I guess ''content notes'' are due: ritualistic sacrifice, blades, cutting, blood, eroticised death. And so on.
It's so vivid. The colors and contrasting light. And I feel so warm. I tilt my head to the side and look to your eyes, let a smile curl up the side of my mouth. I'm calm, but can hardly breathe. I'm aroused way beyond what I can remember. And yet I feel guilty for sexualizing this, stealing it and making myself the centerpiece. I pull against the chains, my eyes roll closed and I let out a loud moan.
We walk on, ceremonially, the two women leading the way, the beast behind them, your head between the horns, face up, your wrist and ankles bound with dun rope, chains keeping the whole ensemble in place. I keep my hand on the animal's flank, warm and furry, touching you now and then briefly.
My clothes are changed, the dark cargos, the white shirt gone. I'm wearing a long robe of undyed linen, thick fabric but soft as if after very many washes. My hair is loose and down, but not tangled any more, longer and thicker than it was before, falling down in heavy waves. Leather sandals on my feet and, yes, again, in a suddenly clear echo of something that is less than a memory, a snake bracelet curved around my right wrist and a similar one on my left ankle.
Sadness and intense elation both wash over me, spill into my smile back to you. You look beautiful. . Gold horns like a lyre above your head. I can't take my eyes off you. Maybe I shouldn't. Your eyes close as I move my fingers from the beast's fur to your thigh.
We are coming out of the building, into a wider, open space. A large glade surrounded by trees. Golden light, a lot of shades of green, flowers. The women that were walking in front of us have stopped in the middle, on opposite sides of what looks like a rectangular, slightly raised slab of white stone. They're kneeling down.
My fingers find the dagger - the dagger from the labyrinth, the one with a round lapis lazuli pommel - in the folds of the robe. The animal walks to the stone and stops too. Silence. I can hear its breathing, a little laboured, with an odd snort every now and then. You seem peaceful, despite your position. I turn and make a step toward the beast, close, the folds of the robe are brushing its side. I touch you. First my left hand, the leather wrist bands a contrast against the paleness of my skin, flat below your navel.
Your skin feels warm and alive against my hand and for a brief moment I step out of this reverie, this strange state, this ceremonial, ritualistic high and all I want is to take you away, for myself, mine, just mine, not given to this ritual. My cheeks feel wet, I realise I am crying, voicelessly and expressionlessly. Everything else is still and silent, as if time was suspended.
My right hand finds the dagger. I pull it out. The sounds start again, and some movement. People who've gathered around react to the sight of the knife. They seem to recognise it with an audible, collective inhale. There's now a circle around us. Not very close but close enough to see individual faces. The women kneeling at the stone raise their faces up and towards us. Everyone is waiting for something. For me to do something.
I put the tip of the night to your chest. Make a slow, very shallow cut, a long thin line pearling with red, all the way from the collarbone down your sternum.
I'm not crying anymore.
I love you.
More cuts, a little deeper. Blood dripping onto the beast's fur.
I'm close to orgasm.
Blood soaks into my robe, disappears, leaving no stains.
The animal has turned sideways so it's parallel to rather than facing the stone slab. The steady murmur from the crowd is growing, becoming musical, something between a whisper and a chant.
The pommel of the dagger feels hot. The fingers of my right hand are stained blue, woad blue, the left one is covered in blood.
You're still fully erect but breathing slow and far away, though your eyes remain open. The anticipation becomes nearly unbearable.
I'm not sure if I'm moving or if something is moving me.
I draw lines on your face with my blue-stained fingers. I use my blood stained fingers to draw the same pattern on mine. Then both, on the beast's forehead.
Maybe the animal is to be the real sacrifice, a symbolic replacement for the human one. Or maybe it's the other way round. Or maybe it's a choice that can be made.
As soon as the last thought becomes clear in my head I know this is exactly the case. And I realise that it's what everyone is waiting for. That this ritual has been repeated for a very long time. That we are the last in a long line of people who did this. That sometimes it was a man bound to the back of the beast, and a woman walking next to them, and sometimes it was a woman on a beast's back, but the choice was always the same, and the decision they made was always the same too.
I can feel the eyes of people around me, especially the two women kneeling at the slab. Limpid open, beautiful with sadness and pleading. I cut the binds.
The knife goes through the chains without any resistance. As if it was made for it. Maybe it was.
Your wrists and ankles are still tied together as you slide down the animal's side onto the grass. Blood streaks smeared along the fur. It should be horrific but isn't. Maybe it's the way my body vibrates with erotic charge. Maybe it's your face, calm, open-eyed, both here and far away. Or maybe the gold light, bright yet soft.
I realise that I must decide. Now. Kneeling on the ground between the bulk of the animal and you. Looking into your eyes again, heavy lidded but open. Searching for the answer. The yes or no.
Then it comes. Your mouth moves, in something between a moan and a skewed smile. You nod. Or maybe I just imagine it, but I can't be imagining it because it seems that everybody - not just I, but the women at the stone, the crowd standing in the circle around us, and even the animal itself, saw it, heard it, felt it.
Felt the same wave of acquiescence, a yielding, and although yielding should feel merely like lack of resistance, and it usually does, this time it's different. This time, I am receiving something, but not to keep. As if you were giving your body, your self, of yourself, not to me but through me somehow.
The beast stands up. It tilts its head with what seems like a knowing look at you, shakes it, snorts and slowly walks away, people parting to let it pass, reaching out to touch it on its way, dabbing faint smears of blood - your blood - from its hide on their cheeks and foreheads. The kneeling women move up to us.
You get moved somewhat unceremoniously onto the stone. I can't help but think of it as an altar though there's no adornments of any kind. Just a smooth, white slab, likely marble, with a noticeable, shallow hollow along its length and three bronze rings, heavy and polished to a golden glow - so smooth and shiny that I wonder if they are not actually gold - one in the centre of the western end and two in the corners of the eastern one. And don't ask me how I know where east and west are here, but I do.
Your hands are fastened to the single ring. Your feet to the other two. The woman at the head end leans down and kisses you on the mouth. It's a slow lingering kiss, the black ringlets of her hair falling over your shoulders and chest. I can feel it. I can taste you on my lips and tongue as she kisses you. She straightens up and goes back to her position, a kneeling sentinel.
The other woman moves between your spread legs and starts stroking your hips and thighs, then leans down and takes your cock in her mouth. I can feel that too. I can feel how hard and hot you still are, I can taste the musky brine of the precum, I can feel involuntary little thrust of your hips as she closes her lips tighter.
I'm incredibly aroused, so much that my body is almost separated from my mind. I said I was close to orgasm earlier but now I'm practically coming - or maybe I'm not. Maybe this intense, very much physical, whole body experience of pleasure, joy and elation has nothing to do with sex as such but I'm just using sex as the nearest proxy because there is nothing better available. And it lasts. And lasts. Unabated.
The eastern end woman goes back to her place. I close my eyes, maybe black out for a short time because when I come to I'm shifted in space a bit, leaning over you, my left hand on your tied wrists, fingers brushing the gold metal of the ring, the tip of the dagger slicing along the inner surface of your forearm. Then the next one. The blood is flowing slowly, not onto the stone but into the ground to its side. I catch your eyes just before they close. I see your mouth moving in the shape of "Yes", silently, then opening to deep, long moan of an exhale. I move down and make two more cuts high on your inner thighs.
Your back arches and you come. Or rather, start to. Instead of the few spasms of ejaculation, they seem to be continuing. I see you, in front of me, on the marble slab, bleeding out and orgasming. My white robe immaculate despite all that's happened. And I feel you inside me. Hot and hard, pulsing, spilling out, your chest sticky with blood against my bare breasts. I scream. I scream when my pleasure peaks in a prolonged spasm of an immense orgasm.
And I scream in terror because I can feel the slippery stickiness of the blood on my chest and I can feel you go limp in my arms and maybe, just maybe, we are not in a mythlight gold-lit labirynthine glade at all, and maybe I have done something horrific rather than good, maybe it's all been for nothing, or for worse than nothing, or maybe I just have no idea what happened and where we are.
I am not sure if I am coming to, or blacking out, or going to some other place than the there we are at, the place where it happens, but wherever I am, I see the glade and the altar, from afar.
There's a man walking through the crowd, to a rumble of cheers, the people welcoming and honouring him as a long lost king, bard, prophet. Coming closer to the centre from a direction exactly opposite to where the beast walked away. He's carrying a lyre, golden, made, literally, of the animal's horns, and there is something in his gait that resembles the beast's. The women at the altar get up and turn to him, joyfully, then they all stand above you, heads bowed down, as in thanks.
I see the glade, and the altar, from behind a gossamer veil of shimmering air, drowning in a haze, and I see you, neither alive nor dead but suspended at the very peak of ecstatic arrival and departure, bleeding out and climaxing forever.