by Ken Dean

A man’s life is turned upside down, but in the process he learns that love conquers all.

D I S C U S S I O N  F O R U M  |  R E T U R N  T O  S T  O N L I N E




Sam Hosta was being held in a death grip against the kitchen wall by his wife, Jackie.

Since when had she become so outrageously strong? She worked out at the gym, yeah—but this kind of strength?

He had been walking out to his SUV in the garage, balancing his traveler's coffee mug and briefcase while jostling for keys in his pocket. He was already late. They weren't in his pocket; must have left them on his nightstand upstairs. He didn't need this and couldn't afford to be late for an important stockholders meeting.

Sam had rushed back in the interior garage door to get upstairs to hopefully find his keys when he had passed the kitchen. He noticed his wife with her arm resting on the kitchen table. What she was doing with her arm stopped him dead in his tracks. A small panel was open on the inside of her left arm and she was manipulating something inside with her right hand. Her arm looked to be full of little sliding light gauges that you would see in any number of sci-fi movies.

Jackie was engrossed in what she was doing until Sam asked, "What are you doing to your arm?"

She was suddenly aware of him, and had closed the twenty feet between them in a blur. Damn she was fast! He couldn't budge her; it was like trying to move a brick wall. Then what was usually a warm, feminine voice demanded from him in a tone that was flat, cold and authoritative:

"What did you see?"

He didn't know how to answer, so he lied.

"Nothing, dear. Didn't see a thing." He was beginning to sweat.

Her response was to push Sam a little harder against the wall.

"I asked, what did you see? And just so you know, I can tell when you're lying."

"Okay, okay! I saw what looked like electronic crap inside your arm. Satisfied?"

"Yes. You're telling the truth. Obviously you've seen too much."

Realizing the strategic and calming advantage of doing so, she changed her voice back to the one he was used to, full of fuzzy animals and sunshine.

"Listen, we need to discuss this. If I let you go, do you promise not to run?"

"Sure," he lied. "Where would I go?"

"Stop it, you're lying again. Plus, I could run you down within fifteen feet."

Shit. Probably couldn't get anything past her. He might as well go along; maybe wait for an opening to take action.

"Okay," he said as he gathered his wits about him, "I take it with your arm full of electronics plus your strength that you're not my wife."


"What are you then?"

"An android, sent by my masters to study the average human family in all its aspects."

It was all too fantastic, too unbelievable.

"I don't believe you." He was slowly inching his way to the wooden knife holder on the counter. "Prove it to me."

"Very well. What would you have me do?"

"Grab that bicycle tire pump from beside the refrigerator and see if you can bend it. I'm assuming you have greater than average strength."

"Yes, you are correct."

As she turned to get the pump, he quickly grabbed the biggest knife from the wooden block on the counter. He lunged at her back, hoping to bring the knife down on her neck.

Suddenly, in what seemed like a millisecond, she turned and brought her hand up to block the thrust. She caught his forearm as he was bringing the knife down. It was like striking concrete. The knife clattered to the floor. He fell to his knees also, his arm in agony. Along with the enormous pain, it felt as if something had torn loose inside and his shoulder was on fire.

"My arm!" he screamed.

"Why are you so foolish as to attack me like that? My reaction time and speed are too fast. You've hurt your arm needlessly. Let me take a look."

She began to examine his musculature and bones with a fair amount of prodding. This sent waves of increased pain up into his shoulder.

"You've torn a ligament. Try to remain conscious."

"Yeah… right." He grimaced.

"Your arm needs repair."

She went to the cupboard and pulled out what looked like a square bandaid, peeled off its cellophane-type wrapper, and stuck it to his upper arm. He began to feel a lessening of the pain almost immediately.

"Oh thanks, that's starting to feel much better. What is it?"

"A combination analgesic, rapid healing compound, and a mild sedative. It should heal the damaged portion of your arm in about five minutes."

He could feel parts of his shoulder and arm tense and relax on their own, along with an occasional popping feeling inside. There was a little light-headedness also.

"I feel a little woozy. Is that normal?"

"Yes, the sedative will do that. Plus the rapid healing component of the medicine draws a lot from your body. You may also feel some weakness."

"Thanks for helping me. You didn't have to do that."

"Yes, I did."

"What, you can't let me get hurt?"

"No, not intentionally. But accidents can happen. That's why you need to be careful."

He was feeling quite good right now. Whatever was in the patch was giving him quite the buzz, really loosening up his tongue and taking away his apprehension.

"Okay. Let's talk about that. What study are you talking about, and how does it involve my wife and family?"

"Like I said before, I'm here with several others like me to study the human family. It's a multi-generational endeavor. There are so many parameters to examine. Your species has extremely complex inter-personal relationships. It took my masters many years worth of study just to comprehend the latitude of adult male and female physical and psychological makeup. Only then were they able to develop a baseline in which to produce female androids like myself along with several male units."

"Produce? So you guys are like exact copies or something?"

"Exactly. We study a specific target first, and then apply the baseline we developed to the target. The match comes out to ninety-nine point seven percent accuracy."

"So you're like the perfect match for a female, in particular, my wife?"

"Yes. You wouldn't be able to tell the difference, except that you caught me with my pants down, so to speak."

"You're that close? So I could make love to you and not tell the difference?"

"You already have, Sam, for the last year."

Okay. That was a shocker. He couldn't comprehend that and sat there for a few minutes, dumbfounded.

"Are you alright?"

"Yeah," he snapped back to reality, "I really lost you after that one. I forgot to ask, are the twins okay?"

"Yes. It's still early. Katy and Ruthy are still asleep. You don't have to worry, Sam. Along with being their surrogate mother, their well being is paramount to me."

"Sure. Whatever you say. I guess I'll have to see it to believe it. That brings me back to the other question. If you're here, where is my wife?"

"Totally safe, I can assure you."

"And where would that be?"

"Okay, your conversation is deteriorating again. Don't be so defensive. I can't tell you where she is, and it wouldn't make any difference anyway. Do you comprehend that?"

"Yes, I'm not stupid, just desperate. What if I go to the authorities?"

"Go ahead, Sam. Take it from me, they won't believe you. They may even think you're crazy. Do you want that for your family? Let me explain the big picture for you, and I'm not trying to be threatening. The study will go forward, with or without you. We can always take you to a safe place with your wife, but we'd rather not do that. No matter how perfect I can be as a wife and mother, I'm still influencing the study somewhat by replacing your wife. We would rather not have to replace you as well; it would affect the study even further. And wouldn't you rather be here with your children during their development? Just so you know, every memory that I have of being a mother and a wife will be translated to your wife's memory. She won't even know that she was gone after we bring her back. I will approximate aging right along with her, so that everything appears natural. Any time you want, we can discuss this whole matter, although in private."

"Okay, when will you bring my wife back?"

"That's subjective. It will depend on how the study is going. Some things we can deduce as we learn more about the human family and its behavior."

He had to think about all this. What was to become of his wife and children? Could he trust them to an alien android? It didn't seem like there was anything he could do anyway. Maybe he could take the children and run somewhere.

"You're thinking of running, aren't you?"

"How the hell did you know that? And what the hell, yes."

"It's one of the standard reaction profiles we've encountered in the past when we've been discovered. Another point of interest, we can always find you. Your entire family has been tagged with a health status and location indicator, sort a technological equivalent to your cell phone GPS locator, but much smaller and efficient."

Damn. He was starting to feel like he lived in a big zoo.

"Okay Jackie, I can still call you that right? I feel like I don't have any options. Can you understand that?"

"Of course you can. And I know you feel trapped. But look at the big picture. If you go along, I will be the perfect wife. In fact, I can be any kind of wife you want, as long as it doesn't vary from the profile norm we've developed. That could affect the outcome of the study. Along with this, you and the children will have near perfect protection. I can promise you that. And my profile is to be the most loving mother and wife that I can be. It's a win-win situation if you go along. What do you say, Sam?"

"Listen, this is hard for me. It's hard to accept that I can't do anything worthwhile."

Especially when she sat there being so perfectly feminine and beautiful.

"But you can, Sam. Be there as the girls' loving father. That's what you ultimately want, right?"

"Can I try it for a while and see how it goes? I still need to see how you act around the girls."

"You've already seen that for about a year now, right? Haven't I been the perfect mother? But that would be fine. All we want is you to be happy with the situation."

"True. I guess I will give it a try and see where it goes; what choice do I have?"

"Oh excellent!" She reached across the table and gave him the perfect hug, smelling so much like a woman that it hurt. "I know you will be happy with everything."

It was true. He thought back to how she had been with the girls as infants, and she had lacked nothing in her loving care of them.

"Shouldn't you get to work, honey? Wasn't there an important meeting this morning which you've probably missed? Your arm should be fine by now."

He had forgotten the meeting and his arm in all the discussion. The patch had come off his arm at some point, but it felt perfect as he flexed and moved it around.

"Thanks for that. It does feel perfect. I'm going to stay home if you don't mind, and keep an eye on you. I still don't trust you with my children."

"My children too, Sam." Jackie began to cry. "I truly do love them as much as you do."

He reached out to hold her, not realizing he could have hurt her feelings.

"I'm sorry, I keep letting the situation rule my judgment. But you can't blame me if I hang around for a while."

"No," her sobbing was easing up, "I understand. But you have to understand that one thing you can expect from me is consistency. The way I've been the past year is the way I always will be."

"Okay. Okay, you can stop crying. I realize you care for the children as much as I."

"Thanks. I really need to be getting them up. They are used to their routine."


Sam wound up taking a whole week off work, keeping an eye on Jackie as often as possible. Her treatment of the children was exemplary. After the next couple of months had passed, he truly felt he could trust her.

They were alone in the kitchen one evening talking about finances when Sam brought the situation up.

"Jackie, I've come to the point where I feel as though I can trust you."

"Sam, that's wonderful," she said, giving him a big hug. "I knew you would eventually come around. I'm sure you'll find that it's actually a benefit having me around."

"Well, I feel that I have no choice. But I also feel that you may be right."

"Okay, I can accept that. But as time goes by, I feel that you will become totally used to the situation."

Of course she was right.

* * *

A couple of years passed. Sam had become used to the idea and was almost totally accepting of Jackie. He had even overcome his mental block about her being a machine and was able to finally make love to her again. She had been totally patient with him until he was ready. After that, it was pretty much back to normal. Jackie did inform him one night in bed that there could be no more children, because of what she was.

"I hope you're not upset. Were you planning on more? It's one thing we couldn't anticipate."

"No, Jackie. It's okay. Jackie and I had already discussed this and were going to stop at two."

"Oh good, that's a relief," she said as she hugged him. "I've been worrying about telling you."

* * *

The two girls were growing fantastically, and were going to start preschool in about a year. They had their mother's beauty, which was also reflected in Jackie's face. Sometimes he was utterly amazed at their growth and Jackie's solid influence.

Sam was moving higher in his firm and his income was matching the rise. Jackie and the girls wanted for nothing. He was becoming quite proficient in the stocks and bonds industry and would like to start his own brokerage someday. Jackie had agreed and was enthusiastic about his ideas, urging him on.

Four years had gone by. Sam's memories of his discovery had managed to sink far back in his mind. It seemed so real that he let himself think that it was. Blissful ignorance.

Then there was the visit to the zoo. They had been making the trip to the Central Park Zoo a couple of times a year. The girls loved it and, frankly, there always seemed to be something new to see. They had just finished their latest visit. It was a beautiful Saturday fall afternoon that was to die for. There was a good breeze blowing and it was about sixty-eight degrees. Perfect. They had crossed Fifth Street and were walking up Sixty-Fourth off Central Park. A friend of his owned a building a few blocks away and they had been able to use the parking garage.

"Jackie, do you and the kids want to stop at Joe's and get some coffee and ice cream?"

The girls answered as one, "Ice cream!"

"I take that as a yes," he said while grabbing all three of them in a bear hug.

Joe's had some of the best flavored iced coffee in the city and made any trip to Manhattan more enjoyable. They had started to cross Madison Avenue on the way to Sixty-Third. Jackie and Katy were in the lead crossing Madison. Sam was still in the crosswalk with Ruthy as the wind whipped up and blew something into his eye. He had to stop for a second, his eyes closed, hurting and watering. His lost his grip on Ruthy's hand and she began to weave her way back to the corner they had just come from. Sam fumbled for her hand and was finally able to open his eyes in time to see a metro bus coming fast down the curb lane directly towards her.

"No!" Jackie screamed from the far curb. Everything seemed to be in slow motion. Jackie was suddenly in front of him, handing Katy to him, and just as quickly gone. He looked up just in time to see a blur come between Ruthy and the speeding bus. Jackie grabbed her up in her arms just as the bus hit her square in the back. The bus stopped cold, the back end raising ten feet in the air from the impact. It settled back to the street as Sam turned his eyes back to where Jackie and Ruthy should have been. All he saw was a blur snapping down Madison turning on Sixty-Third and was gone. Impossible, he thought. He took Katy back to the far corner, away from the bus. Looking back he saw the ruined front end of the bus. It looked like it had wrapped itself around an invisible telephone pole and there was a fire starting to burn in the rear. Luckily all the passengers had gotten off; he could hear sirens coming from the south and north.

"Bus went boom," Katy said. "Where is Mommy and Baby?"

Katy always called Ruthy "Baby."

"I don't know, sweetie. Let's go try and find them."

He began to cross on the opposite corner where the bus rested, holding Katy close.

His cell phone began to ring in his pocket as soon as he crossed. The caller ID showed it was Jackie.

"Where are you? Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, Sam. Just get over here to the parking garage where we parked. I need you."

She needs me; that was rich.

"I'll be right there."

He ran down the same direction that he saw the blur go, holding Katy as he ran. He arrived at the parking garage and went up to second level where the SUV was parked. He found Jackie up against the wall, holding Ruthy, who was still bawling.

"Jesus, are you two okay?"

He grabbed and hugged them both while still holding Katy.

"I'm fine, but I think Ruthy is terrified. She won't stop crying. But she's okay; I can tell by her medical implant."

"And good reason for crying. How did you do that? I didn't even see you."

"Fast, Sam, remember? Uberfast. I couldn't hang around and try to answer questions from the authorities. It would be too hard to explain. Plus I can't be seen in public like this."

She turned and showed Sam her back. Her jeans, shirt and jacket were completely shredded. And her shoes had melted on the bottom from the friction.

He examined her back through the shredded clothing and couldn't see a scratch.

"This is incredible."

"I know. But right now I need you to go get me some clothing from a nearby store so that I can change in the SUV. Please hurry, before the girls start asking too many questions."

"On my way."

He traveled over to Bergdorf Goodman and purchased some casual jeans, a shirt and jacket in her size. Oh, and some shoes too. He arrived back at the SUV to find all three girls inside.

"Anyone else see you?"

"I don't think so."

She began putting on the purchased clothing.

"Nice fit, thanks. Pretty good for a man's shopping."

"No, Jackie. Thank you for being there for my—I mean our—daughter."

"Sam, you would do the same for them or me if you were able."

"Right," he laughed. "Let's go get something to eat and put some normalcy back into the day."

"Great idea. How about the steak house on the way home? The girls love to throw the peanut shells on the floor."

News reports that evening talked about a metro bus hitting something in Manhattan, but no one could be sure what. One woman in the front of the bus thought she had seen a woman in the street before she got tossed out of her seat. But in the hospital later that night she said most likely she was seeing things, since there was no one there after the bus came to rest. Authorities reported they had found some shredded clothing on the front of the bus, but had to surmise that it had been there before the crash since there was no one injured to connect it to. Luckily no one had been seriously hurt. Also no one had seen a strange blur flying up the street directly after the crash.

Life began to settle back down to normal again. The girls continued to grow up tall and beautiful. Sam was able to open his own brokerage house. His income naturally went up. He was able to put back quite a bit for their eventual retirement, the girl's college and their possible weddings.

* * *

It was Sam's sixtieth birthday and there was a big party thrown by Jackie. Even though she had aged the same as Sam, she was still beautiful. Hopefully she still found him handsome. The girls were there with their husbands and Katy's young boy, Sam Jr. Sam was always so proud introducing his grandson. 'He's named after me, you know.'

Sam had just about forgotten their special situation. He had talked to Jackie the night before about retiring soon, and she was very encouraging.

"What would you like to do after retiring?"

"I don't know for sure. I know one dream I've always had, the one I've mentioned before. About traveling the world."

"Always a high goal, Sam."

"Yeah. But I'm not sure if we can pull that off. Yes, we have quite a bit saved up. With the grand-children's trust fund, and the two girl's inheritance, there would still be enough to retire comfortably. As far as a lot of travel, well, that might be out of our reach."

"Sam, I wouldn't worry about the cost. I'm sure it will work out."

How could she say that? Had she stopped worrying about money with his good income over the years? He had run the numbers already, something he was good at. There just wouldn't be enough to do all the things he was talking about.

His back was bothering him again and he was sleeping fitfully. In his dream he was off in one corner of a boxing ring, being faced off by two women. They looked exactly the same, and they were both claiming to be his wife. Both were asking him defiantly which one he loved. He couldn't think of a good answer except for telling them he loved them both. He awoke in a sweat, screaming.

"I love you both!"

"Sam, I know you do."

"What, who's that?"

"It's me, Sam."

Jackie was kneeling by the bedside, holding his hand, stroking his hair.

"Jackie, you're so beautiful."

"Thank you, Sam. And you have always been handsome. I'm happy to have called you my husband."

He was starting to wake up fully, comprehending what she had said.

"What do you mean, 'called'?"

"Sam, it's time for me to leave. The study is complete."

"What are you talking about?"

"The study, Sam. Remember thirty years ago? It's over. It's time to bring your wife back."

"But you're my wife!"

He realized she looked thirty years old again.

"Yes, I have been and I've loved every minute of it. But it's only fair to her to let her come back. Don't worry, she will be the same as me, all the same memories, but just not with my special abilities. Listen, we want to leave you and your wife with something, a way of saying thanks for your cooperation through all the years. We've credited your bank account with five hundred million dollars so that you and Jackie can do whatever you want during your retirement. Don't worry; we've arranged it so that if anyone looks closely, you will have won the state lottery about half a year ago. Also, the best gift of all, perfect health."

She put a patch on his upper arm. It slowly began to tingle; he could feel it spreading down his arm and across his chest.

"We've given Jackie the same treatment. It's a permanent, full body health booster. You both will look about sixty years old on the outside, to avoid suspicion, but will have the bodies of twenty-five year olds on the inside."

"I'm starting to feel dizzy."

"It's okay, just a side effect of the booster. It will be done by morning."

He said woozily, "Why do you have to leave? Can't you stay with me?"

"I'd love to, dear, but I can't."

He was starting to drift off, couldn't keep his eyes open.

"Sam, I know I shouldn't feel this strongly, but I do. I love you, Sam. I always have. You and the girls."

She was crying. Tears rolling down like she was human.

"Don't ever forget me, Sam. I'll love you forever."

She kissed him for almost half a minute, her tears running down his cheeks.

"I love you too, Jackie. Forever." He was drifting off to sleep.

He awoke the next morning, feeling better than he had in thirty years. Jackie was beside him, still asleep. He shook her awake.

"Jackie, wake up. You're still here."

She answered groggily, "Of course I'm still here, you goofball. I never left."

He came to a sudden realization; his wife was back. His Jackie was back. But he would so miss his beloved Jackie.






Copyright © 2007 Ken Dean

A B O U T   T H E   A U T H O R:

Ken Dean started writing about four years ago and then got serious two years ago. Speculative Fiction or fiction in general is his genre of choice. Ken has had several publications at Silverthought Press ( He also has published several stories in different issues of Down in the Dirt magazine and in the anthology collections Chaos Theory and Distinguished Writings from Scars Publications ( and at Bewildering Stories (

You may contact Ken at

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