Short Fiction

After beguiling part of a week on my own (August, 2019) with making some sort of sense out of a file drawer full of yellowing typescripts, I’m putting a few of the shorter ones up from time to time as I get them into digital format.

This first one dates from 1978, and it’s piquant to remember simpler times, when the fear of blowing up the world at least didn’t involve things like Twitter.

Confusion To The Enemy

Early one spring morning five or fifteen years from now, Sister Mary Morning Isis of the Temple of the Inner Pentacle, North Salem, New Hampshire, walked out to her rural route box from the decrepit but lovable farmhouse where she lived with her cat, Hathor, and a group of animals and people which seemed to change every week, the only constant being their lack of a visible means of support.

She unfolded the newspaper first, tossing aside a twice-overdue property tax notice and a new catalog from the Golden Dawn Herb and Candle Shop.

“Joint Chiefs of Staff meet today,” she read. “Threat of War Imminent.”

“This is it,” said Sister Mary to Hathor, who was rubbing against her ankles with feline singlemindedness. “We’re going to have to do something.”

Picking up her threadbare red velvet skirts, she stalked back up to the house, where she poured some ink into a malachite bowl and began making long-distance calls.

*  *  *

Four-star General Brutus Belligero woke up at the first rasp of the alarm, planting large flat feet on the floorboards with a thwap that startled his drowsing wife. Mumbling sleepily, she stretched an arm out across the warm patch of sheet he had just vacated, reaching nothing more substantial than the elastic of his boxer shorts.

“Please, dear,” he said gruffly and not at all dearly. “I have a meeting.”

Mrs. Belligero subsided with a rebuffed whimper.

The general put on his full-dress uniform in front of the mirror, sucking in his stomach. Still young, he thought to himself

“Fred,” muttered his wife, now somnolent again, as he bent down to administer a perfunctory goodbye kiss. He halted in midpucker.

“Fred?” he said soundlessly, in a lipreader’s grimace.

Never mind, he decided. He didn’t dare arrive late.

*  *  *

In a deserted area of the seacliffs somewhere near Big Sur, groups of two and three people in long blue robes converged by different roads, until thirteen of them were standing in a flat elevation suspended between sea and sky. The clouds were lowering. The grass was still damp with dew.

“I see we have all received the message,” said the tallest of them, a blond man with disconcertingly dark, capriform eyes and endlessly long hair and beard. “Is everyone prepared?”

“We are,” replied a soft chorus.

All the members of he circle joined hands except for the leader, who stepped forward and drew a symbol in the sandy soil with a silver-tipped wand. Then he planted the wand upright in the ground and joined the rest.

“In the name of Isis,” he said.

“In Her name.”

“In the name of the Earth.”

“In Her name.”

“In the name of Life.”

“In Her name.”

Shrugging off  their robes, as if in one motion, to reveal bodies utterly naked and painted with symbols in woad and henna, the thirteen began to dance around the stave in a weaving ring.

*  *  *

At Mystery Hill, New Hampshire, a few miles from her house, Sister Mary Morning Isis ascended the great stone table of the famous prehistoric ritual site. Concessionaires of the Harvard Epigraphic Society, who usually supervised tours, lay snoring in a total and unaccountable sleep in the gatehouse below. Around the stone, the Templars of the Inner pentacle, wearing tall headdresses, harnesses and little else, stood with smoking censers or twenty-pound books.

The woman in the tallest headdress began to read a formula.

*  *  *

General Belligero’s driver stopped the staff car at the river entrance of the Pentagon, got out and circled behind it to open the passenger door.He stood at impeccable attention while the General emerged and peered for an unusually long moment at the nameplate over his left breast pocket.

“What’s your first name again?” he said suspiciously.

“Herbert, sir.”

*  *  *

In a village garden in Sussex, five old ladies surrounded by mewing cats were trying to start a votive fire in the rockery.

“I’m sure the wood is wet, Mildred,” fretted one of them.

“Of course it’s wet,” said Mildred beseechingly. “That’s the consecrated water.”

She kept fumbling with the butane lighter.

*  *  *

Somewhere near Mount Elgon, Kenya, a witch-doctor watched in manifest satisfaction as the youths and young women of the tribe faced each other in two long lines, shaking wristlets of shell and metal and thrusting their hips in a primordial rhythm.

A drop of water fell on his head. Looking up, he saw a single fat black cloud in the middle of an otherwise drought-blue sky.

“Someone’s doing the wrong dance!” he shouted. Then he grinned. “But keep up the good work.

*  *  *

Somewhere in the neighborhood of the Kremlin, Comrade General Nadia Shchpalova  hurried down a bare and echoing corridor. The news was bad. The imperialists had made it clear they would stop at nothing. There was no going back now. Tightening her lips, she bustled ever faster.

Why the strange feeling that a hand was chucking her broad buttocks  merrily, every step of the way?

*  *  *

The President sat at one end of the long table; General Belligero found himself at the other. As he had expected, he was asked to report first.

“Mr. President, fellow officers,” he began.  “At last report, the massing of strategic weapons in the region of…”

He broke off. Nobody was listening. All were staring at a vague but quickly solidifying form in the middle of the leather-topped table.

Sounds of tiny bells filled the room.

“Enemy infiltration!” shouted the Secretary of Defense, and began to run for the intercom. Halfway there he tripped and went sprawling, only to find that a warm and pliant shape was there to break his fall. His eyes opened into a still and golden pair, like pools of liquid light. He smelled cedars. Arms went around his neck.

“Gentlemen!” shouted the President. His cry was choked off as a pair of perfectly formed female figures, each about four feet tall and carrying a bell-adorned sistrum, plumped into his lap.

General Belligero stared at the materializing shape kneeling upon the table. Taller than a man — wearing only jewels and a glamor of uncanny dazzle that did nothing to conceal large round breasts, plumply sensual lips, a pursed and smirking navel which looked him right in the eye — it emanated an erotic numen that overcame him more quickly and completely than a tactical gas.

With a small and despairing moan, he threw his arms wide to the approaching form.

*  *  *

General Shchpalova’s adjutant pulled down the situation map and stood back courteously; as the General tapped it; it began to furl up again, like a windowshade. Both reached to pull it back at the same moment, and their hands met. Then their eyes.

It was not the same man. Their gazes clung – her cold and lashless irises staring into elongated pupils that divided the golden eyes of a goat.

She suddenly thought of a poet lover who, years ago, had tried to dissuade her from joining the military.

She was distracted by a sudden commotion in the air overhead, behind her, in all corners of the room – a  sound of eerily childish voices calling Evo-ay, evo-ay, Pan, a sound of tiny hoofbeats. Distracted. But only for a moment.

*  *  *

Comrade Berkov, who was eighty and on prostate medication, managed to keep a grip on his senses long enough to reach one of the conference-room telephones. He jiggled the receiver over and over; it did no good.  Two floors down, the switchboard operator, his lap filled with three creatures of magical lubricity, had careened backward in his swivel chair, pulling out all the wires, and was now wildly kissing one of the nymphs while the other two removed his clothing.

*  *  *

Around the halls of the Pentagon, spilling into the commercial concourse and the cafeteria, a motley and corybantic throng of fauns, houris, djinni, minor Africa gooch goddesses, ithyphallic nature spirits and shakti danced in a singing, groping line with WACs, computer specialists, medical orderlies, air force colonels, security officers and weapons contractors. Eagles, braid, hats, and tunics flew into the corners. A visiting Congressional aide threw his arms around a matronly typist in her fifties, her baggy eyes glowing with renewed desire. A desk colonel, much maligned in his NCO days for whacking slim recruits on the buttocks, felt a sudden resurgence of youthful ardor and descended with tender violence on a dewy-eyed, all but beardless clerk. Three nurses, wearing only their ID tags and white sneakers, cavorted in a circular dance with a supernaturally beautiful youth wearing a leopardskin and a garland of grape leaves.

*  *  *

General Shchpalova crept out of the furled tube of the fallen map and groped dazedly towards the door. Too many strange things were happening. It was not kulturny. It was a hallucination brought on by imperialist capitalist pornographic thought warfare.

A proletarian figure, still half-wearing the uniform of a building maintenance man, helped her up as she crawled out the door. She recognized him vaguely. He was as brawny and beautiful as the sculpture of a heroic worker that she had always admired in one of the city’s squares. The dark blaze in her loins overcame her again.

“I love you!” she exclaimed, falling on him, just as a trim and Asiatic-looking typist, a new transfer from Minsk, did the same. General Shchpalova widened her embrace to include the typist. “I love you, too!”

*  *  *

In the Capitol, unfamiliar Congressional pages grew horns, wings, hooves as they turned corners. The taps in the downstairs bathroom mysteriously began to run with wine. A Hawk representative from the Midwest consummated an amour across his desk with a lady lobbyist, possibly the most normal thing that had happened that day except that until that point he had been exclusively if closetedly gay. Receptionists and staffers leaped onto chairs and threw their underwear out of windows before falling indiscriminately onto Senators, co-workers, or curious and merry bands of exotic creatures with multiple arms or beasts’ heads, who tossed them in curtains and twirled them dizzy in the process of undressing them.

*  *  *

In an underground silo in North Dakota, the launch button simply vanished. No trace of it could be found anywhere on the console. The weapons specialist running to report this was restrained by a matronly figure wearing a golden torc and a white robe clasped with a belt of golden oak leaves.

*  *  *

“Do you think we can let up for a minute?” said the Druid Mistress Fearna Boadicea to her colleague, Bran Magus, both of them panting as they whirled each other in a leaping circuit within a deserted Wiltshire stone circle.

“Fifteen more minutes,” Bran replied. “That’s when the Church of the Reborn Demeter takes over.”

*  *  *

Specialist Herbert Frederick Fulton, driver to General Belligero, waited until the rumpus inside the building actually spilled out upon the steps. A canny young man, it took him little time to discern the general outlines of what was happening, if not why. A giggling copier clerk wearing her slip and a garland of crushed flowers tottered towards him, arms wide. Just in time to shore up his dwindling resolve, a Special Services man emerged in pursuit, scooped her, still giggling, over his shoulder, and retired with her into the nearest shrubbery.

Specialist Fulton leaped behind the wheel of the staff car and drove off, straight as an arrow to the Alexandria bed from which he would now forever rescue Mrs. Belligero.

*  *  *

All over the world, technological violence gave way to primal lust. The spell was indiscriminate. A Pacific tribesman on an undiscovered island, figuring out how to build a primitive catapult, suddenly found himself faced with a fat idol of female fertility brought to life. Awestruck, he abased himself. The, trampling the crude weapon in his excitement, he gave chase.

*  *  *

Sister Mary Morning Isis, naked and dripping with carefully painted but now sweat-streaked designs, was helped off the stone table of North Salem by her fellow coven members, dizzy and several pounds lighter.

*  *  *

General Belligero came to on the mismatched bosoms of a buxom WAC major and a green-haired dryad, and found himself looking across at a dazed and rumpled but slowly reviving Secretary of State.

“The war,” he said, remembering gradually. “We were going to have a war.”

The Secretary nodded, gulped and pointed at the red telephone.

“The President called them. At the Kremlin.”

“Yuh?” managed Beligero. “Wha’d they say?”

The Secretary seemed  somewhere between disbelief and delight.

“They said to go get fucked.”

*  *  *

Halfway across Virginia, Specialist Fulton stopped to pick up a shaggy hitch-hiker wearing a zodiac-sign pendant and a button reading MAKE LOVE NOT WAR.

Specialist Fulton leaned across the front seat and looked keenly at the pink button while his rider winced, seeing the stripes on the Specialist’s khaki shoulder.

“Heard the news, bud?” Fulton asked.

The hitch-hiker shook his head, grabbing the doorhandle as Fulton made a sudden reach for his collar.

But the driver only removed the button and put it on over his nameplate.

Waking up lazily in the back seat, Mrs. Belligero leaned forward and threw her arms loosely around the two of them.