“You say she was running?” Summerlee questioned, appearing concerned as he slowly
inhaled on his pipe. “Was someone chasing her?”
Malone, sitting near the dining area table, his legs resting
on a low stool, nodded. “*Something* was chasing her, Professor. It might have been a raptor.”
behind Ned, arms crossed in front of her bare mid section, Veronica concurred, “The image began to fade but I think,
in the end, she had spotted a cave and was running to safety.”
“How was she dressed?” Challenger
asked, meditatively lifting fingers to stroke his ginger beard.
Roxton, who had been listening as he paced, suddenly
exclaimed: “What does it matter, George?” His frustration had come boiling to the surface as he glanced occasionally
at the portrait of the beautiful woman Summerlee had painted. More than ever before he felt a connection with her, even if
he did not know who she was or why her essence was suddenly appearing to them. “We know this woman exists and is obviously
in trouble. She needs to be rescued not scrutinized.”
“First of all, John, we don’t *know* she is
in trouble.” Summerlee commented, although he did understand his younger friend’s distress. He saw how intent
Roxton was as he described the lovely lady to him for the painting. He used words, both gentle and doting, that seemed so
peculiar coming from the worldly hunter. “From what you have told us of your visions and from what Ned and Veronica
have conveyed the woman seems capable of taking care of herself.”
“Then why, after all this time, is she
suddenly showing herself to everyone, not just me?” Roxton pressed. “She’s in danger, Summerlee. She's calling
out and needs our help. I know it.”
“Roxton…” Veronica hesitated to speak but felt it necessary.
He obviously was not thinking beyond his own heart. It both fascinated the jungle beauty and puzzled her. None of them had
ever seen Roxton so openly agitated. “You have been on the plateau for nearly four years. With the exception of us,
it’s been a rather lonely way of life. How long has it been since you … I mean …” She gulped slightly,
uncomfortable. “You’ve been seeing this woman for how long?”
Roxton looked away from his friends,
understanding where their thought processes were taking them. He was poor, lonely John Roxton; the wealthy Lord who had never
married. He was the man who had loved many women but was never truly in love with any of them. So, what did he do? He made
up a phantom; a beautiful, skilled woman who could match him quip for delicious quip. She was the goddess who could quite
possibly save him from a life of loneliness. But still, the others saw …
“It *is* possible,” Challenger
offered, “considering all the incongruity we’ve experienced on this plateau over the last four years, Roxton,
that what you have been dreaming …*experiencing*,” he quickly amended when Roxton shot him a piercing look, “is
a phenomenon which is projecting images from your mind that the rest of us are now seeing.”
Roxton sighed, “Welcome to my whimsy.” He closed his eyes briefly and shook his head back and forth. “You’re
the scientists.” Roxton relented slightly, slowly crossing over to the painting as it rested on its easel. He stared
at the woman, examining the curve of her cheeks and chin, her lustrous hair and those stunning eyes. “But if she *is*
only the product of an over active imagination … “
“If she is a mere apparition then there is no
harm done.” Summerlee said, “If not, we will do our best to free her. That's a promise, John.” and he meant
They spent most of the day scouting the perimeter but saw nothing.
Just so the venture wouldn’t
be a total loss Roxton shot a small dinosaur for dinner and while Veronica and Ned collected fruit for dessert, Summerlee
and Challenger attempted to iron out a few problems with the electric fence. They had been having trouble with it for weeks.
all ate a quiet supper that evening and it was not lost on any of treehouse inhabitance that Lord Roxton did not have his
usual hardy appetite. They avoided speaking of the "ghost-woman" for fear it might disturb him further. Roxton was the first
to excuse himself from the table. They all then retired for the night.
“Dammit Roxton, where are
He sat straight up in bed, breathing heavily, feeling beads of perspiration rolling down his cheeks, forehead
and throat. She sounded close, closer than ever before but this was crazy … It was the middle of the night!
mean it! If you don’t show yourself right now I’ll never speak to you again!”
It was coming from
the common room.
Throwing the sheet from his body and quickly struggling out of bed and into his trousers, Roxton
stumbled quickly from his bedroom. He was simultaneously joined by Challenger, Veronica then the rest of his companions in
the middle of the treehouse.
They stared at a luminous object, bouncing in the middle of the room. It appeared three
feet wide and approximately six feet tall. The sound of an electrical charge crackled as the light touched the floor of the
“What is it?” Malone called, as astounded as any of them.
“I’ve never seen
anything like it,” Summerlee exclaimed, “but if I didn’t know better I’d swear it was a …”
portal!” Challenger bellowed, stunned but also delightfully amazed, “Five years ago Professor Ingstout of the
University of Attenborough wrote a paper about the possible existents of such things. They called him a madman. If only he
were here …”
“*Well, he’s not!*” a peeved female tone announced from the portal. Her
voice held echoes. Very slowly they watched as the barely recognizable outline of a human being materialized inside the light.
“Help me out of here, will you?”
“Wha … what do we do?” Veronica asked the shadow in
the illumination, as well as her friends.
A slender human hand unexpectedly pushed itself from the mass as the glow
became more intense. “Hurry!” The figure cried, “I feel it pulling me back … *John*!”
hearing his name and making a decision, leapt forward and grasped the protruding hand, noting even through the force of his
action how soft the fingers were against his palm. He pulled and as he did the light strengthened to such a degree that he
had to look away and the others had to shield their eyes. The sound of the electrical charge was now nearly deafening.
the crash of what could only be described as thunder, the figure parted from the portal and the light disappeared almost as
quickly as it had appeared. Roxton fell backward, holding the woman, carrying her to the floor with him.
his eyes and looked at her, the long dark hair falling forward, a few strands tickling his own left cheek. Her eyes, those
stormy green-gray pools, just like he imagined them, were wide and staring into his. She was his dream woman, the lady of
the painting, the precious phantom that had kept his imagination honed.
“Roxton.” she breathed. The faintest
trace of a smile lifted her lips.
“Hi.” He could think of nothing else to say, suddenly presented with
his fantasy, having her slight figure resting on his own. He smiled nervously in return.
Unexpected, her expression
changed and she pushed herself away from him, “How could you do that to me?!” she barked angrily, attempting to
stand but feeling weak and suddenly very light headed, “How could you …?”
A hand grasped her arm
to steady her, “My dear, are you all right? Where did you come from?”
She stiffened, recognizing the voice
and very slowly turned to look at him. “Summerlee …?” No. This was impossible.
He smiled gently
but appeared very concerned. “How do you know my name?”
She backed away, looking at all her companions
now as they stared at her.
“I am Professor George Challenger. You are?” Challenger asked, coaxing her.
Krux.” She heard herself speak but the weakness in her limbs and the fog that had entered her head was overwhelming.
She felt a rush to her brain and as darkness claimed her, Marguerite gasped, losing a battle to stand upright. She felt strong
arms and knew it was Roxton who held her.
Before she lost complete consciousness Marguerite looked up at him and whispered,
“You need a haircut, Lord Roxton.” and closed her eyes.