrambled out of the bed and launched myself into a frantic search for my clothes which had been thrown hither and yon in lieu of the heated interlude we'd enjoyed the previous night.
She hung up the phone, "That was Betty, the nurse on duty. She went in to check on my mother and the bed was empty. Her wheel chair was still there next to the bed."
( To be continued in Part 2 on Friday 2/5/10 with ...
"We Were There, But We Weren't" )