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THE DANCING VALKYRIE PETE KLEIN

“Hell is in heaven and heaven is in hell. But devils see only darkness, while angels see only the light.” Jacob Boehme. (1575-1624)

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THE DANCING VALKYRIE

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Copyright© 2005 by Peter Klein. All rights reserved. For information address: Ravenwolf Publish PO Box 215 Blue Mountain Lake, NY, 12812 http://www.lulu.com/ravenwolfpublish ISBN: 1-4116-5965-1

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The Dancing Valkyrie Chapter 1

“If you like what you do, do it. There is absolutely no reason to change your life, Mary,” Joseph Gottsched was saying to Mary Hoffman in the great dining hall of his castle in the Adirondacks where he sat with his wife Elizabeth next to him on a leather sofa. Mary was sitting opposite of them on the raised hearth stone of the massive fireplace. The stone was almost cold to sit on, not having been warmed much by the sun that was now setting and casting the last of its rays into the castle. Mary smiled and thought, “No reason to change my life?” But that thought was quickly replaced by thinking of how beautiful were Joseph and Elizabeth Gottsched, especially Elizabeth whom she had come to think of as Beth, her Beth. Beth was sultry in a Mediterranean way with some Gypsy and Spanish blood in her. She was svelte in figure, had long black hair, yet exuded an aura of strength beyond the smallness of her frame. Joseph had about him a curious blend of European handsomeness and world weariness. There was also about him a little boy’s innocence and youthfulness that floated on a nonchalant attitude most strikingly seen in the way his eyes twinkled and his lips seemed almost always ready to break his usual seriousness with a smile. He was neither short nor tall, neither fat nor thin, had black hair like his wife, though not as long, and in the proper lighting, he could almost be mistaken for being a brother, rather than a husband to his wife. Both appeared to be in their late twenties or early thirties at most. But in their cases, in more ways than one, appearances could be very deceiving. With glass of red wine in one hand and cigarette in the other, Beth said, “Show Joseph how well you dance, Mary. You know I won’t mind. You know how I love to watch you dance.” Mary laughed, “Here?” “Obviously,” Elizabeth said. “Oh! I suppose you would like some music, even though I know you don’t need it. I’ll put something on.” Mary shrugged her shoulders and stood. Why not? Her world had gone totally crazy over the last few days and dancing might restore some degree of normalcy. She watched Elizabeth look through a pile of CDs next to the CD player on a nearby table and suggested, “Something moody but with a good beat. And not slow. Afro-pop or something like that. Rock is good too.”

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“Yes,” Joseph agreed. Mary didn’t wait for the music to begin. She really didn’t need music to dance. It was in her head, even more so since meeting Beth on the trail. But it was difficult to understand the idea of since, the idea that she was no longer who she had thought she was and had become who she really was. Then again, maybe she was only dreaming the events of the past few days. Yes, no, maybe. “Screw it. I like this,” she told herself as she began to dance. The black dress she was wearing - silky, clingy, showing all her curves - was a delightful dress for the type of dancing she did for a living. It was not her dress. Beth had given it to her to wear because all she had to wear were the hiking clothes she had packed for her hike in the northern wilds of New York on the Northville/Lake Placid trail. She had not planned on dancing. She had not planned on meeting Beth on the trail and then being invited to stay at a castle on a private lake deep within the forest. She had not planned for anything that had happened since meeting Beth. Mary was already moving languidly, sensuously, when the New Age African beat reached her ears and where she quickly translated it into her flesh and blood. She closed her eyes and took herself to the erotic dance club where she worked in Schenectady. Sway and regain my balance, she thought. Be who I really am. When she opened her eyes, she saw Beth and Joseph were sitting side by side again while watching her dance. She noticed but did not care that Joseph had one hand resting casually on one knee of Beth’s and had an arm draped over her shoulders. They did make a beautiful couple. So what? But it was Beth’s eyes that Mary focused on. It was Beth’s eyes that had first trapped her on the trail and were now trapping her again to dance her sexy best. Joseph did not really matter, she told herself, other than for the fact that he was proof Beth had good taste when it came to picking a man to marry. And how could she possibly blame Beth for picking a man who had given Beth so much more than the wealth this castle exemplified. Just look at them, she thought. Neither looked to be past their early thirties. How could she or anyone believe both were hundreds of years old? But Mary did believe and was now almost willing to believe she too could live a very long life without aging, maybe even live long enough to see the end of the United States if not the end of the world. Mary smiled, undid the spaghetti straps holding up her dress, let the dress fall, let it slide down past her breasts, slip past her hips, let it fall to the floor and step out of it, kicking it out of the way and sending it sailing to land on Joseph’s lap. Yes! It was very definitely enjoyable to be feeling so very much alive! Those mountains, lakes, forests and streams in northern New York,

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that place defined by a blue line on maps and encircling an area of almost six million acres, about as large as Vermont but with only about one fifth the population, that rise of land where rocks and trees grow best and is sometimes called a park, sometimes called a forest preserve, a mix of state owned and private land where the state land is protected by the state constitution as “Forever Wild,” that place more commonly known simply as the Adirondacks had not been cooperating when Mary was on her solitary hike on the Northville/Lake Placid trail. When it wasn’t cool and rainy, the sun would come out and make for a sticky heat under a chicken white/yellow hazy kind of sky. The hike forced Mary to slog through muddy trails with a fifty-pound pack on her back, wondering more than once each day why a girl like her was doing this. It was uphill and downhill. It was swatting bugs away and rubbing sweat from her eyes while smelling like a bug dope factory. It was stripping to jump in a lake if no one was around to watch, or go without the swim and feel clammy dirty. Yes, she liked hiking. She always had. Sometimes she would even walk to work just for the fun of it while coming up with the excuse she was doing it only to stay in shape. But Mary was a girl best known in Schenectady as Erica, a blond, voluptuous in all the right places girl with beautiful skin she was quite willing to bare to all at The Limina, the erotic dance club where she worked. It had not always been so. She had been raised a Catholic and continued to consider herself a Catholic when going to college and studying to be a librarian. In fact, she was still a librarian at the Schenectady County Library in downtown Schenectady when not on stage at the club. But while going to college, she had taken a job dancing at The Limina to help pay for her education. After college, she continued to work at The Limina even after she had paid off her student loans. The fact was, she had come to admit, she liked to dance and she liked doing it with the fewest possible clothes the law would allow. She only kept her job at the library because she knew there would come a time when she would be too old to dance. But being nude had been a thing of hers, going back as far as she could remember. Even before her body flowered into womanhood, she liked to strip down and frolic in the woods that were part of her father’s farm. On warm summer days, she would often pack a lunch and head off for the woods where she would strip when she felt safe from prying eyes and pretend she was a Native American princess. When her body did blossom, she would sometimes pretend she was a witch. The idea of being a witch came about quite by accident. Something pagan had always been in Mary, though she never thought about Paganism until she read a book by Gerald Gardner, “Witchcraft Today.” At first, it seemed like a lot of nonsense and she

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thought she shouldn’t be reading it. But there were things in it that seemed to fit with her view of the world. What attracted her most were the nature aspects of Witchcraft and the idea of a loving Goddess as well as a God. She had always felt closer to God when contemplating nature than when she was in church at Sunday Mass. And yet, although there were elements of Witchcraft tempting to Mary, its ideas became dormant after finishing the book, largely because she never knew anyone who practiced Witchcraft and because she truly did believe in and loved Jesus. Also, a central idea in Witchcraft, the idea of reincarnation, did not make any sense to her. She viewed her body as herself. She could not be herself without her body. She could not be a man and could not imagine looking like any other woman but herself. But the idea of Witchcraft would make a sudden and unexpected comeback on this hike into the Adirondack woods. Late afternoons on the hike found her pitching a tent unless luck was with her and she found a lean-to not in use. A lean-to is similar to a very small, one room log cabin with the front missing and open to the woods. Mary would gather dead wood to make a fire, cook the freeze-dried meals she had packed, then keep the fire going into the night while she wondered what was driving her on to hike yet another day. Something was driving her. Maybe, she thought, it was those eyes that had been creeping into her dreams for months. Those eyes, strangely beautiful and tempting, had filled her dreams for months before taking the hike and were now intruding through her imagination upon her days on the trail. Those eyes were maddening because she thought they wanted her. She thought she wanted them. She wanted them close enough to swallow them and be swallowed by them. They were maddening because she was certain they belonged to a woman - and she had never wanted a woman the way she wanted those eyes. Yes, she had experimented a few times with women in college when drunk or high enough. Sexually, she could give those experiments a rating of no more than okay. But they had not been emotionally fulfilling experiments. Physically okay were all they had been. But those eyes in her dreams were unlike any eyes she had ever seen. And although she couldn’t see the face the eyes were set in, she could almost see the body of a beautiful woman. When trying to imagine the body - she had tried to imagine it, although she did not know why she bothered to try - she imagined a Gypsy woman dancing, dancing even more wildly than she danced at The Limina, dancing wildly, sensually around a flame whose sparks rose high into the night sky, rose higher and higher to eventually become stars sparkling in the black night sky. The dreams made her hungry for something more than just sex. It was as though those eyes were offering an entrance into the fullness of a life only they might reveal. It was as

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though those eyes were telling her she was a fetus yet to be born, waiting to become her real self. If only she could fall into those eyes, swallow and be swallowed by them, suck the life from them and all the life they had seen, then she could break free of the illusions of her present life and be born into what she had always been meant to be. Sometimes she would stop suddenly on the trail and turn, expecting to see someone with those eyes following behind her. Other times she would stop and strain her ears, listening for a sound, a voice, a soft, sensuous, throaty voice calling her with the promise that those eyes would soon give her what she craved. Of course there were a few occasions when she would stop and hear someone approaching on the trail. But the person or persons would be just other hikers, and none had those eyes she saw in her dreams. Mary’s plan had been to hike the Northville/Placid trail from its southern beginning, just north of the village of Northville, to Long Lake where her car would be parked by an outfitter twelve days after her departure from Northville. She figured she could hike that far in that time, approximately 95 miles in twelve days. If she were making better time and thought she could complete the entire 133 miles to Lake Placid, she would call the outfitter when she got to Long Lake and have him move her car to Lake Placid. Long Lake was a practical goal. Lake Placid was a maybe goal. But the real goal was to find and be found by those eyes. She had told the girls at the club that her reason to use her vacation to hike in the Adirondacks was that she liked to hike in the woods and wanted a challenge. The girls thought she was nuts and expressed concern over her determination to hike alone. But she had reminded them how she often went hiking alone in the Catskills or the Adirondacks for a day or two, and was an experienced camper. She did not tell them about the eyes she both wanted to see in the flesh and was vaguely fearful of finding. Mary had cheated on the distance of the hike, just a little, by eliminating the first ten miles which were on county roads. She was now somewhere between Blue Mountain Lake and Long Lake, having now hiked over seventy miles in seven days. The day was definitely hot. She was at her weakest when she was hot and she was thinking of how when she got to Long Lake, she should rent a room for a day to sleep, eat and shower. Then, depending on how she felt, she would decide if she wanted to finish the hike to Lake Placid. She figured she could make it to Lake Placid if she had just one day of rest. That was her logical mind forming her plan. Her real plan, the one she did not want to acknowledge, was to hike until the eyes found her. On that hot day somewhere south of Long Lake, Mary stopped. Her ears strained for the slightest sound. Her eyes darted up and down the trail.

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Did she hear something? Sweat dripped from her brow and stung her eyes. She tried to see through the green of the trees. Were the eyes close? It was the craziest of feelings that came over her because for the first time since being on the hike, she worried about how she looked! “My god, what is wrong with me?” she mumbled to herself. “Like I got to go on stage tonight and look my sluttish best?” Saying this made her laugh quietly out loud. This calmed her some because she always told herself to look her sluttish best before going on stage. She hated the word slut but would call herself a slut because it put her in the mood to play the part. Acting the part of a brazen slut was what she did for the customers so they would reward her performance with money. “Be a whore. Be a slut. Be nothing but teats and ass for the customer. Never let them know you take off your clothes and dance just because you like being naked and love to dance,” is what she would say to herself before going on stage. She was telling herself this now because she wanted those eyes to find and want her. She laughed again, “I’m crazy! I am one fuckin’ crazy girl!” But then she did hear something. Boys! Damn! She could hear male laughter coming from somewhere up ahead, coming down the trail toward her. Damn! Soon, two boys were in view and Mary was putting on a smile and giving the usual, “Hi! How-ya-doing?” trail greeting. “Hi there yourself,” said one of the boys. “Where are you headed?” “Lake Placid,” she answered and stopped because they were blocking the trail. “Alone? Want some company?” “I’m fine. You coming from there?” The other guy said, “Ah, yea. More or less. But if you want, we could turn around and hike with you. No big deal.” Mary guessed the guys were about her age, early to mid twenties at most. With her experience of dealing with men at the club, she also guessed she might have a problem with them. There was something about them she did not like. She said, “No thanks. I like to hike alone.” The first boy asked, “Why?” “Because I like to hike alone. I hear more and see more by myself. I didn’t come here to socialize. Is that a problem?” “You don’t have to get nasty,” said the second boy. The young men were interchangeable to Mary, as were most men. They were just boys who didn’t interest her and were now in her way. “I’m not being nasty,” she insisted. “I’m just declining your offer. Seems reasonable to me,” she said and took a step forward but stopped again because they didn’t move. The first boy said, “Come on, now. Let us help. We’ve already gone

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the direction you’re going and could help point the way. Wouldn’t want you to get lost.” The second boy said, “Yea. We can be like guides, real Adirondack guides. But we won’t charge you anything to keep you protected.” “But we do accept tips,” said the other with a laugh. Mary answered, “The trail is well marked. I can find my own way. So would you two mind moving?” “Or what? You going to call the cops?” “Cops?” Mary asked, doing her best to not sound afraid. She added, hoping to sound confident enough to be believed, “There aren’t any cops in the woods. But there was a ranger back at the lean-to I just passed, and I’m sure he would do just as well.” “Really? And you can scream that loud?” Mary almost laughed. She started to say, “Scream? Who writes your lines? Are you for...,” But then she heard a woman’s voice ask from behind her, “These boys bothering you?” Startled, Mary spun around and found herself looking into the eyes from her dreams. The woman had jet-black hair, full red lips and olive skin. The woman did not look as though she had been out on the trail for any length of time. Rather, she was fresh and clean, and was wearing very tight, very short, green hiking shorts and a green T-shirt. On her back was a daypack whose straps highlighted the curvature of her breasts. Mary couldn’t take her eyes off those eyes. One eye winked at her. Several long seconds passed. The taller of the two boys let out a “Wow! What have we here? Where’d you come from?” “You don’t want to know,” the woman said while looking past Mary. Mary, who had forgotten about the boys, so engrossed had she become with looking into the eyes of the woman, finally took her eyes away to turn and look at the boys who no longer looked as frightening as they had just moments ago. The shorter of the two boys said, “Excuse me. Is that supposed to be bad? I mean, here we are just trying to be friends and thinking how maybe with you here, we could make a foursome.” The woman barely laughed to say, “A foursome? Really? Why? You trying to get up a game of bridge?” The short boy laughed, “That’s a possibility. Or poker.” “Ah! Poker. Strip poker?” the woman asked. “Hey! Whatever turns you on,” the tall boy said with a grin.

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Mary’s eyes darted back and forth between the woman and the boys. This woman with the long black hair and dark eyes seemed to be totally relaxed. Her smile was cold when directed at the boys. It was warm when she turned to Mary and asked, “Do they turn you on?” Mary shook her head. The woman returned her eyes to the boys to say, “I guess not. I guess you better go.” “Go?” “Like in leave, get lost, vamoose or fuck-off in language you might understand. Have a nice day and all that shit!” The boys looked at each other and laughed. But their laughter now had a ring of nervous uncertainty to it. The tall one tried to explain, “We’re just trying to be friends.” “I’m sure you are. But I’m not.” And in the length of time it took the woman to say those words, she had reached over her shoulder and into her knapsack to quickly pull out a silver revolver and aim it at them. “Whoa!” said the tall boy. “Are you crazy?!” “Want to find out?” asked the woman as she pulled back the gun’s hammer. The click of the hammer locking created a moment of silence during which all eyes, except for the woman’s, were on the gun. The tall boy, who had taken a step back and had raised both hands as high as his shoulders, stuttered to say, “We’ll go. Come on, John, We’ll go. We’re out of here! This bitch is crazy.” With a smile on her face and the gun still aimed, the woman mockingly sang, “I can still see you.” The short boy, starting to retreat, said, “They’re both weird! I’m going to call the cops when we get out of here.” The woman laughed, “By all means do call the cops. I have a license for this. All the cops know me and will believe whatever I say. God, how I hate flatlanders. Get the fuck out of my woods. Now!” The tall boy jerked his friend by the arm and said, “Shut up! Let’s just get out of here.” Mary watched them half walk, half run, their way down the trail. She listened to them hurl curses and insults until the voices hurling insults became as weak as their threats. Turning to look at the woman, Mary saw the gun had already been put away. In its place was a cigarette the woman was lighting. The woman asked, “Want one?” “No thanks. I don’t smoke.” “Oh, get off it. You should. They won’t hurt you.” Mary laughed to change the subject. She asked, “Aren’t you worried they will call the cops?” “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn! I do have a permit to carry

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and all the cops do know me. I hardly ever lie. I wish the idiots would call and complain. It would be my word against theirs and I do know who the cops will believe.” “You always carry a gun?” “Always? Not always. Sometimes. I don’t really need it. It’s just that sometimes it’s a convenient tool. Want to see it?” The question was rhetorical. The woman had the gun out and was extending it, handle first, for Mary to take and inspect. Mary hesitated. She had never held a revolver. She asked, “Is it loaded?” “Hell, yes! I’d be a damn fool to carry an unloaded gun. The safety’s on. But here, if you’re so worried...” The woman opened the cylinder and removed the six cartridges, then handed the gun to Mary and said, “Now it’s safe.” Mary took the gun. It was smooth and warm in her hands. “It’s beautiful,” she said. She could almost see her face reflecting back at her from the shinny metal. She asked, “Are these pearl handles real?” “I hope so. They had better be. My...brother, Joseph, gave it to me a few Christmases ago. He said they were real. It’s a 38-special, not the most powerful gun in the world but powerful enough to do real damage. What I like about it is it being small and light in weight.” Mary handed the gun back and said, “It is nice.” “Thanks.” After reloading and putting it back in her knapsack, the woman extended her hand to Mary and said, “My name is Elizabeth Gottsched. I’d prefer you call me Beth. What’s your name?” “Mary. Mary Hoffman.” “Well, Mary Hoffman, now that those goons are gone, would you mind if I hiked with you?” “No. I’d like that. I think it was a mistake for me to hike alone.” “Oh, I don’t think so. If you hadn’t been alone and ran into those jerks, you and I might never have met.” Mary smiled. She felt warm. The woman’s hand had been warm when she had held it to shake. Now she was looking down at Beth’s very short, very tight shorts and would have kept on looking if Beth hadn’t said, “Well, let’s get moving.” “Yea. Right. Good idea,” Mary replied with a smile and feeling very safe in the presence of Beth. From that moment forward on the hike, Mary was in a trance like state. It was not as though she felt she was in a dream. Rather, her mood was one of total relaxation. Everything seemed abnormally normal. There was nothing to worry about. Beth was the friend she had always known but had never met. The eyes of Beth that had sometimes caused Mary to worry

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in her dreams, now gave her strength and energy. There were times when Mary found it hard to think of what to say when looking into Beth’s eyes. But there were other times when those eyes made her feel bold enough to babble away and say everything she believed about movies, music, books and boys, politics and religion, and even about her plans and dreams. Mary spoke about growing up on a farm in the hills east of Albany over near the Massachusetts border, about going to college at SUNY Albany, graduating and finally becoming a librarian in Schenectady. “Not exactly my dream job,” she admitted, “But it keeps me close to books.” She also admitted at first, then expressed pride in being, an exotic dancer. She said, “It started off as a convenient way to make some money while going to college.” “You’re attractive and you like to dance. No problem there. It’s an honest living.” “Yes, looking back, I think money for college was just the excuse I used. I always did like to take my clothes off, skinny dipping, you know, in a nearby secluded stream or playing in the woods. I never got caught doing it. But I would sometimes risk getting caught. I don’t know why. Maybe it was a thrill. I would go to the edge of the woods where I couldn’t be seen but where I could see people farming or driving by, or whatever. I remember the first time I went on stage. I about totally died. The only thing that saved me was the music. Music became the edge of the woods for me. In the music, I found I could let myself loose and be free.” “But those boys on the trail scared you,” Beth said. Mary laughed, “Well, duh! Until you came along, there were no bouncers to protect me.” “I don’t think you need protection. I see in you a woman of great strength and courage. You just haven’t realized it yet.” “Really? Like maybe if I had a gun...” “A gun is just a tool, an extension of yourself. But if you have it in you, a gun is only an exclamation mark. Those boys may think they were frightened by the gun. What frightened them was me and their awareness of the fact that I would use it. I don’t really need the gun to protect myself. Neither do you. You have that power in you and more. You just don’t know it yet.” “I guess not,” Mary answered. But with Beth’s eyes on her, she dared to think what Beth was saying might be true. “It is true.” Startled, Mary smiled. Had Beth read her mind? On the trail, Beth told Mary tales of her traveling, living and studying around the world. She spoke of being born in Spain and having been raised by Gypsies after her parents died.

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“What happened to them?” Mary asked. “Circumstances of time and place. I’d rather not go into that for now. Maybe when you know me better. Now Joseph, while Gypsies in France were trying to raise me, he was growing up in the eastern provinces of the Austrian/Hungarian Empire or, I should say, in Rumania because that’s what it now is called. I sometimes refer to those older times because it was back during the time of Queen Maria Theresa that our family history really begins. It all started when the queen, to satisfy a war debt to our ancestors, gave a castle in Transylvania as payment.” Mary was about to ask why brother and sister were separated while growing up but forgot the question and asked, “In Transylvania?” “In Transylvania,” Beth laughed. Oh, I know what you’re thinking when I say Transylvania. Everyone does. Vampires. Don’t worry about that. There never were any vampires like Dracula. Dracula was actually Vlad the Impaler, and all he ever did was prevent the fuckin’ Turks from taking over Rumania and turning it into the mess the former Yugoslavia still is. Fuckin’ religions! None of them are any good. But that’s another story.” “I didn’t mean to offend you.” “Not to worry. You can’t possibly offend me. Being offended is for dorky humans, the holier than thou gang. It’s what they do to try convince themselves they’re worth more than other people. Besides, I loved reading Dracula, the book. I loved the eroticism in it. My imagination was greatly helped by reading it in a castle.” “In Rumania?” Beth laughed, “No. Here! I know! You should see the looks I get when I tell people I live in a castle in the Adirondacks. We, I mean our grandparents, pretty much duplicated the damn castle in Rumania to the one we have here. That was in the late 1800’s. It’s a bit embarrassing, really. I have thought of burning the damn thing down or blowing it up to be more exact because it is made mostly of stone. Can’t burn stone. Not a very politically correct house when you consider how much poverty there is in the world and how much the environment is fucked up. I don’t know what to do with it. Not going to give it to the state or anyone else to turn it into some goddamn tourist attraction. So we keep it.” “So you live here in the Adirondacks?” “Not always. Sometimes, when were not someplace else. We travel a lot.” Mary smiled, shook her head in wonder and said, “It must be something to live in a castle!” “If you like lots of enclosed space, it’s okay. I’m not complaining. It is nice to be able to do your jogging on a winter day without ever having to leave the house,” Beth laughed. “But you were asking me about vampires. I

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used to ask my grandmother about them and she, being a good Catholic, would always dismiss my inquiries as fit only for pagans and the superstitious. But being a kid, I persisted and asked both the pagans and the superstitious.” “And what did they say?” “Some believed. Some didn’t. But it was fun to listen to the different ideas. I mean, who wouldn’t want to live for a very long time without ever looking old. Yuk! So, eventually, my interests led me back to the old ways. The old ways. How I love the old ways. I always loved the moon, the wind, the rain. The old ways are romantic, very romantic to me with the Gypsy blood on my mother’s side.” “I know,” Mary said. “To me, Dracula was a love story.” “Forbidden love.” “Is there any other kind?” Mary stated, smiled nervously but felt oddly brave enough to look directly into Beth’s eyes. Her nerve was rewarded by having Beth return the smile. Mary let Beth’s warm smile and warmer eyes swallow her. They created a moment of enchantment, one that seemed to last longer than it did, lasting long enough for Mary to etch Beth’s beauty into her mind. She saw Beth’s hair all shinny, black and long, saw how it poured out from under the red crushable woodsman’s hat she wore and how her hair framed her face before cascading down to splash off her shoulders and bounce over breasts hidden by a T-shirt that was unable to hide the points of her nipples. Mary saw those eyes as dark and as mysterious as she had dreamed them to be. She saw lips flush and full without the aid of makeup. She saw a beautiful woman, enchanting in every way, a woman who had to power to confuse Mary, make her blush and make her words catch in her throat when she asked, “Are you a model?” “Why? What brought that on?” “Oh, I don’t know. You are pretty.” “Yea. So? Last time I checked I was. But so are you. Isn’t that what women are supposed to be? But to answer your question, I have been a model. There are many things I have been. Like you, I’ve even done a little erotic dancing.” “Really?” “What? You think ‘cause I got lots of money, I’ve never worked for a living?” Mary’s face was flushed and hot. “No,” she apologized. “I don’t mean to embarrass you,” Beth said. “I just get a little defensive sometimes. Pissed might be a better word. The money thing is a bit of a bore. I won’t deny it’s convenient not to have to worry about it. But I like to do things, you know. Tell you the truth, I like to slum around. Not saying there’s anything wrong with erotic dancing. It’s not slumming, not

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really. Kinda cool, actually. What I mean is, I don’t let my money prevent me from doing damn well what I feel like doing. You might call me the Paris Hilton of the Adirondacks. But for all the money Joseph and I have, few know who the hell we are. We don’t move in those circles unless we have to. We like it like that. I don’t really like rich people, even though I guess I am one. In a way, Joseph and I are very much like vampires in that we don’t want to be known. You won’t see us in any society pages. We don’t hang out with the rich. We don’t get involved in politics. Politics is a total waste of time. We live. That’s what we do. We live. We are professionals at that.” Mary said, “I can understand that, I think. I certainly never heard of you.” “But now you do and we can be friends, yes?” Mary laughed, “Yes, I hope so.” “You know,” Beth said with a twinkle in her eyes and a teasing smile spreading across her face, “maybe if I were a vampire, I could suck your blood? Ya?” Mary giggled, “A vampire who carries a gun?” “Vell vy not?” Beth said with an East European accent. “Dez are modern times. Besides, vun can’t be turning everyvun into a wampire now, can ve?” Mary laughed, “Wampire?” “So my English isn’t so good. So sue me.” Mary shook her head and said, “I guess if you were a vampire, I’d let you suck my blood. It certainly would be better than having you shoot me.” With a teasingly wicked look in her eyes, Beth asked, “Dhen you’re not of dha opinion dat dare are fates vurse than death?” “Mmmmm, not that I can think of. Except maybe pain. I don’t like pain.” Beth nodded agreement, switched off her accent and said, “I hate pain too. Pain sucks. But pain does have its advantages. It alerts you to danger and how much pain you endure can be a gauge of how much pleasure you can endure. Pleasure, on the other hand, is much better. Pleasure lets you know you are going in the right direction to keep you living, usually. And speaking of pleasure, whose turn is it to cook dinner tonight?” “Yours.” “I was afraid you’d remember. Ah well, let’s hurry up and get to the next lean-to and hope there’s no one there. I’d like to take a short nap before I have to cook dinner.” “Tired? If you are, I’ll cook.”

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“No. It’s my turn and I’ll do it. It’s only that I’d like to stay up late since this is our last night on this hike.” The hike was almost over. They were somewhere near Long Lake. Soon they would be parting company, Mary to her job in Schenectady or onto Lake Placid, Beth to her castle somewhere nearby. But it didn’t have to end like that. Beth had been making suggestions, some oblique and some rather pointed, for Mary to come live at the castle or just visit for awhile at the very least. The most pointed suggestion was made late the previous night when they were sitting near the campfire, looking up at the stars, and Beth had said, “You know, you really should consider living with us. It’s not like we don’t have the room.” “And do what?” “You’re a librarian, among other things, aren’t you?” “Yes.” “Well, you could fix Joseph’s library for him. He has thousands of volumes going from floor to ceiling and around the walls. They’re not in any particular order I can figure out. He’s a voracious reader and is constantly buying books. Whenever I’ve complained about not being able to find something, he’s always promising to hire someone to arrange and catalogue them. He’s always getting more books in, so it wouldn’t be like this would be a temporary job. It could be a career. Several of them in fact.” Mary had wondered. At the very least, she was tempted to go and have a look/see, see the castle, see the library, see who this Joseph was. “What’s Joseph like?” she had asked earlier in the day when they had stopped by a stream for lunch. “What can I tell you? He’s my brother.” “What does he do beside read books?” “He manages our finances, the stocks, bonds, real estate, things like that, boring things. But you mean, what is he really like?” “Yea. Is he like you?” “Like me?! He’s a guy!” Beth laughed. Then her mood became reflective as she went on to say, “Maybe in some ways. We have similar hair and eyes. But he’s more serious than I am. He’s not a geek! He’s, ah, well let’s just say he’s a pragmatic idealist. He’s sensitive, most of the time. He understands people but doesn’t take any shit from them. I think you’d like him. I do. Come to think of it, I guess you could say he’s cool. Like he’s got this plane. If he ever takes you up in it, watch out. He likes to scare people.” “Maybe he won’t like me.” “Why? What’s wrong with you? What’s not to like? You’re certainly neither ugly nor dumb. If I like you, he’ll like you. Come now, don’t be talking like some damn damsel. You’re hot. I’ll bet girls go for you

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as much as guys do.” Mary blushed. Beth went on, “At the very least, I’d really like for you to come see the place before you go back down. I mean, I don’t want you thinking I’m bullshitting. It’s only about a ten or fifteen-minute drive from where you said your car will be parked. Promise me to at least come and take a look. If nothing else, give me a ride so I don’t have to walk.” Mary promised but remained uncertain. Too much of the past two days had been a dream. Beth had saved her from those creepy boys. Beth was rich, beautiful and seemed to like her. But the uncertainty Mary felt came from thinking she might like Beth too much. She was feeling like a goddamned school girl who had a crush on an older classmate. When would she awake to find it was all a dream? Did she want to awake? She did not know and was afraid to find out. Also, she was thinking of how she did not want to leave her job as a dancer. Live and work in some castle in the middle of nowhere? No thank-you very much. That night, after the meal had been eaten and utensils had been cleaned and put away to reduce the chances of accidentally inviting a bear into their campsite, the two women sat side by side on the edge of the lean-to where they watched the summer sun set in golden glory behind the hills on the opposite side of the last lake they would see before ending their hike in the morning. It was a pretty, little northern lake, not much larger than a pond but large enough to support a nesting pair of loons who could be heard calling to each other in their wildly enchanting way. Beth remarked, “I love to hear them talk. I’ve read where some people say loons make a sound like the laughter of a crazy woman. To me, that’s crazy! It’s a beautiful sound. It’s wild and pure. Wildness should never be lost, Mary. Wildness is what we are. We are all born pagan. Skin and bone, flesh and blood are what we are. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Some people would. Some are afraid of their own flesh and blood. They think they want to be pure spirits. That’s what they say. But their real problem is their fear of death. What is death but the flip side of birth. Where would the world be without death? The world is already over fuckin’ populated. Without death, people would have to stop having children. Everything and everyone would be old and decrepit. Ugh! It wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t look so old. Not that I have any interest in dying any time soon. Me, I want to live as long as I can and enjoy being flesh and blood. If anything comes after, I want it to be flesh and blood. I want to feel the wind. I want to hear the call of the loon and look up into the night sky and see the moon and stars. I want what’s real, Mary, not some frigging dream where all I do is flap my wings and sing Hosanna! But, I’m sorry. I’m going off like I sometimes do. All I really wanted to say is we have a pair of loons on

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our lake and I love to leave my window open at night so I can listen to them. I don’t usually hear them much after dark. I guess they sleep at night like we do. But they get up early in the morning and I love waking up to their songs. I want you to experience that wild beauty with me.” “You have a lake?” “I thought I told you. I’m sure I did. Didn’t I mention Joseph has a seaplane?” “I think so. Yes. I’m sorry. My brain seems to be losing its sense of time and place. Maybe I’ve been in the woods too long.” “Who needs to know what time it is? The time is always the present. It’s impossible to live in anything but the present. Humans! They’re always regretting or wishing fondly for the past while alternating that with their fears and hopes about the future. Can’t change the past and the future will be the present when it gets here. But as I was saying, the lake is larger than this one. You’ll love it there. From my bedroom windows, you can look out on the lake and forest. Sometimes I get to see a family of deer come down for a drink. The fawns are adorable. Occasionally, I’ll see a coyote or a martin. It’s an idyllic spot if you like nature.” “You know I do. I do like what is wild. That’s what I love about dancing. When I’m on stage, I’m in my own wilderness.” “Wilderness is everywhere, Mary. If you have eyes to see, you can see it in the largest cities as well as in a wilderness like this. I like to say the wilderness is an eyewash that cleans off the soot from your eyes so you can better see the wilderness in the city. Remember when I told you about my interest in the old ways?” “You’ve told me so much, I’m not sure.” “When we were talking about vampires, I told you how I wanted to know if they were real and I was told they were just pagan superstition. And then I said, I think I said, how I became interested in the old ways and how I had Gypsy blood in me. Well all that led me to becoming a Witch.” Mary laughed, “You’re a Witch?” Beth smiled. Mary apologized, “I didn’t mean to laugh.” “I know. More superstition, right?” “No. I told you I was once interested in Witchcraft. But then I didn’t know anyone and...” “And when you thought further, you thought you were being silly.” “No,” Mary answered honestly, “not silly as much as being a little afraid. I’m a Catholic. I thought it might be a sin and I would go to Hell.” “No,” Beth said with a smile that exuded understanding. “I thought so too at first. Like you, I was born Catholic. Technically, I still am. I haven’t been excommunicated yet. I say that because if the Church knew

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everything about me and all the things I’ve done, they would excommunicate me. Fuck them! But as I studied the old ways, I began to see Christianity and Witchcraft are not all that far apart. Over the years, both have stolen from each other. They share many sacred days. The only real difference is that Christians believe only in a male god. Witches believe in a god and a goddess. Also, we don’t believe there is any devil.” “That’s it? You don’t ride brooms?” Beth laughed, “Brooms are only for the ritual cleaning of the sacred circle. No but, there are a few other differences.” “Like?” “Like believing more. Like I don’t need a priest because I can be my own priestess. I don’t need anyone to offer prayers and sacrifices for me. I can draw a circle right here in the woods and call the Goddess and the God to be with me. They always come when I’ve called. Sometimes I can even see them.” “Really? See them?” “Oh, I know I’m imagining them, imagining them in the sense of making them look like my idea of what a beautiful god and goddess should look like. But they really are always around. They are here right now. Don’t you feel them, Mary? They are the coolness of the night. They are the breeze passing through the trees and caressing your skin. Breathe in ,Mary. They are the scent of balsam. They are everywhere and everything. I’ll bet they love to watch you dance at your club.” Mary smiled. She had never thought of any god or goddess watching her dance. But now having the idea proposed, she thought she may have felt them in some way. “I never felt ashamed of the dancing I do,” Mary said. “I’ll admit to having been nervous and a bit afraid when I first danced at the club. After I got over the nervousness, I did sometimes wonder what God might think.” “And?” “I knew what the Church would think. But I couldn’t believe God would hate me over it. I mean, you know, I read somewhere in the Bible where David danced naked in celebration of something or another. Probably some victory over his enemies.” “And you feel like you’re celebrating when you dance?” Mary laughed, “I celebrate the fact that I like my body and am not ashamed of it. I celebrate how I have the guts to do it. There have been times when I’ve said, ‘Thank you, Lord, for making me a good enough dancer and pretty enough to not be booed. Crazy, huh? But I do think that. I hope I’m right. I do love to dance. I don’t know. I know what a lot of people think about what I do, like it’s shameful or something. But when I’m feeling good and really in the mood, I feel great stripping to dance. I feel free. I

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don’t know what else to say. It’s dumb, right? Just another dumb blond.” “You are not dumb and you do not need to apologize. When I cast the circle and call upon the Goddess and God, I always call them when I’m nude. Why not? I can’t offend them. They know what I look like. I was born nude. Remember where in Geneses, God asked Adam and Eve why they were wearing clothes and they came up with that lame brain excuse? ‘Because we were naked,’ the dummies said. And God then asked them, ‘Who told you?’ If there ever were such a thing as an Original Sin, it was Adam and Eve playing stupid and lying to God. They should have just said, ‘Yea, we ate the apple. You knew we would. You knew because you made us to not want to be ignorant.’ It was never meant to be, Mary. Humans went down the wrong road when they decided they didn’t want to be human. Coffee’s ready! Give me your cup and I’ll get us some.” Mary handed her cup to Beth. The sun was sliding behind the hills and making them look as though they had suddenly caught fire. In the shadow of the hills, the lake was quickly moving through the color spectrum from gold to purple to black. Mary watched Beth squat down next to the fire and pour coffee for them. She thought, “She does have a nice ass,” and then wondered what came over her to have such a thought. But she continued to look, stare really, while Beth set the coffeepot and cups to the side and added more sticks to the fire before returning with the cups. “Oh, well, what the hell. She does have a nice ass,” Mary said to herself and smiled. “Thanks,” Mary said when taking the hot cup to cradle between her hands for its warmth. She added, “This is what I call roughing it, when I have to use a dairy creamer instead of real milk or cream.” Beth nodded and said, “And don’t forget the toilet facilities. That is one aspect of progress I must admit I love. Outhouses and behind a bush are not among my favorite things.” “Amen!” Mary laughed. “Amen,” Beth added as she put her cup down and took out paper from her shirt pocket to roll a cigarette. She said, “Since this is our last night together in the woods, and since I feel safe enough to let my hair down with you, I’m going to make us a joint. Do you mind?” “No. I’m a big girl.” “So I’ve noticed. Then I’ll make a couple so we can share.” Mary watched Beth roll the joint. It was done with such expertise, with such delicacy in the way Beth held the white paper in her fingers, the way she used her little finger to pat the marijuana into the fold of the paper, the way her tongue darted out to lick the paper, then how quickly her fingers rolled it into a finished product which she lit and took a long deep drag on before passing it to Mary to share. It was hypnotic to watch. It bordered on the sexy to see how she rolled the joint. Mary put the joint to

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her lips, noted the wetness from Beth’s lips, tasted Beth’s lipstick, took a deep drag, passed it back and said, “Thanks. I haven’t had one of these in months.” “I don’t use it too much myself. I just thought how with us out here in the woods and no bars nearby for us to get a drink to celebrate the last night of our hike together, this would do just as well.” “Better! This doesn’t leave me with a hangover in the morning the way alcohol does.” Beth took another drag and said while passing the joint back to Mary and saying, “I really am happy we met, though I wish the circumstances had been better. I knew right off I liked you. But I worried you might be afraid of me.” “Why would I be afraid of you?” “The circumstances. The gun.” “Oh, that. That didn’t frighten me. It wasn’t pointed at me,” Mary giggled. “I’m glad. But I worried at first. You see, I.... Well, let me put it this way, I don’t have many friends and I knew I wanted you to be my friend.” “Living up here?” “That and other things, like the way Joseph and I really can’t be friends with the rich because they pry too much and we like our privacy. It’s not like I’m imprisoned in the castle. But my money and my looks are a prison of sorts. Most people get an attitude when they meet me. That’s why I seldom tell anyone about myself.” Mary shook her head and said, “I know. Between my job at the library and the one at the club, I sometimes feel I’m living a double life. Not to mention, I have a nonexistent social life. I’ve been thinking of quitting the library. I make more as a dancer.” Beth said, “I’ll bet you’re good. I’d love to watch you.” “I’m okay. The only reason I hold onto the library thing is that I won’t be young forever.” “Ah, yes! Age! The bane of women. Men become distinguished with age while women just get old. You shouldn’t let that worry you. I have a feeling you will be very much like Cleopatra in Shakespear’s play, Julius Caesar. People will say of you, as Shakespear wrote of Cleopatra, ‘Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety.’ You should dance as though there will be no tomorrow, or as though you will stay young and live forever. But before you go back to dancing, you simply must come see where I live.” Mary giggled at the idea of being compared to Cleopatra and said, “I think I’ll abstain from not aging by having a snake bite my breasts. But I do promise to come see where you live when we get to my car.”

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“I know. I’m not doubting you. I’m only trying to explain how strongly I feel and why. It’s odd. The fear thing, I mean. I don’t know why people spend so much time being afraid. But I do understand loneliness. Like Hank Williams said, ‘I get so lonely, I could die.’ Or I think it was him who sang that. I really want you to be my friend.” The sincerity in Beth’s voice touched Mary and forced her to say “Don’t,” while reaching over to touch her hand. When her hand touched Beth’s, she thought she should pull it back but didn’t. She held Beth’s hand and said, “Don’t feel like that. I’ve been there and it’s a bad place to be. Did I tell you how I used to be the dumpy class nerd?” “Sort of. But I believe you because I was one too.” “You?!” “I was skinny and had bad teeth,” Beth said with a smile and opened her mouth wide to expose her teeth. Mary stared at those teeth, all shiny, white and perfect. The upper canines seemed to be a little more pointed and longer than usual. To stop staring, she shook her head, smiled to just short of a laugh and said, “They look very nice now. I guess your teeth got better just like my body did. I was fat and an introspective nerd. I sometimes felt like I wasn’t really human.” “Same with me. But it all worked out because it taught me there is a person inside every body, no matter what that body might look like. And that person in that body has wants and needs, has feelings that go beyond all the prisons constructed by race, creed, color, sex and government.” “Yes,” Mary agreed and took another drag to help the cloud she was rising on climb higher and faster. She stood, looked up through the branches of the trees to where the stars were beginning to make an appearance. “You know what made me start caring about how I looked?” “What? Some boy you wanted?” “No. Not exactly. That might have been part of it. More importantly, I wanted to like me. I wanted the world to see the person within my body, the one you were talking about, to be reflected in my body. Am I making sense, or am I starting to talk gibberish like I usually do when I smoke this stuff?” Beth answered, “You’re making perfect sense to me. Or I think you are. You know what?” “What?” “I don’t know,” Beth giggled. “I forget. But I do know I feel good right now.” Standing, she reached up to the sky with her fingertips and pushed herself higher on her toes. Rocking back down to her heels, she swayed, caught herself by grabbing Mary’s arm and saying without letting go, “We are alone. Two former nerds. No one knows we are here except for

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you and me. What would you like to do? We should do something other than just talk. How about we do something memorable? How about something wild! Are you game? You said you were once interested in Witchcraft. You said you never knew anyone who was a Witch. Now you do. I could show you. I can mark a circle around the fire and show you how an Esbat is done.” “An Esbat?” “An Esbat is a Sabbat performed at any time other than the special dates when Sabbats are performed. Sabbats are like Holy Days of Obligation. Esbats are something like Sunday Mass. The circle is cast. That’s like making your own little church which you bless. Then you call - invoke is the proper word - the Goddess and the God to join you in celebration of them and all they have done for you. You tell them how great they are, how much you love them. You ask them for things if there are things you want. That’s called magic. But mostly you just tell them how happy you are that they created you. Would you like to see how it’s done?” “We don’t have to sacrifice any animals or anything, do we?” Mary giggled. Beth smiled and said, “No. But we do offer wine and cakes to the Goddess and God.” “Wine? I thought you said...” “I do have a little wine but not enough for getting drunk on. I usually carry a small amount with me in case I want to perform an Esbat, especially when I go on a hike in the woods. The woods are the best place to hold an Esbat, unless its too cold or the weather is too inclement. But tonight is a perfect night. The stars are out and the waxing moon should arrive shortly. Do you want to help? You don’t have to help but might find it fun. We can get naked and dance around the fire. We’ll pay homage to the Goddess, to the moon Goddess Hecate. You like to dance. Show me how natural you can be.” “Dance to the moon goddess? But we don’t have any music.” “We don’t need music. Or I should say we carry it within us all of the time. You do, don’t you? Your heart beat is music and your breathing is music. You need only to open your inner ear to hear it. Listen to you heart beat, Mary! Everything else is but a pale imitation of the beating of your heart.” Taking Mary’s hand and placing it over her heart, Beth said, “Feel my heart beat!” What Mary first felt was the soft solidness of Beth’s left breast separated from her palm by the cotton of Beth’s shirt. She felt its warmth radiating through the shirt. In her head she heard the solid beating of her own heart before she felt the soft and steady beat of Beth’s heart. She smiled. She liked where her hand was being held. She was looking into

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Beth’s eyes and Beth was looking deep into hers. Curious, she thought, how the eyes form a more enduring bridge than does the flesh. She said, “I can hear mine and feel yours. They’re beating almost in unison!” “Then let’s do it! Let’s strip and dance for the moon! Let’s be the pagans we were born to be.” Mary laughed and said, “Yea. Sure. Okay. Why not,” feeling silly and excited. “Good! I’ll start by drawing a circle around the fire.” Mary did not wait for Beth to draw a circle before she started to undress. She wanted to get naked. She wanted to dance. It was what she did for a living. It was what she lived to do. To make the circle, Beth took a long cord from her knapsack and tied one end to her hiking stick which she drove into the middle of the fire. Mary asked, “Aren’t you afraid the stick will burn?” Beth laughed, “The stick is magical. It serves as my wand.” “Really?” “Really magical? Maybe. But the truth is, the fire isn’t very high and the stick won’t be in there that long to burn.” Grabbing a small stick from the forest floor, Beth added, “Now I’ll just take this little stick and tie it to the other end of the string to trace the outline of the circle, if you would be so kind to just lean over the fire and hold my wand while I trace out the circle.” Mary had already removed all of her clothing and now did as Beth requested, feeling the fire warm her breasts while she leaned over the fire to hold the wand and while watching Beth scribe out a circle on the forest floor. But if the fire warmed her, the glances from Beth warmed her even more. Yes, look at me, Mary thought without thinking with words, thinking the way she thought when she danced at the club, thinking with feelings saying she liked having her body caressed with approving eyes. And oh, how approving Beth’s eyes were when they did look from the circle she was drawing to look at Mary! Mary knew Beth liked what she saw. Mary smiled to say thank you. While scribing the circle, Beth said, “I’ll talk you through everything I’m doing. Notice how I’m walking deosil. Deosil means I’m going clockwise. I always go clockwise, deosil, to make the circle. I go counterclockwise, widdershins, when the ceremony is over and I close the circle.” “Deosil, clockwise to create the circle. Widdershins, counterclockwise, to close the circle.” “Correct. Now I’ll pull some things out of my bag of tricks and show you what we do next.” From her knapsack Beth withdrew a small silver chalice with a

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Pentagram engraved on one side, a small bottle of red wine, a white candle, a red candle, a blue candle, a yellow candle and a green candle. She then took out incense and a black handled knife with two sharp edges. While gathering these items, Beth said, “None of this is really needed. Sometimes they help get you in the mood. The main thing is to attune yourself to the natural you. Forget about the so called civilized world, what we witches call the mundane world.” “Like when I’m on stage.” “Like now when the only stage is the one here and now. Now I’ll strip and then we’ll set things up. Don’t want you thinking you’re the only one who likes having eyes investigate your body.” Mary laughed, “Is that what your eyes were doing? I thought they were just making sure I didn’t burn myself.” “Like hell you thought that. You know damn well I like what I see, and I’m not afraid to presume you will like what you see.” Mary watched Beth take off her clothes, first the shorts that didn’t hide all that much, followed by the shirt, then the bra and panties. Beth’s disrobing was done neither slow nor fast, slow enough for Mary to want to see more and fast enough for her not to become impatient. When Beth was totally nude, she raised her arms, pointed her fingers to the sky, turned around slowly in a circle to completely show herself off and said, “Not too bad for an old witch, wouldn’t you say?” Mary laughed, “Old? You can’t be much older than me.” Beth gave Mary a wink and a smile. She obviously relished being seen and admired. In addition to undressing, Beth had also let her hair down. Long, raven tresses reached down to touch the nipples of her breasts. Her breasts were perky, full but not heavy, without any sag. Her stomach was flat and her waist was narrow. As it was with her breasts, Beth’s hips and behind were rounded but taut. Her legs were also strong and firm, with just enough flesh on them so that where they met at the body and her black pubic hair, a perfect Y was formed. Mary had become so engrossed with marveling at Beth’s beauty, a beauty made even more wildly fresh by Beth’s smooth, slightly olive colored skin, that she couldn’t help but express her feelings when she said, “What was said of Cleopatra might better be said of you than of me. You have the black hair.” Beth responded, “Good blood can make a body stay young, that and a heart that stays young because the mind never gets old. Forget about an asp that takes life from the breast. Imagine one that injects life.” “I was staring. Sorry.” “You better have been staring. Why do you think I got naked if not to be seen? Secretly, we all want to be seen, provided no one laughs. You’re

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not laughing at you. I’m not laughing at you. Everything is okay. So, now that we are ready, I’ll set things up and you stare or watch all you want. First, we place the yellow candle at the east edge of the circle. Yellow is the color of the element of air and it guards the east. Come on, follow me,” Beth said as she walked with the remaining candles around to the southern point of the circle. Following, Mary asked, “How do you know which direction is where?” Beth pointed up and said, “The stars. But I always know. I’m very grounded.” Stopping, she said, “Here at the south, I place the red candle. Red is the color of fire and fire guards the south. We walk over here to the west where I place the blue candle. It’s the color of water and guards the west. Now we walk around to the north and place the green candle. Green is the color of earth and...” Mary finished, “It guards the north. So what does the white candle guard?” “The white candle can be used for any color if you don’t have the right colored candle. But I’m going to place the white candle near where our fire is, on the side towards the north. I’m doing that because the green candle, in addition to being the candle signifying the earth, it also signifies the God. And the white candle...” “Let me guess,” Mary said. “The white candle signifies the Goddess.” Beth smiled, “Correct. Now I’ll throw some incense into the fire and we’re almost ready. All I have to do now is go back and get something I forgot. Got the wine but forgot the cakes.” “Cakes? You got cakes?” Beth laughed, “Not cakes like you’re thinking. When I say cakes in reference to a Sabbat or Esbat, I mean anything like crackers or cookies. We offer the wine and the cakes to the God and Goddess near the close of the ceremony. Think of it like the bread and wine at a Catholic Mass. The difference being, this is only a sharing of the food given to us by the Goddess and God. What we’ll use tonight are some crackers. If I had thought ahead, I would have baked a few cookies in the shape of a crescent moon.” With the crackers in hand, Beth returned to the circle, followed by Mary, and knelt before the south side of the fire where she arranged the chalice and crackers, and poured wine into the chalice. The bag with the incense, she hung from her neck, saying, “I’m going to let the fire continue to ebb. From time to time, I’ll toss in a little more incense. Are you ready?” “I guess.” “Excited?”

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“A little. Are you going to do magic?” “Life is magic. You’re magic. Everything is magic, Mary. Do you know what miracles are?” “Miracles? Miracles are things that normally would be considered impossible.” “So they say. Miracles and magic are the same thing. Both are natural things humans have yet to understand. That’s why I say you’re magic. Life is magic. So in answer to your question, yes we will do magic.” Mary smiled because Beth’s words seemed to ring true. The night already had a magic to it: stars sparkled above, the fire crackled, the scent of incense blended with the scent of pine and balsam, and somewhere off the dark forest an owl hooted. And Beth certainly did look magical with the way the glow from the fire danced with the shadows of the night across her skin, accenting one aspect of her beauty, then another. “Now that I’ve defined the circle,” Beth said, “I need to make it real. I’m going to use my knife - it’s a special knife called an Athame - and I’ll use it to create a sacred protected space, through which no negativity will be allowed to enter. Now here is where the magic comes in. I create the space by drawing down energy from the moon, then sending energy from my body through my arm and through the Athame to where I direct it to follow the circle I’ve scratched on the earth. This shield will not simply be a circle. It will actually be a globe that goes as deep into the earth and as high into the sky as the circle is wide. We will be at the center of a sphere. You mustn’t go outside the circle once I’ve created it. That would break the protective spell unless I open a temporary door with the Athame.” “How will I know exactly where it is?” “Two ways. One way is you can see where I scratched the surface and the candles representing the four elements are just inside. But the most important way to know is by visualizing the magic. While I’m creating it, I see the circle forming. I see something like a blue/green light traveling from the point of my knife to where I’m pointing. I then see that light arching up and over me. Try to see that. Try to believe it is actually happening because it is happening. It looks like electricity or the Northern Lights - which it is in a way - but it won’t hurt you. “After I’ve created the sacred circle, I’ll summon the guardians of each of the four elements to join us and guard our circle. Then I will invoke the Goddess and God to join us to watch and enjoy our ceremony. For now, you just stay where you are, watch me and learn. It’s all really quite simple if you can believe. I know how I can help. Kneel with me before the fire. Look at the fire. Try to empty your mind of all thought, all worry, by letting the fire consume your pesky thoughts. Okay?” Mary knelt down beside Beth. She looked at the fire and tried not to

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think. At first it was difficult not to think. She wondered what she was doing. Would it all seem silly? Would she laugh and break the spell of the friendship she thought she had, wanted to have, with Beth? When were they going to dance? How could she dance without music? Would dancing lead to anything more? Did she want to do something more with Beth, other than just dance? Did Beth want to do more? Then it was time for her knees to bother her. The ground was cold and hard. Grains of sand felt like small stones. The front of her body was warm from the fire but her behind and back felt the chill of the night air. Somewhere an owl was hooting again. How long was she supposed to stare at the fire when she would rather turn and stare at Beth? But then there was one glowing coal in the fire that caught her attention. It was a thing almost alive, much like a small heart that seemed to throb with the energy of life. Was that what her heart would look like if she could see it? Then she could hear it - or she could hear her heart beat - beat to the throbbing glow of the coal in the fire. The lub-dub, lub-dub could be felt, heard and seen in the glowing coal. The throbbing glow of the coal pulled at her mind and sucked all thought from it until the trance was broken, but only slightly, by Beth who was now standing and saying, “Now watch from here while I create our sacred circle.” Watch? Yes, watch Beth. Watch Beth point her knife and see the pretty blue lightning like stream shoot from it and into the ground. Watch how an ever widening wall grew out of the ground and extended up and over. It was beautiful the way the light of the wall waved. It was like seeing the Aurora Borealis brought close, expand and slowly encircle her and Beth as Beth walked around to create the circle that eventually became a dome. It was a translucent dome of shimmering, waving, blue/green light. And this light, augmented with light from the flickering flames at the center of the circle, did seem to offer protection, privacy and banishment of all things mundane. “Come to me,” Mary heard Beth calling from what must have been the eastern side of the circle because that was where the yellow candle was, now being held in Beth’s hand. Mary walked over to Beth’s side. She wanted to touch the shimmering light rising up and over, but instinctively knew she shouldn’t. She couldn’t help but say, “How beautiful.” “Hush. Spread your legs a little and raise your arms, palms up and fingers spread, like I’m doing to make your body an X, and hold them there while I summon the guardian of air and wind to protect us and our circle.” This was good, very good, thought Mary. Peaceful and yet very wild too. Mary heard Beth say in a voice sounding like the whispers of the wind, “Come, O ancient guardian of the east where the morning sun stirs

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the breeze and awakens all to life. I of the blood clan whose name you know as Lilith, summon you to guard this sacred circle I have created for my Goddess and God, for myself and for this woman with me. Let no flesh nor spirit enter here. So mot it be!” Mary could not be certain, but thought she saw a woman’s face shimmer its way into the wall of blue/green light. Again the urge to reach out and touch was held in check. Mary was certain it was a woman when the naked body shimmered its way to become part of the now clearly visible head and face. Beth said, “Now we must go and summon the guardian of fire.” There was a part of Mary’s brain trying to convince her everything she was seeing was only an hallucination. Such things simply did not happen. Deeper feelings said her eyes were not deceiving her. She was seeing what was always present but was now making its presence known. When a tree falls in the forest, it can always be heard by those who have ears to hear and are willing to be present. The trees know. The animals hear. Now she knew. “Mary?” “Yes?” The four candles had been lit. Beth had guided Mary back to fire. Mary had seen all of the guardians appear. Beautiful, though ancient, women stood guard to the east and the west. Beautiful, though ancient, men stood guard to the south and north. Beth and Mary stood near the south side of the fire where the wine filled chalice and four saltine crackers had been placed. Beth said, “My Witch name is Lilith. Would you like to take a Witch name? You can use Mary if you like. Or you can take a special Witch name.” “I use Erica as a stage name. I feel kinda witchy when I dance. Can I use that?” “Sure. Then I will present you as Erica when I invoke the Goddess and God to join us.” “Will I see them, like I saw the guardians?” “You did see them then! I thought you might be seeing them from the way you were reacting. That’s good. Very, very good. But I wouldn’t want you to think there is anything wrong if you don’t see the God and Goddess. They don’t usually allow themselves to be seen. Don’t worry if you don’t. Now raise your arms and stand as we did to call the guardians.” Mary raised and spread her arms, spread her legs, and looked across the fire to the waving blue/green light of the northern wall of the circle. Beth called out, “Hecate! Goddess! Lady of the moon! Mother of all! I, Lilith of the coven of the blood, I who trust you, love you, recognize

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you by your many names, intrust my life and death to you, humbly beg your presence in this circle I have prepared for you. I know you are always with me. You never fail to fill me with your eternal life and love. But sometimes - forgive me - I sometimes fail you by forgetting about you in the mundane activities of day to day life. In my shame, I dare to summon you to join me in this circle that I might refresh myself to better recognize your eternal presence. Lady Hecate, come to me, your unworthy servant, and meet this woman child, Erica, who has within her the fruit you have deigned to bestow upon me. Come, Goddess, I pray. So mote it be!” Mary had listened to Beth’s every word and now watched Beth take incense from the pouch around her neck and toss a handful into the glowing coals. She saw and smelt the musky smoke rise, swirling in colors red and green, watched it rise further, rise to the top of the circle’s dome, where it seemed to spread out along the inside of the translucent surface. She felt something and wanted to see something. But her desire to believe and actually see the Goddess present was being thwarted by her mind asking, “What fruit do I have within me?” The question was forgotten when Beth called out, “Father! Lord! God Pan! You who love the Goddess, I call upon you to join with your servant Lilith and the soon to be newest member of the coven of my blood, Erica. I love you, though I am not worthy to love you. I know you love me in spite of all my failings, nourishing me through these many years with the living blood of your own creation. Come, hasten to the side of your eternal consort, my Lady, my Mother, my Goddess Hecate. I summon you to this sacred circle to watch me awaken the fruit you implanted in Erica before she even knew her name. Come, Pan my God, I pray. So mote it be.” Again, the fruit. What fruit? She wasn’t pregnant. She hadn’t been with a man in months. But those questions were again forgotten when Beth tossed more incense into the fire, causing Mary to focus again on the sight and smell of rising incense until realizing Beth had left her side and was now summoning her to dance from the opposite side of the fire. Mary did not immediately respond when she saw Beth dancing because she first believed what she was seeing was the Goddess dancing. The female form she saw danced with the languid ease of a hanging vine or the branches of a weeping willow tree in the breeze. Yet there was also a quickness and a sureness to the body movement that might just as equally be described by comparing it to a large snake weaving its way up and around the trunk of a tree. It was recognizing Beth’s eyes that finally made Mary realize Beth was the dancer erotically summoning her. Mary responded by raising her arms high above her head to begin a dueling dance, the kind she sometimes did at the club, the kind where she and another girl would excite the customers’s fantasies by seeming to forget

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about the customers while trying to excite each other with the most erotically provocative moves they were capable of performing. This was her element. She loved dancing this way. But there was one major difference this night. Now the customers were the guardians of the four elements and the Goddess and the God, and Mary really was interested in exciting Beth and all within the circle who were watching her. Beth was making her want her. Mary was determined to make Beth want her as much she was wanting Beth. Erotic tension grew between the two women as they danced around the fire but kept their distance. Time and place were forgotten. Beauty and grace were all that mattered. All thought became dance. Music came from the beat of Mary’s heart. Around and around and around she danced with her heart pounding, sweat dripping, muscles eventually tiring but Mary refusing to give in until realizing she had given in, had stopped dancing and only Beth remained dancing, dancing round and around her, coming closer, closer, close enough to brush against Mary with her skin and hair, making Mary tremble with desire to be held and give whatever Beth wanted. Mary dropped her head in submission. She was the exhausted prey, the prey whose only goal now was to accept its fate. Beth continued to dance, using Mary’s body much the way an erotic dancer uses a pole as a surrogate lover. Beth used her body to massage Mary. Sweat was the massage oil for smooth, sliding contact. The body to body massage slowly reinvigorated Mary enough for her to raise her head so she could watch Beth glide around her. She focused her eyes on Beth’s eyes and saw in them the desire for her she felt for Beth. It was delicious to see those eyes wanting her so much! She wanted to say “Take me,” but didn’t because she knew it was already happening. No physical pleasure had ever given her as much pleasure as she was now experiencing just by looking into Beth’s eyes. Closer, Beth danced, closer, looking into Mary’s eyes, smiling, licking Mary’s eyes when very close, licking Mary’s lips, licking Mary’s neck, causing Mary to again feel submissively weak and wanting whatever Beth wanted to happen to happen as soon as possible. Whether it was Mary weakening and Beth only helping her to lie down, or whether it was Beth directing her down to the ground mattered not to Mary. Either way, she found the ground near the fire was warm. It was such a pleasure to lie down, to look up at the stars occasionally blocked from view by Beth hovering above her. Beth was straddling her, looking down at her with her hair acting as a veil. Beth kissed Mary’s eyes, kissed her lips, kissed the nipple of each breast, sending shock waves of pleasure throughout Mary’s entire body and causing her to close her eyes and open her mouth to breathe.

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Kisses to Mary’s breasts continued, kisses to one, then the other, kisses lasting longer, pulling Mary’s mind down to her breasts, now causing shocks of pain to mix with pleasure and making Mary think, “This must be what it’s like to nurse a hungry child or, better yet, to nurse a goddess.” Mary raised her head just enough so she could look down and see Beth sucking at her breast. She was feeling motherly and reached down to hold Beth’s head to comfort her, run her hands through Beth’s hair and encourage her to nurse. There was nothing to say. What could she say when her mind was filled with wonder, sexual excitement and spiritual pleasure? Mary felt herself coming closer to coming. Her vagina began grabbing for what wasn’t in it, making her forget about holding Beth’s head and letting her own head fall back onto the ground where she closed her eyes to look up and see beyond the stars to the pleasure rapidly filling her. She could only imagine her feelings, feelings beyond anything she could relate to experience. She imagined juices from her vagina were being pulled up through her womb, up through her veins and out through the nipples of her breasts. The more intense the pleasure, the more relaxed was her mind. Nothing mattered but the moment. Life and death were now the dance partners, circling each other with eyes locked on each other. Smiling eyes, goddess eyes, lustful eyes, eternal eyes, eyes seeing pleasure was the only reality there ever was or ever could be. Sometimes Mary would look down and see - see very clearly - how Beth’s kisses were drawing blood from her. But this did not alarm her. She could see her blood trickle from Beth’s lips and see her blood dribbling down her own breast. But there was no pain, only pleasure. She experienced no fear, only wonder. If this were a dream, she thought it was an erotically beautiful dream. Then her eyes would return to the night sky where they saw the infinite pleasure her body was filled with: the infinite, eternal pleasures of the Goddess and God, dancing, making love, creating universe after universe, the big bang, forever creating. She thought this pleasure could last forever - just like the stars - because she, like forever, was being sucked into this moment and this moment was Beth. Even when Beth was pulling Mary up to a sitting position, Mary felt she was experiencing an orgasm that would last forever, even though she was now also feeling very weak, pleasantly weak, the kind of weakness one feels when one has labored hard and now has the right to take a long deserved rest. It would be a rest flowing sweetly into a dream and the dream would be one of eternal pleasure with wave after wave of orgasms taking her further and further into eternity. But Beth would not let her sleep. Beth was sitting on her lap, wrapping her legs around Mary’s waist and saying, “Stay awake! You gave to me. Now I give to you. Take what you need.”

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Mary had no idea what Beth was talking about. What did she give to Beth? Wasn’t it she who had been receiving unbelievable pleasure from Beth? What was she to take now that she had been given so much? Nor did she understand while watching Beth cut her own left nipple with a small knife. Only when she saw Beth’s blood begin flowing from the cut nipple and found herself leaning forward towards Beth’s breast, did she have any idea of what Beth wanted to give her. The fact that the gift was Beth’s blood, did not shock Mary. Rather, the sight of the blood was oddly tempting, filling her with a longing and making her conscious of her vagina wanting again to grab something. She leaned further forward, licked the cut, cupped the breast between her hands and sucked in as much of the breast as her mouth could hold. Her eyes closed. Thick, warm liquid filled her mouth. She swallowed, sucked and swallowed. She bit down. Mary’s mind opened to a shock of red pleasure. It was beyond understanding. It was as though her very brain had become a large sexual organ caught up in surging orgasms. It was beyond pleasure. If her mouth had not been determined to hold Beth’s breast, Mary would have cried out with the moans and gasps of her pleasure. The pleasure was too much for her to think of anything other than the fact she wanted all of what Beth was giving. She wanted everything, body, mind and spirit. She wanted life, life with all of its sweetness, life not questioning, demanding, asking anything other than to be accepted and enjoyed. Images of places she had never been, people she had never seen, places and people from times past, a fast course in history presented on waves of bloody red pleasure was what poured into her mind. It was all so bewildering! It seemed to be taking her back and back, back to cavorting with lovers, male and female, never seen but now experienced in all the wonder of flesh and blood alive. Of course the past lovers were all dead now, just memories gleaned from Beth’s blood, killed by Beth in the heat of passion. But, curiously, they were also very much alive, eternally alive, in Beth’s blood and now in Mary’s. Never would Mary have let go of Beth’s breast if Beth had not gently but firmly pushed her away while saying, “Now we are blood sisters of the night. Let your mind calm itself while we hold each other and look into each other’s eyes. Relax.” Yes. Beth’s eyes were the eyes Mary had seen in her dreams. There was no doubt now those eyes had found her and led her to this night. Mary could feel her heart beating wildly, hear it in her head, gradually slowing to match the rhythm of her lungs. Her mind was blank except for continuing to remember the beauty of its own pleasure. There was no time, only this time and place, and memories of times and places long gone and now slowly fading from the present. Most remarkable of all was how she felt completely at peace. She had no worries. She felt no guilt. All she felt was

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the moment of being alive now and how now might last forever. She smiled. Beth smiled back. Mary laughed. Beth returned the laughter. The spell she was under did not begin to dissolve until she dropped her eyes from Beth’s eyes to Beth’s breasts and was unable to see the cut where she had sucked. Raising her eyes again up to Beth’s, Mary saw Beth smile and heard her say, “I heal remarkably fast. So will you now. Neither your mind nor your eyes deceive you. What happened, happened. It was all very real.” Getting off Mary and standing, Beth took hold of Mary’s hand and pulled her up to stand, saying, “It’s time for us to have a little wine and cakes. Then I’ll bid the Goddess and God a fair-thee-well, release the four elements from their guard before I close the circle and let you get some sleep. You will need it.” In dreams that night, Mary saw herself and Beth dance around and around the circle with the fire between them. Flames from the fire sent sparks higher and higher up into the night sky where they seemed to add to the number of stars not dimmed by the glow of the moon. With her eyes always on Beth, she danced through her dreams. Even in her dreams, how gloriously alive she felt! It was enchanting, mystifying, loving. Even in her dreams she could feel the contrast of cold night air touching the half of her body away from the fire and the heat of the fire warming her other half. She giggled, laughed out loud in her sleep and abandoned herself more and more into the paganism of her dreams.

Chapter 2

The haunting cries of a pair of loons nudged their way into Mary’s dream. The dream was pagan, warm and fluid, seen through a crimson fog where she saw herself wrapped in Beth’s embrace. Beth was on top of her, looking down at her, smiling, coming closer, staring at her with eyes seeming to want her. Beth’s lips were red with a long strand of saliva mixed with blood dripping down to Mary’s lips. The loons called again. What did they want? Didn’t they know she wanted to stay in her dream? But having been nudged to a wakefulness where reality was almost equal to her dream, she knew a part of her dream was true. She was warm because Beth was in her arms and they were flesh against flesh together in a sleeping bag. Again a loon called and Mary opened her eyes. It was the dark before the dawn with just enough light for Mary to see the back of Beth’s head lying on her arm. Carefully, she tried to pull her

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arm out from under Beth’s head without waking her. The effort took some time because of the care with which she did it and because her arm felt like a ton of dead meat refusing to help. When finally she did drag it out, she had to pick it up with the hand that was awake and massage the dead arm back to life. While doing this, the night almost over presented itself as a series of snapshots that begged her to guess which were fact and which were fancy. But which were which was impossible to decide because all were too beautiful or too impossible to be believed. She remembered the dancing. She was certain the dancing had become intensely erotic and had helped make her drunk with a desire beyond anything she had ever known. She smiled when she thought of what they had done or what she had dreamed about doing but had not done. Which, if any of it, had been real? Why did she want all of it to be real? No! This was ridiculous. Maybe they had sex. Maybe the sex had been exceptionally good. It could not have involved blood the way her mind was telling her it had. Vampires did not exist. She had met Beth during the day. She knew for certain Beth ate food, slept at night and did all the things humans do. The sex must have been so intensely pleasurable that it had sent her on a fantasy trip. That must have been all that had happened. Mary stretched. The arm was slowly coming back to life. She needed to pee but didn’t feel like leaving the warmth of the sleeping bag and the warmth of Beth. Not yet. So she searched for more details and treasured each one she found, even if they were only fantasy. The fantasy was exquisite! Beth’s breasts, blood or no blood, had been delicious! Just the thought of them in her mouth started her vagina to engorge with desire. No man or woman had ever made her feel this way, make her be so shamelessly hungry for more. Beth was good, so good, so yummy, so sweet! The loon laughed. Mary’s arm tingled its way back to life. She turned in the sleeping bag so she could look out in the direction of the lake. This put her in the position where her behind fit into Beth’s lap. Yes, something marvelous had happened. But the things that had happened, the things they had done, were not as important as the intensity of the feelings that had accompanied them. It wasn’t just the pleasure, exquisite as it was. It was the intensity of her emotions she now remembered most. It was the longing and the hunger. It was the desire to be had, be used, be loved in any way Beth wanted. Spread her legs, give herself, sacrifice herself to Beth. “I want to take some of your blood.” Yes. Take it. “Now take some of mine.” Yes. Please. Oh, yes. Let me have it. The arm was now awake enough to support weight and Mary was able to use it to get herself out of the sleeping bag without waking Beth. Once out, cold air enveloped her, tempting her to return to the sleeping bag and the warm body in it. But she endured. She was awake and she had never

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been one who could stay in bed once her eyes were open and her mind was working. Over to where they had danced around the fire she went and found a stick, stirred the ashes, found a few glowing coals remained and added twigs to bring up the fire. Satisfied the fire would prosper in her absence, she found the pot and took it down to the lake to get some water for coffee. The loon called again just as Mary got down to water’s edge. She stretched the full length of her body, rising on her toes, extending her arms, hands folded in reverse, stretching up to the morning sky glimmering through the fog. She held herself in this position for as long as she could maintain her balance. It was a minute of prayer and celebration, a moment of feeling more alive and one with the world than she had ever felt. She could not possibly be a vampire and be so welcome to see the day. Her skin tingled. Her nose flared to breathe deeply of the balsam scented air - and something else. Dropping down to a crouch to fetch the water, Mary froze when she heard a twig snap. Her eyes widened. Cautiously remaining in her crouched position, she turned her head in the direction from which the sound had come and saw the gray outline of a doe not more than twenty feet away. Holding her breath to shallow and hoping the deer wouldn’t hear her beating heart, she watched it delicately step its way to the lake where it looked to its right, then to its left where Mary quietly held her position, before lowering its head to take a drink. Enthralled at being so close without being seen, Mary watched. She could see breath escape from the deer’s nostrils and merge with the morning mist drifting up from the lake. She was close enough to see the deer’s eyelashes and see how its tongue darted into the water to lap up the drink. She was close enough to think of how easily she could kill it by leaping at it from where she was. How? She had nothing with which to kill it. She was naked. But she did have teeth and her tongue found them, noting how sharp her canines were! Blood memories again gushed up from the depths of her brain. The blood red memories showed her sucking on Beth’s breast. She recalled the sensation of the warm liquid filling her mouth and how hungry she had been to drink. The pleasure had been intense. She had ridden the waves of pleasure, thinking that not to ride would cause her to fall and spiral into the arms of death. Yes, she feared death would come if the pleasure were to stop. Survival had taken control and the simple will to live had made it possible for her to bite down so the blood would gush up through her fangs and spray onto her brain where memories of the past lives of others could be absorbed. “But none of that could have happened,” she gasped, opening her

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eyes and seeing her reflection in the still water of the lake while hearing the frightened deer crash through the woods. It could not have been! Only a hallucination caused by too much grass and too much pleasure…and maybe all that talk about vampires and Witchcraft. But not reality. It could not have been reality! But starring at her reflection, she pushed her upper lip up with her finger to see what her tongue was telling her. She trembled at the sight. Her upper canines were slightly longer and more pointed than she could remember them being. But instead of screaming no, she became curious and curled her lips back further for a better view. Yes, very definitely, they looked longer and sharper than she could remember. But no, she had to be imagining even this. There were no vampires. Perhaps she was still dreaming. Teeth did not grow longer over night. This was ridiculous. Besides, vampires bit people on the neck, not on the breasts, and they weren’t supposed to have sex. They were dead, right? Mary reached down and felt for her clitoris, inspecting it for any damage because now memories - or just more fantastical dreams - were telling her she and Beth had sixty-nined to give and receive blood at the same time. But her clitoris felt okay. There was no damage she could detect. It wasn’t even a little sore. All of this remembering must be from the dream. That had to be it. Then again, something had happened, something very special, because she was certain she was feeling very different and the difference did not seem to have much to do with having had sex with a woman. Or if it did, it might have had more to do with feeling exhilarated at having had sex with a woman without feeling any shame, only love. Yes! That was probably it. She was just being giddy. It was all only a result of unbelievable pleasure causing her imagination to go wild. She hoped she hadn’t hurt Beth. When she got back to the lean-to with water to make coffee, she saw Beth was standing in front of the lean-to and stepping into her panties. Beth saw her and said, “So that’s where you went, to get some water for coffee. Good girl.” “I didn’t wake you, did I? I was hoping to get back and have the coffee ready before you woke.” Beth yawned, shook her head no and said, “I usually wake by first dawn.” Mary laughed. “What’s so funny?” “Nothing.” “Oh, that. I know what you’re thinking. Yea, it is kind of funny. Lots of things are funny. So just don’t stand there. Put the pot down on the fire so we can have some coffee.” Yes. Put the pot down. Walk over and kiss her. Put your lips on hers

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and hold her. It was as simple as that. Mary was in Beth’s arms, being held, being kissed, being told, “You’re loved. I know you’re feeling confused. It’s like that. You’ve never had these feelings before and it’s hard to sort them out.” “I didn’t know I could love a woman like this. I can’t believe I was so willing, so hungry.” “For me?” Beth asked with an amused smile on her lips while holding Mary tightly and looking deep into her eyes. “Of course for you. I love you, Beth. I was just so..so wild. Did I hurt you?” Beth pushed her hips tight against Mary, leaned back in Mary’s arms and looked down at Mary’s breasts. A smile spread across her lips when she said, “Not in the least. Far from it.” “I worried I might have hurt you. I did get a little carried away.” Beth softly laughed, “Is that what you call it? A little carried away? No. You carried me away. You were wonderful, Mary. I’m so glad I found you.” Mary smiled and said, “I’m glad you found me too.” “So we’re both glad. So we should get ourselves dressed, have breakfast and finish this hike. I still got my castle to show you. Right?” “Right.”

Chapter 3

Mary’s car, a white, second-hand Ford Mustang, was waiting at the trailhead as promised by the outfitter. She opened the door, heat gushed out. “Oh wow! This thing’s a fuckin’ oven. Would you roll down the windows on your side while I get this side down and start to load up?” Mary asked. Starting to do as requested, Beth said, “You’ll soon find you have less tolerance for heat than you used to have.” “I never liked being hot.” “Figures.” “What figures?” “Oh, things in you since the day you were born. Your basic nature doesn’t change. It just becomes more so.” Mary cocked her head, looked at Beth and laughed to herself. She thought she might know what Beth was talking about but didn’t want to ask to confirm it. She wanted to ask questions but didn’t want to sound like a fool. It was too ridiculous to confirm. Dreams were dreams. Reality was

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reality and vampires couldn’t be out during the day and she should not be seeing her reflection in the review mirror if she were a vampire. When the car was loaded with her gear, Mary asked, “Now you say we head north on this road and there’ll be a turn-off?” “Don’t worry. I’ll warn you in time.” “I’m not worried. I’m just trying to imagine what this place of yours is like.” “It’s no big deal. It’s the kind of crap people build when they got too much fuckin’ money.” “You keep talking about it as though you don’t like it,” Mary said while starting the engine. “I used to love it before I realized it’s such a waste. You know, all the poor people in the world with no place to live and Joseph and me with all this ancient baggage. But what would we do if we got rid of it? Sell it to some other rich fuck? Or maybe just blow the thing up and give the land to the state. It’s okay for now, I guess, and is convenient for our purposes.” About a half a mile down a dirt road after turning off the highway where Beth told her to turn, Mary had to stop for a steel gate. Beth got out, unlocked the gate and motioned Mary to drive through so she could lock it again. After locking the gate, Beth got back in the car and said, “I’ll get you a key for the gate. When you come and go, remember to always lock it. We don’t want anyone in who hasn’t been invited.” The drive down the dirt road was slow with numerous twist and turns over a washboard surface. Though the day was almost hot, the air was cool in the shade of the trees arching over the narrow road. They were about five miles down the road when they came out of the shade of the forest and alongside a lake. “Stop here!” Beth said. Mary stopped the car. “Why here?” “Get out and I’ll show you.” Beth got out. Mary followed her out of the car, off the road, down a short grassy slope and to the lake where Beth pointed across the lake and said, “See? I wanted you to see it from here because this is the only place from the ground you can see most of it.” “My gawd! You weren’t lying. The thing is a fuckin’ castle.” It was too far across the lake to see details but it was obviously a castle of stone, towers and turrets. Its presence seemed to make the Adirondacks an extension of the Transylvanian Alps. “Are we going to be greeted by knights in shining armor and ladies in waiting?” Mary asked. “Not hardly. No one is ever there but Joseph and me, and now you. And sometimes we get oil and wood delivered. That’s about it.” “You said your ancestors built it?”

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“Did I? Yes, I guess I did. Whatever. The Gottscheds of then wanted privacy and a little bit of Romania. Plus, you accumulate enough money and you got to blow it somehow.” “I guess,” Mary said, not knowing what else to say. Back in the car, she asked, “Do you think your brother will be there?” “Not now. I didn’t see his plane.” Driving up to park in front, the castle was impressive but did not seem to have been cared for in years. Mary guessed the forest had been trying to reclaim the grounds around the castle from the day construction had been completed. She got out of the car and stood gaping up at it for a minute or two. Beth lit a cigarette while she let Mary stare at the wonder. Chiseled, fitted stone loomed up and forced Mary to lean back to see to the top. Ivy climbed up the walls from several locations, thinning out as it climbed, snaking its way around windows made of wrought iron and leaded or stained glass. Twin towers guarding the corners to either side of the main structure rose up an additional forty feet to an overall height that may have exceeded one hundred. It was all marvelous, all very grand, and yet deathly strange because the castle that had seemed so like a fairy tale from across the lake, up close was seen to be in horror movie disrepair. The expansive lawn sloping down to the lake was uncut and choked with weeds. Uncut for years, Mary guessed, because young, wild trees were competing with the weeds to grow. Hedges and ornamentals had been left to go wild and were trying to become trees. Grass grew long between the cobblestones of the driveway. Once upon a time it all must have been very grand, Mary thought. Now it was somber and strange. Mary was pulled from her wondering when Beth pointed up with her cigarette at the turret to their left and said, “That’s my apartment up there. Let’s get our things and I’ll show you.” Up the steps from the driveway, across the patio of cobblestones and to large double doors made of oak, Mary followed Beth while continuing to look about in an effort to comprehend the magnificent decay of the castle and its grounds. It was all so incredible! She felt she had become a princess in a fractured fantasy or had died last night and was now waking up in limbo. At the door, to either of its sides, were large cement planters in the shape of cups, in which grew red roses in the one to her left and white roses in the one to her right. “I love roses!” Mary exclaimed. “Can I pick one?” she asked. Beth, who was using only one hand to open one half of the double doors, pointed with her free hand to them and said, “Go for it. They’re mine. I like them too. I put them out every spring and drag them in for the winter.” In her effort to pluck one red rose, Mary pricked herself on a thorn.

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“Ouch!” “Let me see,” said Beth, coming to Mary’s side and taking the wounded finger into her hands. “Just a prick. I’ll kiss it and make it all better.” Mary smiled. A shivering thrill passed through her as she watched her finger being sucked into Beth’s mouth. It was ecstasy! “There!” Beth said with a grin as she let go of Mary’s hand. “All better now. Now let’s go in and I’ll take us up to my place where we can get clean and have a bite to eat.” Mary followed in a trance, lugging her camping gear on her back and carefully holding the rose in her hand. The first thing she noticed when entering was the coolness of the castle interior. Beth shut the door behind them and Mary became aware of quiet. Speaking in a whisper, she asked, “You and your brother live here all alone?” “Yes. That’s what I said before. Don’t worry about that though. Your mind is just adjusting. His apartment is in the turret on the opposite side. But to further answer your question, yes. We’re private people. I think I said that several times. Now come. I’ll show you around later after we settle in.” Down a long wide hallway, Mary followed, only managing to glance at shadowy rooms they passed on the way. There didn’t seem to be much in the way of furnishings. Then it was up stairs, down more hallways and up more stairs again. She saw armor minus the knights standing lonely guard along hallways lit by the flick of a switch as they entered and plunged back into shadowy darkness when they exited to go up another flight of stairs or walk down another hallway. As they walked, it was more like a tour of a museum closed for years and stripped of most of its artifacts. Beth delivered an account of living conditions in the castle. Joseph did most of the repairs, including plumbing and electrical work. “On occasion,” Beth said, “Joseph will bring in an outside contractor, but only if the work gets too involved or if he just doesn’t have the time. We stock up on food and do our own cooking.” Beth went on to explain how the castle had been built so well that most repairs were minor. Cleaning the castle and keeping it warm in the winter was also an almost nonexistent problem because of solid construction. All the windows except in the private apartments had been built shut. Doors to the outside closed with an almost hermetic effect and kept out most of winters cold and summer’s warmth. Mary began to think of the castle as one huge vault. The final leg of their journey was up spiral stairs of chiseled stone. The stairs were wide enough for them to walk side by side and still have

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room. They were assisted in their climb by a draft from behind that became a breeze and then a strong wind as they ascended. And as they neared the top, lighting that had been provided by flame shaped bulbs shining from the artificial torches along the walls was overwhelmed by natural light streaming down from an open door. Nearing the door, Mary was looking up and through it to the ceiling of the apartment when Beth said, “I usually leave the door open because I like fresh air and can usually get a breeze from the castle even if the air outside is dead.” It was a modern world Mary entered. The dark shadows of the old castle were left at the doorway. She entered a modern world of white on white on white. Everything was white! “Shrug off your things, kick off your boots and make yourself at home while I make us some lunch,” Beth said, dropping her own gear at the door and emphasizing her command for casualness by tossing her hat to a sofa. Mary was happy to do as told and dumped her things as she started taking in her new surroundings. They had entered a large living room whose walls were curved and made of stone. Against the far wall was a fireplace trimmed in a white marble with veiny seams of green. To its sides were wrought iron framed windows cranked open to the outside and with white curtains billowing to and fro in the breeze. Mary went to the window to the right. Parting the curtains swirling about her, she saw lake, forests and mountains spread out before her eyes. The only sound she heard came from the curtains flapping around her. It was an idyllic view she thought, one that relaxed her and made her wonder what it would be like to call a place like this home. Being this high up made her think of how an eagle must view the world. Everything was quiet and below. Nothing to be seen but God’s world. No man to mess things up. From this height, the lack of attention given to the grounds seemed right. The castle was not a castle, but a rocky lair from which to view this wild domain. It was wise to let the grounds return to their natural state, she thought. It was with a sigh that she pulled away from the window and turned her attention to the inside. The furnishings she saw were sparse but elegant. A large, white leather couch faced the fireplace. Behind it was a black baby grand piano. There were a few lounge chairs scattered about on the white wall to wall carpeting whose deep pile pampered Mary’s tired feet. Floor lamps made of black wrought iron were next to the sofa and chairs. She noted their cords were short and were plugged into outlets on the floor. Her eyes rose to move along the curving wall of the living room and saw old paintings from past masters who were unfamiliar to her. They occupied spaces between the several windows. To one in particular she was drawn because from where she stood, it looked like a painting of her in the nude!

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Cautiously, she approached. Close inspection revealed differences. The girl in the painting had blue eyes while Mary’s were green. The breasts were a little different. The girl in the painting had a smaller areola around her nipples and there was a mole on her left breast. But other than these few differences, the resemblance was shocking! “You found her,” Beth said from behind. Mary spun around to face Beth who was smiling. Still with a smile, Beth said, “They say we all have a double somewhere.” Mary asked, “Who is she?” “A girl who died a long time ago. But you can see that by the style and setting.” The nude girl had been painted while reclining on a divan. Her eyes stared out with a confident come-hither look, seeming to imply she was more relaxed in her nudeness than anyone who might see her while they were fully clothed. What was curious about the style was how setting and backgrounds were impressionistic while the girl had been painted almost photographically. Mary said, “There’s something about her attitude. Like she knows people are staring and doesn’t care.” “Why should she? She was pretty, like you.” Mary shrugged off the compliment and looked back at the painting. “What did you think when you saw me and noticed the resemblance?” “A little surprised.” “Just a little?” “Like I said, we all have a body double. Another possibility is reincarnation. So maybe you are her.” “I don’t believe in reincarnation.” “Neither do I. But who knows? It’s possible. All things are possible. Maybe every fuckin’ religion is right. Maybe they’re all wrong. Everybody believes whatever they believe. I believe reality is amazing enough. Come! Let’s have lunch. I’ll make us some BLT’s and I’m sure they’ll help you get over it.” The kitchen had been hidden from view in the living room by a freestanding wall that curved like the outside wall and had thus seemed to be a natural extension. It was a very modern kitchen with a stainless steel stove and refrigerator, a red tiled floor and a glass kitchen table framed and supported by black wrought iron. Mary sat and said, “This is really beautiful but where do you sleep?” “Tired?” “A little. Overwhelmed is more like it.” Beth pointed up at the ceiling and said, “Up there. I guess you didn’t notice the stairs going up along the wall dividing the kitchen from the living room. I’ll show you when we’re done with lunch. Your senses are

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trying to adjust to seeing more than you’ve ever seen and in the process, you notice even less. But eating will help. You need food. Then you can take a bath or just conk out if you prefer. So what do you think of this place?” “It’s marvelous. But I must tell you, I was a little shocked to see the grounds unkept.” “Joseph and I have argued over that for years. He was for taking care of it and I was against. It would take too much work and time or we would’ve had to hire someone full-time and I didn’t want that. Nobody comes here except very close friends and we don’t have many of those. Besides, I think the animals like it better with it wild. I know I do.” Mary said, “It looks good from up here.” “I think so. Here, give me your rose. I’ll put it in a vase.” “Yes. Thank-you.” “That’s why I grow them. I like to bring in a little life. The castle can be a bit morbid.” To be a good guest, Mary said, “I think it’s a little large more than morbid. But it must get spooky sometimes, living here all alone.” “Not really. Not spooky. People are spooky. Not the wilderness. But only living in the apartment helps a lot. The only time we use the balance is for the library I was telling you about and sometimes the dinning hall if Joseph and I are in the mood and want to share a meal. I was thinking we might use the dinning hall tonight to introduce you to him. Oh! And speaking of him, I should warn you before I show you upstairs.” Since Beth had paused, Mary asked, “Why? Is he up there?” Beth laughed, “In a way. I’m a bit of an artist. You know, living alone I’ve got to do something to fill my spare time. I read and I like to paint. But what I started to say, I have a painting up there of him that I keep on my wall. Normally I wouldn’t have to say anything because no one ever goes up there but me. Anyway, I wanted to warn you because the painting is of him in the nude.” Mary laughed, “Really? You’re kidding.” Beth smiled wickedly and said, “No. I got him to pose for me a few years back. But you got to promise that when you meet him, you don’t make any references to the painting. He’ll get embarrassed if he thinks you’ve seen it.” Mary promised not to say a word. When she saw it, she knew she would not say a word. The painting hung above the bedroom fireplace. Mary saw it shortly after going upstairs, but not before seeing most of the room’s other features. The first thing she noticed was a very large round bed set in the exact center of the room. Actually, it was not one bed but four, each like a piece of pie cut and put back together, and meeting at a round table that was the center. Numerous pillows, red, black, and white,

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were scattered casually around the bed. Again, white was the dominant color. Again, Mary’s feet were pampered by thick pile carpeting, but in this case it was green. The room was bright! All windows were open and breathed out the breath of the castle, sending the curtains to dancing. But not all light was coming through the open windows. Some came down and warmed Mary’s shoulders from above, causing her to look up and see how a conical skylight was the peak of the turret the apartment was in. “Neat!” she said when looking up and seeing it. Beth said, “You should see how neat it is at night when there’s a full moon shining right down on you. You want me to confess something truly decadent about me?” “What?” Mary asked and looked at Beth with the anticipation of a schoolgirl about to hear a secret. Beth grinned and paused to heighten the mystery of her revelation before saying, “When that happens, when the moon is full, I like to position myself so that it can make love to me. The moon is a very gentle lover.” Mary giggled, “I’ll bet.” “Naturally I give it a little assistance. But here, let me show you the bathroom. You can see the skylight from there too.” The bathroom was directly above the kitchen and was separated from the bedroom by a freestanding, curving wall similar to the one on the living level but rising only about seven feet before stopping because of the narrowing of the conical roof. Entering the bathroom area, Mary’s attention first focused on a round tub sunk to floor level and filled with water to a depth of between three and four feet. “My gawd but this is decadent,” she exclaimed. Beth said, “Those controls over on that end allow this to become a whirlpool and, if you look under water, you’ll see there are several nozzles out of which comes water to give you a massage. Want to try it before your nap?” Mary laughed lightly. The idea was tempting. She had never seen such luxury! Before answering, she glanced around while continuing to smile. She saw an enclosed shower, a toilet made discreet by being partially hidden within a cubicle formed with opaque glass, and a wash basin in the center of a long marble counter that curved along the outside wall which was hidden behind mirrors that covered the entire length. She knew it was the outside wall because five feet down the counter and on both sides of the sink, the mirrors became a window to the outside. Mary could only shake her head and laugh, “This is preposterous! I love it!!” “So, do you want to join me in a bath?” “Yea, I guess. Why not? I am a little grimy.” Following Beth back to the bedroom, Mary stopped before the bed

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where she began to undress and then saw the painting. She stopped undressing and stared at the panting of a nude man with long, black hair who was seated on a stool. His legs angled to the back of the stool and were kept there by his feet hooked to the stool’s legs. His head was looking down, causing his hair to hide most of his face. What he was looking down at was what Mary found herself staring at. He had an erection. “I hope you’re not offended,” Beth said. “This is your brother? He posed like this for you?” Mary asked while continuing to stare. “Yea. He’s kind of cute, don’t you think, especially his cock.” Mary laughed, “Yea. Cute. Very.” “You’re wondering why he would pose like that for me?” “As a matter of fact, it does cross my mind.” “We’re very much alike. We’re not ashamed of our bodies. And when I asked him if I could paint him, I asked him to let me show him with an erection because I think a naked man only looks like a man when he has an erection. It’s a nice erection, isn’t it? I like the fact that it’s been circumcised so you can see all of its head. Not too big. Not too small. Just right for sucking it into your mouth or for letting it enter either your pussy or your ass. Have you ever been fucked in the ass?” “I...,” Mary laughed for an answer. “That’s okay. Most women are afraid to try. Just like most women are afraid to give head. They’re afraid they’ll be thought of as whores. But both can be very nice if the man can last awhile.” Mary nodded, not knowing how to respond, while still looking at the painting but trying not to stare at the erection. She was trying to see the man with black hair shorter than his sister’s but long enough to touch his shoulders. What she could see of his face was intense but delicate too. He had the look of a brooding poet, Mary thought. His limbs were long but not thin. His chest was solid without being heavy. Mary imagined him as someone who could run fast and swim long. He looked like a very pretty boy/man, all grown up and very pleased with the results. Turning her eyes away from him and back to Beth, she said, “He’s nice looking.” “I know that. Then you’re not offended?” Mary laughed, “No. Only a little surprised. Not something you expect to see every day.” “No, I guess not. But then Joseph and I aren’t everyday people. Are you sure you don’t mind? I’ll take it down if it bothers you.” “No,” Mary said and glanced back at it for only a second before looking back at Beth and again adding, “No. It doesn’t bother me in the least.” “Well then, let’s get undressed so we can take our bath.”

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Mary stripped herself of clothing as quickly as possible. She wanted out of her dirty clothing. She wanted to be naked again and have Beth see her. Seeing Beth undress, seeing the nude painting of Joseph on the wall behind Beth, thinking of what Beth had said about giving head and getting fucked in the ass, all swirled in her mind and made her want to get out of her clothes. She was feeling more herself and not herself, and knew it. It was as though someone new had moved into her body with her permission and was showing her a new and exciting way to live. A week ago she wouldn’t have dreamed of falling in love with another woman no matter how rich and beautiful the woman might be. Now, undressing to take a bath with Beth, Mary’s only concern was to hope she hadn’t looked too long at Beth’s brother and thus may have made Beth think she would rather have him. Yes, she thought he was good looking and she knew she would look again at the painting of him and his erection when she had a chance without Beth around to see her stare. But she thought her desire to look at him had more to do with objective fascination than with subjective lust. After all, her eyes were now watching Beth undress and her heart was beating excitedly at having Beth’s eyes on her! “Come, honey,” Beth cooed when all their things had been dumped on the floor. “Let s go clean off the wilderness from us while I answer a few questions I know you are afraid to ask.”

Chapter 4

Mary awoke on her own with a start, jumping out of bed and immediately sensing she was alone. “Beth? Beth?” she called out in something close to panic. A quick search of the apartment confirmed her waking opinion. Beth was gone. She was alone! The digital clock on the round table in the center of the bed showed 3:54. That meant she had slept for over two hours. “Beth?” This was the first time they had been apart since meeting earlier in the week. Was it really only few days ago they had met on the trail? It seemed more like months. Going to the window, she looked out and scanned for Beth. Nothing! Just the unkempt grounds to look at, and beyond them the lake, forest and mountains. Not concerned someone other than Beth might see her naked from the waist up, Mary leaned out the window and cried out, “Beth!” No one responded. Her cry carried unheard out across the lake to where it lost itself in the forest. Where in the hell had Beth gone? Leaning further out the window and certain of being totally alone, Mary might a

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week ago have felt some panic at how precarious her position was. Now she was filled with a sense of freedom and energy. Her eyes scanned for all they could see. Her nostrils flared and she breathed in deeply of the fresh, clean air. Cool breezes from the breath of the castle being exhaled through the window caressed her skin. The castle breath blew her hair out and over her head to where she watched her blond tresses dance with the curtains. Free and wild was how she felt. She remembered with a satisfied smile how deliciously wild she had recently felt when taking a bath with Beth. Oh my goddess, Beth you are so sweet! Beth, wondrously shameless, you made me just as shameless with desire. The touch of your fingers, the touch of your eyes on mine, the full, warm, delicately wet sensations of your lips on my neck! My goddess, Beth, you are all goodness flush full of life, thought Mary quivering with the remembrance of delights shared and how Beth had promised more delights to come this night! She leaned a little further out and was taken with the urge to twist, turn and hoist herself up to where she could sit on the window ledge, grab hold of the window handles and lay back to look up. Looking up, she saw puffy white clouds drifting above. Flapping curtains caressed her breasts. She didn’t feel the least bit afraid and soon had herself positioned where her safety depended upon the strength of her grasp on the window handles and how secure the window handles were. But she did not think of them. Sunlight, shadows, warmth, coolness, breezes, all were her thoughts while her eyes concentrated on clouds drifting high in the sky above the turret. She felt a thrill and was thrilled even more when her mind presented her with a new idea. The insides of the castle walls were smooth and highly polished, sandblasted to perfection. But the outside walls were rough, had vines growing all the way up to the cone roof of the turret. Why not climb up? Carefully and without any fear of falling, Mary pulled herself back to sitting erect, grabbed a woody vine, pulled at it to test its strength and then used it to stand up with her toes on the window’s outside ledge. Now it was only her toes, hands and the strength of a vine that kept her from falling. It was wild! She laughed - not hard because she did not want her laughter to intrude upon the beauty of the wild spell. But laugh quietly she did because she thought this was wonderfully crazy. Minute after minute passed while she stood there with her back to death and thinking only about how wonderful it was to be alive. If only she could think of why she felt so incredibly alive. Falling in love with Beth? Yes but something more than that. More than that because, because, because what? And because she could not think of why she felt so good and didn’t want thinking to mess up feeling her feeling so good, she tossed

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thought aside and let her eyes search for routes to the top. The information they furnished was extremely tempting. She was confident she had the ability to climb up and around the turret, though she had never done any rock climbing and was certainly not dressed for it. The only thing stopping her from climbing was a sense of time. Beth was gone but probably wouldn’t be gone for too long. If Joseph were to return before six, they were to have dinner with him. Beth wanted her to meet him and ask for the job of taking care of the library. “Ask him,” Beth had said. “Ask and you shall receive.” “I will,” she had promised and now remembered how thrilled she had felt when saying yes, not to the job but to the idea of staying and living with Beth. Yes was on her mind when she lowered herself back down and through the window. Hadn’t she said yes to more, much more, than to the job and living with Beth? She couldn’t remember. It was hard to remember all Beth had told her when Beth was making her feel so very incredibly good in the bath. Mary wondered why her mind was so foggy. Had she taken something? Had Beth given her something? Of course. Of course. Yes. How could she forget? Yes. Now she remembered. It was blood. It was Beth’s blood that made her feel so good. “My goddess!” she exclaimed when she saw herself in a full-length standing mirror next to the dresser. “Goddess!” she laughed, turning around to see herself from all angles. Looking at herself, staring at herself, admiring the beauty of herself, she remembered what had happened before her nap while she and Beth bathed in the luxury of the whirlpool. The memory was so wonderful, so incredible, so impossible to believe. Beth had talked about plans. Mary had only half listened because she was tired, because the water was relaxing, because she was thinking of how fantastically lucky she was to have met Beth. Beth was so beautiful! Why had she never realized how beautiful women were? Yes, of course she had always known women were beautiful. It was because of her womanly beauty she made a living. But her love for the beauty of Beth was something far beyond, far deeper, than anything she had ever known for any man or woman. She remembered looking across the tub and wanting Beth again. She remembered staring, laughing, giggling. She remembered Beth standing waist deep in water, cupping her breasts in the palms of her hands and asking, “Do you want these?” “Of course,” she had answered, eyeing those breasts with a hunger deeper than skin. “You know I do.” “And you want what’s in them,” Beth had said while coming closer. Mary’s heart had pounded, creating a drumbeat in her ears. Thinking about it now, her heart pounded again. To her reflection in the mirror, she said what she had said to Beth, “I love you!”

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“Yes, of course,” Beth had replied, “and I love you. But what you really love and want is my blood. Right, Mary?” “Yes.” “Say it, Mary. Say, I want your blood.” “I want your blood, Beth.” “Yes. My blood. Real blood. Hot blood. Red blood is what you want and need.” “Yes.” “Take, my love,” Beth had said while pulling Mary close and cradling her like a baby in her arms. And like a babe going to its mother’s breast, Mary had gone to Beth’s with hunger for the nourishment and comfort she knew they would provide. She remembered how she had opened her mouth as wide as she could, had sucked in as much of Beth’s breast as she could and then had closed down with her fangs, felt the blood begin to flow into her while hearing Beth say, “You are gloriously different, honey. Soon, you’ll know how different. It’ll be a little scary. I know. You’re so close now. I was there once myself a very long time ago. You won’t believe and then you will believe, and then you won’t believe. But eventually your mind will accept. It is strange, wonderfully, gloriously strange, and we can only be thankful to be able to receive this gift.” Mary had floated in the pool, sucking and being comforted by Beth. She recalled how hungrily she had sucked on Beth’s breast and how she had stopped once to see what she was doing. On either side of Beth’s nipple were puncture wounds oozing blood. The sight of the blood had inflamed her passion to quickly cover the wounds with her mouth and reinsert her fangs into the wounds. “Take,” Beth had instructed, cradling her head with one hand and holding her up by her ass with the other. Rocking her back and forth, Beth had said, “Take and enjoy. Learn from my blood. It’s a better teacher than you’ll find in any school. It’ll tell you things so I don’t have to tell you everything. You will know. You will understand.” Mary had not replied, not wanting to stop the flow of blood that was more pleasurable than anything she had ever known. Beth was beautiful but was so old. But then again, age had nothing at all to do with Beth. Beth was but a moment plucked from the eternity of creation. She was proof that time has no meaning to the force of creation. Good and evil were illusions created by those who feared death. Death was the only true illusion. Life was all there was - and it flowed into Mary on the DNA of Beth’s blood. “Yes, take all you need. I will always love you and you will always love me no matter what. Take!” “Oh Beth, I do so love you!” Mary cried, now looking at herself in the mirror and remembering everything. She remembered how it had ended

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The Dancing Valkyrie