The Seven Seductions
(read Chapter 15 here)
Mary Chastity was startled by the cry of an owl somewhere in the trees nearby. She had paused to rest only a moment earlier—just long enough to catch my breath—halfway along the path, where the bright stars that formed the great Northern Cross blazed out gaudily against the hazy backdrop of the Milky Way. She was still gazing up into the summer-night sky, open-mouthed in wonder, her back against a sturdy ash, its ancient trunk a curvaceous effigy of maternal abundance.
Yet now, she blinked in confusion, not altogether sure of how much time might have eluded her. The campfire story was still fresh enough in memory to play upon her imagination, and she suddenly regretted having left Magic back on the trail. Little acid drops of dread began to bubble through her bloodstream, a primal intimation of terror. Something was lurking there in the gloom—she was sure of it—hooded somehow, camouflaged by the night, watching her with the cold patience of a snake, eyes preternaturally attuned to the shadows.
“Magic?” Her voice trembled, barely above a whisper. “Is that you?”
“Or is it you?” She dared not say the name aloud. “Have you been ... waiting for me ... all this time?”
“What do you want?”
A twig snapped in the undergrowth. Something was rustling in the bushes nearby. Mary Chastity could not move. Could not run. Could not cry out. A paralyzing chill crept down along her sides, a numbing effervescence spreading into her extremities. Her teeth chattered though the air was warm around her.
I would savor the sweet essence of your terror as gladly as the p’roffered nectar of your love.
“Nuh ... nuh ...” Her throat was parched, her tongue leaden and thick, such words as they managed to form no more than a coarse glottal creak, a muted rumble of inarticulate despair.
The entity came on in spite of her pleas, like mist, moving silently through the tangled vegetation beyond the path. A ghostly, tentacled thing, it reached out for her, probing blindly, and Mary Chastity held her breath against the noxious emanation, careful not to draw the evil into herself.
Vaporous tendrils—but two of dozens—coiled around her legs, though dread already bound her to the spot. Still others poured over her body as if coordinated by some primitive intelligence, its singular imperative to seek out her weakness. The stuff crawled up through untucked pantlegs and sqeezed beneath the neckline of her t-shirt, into the confines of her compression bra, oozing lecherously around her breasts. There was something unnervingly systematic in the manner of this unhurried exploration, the way the half-solid entity elicited her body’s response as it whisked the soft, sensitive flesh about her nipples. tweaking and pinching until they began to swell and pebble...
I shall never cease to pursue you—not till this world has been consumed and all that binds me to it is but dust ...
Misty filaments, like grotesquely articulated fingers, snaked their way into her panties as something—the crude simulacrum of a warm, lolling tongue—insinuated itself between her burning nether lips.
“Pluhz ... pluhz ...” Please ...what do you want?
As if in response to her unspoken question, the fog gathered itself into the image of a face, a ghoulish caricature of aged androgyny, deep-lined like something carved from the bark of a tree—perhaps the same ash against which Mary Chastity had now begun to cower—dead gray eyes ogling her with lustful malevolence, cracked lips twisted into a bow of sardonic amusement.
In the name of— she tried to cross herself, only to recall the languor of her limbs. –all that’s holy...
The spectral face began to change, mouth blurring and collapsing around the edges, widening out into a monstrous, gaping maw.
It was no longer merely a mouth—Mary Chastity understood with a searing visceral certainty—but a door, a portal, the threshold of Limbo itself, that dark, empty Nowhere, eternally silent as the grave, in which those souls, neither blessed nor damned, are trapped in their own maddening indecision. And had she yet to make a choice in her heart? The monster had begun to inhale, and she could feel herself being drawn in...
Magic stepped towards her through the dissipating mist.
“Oh ... God!” She threw herself into his arms, clinging tightly, her body racked with silent sobs. “I ... I ...”
“Shhh, it’s alright.”
“I’ve been so ... so ...” She looked up into his eyes. “Oh, Magic—”
The kiss seemed to come out of nowhere, the very suddenness of the gesture so utterly unexpected that she was powerless to protest. Magic’s lips were soft against hers, quietly questioning. She answered him awkwardly, shyly, overawed by his boldness, yet somehow reassured, safe in the protective aura of his calm.
“Mmm ...” She closed her eyes, attention centered on the cadence of Magic’s breath, in and out, quiet, deep, steady, drawn through his nose so as not to interrupt the blissful connection of their lips. He brushed the side of her face with long, sensitive fingers the way a blind man might probe the details of some exquisite sculpture in a museum, ‘seeing’ her—letting her see herself—in a new, profoundly intimate way. Yet, there was something so unassuming, so benign, so ... pure about his touch, as if an angel, unwittingly descended from heaven, had found her, taking liberties to satisfy its own childlike curiosity.
It was her first kiss.
Her eyes popped open at the realization. Could it be true? She tried to search her memories. Yet there it was. She had never kissed—or ever been kissed by—a man before. Not like this. This beautiful boy was holding her in thrall with his lips alone, all of her, body and soul, in a state of suspended animation. Time stood still even as the world beyond them kept its inexorably appointed pace.
His ardor was increasing, his kisses suddenly more insistent as he wedged a gentle pair of fingers—nails-up—beneath her chin and tilted her face back so that their mouths might meet more directly. Magic suckled her upper lip, drawing it against his teeth as he began to explore with the tip of his tongue, silently suggesting ... what? Mary Chastity was yet too shy, too unsure, to answer him in kind, bewildered by this strange new language in which she was still far from fluent.
His hands slipped over the unseparated swell of her bosom, lingering there deliberately as if to pose a question ... well? And suddenly, she could feel that he was hard—very hard—down below.
“Uhhh—” she broke contact long enough to pant out the sound “—what are we ...”
“Mm?” He continued to plant soft kisses on her cheeks.
“... what are we doing?”
“Does it make you uncomfortable?”
“Yes, but—” everything makes me uncomfortable.
“Because, I can stop if you want me to.”
“I don’t want you to stop—” she leaned into him more closely “—it’s just that ...”
“How did you—why did you—come back?” Mary Chastity asked. “How did you know—”
“Heard something.” He brought his lips to hers again. “Thought I should check it out.”
“Check it out?”
“No bogeyman here.” He smiled at her in that waggish way of his.
“Is that all? Was that the only reason?”
He leaned in to kiss the side of her jaw.
“What do you think, Chaz?”
“I ...” she paused to consider the question. “I’ve never actually ... I mean, I’ve never—”
“It’s OK,” he said, nuzzling her neck. “I know.”
“Oh ... God! That feels so...” Her voice trailed off.
“Want me to stop?”
“No,” the young woman whimpered as if in agony, “no and ... yes.” She pushed him away. “I need you to stop.”
“Sorry,” he said.
“No, please, Magic. It’s ... it’s—”
“Do you want me to walk you back up to the house?” There was no reproval in his tone.
“Please. Would you?”
“Just one thing?”
“Tomorrow. I’d like you to come see my work.”
“That would be OK, right? You wouldn’t be breaking any rules or anything?”
“No, I want to. I’ve ... been curious.”
“So have I,” he said. “You remember where I’m at?”
“Uh huh.” She nodded.
“Cool.” Magic ushered her up the steps to the front door. “Oh, by the way, you forgot this—” he handed her the baseball cap she’d been wearing “—must’ve dropped it back by the big tree. Didn’t think you’d want to lose it.”
“Oh ... thanks.” Her mind was still half-muddled.
“Tomorrow then. See ya.”
“Bye.” Mary Chastity watched the young man hiking briskly down the curving path, into the trees and out of sight. She sighed wearily as she fumbled for the keys in her jeans pocket, only to drop them on the deck. “Oh ... fudge!” Down on her knees, she groped about in the darkness, extending her hands in broad random circles—an attempt to be thorough in spite of her beer-soaked anxieties—frantic not to miss a spot. She discovered them at last, a half-foot in front of her, far within the orbit she had outlined. Stupid! She lifted them to the lock with the greatest of care, over-compensating for the drunken roll and pitch of the deck. She stumbled through the door—the floor inside was no less fluid—up the wobbling flight of open stairs, to collapse at last, face-dowm and fully clothed upon the bed.
Far away, somewhere in the unpenetrated gloom of the forest, a flock of birds boiled up from the branches, abandoning their nests in a flury of startled wings, screeching in terror as they made their way out across the lake and beyond. In the death-like stillness that followed, no creature stirred or even dared to breathe. And then it came again; a deep-throated chortle echoing in amongst the trees. The disembodied laughter of a demon.