Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

“Devil’s Revenge”, Chapter 4

February 4, 2015

images (3)

Still rewriting this novel, and there will be errors, but it’s fun in the doing….which is the reason most writers write.  Otherwise, why bother?

 Chapter 4

Bleary with sleep, a dull pain in my head, I opened both eyes carefully. That wine last night must be the reason my stomach hurts.   I am playing with fire if I continue to — Oh Crap! I’m here again! I sigh with disgust, my legs tangled in the sheets. This bedroom has become my new dungeon and looking out of the east window, is the dungeon master. I turn over and glare at him.

“Good Morning”.   This time he said it in English instead of Dutch, but he didn’t turn from the window.

“Garrett, how long have you been there?” I yawned, rubbed my eyes and pulled my mobcap off. His commanding me here was becoming a bit routine now. How many times? At least a half dozen but time was different in his realm.

“Not long,” he said, continuing to stare out the window.   I looked at his figure illuminated by the sharp morning light. He was a pretty (“handsome” I heard him think!) man, broad in the shoulders, his back narrowing down to strong buttocks. Wearing the usual shirt of gentlemen and farmers, a heavy white linen cut full at the sleeves, his waistcoat was sleeveless, made of dark plum colored wool, and reached to his hips. The breeches were cut from heavy twill and his boots were brown leather, scuffed about the ankles. He had walked in deep mud somewhere. His boots were covered with muck.

“Get up, I want to do something different today.” Ah, this was a change; he usually wanted to play around in the morning.

“Important things first.” He finally turned from the window, hands on his hips, and looked at me with dour expression.

“Van Doren down the road has a litter of pups. Daniel said they’re old enough to take from the bitch. I want the whole litter. I’ll train them as gun dogs and hunt them next fall”.

Oh God, he probably will want to stable them here where it’s warm…

“My guess is you haven’t been paying attention. This house is haunted,” he said softly, his eyes narrowing to slits.

“What do you mean, ‘haunted’?” I shivered though the bed was quite warm.

“Those dogs will be flesh and blood, as you are, but invisible. No one would feed them.”

“So, I could go downstairs to Daniel and Anna and they wouldn’t see me?”

“Hell, I could stick you on the end of my –“

“Garrett!”

“– and walk around the house, and they still wouldn’t notice.   They may wonder why John Thomas was saluting the wind, but you would be air.”

I had to laugh.   He had a way of describing things. Vulgar, but comical.

“What time is it, Garrett?” I yawned and stretched my arms over my head, not wanting to move from the warmth of the bed.

“Time you get your butt up and come with me.” He went to the wardrobe and started tossing clothes.   Out came some petticoats, woolen stockings and a heavy linen chemise. He rummaged around the hooks and drew out a green woolen dress.

“Can I use the chamber pot first, please?” I slipped to the side of the bed, my feet cold from the draughts on the floor.

“Do you need any help with that?”

“I need you to leave the room so I can get dressed.”

“Won’t happen. I happen to like seeing you struggle into your clothes. Arouses me.”

“Everything makes you horny, Devil.”

He grinned, his foul lust a tease and a torment. I did not dally, knowing he would not leave me in peace for long.

The clothes were thrown on the table by the fire. “Come here, be my angel and let me dress you.” He was sitting there with his legs spread.

“Are you a crazy man? I can very well do it myself.” He had some nerve.

“Have it your way.” He snapped his fingers and my nightgown fell to the floor. I was naked, the room cold, and he still a damn devil!

“Garrett! Stop screwing around! I’m freezing.” It was one thing to be naked by candlelight, another to be standing in the sharp eastern glare of early morning. This type of light magnifies all imperfections. I heard him mumble something….

“Love casts a glamour on things.” His words surprised me, for they were tender and human.

“Put you leg up on my knee and I’ll pull your stocking up.” I balanced myself on one leg, and put an arm on his shoulder. I could smell the sharp smell of brimstone.

“Very funny. Now, the other one.” He couldn’t resist running his hand up my inner thigh. I slapped his hand and jumped back.

He held out the heavy linen shift, and pulled it over my head and opened two petticoats for me to step into.

Oh, he was quite a demon this morning, with his half-hearted attempt to pinch my nipples, but he did get me dressed. He seemed to know his way around the hooking and lacing of tapes, and all were in place. I wondered what shoes to wear.

“Oh…must not forget these.” From behind his back he drew a big pair of Dutch wooden shoes. He placed them at my feet. I stared at them and started to laugh.

“You write about Dutch farms and farmers, yet you don’t know the muck they produce. Guess women writers from your century float over the shit. We’ll probably cross over a couple of pigsties in the going.”

Lovely. Just what I wanted to do with my morning.

“You’ll enjoy the fresh air. I want those dogs, so let’s get going. It’ll give you something real to write in your book.”

He walked to the door, and I gingerly shuffled after him. He muttered a low curse, and picked me up over his shoulder like a sack of flour. A wooden shoe fell off my foot and tumbled down the stairs, sounding like thunder as it bounced to the hall floor.   He dropped me on my feet and led me to the front steps.   A black rig and a blacker horse were standing outside. Of course! A black horse, something a devil would ride.

“Would you be quiet? The horse might have feelings on the matter.”

I laughed at him. He was entertaining this morning.

He helped me into the rig, walked to the head of the horse and whispered to him. He sprung into the seat, grabbed up the reins, the horse trotted to the main road, turned left and moved out smartly on the highroad.

I held onto my bonnet, which fell back with each jounce of the rig. The horse seemed to skim over the dirt, getting faster and faster.

“You really want those dogs!” I started laughing.

My Demon grinned at me as he shook the reins, and the horse fairly flew down the road.

The air was fresh and brisk for it was early winter. The fields were dun-colored but the cloudless sky was a crisp blue.   I could see trails of smoke rising from distant houses across the far hills. At least the scenery looked normal with cows huddled under trees and along fences. I thought of a piece of Handel I had heard the night before.   Written for harpsichord, last night played on piano. The rhythm of the music mimicked the fast trotting of the black horse. Suddenly I was hearing the music! I looked over at Garrett and saw him smile. The black leather of the rig surrounding us was our stereo and the horse’s speed matched the tempo of the music. Ah! A good piece of magic!

We traveled for a mile when the horse turned to the left. Down a short lane was a large, white house. Behind it were red barns. . Garrett stopped the rig and helped me down in the cumbersome shoes. He straddled the rig right over the mud and I looked at him with a grimace. My shoes sank almost to the ankles. He grinned and led us to the back of the house near the barns.

“Van Doren!” Garrett shouted. “I’m here to see those dogs.”

A clang like a bell rang out, but it only was a piece of metal being dropped. It bounced around for a bit.   A rotund Dutch man came walking out the dark passageway his eyes blinking in the bright sunlight.

“Ah, young Cortelyou! Goedenmorgen to you!” He wiped his hands on his trousers as he came toward us. “So you here to purchase my pups? Well, there’s others hearing of this fine litter, so it’s goot you come when you do.”

The joy of exchange among countrymen was both in the bargaining,- and the coin. I was raised in the Dutch countryside of New Jersey. I had seen this before.

Van Doren looked to be in his seventies. He was a hale and hearty man, with a halo of white hair. He had a full, white beard, bright blue eyes and a red nose that said he liked his ale too much.

“This is my Aunt Sophie from upcountry, Abraham. She’s visiting Catherine for a month.” His Aunt! Do I appear that much older? Well, at least I wasn’t a ghost to van Doren.   He gave a slight nod and led us into the barn.

“There’s four pups, but one of them’s a runt. All livers, with white chests. They’ll be about 2 months out, I believe. You wanting the whole litter?”

“I would, first I see them.” It seemed men talk differently to each other.   Sharp, short sentences as if they were fearful of too many words.

“Dam’s my Lilly, and not a finer dog in the township. The sire is Rumble from over Vieght’s way.”

“How did she take to Rumble? He’s a brute of a dog, too tall in the withers for a spaniel.”

“Aye, these are big water spaniels, all except for that runt, which probably won’t live. I should bash her head in. The others will benefit.”

Van Doren fell silent.   “So, you thinking of breeding your own pack here?”

“When I see them, Abraham.”

Abraham walked to the back of the barn, and in a dark stall, a bitch lay in a corner, her pups in the straw.

“Hush, Lilly, some one to see you.” Lilly was a thin hound, small for a water spaniel. Three of the pups were large. The fourth lay next to her, hopefully asleep.

Abraham van Doren, a farmer and used to all sorts of death, picked up the runt by the back feet and shook it to see if it breathed. I uttered a cry and rushed toward his hands.

“Give her to me! Don’t shake her like that.” The Dutchman almost dropped the pup in surprise, but handed her over. It was now awake and I held her to my breast, warming her with my cloak. I looked defiantly at Garrett and saw him suppress a smile.

“Abraham…I’ll take all the pups, and if you throw in the runt for my Auntie here, I’ll give you a shilling more.”

They settled on a price for the dogs. Picking up an old basket, Abraham van Doren dropped the pups in.   Lilly whined and struggled to her feet.

“Quiet now girl.” His voice was kindly. “You’ll get some meat with your porridge tonight.”

We left the dim barn, and reentered the sunlight. My eyes blinked and finally adjusted. A few more minutes with Abraham van Doren, and I mounted the step to the rig.

Garrett placed the basket at my feet and taking the reins from the post, turned the black horse homeward.

“So…I hear I’m your ‘Auntie’? Does incest play into this story?” I looked at his profile, and saw him smiling.

“I told you about the glamour. Convenient part of magic, that trick. Can make people see whatever you want.”

“Oh.” I couldn’t resist asking him. “And how did I look to Abraham van Doren?”

“Oh, old enough to throw off any scent of scandal. About Catherine’s age.”

“With all the wrinkles and fallen- in gums?”

“Yep…and bald under your cap and bonnet.” He was laughing now, and turned his wicked eyes on me.

“Thanks a lot, Demon,” I said sharply. “Now you can read my thoughts and alter my appearance? Is there anything you can’t do to me?”

“I told you when I first saw you, in this story I am pulling the strings. You write the book, my good little ‘Auntie’, and I direct the play.”

He gave a short laugh and turned silent for a moment. “I can make you do anything I want… except one thing.”

“And quickly tell me what that is!” I said, laughing.

Looking ahead at the road, he said softly, “I can’t make you love me.”

My heart flipped in my chest, and my eyes misted over.

Ah, Garrett, my sweet Demon.   I am glad you aren’t looking.   My face would betray me. I would be totally lost.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2009, 2015

“Devil’s Revenge” Chapter 11

February 2, 2015
was to be the cover painting for "Pitcher of Moon" but didn't work out.

was to be the cover painting for “Pitcher of Moon” but didn’t work out.

Standing at a window in this bedroom, I find myself more and more in his world, the world of the Demon Lover. Not sure of the sequence of time, but it seemed every few days I appeared back in this room. Today, I was busy for a number of hours writing a chapter, one I hoped would bring me to the conclusion of the novel. I have been in starts and stops over it for the past month, and have trouble forming my thoughts. Of course, there has been much to distract me. His presence in my ‘life’, for I guess you could call this life, has been a major obstacle in finishing it. He is entertaining and sometimes charming, but brings much chaos to my days.

All in all, it’s been a fruitful time, for if I stumbled in the writing, there is much to learn. I have discovered numerous things about him. He is a jealous demon, who prates he will chase away any competition, and has little regard for my marriage. He already admits he visits me, and not just in my dreams, but takes a seat next to my bed, and involves himself in my sleep. My patient husband sleeps deeply, and I am not sure Garrett, the mortal name of my Demon, does not have his hand in this. A former friend from the ‘north country’ already has caught his interest, and he has as much threatened me with some foul magic if I continue to converse with him. I will not bow to his threats, for I think he has become fond of me, and does not want my displeasure. He can be a bully but I know now he needs much assurance from me, and that I give most willingly. I have grown as fond of him, as he seems to have of me, though he goes to great pains to hide it.

Ah! The masculine vanity! Alive even in demons!

The landscape was bleak as I saw from the window. The middle of winter, and fog was swirling on the ground around a clump of trees in the midground distance. Or it looked like fog. But then again, it came together like smoke and rose from a central point in the trees. How strange. It whirled and eddied and took shape like smoke from a chimney. It held my attention and I thought I would go out to investigate. I threw on my red cloak and went downstairs and out the front door. It was not a long walk to the stand of trees where I saw the smoke. I felt a strange compulsion to follow. The trees were bare of all leaves, their black limbs silhouetted against the gray sky. I walked through them, feeling a sense of discovery, being pulled by my curiosity. There, before me, was perhaps a low fire, though I couldn’t see any flame. The smoke was thick. It seemed to pour from the ground! As I looked upwards, around the trees, there were blackbirds perched in the limbs. They were totally silent, which is strange for a flock of blackbirds. Suddenly the smoke parted, and there, sitting on a stump, about twenty feet from me, was Obadiah!

Oh! I couldn’t tell if he was an apparition, a ghost, or something else, but he sat there, his long legs stretched out before him, one upon the other, his arms crossed over his chest. He was not wearing a coat, but was dressed in a white, linen shirt, with a black stock wound around his neck. His face had no expression, but his eyes pierced me with their intensity, and I wavered where I stood, not sure if I would faint. He smiled, a mocking smile, devoid of any kindness. For some reason I found myself drawn to him as in a trance. I should be afraid of him, considering what he has done to me, but I was not. I was excited and unsettled, perhaps fear plays into these emotions, but curiosity and a perverse desire was overcoming all else, all caution.

Suddenly, I was on the ground, pushed violently from behind. Obadiah disappeared in a flash, and standing over me was Garrett. He had a sword in his hand, and his face was terrible to see. He grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me to my feet, scowling and in a fine high temper. Dragging me out of the glen I don’t remember my feet even touching the ground, until we were back in my bedroom. I heard the door slamming shut. It was as if I was in a dream, or a trance, and I tried to shake myself awake.

“You damn little fool!”

He was furious, and grabbed me by the shoulders, shaking me hard, caught like a rat caught by a terrier. My head was thrown back and forth by his violence and I thought my neck would snap. He released me and I fell to the floor. I lay there for a moment, aware he was standing over me. I could still feel his wrath, like a thick fog in the air. I gasped with fear, and turned to look up at him. By the look on his face I thought he would kill me.

“Nay, get off the floor. You look like a kicked dog. I’ll not harm you more.”

His voice was strange, as if his anger had broken him. He extended his hand and pulled me to my feet, where he looked at me closely. I could tell he was still angry, but he was trying his best not to act upon it.

However, I was now furious. How dare he shake me like a child! How dare he throw me to the ground! Without another thought, I raised my hand and slapped him across the face. I saw his surprise, and then, to my horror, heard him utter a hollow laugh. He grabbed both of my wrists in his hands before I could think and pinned them behind me. He did not spare me any pain in the doing.

“So you want to play rough, do you?” He laughed again, and immediately pulled up a chair with his foot.. He up ended me across his lap and pulled up my skirts. He exposed my nakedness and beat me hard with his hand. I yelled loudly, and cursed him with all the names I could think of. He thrashed me, hitting my buttocks and also the tops of my legs. I screamed until I thought I would go hoarse. I cried and pleaded with him, yet he did not spare me his blows. Throwing me to the bed I cried and sobbed mightily, more from fear than pain, but there certainly was enough of that! My butt was burning with his blows. I hated him thoroughly, for I had never been treated like this before.   I cried myself out and he didn’t offer a word of compassion or apology. When I finally uncovered my face from the pillows, I saw him sitting there, smoking his pipe, like nothing in the world had happened. I felt humiliated and belittled.

“Tell me,” he said between puffs. “Tell me what possessed you to leave this room and go into the woods.”

His eyes glittered through the smoke and I knew better take him seriously. Now that I had proof he would not spare his hands, I was afraid of him.

“Oh, Bess, I can smell your fear, but that is not what I am after. Tell me, now, why you went into the woods.”

I rose up from my stomach, and gingerly sat on the bed. My butt hurt! He was certainly strong.

“I don’t know. I saw some smoke coming from the glen, and I thought that it was interesting. I felt curious.”

“Ah. Did you feel drawn to the woods?” He puffed more forcefully on his pipe.

“Well, the smoke drew me, but then, when I got down there, and near, I felt strangely drawn to the trees. The birds were all silent, I remember that.”

“Looks like Obadiah has called upon other forces for his designs.”   He puffed on his pipe hard. “Seems like he is getting a bit desperate.”

“What do you mean?”

“He is charming you and others to do his bidding. I don’t like it a bit. Makes me work harder, something I generally avoid. Looks like he’s preparing himself for battle.” He spit on the floor and I grimaced at him.

“Who is he charming, you make no sense?” None of this made sense at all.

The Demon thought a bit before he answered.

“You asked me before about my world. Well, there are many worlds. I frequent a number of them. This one, where I appear to you, is full of strange characters. I get lost in the numbers, can’t remember all the hierarchy. But it’s simple enough, or at least I’ll make it simple enough for you. Listen closely.”

He packed down his pipe with his thumb, though the tobacco glowed red in the bowl.

“Demons are intermediaries between gods and men. Most of us, what you call ‘demons’ were once men. We were not angels. Don’t make that mistake. No, there are lots of shapes and shifts abounding. There are Fates, who alter destiny, there are what you know as poltergeists, who cause much mischief, there are the incubi and succubae you have already experienced (here he tipped his pipe in my direction), there are familiars, who assist what you call witches.”

He puffed on his pipe, and a blue smoke whirled above his head in lazy, sensual spirals.

“There are Demons formed from human semen.” Here he grinned crazily, the smoke swirling around his face, obscuring his eyes.

“There are disguised Demons, which I fear our friend Obadiah is, makes it tricky in dealing with him. There are Demons who instigate Witchcraft. I don’t know what we are dealing with at present, but we are about to find out. He grows more powerful.”

“Is he more powerful than you?”

He grimaced around the stem of his pipe. “No, I’m still more powerful. But he grows. And he has enough tricks to harness Cheitan and Saalah to do his bidding.” He barked a short, bitter laugh.

“And who are they?” I didn’t like the sound of this.

“They are some minor demons, spirits if you will. Not of much merit, but amenable to a bribe. Cheitan is the demon of Smoke and Saalah is a demon who entices women into the woods. All kinds of mischief can befall a maid in the woods. They are known as some of the ‘Devil’s Handmaids’”.

He puffed on his pipe, sending up a plume of smoke to the ceiling that circled around as it hit the beams and spread outward. An example of “Cheitan”?

“And about your being in the woods, my dear lady. Very foolish of you. Had I not come at the moment I did, you would have suffered another rape by Obadiah. He seems to delight in taking his perverse pleasures with you. You can now thank me for saving you from an even more terrible attack than last time.”

What worse could he do to me than when he raped me? I shivered, remembering those details.

“Oh, there are plenty of tricks he could render upon your soft body, my darling,” said the demon, reading my thoughts. “What he did the first time was just a first course for his appetite. You forget we demons have terrific appetites, especially for mortal women. Your flesh, especially those places between your soft, white thighs, are irresistible to us.”

He leered at me and I shivered thinking of what could have happened.

“And with what bribe does he induce them to work for him?”

“Probably your blood, or a piece of your flesh. Or, if he’s in a particularly generous mood, a piece of your ass. Of course, that would be after he has sated himself on your charms. He would turn you over to them, where they would use you until they were bored and would tear you to pieces.”

Oh, what a terrible mouth on him! But now I was really afraid.

“You see, my dear, as long as Obadiah thinks that you are, ah, I think you call it “a free agent’ in your world? Well, as long as Obadiah thinks he can take you at will, even from under my nose, he will come back and try again. There are only a few ways to discourage him from this behavior.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“Well, it is not by my authority to tell you how to end your novel, but killing him off would help….for a while. That would be one way. There is another way, but you would not want to go down that path.” He laughed to himself, and puffed hard on his pipe, his eyes glittering with mischief.

“And what is that path, Demon?”

It seemed the room darkened, or perhaps the sky did outside. But something changed noticeably. He still sat in his chair but it seemed he was whispering in my ear.

“A woman is much happier if she has a Master. Authority thrills a woman, my darling. Nothing but complete subjugation will finally satisfy her.” He smiled at me, and I shivered at his words. What a strange and alien a concept. To call him “Master”!

“In the animal world, nature’s decree the male shall dominate. And you are my little vixen, my little red fox.” He smiled around the stem of his pipe. “And I am very much the male here.”

I would not dispute that statement. He was more ‘masculine’ than ten men– twenty. And very proud of it. No ‘metrosexual’ confusion for him.

“You know, sweet darling, I am thinking Obadiah is nothing more than a very powerful incubus. Sexual relations with an incubus are decidedly unpleasant and an often painful affair. I think that you would agree with that.” He would get no argument from me.

“So, Demon, what are you saying I should do?”

“Why don’t you refer to me as Demon Lover anymore?”

“So, Demon Lover, what should I do?”

“Look, Bess, I think you should come under my power completely, and let it be known.” He grinned broadly. Oh! This was fun for him!

“What is it you are saying I do?”

“Sex is a powerful thing in our worlds, as well as yours. I am suggesting you become my consort, for as long as you inhabit my world. That could be a long time, it depends upon things.”

“What things, Demon?”

“Ah, that I have no competition in your heart and mind, that you submit to everything I say and do, and that I am Master of you and your body. That you obey me and submit to me in all things.”

“I don’t know. You know I am married. Would I have to give my husband up for safety here?”

“Well, I can not trample upon your marriage vows, came long before me.”

“What about my other friends, male and female?”

“Ah, that is another complication. But I will look the other way if you please me in all other things.”

“Are you talking about whips and chains and things, Devil?”

He laughed. “Why in Hell’s good name would I need such things? I’m talking about the natural roles of man and woman, or in this case, Demon and mortal woman. What could be clearer?”

“You have lost me. I don’t know anything of subjugation or submission. We modern women tend to avoid all such talk and behavior.”

“And are you any happier for it?” His eyes glittered through the smoke he exhaled.

He had me there. Relations in the twenty first century were confusing enough. Was there any real happiness between men and woman? There was a lot of anger, and sham, and moving about, exchanging partners and forming anew. There was a lot of unhappiness and divorces. The roles between women and men seemed to be mandated by some chaos that we danced to faster and faster. The ‘natural’ roles that seemed to work for past generations were lost to us now. Women were more like men, and men! God! They were like women! Most women I knew had more ‘friends’ who were homosexual, gays, than girlfriends. They were interchangeable.   The roles and relations had become very confused. Perhaps he had a point here. Perhaps what he was proposing was a balancing of the roles. The strong man (or devil) and the soft, weaker, woman. Perhaps he was on to something.

“You promise not to hurt me?” I asked him seriously. I don’t know what I was afraid of, but I was.

He shook his head at me in wonder, and laughed. “Are woman from your century so distanced from their natures that they don’t trust the masculine? Can you place your heart and body in my hands and know I will protect you? What is it that men do in your domain? Do they not occupy this fundamental role?”

“Well, not without a lot of confusion, Garrett. They get mixed messages from all sorts of places. I don’t think modern men know what to do with women.”

He laughed delightedly and gave me his opinion. “You use them good, and often, and they keep you entertained. It’s really an easy exchange. They lay down on demand, and you chase off all the wolves. What’s so hard about that?”

Ah, he is a trying and primitive Demon! He has the manners of a goat, but I have said that before. It is an exchange he is proposing here. My protection and security from Obadiah if I ‘cleave’ myself to him completely. He hasn’t given me much to go on yet, but I am interested enough in his idea. And he has allowed my marriage and my friendship (there are others he doesn’t know about) and promises to wink at them.

In any case, I am way over my head here, and not believing in anything supernatural or paranormal, I find myself at a disadvantage. He holds all the cards right now, and I am at his mercy. My fear of Obadiah and what he can do to me overcomes my disdain for my overpowering, vulgar demon.

Hopefully, he will be a kind and generous ‘Master.’   I think this is called ‘bargaining with the Devil’.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

copyrighted, 2008-2015

“Devil’s Revenge”, Chapter 10

January 31, 2015
from website: halfhearted dude...and thank you.

from website: halfhearted dude…and thank you.

Sorry for the chapter out of sequence.  Life is like that some days….

 Chapter 10

“Tell me, Demon. Tell me more about your ‘world.’ You certainly have pushed your way into mine.”

“I wouldn’t say pushed, Madame Author,” he retorted. “I would say, ‘pulled’ into your world, by the push of your ink.”

Perhaps. I was trying to make sense of what happened to me since he first stepped from the page.

“Can’t you write “leaped” from the page? Sounds manlier.”

I laughed. This demon  of mine “Capitals, Please…as in “Demon Lover” he whispers to me…

THIS Demon Lover…you got another? … is always concerned about his masculine…’virtues’. Can you use the word ‘virtue’ with a devil? Well, he is very concerned about how he appears. This little vanity makes him more ‘human’ to me.

“Don’t bet on it. You’ll lose your coin.”

“Then tell me, Garrett. By what other names have you been known?”

The Demon grinned across the table. “Pick a letter from the alphabet.”

“Stop being coy. Tell me about your world. What do you do with yourself when you are not here? That will do for starters.”

“Well, ‘for starters’ as you put it, I could say I bedevil other old maids or I could tell you I danced in the street to the tune of my fiddle, or I was a gigolo, or it was ‘none of your business’ as you say to me. Pick.”

“Ah! So…I’m an old maid to you? I guess this is the end of the honeymoon.”

“Could be. We almost started a litter last time.” He grinned broadly.

“You can start with that little event. What happened there? All I remember is being very heated.”

He grinned wickedly. “You could say that. I seem to have that affect on old maids.”

He is an insufferable boor. But I vaguely remember being….passionately aroused, out of my mind with lust. Then I remembered falling asleep.

He reached over the table and passed his hand down my face. I floated in darkness. There were stars above me, and little hills beneath, hills that looked like mole hills far down there.

“That’s a nursery.” He smiled, and then laughed at my expression.

“Mole hills? What are you talking about?”

“Some dimension’s nursery, where the little monsters are cradled until they are let out upon some world.”

Lately I have discovered the Demon has knowledge about worlds and creatures I don’t have a language for. Asked directly, he will hem and haw. But every so often, he slips up and tells me something actually interesting.

“You hurt my feelings, Bess. Everything I have to say is interesting.” The Devil is reading my mind. He does so when he damn well pleases.

“And besides, you are a virgin where the cosmos is concerned. I only tell you what you need to know.” He leaned towards me across the table, scowling for effect. “Besides, it can be a very scary place. Good thing you have me around.”

He puffed on his long white clay pipe and I would have to say that his last statement could easily be qualified.

“Tell me, Garrett, if I was ‘breeding’ as you say, what would the baby look like at birth?” I was curious as any woman would be.

“If they were female, they would have your breasts. If male….my cock.” He grinned nastily.

“No, I mean, would they be human looking?  Would I be able to love this child?”

“Every other woman who has had my children loved them. Don’t know why you would be any different, Bess.”

I didn’t expect this! Other children by him. Somewhere in the novel, I remembered writing he had two bastard children by a woman in Martinique, but then I had forgotten to follow up with more information about these children and the mother.

“You are slipping on a lot of things, sweet lady.”

“I guess because now I am an old maid?”

“You can be revived.”

He had a droll wit at times. Grinning and snapping his fingers, produced out of the ether two tankards of ale.

“Do you aim to get me drunk?”

I couldn’t drink more than a glass of wine. A tankard would put me to sleep. He snorted, again reading my mind.

“Tell me…you must know more than you let on. How did I become fertile?”

Certainly this was a worry, because I was beyond the age where a woman needs to carry around a pregnancy. I never thought of ‘demon-control’ before.

He looked thoughtful, and puffed on his pipe.

“There are many ways and many carriers of mischief. This could be what you call a succubus or it could be of another species altogether.”

“So, you have no control over what happened to me?” This was not welcome news.

“Oh no, I could make it happen myself, but it’s so early in the affair, sweetheart, and I wanted to have more fun before I loosed my seed up your womb.”

He laughed. “Much more fun. Besides, I would be turned away from your charms when you got heavy with whatever was brewing in there.”

He took a swig of his ale and his eyes glittered across the rim of his tankard.

“So it ever is with mortal woman.”

I took a sip of my ale.

“These mole hills you said were nurseries. What happens to the birthlings when they are born?”

“Think of spawns or swarms of fish. Most are eaten by other species, some by their own. Others end up ‘road-kill’.”

“Oh! That is too horrible!”

“No so much if you saw them. It would take a particular mother to nurture one,…like a blind one.” He laughed as he swallowed his ale, and managed to choke.

“Would our child appear like a monster?”

He put his tankard down and looked at me. “Not if you loved it from birth.”

That was not exactly encouraging.

“Garrett…do you have shape shifters in your world?”

“Doesn’t every world have that? I think you call them transvestites in yours.”

I had to laugh. Not exactly what I was asking, but I’ll take that answer. Witty Devil.

He knew much more than he would say.   He held some of the secrets of the ages and this I was sure. But he was a damn tricky Devil, and he made me work for it. It was like peeling an onion. I wasn’t sure I wanted to get to his center. He was full of mystery, but then, most demons are. If anyone tells you they are benign, or banal, don’t believe a word of it. They are charmers and tricksters and will keep you unbalanced. This Demon was a handful, but ‘life’ as I was becoming to know, would be a lot duller without him. I had learned it was not just the human heart that was layered with complexities. If I was learning anything, it was that the Universe held infinite mysteries, some of them anxious to be known.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2007, 201

“Devil’s Revenge”, Chapter 17

January 29, 2015

Full Moon, March 2011

Seven years ago I started this novel about Devils, Demons and a few mortals. It came from my first novel, “The Heart of the Maze” which had NO demons, but the characters (as mortals) were interesting and I didn’t want to kill all of them off.  So I wrote another novel continuing  where “Heart of the Maze” ended. The vast majority of characters in this novel  were devils, demons and shape shifters, etc. Right now I am rewriting chapters (all 43 of them…) and considering the total book.  I had a lot of fun with this book originally, and still am having fun. Rewriting can be a chore, but it is necessary.

Abigor is an Arch Duke of Hell…known by different names, but Abigor suits my purpose here.  He is a commander of military tactics, a healer (funny concept for a demon) and Garrett Cortelyou, the main male character, consults with Abigor against his arch enemy, Obadiah.  Bess is the writer (of both books…) thrown into the mix.  She is pulled from her comfortable 21st century life into the 1820’s:  the time and environment of  the first book.

Note: the Demons read minds and that is a source of their power over mortals.

Magic.

Lady Nyo

Chapter 17

My voice had been muted by the Demon, for he called me a chatterbox. I could only look at him and communicate through my eyes, which is a good lesson for me. Right now, there are large tears falling and I used this to move him to some pity.

Hah! There is no compassion from the Devil! He sat there and made faces, and I have gone from frustration to tears in a matter of minutes. He is an unkind beast, and I was crazy to think I could appeal to some better nature. I was dealing with a demon, for god’s sake! What do I expect?

The afternoon turned to dusk, and it darkened quickly outside, as it does in winter.   The Devil was standing at the window, watching the gloom gather. His senses were sharpened, even his ears were pointed like a bats–

“I heard that”, he said, not turning around. “It will be time to leave soon, so wipe your eyes and gather your courage. And curb your venom. Remember who holds you in relative safety tonight.”

He turned and smiled. Ah! I hate him with every bone in my body.

He left me some privacy, and I was thankful. Usually he abused his power of reading my mind, and now I realized just how worried he was. I could think of insults to taunt him, but he was deep into matters.

He turned back to the window, and then lowered his voice: “It’s time.”

He kissed me gently  and I entered a darkness, insensate.

I awoke to the night, as he walked through woods, a sword in his right hand. I was on his left, and he was holding me firmly by the hand, dragging me behind. I was almost blinded by the dark, feeling like I was swimming through warm water.

The night was dark, only a gibbous moon in the sky. It must have risen earlier when I was asleep. The trees are almost invisible, except for fireflies that look like white Christmas lights among the branches. I thought a moment. Fireflies are in the summer, not the dead of winter. Garrett squeezed my hand; he knows I was anxious and I tried not to look around.

We came out in a clearing; there were a few burning torches lighting the area. Seems to be a million fireflies about us, but now I think it is something different, something unnatural.

There, at the center of the clearing, as we drew near, was a man sitting on a stump of a tree. He was rather robust, of indeterminate age, but had a full white beard coursing down his chest. Dressed all in black, but of a style of an earlier time, he had a large white ruff around his neck, and what appeared to be gold buttons down two sides of his bodice.

A large, black dog sat at his feet. It might be a wolf. Whatever it is, the animal is chained to the stump. His red eyes were glowing in the light of the torches. Rather an unearthly scene, and one to raise the hairs on my arms.

The man was Abigor, the Grand Duke of Hell, as my Demon warned me. Garrett shifted me to his right side, slightly behind him, and approached no nearer than ten feet from the duke. I heard him take a deep breath, and saw him bow. I waited with my curtsey, and looked at Abigor seated on his stump. He seemed like a pleasant enough fellow.

Garrett addressed Abigor. I was not only mute, but I couldn’t hear their exchange. I did see Abigor nod his head, so I guessed they are talking. I tried not to look around but the temptation was too great, and I glanced up at the trees to my right. A sweet voice was talking, but I could hardly hear it. I swallowed something that had entered my mouth. Suddenly, I remembered Garrett’s words and I stamped my foot softly. The voice stopped. Whatever it was I swallowed has become bitter. I spit out what appeared to be dirt. A twittering rose in the trees. My Demon looked at me from the corner of his eyes. It was enough of a warning. Behave, girl.

Now I heard Abigor talk in a low rumble. Garrett answered in the same way. It was as if they were on an alien wave length, the decibels too deep for mortal ears. I tried to look at the ground before me, and not let my eyes stray.   A soft breeze circled my bare feet; it was warm and soothing. Again, I stamped my foot, this time with more force. I screwed up my face in a threatening scowl, and again the woods tittered. Suddenly there was silence, a total emptiness of sound. Even the ‘fireflies’ dimmed. I heard Abigor addressing me.

“Come here, mortal woman, come closer. Let me see your features.”

I looked at the Demon beside me, and he nodded. I walked within five feet of Abigor and gave him my lowest curtsey. He gave a genial smile, but I would not be put off. He was the Grand Duke of Hades for god’s sake! An Arch Demon. A false smile if ever there was one.

“Ah! She has courage, your woman”, said Abigor.

He looked at Garrett and something flew between them.

“She is not exactly the age of a breeder. Is there something else to make her of value to you?”

I heard my Demon give a short laugh and said I was entertaining, and that he knew he could breed me. I was a fast learner and had values beyond the obvious.

“Ah. Turn around, woman, so I may see these things that keep my kin in thrall.” I turned around a full circle for him slowly. I did not realize that the gown I had been dressed in was transparent to all other eyes except mine. The reason for coloring my nipples and sex was so they were highlighted to peering eyes.

“She had other features that keep me amused, Father.”

I heard my Demon list my ‘values’ to him.

“She cooks well, and embroiders, and can fence a bit. She plies her hand at writing, and her script is readable. She is a bit of a talker, so I have muted her for your pleasure. She is a good harem dancer, and sings on key enough. She can fly a falcon and shoot a straight arrow, and mostly does as she is told. You yourself, Grand Duke, know these mortal women are needing correction and training in our ways. She amuses me enough to keep her around.”

“Do you think she will be a good breeder, Garrett, my son?”

“I haven’t yet tried her on that. I have used a camelstone, Father, because I wanted to see her develop in our ways first. If she does as I expect, and does as I please, I should breed her in short time.”

“Your other children, Garrett. Have any of them survived to call you father?”

“No, Abigor. They have all died in the wars. Their mothers were not pleasing, but convenient for the time. This one, this woman, has more…ah…potential.”

“You know that another has made a claim on her? Your old friend, Obadiah.” Abigor coughed and black smoke shot from his mouth. “Would you slay Obadiah to keep her?”

“I would slay Obadiah for many other reasons, Father. And yes, I would slay him to keep this woman. She pleases enough for me to bother.”

“The claim Obadiah has made, does it not turn you away from her? We hear it was particularly insulting to your stature, my son.

“If she gave herself willingly to Obadiah, I would have killed her myself. But she was raped, and had no defense against him. Therefore, she is blameless.”

“Ah. Obadiah has been known for his violence. I believe you suffered from his actions?”

“Yes, Father, and I don’t mean to again.”

“You know Obadiah has appealed to the same Bench of Hell?”

“I would suppose he would. We both know the channels.”

“Then I will let you know my decisions in a matter of time. Continue to prepare for your battle, and draw your defenses carefully. I will remark upon your visit here with the others. And son, if you want this mortal woman as bad as you seem to, keep her close. Obadiah has a lust that is legendary. He will steal her for the pleasure of nothing.”

The Demon bowed deeply, as I hurried back to his side. Then, putting his arm around me, he passed his hand over my eyes, and I went into the darkness again. I did hear a faint twittering up in the trees as we passed out of the clearing and through the woods again.

 —

I found myself in bed, exhausted, and wondered if it was all a dream. But the circlet of gold on my forehead bit into my skin, and I knew that something ‘real’ enough had happened

Garrett the Demon  was sitting at the fire, staring into it intently, puffing hard on his pipe.

I called his name hoarsely, apparently my voice restored.

“So, you awaken! And did you have a pleasant dream?” His eyes glittered in the firelight.

I sat up on the side of the bed. “You are not going to try and persuade me all was a dream? I have the rouge here to prove that something happened this night.”

“So! You remember our walk in the woods and our chance meeting with a pleasant old man?”

“Ah, Demon! Spare me your tales. I remember all that happened. When you stopped up my voice, my ears became sharper. Apparently my memory, too.”

He looked at me, a meager grin on his face. “And what else do you remember?”

“Too much, Demon, to please me! I remember you listing my attributes like a race horse, and something about breeding me. I remember also the sounds of the woods, the laughter of something and the lights in the trees. They were demons, weren’t they?”

“I told you Abigor travels with an entourage. And yes, they were not summer’s fireflies.” He blew out a puff of smoke and grinned broadly at me. I could tell he was pleased with his interview.

“Stopping up your mouth probably made all the difference in the outcome here. There was definitely a danger of both of us becoming cinders.”

“But you called him ‘father’ and he called you ‘son’. Would he have done harm to you?”

“Ah! That. Just a politeness among devils. He isn’t my father and I’m not his son. It’s just a way of showing courtesy.”

He puffed on his pipe. “And yes, he could strike me down easily, and would if he fancied it. I think he took a shine to you, though.” He grinned and his teeth glittered in the firelight. I thought of the fireflies.

Great. To catch the eye of another demon. The powers of womankind. Mortal womankind.

“Don’t they have enough she-devils to fill their beds?”

Garrett looked at me and laughed. “Oh no. No, no, no. You don’t want to bed a she- demon for long. They sap your strength, and you wake up in the morning and she’s a hag. No, not pleasant at all. A mortal woman has no magic that can be used against you, especially when she is in your arms and you are inside her.”

I shivered at his words. What a culture of deceit. No wonder he was riddled with issues.

“Come here, Bess, let me check you for marks. Those demons tempted you fast, but you handled it well. Let me see if they left anything to worry about.”

I got out of bed and came before him at the fire. He snapped his fingers and the gown disappeared.

“Gossamer stuff. Tends to dissolve like that. I was sure Abigor would entertain his legion  with a snap of his fingers.” My eyes grew wide.

“Turn around slowly, sweet woman, and let me look at you closely.” I noticed he put down his pipe on the floor.

Taking my arms, he pulled me between his legs, and turned me around for his inspection. He passed his hands down my back and circled my fanny. He turned me around and pulled me close and put his head between my breasts.

“Ah, the smell of an uncharred woman. You got lucky tonight. We both did.”

There seemed to be a time where all reason was suspended. This night was of that.

Actually, from the moment the four frogs hopped in the room, and covered me with frog spit, my belief in my sanity had been put aside. It was a very confusing time for me, and the Demon tries my patience sorely. But all in all, as he said, we got lucky tonight.

Just hope I wake up tomorrow without blisters.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2007-2015

“The Zar Tales”, Chapter 9

September 29, 2014

Full Moon, March 2011

 

tuareg2[1]

(thanks to ritabay.com  Tariq the Tuareg)

(Note:   Berbers are known to wear indigo dyed cloth as headgear.  The indigo bleeds into the skin of men from the desert.  Below their eyes, where the cloth hugs their face, the faint color of the indigo is permanently seen.  They are called “The Blue Men of the Sahara”).

 

 CHAPTER 9

The Mullahs left in the afternoon before dark settled for the region was full of cliffs and sudden drops off narrow roads. They had to get through the roughest terrain before dark.

The sedan was a large car, roomy enough for the three Mullahs to sit in the back seat and talk about the proceedings of the day. They were pleased with themselves, and felt they had rendered justice, as Allah would in the case of Shakira Sheikha and her illegal zars. This would be enough to quash any more such ideas in this village for a while, but they were still troubled. The zar ritual was springing up all over these regions, and they went back to the pagan gods these ignorant people still secretly worshiped. They agreed that the old Mullah Kaleel would have to be replaced soon. He didn’t have the strength or forcefulness to keep these villages in line. He was so ancient he had one foot in the grave already.

The Mullahs did not know the region, so they did not concern themselves with where the driver was going. They barely noticed him, with his thin face, hawk-nosed and wearing a strange blue turban. It was impossible to tell how old he was, and except for nodding and bowing, he did not utter a sound. They dismissed him as an ignorant peasant, perhaps a villager who made a living driving from the mountains to the bigger towns and then to cities. He was too insignificant to engage in conversation beyond being civil, so the Mullahs did not bother themselves with him.

However, after a while, one became concerned. They seemed to leave the village and head downward, past forests and over a valley, but then the road rose again into the mountains. When one of the Mullahs asked the driver where they were, all he got was a garble of words in a strange dialect. The only words they could understand were, ‘rock slide’, ‘other road’ and of course, ‘Allah’. This last sounded a bit like “Ammon” but the loose rocks from the road bouncing up under the chassis of the car made his speech even more garbled.

There was little they could do, except trust Allah and the driver. So darkness fell, and it was a very dark night. The moon in its cycle would rise that night, but until then, the only light came from the head beams of the car. Suddenly it stopped, dead in the road. The driver turned from his seat and addressed the Mullahs in his strange dialect.

‘Out! Out! This is the end of the road for you!”

These words the Mullahs understood. Perhaps something had happened to the car. So, being intelligent men, they opened the door and got out into the black night. Only the head beams illuminated the road before them. Suddenly the lamps cut off and it took a few minutes for the Mullahs eyes to adjust to the dark. They could see the surrounding mountain ranges off in the distance, for the moon finally rose above a mountain. Ah! All was made clear, and they could see where the road continued, now down the mountain, and off to the right of the road, a forest. In fact, the forest was thick, totally black, and the moon did nothing to illuminate the trees.

Suddenly, there were men…..or what looked like men in the middle of the road! But there was something strange, for these men seemed to float in an errie way upon the surface. They were dressed in long robes, and some wore dark, blue turbans. They all seemed to be tall men, but that could be an illusion from their wavering movement. Their sudden appearance was enough to raise the hair on the necks of the Mullahs. Though the night air was warm enough, each Mullah shivered and muttered Allah’s name under his breath.

One, two, a dozen men came forward down the road towards them. They must be robbers, highwaymen in the middle of the mountains, setting upon travelers from the cities and towns passing through these isolated villages. The driver must have been one of them! He led them right into this trap! Well, they had little money about them, so the pickings would be small.

The chief Mullah, the man that pronounced the sentence upon Shakira Sheikha, stepped up firmly and addressed the bobbing line of ‘men’.

“We are the appointed Mullahs of the Religious Authorities of Ankara, Praise Allah the One God! We are here on official business and demand that you let us pass.”

There was silence from the men who seemed more like vaporous ghosts to the human eye. Then the line parted in the middle, and a man stepped forth. He was tall, dressed in a white robe, and had an indigo blue turban on his head. His eyes, even in the dim light of the moon, sparkled with a particular flame. He had a short curved sword pushed through his girdle at his waist. He was obviously the leader.

“We know who you are. We know you are the Mullahs from Ankara who came to sit in judgment of the Sheikha. We also know the sentence you pronounced upon her head today.”

“Who are you to know all of this?” The voice of the chief Mullah rang out into the night. His eyes flashed, but there was fear along with challenge in them.

A low laugh came from the ranks of the men standing in the road behind the indigo turbaned speaker. It passed over the Mullahs like the wind from the mountains, soft and haunting to their ears. It did not sound like human laughter. The Mullahs shivered.

“We are Zars, you should have figured that out by now. And we are here to pronounce our own judgement upon you.”

“Zars! In the name of Allah! You do not exist!”

A low laughter again kicked up from the line of men standing there. This time it sounded like the rumbling of distant thunder.

“In the name of your Allah, and our Ammon, we do exist. We stand before you in judgement and will provide our own sentences upon your heads.”

The Mullahs were herded to a clearing, deep in the woods. They stood together, fearful, angry and disbelieving their eyes. The Zars seemed to command the moon, for it rose and illuminated the clearing like torches set in the surrounding trees. The Zars floated up in those trees, settling in for the night’s entertainment.  Ali, the speaker and the leader of these Zars, and because of his connection to the condemned Shakira, was the judge of the Mullahs. He would make short work of the matter before him, for he was a merciful man, or was a thousand years before becoming a Zar. But first he signaled to Emir now perched like a Zar-fruit in a branch of a tree.

Emir had been writing the rest of his poem in his head. This was the poem he never could seem to finish over the long centuries. The situation before him gave a nudge and a push he had not opportunity to use before. So, he jumped down, or actually floated down with a poem in his mouth, and addressing the Mullahs, recited that which had eluded him for centuries.

Clearing his throat, Emir, who in his past, mortal life had been truly a second rate Persian poet, addressed the Mullahs now in the center of the clearing in a melodious voice.

“Take to delight the presence
that from this two-way abode
we would not meet each other
once we pass through.

For our chance meeting is but
A reflection of life’s mysteries
Not to be counted upon,
but to acknowledge the wonder.

You have barred our spirits from Paradise!
You, and your God, have condemned us
To wander the earth inconsolable to human kindness.

Now is the time for our answer!
Now is the time for the quick slash
Of a sword!

Now we delight that we will not
Meet again
Once you pass through this
Vale of tears you have created.

Heaven or Hell-
You have made it the same.”

Emir’s voice rang through the nighttime air and seemed to reach up to the moon. Even Ali, a far better poet, was impressed with Emir’s words. The Mullahs eyes shone like satellite moons, for their fear made the full moon catch the whites of their eyes.

Ali, the judge, gazed at each Zar-fruit hanging in the trees.
He looked at each pointedly, and received a nod from each one. Then, in a strong voice, he spoke to the Mullahs standing before him.

“In the name of Ammon and Isis, our ancient God and Goddess, who you attempt to crush out of the memories of our tribes, I condemn you to your own Paradise with your One God Allah to comfort you. This is done not only for the offense to Shakira Sheikha and to the women of our villages, but also for the more terrible offense that you have done to other’s Gods over the past thirteen centuries. May your Allah have mercy upon your souls.”

There was a rustle of wind, sounding like leaves whipping up from the bottom of the trees, but it was night time and there was no wind. It was the sound of three curved, Berber swords whipping through the clearing and taking the heads of three Mullahs. They stood for a long few seconds, headless, their blood spilling down over their robes, and then they crumbled together and fell in a heap, much like Shakira had fallen at her trial, but with their blood staining the forest floor.

The Zars had their revenge, and so did Ammon, but there was a problem. What to do with the bodies of the Mullahs?

The Zars were Demons and there is a very old custom amongst these type of spirits. They would roast the Mullahs in a grand barbecue, push the car over the cliff and go home that dawn.

And the Spirits were made Flesh, thanks to the Mullahs.

So they did, and thought the Mullahs were old men, they were tasty enough, and in this partaking of sacred flesh, the Zars were transformed into men, or enough to look like men, but still with the particular humor and talents and skills of Zars. Even Emir’s poetry improved, for now he could taste and touch and smell and make love to the woman he possessed and this transformed his poetry.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2010-2014

“The Zar Tales”, Chapters IV and V.

September 13, 2014
"The Zar Tales", published by Lulu.com, 2010

“The Zar Tales”, published by Lulu.com, 2010

CHAPTER IV.

Mr. Mazud Nageesh sat at his desk, pondering the information before him. His wife Leila, attending the Zar ritual at Sheikha Shakira’s house was a further complication.

Ah! Women and their issues certainly screwed a peaceful life! They were essential to men’s comfort, and they continued the bloodlines, but by Allah’s Exalted Name in Paradise…they troubled a peaceful man!

Mr. Nageesh thought through his options. If he ignored the activity of the women, winked at their Zars, his own leadership of the village could be called into question and he could be removed from office. Things could go worse than that for him.

Then, there was his marriage. Leila had been a good if stubborn wife for over thirty years. The man was supposed to rule the house, but any man married that long knew who actually ruled. It was always the women who had real power. At his age he longed for peace and quiet, and if at times he walked on eggshells around the women of his household, well, it was only because he was a wise man.

But Leila was at the zar, and playing her tamboura. It would not be possible to ignore her presence at Sheikha Shakira’s house. Perhaps there was a way around the behavior of the women, but at this time, he didn’t know what it was. The situation was like a sour pickle and however he held his mouth, it would be bitter.

There didn’t seem any way out. Sighing deeply, he resolved to contact the proper authorities in the nearest city for guidance. But he would sit on it for a while, think of some options, and as long as he did something, what was the reasoning to rush? Better to run into a lion’s mouth where religion and women were concerned than mess with the authorities.

Ah! Allah the Merciful! What was the difference between lions, women and religion? You got chewed up all ways!

CHAPTER V

Leila caught wind of her husband’s plans. It was easy, for thirty years of marriage gave sharp insight into the workings of any married man if you were paying even a little attention. A few questions, a few mumbled responses, a bit of shouting and Leila had her answers. Her stupid husband would meddle in women’s affairs for the sake of his position and now only grief and trouble would follow.

Ah! Allah listen to the women’s plight! Even if you are a Man-God.

Perhaps cousin Shakira was right. Perhaps Goddess Nut was where she should take her concerns. Allah seemed to be doing right well by the men, and the women’s suffering didn’t abate.

Leila went to Shakira and together they sat and drank sweet mint tea, Shakira pouring it high into the pot three times so it would foam properly.

“So, this is what I know, cousin, though it took a bit of work to learn Mazud’s plans.”

Leila sipped her mint tea, her eyes looking at Shakira’s face over the rim of her tiny glass.

Shakira’s concern was obvious, her brows crinkling with concentration. Shakira called upon Nut silently, for she was needed to address all women’s concerns.

Mother Nut? Help us!

“Leila”, began Shakira, addressing her cousin in a lowered voice. “Who has he talked to? Is it anyone local?”

“Ah….from what I could get from him, and what I heard through the wall when he spoke on the phone in his office, he first talked to the old mullah, that ancient fart in the next district, what is his name? Imam Kaleel? Yes, that is his name. He is half blind with age and clinging to life. Allah push him over the cliff.”

They both laughed. Allah could at times be reasonable.

“Then the Imam will go to others for advice.” Shakira sipped her tea, deep in thought.

Yes, there would be trouble, no doubt about it. The zars would be too much of a target for the men to resist. This would have to be addressed, and soon.

“Well, cousin”. Leila’s voice cut into Shakira’s thoughts. “What do you propose? Surely there is something we can do? It is too good a thing to lose to the men. What should we do?”

“Let me think a while, Leila. Let me think.”

Shakira knew how important this was. The zars must continue. But how? The mullahs had supreme power, but the women needed the zars for so many reasons. Things were worked out in the zars. Health was restored by the zars. Her precious Ali had come to her at a zar. Shakira shook her head to clear her thoughts.

Ah! Mother Nut! Come to me at night in my dreams! Come to me with some answers!

The Goddess Nut did speak to Shakira. She came to her in a dream but her answer was not in the form she expected. In her dream, a smiling Nut spread herself over Shakira, caressing her with her sweet breath, dripping the milk of her breasts into Shakira’s mouth, and perfuming her skin with the scent of her hair. Nut rubbed her strong limbs on Shakira’s and made her sound her joy cry in her sleep! Shakira awoke suddenly, thinking of Ali and his lovemaking! Ah! Ali was no where to be found, but Shakira was given a vision by her dream. Still, her holy place felt a faint sweet ache left over from her sleep, and she knew then Nut had visited her. She knew Nut was wise and would lead her in this troubling time. She would turn to Ali and confide in him.

So she did. As soon as she saw him, she decided to throw it all at his feet and implore his advice and help. Even though he was spirit, he still was a man, and men sometimes were wise in these issues. Well, at least she hoped Ali would know what to do.

But first she would make an effort to appeal to him. Ali, like any man, liked the efforts of a woman attempting to please. He may only be spirit, but he still was enough of a man to remember the old ways.

So Shakira made a sweet feast of stuffed dates, and Turkish delight candies, and sugared almonds and candied fruits and golden raisins stuck together in a rich nougat and roasted her best beans for coffee. She washed her long hair and rinsed in rosewater, and dried it in the sun on the roof of her house, where it sparkled like gems in the sunshine. She rubbed almond oil into her heated skin on the roof, and rubbed some into her bush of black hair beneath. She hennaed the palms of her hands with designs and the tops of her feet, and dressed in a white, embroidered cotton gown that was fine enough to show the dark rings of her nipples beneath. But just for good measure, she also applied the brick red henna to her nipples first to make sure that they looked like two eyes looking seductively out at Ali from beneath the thin lawn fabric. Ah! If this didn’t make his ney rise from his loins, then all the art in Persia was dead, along with its manhood!

*************************************

Ali sat on the low bed, in his usual position, hovering a few inches from the Turkish rug. He smoked his hookah, and the apple- dried tobacco floated out through the piping. Since Ali was mostly spirit, it circled in his lungs, visible to the eyes of Shakira. When Ali was pleased or aroused, he shimmered with a golden gleam, and Shakira did not fail to notice his interest. Ali never touched the food offered him, for he did not live on such substance of mortals. But his eyes widened when he saw Shakira standing before him, and she saw that he was pleased. Her nipples hardened and ached and seem to stretch their now reddened buds towards him sitting before her.

“Ya Habibi”, began Shakira, settling herself on a mound of pillows next to Ali. “There is talk amongst our mayor and men about the women’s zars. I have heard the old Iman Kaleel has been consulted by Mayor Nageesh.”

Shakira took a bite of a stuffed date, and looked at Ali siting next to her. Ah! He was handsome this morning, with his robes sparkling in gold dust and the sweet smell of the tobacco surrounding his head like a vaporous crown.

Ali continued to puff on his hookah, his face dissolving in the smoke. He did not look at Shakira, but with eyes half closed, seemed lost in his own thoughts. He did not immediately answer her, but continued to pull languidly on his pipe.

“It is more than just Imam Kaleel who has knowledge of what you women do.” Ali blew out a long plume of smoke.

“News has rolled like a stone from a hill down to the valley. Now the mullahs in the district know what goes on here, for your Mayor Nageesh is out to protect his good name.”

Shakira was surprised, but then again, Ali was spirit and would be able to gather information unseen. That was a definite advantage over mortals. He didn’t stand with his ear to the wall like Leila. She also knew Ali would not share how he obtained this knowledge. He was a spirit of mystery, after all.

And a man.

“Beloved”.

Shakira’s voice was sweet as mashed dates and cut through Ali’s smoke seductively.

“What do you think I should do? What should we women do to protect ourselves?”

Shakira could see a smile forming on Ali’s lips, even through the smoke. His smile broadened, but still he did not look at her.

“Ah, women! They do not change much through the centuries. They dig holes in the ground and complain when they fall in.”

He blew out a long stream of smoke, obscuring his face completely. Shakira could sense his mirth, for his spirit-body vibrated with his silent laughter.

“You should have asked my advice before you held your zars and I would have told you my opinion.”

Shakira’s mood changed from cajoling to anger.

Just like a man! Hah! He doesn’t remember the role his own zar played in his past. I could have left him in stupid Aya’s womb and he would still be unhappy.

Demon Ali must have sensed her thoughts for he changed his position slightly, and laid down the hose from the hookah.

“Look, Shakira. You have involved yourself and the others in a dangerous thing. The mullahs have cracked down all over the country on zars. This you well knew. Your rebellion against the men has been too open. Had you been smarter, you would not be so worried now.”

Shakira exploded.

“Alright, Mighty Zar! I have played the foolish woman and now you have your satisfaction! Your wisdom is more than my own, though I am called Sheikha. What can I do to make you help me?

“Ah! You want my help? All you had to do is ask.” Ali the Demon vibrated with laughter.

“I am asking, Ali, I am begging for your help. I am lost which way to go. I am lost.”

Now Ali the Demon turned to look at Shakira propped up on the rich colored cushions beneath him. His eyes softened and he folded his arms across his chest and golden stardust rose from his movements. His voice was serious but still a hint of laughter was there as he spoke in low tones to this woman.

“You and the others do nothing. Tell them to be obedient wives to their husbands. Tell them to act sweetly and talk in pleasing, melodious tones and not to challenge them. Tell them to act as white doves and bring honor to their house. I will do the rest.”

Shakira, being an intelligent and curious woman, could not resist. “What Ali, do you plan on doing?” As soon as the words left her mouth, she realized her mistake.

Ali the Demon’s eyes grew dark, and his face scowled with thunder. Shakira had never seen him in such a state, and shrunk back on her pillows. Her heart thumped as if she had seen a horrible jinn in the black of night, and sweat rose on her skin in fright.

Ali saw her fear, could smell it with his sharpened senses, and curbed his anger as well as he could.

“Woman, it is enough for you to know I will fix what you have broken. It is not for you to question what I do. I am not your husband, but you apply the same advice here as you tell the other women. Now, I desire soft music and the perfume of your body in my nostrils and my ney within your woman’s bush. I will play the flute and you will dance for me. But you take off that gown. I prefer to see your skin glisten with your almond oil, and to see your flesh roll in the morning light. This is what you will do for me and I will take care of your mess. But ask me not again my plans. You would not want to know. Have faith in your beloved.”

Ah! Shakira knew a strong and determined man when she heard one. And since she had no power against the mullahs, she was glad to leave it to Ali. There are times when a man is a necessity in life, and this was a prime example. He might be spirit, but there was enough man in that spirit to hide behind.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2009-2014. “The Zar Tales” published by Lulu.com, 2009

“The Zar Tales”, Chapter Two

August 31, 2014

Zar Dancer

A Woman possessed by a Zar……

 

Chapter II.

 

Of course there had to be a snake in this paradise.  It was the village mayor. He was not happy with the power Shakira had.  For Shakira was a Sheikha, a ‘wise woman’, trained from her mother’s line in the responsibilities of such a position.  Shakira was consulted by the women over many issues. Marriages, birth names, the problems women had over their troublesome men, all these and much more came to Shakira.  She was wise, and known for her sensible opinion.  She had power in her own right.

And this was irksome to the mayor.   Not enough issues came to his desk.  He was a man, and in this world, a man was the one to consult, not a woman!

No, the mayor was up against a force of nature disobedient to the natural order of life. And besides, he heard the women were having too much fun in the opinion of some of the husbands.  There was talk they were planning to meet and drink and smoke and drum and laugh till late at night, but that was just a whispered rumor.  Ah, life was not in the proper order at all!

He, by the authority of his office, would have to make inquiries into this matter.  The women were showing their heels and who knew what would happen next?  Perhaps they would roll their eyes at the Imam!  Perhaps the women would refuse next to go to the mosque!  Who knows with women?  They could create all sorts of mischief, and he, the mayor, would be called to account for it.  Ah!  He owed it to the men, his brothers under the sun,  to find out what was going on.  He owed it to his own reputation and his position in the village to investigate all rumors.  Perhaps if he put his foot down now, his own wife of many years would quiet her voice and heel to his command like a good Muslim wife.  But he had his doubts.  His wife, after all, was related to Shakira.  Ah! That clan stretched back into time, and making his own wife obey was like telling the wind not to blow.  It was the blood of Shakira that made ill in his own house.  Or, at least, it had a part in his problems. 

Well, whatever to come, he owed it to Allah, the one God!  And He was a Man! He would agree with the mayor. That was the natural Order of things.

So the mayor, whose name was Mr. Nageesh, heard that on a certain Friday, when the men were at mosque chanting their prayers, the women were making their way to Shakira’s house.   Mayor Nageesh sent a young boy, not more than twelve, to count those entering the house and see if he could hear anything of their plans.  This young boy lurked in the shadows of a doorway and watched.  At least twelve women had entered the house, some with bundles concealed under their dresses.  What they were carrying was not clear to the boy, but the sound of drumming and laughter and even the sound of suspicious clinking of bottles could be heard from this house after dark.  Worse, the women stayed there for hours. The sound of their ruckus was shameful, even the men could hear it through their snoring.

A Zar!  The women were holding a Zar! What else could it be?   Ah, this was very bad, very, very bad, for the Zar was now illegal. Everyone knew it was banned as pagan by the illustrious council of religious men in the cities.  This would be the end of his office if word of this spread beyond this village.  It was sure to reach the ears of the district and then he would have his hands full.  Or, he thought with a shiver….they could have his head.  It had happened before.  Allah have mercy!

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010-2014

 

 

“The Zar Tales”, Chapter One

August 28, 2014

 

 

In 2010 I published the novella, “The Zar Tales” with Lulu.com.  It started out as a short story, but had it’s own ideas.  That happens when the characters have more life than was supposed.  The writer loses control and some times that isn’t a bad thing.  This is dedicated to my dear friend of many years, Bill Penrose, who is an excellent writer and believed in my own undeveloped abilities as a writer.

Lady Nyo

Shakira is Sheikha, Wise Woman, leader of the Zar ritual and general organizer of the women  and  women’s issues.  Previously, Ali the Demon has jumped from young Aya to the arms of Shakira, a middle-aged woman. (“A Turkish Tale of A Zar”)  Zars have been outlawed in most Islamic countries since 1983 as pagan worship.  However, it flourishes in rural areas and also in some big cities.  It is considered part of ‘women’s religion’ by the officials and yet it continues in spite of being outlawed.  It is one of the main mental health outlets for women in these countries.  Possession by a Zar usually is a woman’s way of sassing her husband and expressing her unhappiness with marriage and her life.

 

THE ZAR TALES

CHAPTER 1

Shakira, wise woman, daughter of the veil, Sheikha to the village like her mother and grandmother before her…. stood before the window of her small stone house. She could see to the village pump and watch dark clad women like so many black crows, fill their water jugs each morning and again in the afternoon. 

It was still early in the morning, but a sultry wind blew in from the south.  It would be no different than any other day of the season, for the rains would not return until late fall.

Mixing the humble mashed chickpeas, oil and garlic, she prepared the day’s humus. Not a task to try her powers, but one that fed her, important enough. The flat bread was already cooked, the yogurt curdling in the heavy glass jars sitting outside in the sun. 

 She wondered where Ali had gone so early this morning.  Probably lurking around with other Zars on the mountain, playing at knucklebones. 

“Shakira! Have you enough water this morning?  I will draw you some if not.”

A woman walked by the window, her black dress and head scarf no different from any of the other middle aged women.   Except for her voice and that limp from a club foot, she would not be distinguished from any other black robed woman.

“I have enough, Leila, enough for this morning.  Later I will go draw more.”

Leila was Shakira’s relative, their families as mixed as a bowl of wheat and barley. Not much had changed in this mountain village in centuries, except the convenience of electricity, a central, motorized village pump and a few motor cars that brought dignitaries from the far flung cities once a year.   New was old by the time it got to their village, for they were isolated in the mountains of eastern Turkey. 

Shakira’s Ali was a Zar, a demon who came to Shakira for a man’s comfort up under her dress.  He was young, younger than middle-aged Shakira, but he only appeared young. Ali was at least a thousand years old. He was killed by one of his tribesman around the age of thirty. Shakira knew very little about his circumstances, because Ali did not talk.  It was a man’s prerogative to keep secrets, and Ali, though a Zar, was once a man. 

Shakira first saw Ali when he appeared before her a shimmering, golden ghost at the Zar ritual a year ago. She struck a deal with the handsome devil and Ali was glad to jump into the welcoming and much more experienced arms of Shakira.  He had more room to sleep than in the womb of Aya, the young women he formerly possessed. He liked the strong thighs and women’s quarters of Shakira.

At times, when the weather was cooled by breezes blown down from the mountain, Shakira would close her door and draw the curtain over her front window.  In the other room serving as her bedroom she could watch the constellations revolve in the sky from a small window cut high in the wall.  There she would hope to entertain Ali, dancing the slow, sensuous movements, caught in the moonlight from that window. 

“Come, my Habibi, come and comfort me,” Shakira would call out, her eyes closing in expectation, her voice shaking with her need.  And Ali would magically appear, materializing in the room, glowing like a golden shower of tiny stardust. 

 Ali would then sit on her bed, hovering as demons do, a few inches from the woven wool covering.  He would smoke his hookah and his eyes would sparkle through the stardust  as he watched Shakira, now naked, seduce him with her dance.

“My Habibi, I dance for you, I dance with my limbs and my heart and my soul.  Do you like what you see, my dearest?” 

We must remember that Ali was a Zar, a Spirit, and there wasn’t much of flesh on him…or of him.

Somehow Ali would answer her, but not in words.  He would speak into her heart, into her soul and Shakira always heard this unspoken language.

“You are my heart’s delight, my beautiful and wise Shakira.  Your movements would inspire the dead to rise and dance in the streets, so lovely are you to my eyes.” 

 Shakira’s body was mature and ripe, her skin the color of turkish coffee filled to the brim with rich cream.  Her hair was still black as the night, with just a few strands of silver, and when she danced, freed of the day’s covering, it swung in waves down her back to her full, muscular buttocks.  Her belly was rounded and jiggled when she laughed, not like the slim, flat bellied girls like Aya before her baby, but full like the clay jugs made to carry the precious water from the village well.  Her hips were strong and fleshed out like ripe fruit from a sacred and ancient olive tree.  

Shakira had some vanity about her, and since Ali had appeared and taken up residence, she rubbed scented oils into her skin.  In the dim light of the oil lamp, Shakira’s skin rolled and wavered like watered silk.  She raised her strong and muscled limbs above her head, snapping her fingers like zils to her humming.  Her breasts swayed and pushed themselves out proudly, and if they sagged a bit with age, Ali didn’t mind.  She was a woman after all, and the scent of her body and the oils rubbed in her skin put him in a narcotic trance.  Her dark eyes rolled back in her head as her shoulders rolled forward, and her hips gyrated in the age-old movements of seduction. 

Ali was enchanted.  Their nights were filled with  strange lust and if Shakira woke in her bed alone, she was not deserted.  Ali had climbed into her woman’s garden to sleep, folding himself and resting in the warmth below her womb.  She would rub her belly, and say: “Good morning, dearest”, smile and start her day. Some mornings she would feel Ali rush out of her like a warm fart and disappear into the day, off to converse and argue with other Zars around their mountain village.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010-2014

Tin Hinan, a novel

July 14, 2014

"Tin Hinan", Chapter II,  "Damaged Goods"

 

I have decided to post the beginning chapters of “Tin Hinan”, a novel I have been writing for the past 7 years….on and off.  “Devil’s Revenge” needs a lot of work right now and I came across some information on the Berber culture that I wanted to include in “Tin Hinan”. 

I also want to thank TR for the wonderful pictures she sent me of a recent hiking trip in Morocco.  These pictures, the landscape, the Atlas Mountains, settled deep in my mind and pushed me to continue to work to a conclusion on this novel. I was stuck, but I think her pictures ‘unstuck’ me.

Tin Hinan was an actual historical figure of the 4th century in Algeria.  She gathered the Berber tribes from Morocco and Algeria into a nation.  There is not much known about her so this is a work of pure fiction.  I did try to stick to the ‘facts’ in her journey across the desert with her slave. That was known about Tin Hinan, and her galvanizing power to unite the Berber tribes.  That’s about all, though her large tomb was found in the Algerian mountains in the 1920’s. Her skeleton was wrapped in a red leather shroud with gold leaf symbols, seven gold and eight silver bracelets on her arms, and other jewelry and amulets around her body. Clearly, this was a woman of great status, and as she is called today, “The Mother of Us All”, still revered by Berbers.

 

Considering the tribal traditions of any century, what Tin Hinan did in just this venture, leaving her tribe (at the age of sixteen) and setting out across these mighty deserts is amazing. Considering the odds of her survival, it is especially amazing.

 

I learned many things in writing “Tin Hinan”, and I relied on Berber friends and associates for their own information about Morocco and Algeria, and with help with this difficult language, but I also learned that the Great Deserts (4th century)did not look then like they do now.  There were grassy plains that extended all over, and lush oasis.  Today, there are less oasis, and of course, the Sahara has become a thousand miles of mostly sand and rock.

 

The Berbers opened the trade routes across northern Africa, and defended those routes from the Arabs.  Interestingly enough, Berbers were influenced by Christianity early on and many Berber tribes especially in the mountains resisted Islamic influence into the early 20th century. (Though Islam made great inroads from the 7th century onward.)  Between Christianity and Islamic religion, they were closer to the Egyptians in their worship of Ammon and Isis.

 

 The story seemed to weave itself like a rug, knot by knot and color by color. This novel is nearly finished, but I am adding much more information (especially on the djenoun as I deal with my own qareen) .   I have noticed over the past few years this story has garnered readers on the blog in a consistent way.

 

One important fact of Berber culture:  The Soul resides in the Liver.

 

 

TIN HINAN

 

CHAPTER 1

 

I am called Tin Hinan. I had the destiny of a woman ‘rooted in flight’.  Even my name means “Nomadic Woman”.  Sometimes I forget my birth name before I became Queen. It is now lost in the sands of the Great Desert.

 

I founded a nation from the stirrings of my womb.  This is my story.

 

I was born in an oasis near what is now called Morocco.  My people were nomadic, but if our tribe had a name, we would be Tagelmust, meaning “People of the Veil”. The Arabs, our enemy, rudely called us Twareg, “Abandoned by God”. We now are known as Tuareg, or Berber by the white Europeans. But since I am speaking from my short time of fifty years on this earth and now only spirit,  you should know my story and life harkens back to the fourth  century.  Life was very different then. But men and woman were not so different from now. Hearts are the same.  Reasons for anger are, too.

 

Our tribe is matriarchal.  All things, possessions, are passed down through the women.  The men still make the laws, but we women have great power.  Nothing is decided until the council of elder women and men meet.

 

 We basically had two classes of Tagelmust people, Imajeren, the nobles, and Iklan, the slaves.  There are subgroups in all that, but that’s not important. My family were Imajeren, my father a tribal elder and leader.  My mother had great status as the first of his four wives.

 

I was born in the spring, during lambing time.  I was exceptionally tall for my sex, and poems were written by my mother and other women about my hurry to reach up to the stars.  That is the reason they gave for my height.  I had long, thick black hair and hazel eyes, which was not rare. As I grew to marriageable age, more songs were sung openly around the fires as to my beauty.

 

Perhaps you wonder when you think of Arabic women with the chador and burkah covering their features, how would you sing to a black sheath of cloth with two dark eyes staring back at you?  We, the Berber, are blessed by Ammon and Isis, for The Veiled People only applies to the men!  They wear the veil, an indigo dyed cloth that wraps around their heads and covers their faces, with only the eyes and the bridge of their noses exposed.  We, the women, carry our faces proudly to the sun, to the wind, and when it comes, the blessed rain.  The men are mostly stained a dark blue, like a devil or zar because their sweat makes the dye run from the indigo and stains their faces.  They look funny for it does not wash off, but seeps into the skin.  So when you marry, you beget children from a Zar-looking creature.  Perhaps that is why children are such little devils.

 

“Aicha, Aicha!” The aunties were calling me in from where I was loafing.  I liked to stand at the edge of the oasis, and look at the sea of sand before me.  I would think of great spans of water, for some travelers once told me about the great ocean to the north.

 

I turned and ran towards my mother’s tent. To ignore the aunties would be rude, and besides, they had many surprises and secrets in the folds of their robes.

 

“You, Aicha!  Your mother wants you to come to her, hurry!  Here, be a good girl and take this basket.”

 

I slipped the large basket over my arm and went into the tent side of my mother’s.

 

She was sitting on the floor of the tent, shelling dried beans. There were other women, most of them my aunts, her sisters, also working on the floor.  Our clan was a large one, one of the largest that made up the tribe. Growing up, there were women enough to pull my ears when I was bad and to soothe when I was mournful.

 

My mother looked up, noticed me standing there and motioned for me to sit down.

 

“Aicha, you are of the age when you should be married, or at least engaged.  Your father and I think it time that we look around for a husband for you.”

 

I knew it!  I saw the sly glances of the aunties, and heard the laughter when I passed a group of women. At the river, when I carried down the washing, I got looks and giggles even from those women and girls I didn’t know well. Something was brewing and this time I was the last to know.

 

“Come, you graceless girl.” My mother’s oldest sister, Aunt Aya called out to me.  She reached behind her broad hips and pulled out a packet wrapped in wool.  Slowly opening it, she revealed a heavy silver and amber necklace made up of many silver rounds and large amber beads.

 

It was fun for them, to dress me in the women’s jewelry like I was a child’s doll.   But they were serious in their business.

 

“Hold still, you silly girl. This kohl will poke out your eye if you don’t”.

 

 This from another auntie.   My face and hair were fiddled with, and I suffered the blackening of my eyes and their hands twisting my hair into designs.

 

That day they had their fun, and I emerged from the tent at evening to be walked around the fire to the whistles and comments of the collected tribe.  My hair was braided in intricate styles and small silver discs peppered my head like beaten full moons.   Heavy silver and wood earrings weighted down my earlobes.  I was of course, without a veil, and two women held my hands, leading me around the tribe’s main fire to the sound of drums and the ney flute.

 

Although I could not to marry within my tribe, I was being presented for our tribe’s delight.  Grooming for marriage was a ritual and my blushes showed appropriate modesty that evening.

 

********************

 

 

 

There was a young man who was part of a neighboring tribe a day away. During marriages, celebrations and festivals, I would see him and he would look for me. We are modest women, but we do stare in the eyes of a man we are interested in marrying. We even wink at them. Are you shocked? Well, we did.   We had many customs, but Berber women, before the hated Arabs, had much freedom.

 

Hasim was his name, and he was a tall man, taller than I was.  I thought only proper I be married to a tall man. What woman wants to look down on her husband?  It sets a bad example for a woman.  She starts looking down on him in other things.  Hasim was a few years older and at one marriage celebration, I danced a line dance with other maidens and gave him one of my bracelets.  This was an accepted way of flirting. When the musicians took a rest, I went to get my silver bracelet back, and he slipped it down the front of his robe. He crossed his arms over his chest and smiled, or what I could see beneath his veil.  I should have known then Hasim was trouble, but my foolish heart flip-flopped.  Ah! Girls can be so silly.

 

Hasim was handsome, already a man though only about twenty-two years of age.  He had golden skin where the sun had not burned him dark and black eyes like deep shaded pools of water in the oasis.  His nose was long and slightly bent, like the hunting hawk, and his mouth was full and red, like a split pomegranate.  His teeth were white like bleached bones in the desert.

 

How do I know this, if our men are veiled?  My Hasim, for I already claimed him mine with the certainty that he would be…. had unwrapped his indigo blue veil from his face. And yes, his cheeks were stained a light blue where his beard would be.  I should have known that the Zar blood was deep in him, not just on the surface, but Isis! How was I to know then?

 

“Come, little sister, fish deep in my waters and you will find your bangle.  You want your precious silver back, do you not?”

 

Ah! My father would kill him if he heard his words!  But Hasim just grinned, playing a man’s game and my head whirled inside.  Other parts of me were disturbed, but I only knew of this by our women’s bridal parties before the weddings.  My heart flipped and my stomach turned over, too.

 

I am not known for being shy, perhaps it is because I am so tall, but shy I was before Hasim.

 

 

He reached out his hand and traced my cheek to my chin, gently pushing the back of his thumb over my lips.  My eyes were locked to his and I could not pull away. I must have looked like a little fool, for my mouth opened a bit with the firm  pressure of his finger.

 

Hasim dipped into his chest and reluctantly pulled out my bracelet.  “Little sister, be careful in what hands you place your silver. .  You might come across one who will take more than your jewelry.”

 

I heard his voice off in the distance.  He closed his eyes slightly, his long, black lashes brushing downwards, and the spell was broken.  I staggered a bit, and he threw out a hand to steady me, an enigmatic smile on his face.

 

 

I saw Hasim a few times after this first occasion and each time grew dizzy by the sight him.  During the last harvest festival, Hasim was mounted on a large, white camel as he raced across the desert with the other riders.  The groans and bellows of the beasts, the yelling of the men placing their wagers and the dust churned up from many feet made it hard for me to concentrate.  I could only follow the white of his camel for he was surrounded by mounted men.

 

That autumn, my mother and father called me before them, and announced that it was time I marry.  I of course had no choice, I was of age, but I noticed an exchange of smiles between my parents.  Unknown to me, my father had consulted with the marriage broker and a visit had been made to Hasim’s parents.  He was considered a good prospect, and with the status of our tribe and that of my father, I was considered a likely bride for Hasim.

 

My heart was light and leaping about in my chest.  I walked now with confidence, my breasts pushed out and a smile upon my face.  I would have the status of a wife, not just a common, unmarried girl.  There were many things to settle, preparations to make and issues far beyond my concern.  These were the matters of the elders and my mother’s family. But I was to be a bride!  Finally, I would take my place in the tribe with all the authority of a wedded woman.

 

 

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2007-2014

 

 

‘A Turkish Tale’, from “The Zar Tales”

June 5, 2014

SEXUAL ALLUSIONS IN THIS STORY. JUST A WARNING.

I wrote this for publication in “The Zar Tales”, my second book published by Lulu.com. It is still available at that site.
Short stories have different ‘laws’ than novels and poetry, and in some important ways you are constrained. However, this story reflects some of the cultural attitudes of men in these societies today. And the Zar ritual exists though it is suppressed in these Middleastern and African countries. It is a remarkable ritual for women and one of the only ‘mental health’ avenues for them even today.

Lady Nyo

(The Zar is a number of things in Middle Eastern and North African societies. One, it’s a ritual of extracting a Demon (a Zar) from the possessed, placating and then restoring them to the host body. A Sheikha gives it new marching orders…. Hence, a Zar is also a Demon or Djinn. Three, the Zar is a bonding or ritual dance among women. And four, the Zar dance is also a form of Hyperarousal Trance, distinct from meditative trances.)

“A TURKISH TALE”

“Woman!” said an angry Ahmed. “We are married a year. You behave like a child! You don’t speak to my mother. I did not get married for this treatment. You are a terrible wife!”

Ahmed had a ‘reason’ to be angry with Aya, or at least he believed he did. She did not act the spouse he held he deserved. He expected a paradise on earth, a wife pliable to his wishes and prepared to serve his wants. But Aya was young, only fifteen years old at the wedding. She came from across the mountain, born in a village no different from where she was now. No village in this part of the country was much different, and the mountains bred people repeating the same traditions, customs and habits.

Aya was very naïve and ignorant of life. She was a daughter born in the middle of ten children, not noticed by any one much. Plus, she was a shy girl, and not expected to shine.

When a matchmaker came from Ahmed’s parents, everyone was shocked. Surprised she could be married off. Both sets of parents, with the matchmaker in the middle, bargained for Aya much as her father bought sheep in the market. In due time, Aya was married and packed off to Ahmed’s parents, over the mountain and into another village and that was the last the bride’s family saw of Aya.

Aya began to droop. Deprived of the only people she knew and thrust into a family of strangers, she became even more timid and quiet. The excitement of the new marriage had passed, and living with Ahmed in a room apart from the large, noisy family was not much of a change. All brides have hope and expectations, and though she was married for a year, Aya still held hope for something different than what her life was already.

Ahmed’s mother smelled trouble. She could tell by the scowl of her favorite son that he was not happy. Peace on earth depended upon the contentment of men, and Ahmed’s mother had tradition to uphold. She knew the trouble gossip could cause, for she had been the generator of much during her life. Soon Ahmed’s sadness would be common discussion around the well, and the family would lose face. Something had to be done and Ahmed’s mother knew it was up to her to save the family honor. But first she would talk to the raw girl.

One day Ahmed’s mother went and cornered her in the courtyard while she fed chickens.

“My daughter. Why the long face?”

She generally showed little concern for her daughter- in- law, for she did not understand her. Aya was quiet, which was proper for a good Muslim woman, but too quiet. She had grown listless and preoccupied with spending time on the roof looking over the dry and rocky countryside. Many times Ahmed’s mother caught her up there, a strange look in her eye, and seemingly deaf to her calls. At first she had hoped for a grandchild, but Ahmed was spending more time with the men and less with his woman. Surely the girl should be able to charm her new husband. She must not be trying! Ahmed said little, just went about the house with a scowl, but all knew something was wrong.

Ahmed’s mother, whose name was Leila, could get nothing from her. The silly bride bowed her head, and cast her eyes downward, looking at her dusty feet. Well, the peace of her household was at stake, and if Ahmed was unhappy, Leila was prepared to do battle.

But not with the girl. That would be beneath her.

So in time honored tradition, Leila made a formal visit to the local Sheikha. She would know what to do. Leila would at least have the satisfaction of doing her duty by her son. If the Sheikha, named Shakira, was successful, Leila and her husband would be able at least to keep all of the bride price. To return it, or even a part, would be a terrible burden. Anyway, most of the bride price was already gone. You could not recover water upstream when it was downstream.

Sheikha Shakira told her to send the girl. She would find out the trouble between Ahmed and Aya. She would attempt to fix what was broken.

For the visit, Aya came with her mother- in- law and a very quiet Ahmed. Shakira of course knew the young bride on sight, her family name and that she was a new bride, but she had never reason to notice her. She sometimes saw her at the village well, drawing water in her families jugs or washing clothes down by the sluggish river, or feeding the chickens outside the door of Leila’s house. But she didn’t seem remarkable to Shakira. Just a young bride, nothing special.

Aya was very young, with not much meat on her bones. She would not give much heat next to Ahmed when the winter winds blew down from the mountains and turned the air raw and bitter. Better that Ahmed’s parents had found him a bride who would fill his bed and warm his feet with her flesh.

However, after Shakira looked more closely at Aya, she could see there were bigger problems than too- thin Aya. The girl looked haunted to Shakira’s eyes.

After the obligatory cups of mint tea, Ahmed and his mother were sent home, with Leila passing a small gift of money to Shakira from the depths of her robe. Shakira nodded and turned back to the sullen girl sitting at her table.

Shakira prepared to question young Aya. She plied her with more of the sweet tea they brewed in the village and drank on all occasions. Aya was quiet, which wasn’t unusual for a young Muslim girl, but she noticed that she kept her eyes cast on the floor. This was more than a normal shyness. The girl appeared disturbed, or perhaps she was hiding a secret. This last intrigued Shakira the most.

“Come, Aya. Do not be shy. You know why you are here. Your husband has made complaints about your behavior in the marriage. Is something wrong, my daughter?”

Aya sipped at her tea and shook her head, but did not raise her eyes to Shakira’s face.

The Sheikha Shakira could tell many things by the shine of the eyes, by the carriage of the head, by the shoulders, by the sheen of the skin. Although thin, Aya did not appear sick, just unhappy.

“Aya”. Shakira thought a direct approach would get some answers. “Does Ahmed do what a husband should? Do you know what a husband does for his wife?”

Aya blushed, and her hands shook as she put her small glass down.

“Tell me,” said Shakira with an encouraging smile. “Does Ahmed put off his own pleasure for yours?” The look on Aya’s face told Shakira that Ahmed did not.

Aya’s blush increased, giving her dusky skin a bloom of beauty.

“Tell me, Aya.” Shakira’s voice was gentle and low, a conspiracy brewing between two women against all men.

“Does Ahmed touch you in your holy woman’s place? You know after you are married, it is right and good when he does? He should use his male member and his fingers and even his tongue.” Shakira sat back and looked closely at Aya. Her hands shook and she didn’t pick up her glass.

Ah, thought Shakira. Another stupid man that doesn’t know how to stroke his wife into bliss! Allah punish these stupid men who are so selfish!

Shakira thought a different approach would be fruitful. “Aya, do you touch yourself down there in your holy place? Did you know God has given you a body with all the pleasures of paradise on earth? You can touch and stroke and push your fingers in there and have lovely feelings. Perhaps you need to show Ahmed how to arouse you? You are married a year, and if your husband doesn’t understand, perhaps you need to give him a push. Do you understand, daughter?

Suddenly Aya started shaking violently and a great sob escaped from her throat.

“Aaaiiiyee! It is like a man is already in there…in my holy place, and he strokes where Ahmed puts his flute. I try to resist him, it is a demon inside of me! but I am not strong enough. Ah, Mother Shakira, help me! I have thought many times as I go to the roof of the house I would throw myself over the edge!”

This burst of words shocked Shakira. She sat there blinking, watching the young girl sob out her shame and fear. Ah! Now she had something to work with!

A demon. In bed between an ignorant girl and an even more ignorant husband!
But! This was something most interesting, something Shakira encountered at times among women. From the narrowness of their lives, in their isolation from the cities and from the stupidity of the men, a demon popped up frequently in the lives of married women. And thank God only married women. They seemed to scorn the virgins, which was good, for if they didn’t, it would mean the murder of many young women by their fathers and brothers, the whole village, thought Shakira.

These spirits were helpful to women as Shakira well knew. They could give a woman a certain liberty to sass their husbands. If a word popped out, she could blame it on the Zar, the demon. It was not her fault, and punishing her would do no good. Something just came over her and she didn’t know where it came from. It was the fault of the Zar. He needed to have his power ‘reduced’. He needed a good talking to, to be placated, given new marching orders.

Shakira thought about the demon. She knew she could never can purge a Zar, these troubling spirits, she would have to cajole, puzzle, confuse and ultimately, calm them. But! She would restore them with their powers reduced. No one wants a Zar wandering around scaring the children and chickens. It was bad enough they sat under the trees in the woods on the mountains and woe to anyone who cast their eyes on a bodiless Zar! Shakira knew that to be immediate possession. The Zar needed a human body. That was where Zars lived comfortably. A goat would not do.

Ah! An excuse for a Zar ritual! Shakira rubbed her hands in glee. The price of the feast and the sacrifice was less important than the chance to get the women together for some fun. And Zars were fun in a life that was black- clad, dusty and under the thumb of Allah and the men.

On the day of the Zar ritual, Shakira placed a tray of nuts and fruit on an altar in the middle of the room. The drummers came in earlier and were sitting together talking, laughing and drinking tea. The ney player, a young man, was sitting apart from the drummers, all women now. Incense was heavy, and the smell of it was hypnotic even before the drummers started beating their rhythm.

Shakira spent some time with Aya, talking to her, helping her ease herself into the ritual soon to take place. Aya had suffered some nerves, thrown up, and then seemed resigned to her fate. She remained pale.

More women straggled into the room, waddling like black crows in a field. They sat in a rough circle, breathing in the heady perfume wafting from the burning incense. Some were praying to themselves, others began chants, and the combined sounds were like a hive of bees in the sunshine, dipping into the honey. Shakira was trying not to slip into her own trance, but the warm weather and the sunshine conspired to lull her senses. She looked over at Aya sitting with her mother and mother-in-law. She was dressed in a white cotton gown, her hair loose down her back. The hair was the last place that Aya’s demon would hold on to as she tossed her head around and around, throwing him into the arms of Shakira. She wondered what this demon would be like. Would he be a hard one to cajole? Would he demand a price for his obedience? Would she be strong enough, without rallying her own demons, to take him on?

None of this could she know in advance. Allah Provide, she prayed.

Then the drummers started their different rhythms. Each part of the body was capable of possession and a different rhythm beat out on the stretched goat skin drums would find them out. The rhythm would call out to the soul of the demon, and he would have to answer. It was heartbeat to heartbeat.

The first rhythm was the ayoub, ‘dum-tec-a dum-tec-a’, the heartbeat of humanity, becoming more and more intense. Shakira could not help begin her own trance. It was a necessary part of the Zar ritual. She would catch the demon when he was tossed from Aya’s hair, wrestle him in her own arms and give him a good talking to!

Aya had risen, fear distorting her pale face as she walked around the room, her eyes like big dark moons. A blind man could see how frightened she was! Then, allowing herself to feel the rhythm seeping into the blood of all there, she started to nod her head, back and forth, little nods at first, as if she were tentatively allowing the heartbeat of the drums to enter her body. Her eyes glazed and she started to change the gait of her walking, as if she was swaying to some internal rhythm set up as a counterpoint to what was heard by all others. Her hips started to jerk and her head rolled on her neck in little circles, hair flying in gentle waves around her. The ney player picked up the tempo, the drums followed. Aya’s movements around the circle increased in speed. She started to whirl around as she walked, her face upwards to the ceiling, now her hair flying out like Dervish’s skirts. Faster and faster Aya twirled and jerked around the room, throwing her arms outward and upward. She uttered little shrieks, unheard with the general chanting and drumming and the shrill music of the ney.

Shakira knew if there was a demon inside of Aya, he would soon appear. She swayed back and forth in her own trance, standing with her arms outward towards the spinning girl.

There! Something hit Shakira in her chest! Something solid and hard enough to almost knock the wind from her. Aya sank down in a heap, shuddering with spasms. Women moved to chant over her, and ever the drums and ney player increased their frenzied rhythms.

Shakira slipped into full trance and saw the Demon standing there, hovering with a scowl, a male Demon of course! His aura was powerful, and he shimmered before her with a golden glimmer. Shakira saw him clearly in her mind’s eye, and saw how beautiful and arrogant this demon was.

“In the name of Allah, the One God! Demon. Tell me your name!”

Shakira spoke in the tongue of the tranced, unintelligible to the women around the room.

He scowled at her, but bidden he was commanded to answer.

“My name is Ali”, and his voice was sweet and seductive, in spite of the grimace.

Ah! Thought Shakira. What a lovely demon to possess a woman! His hair was black and lay in curls over his brow. His lips were full, the color of pomegranate seeds. His nose was like an arrow, straight and elegant. His eyes were two black and shimmering pools, his cheeks like halves of apples. Ah! Shakira was shaken by his beauty. She cleared her throat and her thoughts before speaking to him again.

“Demon. Listen to me. You disrupt the marriage of Ahmed and Aya. You must stop your demonic ways and let Ahmed have back his wife.”

“Ahmed is a fool and doesn’t know what to do with Aya. She is afraid of him, he plays his flute for himself, and ignores his wife.” Demon Ali’s voice was a low, honeyed growl, seeded with contempt.

“True, true enough, Demon. But you could help here. You could teach Aya things to please Ahmed and perhaps dense Ahmed will become a proper husband.”

“Why should I help Ahmed? What is Ahmed to me?” Demon Ali spat on the ground, a golden stream of honey.

“Ah Demon! You are too young or stupid yourself if you don’t think here. You could teach Aya where to place her hands on herself and Ahmed. You could take your own pleasure between them. How much more it would be if you brought them together as man and wife! You could tickle Aya’s womb and love chamber and she would toss her hips like a proper wife at Ahmed. You could stick your tongue on Aya’s button and make her think of love. You could torment both and what Demon isn’t happiest when he is tormenting two instead of one?”

The Demon Ali pulsated and quivered with her suggestions. Shakira could see he was considering her words.

(Demon Ali thought it over and could see her point of argument. If nothing else, he could torment Ahmed in some particularly pleasing way to demons. Perhaps he could be an irritant in more ways than one. Perhaps he could make Ahmed’s cock fall–)

“I hear your thoughts, Demon. Consider the case. Either Aya acts the proper wife to Ahmed, or Ahmed sends her back to her parents. She will disgrace her family, they will suffer needlessly because of a silly and selfish devil.”

Shakira could tell that Ali the Demon was considering his choices. He glimmered and glowed and vibrated and fairly danced in the air. Shakira noticed too that his male member was vibrating along with the rest of him. An impressive piece of anatomy for any man or demon. Ah! Ali the Demon was wasted on that little fool Aya!

Shakira, a wise woman with quite a number of years of experience with Djinns, decided she would have compassion for this pretty demon standing before her in all his stiffening glory. Perhaps this alluring devil could entertain her, Shakira, and leave Aya alone. She had an eye for a good looking male, and knowing the nature of demons, she could take some pleasure for herself under her chador at times. Perhaps something mutually pleasing to both could be arranged. It was worth a thought.

“So, Demon…what will it be? Will you help Aya become a wife and be a good demon, or do I have to call forth stronger Spirits to make you reconsider your behavior? It is your choice.”

Ali the Demon sighed, and it was like a sweet wind blowing from the east up Shakira’s skirts. Her eyes widened, in spite of her trance, and a smile came over her face. The Demon slyly looked at Shakira from under the fringe of his black lashes. A smile exchanged between them…

A bargain was struck!

Ahmed and Aya became a happy couple. Yes, Ali the Demon still tickled Aya in her love passage, and sat smoking his hooka crosslegged up by her womb. Ahmed was pleased with Aya now as his wife, and eternally grateful to the Sheikha.

And as for Shakira, she and Ali the Demon enjoyed many hours under Shakira’s chador. He tickled Shakira around the ears, and she spread her legs when she was busy at her kitchen fire, preparing food or just standing at the window, watching her neighbors outside. Peace reigned in both households.

Blessings on the head of Sheikha Shakira!

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2009-2014


%d bloggers like this: