(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.
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?”
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…