I call this story “Into the Void” and wrote it in 2007. It’s a bit strange and reflects the fiction I was reading at the time. It’s no secret that current culture and events seep into every writer’s work (and every artist’s artwork).
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Ronald Parker’s cell phone vibrated on his leather belt at three minutes of four o’clock that afternoon. He let the call go to voice mail while he stood with Maggie Miller and her staff on the wooden terrace of Maggie’s horse and cattle ranch. The last of the children and their luggage of suitcases and backpacks were packed and stuffed into the big lime green bus that would take them north to the highway, and then forty miles west to Erie. There, the children and their luggage of clothes, books and, of course, souvenirs from Maggie’s store, would depart for home—some as far away as California.
The children seemed happy and talkative, though some looked doleful as they waved goodbye from open windows. Maggie and her staff waved back as the bus ambled down the long, dirt drive. A tall man, dressed to the hilt in white clothes, apron and chef’s hat stared with watery eyes at the ass end of the bus. He said, “Well, that’s the official mark that summer is over, Maggie.” He lifted a bushy, black eyebrow and added, “They weren’t too bratty this year.”
“They were good children,” Maggie said. Her small, brown eyes watered as she watched the bus leave.
Ronald Parker stepped behind Maggie’s right shoulder and put on an act of kindly interest. He watched the bus pass under the arched gate that boasted Maggie Miller’s Double M Ranch in large iron wrought letters. When the bus disappeared behind a frieze of bristlecone pines, his cell phone vibrated again.
Again, he ignored the phone.
The staff filed quietly past him as they entered the main quarters. All of them gave him the once-over when they passed. Ronald ignored them and stared at the gate until he and Maggie were alone. Then Maggie turned and faced him. She was a thick woman, a foot shorter than he, and still twenty—she would have been ten years older than Ronald if she were still alive … and human. Shoulder-length auburn hair fell from her white cowboy hat and draped the top of her white, fringed leather jacket. Beneath the jacket was a red flannel shirt tucked into blue jeans that sported a belt with a buckle almost as large as the kind worn by wrestlers on TV. Hers, however, had a bucking bronco stallion on it. Her pants legs were tucked into brown, leather boots with thick heels that drummed—clomp-clomp—on the floorboards as she hurried against him.
Her kiss was direct, her mouth hard against his, her hold as strong and capable of any worker who spent fifteen hours a day, cleaning stables, caring for horses and cattle, and helping to feed fifty children and three counselors June through August with three five-course meals a day. But Ronald knew that her strength came from more than just exercise.
Despite her firmness and determination, he pushed away.
“That’s not why I’m here, Maggie,” he said and tried to cough away the green smoke-like tendrils that swirled from her and entered his nose and mouth. The floor of the terrace had begun to tilt. He swayed now and fell into her embrace. She felt soft, the way he remembered.
Everything seemed to happen instinctively and at once, though he would realize later that he had succumbed easily to her magic. When he reached and placed a palm firmly onto one of her breasts, she gripped his hand and led him around the main house—clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp—until they were inside her quarters and naked behind the locked door of her bedroom.
In bed under the blanket, lying back, she gazed up at him with a look of silent pleading. Then her arms and tendrils locked around him. He fell upon her and she was soft and warm and very much like a living woman.
Her tendrils entered him until he lost himself again. When his head finally cleared, he was on his back and she was sitting at the edge of the bed, her back facing him. Her shoulders shook. When he asked if she was okay, she turned and faced him. Terrible wet tears ran down her cheeks.
“Why didn’t we make a proper go of it?” she said. “All those times growing up, why didn’t you fall in love and want to marry me?” She wept giant sobs.
Ronald felt her control over him weaken enough for him to come to his senses and remember. He said, “Because you’re … you know … not…”
“Human,” Maggie finished. She stopped crying. “It’s all been such a misery and a mess. And now that I have you again, I have to use force. FORCE. Because you don’t love me, Ronny. After all these years of wanting you, waiting for you to return, I still don’t have you. Not unconditionally.”
Ronald felt Maggie’s magical hold slip further. “I need your help,” he said. He started to sit up, but her tendrils billowed, filled his lungs and held him. “Maggie. Listen to me,” he managed, struggling to say the words. The bed seemed to list then. He closed his eyes. “I didn’t come to you for sex.”
“But you wanted it. I know you still dream of me, of how I seduced you back then.” She lay down next to him and ran her long tongue across his mouth. She said, “You may not love me, but we belong to each other, Ronny, united by our actions then … and now.”
“You raped me, Maggie Miller,” he managed to say. The bed stopped moving. He opened his eyes and dared to look at her. She looked curious, not angry at his words. “But it wasn’t you … it wasn’t your fault,” he added. “It was the magic that made you do it, I know.” He squirmed and felt her hold tighten. “If I hadn’t insisted on going to Russell Ridge, you would still be alive.”
Maggie peered up at him. “I love you, anyway,” she said. “I have always loved you.”
“But it was me who caused it to happen.”
“Don’t.” She gave him a long sad look that made him drop his gaze.
“No, this is wrong,” he said. “This isn’t what I want.” He tried to pull away. She pressed her forehead against his and there was a flash in his eyes. Suddenly, he was in the woods. He was sixteen years old again, and the misty green light swirled around her naked young body that stood before him. The green tendrils—not yet belonging to her—wafted their way to him and seemed to pull him to her, into her arms.
He broke from her and somehow sidestepped the memory and returned to the present. He opened his eyes and saw that he was still in bed with her, still within her clutch. Despite the tinny taste of fear rising in his throat, delicious warmth radiated from her that he knew no other woman—alive or dead—possessed. All frustration, all antagonism dissolved.
She said, “I’ve thought of that day often, how it could have been … how our lives could have been if you wouldn’t have become frightened and ran away.” She gazed into his stare. “Your fear … that frustration you caused … at the very moment of what could have been our consummation for life … it set us against one another, made you hate me.”
He shook his head. “I never hated you.”
“But you’re still afraid of me.”
“Yes. I’m sorry.”
“Of course. We were heart to heart, all roses round the door until then.” She sighed, then lifted her head. “I’m sorry too about what happened to me … to us. But even in my changed state, I still love you, Ronny. I love you from deep inside my heart. I will never hurt you.”
“Then let me go.”
“Not yet, my love.” She was still warm and soft and comfortable, her arms still round him, her legs now encircling his hips. The green tendrils filled his lungs further with every breath. Her magic filled his mind until he no longer remembered why he had sought out to find Maggie Miller. He felt himself sink down, down into her darkness. Even when she rolled on top of him, he sank deeper inside her void.
This was as close to death as she would take him.
Or so he hoped as complete darkness sheathed him from all sight and sound.
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That’s all for now. Thanks for reading.
This post “Fantasy Short Story 002-2022-0922” copyright © 2022 Steven Leo Campbell at stevecampbellcreations.com – All rights reserved.