“Home again home again, jiggety-jig”

 

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Once the train rolled past the mill across the river the ground flattened and the hill backed off step by step until there was room for the town to wedge itself between its natural boundaries. He peeked through the slitted door of boxcar and saw Rohall’s body shop which was still the first building in town but he couldn’t swear it was still a body shop.

Then a few houses that looked abandoned then the fire house with someone, too far away to make out who, lounging in a chair by the open door. The track bent then, bellying toward the river and away from the football field, robbing him of the close-up view but opening the vista of the grimy little houses sprawling between two bridges and up to the hillside.

He watched the ties clicking quickly past and ventured to stick his head out. There was no one working on the tracks that he could see-no trucks, no equipment-but he’d have to wait for the switching yard to be sure. He had played there as a boy-and later-but now it had fallen into disuse-storing ties and timbers instead of old boxcars to play in.

Nearing the yard and its crossing the train slowed enough to make exiting, if not easy, at least possible. He squatted and stretched watching and waiting for the flattest spot with the least ballast which made the footing uncertain. He was entering the yard now, overrun with tangles of thistle, sedge, sumac trees and at least one very dead deer.

Quickly, while somewhat hidden by the brush, he slid the door enough to sit with his legs hanging then pushed off. With barely a stumble, he was walking beside the train instead of riding in it as he had for 300 miles. His boxcar outpaced him and slipped away. He carried no bundle, no bag, nothing that could mark him as homeless, a vagrant or hobo. Everything he owned he wore or left behind.

The creosote smell of the new ties gave him the same odd feeling it always did. Took him back to his first time; jaws clenched, bent grimacing over a stack of ties, the spring drizzle dripping from his hair. That was just down the tracks from here. If there was another man in the world who was aroused by the smell of creosote he didn’t want to meet him.

Every fucked-up path had a fucked-up beginning and once you hit the crooked way, there was no getting off it. Like riding your bike into a street car track-you were stuck where it would take you. It was always that way no matter what anyone said. Once your wires were crossed, they were crossed and singed into a new direction.

The ten foot fence was new-running beside the track for as far as he could see. He might have to walk all the way to the crossing which would be chancy but where there was a fence there would be holes, loose spots and passages for townies to cut across to the river. There was too much beer to be drunk, weed to be smoked and girls to be fucked on the riverbank to be deterred by a mere cyclone fence.

He ran his fingers along it as he walked remembering what it had felt like, as a kid, to be able to scale something like this. Up like a spider, leg over, drop down. That was a while ago. He stopped. There it was. The bottom two wires connecting the fence to a pole had been cut; the loose grid unnoticeable unless you knew it was there. He squatted, pushed at the bottom and the wire lattice lifted like a curtain.

Just like that he was back in town. And no one was going to be happy to see him.

“There’s someone here…”

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(Continued from Back to the Hollow)

“Looks like you found me”, she said.

“I think you knew where I was the moment I stepped off my porch.”

“You think I followed you?”

“No-I think you led me here…”

Bent and exposed over the log as he was, he was talking to the leaves and dirt between his hands. Lifting his head high enough to see over his shoulder wasn’t in the cards. He looked for her feet and found them behind him.

“Led you here?” she laughed a young girl’s laugh. “I’ve done everything I could to chase you away. To caution you away…” the log moved as she sat on it facing away from him…”but here you keep winding up.” She slapped him lightly on this upturned rump for emphasis. “What are we going to do with you?”

He felt a presence larger that the girl beside him but he scoured the upside down woods behind himself and could see nothing. But he registered that he usually didn’t see her either.

“What’s your name”, he asked on impulse.

“Tabitha”, she answered easily as if waiting for the query.

“Take me back with you.”

“Back? Where?”

“Where you live. Into the other woods. Through the keyhole.”

“Hah! There is no keyhole anymore.”

“Of course there is, you just moved it is all-or hid it. There’s always a way in.”

She went silent for a moment and he felt her fingers drumming on his butt as she mulled. She shifted into him slightly-he could feel a warmth against his hip.

“Daniel, Daniel….After we whipped you I was sure you wouldn’t be back. I branded you-left my mark” he felt her fingertip touch the tiny handprint on his cheek, “You came back. We came to your house, to whip you and actually do more…” She poked this time at his tight anus which twitched “and you came back….Makes us wonder if you’re coming back for more…”

“It’s not that I’m looking for more of that…”

“Mr. No again.” She slapped him harder on his ass. He yelped in surprise more than pain.  “You’re denying what you want even while chasing it.”

“No. I want something different. This life out here is shot for me. I’ve lived out here for close to thirty years and it’s been no bargain, let me tell you.”

“I bet. You’ve already lived in the dark almost a decade longer than I did…”

“I’ve had enough of it.”

“Everything you’ve gotten before you’ll get more of back there-you realize that.” As if for emphasis she dragged her finger across his asshole again and down between his legs. “That won’t be all, you understand, but there will be that…”

“What do I have to do?” he asked, undeterred.

“Accept it. Accept yourself. Back here you have to say what you mean. What you want, you say. Get it? Back here you have to be who you are.”

They sat in silence her hand resting on the small of his back where he folded over.

“Are you going to whip me now?” he asked.

“I never whipped you…well maybe a few strokes. You wiggled so sweetly…”

“Are you going to fuck me? “

“What would I fuck you with Mr. No? Huh? You doubt that I’m a girl through and through.”

“No.”

“You can get up you know.”

“What?”

“Nothing’s holding you. They’ve all gone off.”

He pushed off the ground and sure enough lifted himself off of the log. Hearing for the first time birds and a soft breeze whispering through the branches he pushed off the log and stood to stretch.

“Now look at this,” Tabitha said from her seat before him. He didn’t need to look; his hard-on stood straight out as if seeking the girl’s face. She took it in hand and pulled him close.

“There is a lot I can give you back here Daniel…as long as you ask for it.”

He asked for nothing right now, just let his head loll back as she gently touched her tongue to the head of his cock…

“You won’t be over quick this time, I hope…”

It had been almost four years since a woman had taken him like this. Even had he remembered it clearly it wouldn’t matter. This was different. Her mouth was beyond warm. Beyond soft. It was melting marshmallow falling off a campfire stick and wrapping itself around him.

He held her head gently and pulled her into him pushing himself deeper into her mouth. Moaning quietly he felt a growing weakness in his legs.

Veronica Palmer had run ahead of her boyfriend. He was a gym athlete-great on the treadmill but the contours of running, or even walking, trails left him in the dust. He had stopped in the clearing below where she had taken off up the hill. He was about to follow when he heard-then saw-her running back down.

“Let’s go!” she said grabbing him by the arm as she passed.

“What? Why?”

“There’s someone here.”

“So?”

“A guy. He’s…masturbating.”

“You sure?”

“Am I….?” She pulled at his arm again. “He’s standing bare-ass, pants at his ankles pulling on his dick. Is that masturbating?”

“Shit. You want me to go say something to him?”

He had finally begun to yield to her pulling when a sound of clicking filled the air. Quietly at first but louder as it seemed to get closer. “Keep moving”, she said. It sounded like sticks or switches clattering together but there was no breeze-nothing was moving.

“Come on”, she hissed as he slowed to listen-to try to get a handle on the noise. Cicadas? As the sound seemed to blanket over them she felt something tingle deep inside of her. As if a seam was rubbing her down there. “Come oooon”, she pulled him by the arm and was just breaking into a jog when-

“Ouch!” She jumped and grabbed the left cheek of her ass.

“What?”

“I got stung…or something. Come on!”

He watched her run in panic for a moment then felt a searing burn across his own ass. He yelped and jumped grabbing his behind.

“Bees!” he yelled, for what else could it have been? “Bees!”

She was faster than he but he did his best to catch up. He hated the fucking woods.

 

Back to the Hollow

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(Continued from “Venus and Mars Are Alright Tonight…”)

He had been a decent tracker as a boy. Could follow a wounded deer across both hollows and up all the creeks if need be. Wouldn’t even need to be wounded. The old men counted on him for this service as their eyesight went and they got more generally decrepit. It wasn’t hard for someone who knew the signs-who could tell when a leaf was standing on edge because something had trod along its stem and lifted it, rather than just spun that way onto the earth. Or when an old acorn had been kicked on top of a newly fallen leaf. That kind of tracking he could manage.

This kind, following someone that seemed to have no weight that seemed to float along on a cushion of air was something different. Any sign that he saw on the ground was wishful thinking. He let his eyes wander up into the scarlet red branches of the pin oaks for all the good then were doing on the ground. He started to get the feeling that the trail wouldn’t lead him anywhere. Which didn’t matter. He wasn’t following at all. He was being directed. Pulled.

Truth though, for what he was doing, he didn’t need tracking or trails. He knew where he was heading. He cut off the main trail early and crossed a patch that would have been impassable two months before. The winnowing of fall had begun in earnest and new paths appeared where there had been thick brush.

Not far along he noticed the silence that roared in and flooded the valley pushing in on his eardrums like water at the bottom of a deep pool. His breathing slowed and nothing moved but for a single tiny leaf at the top of a stripped maple twitching singularly in a disquieting way. He was about to step over a fallen tree when he felt…something in front of him blocking his way. He had a sense of her-but couldn’t feel anything until his lips pressed against his teeth. He opened his mouth and accepted the unseen kiss.

“I knew you would taste sweet”, she said spectrally coming together slowly before him.

“You could have tried it last night”.

“It wasn’t my place or time…”

Maybe this wasn’t either, because she slipped in and out of focus and substance. She seemed there, then she dissipated and he could see the woods through her, then she was gone-having shifted out of the way. He felt a push between his shoulder blades, gentle at first, then stronger-a pressure that pushed him down toward the log as his belt was loosened. He put his hands out to stop himself or grab at his pants but they were useless-pulled away from him as he was lowered firmly over the fallen tree.

He lay over the log breathing deeply and relaxing as best he could focusing on the blanket of leaves between his hands on the ground. He was conscious of the cool sunshine bathing his exposed ass and dripping between his cheeks and flowing over his balls. He wasn’t going to fight. He would be whipped, he might be fucked, but he wasn’t going to fight it.

“Where are you headed Daniel?”

“How do you know my name?”

She didn’t even acknowledge his question. “Where are you going back here?”

“I was looking for you…”

“Looks like you found me.”

 

“Venus and Mars Are Alright Tonight…”

(Continued from A Halloween Tail…)

He drifted off to the twinkling array of stars splashed across the moonless night above the ridge. The heavy November comforter made for a pleasant weight pressing him gently down into sleepy submission. Tomorrow he would definitely look for his old star chart to see if those three in a row were Orion’s belt or just a dipper handle. Tomorrow. He’d forget of course…it…really…didn’t…matter…as he drifted into dreamless sleep.

When he next cracked open one eye the room was still dark. The stars had scattered as Venus, this month’s morning beacon, had broken above the tree line. She gazed down upon him indifferently; offering neither warmth nor consolation, just a herald of night turning into eventual morning. But still, he found the company somehow comforting in its implacable permanence.

He had almost let his eyelid slide shut when he knew-didn’t feel, but knew-he wasn’t alone in the room. It wasn’t a sound, it wasn’t a smell; it was just that feeling that alerts a solitary person when someone enters his orbit.

He opened his other eye and lifted his head scanning the room until he saw her sitting on the rickety old wooden chair against the far wall away from the windows. She wasn’t moving and-as far as he could see-not breathing. Say what you will about Venus, but she doesn’t throw much light and in that corner of the room the shadows were ground ink.

“Good Morning, Mr. No”, she said, her voice both raspy and young-like a child with a cold. “Because it is morning, after all. The sun just doesn’t know it yet.” There was a general tittering around the bed and the rustling of what sounded like dead leaves on the hardwood though there were no leaves in his room. He cut his eyes to the sounds but saw nothing.

The ever creaky old chair made no sound as she rose and approached the foot of the bed. She appeared small and petite in the gloaming with bright yellow hair this time-as much as he could see of course-because on top of her head was his hat-which he hadn’t seen since that day at the ruins.

“Do you still wear my brand, Mr. No?” she asked. The rustling around his bed swelled and he could almost feel a breeze, or more correctly, many small breezes swirling from all directions.

“Brand?” he asked. Or thought. He wasn’t sure he had spoken. “What brand?”

The tittering got louder as if he were being laughed at and the breezes coalesced into caresses then touches then finally grabs that he couldn’t resist. He struggled against unseen hands pulling and pressing until, with a wrench and a yank, he was flipped onto his stomach. The cool air of the unheated bedroom prickled at his bare skin. The tittering laughter rose again.

He felt the bed shift as she crawled up onto it. “There it is…” she said as he felt her finger trace the outline of the tiny handprint on his ass. “This binds you to me, Mr. No. You realize that don’t you? You wear my mark.”

“Look. I…What do you want?” this time he knew he was talking. He just wasn’t sure what he was saying. He couldn’t move beyond a wriggle. Forces that he could not see pulled his legs apart. She laughed and the bed shifted again.

“No-don’t”, he cried fearing another whipping.

She moved behind him-closing between his legs until he felt her presence on the insides of his thighs.

“No whipping for you tonight, Mr. No”, she said as if reading his mind.

He felt her tiny, cold hands spread his cheeks and her body lean closer.

“No! Don’t do that…Please don’t do that…” he cried.

Her hand slipped between his legs and gripped his hardening cock. “See? Again you say ‘NO’ but this says something else.”

Something touched his asshole and his body jolted fully awake. His wail was cut short by another unseen piece of fabric jammed into his mouth. Was she wearing that scarf again? he wondered-then could only grunt as something pressed-hard, cold and large-against his anus. He cried out soundlessly feeling himself opening wide as he was slowly penetrated. He yelped helplessly as the forces holding him ratcheted tighter and heavier.

He awoke with a start, his trip-hammering heart pounding in his ears. Pink clouds were scudding across the perfect blue sky but he couldn’t see them with his face in the pillows as he vigorously humped his mattress to the screeching disapproval of the old box springs. Coming to consciousness, he quickly rolled onto his side to stop the action and looked down at his engorged cock waving like a mast on a stormy sea.

He put the palm of his hand on the thick head as if he would tamp it down as a child might a jack-in-the-box. Nope, that wasn’t helping and by the pulsing feel of the thing he had caught it not a moment too soon. Remembering, he reached tentatively back to feel his backside-then gently, between his cheeks. Nope. Nothing. What a fucking dream! He sat up carefully. His hard-on, ignored, began to collapse in on itself like a pocket telescope.

He stood and shivered then looked around for his clothes. Then he saw it and froze but not from the cold. His hat was hanging on the back of the chair. He picked it up and caught a whiff of leaves and woods and-for a moment- something sickeningly sweet and rotten. Like old fruit or meat left in the sun. Regardless, he put it onto his head and without adjustment, it fit perfectly.

There, naked but for his hat, he looked out the window at the path that left the yard and wound east where it would eventually meet up with the trail that led to the ruins-then up into the hollow. It’s a walk he would be taking later today, you better bet.

The Weight

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It was everybody’s bad luck that Danny had started drinking at noon that day. His regular shift was 11 a.m. to 6:00. He would open for the oldsters who needed a shot and a beer between Mass and Sunday dinner then manage his regulars through two football games, turning it over to Nick for the evening and late night. Nick was away this weekend, though, so the day was his. Clean through till 2:00.

They called Benny Pace, Hats, even though he had only one-a tortured fedora that was as sweat-stained as his rolled up trousers were piss-stained. A yellowed white shirt completed his motley ensemble; a shabby connection in his mind to when he was a snappy dresser.

His sons, Elmer and Frank inherited his gambling territory but it wasn’t much anymore. They ran poker machines and illegal pinball always scrambling one step ahead of the law. They carried the air of two “connected guys” but weren’t really. Big fish in a very small pond-but it was their pond.

Two guys at the bar that night had caught sight of the roll of cash Benny was holding. The regulars were used to it-always picked up bills that he’d let flutter to the floor and put them back in front of him. “Did you see that old guy’s wad?” one of them had asked him. Danny didn’t know him-short and wiry. Dark-with a pinched face. “He was lucky at the track yesterday. When Benny hits, everyone hits.” Danny chuckled and tapped his knuckles on the bar in front of the two signaling that their next drink was on the house.

Had he been a little less drunk he might have caught the gist of the conversation. He might have caught their eyes as they were casing the old man and felt what was happening. But he didn’t. The next morning, when he heard about old Benny being beaten and robbed he knew who did it and also knew that nobody could ever know how he knew. This place that he’d inherited from his uncle was a safe place. People came in here to be protected from “out there”. Danny had let the outside in.

But today, in the light of day, drinking coffee instead of Canadian Club he was not thinking about making something right. Some things can’t be made right. Some things just have to be worn.

If old Benny ever got out of the hospital-was ever back in here drinking wine from the jug that nobody else touched-whistling at the girls and babbling in his ridiculous way he would always have to look at him and know that the shit that he got plunged into was on him.

When sunlight slashed through the bar he knew even before squinting at their silhouettes that it was Elmer and Frank. Elmer was Danny’s age, short and round. Frank, older and smaller, did all the talking.

“Sorry about your Dad. How’s he doing?”

“Looks like he’ll make it. Fucked him up pretty good though.”

“Damn shame…” said Danny.

“They were in here? They guys did this?”

“There was more than one?” Danny asked.

“Looks like two. Cops got one. The other…” he shrugged.

“There was a lot of people in here last night Frank. Don’t know…I probably saw them. Hell, I probably served them. I’m sorry.”

“For what? You didn’t do nothin’.”

“Still….”

“No, that’s the motherfucker gonna be sorry. They won’t hold him till the old man can ID him, and he can’t see now so….”

“Shit…”

“He’s getting out this afternoon. We know where he lives. He’ll wished he stayed in jail.”

Danny rubbed at the faux woodgrain on the bar. And rubbed. His eyes were somewhere in the middle distance. And rubbed. Just as Elmer gave his brother his “what-the-fuck?” face, Danny spoke.

“Don’t do nothing. It will be too obvious.”

“What?”

“It will be obvious.”

The Pace brothers looked at one another, then back to Danny. Elmer stuck out his hand. “You know we’re not going to forget this.” Which is why he was doing it. He wouldn’t forget it either.

“I just wish there was something I coulda done.”

“These animals. There’s nothing you could do.”

“Go someplace tonight. Be seen and don’t worry about it.”

Danny had taken out the street light next to the apartments where the guy was staying. Just a few blocks up-not far. Hell, if he was standing up on the roof right now, Danny could see the house he grew up in. This was his alley, his bar and the street above, his street. Deep truth be known, he didn’t even like Benny or his sons-two entitled fucks who never worked a day. But this wasn’t about them at all. Not at this point.

He skulked behind the dumpster and pulled the bandana up to his eyes when the scuffling tread came up the asphalt. He recognized him even in the shadows. Stupid bastard didn’t know enough to stay away.

He gripped the bat tightly and strode up behind. The guy never knew what hit him. Danny tried to be surgical-no need to go overboard. Kidneys to bend him backward-stomach so he’d fold. The most obvious joints and bones next-bust the knee cap, ankle, stomp the hand and teeth for good measure. Left him writhing and moaning. Slipped between two buildings and out to the main street. The bat down the sewer. Done and done.

The next morning he was reading the paper when Kevin Bannon, his most regular of regulars came in for his first beer to wash down his first aspirins.

“You hear about that guy? The one robbed old Benny?”

“No. What?”

“Dead.”

“Dead?”

Somebody put a beatin’ on him. Ruptured his spleen or his kidney…something. Bled out. Right up the alley there.”

“Benny’s sons maybe? Elmer and Frank?”

“Naw, they were at the casino all night playing blackjack and winning like fucks. Everybody saw them.”

A single droplet of sweat trailed from Danny’s collar, down his spine and spread at his belt line. “Well. Fuck him”, he said. “They should give whoever did it a medal.”

“Absolutely!” Kevin agreed.

Danny popped his knuckles on the bar. Beer was on him.

Too Fast For Conditions

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“Why are you driving like this?”

“Like what?”

Outside the window other cars-those respecting the conditions-flash by as they passed them. “You don’t drive this fast when it’s NOT raining…”

“Tires are good”, he grunted as they weaved into the right lane to pass someone whose tires evidently weren’t up to snuff.

“Would you slow down please!” She wasn’t asking now.

“I know this road. Driven this road dead drunk in the middle of the night. Rain, snow. Doesn’t matter.”

He was clenching the wheel too tightly and glaring too intently through the windshield. Her fists were clenched as well and she exhaled slowly to loosen them. Her sensei was teaching her to punch the heavy bag while holding a banana. His blows were lethal but the banana remained intact. Easy for him, she thought, but she needed to switch gears.

“How many drinks did you have?” she asked trying for concerned.

“Not enough to worry about.” They flew through a puddle with a wild, thundering splash that blinded them for an instant. She felt the car float just then and her heart fluttered. He didn’t change his expression. Maybe his jaw tensed a bit more.

“That’s the thing though…” she said slowly trying to sound calm-which never worked and only made her sound harsh and hectoring. She heard it too and tried to regroup-lighter with more sweetness. …”The more you have, the less you worry about it. You leave the worrying to us.”

“Then don’t worry”, he grumbled from his chest.

She ticked off the things she might have done to set him off like this but came up empty. Then she tried to remember how many drinks he did have. Did she miss something? Was this partially on her? The car fishtailed slightly as he slammed the brakes the avoid someone who came up short in front of them. “Fucker!” He screamed to the closed window as he whipped into the other lane to pass.

No, she wasn’t going to own any of this. This was his, she decided. She saw the red lights ahead through the rain. He tapped the pedal hard-jolting them once, the twice slowing for the red light. Stay red, she thought…just stay red. It did and as the car stopped she unsnapped her seat belt and stepped out into the rain.

“Hey! What are you doing?”

“Not riding with you anymore. That’s what I’m doing!” Or not doing? Which should she have said? Didn’t matter. Point made. She slammed the door and stepped up onto the sidewalk as the light turned green. Cars stopped behind began to honk as he wouldn’t move. She was conscious of being part of a “scene” so she turned and stalked up the sidewalk toward the intersection.

Her jean jacket afforded little protection against the cool rain which had let up a tad, but was still soaking. She pulled the collar up. Behind her the cacophony of horns ceased as he saw where she was headed and pulled out of traffic into the side street just ahead of her.

He reached over and opened the passenger side door to her.

“Get in!”

Her auburn ringlets were already matted down onto her head. She bypassed the open door and walked around the front of the car and kept going, not acknowledging him.

“Come on, Karrie….Hey! Where you going?”

“Home!” she yelled over her shoulder.

“It’s four miles….”

She was marching out of shouting range so he slammed the car in gear and pulled through the closed gas station and back out on the road until he caught up with her. He slowed to her pace and the cars behind started blaring again. He rolled down the window.

“Just get in!”

“Put your hazards on!”

He did as she ordered and asked again. “Just get in. You’re soaked already and this isn’t the safest…”

“Safe! You’re going to tell me about safe!?” She had stopped and even in the spattered streetlights and passing headlights he could see her green eyes flashing.

“Come on….” He said suddenly nervous seeing her rage.

“I’m driving!” She yelled-water dripping off the end of her nose.

He struck the steering wheel with the heel of his hand. “Fine! Fuck! I don’t care. Drive.”

He stepped out of the car and walked around the back to get into the passenger side. The chill rain didn’t register. She went around the front and got in behind the wheel before he reached the door.

When he finally got in and settled into the seat she turned and lifted herself onto her hip and punched him, hard, but glancing high off his cheekbone. His head spun forward and spittle washed the inside of the windshield. Her green painted fingernails dug into her palm-she would have mashed that fucking banana. He pivoted in his seat and she relaxed-ready to evade his blow. He balled his fist and delivered a left hook to the dashboard and glared back at her. She hadn’t winced, hadn’t twitched.

“You know what’s going to happen when we get home don’t you?”

He punched the dashboard again with the side of his fist. She could feel the vibration through the steering wheel.

“Hey!” she yelled at him now, cajoling over. “Stop that!” He was going to break his fool hand, or worse, the car. “Look here!” He turned to her just in time to absorb another slap, this time open handed and from her left as she rose up in the seat. He grunted in surprise and lifted the back of his hand to his mouth. There was a spat of blood. She had caught his lip.

“Don’t make this worse than it already is…”

After a beat he threw himself back into the seat like a 220 pound eight year old and glared sullenly out the window. She calmly, precisely, put the car in gear and merged gently into the flow of traffic.

Tomorrow they would discuss this, work through this. But now, she let the anger rise in her chest and boil there. It would serve her well over the next couple of hours.

A Halloween Tail…

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I thought I’d found another faerie keyhole. I really did. But this one was larger-and higher off the ground. Not exactly-well, not at all-sized for me, but fascinating. It didn’t strike me right away that I’d never seen it before and I was in these woods often. Usually around now-late morning or early afternoon when the sun is high and night is far enough ahead and behind to not have to worry.

There was this one time, after I broke up with Nina, that I came up into the Hollow after work with my PJ’s (pint of liquor and joints) and got blissfully, forgetfully high leaning against a large sycamore not too far from that spot. It was a sweet respite from the shitty week until I fell asleep-which would have been OK had I awakened before the sun fell behind the ridge. But I didn’t. I opened my eyes to the first hoots of a great horned owl that I could see a few trees over. His calls were answered by another behind me, then another deeper in the woods. Of course I assumed they were calling out the whereabouts of the trespasser and, on cue three bats flicked above me chasing mosquitoes or checking out the fool who was in the Hollow at dusk.

Then there was one, then another…and I swear a third, rustle in the leaves behind me. I pressed hard against the tree and judged the slope of the hill in front of me. Two things I didn’t want: one, to look behind me and see what was rustling; two, to wait for them to get any closer. I count 1-2-3! bolt upright and go flying down the hill. Behind me a rush of wind-I could feel it-passed me and rattled the branches above. Too busy running, I couldn’t be sure.

There was one glorious fall as I careened my way to the hollow floor. A root-if that’s what it was-grabbed my right foot and, airborne, I watched the ground slip by until, tucking and rolling, I hit the slope and didn’t miss a step-back up and running. I was deep enough into the woods that I had to cross the stream three times as it meandered through the valley which I did in leaps, bounds and splashes stumbling once into the water but churning and digging my way out. I wasn’t in shape to run that far, that fast but I didn’t slow down until I passed the ruins-those old stone foundations and garden walls-from the little village that had disappeared up there ages ago.

But I’m finally out of the woods and calming down and I come across this girl walking toward me on the trail. Loose shorts, work boots, bright pink hair cut in a….page boy thing…

“Pink?”

Yeah, that’s why I thought she was a kid and was about to tell her it was late to be out there when she said “Hi.” Then I saw she wasn’t a child. Not old, but not a child. Maybe our age. Thought it was weird being as late as it was getting. She looked at the mud and water all over me-I’m sweating like an animal- and said, “Some hike huh?” and kept going. She wasn’t waiting for an answer-just saying it.

The next day, I blew it all off to the superior ganja that Shorty had sold me. Aquaponic this and that, whatever. You don’t want to get him talking about his growing methods unless you have an hour. But I’ll give him this: it had me seeing ghosts. Shorty loved that story, took to calling his weed “Casper”.

But that wasn’t on my mind as I circled the tree, trying to judge the size of the opening. Still not my size…but interesting. And it looked like a…narrow at the top and bottom-widening in the middle…like this? It definitely did. What would happen if I boosted a child through it? Or a small woman…it was high enough off the ground that someone small enough to slip through couldn’t reach it. From uphill and downhill, it was the same. The tree bark was tree bark-everything cool and rough to the touch.

From the uphill side the opening was a little better than chest high. I ran my hands along the inside walls then through to the other side. Realizing I’d been holding my breath, I exhaled heavily. Idiot! Nothing. Quickly, I turned and looked up slope behind. Had I heard something? No doubt-in the woods in the fall with the dead leaves, the squirrels, the chipmunks, the deer, the freaking turkeys, you’re always going to hear something. Nothing there but the trees-silent sentinels swaying slightly and contentedly in the here and there breezes.

I put both hands on the sides of the tapered opening. I don’t know what possessed me to think I could fit myself through there. Really, something got me to thinking I just needed to boost myself and get sideways into the widest part. I pulled myself up, scrambling at the tree trunk with my feet. I didn’t have to get too high. First my left arm was through, then my shoulder then-with a struggle and push-my head, knocked my hat off and it falls to the ground on the other side. At least my hat made it across.

Then, I tried to push my right arm through when…listen-I’ve been over this in my mind a lot and know what it sounds like-then the tree tightened around me. I know. But it did. I thought like maybe I had slipped down into the narrow part of the opening-I’m sure I did. Probably. But that fucker tightened around me like a headlock and I was stuck. Just stuck with my left arm, shoulder and head through and my right grabbing and pushing at the tree. I could stand on my toes, so it wasn’t like I was hanging there, but I was freaking hanging there.

Then, just when I knew I couldn’t move, the light began to dim. Like it was getting dark only that shouldn’t be happening for six hours or so. Maybe I was passing out-I was stuck tight but could still breathe. I wasn’t passing out. But then there were the owls-first one, then the other then the other deeper in the woods. Then I remembered that evening from a couple of months before. I’m pushing against the tree with my right hand-trying to yank back with my head-sweating and it’s getting darker! Fast. I could twist and see the sky above the hill and there were stars. And the moon, this bright white crescent behind some clouds that threw enough light that I could see by. Barely. And that’s another thing-there was a daytime moon that day- almost full. This wasn’t right.

“Were there bats this time?”

Don’t know. It was a struggle to look up but I’m pushing and pulling-then I hear it. Them. Those rustles coming down the hill behind me. Sounded like I sound, like people, coming down the hill crushing and kicking the leaves. Don’t know how many-but more than a couple. A lot. Nothing was touching me…not then, but I felt them pushing in. Like to get a better look.  It was windy too-so there was crackling and rustling all over. This time I did try to look back-to spin my head, but all I could see was tree. And ahead of me, the hillside was pretty much swallowed up by the night-just the moonlight shining silver in and out.

Then I heard the voice. “What have we here…?” it whispered. That’s what I think it said anyway. It was mostly wind, the voice I mean. It sounded like wind. But when it spoke, the rustling stopped. And the wind in the trees died. But I could feel something behind me. A lot of somethings. Not breathing so much, as just there.

“I’m sorry.” I said to them.  “Excuse me…can you help me maybe? I’m…..I’m stuck…”

I said this and I heard this tittering and rustling-but not the leaves this time-a rustling in the air around me, like someone shaking things. I don’t know. So I reach back with my free hand, to grab or feel whoever it is and of course, there’s nothing. But then-CLAMP-something grabs my arm. Right here at the wrist. Tight. It’s a soft grip-but hard. I mean, I can’t shake loose but it’s not breaking my bones. It feels hot-but cold. I know, it doesn’t make sense but before I can think of anything else-YANK-whatever it was pulls my arm around the tree to the front and ties it to my left. Ties my hands together-but I can see, right? I’m looking there-I see both hands-don’t see anyone holding me. Then I feel the rope-or leather or whatever-tying me wrist over wrist. Can feel it, but I can’t see anything!

So I ask again-can they help me, I’m stuck. Then she says…

“It’s a woman, then?”

I don’t really know. It’s…something. It’s strong so maybe not. But it sounds…light maybe? Small? Whatever it is, says, “Trying to go someplace you shouldn’t?”

I start talking fast-to the wind for Chrissakes-apologizing, saying I was just checking it out. I knew about these fairy keyholes, my grandma…I’m going through this whole thing just babbling and it says-clearer now-“That’s worse. You know what this is and you were trying to get through. You were trespassing.”

No, really, I told her. I was just curious…I’m trying to explain. And she says, it’s a whisper cause she’s right at my ear, “Trespassers must be punished.”

Then there is all the tittering again and it sounds like a windstorm kicking up behind me, though none of the trees I see are moving. And these…hands are all over me and the one that was talking-I’m sure-wraps around me and undoes my belt. Then my zipper then all these things are yanking and pulling and my pants, then my underwear then everything is down around my ankles. The cool air hits my ass-these things are all tittering…I don’t know. Laughing I’m thinking. I panicked a little. Yanking-trying to get loose, yelling at them to stop…Then the whipping starts.

“Whipping?”

No, no…in the air. Don’t worry, that’s coming, but for now this whipping sound, this whirring sound in the air, which I figure out, just before it becomes obvious, are sticks, you know, tree branches…

“Switches?”

Yeah, switches! So hearing these whipping sounds I get what’s coming and try to scream-to yell for help. I open my mouth and PLOP she jams something in it. Felt like a rag-but nicer. Probably a scarf, I thought then. I can’t yell. Can’t say a word. But I’m thinking, no-no…don’t do this. Thinking it. Thinking no, no. Then the whipping starts-and not in the air this time.

The first crack across my ass burned like fire and I tried to jump but something-they-had my legs. There was no moving-I was pinned there, bare ass to the hillside taking this whipping! There were-I don’t know how many of them and they were all getting cracks-across my ass, from both sides, up and down my legs. Jesus, it hurt. They pulled my legs apart-way apart-and whipped between them…I was yelling and screaming-but nobody could hear with my mouth plugged. All I could do was bite down on the scarf I couldn’t see, squeeze my butt as best I could and wait it out.

“Did you cry?”

I don’t…think so. I don’t know. Here’s the weird part.

“There’s a weirder part?”

It hurt like hell…then…it hurt bad…then…then it started hurting less. They were still hitting-they didn’t let up- but it started to feel like…grass or like whips made of yarn…or…feathers…

“Feathers?”

Something. But it didn’t burn anymore. It didn’t hurt as much. I’m still saying no, no but they kept at it-and it was this flicking now. Not painful, but not tickling either. But it felt….hmmm…

“Go on.”

Well, then they trail off, there’s not as many hitting me. They stop one at a time…until there is only her. Then she stops. But she’s still there.  I felt this leathery grip again. It had to be a hand in a glove, the way it felt. It was small but strong. And it was on my cock which sometime during my whipping had pulled itself away from my leg like a periscope wanting a better look.

“Hard?”

Like they say. Chinese algebra. Banging against the tree trunk.

The voice says, “Your mouth says no. Maybe your head says no. Your heart says no. But this, what does this say Mr. No?” Squeezing me she says “How do you explain this, Mr. No?”

And I couldn’t! What could I say? She held it…she was pulling at it…stroking it. And all these others had their hands or whatevers on me-pushing and rubbing all up and down my butt and legs-between my legs-she was behind me again, but still in front of me pulling and stroking…I was tensing again but not from the whipping…I could feel what was coming.

“Have you learned your lesson, Mr. No?” she whispers. I’m saying yes, but in case she can’t hear I’m nodding fast. “You will not trespass again?” I’m shaking my head side to side hard but Jesus, I’m going to cum. I know I’m going to cum-she or someone grabs my balls from underneath-and I’m losing whatever train of thought she wants me on…”We have one final reminder-for you to take with you…”

Whatever, I’m thinking cause I’m about to blow then, SMACK, she-someone-smacks me right on the ass. SMACK-the hardest swat of the whole thing. My butt’s back to burning like fire but I couldn’t feel it long because I’m going numb from my feet up turning to ice getting set to shoot this load…

“Shhh…not so loud…”

I squeeze my eyes shut so it’s darker than dark and Ba-Boom! I saw stars-golden stars with trails! Never have I…I’m thrusting, bucking, she’s yanking…then I’m falling…I could feel myself screaming more than hear it. The shock of the fall knocked the wind out of me. I might have been knocked out. I’ve been knocked out before-and I’m never sure afterwards if I was out, how long, any of that. I relied on other to fill in those blanks. So I don’t know. What I do know, when I open my eyes its back to being daylight-sunshine, blue sky, I’m looking at the pretty white clouds, all the daytime birds.

My pants were around my ankles and I could feel the dead leaves and twigs of the forest floor poking at my backside and filling up in my crack. And my ass is sore…Without lifting my head I could see where I had painted the tree trunk up and down and all over the leaves. I never came that much in my life! My dick, embarrassed to be caught out in the light of day, was turtling, trying to crawl between my legs.

It strikes me there could be other folks in the woods so I jump up, and I’m wobbly but brush myself off. My ass was sore-I go to brush it and had to stop. Couldn’t see back there, but could feel welts. Damn. And I was shaky, my shoulder hurt-I was stuck in that goddam hole for who knows how long. I just got the hell out of there. Not running-but not wasting time.

Then, I get down to the bottom, cross the streams and am walking by the ruins and I see her again.

“Who?”

That girl that I saw the other time.

“I thought she was a pot-vision.”

I guess not, because there she was-she was on the other side of the ruins-where there’s another trail but not far. I can see her, I know it’s her. Same kind of shorts and work boots…looks like a denim top-maybe even hand-made. She’s got the same kind of hair cut but its robin egg blue now and I almost missed it because she was wearing a hat. And I look…it’s my hat! I put my hand on my head like this-like a moron-I lost my hat up through the tree. She’s wearing it! She stops and waves, say, “How was your hike Mr. No?”

“NO!”

That’s what I heard. I fucking freeze! My face goes cold and I’m standing there with my mouth open like a fucking bird house. What did you say, I asked?

“How was your hike? How far did you go?”

I babbled something about not far, just up the stream a little. She’s smiling and I see a scarf around her neck. She’s wearing a scarf and I gulped. If I went over to her, would it be wet?

“You didn’t though, did you?”

No way. I picked up the pace, let me tell you. I wanted the hell out of there!

“Did you go back up?”

Sure, couple days later. Just to see if my hat was still there. But no. No hat. No keyhole either. It was gone. The tree was still there…least I think it was the tree. But there was no opening-not in that tree or any around there.

“And your butt?”

It was pretty marked up when I got home and looked in the mirror. Bruises and welts-sore for a couple of days, but then they faded. Except for the one…

“Which?”

That one swat-at the end. It left a mark-like a little handprint….It’s still there.

“Still?”

Yeah. Like a tattoo. I’m wondering if it’s there forever.

“I gotta see that.”

Right.

“Really.”

Here?

“Maybe somewhere more private. I’m only a couple of blocks up.”

I waved the waitress over.