Bella tossed and turned most of the night. Finally, at seven in the morning, she heard a knock on her door. A delivery man handed her a huge bouquet of roses, red, her favorites. The card stated they were from M, whom she knew to be Malcolm, with the words “Sorry” scripting across, with no personal note or explanation. Bella gruffly thanked the delivery guy and tossed the flowers carelessly on her desk. If he had showed up last night as promised, I wouldn’t have needed to face Emit alone.
Staring at the roses, Bella decided she wasn’t going to visit Emit. Instead, in the next two hours, she cleaned her room, shoved all her possessions into bags and boxes, called Daniel, and had him help her move out of her building with his pickup truck. Daniel was only too happy to oblige as recently he had been seeing less of a certain Professor Boyle, as the man’s wife became hysterical just last week, suspecting the affair between the older and younger man. Daniel was distraught and needed a distraction.
Daniel ordered pizza during the drive across town, and Bella protested, insisting she pay given he was the one helping her, but he insisted. They drove up in front of a beautiful redwood estate with a wrap-around porch. Jennifer had mentioned an open room in the house she was renting across town, and it seemed like the perfect solution to sharing a dorm with a Xenosi. Bella wasn’t sure she could be under the same roof. The very thought churned her stomach. She was a chicken, she knew it, but she would be an alive chicken if she never encountered Emit again.
Jennifer was surprised but happy to see her best friend. She explained Victoria, the widow of the late famous puppeteer, Robert Crumplebottom, was only too happy to rent her husband’s lakeside house to bright young students. Apparently, Robert was a patron of education and had donated significant amounts of his fortune to the university. Until this past year, the family summer residence had remained unoccupied, but Victoria had hoped opening the place to university students would bring life and laughter into the home again. Unfortunately, Mrs. Crumplebottom had been unable to find students willing to stay long enough within the walls because the house was supposedly haunted, something about Mr. Crumplebottom predicting his tragic demise on the stage and penning morbid letters in the attic. Jennifer had scoffed at the idea of ghosts and had been the only tenant to stay. She was only too glad to find Bella taking her offer.
Bella managed to settle in, and for the first few days out of the Landgrabb Boarding House, she tried to ignore the gnawing guilt in her abdomen. I should have at least heard him out. Her somersaulting stomach competed with her logical brain. I should report him… but to whom? Her compassionate heart conflicted with her thoughts of anger. He doesn’t seem hostile.
After the fourth sleepless night, Bella decided she had enough. She didn’t even bother getting dressed or putting on shoes before walking across campus, and knocking on the appropriate door, ready to face the truth. Emit answered, looking as though he had not slept much either, still only in his shorts. He directed her to the couch. Part of her wished she hadn’t come, but another part was morbidly curious, even if it cost her. She sank onto her couch, dumbfounded by the truth of Emit’s identity. She wasn’t sure how to feel, a whole host of emotions surging through her body. Emit seemed to understand this, as he took a seat on the floor. Before she realized what she was doing, Bella reached out and offered him her hand, pulling him up onto the couch.
“I am xekzo,” he began. “I was born on a colony world of the race you know as Xenosi. We are a fierce and proud race, ruled by the iron fists of our ruthless queens. The men of my race are bred specifically for service. We are, what you would call, second-class citizens. We have no voice in the council. We have no say over what kind of service our bodies are used for, and we are raised with the notion a from birth that females are dominant.”
“Our queens are living goddesses, the embodiment of O’dam, the spirit of all things living. Their task is to reign ceaselessly in the service of O’dam. None of our former queens have managed to live forever, and so, we, the people, are enslaved to find the answer to immortality, conscripted to find the cure for death. This is why the Xekzos have attacked your world and countless others. We seek eternal life. I am bound by oath to protect my people, and I have just broken my oath by telling an outsider my truth.”
“Why are you here?” Bella interjected with a squeak, and cleared her throat before continuing, “Why are you on this planet?”
“I am considered unique among my people. I have special protein in my blood that allows me to carry time in my cells.”
“Time? Like literal time?”
“Yes I am…timekeeper.”
“What does that mean?”
“It has the meaning of I can travel through time.”
Bella shivered. “But that doesn’t make you a monster.”
“On my home world, I maintain and keep records for people. My father before me did, and my grandfather before that, and my great-grandfather before that.”
“That doesn’t sound so bad.”
“”The Xekzos seek immortality and believe they will achieve such a thing through the direct manipulation of their genes. They will stop at nothing to achieve this, and we have warred against countless worlds, abducted countless numbers of people, and meddled in the affairs of every day life for millennia. Someone back in the day decided our women are too pure to suffer through untold experimentation, and our men are needed for breeding and protection, so the Xekzos seek out other races to purify the processes for immortality. It is a shame we all must bear,” Emit dropped his head and sighed before lifting his head with fierce determination as he balled his fists.
“About a century ago, my people were dying from an unknown disease we have come to know as… time anomaly. Instead of choosing to withdraw from our military tactics, we increased our efforts, bringing more and more people for experiments and ruining countless more lives. I was chosen from birth to carry on the tasks of my family, to study as a time apprentice in the temples of O’dam. I was raised and trained with the express purpose of keeping correct records of the timeline,” he explained.
Emit continued, looking wracked with guilt. “I collect dissidents among my people. I collect Sims. I bring them to my people in whatever time they would be most efficient. The Xekzos are trying to rebuild time to reflect their greatness and glory by ruining and ridding the universe of people who oppose them.”
“Are…are…are…you here to kill me?” Bella stammered.
“No,” Emit shook his head vehemently. “I would never kill you, milady. There is a movement of people against the queens. They call themselves the Orbix. It means ‘the eyes which see again.’ We have fought against the queens for a century, trying to take back the power, and restore our honor. They live on a planet called the Orb, and they have come to Simterra and other worlds in order to find a way to stop the spread of the diseases and infirmities that come with supernatural genes and transforming Sims and splicing one race’s DNA with another.”
“The Orbix?” Bella repeated. “I have not heard of them.”
“They have not yet made contact with the governments on Simterra, but they will soon. The Xekzos would kill me if they knew I have defected… if they knew I…am telling you.”
“Then why?” she started, struggling to find the words. “Why did you tell me?”
“I have told you because we have shared space,” Emit said, his rain-colored eyes clouding with lonesome sadness.
“I do not understand,” she shook her head.
“If a woman were to enter my space while I was naked as you did earlier, she would be imploring me to mate with her,” Emit explained.
“I would have no choice. I would become bound to her.”
Bella resisted the urge to reach for his hand. Something deep within her cried out for and craved his touch.
“It is the binding,” he said hoarsely. “The urges you feel… they are natural. You project them like waves and I can see them and sense them in my innermost being”
“…and they are what draws me to you, though…” he lifted his hand as if to touch her face, and then lingered a few inches from her cheeks. “…not as strong as the desires of a pure-blooded female of my race.”
Bella flinched, conflicted feelings rising in her chest. Emit dropped his hand and returned his gaze to the floor.
“Your world does not host the same customs,” he said quietly. “I will not hold you to the binding. I will wait until you are ready to have your way, and when we are finished, I would die.”
“Die?” Bella cried out. “This is…” she rubbed the sides of her face. “This is all too much… why…why…why would you die if we…um…were…?” she wasn’t even certain she wanted to know. “…were to have sex,” she burst out.
“I would have served my purpose. I could not do anything other,” Emit replied, his face serious.
“But don’t you have love on your world?” Bella asked, bewildered.
“Love is a Sim concept,” he said blankly.
“No, love is a universal concept,” Bella sat up and took Emit’s hands. “I do not wish you to die. I do not want you to take your own life. I do not want any of this. Emit… I don’t know what to say, but please don’t die. Your cause… sounds like a noble one. I don’t hate you…” she couldn’t believe what she was saying. “I thought I would,” she made a face. “…but I can’t. You are too beautiful of spirit.”
“You pay me a high compliment, milady,” he bowed his head reverently. “I can hardly look at myself for what I have done. I only wish I had done something sooner. I am a coward. I ran from my service. I ran away from the Xekzos when I recognized the horror of my mistakes. I ran away from the Orbix when I realized I might do them more harm than good. I am cursed to wander through time, struggling to living a normal life on a dozen worlds in a half dozen lifetimes to atone for my mistakes but the real work is being done out there. And what am I doing? I waste time cleaning pools and obtaining a university degree.”
Bella covered her mouth to keep from crying. “Emit…” she lifted her hand and turned his face toward her own. “You wanted to be Sim. You wanted to do be normal. I know what that feels like because I want to be normal. You serve with such devotion.”
“It is my nature to serve without question,” Emit cried. “I do now what I can… what I can to help those souls that are lost. I carry them with me in my own soul. I try to reverse the effects of the Xekzo genes. I have tried to help you too, though you would not know it. It is not enough. I have taken the lives of many and pressed them into endless agony for the supposed betterment of my people but it is torture.”
“But you don’t do it anymore, do you?” Bella tried to assure. “There is only so much one Sim can do. You cannot beat yourself up for striving for things that the rest of us want too. You want to be someone. I think you’re someone. Someone special.”
“My sole job is to manipulate time and space so that the outcomes are favorable for my people, regardless of how unfavorable they are for other people,” Emit cried, ignoring her high praise. “I am a traitor to my own people and a monster to everyone else.”
“I do not think you are a monster,” Bella said softly, tears rolling down her cheeks. “Emit, you are not a monster. Please stop saying you are. The man before me is too kind and too wonderful and too sweet to be a monster. Please… please… you are not the thing that you say you are. Not anymore. Not ever again.”
Emit reached out and caressed her face and she flinched, surprised at the tenderness of his touch. His eyes were filled with surprise and gratitude. Her phone began to jingle in her pocket.
“Hold on,” she said softly. “Hello?”
“Bella, it’s Malcolm.”
“Great,” she groaned, and to her dismay, realized she did so aloud.
“Hear me out, okay?” Malcolm begged.
“What do you want? Aren’t the flowers enough?” she bit out, still annoyed at how he never showed up the previous night.
Bella was trying not to be distracted by Emit. He was looming behind her. His hand brushed her waist, and she breathed out nervously. Quickly, as to cover up her reaction, she snapped at Malcolm, “Don’t play dumb. You sent me flowers.”
He sounded sincere. “Well, yes, but um… listen, Bella. . .”
“You’re not making this easy.”
“Am I supposed to?”
“Why are you so angry?”
Why am I so angry? Is it because my entire world was turned upside down and my lover wasn’t here to fix it? Or is it because I haven’t seen him for a long time and he keeps blowing me off?
“Please don’t do this to me.”
“You’re doing this to yourself,” Bella practically growled.
“Are you alright, milady?” Emit nearly breathed in her ear.
Instinctively, her hand reached up for the spot on her neck which he tickled.
“I’m fine,” she nodded to him, and then returned to speaking to Malcolm, “You’re the one who called, and you knew you were going to get this. . .”
“Bella, can I come over?” Malcolm cut in.
“When?” she asked sharply.
“Now? Bella, I need to see you today.”
“No, I can’t. Not now. I don’t have time for this,” she snipped.
“But I do,” Malcolm sounded almost desperate.
“I can’t… I’m out… with…someone else,” she nearly giggled because Emit brushed her face with his smooth cheek.
He looked at her in surprise. “You are?” he mouthed.
“You are?” Malcolm exclaimed at nearly the same moment.
“I’m. . .”
Bella started to reply, and Emit, nodded in agreement as he moved behind her and caressed her cheek. She closed her eyes, and for a moment, all she could think about was Emit. Suddenly she wanted to kiss him more than anything in the world. . .to feel his pale pink lips against hers. She wanted to drink him in and forget about the Xenosi and about the Orbix, about Mortimer and the forced engagement, about her parents seeming to abandon her, about her strange desire to slaughter animals when there was a full moon, and Malcolm. Most of all Malcolm. Malcolm.
“Bella, are you still there? What do you mean you’re with someone else?”
But it was too late, she was lost in Emit’s embrace, and her skin tingled in excitement.
“Do you know. . .” Emit said intimately. “…how much I want to kiss you, milady?”
Her lips were vibrating inches from his, and before all her senses went numb, she respired dramatically, “I’m going to have to call you back.”
The phone slipped from her ear, and she lifted her arms and pressed her hands into Emit’s bare chest as his hands wrapped around her waist. After that, she was lost to all other sights and sounds, engulfed completely at the man in front of her as his lips grazed hers harmoniously.