(Part Four, the final chapter)

The port of Devanagara.
Not the most exceptional part of the Principality of Rohana, with its small seaward-facing towns and the scent of salt rich in the senses of the bhikkus. Simple people, from fishermen with their lean oarsmen’s muscles to wealthy captains of mighty trading vessels, mingled with the crowd of Buddhist devotees. The rain was coming down hard on Devanagara.
The streets were a quagmire where there was mud, and a slippery hazard where there were paving-stones.
The trail of saffron-hued monks took each step with the slow dignity of gods among men, their devotees and temple workers shielding them with their parasols. The wind chill bit angrily at them and their robes wrapped ever-tighter around their bodies.
The young monk too had his share of trouble.
Mud sloshed under his feet, and the cacophony of toads in the drains stung his ears, some of them hopping around him, their cold eyes smiling ominously at the hordes of flies. He hiked up the trailing edge of his robe to avoid mud splashing against it. The vile little creatures seemed to be judging him; but when the slender form of a rat snake slipped by his heart was in his mouth. A tumbling vortex of feeling gushed out from the dark shores of his mind as he watched the reptile swimming through the deep puddles, searching for a dry haven down a gutter. Its shiny form glistened in his mind as the world around him grew dark…
The memory stormed through him…
He felt his young body becoming supple and slick with oil a mere two years after he’d lain with her. The room was dark but for the set of candles that glowed on the bedside table. A pile of jasmine and water lillies was heaped around them, the flame carrying the wondrous aroma in currents through the boudoir. Her slender hands worked tenderly across his soft body as the coconut oil seeped into his soft young skin. He trembled, fighting back hot tears as his sin bored into him.
Wandering off.
That would be his excuse.
But he was fifteen! Would be be so irresponsible at that age? What would truly be his excuse to have his goddess by him? He wanted to be a man.
Her kisses awakened what little strength his organ bore as he gripped the sides of his bed. His mind too was awakening as he took in her bronzed, majestic beauty. The silky tongue traced over him as she whispered into his ear.
“You’ve probably guessed at my race, haven’t you?” Her blade-sharp canines and inscisors, filed down to almost leopard-like points, nipped at his earlobe. “Our culture struggles against the grip of greater faiths which suffocate our lands, and that is why we are different. We break away from the all-seeing eyes of so many saints and gods who possess us. Let me show you, my little monk. The Naga race is extinct, but we still live on us long as our gods do. We”-she grinned lustfully-“are gods tonight, and here is our heaven.” The monk’s heart pounded against his chest, screaming in terror at the dancer’s vicious, hungry gaze. She straddled him with her strong, lithe legs as she towered over him.
“Lord Kamadeva is among us now!” she cried, ripping away her bodice. “My sweet, sweet darling, I will be the one you will never forget! You there”-she turned, barking at her tearful, trembling companion who stood by the door-“open the damn door. I want my Kali inside. And if you cry again I’ll slap you till you bleed. Same goes for you, boy. Now”-her tone became softer as she silenced his lips with a kiss-“are you ready?”
“Are you mad?” shrieked the other young woman, a pretty, petite girl of around twenty-three. “Both of you! This is a sin that neither of you will live with! Oh my lord, forgive me for this, but do you not have an oath of celibacy to follow? This must not happen tonight, I will not let it happen! This is a sin!” she struggled to keep the floodgates of her eyes closed, to keep the tears within her and cry in private. Her mind was stuffed with the horrors of the Six Hells, of flames rising sky-high, and pretas with immense bellies sticking obscenely out into their rotten world, slavering with hunger. Visions of Mara, King of Hell, danced past her as she watched her associate running her lips over he boy’s struggling body.
“In your damned faith maybe!” roared the Naga dancer, “but not in mine! Bring Kali inside now! And was it ever my sin? I could see this boy’s imagination flashing through his eyes when first we met two years ago. His hopes for me as he saw me, oh they were worthy  of a dog in heat.” She was salivating with excitement.
“So bring in Kali now.”
The other girl told a silent prayer, opened the door and ran outisde, shutting it firmly behind her.
She screamed once in terror, and then a Buddhist prayer rose from her as she crouched on the doorstep.
The monk’s lover shot him a predatory glance that chilled his blood, then turned her attention to the floor.
“My Kali wants to meet you now,” she smiled sweetly as she dismounted him and dropepd onto he floor. He closed his eyes as he shivered through the cold mist of horror that swirled around him. Her moans of pleasure grew in tempo, but most terrifying was the low hiss that accompanied her voice. A long rope was being passed over his body, rubbing excitedly past his thighs and circling around him. The rush of heat that flooded his body seemed to warm the chilled rope that wrapped around him.
He felt his legs growing sticky as fought stubbornly against the arousal.
The hiss-a rasping voice that felt like a blade being dragged over gravel- grew almost into a roar as he saw, with the corner of his eye, the candlelight reflected in an glassy black spot on the rope.
A rope which was rougher than a regular fiber-woven product…
So thick it was, that he could count its hard scales as it reared up above him…
The boy screamed and the vast cobra almost growled in a combination of anger and excitement as it showed off its hood. It was vast, more dragon than serpent as its great weight crushed against his chest. Its toothy jaws were open in defence.
The dreamy dancer willed the reptile to move up her body. “My Kali…” Her words felt trance-like. “Her mother is from the far-off country of Ramanna. My family raised my beautiful Kali from birth. In Ramanna, serpents grow larger and stronger than they do here in Lanka. They are powerful beasts, but even she is not the greatest of her race! But still”-she lowered the king cobra onto the bed as she doused herself in oil-“we Nagas worship them. Kali is a goddess among snakes.”  The light of the candle lit the left side of the dancer perfectly. The dark points of her nipples, the taut muscles of her stomach and the cleft of her sex were illuminated like mountains at sunset; thus she seemed to him like a spectre as she lowered herself onto the boy once more.
He kicked and struggled, whacking her in the hips and the belly as she allowed him inside her. She held so tightly onto his body that he wailed in a mix of pain and pleasure.
Everything around him was a red blur. His world was dominated by her lethal beauty, the wonder of her perfume and the suppleness of her oiled skin. The senses that he had hoped to sharpen as a bhikku-the forces in his mind which told him what was good and what was not-were dulled as his eyes grew blind with tears. He allowed his young body to be rocked by waves of perfect pleasure, while sixteen feet of serpent slithered around them, seeking the warmth that the fire of their lovemaking produced…
He almost fell face-forward into the mud.
“We’re nearly there,” hissed a middle-aged companion, catching him by the crook of the arm, “so don’t make a disgrace of yourself, please! This devotee is very important. He’s a merchant, a Tamil, who has just embraced the Dhamma. We need to show him what we truly are made of, and that won’t be possible if one of us looks even slightly dirty or undignified! So”-he grabbed the young monk bodily-“stop making a scene and waving your arms about, you’ll attract the wrong kind of attention!” Excusing himself, the older priest pulled the young man out of the once-orderly line. A senior bhikku or two glowered at him, but he indicated that the boy was ill and wanted some treatment.
“What are you doing?”
“She…she’s here!”
“Who is?”
The beautiful ghost danced past him, swaying her nude hips to excite his senses. He groped at her as she passed by.
“There!” he shouted. “My goddess has come! Let go of me, you old fool!” He struggled so much his robed nearly slipped out of his companion’s grasp. “She…my beautiful…she wants me…”
A much younger, slimmer monk drew up near them. “What’s going on here, sir? That’s my good friend!”
“Get away! He’s sick! Seems that he can see some goddess or woman or something in the line. Yes, there are women here, but you’ve been to enough ceremonies and alms-givings as it is. Control your thoughts and carry on. Mara is playing with you, don’t let him in,” the middle-aged monk told him sternly. “If he’s your friend, boy, here! I’ll leave him with you. It’s dangerous to do this sort of thing in front of people. Lord Buddha himself knows what kind of gossip these poisonous tongues will spread.” He handed the tempted man over to his younger friend.
The teenager whispered, “We can’t do this over here! I thought we went over this once.”
His hand busily worked at his friend’s shoulder as he looked around.
Already, some older men and women were crowding around the two young monks.
“Look here, you can take a rest after the ceremony if you feel ill, but try to look sharp during, please!” However, his voice was filled with uncertainty as he politely sent the throng of gossip-mongers away. One man though, was particularly hard to see off.
Creased hands held onto a gnarled stick as he steadied himself. He saw the teen monk’s older friend lying crumpled on the ground.
The monk’s face was a wide-eyes mask of horror, one arm reaching out for something invisible.  
“Come on, don’t phase out on me now!” shouted the teenager as he tried to shake his companion out of his vision. Her body filled his world, growing to him as huge as the cosmic mountain of Meru. The young boy was nearly in tears as the old man neared him. The man’s son held onto him.
“He sees a goddess, does he?” The hoarse, scraping voice breathed warmly into the boy’s ear. “He is merely hallucinating. I think you too have dreamed of beautiful women on many a night, haven’t you? It’s alright”-he smiled kindly when the boy gasped at the truth of his words-“I know you live a hard life. Not everyone can emulate the preachers of old. No, this world is too full of sin for that.  If you can control your human nature, you are a true monk, Reverend Sir. He, however…he is sick. The sickness grows inside his heart and mind, not in his body.”
The teenager looked at his friend, who was enveloped in the throes of madness.
“My angel, we were always meant to be together,” he called out mournfully as he rolled through the mud. Her perfume danced on the wet winds and every raindrop felt like her heavenly kiss. The gentle warbling music of her laughter became like white noise as his robe fell away. With a yell, his friend reached for him, but a spring of disgust and horror welled up inside his young heart.
Women and girls joked and jeered at the nude bhikku. He reached for his thighs as she bore down on him, allowing him into her gently.
She purred, “Love me, love me,” as the voice of reason slipped away from his grasp.
“Fight, damn you!” The teen reached out and made another grab at his friend, but tried to avoid slipping in the mud.
“All those years ago, we met, my goddess. I was so foolish! I resisted your power, but now we’re together! No other woman but you could love me for what I am. I resisted this, but no more now.” His goddess laughed beautifully as he kissed her.
So in her embrace did he drift away from the golden wonder of reality, and into the terrifying darkness of mad oblivion and all-consuming power of Lord Mara. The huge crowd beheld his shameful situation as she grew more real before him…
Shaken, the teenager looked up for a second. A cold-eyed woman, probably between her thirties and forties, was watching him. Her long hair, while predominantly black, was beginning to grow more silvery, although she still was beautiful.
Yet her beauty felt more like that of a proud, elegant and regal woman who had been highly successful during her lifetime.
Her white sari was wrapped tightly around her body, but she wore no bodice and her breasts were visible, pushing out against it. Her perfect, smooth stomach was left open to the elements, but the rain did not bother her much, even if the edge of her sari was lifted by the wind. Quickly, she smiled coolly at him. There was even a small snake of some sort-a young rat snake or water snake maybe-motionless by her right foot. Slightly disturbed though he felt, he smiled back briefly, then turned away from her.  Then he remembered that he’d noticed something unusual.
His mind still held the image of her twisted gold necklace with a many-headed serpent as a pendant…
And the sharp points of her canine teeth…



(Part three)

His lips trembled and his body shook with his prayers as he allowed himself to drink deep of the dark poison and travel ten years ago. He slipped through the tunnels of time as he shut his terrified eyes off from the swirling black vortex that buffeted him about. The walls of the tunnel opened out onto a great hall, lit dimly. The square was ringed by pillas with lotus-like capitals borne by  dwarf vamanaswith twisted faces. White-clothed scores of people sat in the alms-hall, listening intently as the sermon went on, the monks with folding fans held against their chests as they preached.
He felt the thunder of their prayers rumbling through his bones, and the aroma of burning incense stung his nostrils.
The hairs on his forearms stood up as he scanned the crowd.
He saw a boy, hair cut close to his scalp, girlish and beautiful, those same full lips, those same large deep pitch-dark eyes and that same small nose, seated with the other monks atop the decorated mandapa, the white stage on which they sat during the ceremony. The boy’s gaze shifted nervously as he gazed around the hall, slender fingers trying their best to hold onto the cinnamon-colored fan and trying his best to concentrate on the prayers.
Thirteen years alive.
Thirteen years a monk.
This was his first time, the unfathomable darkness behind those innocent eyes becoming greater as he spotted a figure that stuck close to the shadows. He felt hungry eyes boring into him and stalking him through the ceremony, yet he could not be sure if it was merely his imagination or an actual monster from ancient myths was lusting for his blood. The vast pillars cast a hauting gloom over the alms-hall. The vamanas grinned perversely at him as they bore the weight of the pillar capitals on their stunted backs. Mayura Rakshasa, that terribkle deep blue demon whose face hung at the doorway lolled his tongue in a pathetic display of lust and pleasure upon gazing through the young monk’s robe. The rest of the ceremony he spent in fear…then she came to him…when the even deeper blackness of midnight fell over the world that bygone day in the holy month of Poson.
He trailed for a while at the back after visiting the latrine and walked back to the empty hall. He must rejoin the other monks, to avoid the snarling stone faces above him. These guardians of this rich devotee’s house wished for a night with him and terror began to strangle him as he walked towards the door. His tender young body shone through his robe in the bright light of the only lamp that was actually lit in the hall. Her eyes too saw this innocent fawn in her territory as she stalked him from the concealing depths of the shadows.
“Come here boy.”
The voice seemed rather comforting at first but he felt the rasping serpentine edge to it-a knife being drawn across his back. He looked around wildly, searching for his strange new companion as he felt a new form of tension rise up inside him. Such wonderful perfume it was! It swirled over him like a storm from heaven itself, but the eye of the storm was even more beautiful, and it was made of flesh.
Two people that brought out feelings of lust in the hearts of onlookers now faced one another.
The young woman who revealed herself to him was ravishing.
Her body was the most natural he had ever seen. Firm, large breasts and the dark mounts of her nipples swelled with pride beneath her very short blouse, and a heavy gold chain rested on her neck; a ruby pendant sat gleefully at her cleavage.  He saw the bright firelight revealing long, muscular legs like a young doe’s through her semi-transparent silken skirts, and rounded hips that could sway to almost any beat of the drum or any twang of a string.
She walked deliberately around him, alowing his eyes to closely follow her light footsteps, graceful  and deft as a tigress.
Narrow eyes, made long and sharp by black eyeliner, ran down his body, undressing him effortlessly despite layers of thick saffron cloth.
“Well, boy? Come here, don’t be shy now,” she coaxed him. Her canine teeth were unusually long and sharp-filed down when she was younger, so it seemed. Perhaps then her lipstick was not made of ochre paste but dried human blood…she did lick her lips when she looked at him again.
“Are you alone, little monk?”
He shook his head shyly in agreement. His bones shivered as he waited for the vicioius serpent facing him to strike. He felt her hungry gaze pushing him towards the pillar as she stepped lightly towards him. He couldn’t take his eyes off her, so transfixed was he by the beautifully dark kohl eyeliner, the lengthy, lean legs and the heaving of her great breasts which screamed for freedom against her tight blue blouse. At the wall, he cowered immediately as the recognizable voices of  two other monks penetrated the hall. 
“Where are you?” they asked.
“Do you think he’s alright? He said he wanted to go to the toilet. We should have waited for the poor boy,” replied the other. “I don’t like leaving him alone.”
“Don’t worry, there’s nobody else around here. See?” His shadow gestured around the hall. The dancer and he reluctant lover were bathed in blackness, invisible from the prying eyes of mortals. She kept him silent, her own breath bated as the trill of cicadas and the thunderous booms of frogs filled the garden outside.
“Let’s go. He’ll come, don’t worry. Plus there are many servants around here and the boy is smart enough to ask for directions.”  
The first monk, who sounded like the older of the two, took the reluctant younger one by the arm and led him out.
The little monk tried to scream, but his energy had deserted him as her iron grip held his little arm, pushing him over and clapping his mouth shut.
He kicked at her shin and tried to push her away, but all he could feel were her now-naked breasts pushing against him as his robe fell away in the dark shadow of the pillar. She kissed his neck as he squirmed under the strong dancer’s grasp and the suffocating aroma of her perfume. The hardness and wetness against his leg terrified his young mind to no end as he struggled, but her deft hands and lips relaxed and pleasured him. He lifted his hands to touch her bosom, eyes half-blinded with hot tears, her lips crushing his. He felt the muscles of her mouth relaxing into a smile as his male desires took hold of his chaste heart and mind.
The beauty of his dark lady overtook his senses and he moaned in boyish pleasure for the first time at the stabbing pain in his member.
The hall was a blur of bloody red with only the young woman bathed in light, straddling his thighs as she proceeded to kiss him once more…
It was her! His goddess…
“Ten years, and still…but why do I want you so much more now, now that I can never see you again? You’re probably old now but I still would love to have you sleeping beside me”-he looked bleakly at the cave floor-“you damned demon! Fie, beast from hell! Oh…”
He crumpled down agains the wall again. Would his master know of a solution? He was, after all, an experienced man who had studied the depths of the Abidhamma itself, and the closest thing to a father that any of the young monks in this hermitage had. But the young monk was in a terrible state. His robe was dusty, and the space between his legs was uncomfortably wet from his memory. His breath came out in short gasps and his hands trembled, blood rushing to his face.
The unnatural craving was, for a while, dead.
But was it not an unnatural craving that had made him?
His parents, one whom he killed when he tumbled out of her; the other who probably still lived in his tumbledown old shack outside Godavaya Harbour, drowning in toddy and still resenting his son. Their consummation had brought them closer and one night, his own seed had sprouted. From womb to tomb, everyone bore that union of two energies within their mortal bodies. 
Everyone was born of that craving.  He knew then that his dark angel would be back to pleasure him with memories of their nights together. The thought made him sit bolt upright-perhaps lying down was not the best way to stay clear of impure thoughts.
The Buddha had mentioned to his disciples the Vinaya,  the mroal code by which they must live, he mused. A code that allowed both freedom and strict discipline. Just as his faith did-but only until people started turning it into something strange, rushing off to pray during their final hours after living a life of sin. That crafty serpent by the name of Mahayana had been engorging itself with true believers of the older school and now pressure was mounting upon the hermitages.
The Kingdom of Lanka was the final bastion of the true faith.
He could not leave now.
He mused on the new idea that once one had reached the first stage of Enlightenment-in theory, at least-there would truly be no going back. But what had he to go back to? He was bound  by that chain he called his robe. It dragged against the ground, grating against the stone until his ears bled out. “Rahulo Jatho, bandhanang jathang, indeed!” he grumbled as he held up the folds of his thick robe. “What an afternoon this was.” 
But just as the mighty Gautama Buddha had shaken loose all fetters and serpents from hell, he must shake off his own chains. He had to leave Cittalapabbata…the meories of passion were replaced by her radiant face and the sweet music of her voice as a river of blood rushed through him, carrying upon it the heat of pleasure…


It was time to return to his own cave retreat once more.
To be out of the powerful rays of the sun was the best thing he could ask for. However there was still a scorching flame welling up within.
“And how come youdon’t want to leave me? Why are youhere? Does this mean I was never meant to go on the Buddha’s path?” he mused, gazing at the ceiling. A beautiful jewel wasp had built her nest in a small cavity in the right-hand corner. The tiny head of one of her offspring peeked through the hole, possibly crying to its mother for food.
He laughed slightly.
A wasp.
Crying and mewling in some hallowed insectoid language that only the most ancient of beings could properly comprehend. He thought of all the demons he had been taught about, the ones that the Lord had tamed through the power of his sublime philosophy. Then his mind wandered onto the worlds of the gods and goddesses. Another laugh rocked through his body and he looked down at himself. Perhaps this was his reason for being here…he was not meant for this life of penance. He was a god himself, was he not?
Tall, lean and sandy in hue, his smooth young body glistened in the stray shaft of light that peered perversely into the cave. The sword-like blade of light cut into the seemingly indestructible ceiling and eyed the beautiful, nude young man keenly. He allowed his feet to spin out of focus, swirling through and invisible vortex in which only he could travel. His deep black irises, soft lips and slightly feminine chin invited Surya’s untouchable beams to touch and caress his body. He pushed his own hands down his naked form, lingering at the deep dimple of his navel and down to the slender valleys of his thighs and groin. As he rubbed down he felt a rush of heat travelling back and forth across his body like a river.
“Maybe I am beautiful now so that…I can fall in love…with someone just as beautiful so we can be together, be gods united in flesh.”
 His voice wavered between the realms of dream and reality as the veil between the two worlds grew thinner.
Looking up at the beam of light he wrapped his body in the cloak of orgasm as his organ cried in pain and pleasure.
Small flakes of dust rose into the air when he knelt down, the weight of his dreams bearing down upon his back as he reached for the cave floor.
Each flake was perfect and untouchable as they glowed in the heavenly light streaking into the dark cavity. They danced as daintily as butterflies at a waterhole as they crossed into the arms of the gods above them.  He spotted her again, her angelic face floating down the beam. Gazing upwards in excitement, palms clutching the floor, the monk’s eyes grew lustful and then soft as his body shivered with each tender touch of her soft palms.
He lost himself as she spoke to him.
“Little boy. My sweet little boy. You are yet young, my dear, so don’t be frightened to try once more. Let me show you…” The hook of reality fished out the state of dream as he was flung onto the hard shores of reality, gasping for breath. But the world refused to turn. It shimmered instead, flowing and shifting before his incredulous eyes. Rock turned to water as the music of the damsel’s speech filled the cell.
With a scream he shot back up, the lithe muscles of his calves tensed as he stood.
What had he been doing? Had he forgotten his reason for being there?
In a flash he sheathed the freedom that seemed so attractive to him, as her laughter died away to an airy whisper. As he adjusted the vast length of saffron cloth across his right shoulder he closed his eyes, teeth gritted firmly in his jaws as he close his legs, avoiding the salty wetness clinging to the insides of his thighs. Yet his organ was still hungry for the heavenly apsara who still danced around the cave. He had brought his little journal with him, along with his stylus and inkwell.
He wrote quickly in Sanskrit:
“I am here to attain perfection. My memories shall never come back. I shall journey the path of the great Lord Gautama Buddha and I will not sway, I will…I will not…sway…” His stylus trembled as he penned the words down. A trickle of sweat flowed down his cheek to join the crinkly, dry palm leaf pages of his book.
He too felt the sweat welling up within the grottos of his upper eyelids as the heat of the sun invaded the interior of the cell. The world outside was bathed in the most blinding light he’d ever seen. It was high noon in the Cittalapabbata hermitage and even the crows that perched in the rocks around him panted, glossy black throats vibrating soundlessly. He crouched in his tight shroud of darkness, with another shroud constricting him like a deep vermillion python. This serpent of cloth bound him and every bhikku to these dark holes while the a wondrous glow bathed the rest of the earth.
The robe, for a few minutes, threatened to roll of his legs and push him back into the lair of the temptress, but he angrily pulled it up from his shoulder. Cursing under his breath he looked at his book. “I killed my mother at birth. That’s why it happened…that’s why…they all said that I was unlucky!” He gritted his teeth as he reminded himself of it. “Then came my…my life here began.” Picking up his stylus, he chewed on its end thoughtfully, then wrote:
“My father dumped me on the hermitage. That’s why I could never experience life as it really should be. So many years, I…I…”
He was so young.
He was now a monk, was he not? Twenty-three years alive, twenty-three years a monk. There was that black abyss within his heart and mind which still seemed to be clawing out through his body to attack every truth he knew and everything that he thought was for his benefit. The darkness had a form, and she was dancing through the air within the cave.
His eyes locked away from the light outside.
Hard sighs rumbled through his chest as he began his chant.
“May I be washed of this strumpet’s memories now. May the powers of good restore me to what I was earlier.  Mara, Lord of Evil, your daughter is strong, but I will sway no more towards her. May my tear and prayers float her away as wood floats down a river…I…I will sway no more…no more…”


A new story. Working on it in stages. This is part one)
“I came here because I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life. Or at least I thought I did. Sometimes I wonder if spirituality is a curse that I need to bear just as I bear these robes against my shoulders”, the young monk told himself again. He shifted his weight uneasily as he took the passage don in his book of dried palm leaves.
He looked around the rocky hermitage and the low, scrubby forest setting.
The sunlight burned his sparsely haired scalp viciously as he fought a throbbing in his loins and slipped once more into deep meditation.
“Why am I here?” he hissed under his breath as he struggled to keep his eyes locked away from the world. “Oh devathavi, my goddess of the Six Heavens, why must you haunt me so?” Meditation was turning into an intense labor.
Whenever he shut his eyes and pursed his lips in concentration he saw the angelic face floating past him.
When the clouds of his lids covered his eyes, so began the monsoon of sinful pleasure.
It started as a drizzle.
The light rain of her laughter and the gentle softness of her kiss pattered over him.
Then the slow music of shifting hairs began as her ebony mane swung and shook about him, follicles aromatic with coconut oil and jasmine. Her sweat flew off her oiled body, then dripped off the eaves of his forehead, pooling up at his crossed feet.
Finally the storm came.
There she stood, splendidly radiant in her nakedness, perfume rising from her breasts and in between her legs.
A goddess.
A perfect force of the cosmos was pouring over him like a new shower of rain, soaking him to the skin and making his robe cling to his body. He reached out…and lightning struck with her touch…
The next thing the monk knew, the loud yell of his master was cutting into his ears. The big, bald hulk of a bhikku was blotting out the sunlight, towering over the confused youth. He looked wildly around.
His devathavi!
Where was she now?
The other monks remained in meditation, that strenuous exercise which allowed no play and no feeling of closeness to soft, heated flesh. He felt breaths tunneling through the chests of the other novices. Control of breathing to forge the inner purity of young minds. Angrily he hung his head, wringing his hands as he looked darkly at the chief monk.
“Son,” began the old man, “you seem rather disturbed of late. I’ve tried to guess what’s going with you, but I also want your opinion on what’s going on with yourself. Could you tell me?”
“I…I don’t know…Sir…fatigue, I think…?”
“I hardly think so! Son, I have seen you around the hermitage and you clearly are not the boy you were when you joined us. You’ve been neglecting all your duties, you, you haven’t swept or performed any rites as of recent, and you haven’t even studied your portions of the sutra we’ll be doing for the ceremony at Mahagama. It’s not like you. You were better than this ten years ago.”
He looked sourly at his master and then at the scrubland spread all around him. Flocks of crows circled the skies above him, morphing slowly into his goddess’ own raven tresses.
A strong smell of jasmine and frangipani haunted his nostrils-her tempting perfume was running up and down his body, attacking all other senses and attempting to pull him back into that perfect daydream. Angrily, he jerked his head back again, clasping the back of his scalp in his hands. His fingers tightened as he gritted his teeth, frown lines digging deep into his forehead.
Listening to this old fool was the last thing he wanted.
“Are you alright? Please tell me.”
His shoulders relaxed and he raised his head.
A heavy curtain of silence had been drawn across the rock-face. Hardly any breath came from the young monks around him, who gazed solemnly at him. No wind came to cool them or to lift his spirits; the skies watched the drama of saffron-robed men with bated breath. A small rock gecko scuttled across the ceiling of their cave as it hunted flies sheltering for the heat. The world around him was sinking silently into an abyss where all his companions were scouring his soul with deep gazes. One of the younger boys coughed, and his friend lovingly patted his back. The old chief monk shifted his weight uncomfortably, his old jowls wobbling as he walked over to the apparently sick young man.
“I’m fine, Master. I’m just fine.” The words felt false.
“Just remember”-the old man looked up as he sent his young pupils back to their cave shelters-“why you are here.” His expression grew dim and bleak as he hobbled off.
Why was he here?
He had no satisfying answers.
A hand journeyed to his shoulder. “If there’s anything you need to tell me.” The voice was mixed with concern, and something a little less readable. His young friend was just sixteen and the latter’s dark eyes dug into him like they always did.
“Like I said, stop it. I’m”-he got up and took a deep breath-“perfectly alright.”
“You told me that sometimes you had nightmares of your past. But you never told me what they were, so I want to hear it from you.”
“I’m fine.”
The teen monk continued. “No, you aren’t. You want to feel something that you’re not supposed to, don’t you? Or else, do something forbidden…right? I know that something’s wrong but if you won’t tell me I can’t help you.”
“Then don’t help me! My life hasn’t exactly been perfect and now it’s just coming back to haunt me, that’s all. It’s probably nothing anyway”-his voice dropped down to an almost whispery version of itself as he tried to swallow back the note of falsehood in his throat. The skies were bleak, a flat, cloudless sheet of blue that mirrored itself in their dull young eyes.
“Just ask yourself,” he told his companion emotionlessly, “why you’re here.” He turned his head towards his younger friend. “Why are you here?”
“To hopefully achieve something worthwhile, I guess.” The teenager looked questioningly at his older friend. He stood up and left without any expression on his face and left his associate to ponder on whatever it was he was forbidden from doing. “Just remember,” the boy said, turning back, “we are a brotherhood. You can tell us anything.” With a slow wave of his hand he walked down the steps cut into the rock-face.


(All photos are the property of Sarah DeAnne Peterson- and will not be re-used without the artist’s prior permission)
 “I love you.”
How many times had she uttered those words into the empty air with hopes of salvation? Nobody responded. Maybe the God of her neighbours had abandoned her in that house. She couldn’t find any reason to believe in Him anyway if even her idol did not answer to her prayers and nightly cries.
The thought of him filled her with that familiar rush of heat, that his warm, tender body was pressed against hers. No winds could shift them with their airy, prying hands. Now that made even the hot shower seem like a mere spark in comparison. No heat could penetrate her, not even the hot, wonderful kisses of the hundreds of droplets that raced towards her through the cold evening air.
The water coccooned her and she felt fingers resting against her breasts, eagerly exploring her as she once had been, not what she saw when she looked now into the bathroom mirror. The misty glass felt her gentle hand pressing against its firm surface as her face morphed into his perfect, trim chest. The tumbling rollercoaster of emotion and the soft moans added weight into the air around her. Steam rose from the tiles.
Hands ventured across the hills and valleys of her body, pausing excitedly at her soft belly. She had no clue why this little mound of flesh stuck vulgarly out of her. Not noticeable at first but she miserably gazed down at her body. Thus arose a tide of feminine questions. Should she lose it? Why was it there?
After all, she fed on nothing more than love.
Yet the hot shower too felt like a solvent acid, digesting her in the bowels of a colossal beast.
The thought of him was engulfing her as his fingertips brushed against her body.
Like a boa with a hare, she was being devoured whole.
Resting in his embrace was the pleasantest sensation to her, his lips kissing her neck, hers kissing his.
The sea of blankets was disturbed by the throes of pure love as his beautiful body kept appearing and disappearing between her arms. Soft cotton waves crashed against the shores of their bodies, yet they still swam together through the turbulence.

“I love you. I love you,” she sand gently to the glowing angel whose back she straddled with her legs. He smiled down at her, flickered and solidified as her senses became a white blur. His glacial blue eyes, velvet lips and slim, supple body screamed for her love. A red rush of warmth journeyed the length between her thighs and the peaks of her nipples. She wanted to sink deeper into the luscious coccoon, to never spread her wings and escape his glow, which always blinded her but which always told her that there was such a thing as faith. Oh, what a luxury it would be to drown in that crimson sea of sex and love!
But she could not…
A terrible hook was tugging her out of her reverie, and she gasped for breath on the shores of her fantasies as she was cruelly beached.
Where was he?
Did the bedroom mirror give her a clue?
The flat pane of this glass compass always pointed at her true north whenever her breath misted it. She saw once more her sweet beau, his face marvelling at hers as their eyes broke together through the abyssal depths of the glass. Her reflection had drowned her many times and his beautiful face always rose towards her at dusk. Her kiss left a mere red stain on the hard, colorless sheet.
Kneeling beside the mirror she wondered if the mirror was truthful, or whether the wall was. His pale perfection would rise from the dark uncertain realm beyond both honest mirror and dishonest wall-or was it vice versa to her? He came to her only when her eyes were filled with tears anyway and the air around her felt like a leaden weight dropped onto her chest. The mist against her eyes reflected his sweet and painful aura and drew her towards him as his face appeared again.
If she touched or even kissed the beautiful vision she would be pulled down the tunnel of reality and the pain would make her bleed again.
She did that well enough.
One cut on her forearm for every time she cried.
She looked at her painting for salvation. Everything made sense when she touched the warm canvas, his lips smiled at her, his smooth hips beckoned her to kiss them and pleasue him deeply.  She moved like a ballerina beside the never-completed portrait, working with the kind of ease and power she knew he had whenever he made love. In this warm room, she-nude and sweaty-was a divine queen, and he was her noble young king with whom she would share her life one day…a day that seemed too distant for her to grasp.
Silence was her lady-in-waiting.
Her paints were the powerful knights that quested in their search for him, directed by gentle quick strokes of her hand.
The anthem, “I love you,” rang through the room. He gazed at her through the deep, rich realm of the canvas, half-asleep and half-awake. Her body ached more as her angel explored her with his eyes…then he looked rather cross. A tear on the canvas? What blasphemous act could do this? Violently she grabbed the painting and ran her fingers down the crack.
The crevasse was widening as tremors shook the picture, the crust coming away at her hands.
Her deathly shrieks reverberated through the room, the poisoned air of sorrow trapping her inside. Her false god lay dying on the floor.
The black curtain of confusion and horror had been draped over her, and it was darker than the falling night.
What had she been doing? Bones and muscles lost their memory of movement as her mind spun around at a hundred miles per hour. Did he truly love her the way she did, or would he offer his body to the next person who walked his way?
Would he laugh from his heavenly abode while she wept for him, and worshipped him from below, chained at his feet? It stung her chest. Every beat of her heart was an angry drum which summoned forth an army of hot tears which streamed into the void between face and floor.
“I love you.”
Her chorus felt meaningless and foolish to her.
Her voice grew to a dry whisper.
Her altar to him was destroyed in a single diabolical action, and she had seen the darkness within his wicked young heart. The house had shifted into the heavy belly of a black behemoth, and a single fickle beam of inch-wide light cut inside to reveal the mirror to her.
Her had been swallowed up forever.
Not a ripple would taint the surface.
She only saw a broken, pallid ghoul from a gothic novel. Dry hair framed her face, and her naked salt-white body shook as a terrifying chill surrounded her. The blade of light too was now sheathed. The dirty maroon scars on her forearm were all the color she had. Sunken breasts that once were large and firm, cried for his love. The once shapely hips-supposedly made for childbearing- now looked as if carrying a child between them might kill her. A stench rose from the inside of her thighs as she slipped to her knees.
Cold iron locks chained his still exquisite figure in her heart. Perhaps he had resided there for too long, a lovely but malignant parasite who was devouring her essence from within. She was a nightmare angel who served to nourish a murderous god.
But she knew he had to be there.
She tried to see the ripple against the mirror, but none came to her.
All she saw was an ashen mockery of a marble Venus, with eyes half-blind from weeping.
Her voice grew hoarser as she breathed, until the night drew away one final, desperate breath:
“I love you.”