art by Seth Alan Bareiss
The Lady Electric
by Gary B. Phillips
There was a hole in the fabric of your favorite dress and the light seemed to bend around it. Light always favored you, softening or illuminating to give you an ethereal beauty at all times.
I didn't say anything to you about the hole. I knew how angry you would be. I knew what could happen if your anger got the best of you, but I didn't fear it. I wanted to keep you safe.
Halfway through dinner you saw the hole and your face flushed that brilliant, pure white. The other patrons took notice. How could they not? Children pointed at you, gazing in wonder at the black dots that burst around you and sucked in the light.
The restaurant emptied and the police came in, their guns drawn, shouting at you to get down. A few of them got too close and winked out of existence, though I'm not sure anyone noticed in the confusion.
"I love you," I shouted to you, in the midst of the chaos. Bullets and light and the sound of the earth coming apart at the seams.
"I love you too," you said.
It seemed to calm you.
And then they were upon you. They led you away in handcuffs.
Word about the incident spread quickly. The papers ran rife with speculation. The names of the missing cops were released and the city held a candlelight vigil in their honor. The mayor pleaded with the public to come forward with any information they had about the "freak accident" or mysterious woman.
They didn't know how to deal with you, so they kept you in solitary for two weeks. I tried to visit you but they turned me away every time.
"She's a danger to herself and others," they said.
A deal was made and they transferred you to a laboratory outside the city. A man named Edison had taken a keen interest in you.
I took a train to New Jersey and hailed a carriage to Menlo Park. His lab looked less like a place of research and more like an oversized residence. Thomas Edison stood on the porch, puffing at a cigar and looking up to the heavens.
I let myself in through a white picket fence.
"Strange night," he said.
I looked up to the stars but only saw a few twinkling, as if a veil had been draped over the sky.
"Indeed. Are you Mr. Edison?" I asked.
He nodded and shook my hand.
He asked, "Mr. Atwood with the Times?"
I nodded and he invited me in.
When I first contacted him, I had lied and told him I was a reporter. You know I'm not a liar so I had even surprised myself, but if it meant getting to see you again, it was worth it.
His lab was bright, lit by a queer light that made my eyes water. He introduced me to his assistants and showed me around the lab.
"This is really special," I said.
"But this is all yesterday's news. I have something new," he said, drawing closer to me and speaking with a hushed fervor. "I've never seen anything like it. Would you like to see?"
I nodded, following him downstairs and through locked doors. We stopped in an enormous white room, heavy with the sound of machinery.
"There she is," he said.