Dreaming of Jolene By Steve Slavin

Let me tell you just one thing about me: I have always been – and always will be – a strictly heterosexual male. End of story!

You’re probably wondering why I find it necessary to make this statement. Well, back in the eighties and nineties, no one needed to say that. You were a guy, you were a girl, or maybe you were bi. That was it! You had three choices – not a whole fuckin’ menu!

But today? Shit! I mean the definitions and sexual identities keep changing every couple of months. Which, I happen to think, is complete bullshit. I’ve always looked at it this way: You’re either straight or you’re not. End of argument. Finito!

Yeah, yeah, yeah – I know what you’re thinking. Who is this ignorant, completely out of touch schmuck?  Am I right? And you probably think I’m some old dude who can’t stop blabbing about the good old days.

Whatever. I always thought fifty was old – so I’ve still got a couple of years to go.

Look, I’m sorry I got into all that shit, but if you’re going to understand what happened to me, then you need to know exactly who I am – and what turns me on. OK?

What I’m going to tell you all happened exactly ten years ago, almost to the day. It began on a Thursday night. I was living on the Upper Westside, and early one evening I saw this hot-looking chick in the supermarket. I could see that she was interested when we smiled at each other.

She was about as tall as I am, which is unusual for a girl. That’s because I’m a shade over six feet.

I used to have a friend who wrote a book to help singles meet in the city. Her theory was that if a person was attracted to you, you could say anything, and they would respond.

“Come here often?”

She laughed. “Is that the best you can do?”

“Look, I have this friend who wrote a book about meeting people.”

“And did your friend suggest that line?”

“Well, you’re talking to me, aren’t you?”

We both laughed. Then I said, “I am so attracted to you!”

“Really?” she said.

“Well, yeah. Or else, why would I make such a complete fool out of myself?”

“You tell me!

“So, can I have your phone number?”

“You know what?” she said. “Maybe it’s better that we just have our fantasies.”

You are my fantasy!”

Exactly! And I could never live up to that.”

“Maybe our reality could be even better than our fantasy.”


“Look, I’ll bet you’re as attracted to me as I am to you.”

“What makes you think so?”

“Because you’re still talking to me.”

“Point taken.”

“I’ll tell you what. I live just a few blocks from here. Come back to my place and I’ll fix you dinner.”

“Very smooth.” We both laughed.

“Look,” she said.  “I’ll tell you what: Here’s my card. I’ve got some stuff to do now. Why don’t you come over in a couple of hours?”


 “OK, but remember what I said. Fantasy is better than reality.”

“I’m going to prove you wrong.”

# # #

I glanced at her card on my way home. Her name was Jolene – and she was an art therapist — whatever the hell that meant.

The only time I ever heard of that name was in a movie I had seen years ago. The actress who played Jolene was maybe semi-attractive and pretty flat-chested.

But I loved the name. And my Jolene was the opposite of flat-chested. And she had very long, light brown hair. I supposed that in the sixties she would have been called a “hippie chick.”

She had high cheekbones, big brown eyes, and a great smile. When she smiled, you smiled.

Jolene had long legs that looked like they never quit. You want a fantasy, Jolene? I’ll tell you mine. I wanted those long legs wrapped around my head. But I’ll bet she already knew that. And I’ll bet she also knew a lot of other things.

# # #

Two hours later, I rang her downstairs bell, and she buzzed me into the building. When she invited me in, she gave me a light kiss on the lips. I was smart enough not to push it.

We sat at her kitchen table drinking tea. We talked and talked and talked. And finally, we started to make out.

Slow and easy, I thought to myself. We had all the time in the world. But I had this huge erection and I knew that she could feel it. We must have been kissing for at least half an hour. Then she said, “Look, John, why don’t we continue this tomorrow night?”

I just looked at her. I couldn’t believe that she was going to send me home with the worst case of blue balls. Very, very reluctantly, I began to disengage.

She took my face in her hands. “We both have to go to work in the morning, and it’s already past midnight. But tomorrow’s another night.”

Maybe she was right. And besides, horny as I was, I was in this for the long haul. Didn’t mama say there’d be nights like this?

So I limped the eight blocks back to my apartment and within a few minutes I was dreaming about Jolene. This time we went a lot further.

On my way to work, I laughed thinking about what Jolene had said about fantasy and reality. I could hardly wait to see whether or not she was right.

We had a date for eight p.m. I brought her flowers. She put them in a vase. Five minutes later we were rolling all over the floor making out.

Soon I was humping her with my thigh. She arched her back and I could feel her shuddering. This was going to be easier than I thought. If I could do this to her with my leg, then just imagine how hard I would make her cum once I was inside her.

Our tongues were practically entwined. I thought she was actually going to deep throat me. I don’t know where she learned to kiss like this, but she knew a hell of a lot more than I did! Teach me, Jolene, teach me!

I had never been so aroused in my life. Now we were lying side by side. She was stroking my cock through my pants and I was fondling her breasts through her bra. As much as I wanted to take things to the next level, I think I could have just kept doing what we were doing forever. This was, by far, the best sex of my life, and I was barely at second base.

I was smart enough to know that she needed to be in control, so I let her move things along at her own pace. Soon she unzipped my fly and reached in.

Now she had complete control. She had her tongue in my ear and my cock in her hand. She wasn’t giving me any choices. In less than a minute she made me cum.

After we caught our breath, she kissed me and said, “There’s something I need to tell you.”

I just stared at her.

“I can’t sleep with you right now.”

I just starred. I didn’t know if I was mad or sad – or maybe both.

“It’s a physical thing. I’m not physically capable of having sex right now.”

“Are you ill?”

“No, not exactly.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“Maybe another time. Maybe if we get to know each other a little better.”

“OK. Look Jolene, I want you to know something. You are the most exciting woman I have ever been with. I don’t know what’s wrong with you, but I really, really like you.”

“I know that, John. I know that.”

“Can I stay over? We can just hold each other. I’d really like to do that.”

She kissed me. “Maybe soon, John. But not tonight.”

I helped her up, and we kissed good night. By the time I got down to the street, I was thoroughly confused. What was wrong with her? Was she dying? Did she have a social disease?

As I walked, I considered a few more possibilities. And then I began to wonder what was happening to me. Look, I was thirty-eight years old, and maybe for the first time in my life I was actually falling for somebody.

Well, I could have done a lot worse for myself. And even if we found that we didn’t have all that much in common, to paraphrase that old Captain and Tennille song, “Sex will keep us together”.

I’m not a very patient guy, but I was willing to wait till Jolene was ready. I knew I could trust her. No matter what – I’d do whatever she wants. Isn’t that what love really is?

I wanted to tell her that even though we barely knew each other, I would be there to help her with whatever she was going through. I mean, isn’t that how you know who your friends are?

Even though we had only just met– and we had not yet been intimate – I felt I already knew her body better than any other guy she had ever been with. And even though we hadn’t actually “done it”; it still was, by far, the most exciting sex I had ever had.

I could stop looking. No other woman could come close. Ladies and gentlemen — I have an important announcement. My search is over: We have a winner!

When I got home there was one message on my phone. I was hoping that it was from Jolene, but it was from my friend, Larry.

He and I were basically party friends – not real friends. We partied together, occasionally talked on the phone, but never just got together.

It was too late to call him back, so I went straight to bed. Needless to say, I dreamed of Jolene.

When I woke up I decided to call Larry, and then Jolene. Maybe she would agree to see me tonight. We had not yet gone out on a real date. The only problem was what happened later. Maybe I could just walk her to her door and say good night. Fat chance!

So I reached tor the phone and called Larry. He probably wanted to tell me about some party. Well Larry, I hate to tell you, but my partying days are over.

When Larry picked up he got right to the point. “John, I heard you’ve been seeing someone.”

Wow! News travels fast! How did you even hear about us?”

“You know the old grapevine.”

“So you know her?”

“No John, not directly. But I know a couple of guys who do know her.”

“Are we talking about the same girl? Her name’s Jolene.”

“Same girl.” There was something in his voice I didn’t like. He seemed to have taken on the tone of a funeral director. I was beginning to get the impression that just maybe it was my funeral.

“So Larry, what’s the story?”

“In a word?”


“John, you better sit down.”


“Jolene’s a guy!”

I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t say anything. My stomach was going through violent contractions. I was having a very bad case of the dry heaves.

Larry must have been able to hear me. He kept asking if I was OK.

It took me about half a minute until I could gasp, “No, not really!”

He then patiently explained everything. It turned out that Jolene was a pre-op guy waiting to have a sex change operation.

“You mean they haven’t cut it all off yet?”

“You got it!”

“Holy fuckin’ shit!”

“Yuh can say that again! So John, let me ask you a question.”

“The answer is ‘No!’”

“No, you didn’t fuck her?

“Larry: stop and think! If I had fucked her, you don’t think I would have noticed something?”

“Yeah, that’s true. So John, why are you so upset?”

“You want to know why I’m upset? I’ll tell you why I’m upset! I’m upset because never in my entire life did I ever meet someone so beautiful, so sexy, so sensual, such an unbelievable turn-on.”

“Yeah, so what’s the problem?”

“You wanna know the problem, Larry? I’m the problem! I just can’t do it!”


No! I’m a guy! And Jolene – well she’s a guy!”

“John, you just said you practically love her. And after she has the operation, she will be a woman. If you’re so fuckin’ attracted to her now, then just think how attracted you’ll be once she’s all healed.”

“Larry, listen to my words: I’m a guy. And operation or no operation she’s a guy! End of story!”




Fingering Lohan By Roger Leatherwood

The music and strobes worked into my mind and stirred up the tequila and I fell against the bar and bumped the driver. He was worse off and he laughed, and spit onto the front of his shirt and wandered towards the door.

There was light in the other room from a jellyfish blinking at 320+ BPM scanning in blue then red then yellow over everyone and I pushed against the redhead ahead of me and a tray fell; glasses rang on the linoleum and she turned and her dress opened up and she had no underwear on and I felt her ass up and then I realized the driver was pulling her in the other direction and she laughed too but never looked at me.

The loud music laid onto the beats behind me and I was pushed by two club girls, one with a sequin bra trying to get to the door, too hot and too noisy and I was sweating out the toxins and weaving.

I handed my tall shot glass to this cute brunette in front of me with short hair and a snap brim and she put her arm over my shoulder and kissed me and tongue tasted tequila and she felt the front of my pants and my erection, then pushed against me by someone behind her, the driver from earlier, who had lost the redhead again.

The redhead had pale skin and a white dress with slits down one side and undone buttons. Someone else was whispering in her ear, a big guy with a black goatee and a denim jacket and sunglasses. She just laughed at him but I couldn’t hear it over the thumps and the swinshas coming from all corners or the murmur, the ahhhs or the yeahs cutting through the music. The girl with the hat pulled me past Guido to the front and we breathed the cigarette smoke and the condensation from bodies collecting outside under the awning. Flashes from 580EXIIs burned the corners of my peripheral vision and Hat turned me to the door, then:

The redhead rushed out like a sluice gate surrounded by three large people and they rushed through us and then Hat was pulling me along into a towncar. The others including Goatee got in the one behind us and I was pushed in the backseat racing up to the red light and turning right without stopping, sitting next to Hat and across from the redhead.

Redhead giggled and pulled the hat off my companion and then revealed a bottle of Remy Martin Club out of an ice bucket in the armrest. “This is service,” I said and she poured it into a pair of flat weighted glasses that sat in a cubby in the leather. She opened her legs and showed her pussy, pink and bald, no doubt a real redhead because the pale inner godhead glowed in the streetlights as they washed forward and back as we drove.

“I brought you a diversion,” Hat now no hat said and turned to rub my thigh then my crotch, then reached over and pushed the thighs of the redhead wider.

Suddenly serious she asked, “You like pussy?”

“Where we going?”

“To the next club.”

“I don’t know,” the redhead said.

“Too many people were looking and no one was dancing.”

“I was lonely,” she said and offered herself in the back seat. I reached over and put my hand on her thigh, moved up and stuck my fingers inside the edges of her lips – she was dry and hot. Shaven with the stubble of a job poorly done, an amateur in a hurry without proper concentration. I placed my fingers carefully on her clit and began to message it between my fingers, moving in an inch and bringing it out, from inside. She gasped and Hat no hat switched to the other side and kissed Redhead while I fingered her, looked down and pulled her dress farther up her waist showing her stomach, watching me. Watching my fingers inside the redhead creases.

The brandy sploshed in the glasses as we ran along a warehouse district and began to weave through cars going in the other direction. I looked into Redhead’s eyes but her eyes were closed. She reached for a glass and drank, still lost in her private darkness and Hat pulled my hand with hers, a strong thin set of fingers harder in, “fuck her so she can feel it,” and then the car stopped.

“Wanna drink?” she asked. Redhead turned and looked through the windshield. There were blue lights ahead and a line and the door opened and I grabbed the other Remy and walked over through the line. The heartbeat of the sound system bled through the street and Goatee had joined us from the car behind and led Redhead by the arm – poised carefully on her silk forearm towards the door.

The hipsters in black dresses and Wasteland stripes moved like taffy to let them pass. At the rope the guy with the brick wall looked at me and said, “We have policy,” and glanced at Hat no hat, who looked back at me, shrugged and said “Sorry – we know some people in here” and they left me outside without a cover.

I walked up and turned and was three blocks off La Cienega after all and I found a strip joint and I told the guy behind the counter and he believed me, saying some girls did that all the time.

The Cost That Lies Between Heaven and Earth By Matt Piskun

The sweet perfume wafting from the grape vines was strong that morning, making one dizzy despite the fruits lack of fermentation. Isabella studied the figure before her, its features hidden in the shadows of the mid-summer sun.

“Do you know what it means to call me, child?” The beast’s growl was deep and rhythmic.

“I do.” Isabella was not afraid. The young girl moved slowly forward, struggling to contain the anxiousness brimming inside her.

“I sense a kind heart in you. It is merely buried under several layers of venial sins. Why do you seek me? ”

“My brother, Henry, has stolen my inheritance left to me by my father, the King.” Her olive eyes narrowed. “He leaves me with nothing. Am I to beg for crusts of bread? Furthermore, the family fool, Alfonzo now threatens my path to the throne. Spain is my birthright, but he desires it as his own and would toss me aside as one would a barren cow.”

Sensing her ambition the figure in the shadows smiled, its breathing now faster. “I don’t know if I’m drunk from the nectar that drips off these vines, but I think I am falling in love with you, child.”

Isabella’s cheeks flushed pink as she moved toward him. “Let me see your face.”

Emerging from the darkness came a young male demon. The sunlight made his skin, the color of ripe plum flesh, all the more brilliant. He was slender and muscular with two small horn buds protruding from his forehead. Two majestic wings of burgundy leather were folded neatly behind his back.

Isabella smiled and extended her hand to be kissed.

“I may be a youthful demon but I am no fool. I can help you reach the throne.” He looked into her eyes of lime-colored sea and knew this was what she was waiting for. “Although royal blood may course through your nubile body, it’s you who will be subservient to me.” The young hell-spawn spread his great wings and hovered above her.

Isabella took pause. She had vowed to never let any man hold dominion over her. Surrounded by incompetent males trying to prevent her ascent to the throne, she knew in her heart that she would still one day be queen and any man that was lucky enough would be her king. However, this was no mere man that floated above the earth before her. A feeling spread through her that she’d never known before. An ember of admiration and desire lit inside Isabella and the beating of leather wings now fanned it to flames. Isabella took a knee and bowed before his floating body.

“Save yourself for me, girl.” He grabbed hold of his horns. “When you become a woman I will come back for you. It is with your first blood that we will consummate our arrangement.”

Isabella, looked up into the swirling ash of his eyes and told him, “For my rightful place, I will wait for you…”

“Ingot, my name is Ingot.” With that being said he sailed up above the clouds and out of sight as Isabella clutched her pounding heart.

# # #

Father Juan de Valera watched with pursed lips, shaking his head back and forth. He pulled his beard, dotted with black hairs drowning in a chaotic sea of grey, into a fine point. His queen spoke through clenched teeth of sheen ivory and cruelty.


A young woman kneels before her, nude and covered in binding chains. Long, red hair sticks to her face as she trembles with fear.

“I can smell your sex, that which you give so freely and without commitment from God. Whip her again!”

The high priest, whose fat and swollen face is hidden beneath a brown hood, cracks his whip. It sounds like thunder and the young girl whimpers as the lashes tear thin, scarlet lines into her milk-white flesh.

“Again!” Isabella commands, her fist raised.

The priest snaps his whip repeatedly and the wooden cross hanging from his neck swings back and forth wildly. Large droplets of sweat fly from the darkness of his hood.

Every cry from the naked girl elicits a small burst of excitement from Isabella. She presses her thighs together tightly, enjoying the hot pleasure building between her legs. When she can no longer endure the mounting desire she commands the high priest to take the girl away and convert her to God. “If she does not admit to believing, make her do so! Spare not one inch of her!” A sweaty smile spreads beneath the hood of the priest.

Isabella, Queen of Spain, tries to hide her lust as she speaks but her eyes, wild with desire expose her growing passion. “I’ll pray for your success, priest.” Father de Valera, his tanned and wizened face looking all the more angular from his sharpened beard, watches as she turns and enters her private quarters. He makes the sign of the cross, whispering the names of the holy trinity as he turns to leave, unseen.

Closing the door behind her, the Queen loosens then drops the purple ceremonial robe she wears exposing her scarred skin. A myriad of criss-crossing magenta scars decorate her breasts and abdomen. She runs her hands over them and shudders as her fingertips play with the grooves in her skin.

“I yearn for you,” Isabella moans. A small flame deep inside her flickers, reminding her of the first time she laid eyes upon him. She thinks back to that day as a young girl in her garden, but she can no longer remember the sweet smell of the flowering vines.

# # #

Her scars writhe as if alive in the candlelight that illuminates her bedroom. Ingot sits in a chair with his arms resting on his now sizeable belly.

“You are a wicked woman, Bella.”

“I need satisfaction, my lord.” Isabella kneels before him.

Ingot stands and strokes the great, curved horns that sit upon his head. “So be it.”

She takes the demon’s member in her mouth and works it feverishly until her pleasing him results in the monster’s orgasm. He releases his semen upon her chest and it sizzles leaving a new pattern of fresh scars that ooze bright red in their infancy. Isabella moans with pleasure and writhes in pain, unable to tell the two apart.

Ingot sits back down in his chair and sighs. “Must I always please?”

“I’ve another favor to ask of you.”

“You’ve such greed in you! Did your brother, Alfonso, not suffer from an unfortunate case of poisoning, along with a slit throat for good measure? You were there grinning in the shadows as he choked, gurgling on his own blood, knowing I did this for you, for your crown. And what of your other sibling, Henry? For wronging you I removed any chance he could have to bear children. Like grapes his manhood were in my talons, oozing from the palm of my hand.” He ran a long black fingernail across her face racing her cheekbone. “And yet you need more?” The swirling embers that made up his eyes grew a little brighter. “I suppose this is why I love you.”

“My kingdom needs land. The people demand it from their Queen and I am not accustomed to disappointing my citizens.”

The demon smiles with jagged, yellow stained teeth and waves a hand in Isabella’s direction, causing his stomach to shake. “You are a good Queen. There is a man who prays to my black kingdom for fame and discovery. He’s not a Spaniard but he will suffice if you will have him. His name is Columbus. I will deliver him to you and he will discover new lands in the name of Spain, allowing you to keep hold of your coronet.”

Isabella winced as she put her ceremonial robes back on. “I will do as I must. Now I must return to the business of running my kingdom.”

“And I think I will pay a visit to mine.”

# # #

Father Juan de Valera finishes his tapas of chorizo and bread then puts on the surplice and purple stole he wears for the sacrament of confession. He’ll confront her today. He has finally seen enough and will tell her that he can no longer sit in silence as she performs atrocities in the good lord’s name.

The torture, the sacrifice, and the experiments must come to an end.

His Queen comes to him in a simple green dress, her straight, brown hair, tipped with gold, flows over her bare shoulders. She likes to appear a simple woman when confessing to him.

“Good afternoon, Father.”

“Blessed to see you, Isabella.”

She will not allow herself to be called Queen during penance. Isabella takes the velvet, padded seat across from Father de Valera who twirls the grey hair of his beard between his thumb and forefinger.

“I no longer love my King.”

“We must meet together, the three of us.”

“No. He is more of a house pet than a man. I no longer know what to do with him.”

“We can annul the marriage if you feel the relationship can’t be mended.”

“That carries risk, father. The people grow restless and I do not want to give them further cause with the belief that I have chosen an impotent and spineless king who can’t handle his woman. I will pray for an answer.”

Isabella rises to leave but the priest quickly stands and raises his hand, signaling for her to wait.

“What is so pressing that you choose to waste my time?” The gold of her hair twinkles as if full of stars in the candle light of the tabernacle.

“That young girl today…”

“The harlot being whipped?”

“Yes. What became of her?”

“Are you spying on me father?”de Valera twisted his beard into a fine point. “All that concerns our loving God finds it’s way to my ears.

The Queens eyes looked black in the deep shadows of the church. “I don’t know yet, but whatever happens will surely be God’s will and then I’m sure it will make its way to your foolish old ears.”

“You talk of God’s will and yet I heard her cries of torture,” he looks Isabella in the eyes as he speaks, “as I have the screams of all the others.”

The queen’s expression does not hide her surprise at the priest’s audacity. The sparkle in her hair vanishes as she stands. “The Lord knows what I do in his name and he allows it.”

“It is not God’s place to forbid you, it is your choice. Also, I respectfully disagree that God would want his teachings forced upon others.” Father de Valera bows his head and stares at the deep wrinkles around his knuckles in silence.

“You dare! You crusty, old eunuch! You may spread his word but the Lord speaks through me.”

The priest sighs. His highness’s reaction is expected. He looks at the silver cross that adorns the bookcase beside him. Its rubies sparkle in the candlelight as his Queens hair did moments ago. The images of Christ dying on the cross, the spear poking through his ribs, the briny rags stuffed in his mouth, fill his mind. He can feel his lord’s last breath across his cheek and finds the courage to truly speak his mind. “What sort of sins are you atoning for? What possesses you to produce converts in such a manner?”

“I do what I must.”

“You serve the devil when you act this way.”

Isabella’s olive eyes narrow and her hands ball into ring covered fists. Her chin quivers as she speaks. “Wrong! You are wrong! What I do, I do to fight the devil! You may have read of him in your texts, but I have met him, touched him! I create an army of worshipers whose belief in God’s kingdom will oppose such evil. I do what needs to be done!” Spit sprays from her thin, red lips, “Cross me or speak out against me again and you will meet God much sooner than you desire!”

The Queen turns and leaves, slamming the wooden door of the church with such force the stain glass windows quiver. Juan de Valera sighs long and hard then picks up the silver cross next to him. “You do what you must.” He pulls the top of the cross off, unsheathing a steel blade. He looks at his reflection and frowns. “Now I must do as I must.”

# # #

Isabella tosses and turns on her bed. The silk cloth that adorns her canopy sways as if alive. She sweats into her cotton sheets as her heart races. Her king sleeps alone in an adjacent bedroom, but her thoughts are not of him, they are of Ingot and Father de Valera.

A bead of sweat slowly slides down from between her breasts onto her stomach. Isabella feels as though the aged priest saw right through her. Maybe he knew her secrets, but who could read his withered old face? It hardly mattered if he did. The price of her throne was Ingot and Christ forgive her she loved the foul beast. Ingot was the only male she had ever been with that truly understood her. Despite loving as only a devil can; she thinks his feelings are genuine nonetheless. It’s with great sadness that she builds a kingdom of Christians to combat her lover’s dark realm, but the web of power stretches wide and is taught with deceit. Just as her sovereign duties must be necessitated, so too must the obligations to her soul be met. Her sheets are now soaked with sweat as she wonders how much more her conscious can take. A decision must soon be made and tomorrow she will make it. Satisfied with this resolution, Isabella closes her eyes to sleep, but as she does Ingot appears before her.

# # #

It’s dark. He can smell the wisps of smoke from the recently snuffed out candles that line the hallway to the Queen’s quarters. Father de Valera shuffles quietly across the stone floor his blade gripped tightly in one hand, the other stretched out before him feeling into the shadows. He stops as the darkness shifts before him. The priest flattens himself against the wall and hears what sounds like the scrapping of claws against stone. The air moves around him and he feels a cold, heavy darkness pressing upon his skin. He prays to God the almighty for courage then continues forward. He pictures, for fortitude, his lord carrying the True Cross, whipped and bleeding as his crown of thorns tears into him. Finally he comes to the Queen’s door made of carved cypress. De Valera hears talking inside and puts his ear to the door. In between beats of his heart he can hear Isabella shouting. “I love you! I love you! You are a part of me!”

Father listens for a response, but hears no answer to the queen’s admissions. He presses his ear more tightly against the sculpted wooden door. If she were with someone else he would have to terminate his holy mission. The priest is old and tired. He does not have the strength, physically or spiritually, to take two lives, but he fears he will never have the courage to get this far again. He holds his breath to hear more clearly and is quite sure he hears only Isabella’s voice inside. He presses his hand against the door, finding it unlatched. After making the sign of the cross he slowly pushes Isabella’s door open.

The door opens with a slight creak that may as well have been as deafening as canon fire. His Queen spins around to see who has entered. She is naked and the priest gasps, not at her nude form but at the great maze of scars that covers her flesh in various shades of scarlet.

“You abandon me now?” She turns and shouts to a fluttering shade of black silk that hangs over an open window. A small vase of citrus scented oil is heating on a black iron stand in the fireplace, making the room smell fresh and sweet.

Still lost in the labyrinth of maroon gashes that decorate her peach colored skin, Father de Valera keeps his knife at his side. Isabella grabs hold of the poker that lay across the hearth and swings it across the priest’s face. He screams, dropping his knife and covering his face with his hands. He gags as blood pours out from between his clamped fingers.

“You dare, priest, to invade my privacy? First you question my motives then you come to me uninvited?” She looks down at the jewel-encrusted blade on the floor. “And you have come to kill me.”

Father de Valera reaches out for the blade but Isabella brings her weapon down across his hand snapping his fingers. The priest shouts out in pain and brings his gnarled fingers to his chest. Blood drips steadily from his beard. He gets to his feet and charges her, hitting Isabella in the chest with his shoulder and knocking the poker from her hands.

She lands on her back by the fireplace, the priest on top of her, his one good hand pressing down on her throat. Isabella puts both hands around his wrist to remove it but can’t. Blood from the father’s nose falls steadily on her naked torso filling the scared channels in her flesh. De Valera’s eyes flicker with the fires roaring light. The Queen reaches behind her into the fireplace, grabs hold of a smoldering log and brings it down across his head, knocking him off with a showering of embers.

The priest rolls onto his back, consciousness coming and going, with Isabella standing over him. Her breasts heave as she struggles for breath. Queen Isabella’s body is sticky with blood and ash. She holds the smoking log overhead as the priest weakly covers his face. Suddenly, Isabella drops the wood in her hands. The Queen turns as she hears the beating of wings.

“Coward, you come to me now that the fight is over?”

Ingot comes in through the open window, the black window shade across his shoulders resembling a cape. “I can not lay hands on a holy man. It’s a treaty older than time itself.”

“You disappoint me, Ingot. For that you will pleasure me.”

The demon flies in on outstretched wings and lands in front of the fireplace. Isabella approaches him on her knees. ‘This disappointment is the end’, she thinks, ‘I will launch a grand inquisition today, forcefully shaping, as if from clay, an army of Catholics. Their faith will save me. I may give my body to hell but my soul is still Gods!’

Father de Valera opens his blood-encrusted eyes to see Isabella on her knees talking to herself. Her hands stroke the vase of boiling citrus oil as she pours it onto her chest, searing the skin where it hits causing more wounds to bubble and blister. She wails and writhes in ecstasy.

de Valera starts to crawl towards the blade that is still on the floor. He inches forward and grips the jeweled handle, but when he does he sees Isabella’s reflection in the blade. “Don’t worry, lover, I will take care of the priest.”

With blade in hand he turns over to face Isabella who is holding the iron poker in her hands. He points the blade at her. “You’re mad! There is nobody here but you and I!”

Whispering she tells him, “Tell God I do what I must.” Then the Queen drives the poker through his ribs.

With his hands wrapped around the iron protruding from his chest, Father de Valera’s vision begins to fade as shadows start to ebb out the light. He gasps for air as his punctured lung collapses. Isabella turns and walks toward the fireplace. Once more she appears to be talking to no one. From within the encroaching darkness the priest hears the rhythmic beating of his dying heart; or is it, he wonders, the beating of wings?