STRANGE LANDS

***UPDATE – a slightly more polished and beautifully typeset version is part of the MORE LOVE book.

(made available to read online for free once-in-a-while or generally with a donation based password.)


[ a short story ]

 

I

All the way down from the mountains, he came upon the gates of a strange land. Entry was not a problem. He was given the permission to stay for a full month and a crisp stash of cash to spend on whatever tickled his fancy. The condition was to get an entirely new outfit from a well-known local fashion branch, so as not to cause any obstacle to the citizen’s smooth daily flow through the strange land. It was a highly sophisticated place. Everyone was free to do whatever they pleased.


“Here’s one of our new pods, with a smashing app to click-and-scroll through a tagged map, to hunt fitting gear to wear around here”, the baby-face-shaven custom’s officer charged with handing out grants and benefits said to our stranger.
<We better get you stitched up quick, fellow, who do you think you are, turning up like a stranger>, our stranger meanwhile intercepted the warden’s trail of thought. He took the money from the unflinching hand stretched out in front of him and slipped through the electric security gates downtown.

Slick and bouncy brushed-steel cars were zipping past continuously. High-risen window-panes bounced-off gobsmacking blinding reflections from a white sun that looked halogenic. Passing-by people fingered their slim, sterile gadgets. Most eyes were transfixed on the screens. <Hunger>, <Sex>, <Entertainment>, <Dazzle>, <Glitz>, <Money>, <Achievement>. Our stranger picked up various nuggets of wants and desires. Birds were missing but metal planes and sexy choppers bruised the sky for a change. A broad street he entered promised one of the shops he was contractually required to visit and purchase from. He found it, walked in, chose, paid and left again.
One of the slick cars hit him square. That it was a red one was all our stranger saw, before gracing the pavement by sacrificing his blood over the zebras. They had left him no chance not to faint.
In a hospital bed, a woman in a clear-cut white overcoat told him that it was not a problem getting him booked into rehabilitation. The money he had on him was enough and plenty. His right leg was encrusted in plaster.
“Can I leave my signature on your thing?”, an elderly man wearing oversized nappies croaked from the bed next to him. <You help me survive at least another six weeks with your strangely exciting presence next to me>, came as a mental wave, long before the acoustics of the spoken words had reached their completion.
A female nurse, maybe she was a doctor, tugged our stranger in and patted his shoulder condescendingly. She gave him a big smile. <Poor sod. Life is a bitch. How glad I am that I’m not in your pathetic position.>
<I feel sorry for you, sweetie, yet I wish someone would feel sorry for me, too>, came meanwhile from a bed on his other side, carrying a fully-wrapped patient, whose two protrusions in the upper-half of he body identified as possibly female.

Next day, a monorail shuttle-bus traversed him from the hospital-bed right to the appropriate rehabilitation centre. It was a cold, grey winter morning, yet cascades of multi-coloured neon-lights flared-up the streets below gleefully, all the way through their journey. The few other patients in his capsule gave the impression of still being sedated, from pills they were required to take the evening before. Violin music from invisible speakers helped them to straighten their spines. Our stranger could not detect any mind activity whatsoever on any of them. At destination, he hobbled with the others, under the leadership of a springy, welcoming girl-nurse, to their pre-booked auditorium.
The large antiseptic room they’d been seated in hosted other convalescence groups as well. Lots and lots of therapy blurb went round and round among the patients. In the conceptualised vanishing point of the circular seating arrangement, right in front of a daily-polished panorama view over the glass-and-steel tech-scape of the strange land, sat a woman of about thirty. She had two younger assistants on either side who she seemed to compete with more in terms of juvenile prancing, rather than a demonstrative display of authority. Her voice had just enough of a girlish lisp to convincingly compensate for the profoundness of her scientific opinions. She must’ve been really beautiful at the age she was pretending to still be. Her two assistants nodded whenever her ministered verdict conveyed opinions above-the-average weight. They were more young than beautiful, though quite beautiful they were.
“We have a new patient among us today”, the alpha-woman sprinkled into the group. Heads everywhere in the circle turned towards our stranger. The sheer volume of congealed views and opinions, suddenly cascading towards his mind-reading sensors, forced him to block everything for the time being. And thus, matters proceeded as they were. There was to be no further interference from either his or their side.
After about a week of being shuttled back and forth, he was informed by an even younger female assistant of one of the already quite young female assistants – a girl that must’ve been only ten – that the mistress of her mistress wanted to see him privately. <I’d do, too, if I were her>, came the searing waft of an underscored mind-wave as our stranger quietly took in this new unfoldment of events.

“The money that you’ve received to play with has vaporized from your pockets, my dear friend”, the head therapist unburdened herself straight upon his arrival. <Look what I’ve got here, you gorgeous bastard, and if you refuse I’d probably have to kill you>, was transmitted through our stranger’s tuned-in mental sensors. He involuntarily smiled at the woman’s confidence. Her apartment was more than lush so it was true if that’s what she’d got, she’d got something there. And that the money they’d given him was completely gone was according to truth, as well. Overall, he couldn’t help feeling duped but reckoned that deep down, everyone in this strange land must’ve felt that way, too.
The advance was blunt alright. The woman approached him and opened her gown. He cast his glance away from her two exercised mounds, over her shoulders, to meet the crystal-shelf bearing the armoured weight of a busily frequented bar. He needn’t blink his eye or lift one of his fingers. The crystal tower collapsed in itself.
The naked two mounds of its owner continued jutting towards his face while the head of the mounds’ owner jerked backwards to face the disaster. Of course, it was hard to believe that something like this could happen all by itself, and of course, that wasn’t what happened.
Our stranger took his crutches from beside the sofa where he’d lounged and without further ado limped to the door at the other end of the room. The randy doctor wasn’t quite sure which direction to look at, as the disaster now kept unfolding on both sides of her.
When the door was swallowed back into the lock provided behind him, the particular smack-sound it made, seemed to originate from the mind of the same acoustic designer as the stereo doorbell that he’d rung half an hour earlier. Our stranger then knew, as he walked down the corridor and into the shuttle-taxi that was to ship him back to his hospital bed – he felt it without the shadow of doubt – that all of this meant some serious trouble.

The familiar nurse was already waiting next to the bed where he normally slept. She was dressed all in red this time and smiled at him most welcomingly. He climbed under the duvet and let her give an injection that she administered while humming a soothing nursery rhyme. <Good night, sweetheart. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.> Then our stranger slept.

When he woke up, the room he was in was padded with white leather cushions, even the ceiling was padded. Lying on the floor naked, in the bleached whiteness of such an illustriously lit chamber, he thought his plastered right leg had disappeared for a while.
“Welcome to our level A prison, mister. You are now under custody”, a high-pitched girl’s voice announced through hidden speakers cheerfully. Since the mental carriers of the wave proved empty however much he tried to hear them, he knew his case had been handed over to machines now. Our stranger then understood that the time has come to heal quickly. And so he did. The plaster on his leg was now a mere formality. Like the show he was in. Everything became entirely fleeting.
Naked, he was then made to appear before a jury. Although no one showed up behind the enormous white desk he was brought before, the voices that poured in from hidden speakers, this time, carried mental human notions.
“The charges are rape”, a friendly girl’s voice sang. Meanwhile, <you’ve run out of credit in our land and we’ve become bored and tired to carry on playing with you.> And another one, <The driver of the car whose job it was to hit you has been compensated for his effort by an equal amount of everything that you lost.> The latter caused him to smile a little as it made some kind of abstract sense and anyway, he could live with that.
“The penalties for rape are on account with treason in our land, stranger”, another female voice twittered into the room politely and ever so softly.
<That is even more so if we were to proceed pressing for charges for evil magical practice>, the doctor whose firm mounds he’d been elected to see was mingling into the mental space that increasingly felt like an evil cloud attempting to lick its way into his bare body. He stopped listening.

Later, another two nurses, dressed in deep puple, virginal and sublime, entered the room they’d brought him back to, from two doors on each side. He played along one more time, as they gave him injections on the respective buttock belonging to the side of their incoming. One was orange and the other one green. Our stranger worked off the drugs and the sadness while following the girls to what must’ve been the assassination chamber. They provided stringed symphonies of subdued Mozart for the death-sentenced.
The two girls left, smiling and flicking their eyelashes mock-teasingly before the white doors slid shut. It was only a matter of counting to nine until our stranger reached tranquility and did his thing again. Cameras first. All the other devices come next.
Fifteen minutes later he was on the plane, dressed aptly, unblemished and pure. He looked on the runway from the window to his left. When the strange land appeared from bird’s-eye view in all its glittering glory, he closed his eyes for a brief moment.
When he opened them again, the strange land was gone.
Some people, who happened to also look out the plane‘s windows at the time, weren’t sure whether they could believe what they saw, and later tried to cope with the shock, by spreading rumours of miraculously disintegrating lands into dry deserts.
Our stranger, though, without any further complication, upon landing, went to the custom’s booth of his next destination.

 

II

Border control, this time appeared to be more strict. Though the permission to stay was now for a year, no money was being given, but via filling out various forms, our stranger had to commit himself to forced labour and schooling, as a binding condition for his unfettered stay.
In his hand a map and a set of instructions, our stranger was required to head straight for his allotted accommodation. The people that he passed moved fluently. Traces of happiness could be seen on most of their faces. Everyone seemingly went about their lives according to a set plan. The things on their minds didn’t appear to be any particular things on their minds, but rather faint incantations of what would lie immediately ahead of them during the next couple of hours. Juicy, purposeful bubbles of love-and-work blend.
Our stranger’s allocated room was damp, tiny and bugged, in more than one way. The so-called landlord, a small guy with a moustache, at first sight regretted our stranger’s maleness as the new lodger, but settled, a couple of breaths later, for the comfort that this in turn implied, of not having to do any work at all for the profit he was making through his government contract. He left with a sharp, “If you need anything, …”, that was laced with a mental <sweet dreams, dude>. There was nothing to unpack for our stranger. Also, he better made his way to the first entry on the list of possible employments, before his new suit caught the stains and smells of where he was made to stay.
He was successful in securing the third job on the list. He wouldn’t have actually needed the suit at all, as any of the persons in charge to take on new staff, were supplied by merely material from the government, and didn’t need to go as far as probing their subjects for any attitude problems, such as a dangerous propensity for resistance. Any such propensity on our stranger’s part would’ve been far outweighed by the stridency of the need for ever more workforce by most of the employers on his list.
The so-called work-for-the-force consisted simply of pulling a lever down to galvanise plastic-plates on an assembly-line, at a rate of thirty-five times per minute, for at least three hours in a row. In order to pay the rent, he was required to go through three intervals of three hours, each and every day of the week. To be able to buy a little bit of cream on his coffee, another two or three of those units would’ve helped. For the first month, the amount of work pressure was somewhat alleviated by the requirement to attend morning-classes in school.

Yes, unlike the ‘free’ strange land earlier, there was an open philosophy underpinning the foundations, ideas and proceedings of this particular land. Of all the thirty-or-so students sitting in class, most of their minds were stalled, except for the challenges that were presented to them right in front. “Equality”, “Prosperity”, “Belief”, “Structure”, “Security”, Self-worth”, “Fountain of Resources”, there was nothing of impenetrable meaning that was left out of the educational messaging service. Even “Truth” and “True History” were touched upon.
The strange land was a Glory, a rare Pearl. Its heroes were above everyone and everything else. Some of the hymns on heroes, sung by hopeful, aspiring citizens – the heroes themselves had composed, so great they were. Everyone was so occupied with growth of any kind, that they didn’t even have the time to glorify all their greatnesses into the heavens they were really deserving. Our stranger listened and took notes. Any propensity of resistance was certainly not intended to interfere with any propensity of the strange land to succeed in its strange mission.
Doing his job later that afternoon, was the easiest thing our stranger had ever had the opportunity to do. Having a lunch break and socialising with his fellow men and women, proved much more difficult, though. People from all walks of life and of all ages, male and female, bright and dim, real and fake, were purposefully jumbled together. “Equality”. There was maybe also something in the canteen coffee, a ‘spiked lunch’, but at any rate, everyone was unusually calm, content and happy. People conversed only about everyday things. The weather, their sleeping habits, their tiny alterations from an otherwise absolutely strict day-after-day regime. And there really were no dissatisfied over- or undertones in their mental projections, either.
All of their beliefs and purposes were firmly kept in check. Screens big enough to be far away from the central arena fed the hall with smooth propaganda imagery, glorifying the land and its people. Everyone had a job, food and shelter. Everyone was free to enjoy whatever spare time they’d been given, to marry, have kids, prosper and propagate their great essences and values. And everyone’s equality would never cease to compel them to stay in line, like the pieces of defence-contract-machinery on the conveyor-belt that kept coming and coming, at neat and polite intervals day after day.

After a couple of weeks, a female workmate got closer to our stranger during a lunch break. While the morning school had so far yielded only dread and fury (one of the ‘pupils’ had to be forcefully extracted during an attack of uncontrollable screaming, one day), the treadmill of work was almost fun in comparison. That was – had he not seen the fundamental problem of the situation everyone was in. There existed only surface and the lie that kept it alive was being polished and nurtured by everyone who wished to retain their sanity. ‘Insanity’ was the watch word, the worst-case scenario, and it wasn’t to be seen anywhere. Although underneath the vague smiles and the mesmerised sense of achievement, to our stranger it was clear that everyone carried, behind their backs and on their shoulders, at least traces of such haunting sensations. The woman who started talking to him, for all he knew, certainly did.
“Which part of the land have you been blessed to be located in?”, she inquired early on. <Would be great to spend an evening together. I feel safe next to you>, came the cautious draft of mental airwaves.
He looked around inconspicuously to see who’d follow their conversation and although, judging from appearances, everyone seemed to be withdrawn into their own world, chunks of curiosity and reproaches and even anger crept up from every invisible corner. Our stranger smiled and gave her a piece of paper containing his whereabouts.
“That’s great, not too far from where I am. Perhaps we could get a train together after work and watch today’s programme?”.
Although he didn’t want to watch today’s programme – or any of this strange land’s programmes for that matter – he agreed, nodding. For the sake of staying in line on the one hand. And not to miss out the chance to meet another human being in this land, on the other.
They didn’t watch the programme, of course. But they talked. Whenever he hit any spots that made her almost hostile or at least scared and defensive, he stopped further inquiring. It was altogether very good to listen to a woman openly telling him what was on her mind. Her undercurrents were also quite righteous. But premonitions came rushing in on him. Communication like this wasn’t quite staying in line. If nothing else, that much he was sure of.
Our stranger afterwards politely refused to join her in bed, but slept on the couch. When they got up the next morning, our stranger had one of his last days in school, while the woman went straight back to another day’s work.

They were waiting for him in school, but didn’t at first reveal themselves openly. He received their presence only through mental sensations, while they sinisterly kept lingering in darkness, until they’d eventually see their chance to frame him.
The teacher was properly instructed and singled him out to be sacrificed, in front of all the others, at the earliest convenience. Most of the other pupils subconsciously sensed that intervention of the rare sorts was in the air. Yet they busied themselves into the pursuit of their own self-interest. Our stranger wasn’t entirely sure, whether he should regard their indifference as preferable to a rather more enthusiastic group-ritual of scapegoating and persecution, but in the end concluded, it didn’t make any difference. The state they were in, meant that they’d given themselves away to others regardless.
After two hours of tension and teasing, the teacher delivered the following, ”… and we’ve always hoped to be surrounded by gratefulness, respect and honour. How much more would we feel betrayed and greatly disappointed, if after everything that we’ve done for the pride and the glory of each and every one of our great people, we would suddenly meet with secret hostility if not open indifference …” And in came the police to drug and arrest our stranger.

The treatment was altogether not unfamiliar, only that instead of finding himself naked, drugged and chained in a white cell, he woke up in a black and dark one. The familiarity of the rancid stench with the room they’d already been quartering him in, caused bouts of amusements for a while. He was served food and coffee twice a day, and soon got used to the faint light. After about three or four weeks of a treatment like this, he came to understand that nothing had changed about his situation in the strange land, except that he now wasn’t required to work anymore, in exchange for vegetating along in silence and invisibility.
One day, a kind of doctor came, followed by two police henchmen on his side. The doctor feigned a required checkup and availed himself to intimate access to prostate and bowels, while the police standing-by took pictures and electronic notes. Mental waves revealed further deterioration of a propensity to silent disobedience, as well as ungrateful questioning. And – worst of all – an open and shamelessly naked ‘display of indifference’. They wholehearedly believed in everything that they said and did.
Another two weeks later, our stranger was visited again. It seemed as if the strange land derived some sort of satisfaction by revealing some of its behind-the-scene powers to someone they deemed to be wiped off the slate of history without even the faintest smudge, such that an ant might perhaps leave when squashed by a meteor. The clothes and the conversational tone of the visitor impressed an unabashed air of superioroity. He was seemingly oblivious to the rank smell of our stranger’s special apartment unit. The visitor sat down on the bed next to our stranger.
<I do feel sorry and I do admire you, but we all have to do our duty>, came through mental waves, while the visitor kept quiet for a while, controlling his breath calmly. He then handed our stranger a piece of official-looking paper, and nodded his head with an imposing upwards tilt of his chin. “Read”, he said.
Our stranger handed it back to him, folded and unread. It was a last open display of his political, as well as philosophical stance-taking in their strange land. He’d also picked up the full contents from the visitor’s brainwaves anyway. They had sentenced him to silence and invisibility for the rest of his life. Our stranger briefly wondered, how many of those sentences the system needed, to uphold the glory that they sold at length to those that remained.
Without wasting himself on any more human interaction, the strange visitor left, leaving the silenced in a world of more silence.
A couple of hours later, our stranger had concluded his own case, and left the silence as well.
It was a train that took him out of the strange land and towards his next destination. He didn’t feel like looking back this time around when a swipe of his hand caused everything behind him to turn into dust.

 

III

The guards of his next stop were in the middle of folly and joking when he entered their strange land. These gates were relatively easy to cross, since only by putting a signature next to his name on a list of recent arrivals, he was welcomed to stay as long as he pleased.
There was a sweet village-feel to the land, as no tall buildings were anywhere to be found, but instead frequent patches of green space between cute detached houses. People gave the impression to relax into their daily lives. Lots of them could be seen outside on the streets, hustling and bustling. Almost every person that our stranger passed, looked at him and nodded to say “welcome”. Mental interference came via lamentations of boredom, mainly. Ill-will, if he was able to detect any, consisted most often as a reaction on something that threatened to drag the boredom into something even more boring.
This strange land was an old kingdom. Trade was not only possible but highly recommended. Those who’d inherited houses lived often upstairs, so that downstairs workshops could manufacture or provide, what towards the street could then be offered and sold. Everything seemed pretty clear and straightfoward.
It didn’t take long for our stranger to find a place that provided lettering and sign-painting. He went in, gave a demonstration of what he was capable of, and ten minutes later found himself with a room and a job, to sustain his stay in the strange land.

The master of the house was kind and considerate. Only when hit by a sudden twitch of his ageing body, came to the fore stretches of whining, or a kind-of wired unease. Otherwise, working with him was easy, fun and done in earnest.
On the third day, he invited our stranger to have supper with his family. Everything put on the table was austere but tasteful. The master already sat there, looking at our stranger encouragingly, as he slid down into his chair, joining. The master’s wife was sitting directly opposite. While she remained silent throughout, a mental cluster of fear and curiosity peeled-off from her. Two boys were already munching away and not paying too much attention to our stranger. And a girl of about fourteen was sitting next to her mum and looked down at her plate on the table. It was then, that our stranger for the first time hastened his steps.
The girl’s purity hit him so unexpected that it almost hurt. Her mind was tranquil but attuned and really quite pleased to see him. It was an absolute first that our stranger felt reading this girl’s mind would amount to an act of intruding.
Having been presented by his master to the assembled household as the new apprentice and lodger, our stranger smiled politely. And remaining silent throughout, with great reverence, he ate whatever he was being given.

Two weeks later, his master offered him the hand of his daughter. “We’ve educated her to our utmost ability. She’ll make a very good wife”, he said. <It will be really good to bind a man of your talents and wisdom through my own blood>, was the message coming through underneath.
Our stranger looked down to the floor. He knew that the girl had liked him. He also remotely understood that the girl was someone predestined to be altering his mission. That she maybe was meant to be with him was a possibility. Yet, the way how this situation presented itself didn’t feel right.
No matter how politely he refused to accept the offer, he couldn’t calm the anger and reproach of his master. So the only choice that our stranger was finally left with, was to thank him, from the bottom of his heart, for everything that he’d done, and then simply follow through to his next stop.

A period of wandering from job to job, room to room, brought him deeper in touch with all walks of life in this strange land’s society. Sometimes, it was ignorance or malice that he met. But more often than not, people just seemed so bored by their welfare, that they propped up their available time with playing all sorts of games. Most of the time, those games were what you’d call ‘naughty’ in nature, and if not, at any rate hopelessly juvenile. Yet, it was not naughtiness or even vileness of maybe children pushing boundaries, that motivated and fueled their bored interactions. But a morally corrupt erosion of all meaning and values.
People dealt with each other not with the refreshing excitement of together creating something, or exploring new territories, but out of sheer necessity and an oftentimes ugly streak of cynical, self-loathing resignation. In short, they’ve come, for the most part, to regard the across-the-board generous rulership of their king to be taken for granted – to the extent of actually resenting it. Every single one of them, whether rich or poor, sick or healthy, weak or strong, had become tired of life. Regardless of whether they were young or old, they’ve all become really old.
Yet, unlike the other strange lands before, no one here framed our stranger. And neither had any machine been inserted and employed to extract and separate him from his fellow men. He had been entirely left to his own devices, and regardless of whether this was a good thing or bad, considerate or ignoring, it felt at least true that way.
After going through another few weeks in this manner, word eventually reached the king about our stranger. He requested to see him. No chains, police or prison wards. Our stranger was officially given an audience to further advance his matters.

Bearded and grey, the king went up and shook our stranger’s hand upon arrival. It was more than obvious that he was a great sage. He pointed towards an atrium surrounded by heavy stone columns, which they ceremoniously passed, before sitting down at the feet of an iridescent fountain in the centre of palace-garden.
“I’ve come to understand who you are and why you are here”, the king began without looking at him. His voice was warm and soft but slightly tired. “I also grant you all justification. I can see the problem as well. You have all reason to carry out your predestined mission and to do what you will”, the king continued.
Our stranger bent down his head and looked at him from the corners of his eyes. The last thing he wanted was to confront the mighty sage with any kind of authority. Everything that the king had said came with no conflicting mental currency. Very few men he’d met had the ability to be as straight as this.
“I have one wish, though …”, the king picked up his voice again. He now looked at our stranger directly. His eyes were a crystal blue and glistered like sapphires from dark sockets underneath bushy grey brows. “… Let us die naturally.” The king paused and studied our stranger for any reaction that such a dignified pleading would cause him.
Not long it took our stranger. He met the king’s eyes and nodded one time in order to grant the great sage’s generous heart’s deepest desire.
Abruptly, the king closed his eyes while they were still locked into our stranger’s eyes. He then mirrored the stranger’s single nod, before keeping his head bent down for two or three contemplating breaths. When he looked up again, the king suddenly raised his hand with a suprising vivacity, and a tall maiden brought along a carafe with honey-dew on a silver-tray. Two glasses next to it looked like broad bulbs of tulips.
“It also came to my attention that one of our citizens offered you his daughter in marriage”, the king said, a little less tired, almost cheerful, while they were strolling through the palace-garden. They kept nipping sips of honey-dew from their crystal tulips. Not far away, vividly painted paradise birds paraded their flurry tails on long stretches of succulent lawn.
The king said, “I regard as the main reason why we’re dying that I couldn’t find a pure, rightous girl anymore. I have no heir, no young blood to invigorate our land with fresh thought and impetus. No ambition. No foresight. No hope. Nothing really to look forward to.”
Our stranger looked at and blessed the old sage with great compassion.
“So if there’s anything that I can give you or advise you on, …, if there’s anything that I can pass on …”, the king cautiously expressed himself after they’d reached a bold patch of sunlight, cast through thickets of shrubs and willows, “… then it would be to sanctify this offer and urge you to take the hand of this girl before you leave.”
The little tear that had appeared in our stranger’s eye was nearly gone before they reached the iron gates of the garden. It was our stranger who offered to shake the king’s hand now. Their farewell was holy and eternal.

Later, he took the hand of the girl, and together they walked out of the strange land, to let it die by itself – naturally.

 

EPILOGUE

The little spot in the shade, that the girl had found the other day, was again full with black berries. She bent down and filled-up her basket. A fringe of her loin cloth got stuck in some thorns. While she extracted herself, the juice of the berries that she’d put in her mouth squirted over her milky-white flower necklace. Birds up the trees twittered and sang for her. Not far away, a mountain goat surveyed the reefs of the prestigious altitude with pride.

Back in the cave, our stranger was just coming out from a long meditation, when the girl arrived with their breakfast. He was still reluctant to intercept what was going on in her mind, and that was probably how he wanted to keep it, as long as her purity remained as it were. The girl bent down on her knees and triumphantly presented the basket with berries. Our stranger had to laugh when he saw the silk-skin of the girl smeared with black berry-juice. He cupped her cheek and chin tenderly while his other hand took out a couple of fresh fruits. The girl lowered her gaze with a smile that knew every thing under the sun. Her blossoming chest pierced its chaste buds through the undulating chain of stained flowers.

Right next to their cave, a waterfall cascaded down into a small pond. Naked, the girl and the stranger dove in right after breakfast. They swam a few rounds and played with each other.
Later, the girl climbed ashore and let herself dry in the rising sun next to the leopard that had been watching them. She stroked the head of the big cat and it purred. A few moist, sturdy sheaths of grass tickled between her buttocks. Scratching the animal’s head behind the ears, as it most liked it, they both watched our stranger dive down to the bottom of the lake a few times. Each time he came up, he smiled over at them and the eyes of the girl and our stranger met to exchange glimpses of thrilling recognition.

In the evening, crackling fire lit up the darkness of the cave and warmed them. They ate black soup prepared by the girl from various rare local roots. The leopard had invited a couple of friends over, and every so often, they frolicked into the cave for fresh rounds of strokes, before finally setting up camp next to the entrance – transfixed to the full moon and the mighty spectacle of a firmament bursting with quivering stars.
While haranguing tongues of flames were steadily dwindling into the potent glow of peaceful embers, our stranger and the girl crawled into a secluded corner further back in the cave. Naked again, they were wrapping themselves under stacks of wool, cotton, leather and fur. It was not a problem at all, to keep themselves warm in embrace.
Outside, the small group of great cats stood their auspicious guard, struck to their bones with awe.
The girl and our stranger, meanwhile, once again became happily married.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

{ I’m taking the liberty to dedicate this piece to venerable Mr. Franz Kafka }

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