Poser V3.0 (cont'd)
Continued from here ...
Her heart went cold as, line by line, the scene was revealed on the screen before her. The wild, storm-wrecked sky, frozen into impotence. The pyramid. The floating wooden sphere. The marble altar, six by four by three. Exactly as she had seen it. Experienced it. Only the woman whose body she had inhabited was missing. This was the stage, the backdrop, but the actress - if such she could be called - was elsewhere.
Alt. File. At the top of a short list of recently-opened files was one called simply bed3. Her heart pounding now, she selected it. A dialogue box prompted her to insert a disk into the Zip drive. Martin had been careful.
Alison searched the desk to no avail. Where would he have hidden it? It took her half an hour of careful searching - Martin was a Police Officer after all and she had no desire to awaken his suspicions - to find the disk, in the inside pocket of his uniform jacket. He had been carrying this around with him.
Alison inserted the disk and clicked Okay. The disk whirred. Moments later the screen filled with a cacophony of multicoloured lines and shapes: Martin's little universe. The object inventory told her all she needed to know.Ground: sand dunes
Primitives: 1 (spheres , teak); 2 (pyramidal, black onyx); 3 (cuboid, green marble)
Models: 1 (Nude_Ali, PoserV3)
Nude_Ali ? Caught up in her own obsession with Galadriel and the Garden, it had never occurred to Alison that Martin thought of her like that. She had never questioned his motives in taking her in.
Martin had given her a roof over her head these past months, fed her, assisted in her impossible adventures. He had never asked her for rent. Housekeeping. Affection. Anything. And that had been precisely his reward. She had taken him for granted. Obsession was like that. Any wonder then that, left alone too many nights with only the computers and his imagination for company, Martin had developed an obsession of his own?
She examined "Nude_Ali" more closely. Despite her unlikely proportions this was very obviously a version (more accurately a perversion) of her Galadriel model, itself based closely on Alison's perfect image of herself. Martin had stolen Galadriel, transferred her onto the old PC. Adapted her to fit his inner fantasy.
Entering the timeline editor, Alison stepped Nude_Ali through her orchestrated sequence of self-abuse. Martin had rendered this as a movie and she found that file too on the disk. Alison ran the file. Moments later Alison was being treated to a close-up, hard-core video of a woman pleasuring herself.
No, pleasuring him.
At a technical level she was impressed at what Martin had achieved. It chilled her. Fascinated her.
Obsession was like that.
She was shocked to discover that a part of her could even construe it as some kind of compliment. As a tribute to her. As far as she was aware no one - no man - had ever found her sexually attractive. She doubted any man had ever forged an obsessive fantasy around her - certainly not one so visually and technically elaborate. Why not? Was she not worthy? Was she not beautiful?
Beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night.
Derivative and adolescent as it was, there was something appropriate, necessary, in the effort Martin had lavished on Nude_Ali and the stage he had created for her to mime upon. Just as it had been appropriate and necessary for Alison to create Galadriel and the Garden.
They were both obsessed with the same woman
Understanding burst within her, running through her veins like wild fire. They were both - Alison and Martin - obsessed with the same woman. A woman whose true name was not Alison nor Galadriel - nor Nude_Ali, though Martin's cut-and-paste, pneumatically breasted creation was a part of it too.
But now Alison could no longer doubt her memories of the assault. This had not been the first time. How long had it been going on? How many times had Martin ..? Still sat at the computer Alison felt something die inside her. And before her on the screen Ali writhed upon her bed of green marble.
At least that was something Alison could challenge, confront Martin with. She could not imagine him becoming violent. She could not have imagined him molesting her. But things were not that simple.
She needed Martin. Needed the time and space and help he afforded her. Patronage she might have called it, before these latest revelations. If he threw her out, what would she do? No home, no money. She would have to find another job. With her experience that might not prove too difficult but she would have so little time to work on - or inside - the Garden. That was how she lost her last job.
And if she said nothing? Did nothing? Accepted the assault as the price of her existence? There was still the danger Martin posed to the Garden itself and to her when she was within it.
Alison did not for a moment imagine Martin had realised or planned it to happen but somehow his dirty little games had invaded her own realm. In her Mirror - from Inside the Garden - she had seen the face of her tormentor. Felt his eyes upon her as she - in the body of his creature - lay open upon the altar of his lust. She had escaped but it had not been easy. Another time and she might not be so fortunate.
Anger and fear met in Alison, igniting in a new and desperate resolve. She had to stop Martin. Stop him in a way which would not prevent her work. Her lifework. The work, perhaps, of more than one life. But how? Alison made a copy of Martin's disk and returned the original to his jacket pocket. One thing was certain: she could not risk going back Inside until she had worked it out.
Martin could not understand what had happened to Alison. Over the past few months she had been Inside more often than not, spending maybe two days in seven in the real world. But it was a week now since she had returned and she showed no indication that she was preparing to return.
The past few days she had spent all her time at the computer, working away at that damned "garden" of hers. But before that she had spent hours just walking slowly around her room. Or laying on the bed: awake but unmoving as if in some meditative trance. If he asked her about it she replied that she was thinking. She needed to think.
Once, Martin would have been happy enough: glad that she was with him in the house instead of wherever it was that she went. But was used now to her absence, an absence in which he had given himself up nightly to his depravity. Addicted, maybe.
It had been six days since he had been able to play with "Nude_Ali" on the computer - or with the semi-substantial Alison on her return. With her around the house his shame burned him inside. Sickened him. But lust burned brighter and his eyes followed her with evil intent.
It didn't take Alison long at the computer to realise that Galadriel was no longer stood beside the Mirror's carven pedestal. For a time it seemed as though the Lady had disappeared altogether but at last Alison located her - far beyond anywhere she had previously explored.
She did not dare render the scene in full for fear of being transported there before she was ready but zooming in close again she risked a preview shot of the Lady's immediate location. She was unsure of what to expect.
A field of roses, their blossoms a washed-out ochre that might once have been red
Even so it was a shock to find Galadriel posed against a background so familiar it took Alison a moment to recognise. A field of roses, their blossoms a washed-out ochre that might once have been red. Alison looked up from the computer screen. They were all around her. The wallpaper in her bedroom.
For three days now Alison had not returned to the PC. Instead she spent her time lying on the bed in her room. As though it would bring insight. But in a sense it did. Alison had never meditated in her life - just one more thing she had never got round to trying - but as she lay there hour after hour the confusion in her mind gave way to calm.
Her breathing stilled. Her sense of the room in which she lay began to fade, then clear again. She was in the room but beyond it, seen in her mind's eye as through a shifting, liquid veil, there stretched a wilderness of thorns. At times she rose up, paced around the perimeter of the room. But her mind was elsewhere and her feet walked in a different country.
Martin found her so at times, bringing her food or attempting to engage her in conversation. Then the part of her that was Alison would surface. Speak to him. Answer his questions. It amazed her that she could do that, knowing what she did about him. About what he had done to her. Was capable of doing.
But as her plan took shape she found it easier to dissemble. She had learned to find within herself the secret flame: to draw that fire about her like a shield. A shimmering wall that protected her from all that was Outside. A safe place. A little piece of Galadriel's Garden, here in the "real world". For the Lady was with her, she knew that now. And upon her hand the rings burned: white and gold.
After three days Alison understood exactly what she had to do. It took her longer than she had imagined to build a realistic likeness of Martin. The default Poser model was far from what she needed and she spent long hours adapting it to his physique. When Martin was at work she took measurements from his spare uniform.
It had been far easier with Galadriel, crafting the computer model to fit the perfect image she held clear in her head. Martin kept few photographs of himself but she managed to scan the image from his identity card. Wrapped it across the face of the mannequin.
Another day to prepare the second computer. Here she was working blind: feeling her way by instinct towards what she needed to achieve. She doubted anything like this had ever been attempted before. If it didn't work she might not get a second chance.
Martin looked up from his toast as Alison entered the kitchen. She told him she would be going back Inside and would need his help again that night to return. Smiling, she hid dark purpose within a vortex of spinning fire so bright to her own eyes that surely he could see it. Feel it.
But Martin noticed nothing except the sheer nightgown wrapped about her with deliberate carelessness. It gaped provocatively as she moved, affording Martin ample glimpses of the body beneath. She was wearing nothing else.
By the time Martin left the house he could think of nothing but sex. His pulse raced and in his mind he saw Alison laid out before him on the bed. Barely conscious. Barely here. It was going to be a long day.
For Alison the day was barely long enough. While Martin was out the night before she had doctored the disk then returned it to his uniform pocket. The directory listing appeared the same but the movie file had been subtly altered. It was now a shortcut to a file on her own computer. She doubted Martin would notice the change - nor the new cables that connected the two machines. In any case it was a risk she had to take. Everything else depended on it.
When Martin returned that evening his first act was to check Alison's room. There on the desk was a printed sheet. His instructions for the night.
Bring me out at 2am. Keep an eye on the PC.
All day Martin had thought of Alison in that loosely-tied robe. Her body naked underneath: a body he had not seen or touched for a week. His own body ached in anticipation of what he would do to Alison on her return. Can't wait to see you. Was Alison coming on to him? Was it possible? Wild images of him and Alison pulsed through his mind. He could get changed - and eat - later. Right now he had other needs.
In the Garden the Lady waited beside her Mirror. All was prepared. About her the air whined.
While the old PC was booting up Martin ran the checks on Angela's machine. Memory had dropped yet again and he wrote the numbers in the log. That task out of the way he slid back across to the old computer. He took the disk from his pocket and inserted it into the Zip drive. There was bed3 as he had left it. He wanted to work on Ali tonight but first he wanted - needed - to watch her perform for him again.
As the movie window opened before him Alison's shortcut triggered a batch file on the other machine. Utilities sprang to life, rendering a video of her very own. Hers was not shot in a surreal desert landscape but in a room not unlike hers: a room, in fact, identical to the one in which her computer worked away.
On a virtual chair at a virtual desk sat the star of her show. On the screen before him, naked and beautiful, a woman writhed beneath a frozen sky.
Martin began to feel flushed, giddy, but put it down to hunger and his state of extreme excitement. Was it just his imagination or did Ali look even more ravishing tonight? Even more real?
Every two minutes the movie sequence began again. He had been careful with the splicing but there was a slight jump that jarred his senses each time he saw it. It was one of the things he wanted to fix later that night. It would keep his mind - and his hands - busy until Alison returned. It was maybe ten minutes before Martin realised the movie had not jumped once.
He was feeling really bad now. His head swam and at times he seemed to be staring at the screen through a swirling liquid veil. He shook his head and his vision cleared. Maybe he had just not noticed it. How could it not jump?
In the Garden Galadriel stood at the Mirror, although her mind was elsewhere. She had summoned the wild magic. Without the rings she knew she could not have contained it: even with their aid she was barely equal to the task. But she held it now, before her and about her, in fragile equilibrium. A living thing of crackling liquid fire.
When her movie began rendering she was ready. In the Mirror coloured lights shifted, moved, coalescing in unsteady images - then broke to reform moments later in new configurations. Bringing the full focus of her mind to bear Alison poured energy into the Mirror. The waters shook again then stilled.
Endless yellow sand beneath an angry sky.
For the second time she lay naked on the marble bed. Martin was watching. She could not see him but she knew he was there. She could feel his eyes upon her. All she had to do was keep him there. Let the magic work.
Did you not say that you wanted to see Elf-magic?
Her legs parted and this time she did not fight it. She relaxed into the performance. Rejecting him, she claimed the actions as her own. She knew now who she was. What she could become.
Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning. Stronger than the foundations of the earth.
It was the performance of her life. It had to be.
When Martin came to he was lying across the keyboard. His head still pulsed but his vision was clear again. He must have passed out. It was a good thing no one had found him there like that. Unconscious at the computer, a pornographic movie playing endlessly in front of him. The guys at the station would really rib him about that. He grinned wryly to himself. If they only knew the half of it!
He raised his head. The movie still seemed to be playing. There was the bed of green marble. The wooden sphere hovering a little to one side. Behind them both loomed the pyramid that had been his very first essay in 3D design. But the bed was empty. The woman was gone.
Martin staggered to his feet. He really needed something to eat. Crossing the room unsteadily he opened the door. Came up short. Where in any sane world the door would open onto a late Victorian passageway there ranged before him a forest of thorns, the bitterness of their spears relieved only by a profusion of scarlet blooms. To Martin they looked like gouts of blood.
He fell rather than stepped back into the room. The door slammed shut, shielding his brain from the impossibility of what he had just seen.
What the hell was happening?
The Lady sat on the velvet lawn. Dappled sunlight played across her lap, marbling her white dress with shifting pools of light and shade. She watched the patterns for a while, allowing them to trigger images in her mind. Fleeting visions of time and space. But she did not pursue them. Not today. Today all she needed was here. Now.
Behind her the stream fell in tinkling cascade beside a short flight of steps. The steps were cut into the encircling bank and led to a path which branched left and right as it passed beneath the trees.
She returned here still at times, to refresh herself at the stream or to use the Mirror. But as the seasons changed - as they did even here where naught seemed to wither or die - she had come to need the Mirror less and less.
The twin flames of white and gold were as much a part of the Lady now as her heartbeat or her breathing and she could draw upon their power at will without the intercession of the Mirror - or the rings.
She still wore them, though, more for adornment than anything else. She turned her hand in the sunlight; watched the colours playing in the white stone. Lapping at the golden band about her finger.
She had spent the last weeks revisiting her favourite haunts, as if for the last time. It might well be so. In a little while she would climb the steps out of her garden: set her feet upon a path that would take her further than she had ever journeyed before. Perhaps never to return. She loved this land but in the past year she had exhausted its secrets. It was her realm but she had outgrown it.
One part of her realm she had not revisited, though she could not fully purge it from her mind. It was a region like none other in her demesne: a region mazed in enchantments. Protected from invasion and escape by a forest of thorns, their savage spears sheathed in clouds of crimson flowers.
So had Melian dressed the protective bounds of Doriath in Beleriand.
Within the bounds of that little realm a man languished endlessly, lost in the bitterness of unsatiated lust.
It was a pretty defense.
The Lady rose and with a last look about her climbed the steps that led out of her garden. Turning to her left beneath the trees she set her feet upon her new road. Beyond the forest she had glimpsed the Mountains.
And beyond the Mountains lay the Sea.