A Strange Bedtime Story – an excerpt from The Back Roads of Limbo

I have to go help some friends finish spit-polishing thier old house for sale, so I can’t write anything new today. Instead, I give you this excerpt from The Back Roads of Limbo, which will be the next title I release. This should be the last freebie I offer you for said title, at least until it’s released.

He climbed silently up the wall of the obsidian-faced tower, the rope stretched taut, creaking faintly in his leather-gloved hands. The moon cast a milky reflection upon his cloak, which only sank into the dark pile of the fabric, as though sinking beneath cold, dark waves, making him a shadow moving among shadows. Minutes the length of hours pass as he scales the wall, but his arms and legs, swinging and pulling like a channel swimmer, deliver him to the singular windowsill in good time, and without drawing undo attention. He steals into the open window, and as if lead to it by faerie light, immediately spies the treasure he came for.

Under a faintly shimmering silk duvet cover, beautifully embroidered with a scene of koi swimming against lapping golden waves to escape the hunger of an Oriental dragon, lay the shapely form of the lady of the house. As expected, her man is away in the big city, trading and carousing as of habit.

He waits until he is confident she will not stir. Her breast rises and falls in long, undisturbed waves. Cautiously, he begins crossing the room, listening for the slightest creaking of the hardwood boards beneath his feet. He hears a breathy sigh and quickly steals a glance toward the bed. Still asleep, the barest flickering movement, furtive and delicate beneath her closed lids. His pulse slows, and breathing steadily, he glides to the night stand on the far side of the bed.

Floating in the center of the circular, ornately inlaid table top is a lightly glowing sphere, an iridescent borealis lapping at the shores of greater darkness, the likes of which he has only ever heard of in bardic legend. His heart is charging like a warhorse, such that he fears the noise might be enough to wake her from whatever foreign clime she must be in, to rest so well when her man is away. He reaches out quickly, before the forewarned enchantment takes effect, and envelops the globe in the folds of his finest velvet pouch, pulling the drawstrings tight.

At that moment, she stirs, her breath becoming troubled, as if her dreams had taken a turn for the worse. He studies her closely for long time, trying to decide what to do should she wake, and notices for at last that she is lovely, angelic in grace and beauty, such that he becomes filled with the shame of his misdeed. Not wanting to feel the sting of his guilt so strongly, he proceeds back to the window.

A gasp.

He turns to see her lying still on the bed, her head has turned on the pillow, the movement of her eyes giving him the sense that she is tracking him across the floor with her eye lids shut tight. Fearing the worst, he quickly reaches through the window for the rope to affect his escape, when he hears her first tired words.

“Do not leave. Come hither. I have need of you.”

Unsure of how to react, never before having received such a response to catching him at his work, he steels both his nerves and his palms, and turns to meet her gaze. Her eyes are now open, but with a strange light in them, as though set with shards cut from the orb at his hip.

She speaks again, now in an unearthly, eerily-commanding voice, and he begins to wonder if this too is some sort of enchantment.

“Come to me.”

He stands frozen in his tracks, knowing in his bones that the last thing he should do is return to her, now rising from her slumber, her long, silver tresses spreading out hydra-like, pulsing in unison with her enchanting eyes.

He is filled with the sensation of sinking beneath Stygian waves, and yet also rising upward, as if drawn apart on the end of a rope. He looks down helplessly and witnesses that she has risen fully to meet his empty, animated form. Arms outstretched, she enfolds his shell to her bosom, but looks above to gaze directly at his floating self.

She first pulls his head down into a deeply erotic kiss, and then his body in her hands begins to transfform; not like the men in the fables he heard as a child, ensnared by a sorceress who turned them into farm animals for the slaughter. This was more like his bones had been softened and his flesh was being stretched and twisted, like raw wool onto a spindle for binding into thread. He watches in detached awe, as no pain from the transformation reaches his incorporeal form, hanging now above the pair in their arcane embrace.

He detects a faint emanation from the pouch, nestled amidst the folds of his discarded clothing, whilst, unfazed, she continues to pull his taffy-like flesh in wavering spirals about herself. The pouch smothers the glow from within, and he begins to realize that perhaps the sphere concealed within the pouch might in truth be some form of charm against the magic he sees before him.

Too late, he fears he might have unknowingly unleashed a great evil, but then, as if knowing his mind, she stops and looks up at him.

“You don’t really believe me evil, do you?”

Having no physical mouth, he can but think to reply, “But what would you have me believe, destroying my body before my very eyes?”

“Destroy you? But that’s absurd! Why would I do such a thing? You have merely answered my secret summons, and released me from the grip of the charm that my husband uses to keep me here.”

“For these past seven years, I have been severed from the mystical forces that have ever been a part of my being, like the blood that flows through our veins. For although I am mortal, like you, I am also one with the cosmos. Long have I yearned to be released from this trap, which my selfish husband tricked me into accepting as a gift on our wedding day. He sought to keep me from straying, so that I might love him more, and never leave his side.”

“And so I have stayed, remaining with him until the time which I knew would come to pass. The glamour that he experienced when he first set eyes on me, a product of my connection to the forces of the cosmos, has long since faded. As the river flows down to the sea, so too has his infatuation flowed away from me.”

“And yet, I have remained here, giving him the last of my love for him. For I had truly loved him, in spite of all he has done. But the time has come when I shouldst leave this place, and of my own accord.”

The thief, still fearing the worst, but captivated even as he is held captive, listens on.

“I reached out, with the little connection I yet retained, mere traces of the power I once held, and found the mind of a man who fancies himself a sorcerer. I impregnated his mind with the notion of my husband’s charm, and its arcane powers. He was helpless before his yearning to seek it out, as there are few a man that can resist his greatest desire. This man’s ambition and greed for mystical power was like a pungent flower to my searching soul. He fell to me easily, and I made him summon you into his employ, that you would come and secret away the charm. The globe is now bound in that very special pouch, which I had caused the mage to enchant with a containment spell which you didst not know of. The charm has lost its control over me, and I feel the flow of the cosmos within me once more.”

The thief dreads what she will do next, for surely she cannot allow him to him to go free, now knowing what he has been made a party to. But when she speaks again, her soft voice is warm with reassurance.

“Fear not, my pretty thief, for I had long ago peered into your soul and known of the hidden virtue you possess, which that other, the one who would call himself wizard, possesses not. I chose you especially for this task, though the mage believed you of his own choosing. He has been released from my spell, knowing no more of this night’s activities than he did prior to my finding him. I only need deal with you, now, and therein lies a pleasant problem.”

“In truth, I suspect I should not have chosen you for this task, for a more villainous heart would be have far been easier to deal with. The choice was mine, but the knowing of you has taught me a valuable lesson of my own weakness. It seems you have enchanted me, even as I have ensorcelled you. And so, a far more precious reward I must bestow upon you than that which another might have received for this evening’s work.”

The air in the room becomes charged, as of lightning fit to rip the sky asunder in a great storm. All between them becomes suspended outside of time. His writhing, flowing form, still swimming in endless bands of flesh-coloured liquid around her luminous body, begins to congeal once more into the form he knows best. But as he begins to hope that all will be well, she reaches into the forming body before her and snatches out some part of him, which she then raises to her mouth and consumes, like a liquid heart. Her eyes glow ever stronger, and he feels himself being drawn back into the swirling mass that is his reforming body, and is made whole again.

The next thing he feels is a strange burning, as if a fire has been set in his chest. Then there is an almost unbearably blinding light behind his unopened eyes. And when he opens his eyes, his mind’s eye also opens for the first time. He sees the whole room from all points, from all sides, and yet sees clearest the beautiful creature standing before him, waiting patiently, smiling, uttering not a word, but speaking directly to his soul.

“I have chosen to imbue you with the same connection that I feel all around me. This is my reward to you, so that you will not seek to undo that which has been done tonight. Soon I will leave here, as you must yourself, but you will do me one last boon. Take this retched bauble away with you, and secret it away somewhere where it will never be found by eager fools again. My freedom is returned, but I would that none of my kind… of our kind… should ever be bound thus again.”

“Go, and know that you will ever feel my presence, even as I feel yours, through that part of yourself I have taken inside of me. It shall become a newborn, and it will ever be a medium between our growing, aging, dying, and rejuvenating forms. You will know my fate, and my feelings for you, wherever you go, and I will come to you if ever you have need of me, for we are now one, joined at our souls’ entry points.”

“That is my reward to you, and I know through the link between our hearts that it is all you have ever yearned for, so it will be enough. Go, my sweet thief, my new love, and take this, as you take the charm that has bound me here too long. My soul’s entry point, my heart, is now open to you, as yours now is to me, ever in your heart. We shall meet again, when this dark jewel is no longer a danger to us. Go.”

And with that, she parts her gown, and reaches within her glowing, perfect bosom, to pull out some glowing piece of herself, which she holds out, and touches first to his lips, and then to his chest, and begins rubbing all over him, like a salve on his hot skin, burning and cooling him, and unleashing a fire within him as she passes her hand below his belly. And then…

He is in a deck chair, resting idly as the last of this mysterious dream passes over him. He looks past the in ground pool to the chalet beyond, and then takes in the view of the highland mountains all around. Steven marvels at the strangeness of the dream, as if there were some truth to the fantasy he experienced in that place.

His reverie is broken by the sound of a sliding glass door, as his beautiful friend Mia approaches with iced drinks on a tray in her hands, a bemused but warm smile on her beatific face, and nary a stitch of clothing otherwise.

She quips, “Daydreaming again, lover?”

He give her a dreamy smile, and taking her in his arms, offers, rather cryptically, “No, my darling one. I was just recalling something you said once.”

© 2000, 2012 Lee Edward McIlmoyle

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