The Split Oak

It’s true that I lose track of days. But not seasons. This is an excerpt from a longer work-in-progress that fits with the weekend. The basics: Lonnie Winters and his new girl Toni head to Lonnie’s cabin for a long weekend in October. He is recovering well from a stroke-Toni is his physical therapist and more. Something in the mountain pulls them in-and Lonnie is off looking for Toni who, under a spell, has run off.

He was approaching the top of the draw where the hardwoods, thick in the bottom land, began to thin in favor of the gnarly pitch pines that thrived in the thin, acidic soil of the rocky ridges. Where it wasn’t exposed rock the ground was soft and cushy-decades of leaves and needles rotting into a  thick thatch  that slipped under his feet as he moved steadily upward. When it got too steep he reached for the small trees and saplings that presented themselves as ghosts in the moonlight. Out from under the shadows of the oak and walnut forest, the moonglow again showed him the way, the spots where something had kicked up the thick blanket of rotten needles. He really had no idea how he’d stayed on track to this point beyond a “feeling” that he knew where she was going. He had no idea where that feeling came from. He hadn’t been up here since the last time he’d hunted this ridge a decade before. He cursed himself for not going back for  a light. He was swallowing the thin air in gulps and genuflecting in the dirt when his left leg failed him.  He stopped to breathe and dug his fists into the small of his back where a knot that had tied itself.

He hoped she didn’t go off to the right where the poppies grew. Where what grew? He stopped rubbing his back and straightened. He had no idea why poppies came into his head. There used to be a peach orchard over there but a couple of dry summers put them under.

He resisted the continuing urge to call out to Toni, or Thomas or anyone else who might be in these woods this night. His resistance was borne of a weakness that made him feel exposed. He’d never been in these woods when he didn’t feel capable. In all his years of hunting and hiking up here he had never felt threatened or in any way incapable of handling anything or anyone that crossed his path. But now he stumbled where he once had flown with thoughtless strength. 

The flat light of the fog-dimmed moon gave him sight of anything within reach but dimmed farther out where the rocky outcrops, erased of all daytime definition and color, materialized as the lumbering shoulders of retreating giants. He was squinting too far ahead and tripped over an unseen root. No simple stumble this time he fell headlong. His left arm was too slow to react and too weak to catch him, he landed full weight on his side blowing all the air out of his lungs in one garbled “OOF!”

Still, he felt thankful, seeing that he was laying within inches of a sharp  rock shelf that had he hit it with his head, would have finished his evening and maybe much more. He brought his hand to the side of his face feeling for blood. There was none. And though his head pulsed, he’d been punched in the face enough in his life to know he’d suffered no lasting damage. He had almost recovered his breath when he felt fingers caress the back of his neck. “Jesus fuck!” he cursed and flipped himself onto his back instinctively balling his hands into fists and holding them in front of his face. He was looking up at nothing but trees disappearing into swirling fog. He could still feel the trails of the fingers on his neck 

Flopping again onto his knees he rose stiffly still looking around for who had touched him. The high wall of the upper ridge thrust straight upward from the reclining mountain loomed before him. He drifted to his right searching for the dark fissure that was the ancient shortcut to the top saving hundreds of steps of tortuous switchbacks. It was a path to be avoided in high summer because of the rattlesnakes and copperheads now sleeping deep in the rock clefts. Intent on his path he wasn’t looking directly down the wall so when he first saw the flash of whte it was a peripheral glance that he couldn’t easily pick up when he looked directly at it. What could it be? From the glance, he imagined a rag, shirt, a piece of something torn from a clothesline and carried on the summer winds as high as the ridge before fluttering to the ground. 

Squinting, he had whatever it was firmly in sight and limped toward it. His heart thumped when he recognized that it was an arm, pale and lifeless cast atop a mound of rotted mulch. Still feeling the cold touch on his neck, he swiveled his head looking for…anything. His tongue stuck and ultimately failed him when he tried to say her name. Closer now, the moon revealed her shoulder and then a dark swirl that had to be hair covering her face. Above her now he could see that she was on her side, crudely secreted under a small hillock of hastily gathered forest floor. Kneeling, the strong fecund aroma of turned earth filled him. There were mushrooms that had been uprooted, chunks of bark and handfuls of dark ancient dirt, the organic ending of us all. He lay his hand on the arm and felt it warm. Then his fingers on her cheek felt breath and on her neck found a pulse. 

“Toni”, he croaked, shaking her lightly. When she didn’t stir he fingered her nostrils to ensure they were clear then squeezed her cheeks together. Finding nothing in her mouth he began pulling dirt from her. He exposed her breast and was heartened by the steady  rising and falling of her ribs. “Toni”, he said again, shaking her gently. Her head flopped then was lifted and she awakened all at once blinking wild eyes and grabbing his arm. He didn’t pull her up as much as steady her as she rose, the covering litter falling off her leaving her naked and shivering. He rubbed his hands over her with quick flicks , dusting her shoulders and between her breasts gently,  then turned her. She shuffled her still-covered feet. He dusted her back, then lower. Her backside was caked with the mud of her shallow grave so he paid particular attention to dusting her bottom with the palm of his hand using light downward wipes.

“Don’t!” she cried. “I didn’t do anything!”

“Of course not, Toni. I’m just getting…”

“Don’t spank me!

“I’m not.” he stopped his hand on her left buttock. He felt a bump there, then, when he moved his fingers around, many more. She would wince at every touch no matter how gentle. He turned her so her back faced the moon to better illuminate her. Lonnie saw the dark worms of welts crawling across her backside from top to bottom even extending down the backs of her legs. He rubbed softly cleaning her as best he could with bare hands then moved his hand down her legs, knocking clods off.  

“I’m not bad,” she sobbed. A sound that tore him to pieces.

“No, Toni, you are not bad”. He spoke as to a child, trying to interpret what she was saying..  

She was now hanging onto his arm, her face tight against him. “She said I was bad! I didn’t mean to do anything…Tell her I’m sorry.”

“Shh..” he said, I got you…you’re fine” He stripped off his shirt and fed her arms into it. It wasn’t long enough to cover anything below the waist. Her feet, uncovered,  were pale, bruised and bleeding from the rocks and sticks.. How the hell had she made it the whole way up here with bare feet? She took a few halting, limping steps and stopped, still crying.

“Can you carry me?” she asked piteously. 

What? no! Said the voice of reason in Lonnie’s head. You of all people know I can’t carry you.

He sighed lightly. “Sure, I can carry you. You might not like it though”.

“I can’t walk anymore”.

“Shhh, shhh…I got you” Anything to stop her crying. 

He went down to his left  knee and slipped his right arm between her legs. Then he rose carefully, lodging-as gently as possible- his arm in her crotch. As he rose unsteadily to full height, she draped across his shoulders. He clutched her hanging arm with his left hand. 

“You OK?”

She continued to sob. “She hurt me,”

“You’re fine now”, he said trying to convince himself. With unsteady first steps, testing every foothold with a toe, he unsteadily picked his way down the kicked-up track they had left. Every time he passed a spot where he had stumbled, he paused as if waiting to be pulled down again. 

Her sobbing ebbed to a soft whimper as her shivering grew to a shudder.  His shirt, large as it was, offered meager comfort, covering only her head and shoulders leaving the rest of her glowing alabaster  in the night air. He thought about stopping to rearrange her but feared once he put her down, he wouldn’t be  able to lift her again. He continued onward. 

Off to his left, a barren silhouette against the sky was the split oak, still deeply rooted and sturdy after being split by a lightning strike fifty years ago, The cold comfort of knowing his location was eclipsed by the chilling knowledge that they were still two-thirds of the way up the mountain and at that moment he had no earthly idea of how they were going to get down. 

Then, as sudden as flipping a switch, the night went black, no moon, no fog, no stars, no shadows. He could see nothing near or far as the wind kicked up. He heard the branches above his head clattering like dried bones and leaves from underfoot whirled in small twisters against his face. He could feel Toni’s sobbing across his shoulders but couldn’t hear her above the now swirling windstorm that circled them. His eyes were wide open but useless. There was no sound but the rushing wind punctuated by a  wailing that either came from Toni, himself or the mountain. He had no idea where to put his foot, so just put it down. Then again feeling weightless,, then once more feeling nothing, the ground opened beneath him, his feet pinwheeling as if he had jumped off a ridge, until, still blind in the inky darkness, he felt the ground as a shock that hurt his ankles first then paralyzed his legs. But he stayed upright, stepped out of the draw and splashed into the stream that ran at the base of the mountain. The chill water shocked him alert and he finally felt the pain in his left leg and shoulder. He could see again, as if his eyes had been closed and were now open. And the woods were dead silent. Directly ahead was the cabin, the orange glow from the fireplace dancing  in the windows.

He dropped to a knee and bent toward her feet. She resisted getting off his shoulders. 

“Here” he said, “We’re down, the grass is soft here..See? There’s the cabin.  In the glow of the moon which they now moved toward, she was white marble, veined and scratched, revealing all  where his shirt fell open. She hadn’t noticed that the return trip from the hour climb up the mountain had taken ten minutes. He noticed but was happy not to think about it. He squeezed her close, his arm around her shoulder as they limped toward the light. 

Inside, he stood her in front of the fireplace and tossed some pine kindling and a few split logs on top of the small fire that was already burning. Within moments the pine crackled and the hardwood was catching along the split face and the radiating heat warmed her bare legs and belly. 

“I’m glad there was still propane in the tank”, he said. “And I turned on the water heater.” He was holding his hand under the spigot waiting for the water to warm. “There’s a basin under here”, he said, reaching under the sink. Nothing he was saying needed to be said. He wasn’t into self-narration as people sometimes were: “I’m going to the bathroom”or ” I’m getting a drink of water” kind of thing.  He was talking to fill the room. To beat back the silence that held who knew what?

The basin full and steamy he tossed in a bar of soap which bobbed along the surface and a washcloth which floated until it sucked up enough soapy water to drop out of sight. “I got you some nice hot water to clean yourself up with”, he announced carrying it over to her like it was the Christmas goose.

‘You can clean yourself up” he said, setting the basin in front of the fire. “I’ll get some towels’. She sagged slightly as if burdened.”You do it…”, she said limply. “I’m too tired…” He pulled the day bed screeching across the floor and helped her to sit on it. She winced when her bottom hit the towel he had laid there, so he pushed her onto her back and rolled her over. “Let’s deal with this first” he said.  She only sighed. 

Nothing that he had done with her in the bedroom tonight or anytime previously could hold a candle to the intimacy inherent in his current ministrations. He touched her in ways and places that he never had, paying attention to “every nook and cranny”, as his mother used to say. But he was sure she could not have imagined her phrase being used in this context. Toni  moved into his soft touch, lifting and opening as prodded by washcloth or soapy fingers. The heat of the fireplace almost dried her before he could rinse. “Wait here”, he said unnecessarily. Patting her on the side of her leg well removed from her wounds, only a few of which, in the light of the hanging bulb, had drawn blood.

He went to the cabinet in the kitchen and found a tube of salve that had an expiration date years past and a bottle of rubbing alcohol which is what he used for any cut, abrasion, insect bite or rash. Adding the sting and burn of the alcohol to what she was already feeling felt a little cruel even if right minded so he grabbed the salve and returned to the main room where she still lay, bottom up and waiting. “This might help”, he said, dabbing a bit on his fingers and rubbing it gently into the worst welts. She whistled lightly through her teeth.

“I’m sorry”, he said.

“It’s OK” she replied, “Thank you.”

He sat on the bed beside her as he treated her. She subtly and naturally moved her near leg into his and  her right the other way. . Then her hips lifted just enough to open herself. Lonnie moved his hand from her tortured bottom to the inside of her near thigh where he kneaded gently. She moaned and flipped her head away burying it under the pillow. Taking that as a positive signal, he moved his hand up to her sex, pleased to find it sopping far beyond soap and water. He slipped his fingers in and around finding the firm nugget of her clit and rubbing it gently but insistently. Her arousal eased the guilt that he had  started to feel about his growing erection. 

She said something into the pillow that he didn’t hear. Without stopping his fingering, he leaned closer. “I didn’t catch that.”

She pulled her head from under the pillow. “Fuck me!”, she said forcefully, making sure she was heard this time. She also slid her legs further apart and arched wantonly. Her sex glistened against his hand. He knelt between her legs and pushed his pants and underwear down to, then over his knees. Seeing that his hips were going to contact her welts he warned her. “This is probably going to hurt your butt.”

“I don’t care!” she said. “I want you in me!” For emphasis she pushed backward. He grabbed her hips and slid himself all the way in, slapping his belly against her striped bottom. She moaned but he wasn’t sure about which. 

Old Bones

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Only when the moon is just so,

Casting silvery shadows among the

Grays and blues

Do the outlines of the old cabins appear.

Stone piles and ruined walls,

So easily traced at midnight,

Invisible in the harsh yellows and greens

Of noon.

I was told there were slave cabins here

Long, long ago

When this was one big farm.

They lived here, many to a cabin.

That’s what I was told anyway

By my brother.

But he was older and always lied.

If not though, this is where they lived.

As kids we found treasures back there-

Rusted things,

Ruins of buckles, nails and buttons.

At night we’d build campfires and squat here,

Telling made-up stories of their long-ago lives.

Later there were bones in the corn

where desecrated graves were

Plowed up.

My brother put a stack of them under

My bed.

Told me I was now haunted

By old slave ghosts.

I didn’t really believe him then

But now I don’t know.

No bones left out in the corn, I’m sure.

But if there were,

This would be the time to find them.

Party Interruptus

(Continued from Maria)

They took the road easily, with the moon roof open to better view the graying sky that revealed itself more every night as the leaves fell. Also, so Chelsea’s dope smoke could dissipate easily into the dusk. To be fair, it was her dope but they all were partaking. Him less, but still….

As zombies went they were definitely sexy, both careful to apply makeup that accented their looks-cheek bones for Chelsea, those goddam eyes for Gennie. They were also wearing special panties he had bought them anticipating an unveiling sometime in the evening. Gennie’s said simply “Spank Me” and Chelsea’s, “I need a good spanking.” Chels laughed and took them in good humor but didn’t model them as he’d hoped. Gennie was still a little standoffish-hesitant-nervous, though she looked great in them. Hard-on great.

At their prodding and wheedling he had broken down and put on the sheriff’s costume from a few years ago pleased that it still fit. He had a tiny pang remembering that his wife had accompanied him in cuffs and a striped jumpsuit which opened in the back for when she misbehaved. Which she often did. He toked deeper when the joint reached him this time. Linda was popping into his thoughts more and more lately.

As they rounded the last turn before Duke’s place, he saw a light swinging at the head of the driveway. He slowed. Valet parking maybe? The guy was standing at the top of the drive effectively blocking him from leaving the road. He slid the window down and leaned over Gennie.

“Heading into the party”, he explained.

“No party here”, the guy answered.

“Really? I thought there was.”

“Cancelled”, he said looking closely into the car.

“Huh! I hope everything’s alright”, both girls noticed his voice was different. Lighter and a bit breathy.

“I wouldn’t worry about it.”

“I just heard about this on Facebook. Seemed like a fun thing. Don’t get out to his part of the county often. Easy to get turned around I guess…”

“Yeah, well, you got the wrong place.”

“Which is it?”

“What?”

“Cancelled or the wrong place?”

“Tell you what there, cowboy”, they guy growled leaning forward. “Might be a good time to ride on.” He pulled his jacket aside just enough to show a pistol in his belt.

“Oh Jesus pal!”, he flustered, almost sliding into a falsetto.  “Not looking for any trouble…” He hit the gas and popped ahead, around the next bend watching the rear-view more than the road.

“What’s going on?” asked Gennie.

The road switched back then slipped over a slight hill so they couldn’t be seen but he shut the lights anyway before slowing and turning onto a hard-packed dirt road that you had to know was there.

“You kids wearing sensible shoes?” he asked scanning the woods off to the right.

“We’re good”, answered Chelsea.

“What’s going on?” Gen repeated.

“Not sure.”

“You gonna call 911?” she asked.

He had stopped in the middle of the road and turned the car off. They listened to the ticking of the engine and felt the closeness of the trees on both sides. Without a word he opened the door after switching off the interior lights. He popped the console and grabbed his pistol without taking his eyes off the woods and field ahead.

“What’s that?” asked Gennie, unnecessarily.

Even wrapped in the clip-on holster Chelsea recognized it. “Sig Nine”, she said simply.

Without answering he cut his glance her way and squinted quickly-as if trying to see something in the shadows behind her eyes. She didn’t waver. He clipped the gun onto his belt.

“You gonna call 911?” Gennie repeated in a harsh whisper.

“Shhhh!” Chelsea hissed just as urgently. They gathered behind the car where he popped the trunk.  He took out a small fold-up digging tool and a handed it to Chelsea.

“We can take the poles I made for the leashes. They could be weapons.”

He closed the trunk with a silent click. “We’ll be OK for weapons”, he said leading the way into the woods.

(Continues…)

The Halloween Party

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(Continued from Chelsea – 6)

He didn’t know how they would react to being invited to the Barton’s Halloween party. He and Linda had been there since the beginning and there was of course some concern about how his new budding harem might mix. It wasn’t a concern shared by the group; Beth and Duke wanted them there and they were like fifth graders-excited at the prospect of getting out with others. He made a note to himself: they are young vibrant women for whom a comfortable existence, no matter how well-spiced, could slip into boredom now and again.

“It will be outside-around the fire and the mantle we delivered. There will be tents if it rains, but strange as the weather’s been….”

“Will be any singles there?” asked Chelsea. “My flavor?”

“That won’t be a problem. They typically draw an interesting mix.”

“I want to be a nurse!” Gennie piped up. “Maybe a vampire nurse but sexy.”

“That would work, but you realize,” he drawled, “that any nurse showing up at this party better have an ample supply of latex gloves and thermometers.  Not the ones that go under your tongue, either.”

“Really?” said Gennie, the enthusiasm dipping a tad.

“Dude, even I figured that out”, Chelsea deadpanned.

“How about a vampire witch then? A sexy vampire witch?”

“You don’t need to be a vampire witch” said Chelsea. “Either one works. How ‘bout you be a witch, I’ll be a vamp…or a zombie. A zombie. Yeah, that’s it.”

“You”, Gen looked at him. What will you be?”

“I’ll be….me.”

“No costume?” they both said, sounding disappointed.

“You will be my costume. Once you settle on what you’re going as, I’ll fit you into harnesses…or choke collars and leashes. I’ll have each of you on an arm.”

“Oooo…” said Chelsea getting it. “Like Michonne.”

“Michonne?” Gen asked.

“Walking Dead. In season two when we first meet Michonne she has these two walkers on leashes as camouflage. Real bad ass! That’s it. We’ll be walkers. I got this idea…kind of wooden leashes-nooses at the end of poles…so we can’t turn on him. I can make those!”

“Sexy walkers!” yapped Gennie.

“Again with the sexy. I’m the one looking for someone, not you…And you” she pointed at him, “can be Michonne.”

“Sure, why not? Other than the woman/man thing, the black/white thing, the badass…not, thing, the dreads…I’m a spitting image.”

“I can’t even believe you know who Michonne is.”

“You brats. I’m older than you but not by THAT much.”

“Come on”, Chelsea enthused “….let’s work on these.”

“Hey girls, I gotta warn you though.”

Pulling up short, “What?”

“You’ll be rookies at this party.”

“Uh huh…”

“There will be games.”

“What kind of games?”

“Where the losers get spanked.”

“Jeeze…”, said Gennie.

“And you will lose.”

“Jeeze…”, again.

“Public spankings huh?”, asked Chelsea. “How many people?”

“No more than thirty. Unless there’s forty. Mixed bag-all genders, flavors, dispositions and predilections.

“Hmmm…” Chelsea said obviously more comfortable with the possibility than Gennie, then, “Hey is my butt still bruised?”

“I’m sure I don’t know.”

Quickly, she turned and unzipped her pants. “Chelsea!”, Gennie cried knowing what was coming. She pushed her pants and underwear down at once-further than she really needed to.

It hadn’t taken long for him and Chelsea to understand where they were coming from. Intellectually he knew there would be nothing between them physically even if Gennie wasn’t in the picture. Unfortunately, his cock wasn’t an intellectual and strained-just that quickly-against his own fly.

“That might be a bruise,” he said. “It’s hard to tell. Come back here and let me see if I can rub it off…”

“Put that thing away Chelsea. Dad’s getting all hard and bothered.”

Her pants were already up and she was tucking her shirt in. “I think the phrase is ‘hot and bothered.’”

“Not if you’re looking from this angle.”

Chelsea grabbed the wine. “We’re taking this out to the shop.”

“That’s fine. Leave the table, leave me with the mess as long as someone gets me a cognac.” He left it open to see who would. Gennie, suddenly excited about the Halloween party was sketching on a napkin and he wasn’t sure she’d heard him. Chelsea glided to the sideboard and poured.

He followed them as far as the porch and watched them almost skipping across the yard to the work shop. He sat and kicked his feet up.

In his life he’d made four fortunes and lost three, glided through some misspent summers in a misspent youth backpacking through Europe, been married for two weeks in France and for a decade for real, but had never had a time like this last few weeks. His level of happiness-which he hid as completely as he would any other emotion-made him nervous somehow. The cognac warmed him and, as he watched their shadows through the windows, he really cared not a whit about the mess in the kitchen.

(Continuing…)

 

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.”

Continuing…“There’s Someone There…”

 

“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.

Continuing….Back to the Hollow

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.

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