Sunday, March 10, 2019
Fictional Fact, or Illusion?
I love to do readings in public along with the contributors to my anthologies, but I started so late in life that I think most folks would rather not even speculate that someone as old as I am would ever have done the things in my stories. Nevertheless I persist, channeling my characters, and it seems to work out all right. Still, I can’t recall anyone asking whether what I wrote was a true fact from my life--although once in a while it was, or mighty close to it. (Some of my contributors, on the other hand, might well be imagined writing from experience.)
In any case, I’ve decided to take a different tack with this blog. Instead of dealing with facts at all, I’ll stick to fiction, so I’ve been trying to think of any of my stories that feature unreliable narrators. I’m sure there are some, but they seem to have deceived even me by now so that I find them entirely believable. This one, though, does have a protagonist who doubts her own sanity, but doesn’t give a damn. This story was published in Kristina Wright’s Demon Lover anthology.
I know I shouldn’t post anything this long, but what the heck. And since this is in fact fantasy, nobody would question whether it was real. Still, there’s always the chance of believing it’s all an illusion on Jayne’s part—and a very hot illusion indeed.
Freeing the Demon
In two years of drifting in place Jayne had seldom looked out the window. What was the point? At night, clients came, and went; in the daytime she slept. Sometimes, very rarely, she dreamed.
She might never have noticed him looming just beyond her balcony if a nervous college kid hadn't felt in sudden need of air.
"Hey, terrific gargoyle! French, probably, limestone, taking a beating from acid rain. Not much detail left." He grasped at the distraction. "They say gargoyles are demons cursed with eternal imprisonment in stone. Guess nobody figured even stone might not be forever."
Jayne's stroke on his thigh turned him from the window. Long, pale hair swung with the seductive tilt of her head. Gray eyes looked through dark lashes into his. "You like things...French?" He forgot about the gargoyle.
Jayne didn't forget.
On a rainy evening she watched through summer dusk as rivulets washed over the stone shoulders. Thin glistening ribbons of water criss-crossed in ill-defined grooves, giving a sense of layered scales, or feathers; something indelibly winglike.
The massive back was hunched. The twisted, upturned face hurled mute defiance at the heavens, while pointed ears and horns stabbed at the sky. The jaws had once spouted water from the eaves, but the intake had been clogged for years and the torrent spilled haphazardly down the head. The teeth were mere vestigial stumps. Jayne thought of the acid rain, and her own fleeting youth, and mourned for them both.
That night, after a bout with a truly nasty customer, Jayne leaned out into the light rain. Leopold sent such creeps from time to time to scare her, keep her in line.
She gazed at the still, dark figure as mist cooled her skin and a breeze swept the fouled air away. He hulked, blot-like, against clouds lit by ambient city light. "They're wearing us down, mon amie," she murmured.
As her eyes adjusted to darkness the stone face seemed to flush with a reddish glow. A dull light pulsed through slanted eyes and gaping throat, highlighting the teeth. At thirteen stories a connection to the basement furnace seemed unlikely, but Jayne was too drained to care.
In daylight she took a closer look, finding nothing but dry stone mottled by smoke and rain and bird droppings. Some obscure proprietary impulse drove her to take water and soap and a long brush and scrub as far as she could reach. A curse was one thing; debasement was something else.
Over the weeks she watched him in varying lights and weather. Only the combination of night and rain produced the strange effect, as though acidity ate away a thin veneer that resealed in daylight.
Jayne found herself trying to communicate. "Who trapped you? Someone higher up the chain of evil? Or a self-righteous moral bigot? I've known both kinds. There isn't much to choose." His pulsing glow seemed to quicken in agreement.
Her own sense of comradeship surprised her. Since the stone demanded nothing, she yearned to give. Not, of course, that she could think of anything worth giving.
In symbolic sharing she reached up to lay morsels of food on the stone tongue. When she tried this on a rainy night, the offering was sucked into the red cavern with a force that thrilled and frightened her. When she offered raw meat, the eyes glowed hotter and a swirl of smoke rose from the rumbling depths.
She blinded herself to the ominous implications, preferring to think, if she thought at all, that her sanity was slipping. What had sanity ever done for her?
Reality was increasingly hard to bear. Someday soon Leopold would forget, or cease to care, that he couldn't afford to mark her face or body.
On the night he finally snapped, rain splatted against the window and shards of his spittle flecked her face as he shouted and raged and shook her.
"Yes!" she screamed at last. "Yes! I held out on you! I hid money! Why not? I earned it!" The capitulation startled him into releasing her.
"It's out there, in the gargoyle's mouth." She gestured toward the window. "But it slipped down and I can't quite reach it. You get it, if you want it!"
"Like hell! In the fucking rain? In this suit? Get out there and don't come back without it!"
The cold rain slicked her thin wrap to her body. She'd lied about the money being there, though she did have a stash secreted elsewhere, saving for…for some other kind of life. Any other kind.
It didn't matter. She wasn't going back.
She looked down. Neon flashed and car lights crawled along the street far, too far, below. To sprawl in their glare, broken and distorted...no…
She turned to the gargoyle and clung. It felt warm, vibrant, even...responsive. If only she had known! Such opportunities lost.
Leopold came cursing and stumbling out the window. He had shed his coat, but rain soaked his silk shirt and rage twisted his face. His cronies on Wall Street would scarcely have known him, even those who knew this source of his money because they had paid for the pleasure of Jayne’s company.
Jayne stepped up onto the low balustrade, reached an arm into the gargoyle's mouth as far as she could, and willed herself to oblivion. Heat pulsed from within. Tremors shuddered through the stone.
Then Leopold was tearing and striking at her, not caring that her feet slid off the balustrade, that her arms were slipping from the stone torso.
The void below dragged at her, tried to swallow her--but something enfolded her, something warm and winglike and unseen, holdiing her safely while Leopold clawed at the stone and crammed his fist into the gaping maw.
Whatever she had hoped for, it was better and worse. His head went last. Hot blood streamed past, mixed with cold rain, and only when all ran cold did she know it was over. Then she was through the window, on the floor, not remembering how she had crawled there.
Dawn showed Leopold's crumpled coat beneath the window. There would be cash in its inner pockets, but Jayne couldn't bring herself to touch it. Yet.
No one would wonder at any extremity of cries from her apartment. Leopold would hardly be missed except by his creditors. If she could just make sure nothing could connect her to his disappearance...
When at last she steeled herself to look outside there seemed to be no trace of him, until sunlight glinted on a gold wristwatch dangling from a stone jaw and jeweled rings tilting precariously on vestigial teeth.
She reached out, tentative at first; then her touch became a lingering caress across the rough stone face.
How quickly, she wondered, did erosion wear away the stone? What would happen to the world when the demon, if such he were, broke free? Did she care?
She knew what she cared about. She remembered the embrace of invisible wings, the power summoned by night and rain and her need. Her hands moved sensuously, stroking the folded wings, the breast, the ridged belly slanting away between braced forelegs. She sensed the mounting tension in the rigid stone, and whispered promises, waiting for night, and rain.
For two days it stayed dry. Jayne took the necessary steps to change Leopold's jewelry into cash, and to make the cash secure along with what she’d found in his pockets. Attention to such details occupied a level of her mind that seemed to be waking after years of sleep. She no longer drifted.
On another level, she was willingly swept along on a tide of erotic fantasy, feeling rough stone where there were only plaster walls, seeing slanting, glowing eyes in taxi tail-lights. When the first tongues of rain licked her skin as she hurried home through the dusk, ripples of heat flowed over and through her. Her breath quickened in anticipation.
She started tearing at her constricting clothing in the elevator. By the time she thrust open the window she was naked.
The rain had intensified, and now it blew cold on her skin. The shock gave her mind a chance to catch up with her need.
When Jayne finally climbed out onto the balcony she was wrapped in a deeply hooded raincoat. She knew the allure of mystery, and slow unveiling; she also knew all previous experience might be irrelevant. Could her demon be pleased like human men? Until she knew his pleasure, she would simply please herself.
The light from his depths glowed hotter than ever before. In anticipation of her coming? Or had he gained strength from devouring Leopold? A shiver of fear sharpened her excitement.
She pressed herself against the rain-slick stone and inched the raincoat open. Chill gave way to warmth wherever skin touched stone, and when she stretched upward from the balustrade a deep vibration pulsed through the rigid mass. She pressed closer, bruising her softness on his ridges, melding pain with pleasure, but when she sensed a desperation in his trembling she loosened her grip and stepped down.
Jayne knew the art of pleasing watchers. They had been her only bearable customers. In any closer interaction it was she who would become the watcher, removed, unmoved, observing with vague repulsion what her other self must do.
She wondered whether he could see her, but when she raised the edges of the coat like dark wings the light beamed obliquely from his eyes to warm the pale flame of her body.
The coat, once released. did not fall but floated above and behind, supported by the light. She forgot the rain, forgot everything but herself and that burning presence, feeding on his hunger as it fed on hers.
Beginning with dance-like movements, slowly, sinuously, Jayne curved her hands from waist to hips, slimness to taut fullness. Her touch was the watcher's touch, but under her command.
Then she drew her fingers lightly upward, brushing them teasingly around the outer curves of her breasts, catching her breath at the sweet soreness. As she cupped them gently and then less gently the fullness, the firmness, grew; in her mind her outline transformed from slender to voluptuous.
The ripples of pleasure intensified. Urgency flowed down her body. She throbbed both with fullness and with an aching need to be filled.
Jayne thought fleetingly of pulling back. How could she bear it if this hot tide never flooded into release? But it was all she had to give. And besides, it was too late.
Hard nipples jutted from her round full breasts, yearning desperately for the stroke of hands that could not reach out, for the hot press and tug and bite of a mouth frozen in stillness. Her fingers teased their tips into greater, harder, unbearable tension, while her palms still cupped the swelling fullness. She thrust against her own hands and moaned, again and again, until a deeper echo sounded from the stone before her and she raised her eyes.
Red light pulsed from the depths. A low rumbling sound went on and on. How could she truly touch him, penetrate the shell of dark magic, bring his torment and hers to an ecstatic peak?
She had come to despise men's bodies, but now she cursed the spell, or sculptor, that had shaped the gargoyle, pressing the forelegs together to obscure the loins, leaving her without even a simulacrum of maleness to stroke, taste, press against.
Her hands slipped downward. Her breasts still yearned with fullness, but a hunger still more intense built in her depths, a pounding pressure that demanded a harder pressure in return, more, and more...
Detachment long gone, she could only open mind as well as flesh to him, projecting her own sensations, hoping for him to somehow tell her how to meet his need.
His vision of her flashed through her mind; eyes half-closed, lips full and parted, head twisting from side to side as damp, heavy hair coiled over her shoulders and slid across her thrusting nipples, rising and falling to the ragged rhythm of her breathing. It was his will that raised her hand to cradle and press one breast and then the other, gently at first, then harder, sending hot lances downward. She no longer knew which sobbing cries and moans were her own, and which reverberated from the stone.
Somewhere in the outer world there were sounds. Pounding on a door? Or her own blood pounding in her ears? The clamor of her body drowned any intrusion. Linked with this being who watched and shared and demanded, she moved in response to his will as well as her own, hips twisting, undulating, arching toward him, hands stroking and kneading and tantalizing but leaving the hot, pulsing void for him, for his filling, if only he would come to her, into her...
A sharp crack split the air. The balcony shook. A wave of force slammed her against the building, jarring her teeth into her lower lip until it bled. She force down pain-sparked anger; whatever she had incited she would willingly accept.
The pressure surged up and down her body. She couldn't breathe, couldn't see, mist swirled before her eyes...but the force eased at her struggles. She pushed against it and it eased again, in slight, unsteady increments.
As her vision cleared, distant lights and buildings twisted and wavered, distorted by something not quite visible, something trembling between being and not being. She reached out and felt a throbbing as of air propelled by beating wings, or a pounding heart.
She leaned into the pressure, then fell back as it surged toward her. Forward, back, approaching a balance; "Yes, gently, softly, but not too softly...now harder...." He was taking form now, still murky to the eyes but tangible to her hands, her skin, her demanding body.
Wingtips curved around her. Strong arms circled her and hands grasped the soft fullness of her buttocks to lift and press her up against him. Fiery crescent eyes flickered closer and closer as she stretched upward. He bent his head and with a tongue gently rasping, like a cat's, licked the drops of blood from her lip.
She clutched at his massive chest, iron-hard under deep velvet fur; gripped corded thighs with her own, straining to raise herself enough to meet the tip of the great cock pulsing against her belly. He lifted her higher, and she was there...there...but in spite of overflowing readiness she thought at first she could never fit him in.
She sobbed in frustration, thrusting frantically against him, and he raised her again until his hardness teased, stroked, licked at her, flooding her with wetness and sensation. When finally, slowly, he slid inside, the demanding fullness was a pleasure/pain almost more than she could bear.
Distant sounds, banging, harsh words, impinged on her consciousness. Then he moved, and drove her to move, and the world receded. Hot surges of sensation wracked her, until they came so close and fast that she rose on the wave and rode it until it crashed, at last, into thunderous release.
Even the ebbing was glorious. She clutched the great body, now solid, dark, completely there, and held him as his wrenching spasms went on and on and on.
At last, when he seemed almost spent, she reached up to stroke his face; but it grew ever more distant as the presence that had filled her receded. She slid down until her feet touched the floor. His form dissipated slowly, like smoke, leaving her a last vision of a wraith-like hand outstretched in supplication.
Cold air chilled her fevered skin. She watched the glow intensify inside the stone and knew he was trapped again, though a thread of fire showed through the long crack newly formed between braced forelegs.
The rain had stopped. She forced herself to move, bent to reclaim the limp raincoat, turned toward the lighted window. Lighted? She hadn't turned on the lamps! Had she locked the door before rushing to the window? Sounds and words she had blocked out came back to her in a rush.
There had been banging on the door, thumping on the window frame, a harsh voice shouting, "For Christ’s sake, buddy, get it off already, will you!"
She knew that voice, like oily gravel. One of Leopold's "associates". She had expected to have to deal with him, or someone like him, but not in such a state of vulnerability. The raincoat felt wet and cold and gritty as she hugged it around herself and stepped through the window.
"Kinky bastard, eh?" He waved a heavy arm toward the window. "Isn't coming in? Afraid to be seen? I don't give a shit who he is. Just tell me where fucking Leopold is hiding out and I'll be out of here."
Jayne was shaky, but not as dazed as she sounded. "I...who..." She glanced vaguely around the room. "I'm sorry, Mr...Mr. Robinson, isn't it? I haven't seen Leopold in three or four days, and that's just fine with me."
The hair was impeccably styled, the skin pampered, but the wide mouth grinned in a toad-like face. "You don’t say! Considering new management?" She saw the move coming but couldn't retreat. He whipped her raincoat open and yanked at it, turning her until it fell off. "Rough stuff. Nice." A thick finger jabbed at the bruises on her neck and shoulders where Leopold had gripped her, and the scrapes from tonight's impact of stone and wall. Then he gripped her jaw and squeezed her mouth until drops of blood from her cut lip ran down her chin.
"What does it cost for a piece of that?" His voice had thickened.
"What's it worth to you?" Her purr masked her fury. Keep him off guard, find a way to kill him, feed him piece by piece to the stone jaws....
"Get rid of the john out there and we'll see." He adjusted his trousers. "Christ, he's going to freeze his ass off, if you’ve left him any!" He moved toward the window.
Without any clear plan she moved to intercept him. He stiffened. The toad slash curled into a snarl. "That's fucking Leopold out there, isn't it! Fucking Leopold, fucking! He should have stuck to that side of his business instead of pimping worthless mutual funds." He gave a bark of mirthless laughter and shoved her aside.
Rage coiled through Jayne like a steel spring. He would not foul her balcony with his gross presence, leer at the red glow of her lover's trapped spirit! She launched herself at his back, striking between his shoulder blades with all her weight and fury. His startled cry mingled with a roar from beyond as his upper body pitched forward, through the window...and beyond into a spray of blood.
Jayne watched in savage joy. Her demon was so strong now, he could reach out so far...
When it was over, though, she stumbled to her bed and sank, shaken and drained, into darkness.
Late at night the demon came to her, in vision deeper than dream. Jayne saw his true form, merely caricatured by the stone carving; a shape more man than beast, long-limbed, graceful, powerful, covered with a thick black fur whose silken touch made her shiver with delight. The curved horns rose naturally from his proud head, extending the line of the pointed ears. His slanting eyes curled into crescents when he smiled, a wicked grin that showed strong, gleaming fangs. She had to smile back.
He held out a hand, cruel talons retracted, and she grasped it with her own. She pressed against him, but after a moment he swung her gently around.
Only then did she become aware of the surroundings in her vision. Walls of smoothly fitted stones, candles smoking fitfully in sconces, hangings in deep colors with intricate designs not quite revealed by the dim light. An ambiance profoundly other, yet vaguely familiar, a scene from a history book, or fairy tale.
He drew her to a small arched window, and she looked through iron bars down into a torch-lit courtyard. She watched, unseen, as a red-robed figure passed by, thick fingers stroking a heavy golden cross; but when she looked for holiness in his face she read only a cruel sensuality she knew all too well.
The demon gripped the bars, bent them with slight effort, then pushed with increasing tension against an invisible field of force just beyond. When she reached through the bars she felt no barrier; it seemed to be devised for him alone.
Ancient magic or future science? She was distracted by the play of muscles across black-velvet shoulders, back, buttocks...no wings? But the wings were there, sweeping in and out of visibility as he strained against the unseen wall. They faded as he slumped back and turned toward her, face twisted in anger and despair.
The proud head bent, the tall form folded, knelt, until he crouched at her feet like a great dark knot of wood shaped by a master carver.
A wave of compassion swept her, and, in its wake, a resolve. If he asked for her help, it must be in her power to give. In the world she inhabited (however tenuously) they had already cut a strange and bloody swath together; she would willingly challenge whatever world held him captive.
She reached out to embrace him, pressing her breasts against his bowed head; the sheltering mantle of her moon-pale hair enveloped him. "Yes," she murmured, "yes," more certain of the answer than the question. A cool breeze stirred the curtain of hair. She saw brightening sky outside the window, and as she watched a shaft of hazy sunlight came through the window and crept toward them, until, with a convulsive lurch, her lover was gone from her arms and she was left empty, hollow, kneeling on her own floor in her own room in a cold pool of daylight.
Even with Leopold gone there were some regular clients to deal with. Those few who persisted despite her refusal went the same way in due course, each adding to her demon's strength. She began to think he might break free of his bonds while still in this world. It would be disappointing if she never got to follow him to that other place.
Jayne was disappointed as well that his continual gorging appeared to interfere with arousal. She savored for days the lingering feel of him, like a taste too intense to absorb all at once, but by the end of a week the urge for further tasting consumed her.
It was time for a test. He had devoured the latest victim at the very door of her bedroom, sucking him into that unseen dimension that claimed them all. Could he come in visible and tangible form just a few steps further?
She watched her reflection in the dark window. A long white satin gown caressed her skin, clinging and rippling; she might have been a caryatid, or an angel from a Renaissance artist's erotic dreams.
When she opened the window a stream of raindrops brightened with a reflected glow. He knew she was there.
Jayne stroked the creamy satin; then, deliberately, turned away. The lick of silky fabric over skin already sensitized drove her longing close to pain. If he didn't come she would have to go to him, and soon.
But he was there before her, lounging on the bed, watching with hot eyes and laughing mouth. She avoided his outstretched hand, letting a satin thigh just brush his fingertips. He kept talons retracted, willing to play the game.
When she knelt by the bed and pushed gently at his chest he leaned back onto the mounded pillows. Her hand brushed his erection, making it leap; she felt an urgent pang but kept her movements languorous.
The inner sweep of his thighs, where the fur almost disappeared, shivered under her strokes. Avoiding the most outstanding feature, she burrowed her face into his silk-furred belly, then pulled back quickly. He was gripping the blankets now and breathing faster.
Jayne slipped a white hand between dark thighs and cupped his heavy fullness with gently increasing pressure. His buttocks tensed, his back arched. She slid her fingers upward, moving along his pulsing cock, trembling slightly as she wondered how her cunt had been able to hold this immensity, and how long she could bear to wait before doing it again.
Too much protraction of this game and she might cheat herself, but to see him like this, to press him to the edge, to bend, taste.... His head was thrown back, his eyes slits, a low growl rumbling along with each ragged breath.
Her tongue flicked in and out, again and again, tasting the very tip, tormenting him with the lightness of each touch. His talons pierced through to the mattress as he gripped the bed. She pulled back to shrug the satin down over the peaks of her nipples, then leaned forward to brush them against his hardness.
She ached to be filled, but still... One more teasing lick, then her whole mouth plunged over him, filled with him, sucked at him, savored his salt tang, while her hand slid up and down the length that was too much for mouth and throat to hold. The throbbing began, the taste intensified...she had gone too far...
Great hands gripped her shoulders, pushed her back. Through streaming hair she watched him wrestle for control, a harsh moan grating in his throat, drops of blood welling where fangs clenched in his lower lip.
Then his eyes burned into hers, urging, demanding, sending a message she didn't understand. All she could do was what she did understand, sliding the satin gown up above her hips, moving over him, meeting his hardness with her own wild, wet need, sliding down over him slowly, slowly, until the fullness drove her to rise, and plunge, and rise.
He gripped her hips, stilled them, then grasped her shoulders. She was consumed by the need to move, but he pulled her until her damp hair brushed his face; then his tongue came out to lick at one of the drops of blood gleaming on his lip. She remembered that tongue on her own lip, her own blood....
Jayne lowered her head and ran her tongue along the line of drops, then closed her lips around his and sucked gently until her mouth was full of the metallic tang. She swallowed. A tingle spread through her body in a frothing tide, ebbing just as he began to move, at last, in the demanding rhythm she craved.
Then she knew only the driving ache of pleasure, the mounting of the great wave that must break at last into the maelstrom of release. But he held her there, riding the crest, farther and farther, until they spun at last completely out of the world she had known.
The blaze of sensation faded gradually into glowing embers. Jayne became aware of the beat of wings. Still they spun on, ever slower, until at last familiar stone walls enclosed them and all motion ceased. She buried her face in his velvet chest.
He stroked along her hair, and down her back. Her shoulder blades tingled. The sensation grew, swelled--and at last she understood, and felt her own power, and gloried in the unfurling of her own great white sheltering wings.
The red-robed priest might think to hold a demon captive, but he could never resist an angel of seduction, and ecstasy, and death.