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…
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.
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…
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…
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…
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.
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.
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?”
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…
That one swat-at the end. It left a mark-like a little handprint….It’s still there.
Yeah. Like a tattoo. I’m wondering if it’s there forever.
“I gotta see that.”
“Maybe somewhere more private. I’m only a couple of blocks up.”
I waved the waitress over.