As Andrew got sicker, he’d point to perceived smudges on our bedroom window. Nothing discernible to him. Not at first. But the decline in my partner’s health brought with it a growing realization. “It’s a face,” he told me. “It’s someone’s face.”
I saw nothing.
I sat with Andrew through it all. Every sleepless night. Every shriek of terror as nightmares tore through him. Every sobbing declaration that he wasn’t ready. In the mornings, the smudged face would be there, ever clearer to him. He was terrified of it. Still, I saw nothing.
The problem with sex is it eventually becomes mundane. Do anything enough and it’ll become boring and repetitive. It’s silly to think fucking might be different. Obviously, there’s quite a bit one can do to spice things up, and it works – for a little while. Then it stops. Years go by and exciting, new fetishes become dull, standard procedure. By the time I hit 44, I was in a rut. Nothing did it for me. But the desire was still there.
To say I’ve done it all is a bit of a stretch, but I’d gotten pretty close. I’ve shied away from the illegal and illicit, despite frequent temptation. I don’t want to hurt anyone, and I certainly don’t want to end up in jail. There’s no fun in that.
For a little while, I’ll admit to being depressed. I went through the motions – one joyless, soulless fuck at a time. Men and women of every sort passed between my sheets. It always ended up in disappointment.
Then I met Carson.
I’d been with other men countless times, so Carson initially wasn’t anything more than a blip on a radar full of traffic. After we’d finished, however, he sensed my despair. He sensed my unfulfillment. Before he left, he scribbled an address, a date, and a time on a sheet of paper. 27 Hallsworth Hill. October 9th. 11:00pm. He wouldn’t tell me what I’d find there.
My interest was piqued for the first time in as long as I could remember. Two days later, on the 9th, I drove across town to 27 Hallsworth Hill.
The address was the location of large, old, stone house that was in need of some upkeep. Ivy ran unchecked across the gray slabs of its granite face, and bushes, perhaps once sculpted, grew wild and threatened to obstruct the view from the large, first-floor windows. A heavy wooden door with an equally-massive iron knocker stood at the top of the steps. I knocked twice and waited.
The door opened and Carson stood, shirtless and smiling, and asked me to come in. I obliged and followed. The house was beautiful, but very, very old. Nothing appeared to have been touched or moved in decades; when we passed under a dusty, hanging chandelier, part of me was surprised it had electricity running to it.
“I want you to meet my friends, Daniel, Lucy, and Eileen,” Carson told me, and before he opened the door in front of us, asked “I want you to have an open mind, ok?” I nodded as anticipation and mild concern set butterflies in motion within my stomach.
Carson opened the door and we walked into a spacious, sparsely-furnished room. A man, who I assumed was Daniel, was tied to a marble pillar stretching from the stone floor to the ceiling. Lucy and Eileen stood in front of him, kissing one another. All were unclothed. I jumped slightly and almost started to laugh when I heard a goat bleat from the corner behind us.
“How open does my mind have to be?,” I whispered to Carson, as I studied the goat staring mindlessly at the five of us. Carson laughed. “Not that open, don’t worry.” I sighed with relief.
The others in the room didn’t acknowledge Carson’s and my entrance. The women writhed against one another while Daniel, bound tightly to the pillar, watched with lust in his eyes.
“Right now,” Carson told me, “you’re not allowed to do anything but watch.” He pointed to the sofa. “Have a seat. You can get comfortable if you’d like.” With that, he stripped off his clothes and incorporated himself into his friends’ action.
I joined them in their nudity and sat on the remarkably-comfortable couch while the four engaged in basic, moderately-kinky sex. It was pretty vanilla for me, but not unpleasant to watch. Time went by and the four brought one another to the peaks and plateaus they’d desired. For my part, I was getting a little bored. The first half hour was fun because of the newness of the people involved, but with nothing to do other than jerk off, I was ready to hit the road.
The goat bleated again. I’d forgotten about the fucking thing. I turned around and saw it shitting on the floor, effectively killing my arousal in its entirety.
“Thanks guys, it was nice meeting you – I’m going to be hitting the road now,” I called out. Carson extricated himself from Eileen and rushed over.
“Wait, please. We’ve almost started.”
Carson put his hands on my shoulders and gently pushed me back down on the couch. “Started.”
“Can you at least get rid of the goat?,” I asked.
He laughed and rejoined the group and they finished one another off with a decent enough show that I actually found myself getting into it. The four of them knew what they were doing – there was no doubting that.
Lucy untied Daniel while Eileen walked to the small table next to the couch to pour herself a drink. She winked at me and said, “didn’t Carson offer you a drink?” I shook my head. “Jesus, Carson,” she muttered under her breath, as she poured a whiskey-looking liquid out of the bottle into a wide glass and handed it to me.
I looked around for Carson. He was cleaning up after the goat. “You guys aren’t gonna fuck that thing, right?,” I asked Eileen. She looked horrified for a second before erupting with peals of laughter.
“No,” Eileen said, still practically hysterical, “we’re not going to fuck the goat.”
I laughed at the absurdity of it all, but I still needed to know. “Then what’s it doing here?”
Eileen didn’t answer. She just grinned and grabbed me. I jumped a little in surprise, then allowed her to lead me to the pillar like a dog on a leash.
“Do you consent?,” she mewled into my ear.
“Consent to what?,” I grinned, allowing her to tie me to the pillar. It was still warm from Daniel.
“Do…you…consent?,” she whispered, tracing her knuckles over my anatomy.
“I do,” I told her.
“Good,” Eileen smiled. My hands and feet were bound to the marble. I couldn’t move. Eileen dropped to her knees, and my world began to blur.
I closed my eyes and relished the sensation of her mouth and hands, entirely oblivious to the rest of the universe as I departed in a solipsistic whirlwind of hedonic bliss. I felt new pairs of hands and more mouths on me. Sopping, salty fingers pushed insistently at my lips and I allowed them inside to stroke with my tongue. Everyone was moaning. Everyone was sighing. No sounds existed except breaths of ecstatic need.
No sounds other than gasps of pleasure.
Not even bleating.
The unwanted thought of the goat took me briefly out of my haze and I opened my eyes. Then I screamed.
The four friends stood or knelt around me, covered from head to toe with blood and gore. The carcass of the goat was sprawled out on the stone floor, eviscerated and twitching. The scent of its guts hit me a second later, and I retched and struggled to break out of my bindings. The four wouldn’t let me, though. They continued trying to pleasure me, glistening and growing sticky as the hot blood on them cooled and grew tacky.
Daniel took his mouth off me and stood up.
“Trust us,” he said, looking directly into my eyes.
“What the fuck are you doing!,” I shouted at him. At them. The two women worked to keep me in the moment as Carson licked smeared blood out of my navel.
“Trust us,” Daniel instructed again, holding my head in his hands. I stared at his gore-streaked face. There was concern in his eyes.
“Please untie me,” I told him.
Eileen slid a finger inside me and I shouted with surprise and indignity. “I promise you’ll thank us soon,” she whispered.
Helpless and hating myself, I felt my arousal grow as lips and tongues and fingers forced my biology to betray me. The haze descended again and I closed my eyes as the stink of entrails permeated the room and combined with the heavy scent of sex.
A minute or two later, my climax ended the assault.
My eyes snapped open and I glared at the four. They all stood up and smiled. Wide, unsettling smiles.
“Let me the fuck out of here,” I pleaded, my voice quivering.
The smiles took on a patronizing, sympathetic quality. Drooling the contents of her mouth into her palm, Lucy said, “Honey, we’re finally ready to start.”
For a second, I was certain I was about to be killed. This was it. My quest for new and interesting sex had led me to the end of the road. Death. Snuff. My own end for their twisted pleasure. Then the goat screamed.
I yelped as the disemboweled animal’s mouth wrenched itself open. I heard its jawbones crunching and splintering as its mouth widened, its angle continuing to grow until it was a straight line up and down. It screamed again – now a deeper, groaning sound that I felt in my stomach and intestines. I watched in terror as the animal shuddered and convulsed. A series of red, knotted ropes exploded out of its throat and slapped wetly on the bloody stone.
“Fucking let me out!,” I howled. I glared at the four with panic. They were still smiling and staring at me. The goat’s body shuffled across the floor like a hairy, osseous caterpillar; its pulverized bones sounding like gravel with every peristaltic push. It reached my captors and stopped at their feet, almost as if it were a dog awaiting a command.
Finally, one of them moved. Lucy. She held the palm filled with her saliva and the product of my stolen orgasm out in front of the goat’s destroyed mouth. Its nose twitched, and one of the smaller tubes crawled across the woman’s hand. With a disgusting, wet sound, it lapped up the contents. Before before I could blink – before I could shout – the goat erected itself on its hind legs. Its ribcage exploded outward like a metal gate hit by a truck. More tubes, thicker, heavier tubes, writhed inside. And in a blinding instant, it lept against my face.
Everything went white. I floated, disembodied, free from fear. Free from disgust. Free from violation. I was in a pool of warm, white mercury flowing in lazy currents around formless porcelain and glass. It was heaven.
The world returned with a gentle shudder. The carcass of the goat was on the floor, its ropes and tubes deftly manipulating the erogenous zones of my four captors. All animosity I felt for them was gone. All indignity had evaporated. I tried to move my arms and realized I’d been untied. Legs, too. I stretched and watched the spectacle in front of me without any sense of revulsion.
A tube branched off and approached my ear. “Do you consent?,” it whispered. The voice was soft and sexless. Seductive. I hesitated as a remaining pang of concern shot through me. What did all this mean? What was happening? The questions were endless, but the sensation was undeniable. It was the feeling of newness – of blushing, virgin uncertainty. I looked at my four friends and saw the expressions of boundless ecstasy on their faces.
The knotted, red rope was waiting patiently for my answer. Was this what I’d been searching for? To my right, Eileen shuddered as an orgasm passed through her. She looked more beautiful than anyone I’d ever seen. They all did. Each one-upping the beauty of the other with every passing glance. The tube twitched and I smiled.
“Yes,” I whispered. “I consent.” And I opened my mouth.
We thought we were having a hell of a hailstorm when we woke up in the middle of the night to a peal of thunder and the sound of our cabin being pelted. It went on for about a minute, then it stopped. There wasn’t any rain, which was strange. We went back to sleep, faintly aware of the smell of something burning. I figured it was probably from a lightning strike somewhere else.
In the morning, we realized how wrong we’d been. Jill was the first to get up, but her yelling ensured I was right on her heels.
Our property was a wreck. Baseball-sized burns covered the lawn as far as we could see, and when I went outside to assess the damage to our cabin, I was dismayed to find similar, albeit smaller, burns all over the roof.
“Had to have been meteorites,” Jill claimed. “I bet that thunder we heard was a big one breaking up.”
I didn’t know enough to disagree, but I thought it was pretty weird. She concurred.
We spent the day doing our best to rake up the marble-sized pieces of rock, which we hauled out and piled in the back of the property by the compost heap. Jill thought they might be worth something to someone, so we were going to bring a jar full back home at the end of the summer.
As she talked, I could tell she was uncomfortable. The work we’d been doing had aggravated the chapped skin around her mouth and under her arms. Something about the time of year always did it to her, and no matter how much she tried to keep the areas moist, they would still crack painfully. I told her I’d finish up for the night if she wanted to go inside. She did.
I made a vague plan to excise the ruined bits of lawn and reseed it, but I soon got frustrated. It was going to be a major project that would take days, if not weeks. There were still whole areas of the yard where we hadn’t picked up the meteorites, but they’d wreck the lawnmower if I tried to go over them just to make the area presentable in the meantime. Such a pain in the ass.
The next day, to make matters worse, we noticed the well water had acquired a taste. It was briny and flat; almost coppery. Wholly unpleasant. We could drink bottled water for the rest of the vacation, which we’d been doing most of the time anyway, but we still showered and brushed our teeth with the stuff that came out of the well. And for a while, we kept doing it. On the bright side, my gums had stopped bleeding when I flossed. Must’ve been all the extra minerals from the well water that gets filtered out in municipal reservoirs.
After another long day of yard work, I was preparing dinner when I heard Jill shriek from the bathroom. She’d gone in to take a shower a few minutes earlier. When I rushed in to see what was wrong, she was coughing and swearing and working to wipe away clear, viscous something that had pooled on her face. I could see the shower head oozing the same stuff, clogging the drain and puddling like syrup on the bottom of the bathtub. If she hadn’t leapt out the second she felt it hit her face, she would’ve been covered from head to toe.
I helped Jill towel off as much of the stuff as I could, and a minute or two later, the shower head had started spitting out water again. It took a bit of coaxing, but she eventually held her head under its flow so she could wash her hair of the residue of whatever the hell had gotten on her.
Once Jill was as clean as she was going to get, I called the guy in charge of well maintenance for the county. The only guy in charge of well maintenance for the county. He answered right away, but gave the reply I knew was coming: I’d be at least three weeks before he could get out here and take a look. I pleaded with him to make some time to come earlier, and offered him way too much money, but the best he could do was move the appointment ahead by two days.
He told me that he’d seen algae blooms in a few of the local wells. The only suggestion he had was to run the water until it looked normal, which is what we’d done during our subsequent showers. I hated having to wait, but it was good to know he’d seen something like this before.
Over dinner, Jill and I tried to come to an agreement about what to do. I wanted to go home. There wasn’t any reason why we needed to keep putting up with the weird water and the yard work when we could go home, be comfortable, and hire people to take care of it all.
Jill wanted to stay. She’d been looking forward to this trip for months, and the chapped skin on her mouth was feeling much better. The cabin had belonged to her parents and she’d spent many summers here. No matter how unpleasant the circumstances might have gotten for us, they were still less stressful than all the work she had waiting for her when we were scheduled to return home in two months.
Yesterday morning, we woke up to a remarkably pleasant surprise. In the parts of the yard where we hadn’t carted away the meteorites, the burned parts had disappeared. When I went outside to look, I saw the burns were covered in the same viscous stuff that would occasionally come from our pipes. Underneath the ooze was healthy, green grass. When I looked closer, I saw ants – ants almost too small to see – were crawling up and down the blades and carrying away dried pieces of the slime to bring back to their homes.
I headed back inside and told Jill. She acted happy to hear it, but I could tell she was deeply uncomfortable. The chapped skin around her mouth and nose had gotten bad again. I offered to take her to the clinic in town, but she didn’t want to sit in the car for four hours just to have the doctor give her the same cream she’d been using on herself for the last week. While she spoke, the left corner of her mouth cracked open and spilled a thin rivulet of blood down her chin.
Sighing with exasperation, she grabbed a paper towel, turned on the sink to wet it, and put the paper against her wound. When she sat back down, I saw the faucet was drooling the sticky algal slime that’d caused her the problem in the first place. But it was too late. She’d already pressed it to the crack in her skin.
Before I could mention this to her, Jill’s eyes had brightened. She pulled the paper towel away, a string of syrupy fluid still connecting the towel to her face. The cut was gone.
“Don’t,” I told her.
Jill didn’t listen. She went back to the sink and turned it on. Sticky, clear stuff flowed. She filled her hands and brought the contents to her face. She rubbed for a moment, then turned back toward me.
Behind the sheen around her mouth and nose was new, healthy skin.
“Pretty cool!,” Jill exclaimed, and wiped the residue away. I didn’t know what to think, let alone say. I figured some homeopathic doctor who minored in algae studies would find it completely normal.
We went to bed and slept. In the morning, Jill’s mouth and nose, while much better than they’d been at their worst, were still not as perfect as they were right after she’d applied the slime. I told her I was going to go out in the yard and do some more work.
Before I could get out of bed, though, she kissed me. Now, we’re in our late 50s. We’re affectionate with one another, don’t get me wrong, but most of the time we just cuddle on the couch and share a pizza. It’s easier that way. Requires fewer blue pills, too. That’s not to say we don’t have a sex life, because we do, but it’s more of a once-every-two-months kind of thing.
Jill’s rapturous kiss was less like one from the woman to whom I’d been married for 35 years and more like that of the teenager she was when we first started dating. I didn’t bother concerning myself with that particular difference, though. I followed her lead and we did what apparently needed to be done. No blue pills required, thank you very much.
Afterward, while I got dressed, I told Jill I was going to start raking up the meteorites we’d left the other day. She didn’t pay attention. She wanted me back in bed. I laughed and reminded her that even when we were kids I still had the refractory period of a climate cycle. She nodded and told me to be safe outside, then made an obvious show of slipping her hands under the blankets. She looked amazing. To my surprise, I felt renewed stirring below my belt. Before I could say “fuck it” and jump back into bed, though, I shook my head. I really needed to get going on that yard work. It was starting to cloud up and I didn’t want to have to put it off because of rain. I told Jill to have fun, then went outside.
In the untouched area of the yard, the grass was ankle-high. All the burns were gone. Clumps of slime still sat in the grass. The ants that’d been going crazy for the stuff were nowhere to be found.
I raked and raked and raked. The pebbles piled up and I shoveled them into the wheelbarrow and brought them to the main pile by the compost heap. I was a little surprised there were no ants at all. I could see their anthills bored into the ground all over the place, but not a single one was out and about.
I’d been working for about two hours nonstop, so during a break, while I chugged from my bottle of water, I bent down to get a closer look at the spots where the ants had swarmed the other day. Something was there that I hadn’t noticed while I was raking. Something definitely not there when I looked the previous day.
There were infinitesimal white dots coating the same blades of grass that’d been crawling with ants less than 24 hours ago. I plucked a few blades from the ground and held them in front of my face, hoping to get a better view. The dots were slightly ovoid in shape. Something clicked. Eggs. The ants must’ve had such a massive meal of that slime stuff that it drove them to reproduce like crazy. Or something. I have no idea how they make ants.
I heard raindrops impacting the trees on the other side of the property, and ten seconds later, they reached me. A distant bolt of lightning streaked the sky, and thunder boomed a moment later. Sighing, I put the rake and shovel in the wheelbarrow and wheeled it all back to the shed. More lightning and thunder. I figured I wouldn’t be getting anything else done around the yard until the storm passed.
I headed back into the cabin, banged my boots against the doorway to get the mud off, and stepped inside.
“Charlie,” Jill called. I heard water running in the bathroom.
From the kitchen where I stood, spooning last night’s fruit salad into a bowl, I called back, “what’s up?”
“Come take a bath with me!”
I laughed to myself. That bathtub could barely fit 110 pound Jill, let alone 250 pound me. I brought my bowl of fruit salad with me down the hall and into the bedroom. Before I turned the corner to the bathroom, the water was turned off and Jill shouted out again, “Charlie, are you coming?” Her voice sounded a little different. Crisper, somehow.
I stepped into the candle-lit bathroom. Jill was in the tub, leaning back against its curved shape. She was resting her head on a folded towel. She glanced over at me and smiled. Her hands roamed up and down her body.
Even in the dim light, she looked incredible. I didn’t know whether it was the prospect of repeating our fun from that morning or just the sight of her touching herself, but it was remarkably enjoyable. I placed my bowl on the sink and started to undress.
A nearby bolt of lightning immediately followed by an explosion of thunder made me jump. As my surprise faded and I continued to take off my clothes, I realized I’d seen something different in the harsh illumination of the lightning.
On the other side of the bathroom, Jill continued her teasing. “Come here and touch me,” she whispered. Again, I noticed the unusual quality of her voice. Another clap of thunder shook the house, and that time, the associated burst of lightning showed me exactly what I had trouble identifying after the first strike.
With a gasp, I turned on the light. In the harsh, overhead fluorescence, everything was revealed.
The tub in which Jill bathed was filled to the brim with clear slime. As I watched, she slid beneath the surface, coating her face and head, and came back up. When she breached the surface, she spoke.
“Please, Charlie, I can’t even tell you how good this feels.”
Again, the different vocal quality. Now, though, in the harsh light, I saw another change. Her hair. Jill’s hair had been gray since her late 40s. It was light brown now.
Jill manipulated herself with her right hand and reached for me with her left. Clear fluid oozed from her hand and arm and puddled on the floor like heavy syrup. “Come feel this with me, Charlie.”
I didn’t move. Part of me wanted to pull her from the tub, but another part, as the rain pounded against the roof and thunder rattled the windowpanes, was too frightened to touch her. I moved closer, but stayed out of her reach. Standing at the foot of the tub, I stared at my wife as she bucked her hips against her hand and mouthed my name over and over. Ripples in the slime caused it to slosh against the sides of the tub.
“Jill, please get out. Please.” My voice trembled and was barely audible over the pouring rain.
She reached for me with both hands and smiled, then spoke. “Don’t you want to be young with me again? To start fresh? Don’t you remember how good it felt?”
Jill slid down, and I thought she was going to dip under the slime again. But she stopped at her mouth. She opened it and let the slime pool inside. She closed her lips and I saw her throat work as she swallowed the mouthful.
“It feels so right. So perfect. I want to share this with you, sweetheart.”
My mind reeled. I thought about every ache and pain I’d accumulated over my 56 years. Every pockmark and hemorrhoid and scaly patch that’d come along over those long decades throbbed, as if wanting to be noticed. Before me was a way to make it stop. I remembered how Jill and I were as teenagers. Full of life and energy and libido; all things that, over the years, had just started to evaporate. I stared at my wife, who looked exactly like she had when she was 25.
Despite my fear, a pang of desire shot through me. Desire and arousal. I wanted Jill. I wanted to be with her in every way imaginable. We could grow old together again – or never grow old at all. Our happiness could last forever if we wanted. All I had to do was join her in the bathtub.
I took a step forward and resumed taking off my clothes. Jill purred and lapped up more of the slime. Some she swallowed, some she drooled from the corners of her mouth. She absentmindedly played with herself while she watched me, apparently delighted I was going to join her in this new, impossible youth.
As I struggled to bend over and take off my socks, something that’d been a pain in my ass since I passed the 225 mark on the scale, I noticed something that caused me to stop. Jill’s breasts were shrinking. Before my eyes, her hips slimmed and her pubic hair disappeared. Her feet no longer came to the edge of the tub, but instead barely touched it.
“Come bathe with me, honey.” Jill’s voice was high and childlike. I recoiled. Whatever was happening to her was going faster. She looked 4 or 5.
“It’s incredible,” she chirped, again reaching for me with one hand and rubbing herself with the other in an act so obscene in her new, young context, that I turned away, nauseated.
“Charlie,” came the tiny voice behind me. I didn’t turn around.
The last word was practically babbled, but still carried with it an element of inquisitiveness, and, no matter how much I try to tell myself otherwise, dejection. She didn’t speak again.
A moment later, I turned around. Floating in the tub was a red shape, approximately the size of of a lemon. Tears filled my eyes as it shrank to the size of a cherry, then a pea, then a grain of rice. When I blinked, it was gone. A ribbon of white fluid hung motionless in the slime.
“I’m so sorry, my love,” I whispered to it. Distant thunder rolled across the forest.