The air was cool. At least it came out that way. The machine was working. But the fight was futile. The enemy was aggressive and everywhere. In the end, the air conditioning just could not defeat the blanket of sweltering heat that had occupied the office of the Rose Tribune. Dawn pinched the nylon that was grossly sticking to her leg in an attempt to let a little air touch her poor suffocated skin.
“Mr. O’Neil? When are we going to get that maintenance upgrade the company has been promising us since last year? You know the one that included an air conditioner that could, oh I dunno, COOL down this oversized building?” The whining came from the young reporter, Dawn Meadows as she picked at her clingy black pantyhose sitting cross-legged in front of her editor’s desk, in his office. It was just too hot to work, but the two were attempting to discuss possible leads for the upcoming publication of the Rose.
“The whole upgrade is jammed up in paperwork, and… -hey! Quit picking at those!” indicating her fidgeting with her outfit. “And no, weather does not permit leniency in the company dress code,” added Mr. O’Neil, reading the young reporter’s thoughts loud and clear. “Oh, before I forget, Max down in Mail dropped this off a little while ago. It’s addressed to you.” He leaned over his desk to hand the dusty looking envelope to Dawn’s slender well-manicured hand. From the looks of it, it had traveled a very long distance.
“Hmmm? Okay, thanks,” replied Dawn curiously, as she looked over the strange package. Reading her mind again, Mr. O’Neil pushed his letter opener to the edge of his desk with a subtle grin. It appeared he was as curious as she was as to the sender and contents. Dawn looked up, smiled with thanks to his gesture. She tucked the loose locks of blonde hair that had fallen into her face behind her ears, uncrossed her long slender legs, and re-crossed them, then pursed her ruby lips in concentration. “Let’s see what we have here. No name on the return address, but if I’m making that out correctly, these postage stamps are… Africa?” Dawn looked up at her editor and matched his intrigued brow with her own.
Investigation time was over. The letter opener slashed with precision through the dusty envelope. Sliding the dull blade into the package, Dawn separated the gap to peer inside at the contents. It looked to be just a letter of some kind. Nabbing it between two slender fingers, she carefully slid the parchment out and unfolded it. The letter was handwritten, and by the quality of the characters, appeared written in an urgent manner. The sender indicated his knowledge of the illustrious career of Dawn Meadows, and his need to meet with her regarding an important story that she was working on the previous year. His current situation did not allow his exit from the African village where he currently resided, and that it was necessary for Dawn to travel to him for this important information. A map was included with the letter indicating the location of the village. It was signed: Jacob Howling.
“This letter is from Jacob Howling!” exclaimed Dawn. Seeing the name came as a great surprise to her.
“Jacob Howling?” Mr. O’Neil squinted his eyes as he concentrated on the name. So many came across the overly stressed out editor’s desk, that it often took him a moment to locate the files in his brain. He whispered it a couple more times to himself before snapping his fingers. “Jacob Howling! Isn’t he that guy that fed you information on that kidnapping case last year?”
“Yep, that’s him! I can’t believe I’m hearing from him out of the blue like this,” sighed Dawn.
“His information led you right to the bastards, but then the authorities smelled something suspicious and wanted to talk to him personally about the matter, but he requested to remain anonymous by you. If I recall, his reluctance led them to believe he was a suspect, and as a result, he fled the country to avoid arrest. Without him, the case fell apart, and remained unsolved.” O’Neil remembered the events aloud.
“Yeah,” Dawn replied with disappointment evident in her voice. “We were so close to solving the case thanks to Howling, but then everything got all screwed up with the cops, and he panicked. I can’t say I blame him. We didn’t have a clue before he started feeding me the information he had gathered.”
“Well, what does he want?” barked O’Neil sensing that the pair was dangerously sliding down a path of reminiscence; something a big time editor had no time for!
“Oh, he wants to meet me!” answered Dawn almost jumping out of her chair after being startled from her thoughts by her boss’s bark.
“He does? When, where?” O’Neil’s interest was piqued. This was a headline story that went unsolved. The chance to pick it back up and put the story to bed was too good to be true.
“In… Africa. His circumstances don’t permit otherwise, and he wants to meet like now, according to his letter.”
“Africa?” he sighed. “I tell you, Dawn. You’re going to bankrupt the Rose one of these days,” he pondered his words in a few moments of silence. “But this lead is too big to leave to the competition. Get yourself straight to the airport. I’ll call ahead and have your flight booked,” he added with sudden animation in his voice. He was already paging his secretary to get the airport on the line.
“Straight to the airport? Sir? Surely I should go home and change and pack. I’m hardly dressed for AFRICA!” whined Dawn, indicating her charcoal designer skirt suit, sheer barely black pantyhose, and heels.
“You’re fine. Just use care in that outfit, that’s all,” he noticed the desperate look on her face. “Look, if you think I’m going to have a representative for the Rose galloping around the globe in khaki shorts and a white cotton shirt knotted in the middle, you can forget about it. You pull this every summer, Meadows, but you know the rules. Keep the stockings on, or the return plane will leave you in Africa.” O’Neil’s words were final.
Sighing, Dawn stood up, and smoothed out her skirt. Folding the letter, she accepted company regulations with a shrug and bid her editor goodbye, and to “wish her luck.”
Two hours later…
The air on the plane was nice. It was much more effective than the attempts back at the Rose. After a while, Dawn even found herself requesting a blanket to cover her thinly clad legs, feeling the goose bumps popping up beneath the sheer fabric. A pleasant young woman came around with a cart inquiring if Dawn would like to enjoy a glass of wine. The offer came as a wonderful surprise. Dawn was never crazy about flying, and the wine might help relax her nerves. Not to mention she was a little anxious about meeting up with Howling after all these months. The two had worked pretty closely during the kidnapping case, and she wondered how life in Africa had been treating him. She felt bad about the investigation turning on him, forcing him to flee. It was a misfortune beyond her control. The biggest uncertainty was what new information did he possess about the unsolved case?
“Your wine, Miss?” the pleasant voice startled Dawn from her anxious questions.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, I was lost in my own thoughts,” replied an embarrassed Dawn feeling her face blush. “Thank you,” she graciously accepted the glass of wine from the stewardess.
“It’s quite all right, Miss. Please relax and enjoy the flight. You have most of the plane to yourself,” she smiled and politely backed away to complete her duties. Looking around, Dawn saw that the young woman was right. She did have most of the plane to herself.
“I guess not many people are flying to Africa today,” Dawn chuckled to herself while sipping the wine. The empty cabin, the wine, the cool air in the plane, it was all so relaxing to the busy reporter. Kicking off her heels, she finished the glass of wine, then allowed herself to drift off into a nice relaxing sleep…
…When she finally awoke, Dawn felt very hot even before she opened her eyes. “They must have shut off the air conditioner,” she thought with a grumble. Going to flip the blanket off her legs her hand just slid across the smooth nylon of her thighs. Confused, Dawn opened her sleepy eyes and was instantly blinded by glaring light. She quickly squinted her eyes, and protectively created a visor with one of her hands. What the hell was going on? As the dull edge of sleep began to wear off, it became easier and easier to tell something was very wrong. While her squinting green eyes had not fully adjusted to the bright light, the wind on her face was enough to tell her she was no longer on the plane. What the hell WAS going on!? The shock to her senses helped speed along her wake up process and in a matter of moments, Dawn turned her head this way and that to the sight of an ocean of sand. She was sitting on her backside in the middle of the desert with a scorching sun in the sky! The surprise made her dizzy with confusion. How did this happen? WHAT happened? Where WAS she? The answers it appeared were tied to her jacket sleeve. Looking down, she saw a piece of paper rubber banded to her forearm.
“What’s this?” she wondered aloud, pulling the mystery paper from her jacket sleeve. With a crinkle she flattened it out and blinked the sleep from her eyes a few more time to try and see what was written on the page. The sun’s domineering glare on the white page made it very difficult to do so. It read as follows:
Dear Miss Meadows,
Welcome to Africa.
Thanks to you, my brother Jacob was forced from his home to this desert wasteland.
All in the name of your precious story his life was ruined.
I wanted you to see firsthand what kind of hell this place is.
The weather is nice, wouldn’t you agree?
But I am not without heart.
Check your jacket pockets.
I have provided you with a compass.
Your company has provided you with an extraction flight to the south.
But do hurry. You will find no water and it’s still early morning.
The day will only get hotter as time passes.
Please enjoy your stay in Africa.
Jacob’s sister, Helen
Dawn let the page fall to the sun cooked sand in disbelief. Reaching into her pockets, she fished out the compass that Helen had indicated. How could this have happened? Was Helen the girl on the plane? The possible questions were endless, but Dawn was now part of a dangerous game. She did not have the time to ponder the details. If Helen was telling the truth about her situation, then she had not a moment to lose in getting to that extraction flight.
Standing up, she dusted the sand off her charcoal designer suit, and smooth black stockings. “Just a great day to wear black, Dawn,” she chided herself as she felt the scorch from the sky heat up the skin beneath her jacket. She was already slick with sweat under the choking pantyhose, and in her bra and panties. The feeling was nearly unbearable, but her feminine decency still ruled her composure. Finding her heels half buried in the sand next to her, Dawn snatched them up in her little hands. While it would be foolish to even try and walk in them in the desert, she decided it would be best to carry them along.
As she began her journey, the first thing she noticed was how terribly painful the hot sand was on her stocking feet. If she didn’t know better, she’d think the nylon was actually melting to her skin! It was all thanks to the sun. It bathed the ground in fire-like warmth. It ruled the desert unchallenged. There wasn’t a defiant cloud in the sky. Not a tree in sight to provide even a sliver of shade. Trying to keep her chin up despite circumstances, Dawn checked the compass for south, and began taking determined steps in that direction. Her best bet was to focus on the extraction plane, and the refreshing water that was certainly aboard.
With the back of her hand, up to her forehead, Dawn tried to wipe the sweat that kept sliding into her despairing green eyes. She licked her ruby lips for moisture that she was fast using up. The heels began to feel heavier and heavier in her hand, as she felt her normally good feminine posture begin to waver on her. Her charcoal suit was acting as a sun catcher, funneling all the heat into Dawn’s slight shoulders, weakening back, and damp bra. Her legs were simply on fire. The pantyhose were nothing more than a very tight oven, slick with a chocking sweat. Slowly but surely, her steps became less focused, and instead of her feet coming off the ground, they dragged along in the scorching sand. Not even realizing it, Dawn let her heel’s slip out of her sweaty fingertips to drop to the ground.
The sun worked on her ladylike dignity with a force equal to physical blows, and it wasn’t long before, Dawn’s unbecoming posture dropped her to her knees. Her blonde head was sopping with sweat, hair flat and sticking to her face. With a desperate whimper, she unbuttoned her suit jacket, and weakly slid it back on her arms. Unzipping the back of her skirt, she crawled out of it like a sheath around her hips. Dawn blushed in embarrassment from her undignified form. On her hands and knees, clad only in her little black bra and pantyhose, and legs in sheer pantyhose. She wanted so badly to peel off the nylons, that were most certainly killing her with every passing moment, but she could hear Mr. O’Neil’s harsh tone. She would be left behind if she showed up at the extraction without them. Desperate to survive, Dawn left her crumpled suit in a burning pile beneath the sun. Her shaking legs no longer had the strength to support her, so she did the only thing she could. She crawled pathetically along on her hands and knees.
While shedding her cumbersome suit helped cool her off a little bit, the sun proved unsympathetic to Dawn’s bare shoulders and arms, and her now fully exposed pantyhose clad legs. The rays lashed at her backside as her arms and thighs quivered trying to support even her slight weight. She tried to peel the blonde hairs from her face, but the sweat just kept flowing from her body dropping it back in her face. Her red lips were wide open while her tongue hung out and she panted like a dog. Her face was pathetic and afraid.
Refusing to peel off her clingy pantyhose for fear of being left in the desert, Dawn paid a heavy price. The merciless sun drained all the strength from her thighs until quivering; they dropped her onto her belly on the scorching desert sand. If she wasn’t so slick with sweat, she might have noticed the pain. Her legs were too weak to support her any more. With a delirious look on her pathetic face, she realized her folly. So afraid she was to break dress code and get left in the desert, she allowed the stretchy fabric to dehydrate her and sap what little strength she had to begin with.
“Nice going Dawn, NOW you’ve done it!” she chuckled while trying to grab at the waistband of her nylons and peel them down. It was no use. She no longer had the strength or the coordination to perform such a task. Reaching ahead, she tried to claw into the sand and pull herself onward; convincing herself the plane was just over the next dune.
A few weeks later…
A plane was flying over the African desert. Two children were on holiday with their parents. They were both peering out the windows of the plane to see if they could spot any interesting desert lizards or cactus. While they’re watch yielded very little in that regard, they did spot something that made them both point and laugh from the cool cabin of their airplane. Down on the sandy desert floor was a skeleton crawling on its belly, but the most peculiar part about it was a pair of barely black pantyhose loosely stretched and wrinkled over the bony legs of the thing. The boys enjoyed a good laugh then called for more juice to be brought to them. Such a good find called for a cold drink!
-The End… for Dawn Meadows