“I’ll be back.”
With that, he was gone. A swish of a coat. Silence enveloped the room, ripping a hole in my chest a little bigger each time. I knew it was coming, every time. He can never stay, that’s his rule. At first, I was happy with that. No strings attached, we both got to live our lives, but there was a huge string attached that neither of us acknowledged.
I’m his. He’s mine.
I know enough not to tell him I caught feelings, but I want to. I know he has a history, I know he’s bad for me. But for those precious hours we spend together, locked in my room from dawn until dusk… it’s like I’ve left the dimension with him and gone somewhere I’m completely free.
Every time he comes, he leaves with the same words. I’ll be back soon. Soon… a day, three days, a week, a month. My life is on hold when he appears. How can it be anything else? I have to tell him. I know giving him a choice, me or the universe out there, is tantamount to suicide, but I can’t keep living like this. It’ll kill me either way.
“I’ll be back.”
It’s all I can ever bring myself to say. I can’t stay longer. I can’t promise anything. I want to. God, I want to give her the world, but I can’t take the risk that it’ll ruin what we have. The things I’ve seen, the places I’ve been… yet I’m always drawn to her. I know she wouldn’t stand in my way, but I can’t tie myself down. I was tied down once, and it didn’t work. I was left. I was used. I was taken for a ride. I still don’t know if that bitch is alive… she never told me. She just left me without a word.
So I can’t let this one rule me. Love is no more than a series of chemicals designed to make us want to procreate. It’s fantasised and idolised by simple-minded people who have nothing better to do with their time. But it plagues me every time I see her. That’s why I leave. When my head gets too full, I leave… And I think it kills her. But she hasn’t said anything about it.
The familiar sound of a portal opening in the living room. My heart stopped. I was fresh out of the shower. It had been a month and a half, and I was weak. I ran to him, threw myself on him. Perhaps it was a bit much, but I wasn’t acting consciously. Every fibre of my body was on fire as soon as my arms wrapped around him.
He smelled out of this world. Literally. It was like no other smell I’d ever smelled on Earth, but his lips crushing against mine didn’t give me a chance to ask where he’d been. His limbs shook as he held me a little tighter than normal, my breath gone. But then, I don’t breathe when he’s here. I’m suspended under water, locked in a pocket of time that always ends too fast.
“Bedroom,” I choked, wrapping my legs around his waist. He said nothing. Something was off. He usually murmured something, some appreciation, something he was going to do to me at least. But not this time. He trembled, his face pressed against my shoulder. He still said nothing as he removed my towel and fucked me, but the usual briskness of it wasn’t there, replaced by something a little more urgent, a little more longing… I’d almost say he’d made love to me, but love wasn’t a word he understood. When he looked at me as he climaxed, his eyes were different. The usual cockiness, surety, gone. Fear?
I wasn’t in control of the situation. The thing about inventing things that other people don’t understand is that, when it all goes horribly wrong and you come face to face with the end of your life, one that you know you can’t undo, you can’t explain it fully. Bearing the ability to travel inter-dimensionally, and a briefly forwards and backwards through time… it comes at a heavy price. Loneliness. But I always go back to places.
I wasn’t in control of the situation, and I felt it in my gut. I wasn’t in control. I almost didn’t get to come back. It scared me so much that I almost froze up. I never freeze. Exploring the universe, there’s no space for freezing up when you’re afraid. You have to be brave. You have to be strong. You have to know what to do.
I almost died. I almost died.
The first place I thought of as soon as I was safe was her place. Her living room. Her arms. Her. I thought of her. I wanted her.
“What happened?” I asked. His head was on my chest. He’d said nothing. He just held me, trembling. He was battered up, this time. Like he’d been in a fight. Bruises and scratches and abrasions covered his skin. His lip was cut to the side.
“I… Nothing.” I ran a hand through his hair absent-mindedly. I loved his hair. Thick, wavy locks which held the small trenches my fingers made. Blood crusted around his temple. I tried to find the cut located just past his hairline.
“Trust me,” I murmured. “You can trust me.”
“You won’t understand.”
“Then tell me in a way I will understand.”
“I…” he paused. I felt something wet hit my skin. A tear. “I almost died.” I barely heard him. I swallowed. For him to be in this state, it must have been bad. Undoable. “I almost couldn’t get back.”
“Oh…” I couldn’t manage anything else. What do I say to that? What inter-dimensional horrors had nearly killed him. “A… an animal? Alien, I mean?” A small nod. “Right…” I held him tightly. “You’re here now. That’s all that matters.”
We lay like that for a while, until he could face me. He kissed me gently, taking me again softly, tenderly. And I wished with every fibre of my being that he hadn’t.
It’s bad. She was a drug, and drugs are manageable. I’ve taken enough of them, and not just Earth ones. But this time… this time it was like a medicine. A salve. A good thing. A dangerous thing.
I went there this time because I was afraid, not because I was bored and needed a release, like usual. This time, I felt fear and she took it away. I mean, if the thing that nearly killed me had managed to follow me through the portal, she’d have been as dead as everyone else on this planet… and yet she was the person I ran to when it went wrong.
I fucked up. I shouldn’t have come here. I should have gone home.
“I’ll… be back.”
I lay on the bed, full of him and covered in him. His smell shrouded me. The warm afterglow faded, and I felt cold.
The word left my lips before I could think about it. He froze, his hand stilling as he tucked his shirt into his trousers.
“You know I can’t stay.”
“Then… then… I… I don’t think I can… do this…” He turned to face me, his eyes met mine beneath his lashes.
“You think I want it to be like this? I can’t risk it.”
“Risk what?!” I stood from the bed, moving to him. I took hold of the front of his jacket. “That I’ll hold you back?! That I’ll tie you down?! Stop you exploring?! What?!”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
“I don’t think you give me enough credit.” I stepped back. “I’m not her. I’m nothing like her.” He sagged a little. “And I think you’re so afraid of me being like her that you’re willing to push me away, instead of realise what I’m capable of.” He looked at me, stricken.
“I’ll be back… soon.” He shot a portal to his right and disappeared through it. I crumbled to the floor and wept.
She’s not her. She’s nothing like her. But she’s the same as her, right?! She loves me – she’s in love with me! She broke the one rule we fucking had! No love. No feelings. Just… just sex. Sure, I didn’t sleep around – I’d tried, and I never got the satisfaction with anyone else I got from her – and she kept herself for me, too… but they’re all the same!
I let my guard down. I let my guard down and I broke the rules – no, SHE broke the rules! If I let her come with me, if I let her in, she’ll freak out. She’ll tire quickly – she won’t want what I want. She doesn’t want what I want… fuck me. She… I don’t know any more. And I know everything. I’m a fucking God, practically.
I have to go back. I shouldn’t have left her like that. Regardless, she doesn’t deserve this shit… I need a drink.
I wasn’t expecting him back so soon. But the sound of the portal in the living room again made the ache in my chest so much worse. I was sat on the kitchen floor, a bottle to my side, glass in my hand. A larger vodka than I’d usually go for, but when my thoughts wouldn’t slow down, I couldn’t handle it. I prayed he’d rethink whatever shit he was going to throw at me and leave.
“I… I’m sorry.”
I took a long drink. The darkness was a nice shield. I didn’t want him to see me in this state.
The place was in darkness. The clink of a glass on the kitchen tiles told me where she was. I’ve fucked it up, haven’t I? I moved through the living room, and sure enough, her outline was visible. She was leaning against the oven, the glow from the moon lighting her legs up.
“I’m sorry,” I said quietly. Not enough, I know. But where do I begin? The entire universe is in my head. I’m a genius, not a fucking crooner. She took a drink.
“What for?” her voice was thick with whatever she’d just drank. Vodka, by the smell of it. She sniffed. She’d been crying.
“I shouldn’t have left you like that. Not… I mean… I shouldn’t have left.”
“It’s what you do. You come here, you fuck me for a couple of hours, I put everything on hold for you, and then you leave. And your catchphrase is ‘I’ll be back’. I’m sorry I caught feelings. You’re not the only one with a fucking above-average IQ.” Her voice was shaky, and not in the way I’m used to. “No – I’m sorry the chemicals in my brain decided that they wanted to procreate with you. I’m sorry I couldn’t keep my oxytocin under control.”
I couldn’t help the small chuckle that rose in my throat. She drank again. I pulled a glass out of the cupboard and sat beside her, pouring myself a glass.
“And then you wonder why I drink,” I murmured, drinking some. The vodka helped take the edge off. I don’t know how. By normal standards, we’re probably both alcoholics. “I’m sorry. Truly, I am. I just… I’m scared, I think. I’m not good with feelings. I don’t know my own feelings.”
“You’re telling me. For a genius, you’re fucking dim.”
She’s not wrong. I hate routine. I hate authority. I don’t respect meaningless rules. Given all I’ve seen in the universe, I realise how small and insignificant we are. Earth is one small spot of dust on a ballroom floor, yet people act like the human race is at the centre of the universe.
“Sure, I’ll take that,” I replied. I sighed, listening to the clock tick away the seconds of a life I wasn’t living. That’s the problem. I thrive on adventure. I’m in inventor. Seconds sliding by sitting on a kitchen floor are meaningless to me… so why the fuck am I here?
He just sat there. I was painfully aware of every second passing by, the clock getting louder and more ominous. Yet, he didn’t move. He didn’t drain his drink, kiss my cheek, ‘I’ll be back’, and then portal out of here. He sat there, his knee touching mine, drinking. We drank our way through two bottles of vodka before I could actually speak.
“Every time you leave,” I whispered softly. “It’s like you take a part of me with you, and I can’t function because I’m dreaming of the places you’re going. The things you see. The thrill of it.” My hands shook. “You’ve never even asked me if I want to go with you.”
“Because you’ll want me to come back. To settle.”
“I’m not her.”
“I know you’re not her, but she wanted that. She matched me thought for thought, but wanted a baby. She left me. I don’t know if she’s even alive.”
“You keep coming back to me. It’s mixed signals.” I took another drink. My lips were numb.
“I know. I know.”
I wanted to scream at her. The bitch before her had asked me what I’d do if she told me she was pregnant. I told her I’d take a risk and test out my portal gun, and that it would be the worst thing in the world because why add to the continuous cycle of pointless life when the planet’s going to die soon? She was tired, she said. She wanted to slow down a bit. Overwhelmed. She left when I tested my portal gun. I thought I’d gone to a mirror dimension, but I hadn’t. She’d gone.
I still don’t know if she was pregnant. I still don’t know if those endless nights we’d spent mapping out the stars were meaningful. I loved her. And she took all that away from me.
Now, I have someone new. Someone who doesn’t talk about ‘what if’, or settling down, or anything. Someone who caught feelings. Someone who sets me on fire every time she touches me…
“Leave the shadows in the past.” I swallowed, wiping my eyes. “Please.”
Silence passed between us again. I knew it was killing him, but I was dead. My life before he’d hurtled into it had been dull, boring, lifeless… without him, I couldn’t go back to it. And I hadn’t set foot through one of his portals yet. The stories he told, the things he’d seen… how could I go back to a normal life?
I have to take her with me, don’t I? That’s the only way. I can’t keep running back here. I can’t keep coming back here…
I have to take her with me.
“Could you leave it all behind?” he asked softly. “All this? Your life? Your friends, family?”
“I don’t have either. Not since I met you.” I stared into the pitch-black kitchen. I’d given up on friends, since I disappeared for as long as he needed me without word to them, and they hated how melancholic I’d become. I realised it was the drinking, as I sat there. But then, if I didn’t drink, they couldn’t keep up. Family had left long ago. I never knew my father, my mother died ten years ago. Only children all around. I was alone. I told him as much.
“Then… then you’ve really nothing to look back for?”
He shuffled about, and then I saw a vague silhouette of him against the window. He took something out of his pocket, a soft blue glow emitting from it.
It’s stupid. I know it is. But I realised deep down, every time I step through a portal to another dimension, or planet, or whatever, I take a risk far bigger than anything else. And I realised that I’d been preparing for this moment for a while.
I stood up and shot a portal, stepping through it.
“I’ll be back.”
I expected nothing less. I sat there, curled up on the floor. But the portal didn’t vanish, this time. I stayed there, hung in space like some milky-blue haze, glistening and shimmering like a gaseous liquid. I stared at it. It lit the place up nicely. Why hadn’t it disappeared? What was keeping it open?
I hunted around my apartment, a messy amalgamation of years of inventions and inter-planetary inter-dimensional chaos, and made sure everything was there. For her. Her own suits, her own gloves… her own everything. I’d made two. I smiled softly.
To taking risks bigger than you are.
I stared at the portal. Confusion should have made my thoughts race. Vodka slowed them. His head popped out of the portal, and he looked at me.
“Well? What are you waiting for?” I felt my jaw hang open. “Come on.”
She didn’t think twice about it. She scrambled to her feet and practically dived through the portal after me. I closed it, and she looked around the place hungrily. I gestured to the items for her, and she picked each one up.
“I don’t need to be a genius to realise how fucking hung up on you I am.” I pulled her close.
“Only a genius could love a woman like me.” She kissed me softly. “Let’s get out of here. Tomorrow’s one day I’m not getting back.”
I shot a portal in front of us, and took her hand. “Alright, then. Let’s go.”
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I need so much more of this. Unforgettable characters—and so much of this rings true. This works as sci fi and also metaphorically. Just a great start to a hopefully future novel.
Hahahaaa thank you so much!! I'm glad you liked it! Thank you for reading! :D I honestly can't see it as a novel, but only because I didn't think much outside of a short story arc and the word limit. But... I suppose if I did think more about it... ;) There's actually an idea I had after watching the Virgin Galactic flight yesterday. A world united by a single space force, headed by one guy (maybe our guy in this story who invents interdimensional travel too)... and how that would pan out when the world starts truly exploring space with thi...
Awesome. That’s a much better backstory than rich billionaires having a **** contest. I still loved this crazy-in-love “amour fou” duo. They’re doomed for sure, but a glorious train wreck nonetheless 🥴
Then you might get your wish ;) Thanks so much again Deidra! <3