Beyond the Island
by John W. Steele
Young Brian Mudd is proud of his ability to travel in the astral realms — until he encounters Lord Nagual, who prefers to be called “Max.” Brian becomes Max’s apprentice and finds him a harsh, even cruel master but nonetheless an effective instructor. Meanwhile, Brian is taken with Karen Frost, with whom he feels he has a karmic link. And Brian’s karma is trouble.
Ursula was a chatterbox, and though she attracted me deeply on the physical level, I didn’t like her. Her head was as empty as a box of shadows. All she talked about were the wealthy and interesting men she’d known in the past. She raved about how she’d passed up an opportunity to act in a movie because her third husband, a man named Milton, would not allow her to do it.
“Don’t tell anyone about this, honey, but after we got divorced, I burned Milton’s house down.”
“I won’t tell a soul, I assure you. Do you like to play blackjack?”
She looked at me askance. “Well what would you have done? I could have been a star.”
“I kind of like poker, myself. It has a certain tension I find exhilarating.”
“We’d been separated about a month when I realized just how foolish I’d been. I still had a key to his house and I snuck in one night while he was asleep. I crept into his bedroom and pulled out the hunting knife my new boyfriend Alex had given me. Alex is on parole but he’s so much fun.”
“So how long have you been living in White Plains?”
“I raised the blade over my head and screamed at the top of my lungs. You should have seen the look on Milton’s face when he woke up. He acted like he was paralyzed. I brought the knife down right next to his ear and plunged it deep into the pillow.”
I let out a heavy sigh and stared out the window.
“I told Milton if he tried to cheat me out of any of the money in his pension fund, I’d kill him. Then I ran out to the car. Alex threw a jar of gasoline into the living room and flicked a lit cigarette inside the house. Flames poured from the window as we sped away.” She erupted with a screeching laugh. “I guess I fixed his ass.”
I looked her for a moment, then closed my mouth. “Well, what happened to him?” I asked dryly.
“Oh, I don’t know. I heard he moved to Canada. My lawyer can’t find him.”
And so, like a festival of endless delights, our evening unfolded. Words flowed from her mouth in a steady stream, like water dripping from a broken pipe. She did not sense or seem to care that I found her rambling boring and monotonous. I felt intimidated by the depth of her worldly experience and the intensity of her emotions. She was lost in the narcissistic glory of her self, and I was little more than a mirror in which she viewed the varied facets of her bloated ego. I’d been impounded by an emotional vampire, and I could feel her sucking the psychic energy from my spirit.
As we drove along the countryside, she reached into her purse and fished out a rhinestone-studded container. She unscrewed the gold amulet at her neck and removed a tiny spoon. Ursula dipped the spoon in the container several times and snorted the white powder in its basin.
“Would you like some?” she asked.
I knew the spoon would be my downfall, a one-way ticket to Tyreus. “I have a heart condition. It’s probably not a good idea. But knock yourself out,” I replied.
“Oh that’s too bad, doll. You don’t know what you’re missing. You look far too healthy to have a problem like that. Maybe you’re not getting enough attention? Or maybe you’re in First Step? I’m not powerless over anything.”
She smiled and giggled, then lit up a cigarette. Several smoke-rings sailed from her mouth and dangled in the air. A smile formed on her face, and a tiny orange flame ignited in her eyes. She looked at me seductively, and her voice grew smooth and silky.
“You know, you’re a rather vulnerable but deliciously sexy man, Brian. I’ve got something for you.”
She got down on her knees and crawled on all fours like a tigress along the floor of the cab. She raised her head, looked in my eyes, and tugged on the zipper of my trousers. My body tensed, and I grabbed her shoulders.
“Not now,” I said.
Ursula frowned, her forehead wrinkled, and a look of defiant indignation formed in her features. Her face turned red, and a blue vein inflated in her neck.
“What are you, some kind of a faggot?”
“No, it’s not that at all. It’s just that...”
“I knew you were too good to be true. You’re nothing but a queer in a hunk’s body!” She cackled like a maniac, and I knew she’d been scourged.
“I’ve been taken by pretty boys before!” she screamed. “You’re just an impotent flame!”
As quick as a cat, Ursula leapt to her feet and pummeled me. She was surprisingly strong. She kicked, punched, and slapped me in a vigorous unrelenting assault. I really didn’t blame her but I was more frustrated than she was. She was following natural instinct while I was bound by a code of fear. I realized there was no way to explain this to her so I let her pound on me a while. I felt like I deserved it. Max told me that the island is the way it is because women could not handle men physically. If they could, the world would be more civilized.
I began to like her spirit, but regardless of her anger, she was no match for my considerable physical prowess. It was a simple task for me to spin her around and place her in a chokehold. I took a syringe from the pocket of my jacket and booted the contents of the barrel deep in her hip. In a few moments, she was sleeping like a baby, and I laid her on the seat.
The sun was gone behind the mountain and the spirit of night emerged. Throughout the ordeal, the chauffeur did not interfere or slow the limo. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I told the driver to take us back to the hotel in New York. But he just kept driving like a mindless idiot. My head throbbed, and I grew frustrated with his indifference.
“Hey bonehead! For two hundred dollars an hour, you don’t listen very well do you? Turn this thing around. We’re going back home.” The driver did not respond. The limo jolted slightly and the vehicle picked up speed. Suddenly we were sailing down the interstate at what must have been one hundred miles per hour. I slammed open the window of the partition. When I looked in the rearview, a feeling like ice water shot down my spine. I recoiled in horror.
Reflected in the mirror were two enormous glowing green eyes. There was no face or body in the mirror, only the eyes. The effect the orbs of light had on me was maddening. I realized Lord Nagual was driving.
My heart pounded, and I collapsed in the seat. The tension of his presence grew stronger, and my breathing came in short, spasmodic gasps. We drove in silence a long time, deep into the vast meadows of farmland that sprawled on both sides of the road.
We entered a large field brimming with stalks of corn. The Nagual stopped the car and ordered me to remove the girl and place her on the road. It was a beautifully clear night. The open sky was blazing with stars. I laid Ursula in the dirt and bowed my head. I heard a voice behind me and I cringed.
“Do you give the girl to me in good conscience... without guilt or remorse?”
“She is yours to do with as you please, my lord.”
But inside, I felt great trepidation over my involvement in this endeavor. And I felt pity for the self-indulgent trollop lying at my feet. Lord Nagual seemed to sense my ambivalence.
“Good... very good,” he said. “We’re making progress.”
He ordered me to get on my knees and told me if I tried to look at him, I would die and be immediately reborn in Tyreus. I feared him and had no doubt he would make good his intention if I defied him.
I heard a flapping sound like the wings of an enormous bat and I saw the hem of Ursula’s gown rise from the road and flutter in the wind. The hiss of the wings diminished until all that could be heard was the swamp peepers squeaking in the darkness. When I dared to look up, I saw what looked like a luminous symmetrical shadow dissolve into the black mystery of night.
After an hour or so, I knew the ordeal was over, and I drove back to the Regency in Manhattan. When I made it to my suite, I pulled a bottle of Turkey from the back bar and poured a long drink. I started to shake and then I wept.
By the time the first rays of the morning sun filtered through the skyline, I’d consumed the contents of the bottle. I threw off my clothing and fell into bed.
I don’t know how long I was out, but I was awakened by what sounded like an enormous bell ringing somewhere far in the distance. The soothing voice of its chime comforted my burning feelings of guilt, and the roundness of the sound reverberated in the still air of the early morning.
I walked over to the window and gazed out at the skyline. It was raining. Heavy mist hung over the avenue far below. In the distance I saw the yellowed face of a fabulous clock and I knew it was Big Ben. Somehow I’d been transported to the Palace Court Hotel in London.
Copyright © 2009 by John W. Steele