She always saw death in the blue ocean.
Drifting beneath the water surface was like floating in the air. Free. Boundless. The underwater beauty was breathtaking.
Reaching through the fluid space before her, she put out a hand, waving it like a flag in front of her nose. The watery resistance was minute. Her hair floated above and around her head like a black halo. In the calm water, everything around her was the bluest sea blue. Except for the moving dots of life that darted through the blue expanse. Angelfish. Seahorse. Turtle. A blade of seaweed projecting upward and swimming around her feet.
She clutched a handful of seaweed and pulled hard on it. It came away in her grip, and she lifted it to her face. She couldn’t smell it. But she felt it, wanted it. She turned and began swimming to the top.
A caldron of bubbles churned right in front of her. Through the ballast, she saw the moving dot; it was rapidly gaining on her. She couldn’t swim away fast enough; she’d never had fins. Instead, she turned upward and speared to the top of the water.
Her head broke the surface and she gasped for air to fill the vacuum in her lungs.
The bubbles were rising to the surface of the water. She turned from that direction and made frantic but useless efforts to swim out of its path.
Behind the bubbles was a flapping tail and fin. In a straight line, it rushed at her, seemingly aimed right at her middle. In a heartbeat she would feel the impact, feel strong sharp canines bite into her body, feel her guts being ripped through, taste the salty water that would rise to choke her with her own blood.
She felt none of that.
The line of bubbles, tail and fin missed her body by an inch but the edge of the fin slapped against her tummy. She gasped more from surprise than actual physical pain the bubbles and fin were moving so fast they created a vortex in their wake.
The vortex sucked her in. Unable to cough out the water that had flowed into her mouth, she panicked, lost her balance in the raging vortex and floundered.
Back into the depths of the ocean.
Blue. Panic. Blue. I’m going to drown. It’s so beautiful. It’s so scary. I don’t want to drown.
She bumped into a hard form. Hard skin, harder than flesh, scraped against her body. Scales. The vortex had stopped raging. Now she felt detached from her body, felt like an observer. Like a baby, her body settled into the crook of the two strong arms.
Somebody had caught her. Now the saviour placed her on the sandy beach by the ocean and fanned air over her face. She coughed up water and came awake.
The merman looked at her disarmingly. Two amber-coloured glassy eyes, like twin lighthouses piercing the darkness of a raging storm at sea, burned into her face. They were steady, unflinching, unblinking, set in a craggy face hewn out of rock, bespangled with drops of seawater. A thin line slit his lips and his voice roared forth like thunder in the open expanse of white sandy beach by the ocean.
“Come with me…”
She turned to the voice, which sounded different from the thunder she’d heard. But the face was the face of the merman. She screamed.
“Dorynda…?” the voice called her name again. This time there was no roll of thunder. She focused harder and the mist over her eyes lifted out of the room. Detective Forson observed her quietly. “Dorynda…, what happened?”
“Drowned,” the detective repeated.
“I was drowning.”
“You’ve been in this interrogation room for the past two hours, telling me nothing worth my time I might add,” the detective said in a tone of ringing disbelief. “I can’t see any water, I can’t see you flailing in anything even remotely connected with water.”
“Detective, I can practically taste the salt water in my mouth,” she said.
“Bullshit! For someone in the kind of shit you’ve got yourself in, you are so full of shit.”
“I’m not kidding,” she stated, needing desperately to be believed.
“Neither will prison be, if you don’t come clean. Your friend Selzing, at least you admit he was your friend, is dead. He was last seen with you, together. Two people have already confirmed that they saw you two walk out of that nightclub together. Now what I want to know is, what exactly happened after you left that nightclub?”
“I don’t know,” she wailed her response once more.
“Of course, you do,” Detective Forson shouted at her, angrily pounding the table with a fist. “I have been told you two were a hot pair, have been an item for a pretty long time. The entire clubhouse knows it. I also hear you have wanted to cool it, Dorynda. Your boyfriend Selzing told a friend of his that’s what you were trying to do. He didn’t want that, it seems, and yet you couldn’t get your hands completely off him.”
“It’s the other way round,” she shouted, startled at the depth of revelation that delved too deep into her privacy.
“That’s the point,” the detective said with a wicked smile. Dorynda winced. She’d fallen right into the trap the detective had sprung. Years of interrogating suspects had taught Forson well, and he prodded deeper, laying out bits of bait for her to bite. “He came onto you. Except it wasn’t the way you wanted it? Is that right? Did he get so rough you had to hit him? Or is violence part of your sex games? What happened that night?”
Dorynda buried her face in her hands and sobbed. Nervously, she bit down on her lower lip and let the tears flow unchecked. “I didn’t kill him,” she sobbed. Pulling a rigid self-control into place, she stopped crying. If the detective wanted to know the intimate dirty details, she would oblige him and free herself. “I must have spent about an hour, I think, with him.”
She maintained steady eye contact for a while before she responded. “Practising the Scented Garden routine from a new Kama Sutra sex manual he’d bought the week before. He wanted me to do things to him. You know, things that the manual says will bring people closer. And I did all of it. Then he got up, lit a joint, and began smoking as usual. I had to get back to the club. So I got up, pulled on my dress and told him I had to leave. He didn’t see me to the door like he usually did. He just lay there puffing his joint. But he was alive when I left the apartment. That’s all I know about that night before the police came over to the club and dragged me down here.”
Detective Forson knew better than to take this man-killer for her word. He’d seen too much handiwork of her ilk to blow every sense of sympathy he could ever feel. Besides, every murder needed solving regardless who was involved, beauty queen or drag queen.
The only interruption he’d had for hours came from the door. A cop entered the interrogation room, bent and spoke into his ear and promptly walked out. Forson straightened in his seat. His face looked petulant as he hitched his chin toward Dorynda, keeping her within his gaze.
“This is by no means solved, young lady,” he said authoritatively. “I will be talking to you again soon enough.” Laying a hand over hers to forestall her as if she would have bolted from the room or as if to buy her confidence, he added, “And don’t be making plans to go anywhere either.”
On his way out the door, he brushed against the man in three-piece suit. There was an inscrutable look in the man’s eyes. Surprise? Relief? Anger?
The man in the suit walked into the room and closed the door behind him. a cold wind blew through the room. It grew cold, got colder still and vapour began to puff from Dorynda’s nostrils and mouth.
“I’m your lawyer,” the man said. He had his back to Dorynda. As the walked the length of the interrogation room, the space shrunk around Dorynda, so tight it pushed her breath out of her body.
“I’m sorry…but I don’t know you.” Vapour poured out with each word and frosted in the air.
The man turned now. It was the face of the merman. “I told you … years ago … a long time ago … I’ll do anything for you.”
Dorynda shot off her seat so fast it fell over backward.
“I made that promise when you gave yourself to me. And it is a promise I swear to keep.” He covered the distance between them. From his height, looking down at her, he made her feel like a prey caught in a lair. He was the predator set to eat her up but wanting to play first with his prey before devouring it. The lawyer’s brown eyes turned to burning shards of amber in the merman’s face. “Why did you want to hurt me?”
“Hurt you?” she stuttered, backing even further away as far as the wall behind her would allow. “I don’t even know you. How can I hurt you?”
“Like you did with your husband…” he said in the roll-of-thunder voice of the merman.
“I don’t have a husband.”
“Selzing.” It was now the polished refined but angry voice of the lawyer in three-piece suit.
“Selzing was my fiancé, not my husband.”
“Like you are doing with the cop,” he ended, his voice reverting to the merman’s.
Panic filled her. It suddenly struck her that she was hearing too much than she could safely live with. Or this just wasn’t the right time to hear how Selzing had died.
He pushed forward, propelling her into the wall behind her. An electrifying blast of cold shot through her body at the contact of his body on hers. Behind and all around them, it began to snow in the room. Fast, rough and howling.
Her teeth chattered like castanets. But she wasn’t cold. Vapour streamed out of her nostrils and wordlessly parted lips. Vitality flowed out from her limbs. She looked helplessly vulnerable before him.
And then his voice, the familiar one from her memory, shocked her. “Come to me…”
As fast as though she’d been whipped into action, she docked from his embrace and darted out the door.
Outside the interrogation room policemen were shovelling an inches-thick blanket of snow from the corridors. They were all talking and barking orders. no one seemed to have noticed her. The voices became the same spine-tingling roll of thunder etched in her memory. It spoke the same thing. “Come to me…”
The voice came from behind her. She turned and looked through the glass of the interrogation room. The merman wasn’t in there anymore. And she hadn’t seen him come through the door either. But Detective Forson stood behind the glass, his faces pressed up against it, clear in places where his breath had hit, spots that were now frosting over. Snow had filled the room now. And the cold had whitened his face. His eyes were open and stared straight at Dorynda. The detective was dead.
And the men, all of them with the same face and voice, stopped shovelling snow. They began to walk toward her, chanting those three frightening words.
She spun on her heels and bolted out of the police station. Snow tumbled out the door after her.
Outside, it was raining hard. The street was wet and slick. Streetlights and car headlights reflected off the patches of water on the street. A car hurtled past and sent water from a puddle flying at Dorynda.
“You chump,” she cursed after the rapidly departing pair of red taillights. Now she was wet, she might as well walk in the rain.
Like someone had pushed a switch, the cars dematerialised from the street. It was empty, dark, wet. She stopped dead in the middle of the road and her heart pounded in her ribcage with dread. She seemed alone in the world.
At the end of the street her eyes could see, she saw the figure materialise out of the shadows, like a mirage rising in the middle of a hot sun-beaten road, like a plume of grey suffocating smoke.
The figure of the lawyer, the merman, the man.
She turned to flee toward the opposite end of the street. But he was behind her. She twisted around, and was already running before she could see whether the apparition was still there. She bumped right into him.
“You can’t run away from me. I have come through ages to find you.” He took her hand, lifted it with the ring on her third left finger and his eyes turned amber. He slid the finger right into his mouth. Dorynda was too weak to resist. His hold on her was like poisonous sleep medication. But when her finger slid back out of his mouth, the ring was no more.
“I’m back,” he said. “Now your husband is out of the way. He tried to interfere in our destiny. So did the cop. They are gone. We can be together forever.”
“You killed Selzing?” she demanded, struggling to find her voice.
“I killed him your husband … before … in our last life. He wanted to stop us from being together. In every lifetime, if he tries to keep us apart, I will kill him over and over again.”
Rigid with fear, Dorynda couldn’t speak.
“They have all been trying to make you forget,” he said, bringing his face down to hers, so close he touched her nose with the tip of his, ran his fingers over the slender column of her throat, watched the blood pulse through her jugular and looked like he was straining at a leash to keep from devouring her. “If you look deep into your soul, into the part of your self you have locked away … you will find us. Let me show you.”
“Show me what?”
He passed a hand over her face. “The story of us…”
Both of them were there. Their realm. The beach. Completely naked apart from the loincloths that swathed their middles. A god and his goddess. Cavorting in the sand.
She scooped warm sand into both palms, lifted her hands and let the grains flow onto the cleavage of her bosom, smoothing the warm sand grains with her hands. He joined her, a porter working on beautiful pottery, and worked the grains of sand around her rock-solid tits, moulding her to fit his palms. She strained against the abrasion and muscle of his palms and her legs turned to water.
With both hands, he scooped up seawater and sand and dumped the payload onto her tummy. They looked ancient and picturesque among the ferns that sprouted by the sea. He rubbed the sand over the cleft of her thighs, his fingers glanced the mound of hot flesh.
A flame of lust erupted between them. He reached for both her arms and pulled them above her head, holding them in the sand. With his body leaning into hers, between her thighs, she was primed. Like a contortionist, she lifted one leg over his back and her toes caught the strap that held his loincloth in place. She got rid of that piece of encumbrance, set his loins free to join hers.
The juncture was combustive and fiery, their substances of life meshed as one. Their bodies were cast as one, a pair of moving, writhing snakes in the sand by the sea, rippling, arching, undulating, and savage.
In the lush green around them, a sabre-toothed tiger crossed paths with a mammoth. Both poised for a fight to defend their territories. The sabre-toothed tiger snarled; the mammoth trumpeted.
But the growl of carnal animal pleasure that tore itself loose from the vocal cords of the merman and tumbled from his lips frightened both animals. They knew who ruled the domain. They fled.
Laughing, she rose and ran into the water. She was waist deep in the water when he caught her and held her. The laughter bubbled deep between them. When he lifted her into the air, she wrapped her legs about his waist and locked her ankles behind him. He bent her over backward so that her hair dipped into the water and spread out around her head like a fan.
In the moonlight, they were perfect, two pairs of amber eyes staring into each other’s soul. One hand supported her arched back, the other played with her flesh. She straightened and lowered herself, inch by hot delicious inch, onto the stiff hard flesh that prodded under her bottom. Satyr and water nymph. Two forces joined as one. Nothing could put asunder.
He moved his hand from behind her and ran five fingers down her face, branding her, marking her for eternity.
In the wake of his fingers down her face trailed five red lines of blood. Only then did he notice the jagged blunt blade buried deep in her back. Only then did he notice the man who had risen from the water standing behind her, puffing with glee, gloating over his deed.
He pulled the blade out of her back and drove into the man’s right eye. Both scuffled. She floated in the water as they fought. She watched her lover reach for the blade and drive it into his opponent.
He had victory. He’d lost his beloved. He had nothing else to live for.
He slashed himself in the chest, a long diagonal line from the left shoulder to the right hip, then another diagonal from the right shoulder, and another slash over the muscles of his stomach. He ran the blade across his throat. Blood spurted in a warm red jet into the water.
She lifted her head then and screamed his name: “Filadelfia!”
Too late. In a final act of self-immolation, he drove the blade into his stomach. She knelt beside his body, cradled his head to her chest and mourned.
Again, the hand passed over her eyes.
Five fingers trailed five paths of tears down her face. Two fingers lingered on her lips, disappeared into her mouth. She was on her back on the rain-wet street. He was on top of her. She cradled his head between her thighs, writhing, mindlessly surrendering herself to his mouth, arching her hips when he released her. When he moved forward, his face hovered over hers so close only the film of frosty breath between them remained. He was staring down into her face, recording every contour for memory.
His amber eyes were expressive windows into his soul. “It is going to be different this time.” His words broke the spell he’d cast over her.
“The man…” she said in a voice that sounded so unlike hers. “The man you killed in the sea.”
“Your husband. He wanted to stop us. He didn’t want for us to be together.”
“And you killed yourself?”
“So I will always be reborn when you come back to life. We’ll always be together. We take different life forms in each lifetime,” he said in his lawyer person. The wet-in-the-rain three-piece suit lawyer form she had seen shifted into the image of the satyr, then the naked savage with the loincloth around his waist, and finally to the amber-eyed merman. “But we are always the same.” The hard length of his heat burned a searing path up her thighs despite the cold of the rain and the wetness of the macadam beneath her body.
There was a drumroll of thunder as he penetrated her body. Right in the middle of the empty street. Her body arched up to meet his when moments later his life force spewed out to join with hers. The suited lawyer/naked savage/amber-eyed merman collapsed on top of Dorynda.
Bliss. Peace. Rain. Cold. Mist howling through empty streets. No movement. No stirring.
“Filadelfia,” she said in the tremulous passion-soaked voice of the woman on the beach. Dorynda lifted the lawyer’s head off her chest. But it was the merman’s face she saw. A line of blood ran across his forehead. “What are you going to do?”
Disengaging from her, he rose and turned his back on her. He reached behind and clutched at the base of his neck. Then he pulled his scalp clean off his skull baring the facial muscles, as they would be in an anatomy dissection class.
“Stop it,” she screamed at the horrendous sight, willing it to go away. It didn’t.
She was still screaming when he ripped his entire skin off and stepped out of the bloody mass of skin like he would step out of dirty discarded overalls. Then he tore off his facial muscles. Nasalis. Frontalis. Mentalis. Procerus. Platysma. One by one until the lobes of his skull showed and the disrupted vessels leaked blood all over.
His bare jawbones moved when he spoke to her. “I have to do this,” the bare teeth said, the eyes of amber set deep in their sockets unblinking. “It is my destiny.”
His body was a bleeding rangy bundle of muscles, red where the vessels remained intact, white where the tendons, cartilage and bones were visible. He reached down and stripped the iliacus and sartorius muscles from his thighs, then the femoris, rectus and gracilis. Each hand worked on the opposite arm, ripping off the biceps, triceps, deltoids, pectoralis from his chest, the serratus from around his ribs. The muscles of his buttocks dropped off to join the mass of bleeding flesh on the ground.
He reached into his ribcage, ripped out his heart and placed it in her hand. “Let this always be with you, because it is yours for all eternity,” the skeleton in front of her said. When he bent to kiss her, Dorynda was too frightened to pull away from him, blood and bones and muscles and nerves. “Sure as the sun rises and the moon sets and it rains, we shall meet again … in our next lifetime.”
The skeleton crumbled before her. She clutched the warm still-beating heart, with blood frothing out of the vessels. She heard the sound on all sides. Sirens blaring from police squad cars and lights flashing in her eyes and a voice bellowing through a bullhorn.
“Your hands above your head,” the police ordered her over the bullhorn. “Now, Dorynda.”
And another voice, more muted, spoke in her ear. “Come with me…”
Causes Dili San Jules Supports
antismoking, alcoholics anonymous, child labour, animal cruelty, environment