JIM BOWIE AND THE GODDESS OF LUST
Before recorded time, First Female and Old Man Above coaxed life from the brilliance of the stars and reflective glory of the moon. Of all their earthly places, they most loved the forests, ocean, and mountains of Cascadia. But lately this paradise was threatened by a phenomenon inexplicable to the two gods: the human rage that was destroying the globe had even entered their beloved wilderness. It must be stopped.
“Humans are imperfect fabrications, often nasty as wolverines even when their bellies are full. They are angry with each other in ways that mystify every Presence here, phantasm and goddess alike. You must have missed an essential lyric in their Creation Song. Do something,” First Female demanded.
Old Man Above heard it as nagging. If she said it once, she’d say it … well, she’d probably say it again. The truth was that he was disappointed in the human creations, too. Wearily he rousted himself from his splendid view of the Northern Lights, reached far below and drew up a dripping ball of odiferous muck. “Here,” he said, handing the mess to First Female. “Let’s just see what you can do.”
She looked at the hunk of ooze and smiled. “I’ll create a spirit, I think, one who looks human enough to walk among them and correct the errors in their construction. Oh, not a survival of the fittest type, slashing and burning. I will use a more feminine concept. This creation will listen before she acts. She’ll observe before she obliterates.
“I will provide her a way to soar across Cascadia, width to breadth, mountain to shore, so she may detect and fix human foibles. And I will even give her a sort of invisibility on demand. Invisibility has worked well for you and me all these eons.”
Old Man Above merely grunted and turned his attention back to the light game streaking color across the sky.
First Female decided to name her creation Cascadia to honor the region, knowing that a spirit so named would be one with the earth, the sea and the sky. “The name has beauty in its sibilance, a softness that will mask the steel this spirit must possess to assess the rage around her.”
“Whatever,” said Old Man Above.
First Female called to the gods and goddesses in the Chamber of Mythologies. She forewarned they would be asked to teach emotional skills which the newly minted Cascadia would need to walk among the humans. Next, First Female visited the Tree of Human History. There, she selected physical Skill Masters. Her planning complete, First Female sang her Creation Song.
* * *
This was not the first assault Cascadia had observed since First Female sent her on her way weeks ago. The spirit watched the human male from the high boughs of a cedar tree that surrounded her like a living cave. If he had looked her way, he would see nothing but a pattern of greenery and sky dance across her body, matching her background whenever she moved.
She could tell this particular human was not at home in the forest. He appeared ill-equipped and untrained. He acted lost, requesting directions home from the human girl who was picking wild chanterelles and black morels, her bag heavy with the earthy crop.
When he spoke to her, the girl smiled at him. Then she turned her golden brown eyes away long enough to point the way out of the forest. Cascadia had seen this sort of kindness in humans before. But then the man grabbed the girl, tied her hands with her own sash, bent her over a fallen hemlock tree and took her. Afterwards, he used the machete.
“He is killing her,” Cascadia muttered to the great bear beside her, speaking no louder than a slight breeze in the forest. “Does he not recognize her pain?” She took one last look at the broken body of the savaged girl, blood dampening the yellow lady slippers and Indian paint brush. The animals of the forest would soon discover the carrion, and the man would survive to kill another day.
The man was cleaning blood from his machete when he tensed. He stared all around as well as high above.
Does he hear more than the wind moaning in the trees? Does he see my shadow? Does he feel any sense of doom?
Silver Tip, her flying bear, scented the fresh blood and grew restive. Cascadia climbed onto his back, then evaporated with him into the mist and flew away through the trees. She traveled on, learning every hollow and lake and glacial ridge of Cascadia, the region for which she was named. She was to observe, not interfere. First Female had commanded it weeks before in a melodic utterance that swirled around the spirit. The voice had no visible origin. It just was, imposing and undeniable.
Over time, Cascadia had learned that one earth species often killed another to live, but only humans maimed their own kind for sport. She had no concept why. She could feel basic emotions in about the same way as the forest mammals around her. Like them, she experienced fear, joy and shame. She just didn’t know these feelings by name or how to control them as they came and went.
Cascadia clung to Silver Tip, putting her arms around his massive neck, burrowing into his fur. She had grown used to travelling at wind speed on the back of her ursine steed. The freedom was intoxicating.
But her liberty was about to end.
* * *
Helen of Troy appeared one day, and everything changed. Cascadia was playing in the chill water of a swift-moving creek, right where it bent back on itself to create a quiet pool. She’d just splashed Silver Tip as he tried to land yet another salmon. She believed they were alone so she had not bothered with the wrap of invisibility which required much of her energy when in use. So she was taken by surprise when a husky voice spoke to her.
“I’ve been sent by First Female,” it announced. “Take it from me, honey, it’s your good fortune she chose me considering some of the nut jobs in the Chamber of Mythologies. Like that crazy damn Cyclops. But don’t get me started.”
The spirit began to fade, literally.
“Oh, quit with the disappearing act. I can see you anyway, what with not being human and all.” The delectable goddess, holding a rolled golden scroll in one elegant hand, flounced down on a riverbank boulder, crossed her long legs and rested the other hand on her knee. A gold and opal ring spanned her index finger knuckle to knuckle. Cascadia had never seen anything like it. She’d never seen breasts that size, either.
“I’m called the Goddess of Lust. That makes me quite a different kettle of fish from those namby-pamby Vestal virgins. My earthly form was Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman of all time. As you can see. You may call me Helen or Goddess, as you wish. Come out of the water now. Sit and listen. You won’t believe what you are about to hear.”
Silver Tip bounded forward in one leap. His vaults terrified everyone and everything. But this goddess stopped him with a languid wave of her hand. “Quiet you,” she snapped. “Lie down.
”He lifted his lip to assert his own considerable authority. But her voice cut off his roar before it could rumble off his vocal chords. “You’re nothing but an oversized hairball. Damned smelly one, at that.”
The crestfallen bear lowered himself to the ground with a resounding juicy fart.
“How rude,” the goddess muttered, fanning her hand in front of her face with considerable urgency. “That would not be allowed on Mount Olympus. Standards are certainly low in this goddess-forsaken wilderness.”
Cascadia rose from the creek, water plastering her thin clothes against her curves. She was not used to being seen, much less stared at in the way the Goddess of Lust was watching her now. She felt heat spread from her neck to her cheeks but knew no word for a blush.
“What on earth are you wearing?” Helen asked with a frown.
“It is called shorts and a T-shirt. They were given to me by First Female as typical of human apparel. To wear when I am visible.”
“What’s that marking on the shirt?” Helen squinted at it.
Cascadia looked down at the pattern which was damp and distorted now as it rose and fell over her twin peaks. “I don’t know. It’s some kind of hieroglyphic that humans wear. I have other such shirts with other such writings. But I don’t read the language.”
“I doubt First Female does either, her fashion sense being what it is. Ah, well. We’ll work on wardrobe. For now, spin around and let me see all your angles.”
Cascadia did as ordered. If First Female had sent this goddess from the Chamber of Mythologies, then there must be a good reason. Who am I to question? She thought, questioning all the while.
Helen tapped a manicured finger against her full pursed lips. Then the goddess unrolled her scroll and stared at it. By stretching as she turned, Cascadia could just see the buxom females sketched on the papyrus.
“All righty then,” Helen said at last, rolling the scroll shut. “You may stop spinning. You are more of a reed than the beauties of my day. A craft project in much need of work. But you are fine clay. With my help you will be unequalled in beauty among humans today.”
“Why would I want that?” Cascadia asked feeling just the slightest bit dizzy. She lowered herself next to Silver Tip, sitting on the forest floor which was blanketed with soft fir needles, ferns and mosses. She could feel the silent growl vibrating in the bear’s body, telling her he did not like this troublesome goddess.
“Because, darling, lust moves men.” Helen raised both her brows and rolled her eyes in a ‘duh’ sort of way. “And beauty is a part of lust. ”
Cascadia exchanged a shrug with Silver Tip then said, “I want to move men?”
“Well, of course! Of course you do. And there’s no better way than lust. Especially, if you want to have a bit of fun along the way for yourself. But,” and here Helen pointed a slender finger with all the weightiness of a gun. “It must be in your control, not theirs. ”
Cascadia experienced bewilderment although she didn’t know the word nor did she like the feeling. In my control? What does this goddess mean? What on earth was First Female thinking, sending her to me? She stared at the goddess with concentration.
Helen of Troy appeared human but more so. Enhanced. Her voice was huskier, her skin more aglow, her lips a poutier bow. She was spectacular, with laugh lines around her mouth and wisdom in her eyes, eyes the exact color of the first wild irises in the spring. Cascadia could see her body through the thin silk, backlit by the setting sun. It was plusher than the spirit’s own build, as round and luscious as ripe fruit.
“What is this covering that you have?” Cascadia asked. It was quite different from her own attire. The goddess explained it was a Greek chiton, very lust friendly. Two squares of material were sewn up the sides, belted with a golden sash below her breasts. It was toga-like, made of silk as light as a butterfly wing. The ornamental brooches holding her gown at the shoulders were golden cats whose tails formed the clasps. “So easy to undo,” Helen said with a slow bat of lengthy eyelashes. A braid that matched the sash twisted its way up her arm, and a golden filament net captured her raven curls on the top of her regal head.
To the lithe, athletic Cascadia, Helen of Troy’s soft roundness cradled in the diaphanous get-up was as different from her own form and wardrobe as a third sex. How was she to arouse any of this emotion that Helen called lust?
“First Female sang the Creation Song in order to craft you,” Helen said. “That much you already know. You have been honored with a mission that is very dear to her. To help you succeed, you have been given humanoid shape, invisibility on demand and, goddess help you, a flying bear. You are to discover the savagery that is poisoning this land today and, if possible, fix it. First Female and Old Man Above believe there is still hope for the world or they would have never made you the namesake for this part of it.”
Helen made the rocking motion with one hand that is the universal gesture for maybe so, maybe not. “I don’t get the attraction to this place, frankly. I mean, it’s pretty enough but far too damp and chill for my tastes. Where is the sun and the desert sand? And what do you do at night other than shiver? Where are the brave warriors, the feasts, the orgies? Now, Mount Olympus, that was one rocking mountain. But I digress. I must teach you the skill of lust, and it will take some preparation. Tell me, do you have any figs, pistachios or orchid bulbs to nibble on?”
Cascadia had never heard of these things.
“Never mind.” Helen fiddled with a lustrous curl that had escaped the golden net. “I’ll get you some. They’re aphrodisiacs, you know. One day you’ll learn the Skills of the Flora from another tutor.” She leaned forward to say in a whisper, “Of course, compared to me that Celtic herbalist Dian Cecht is a pagan pig so you be careful around him if he ever appears with his nasty bag of tricks.”
She stood, lightly brushing her own cheek with one long finger. “You’ve perhaps noticed that I am exquisite.”
Cascadia nodded. Silver Tip rumbled a protest but she quieted him with a touch to his ear.
“Oh, since my teens, I may have gained a pound or two. Having many children will do that to you, and the little snots are never really grateful for your sacrifice.” The goddess spied a fawn lily so well hidden amongst the boulders that Silver Tip had not eaten it. She plucked the speckled white bloom and put it in her hair. “
Now where was I? Oh, yes. Lust. Today’s lesson is about what lust is. So let’s begin with the good and the bad of it.” She seated herself gracefully back on her boulder. “All through time, a human woman’s greatest weapon against men has been her ability to turn their silly heads. We make their eyes bulge and their jaws drop. The vagina is arguably the most valuable article on earth. Its worth exceeds gold. It has started more battles than religion.
“I hasten to add that this possession has its downside. Take my mother, Nemesis, for instance. She wanted nothing to do with my father, Zeus, so she changed herself into a goose. Of course, he changed himself into a gander, and you can guess what happened next. I tell you, it’s embarrassing to be born of an egg.”
“Born of an egg?” Cascadia whispered into Silver Tip’s ear. He huffed, his enormous nose twitching. She felt her lips part and a sound like the gurgle of a brook passed through. She’d made the noise before but didn’t know what it was, just that she liked it.
“Sure, go ahead and laugh. You, too, you poor excuse for a fur rug,” Helen snapped at them both. “But just think. If a plain sort of presence like Mom can make a man turn himself into a large bird, imagine what a really special female can do. Like me. That bit about launching a thousand ships? It’s true. I’ve been kidnapped twice, married a king, taken a lover, taken my lover’s brother, and my lover’s other brother. Then all I had to do to get the Mister back was drop my chiton before his eyes. He instantly forgave my little misadventures as part of a youthful spirit. And I’ve lived, as they say, happily ever after ever since.”
The look of triumph on Helen’s face was quickly replaced with caution. “But beware, kiddo. In the Chamber of Mythologies, there are more gods and demons and phantasms representing shades of lust than any other emotion. At the gentle end of the spectrum you have Dogoda, the Slavic spirit of the West Wind. The blush in your cheeks reveals that you’ve already known his tender touch. ”
Cascadia was found out. She’d met Dogoda and eagerly awaited his return. She sought him along the creeks and edges of the forest. When the caressing wind had first arrived, he’d carried her with the leaves, swirling and dancing in the air. His warm, moist breath made her tremble and tumble, her legs and arms and mouth open wide to catch him wherever, however she could. The life force of him lifted her, enthralling her with his sweet sadness and his faithful promise of return. She’d drifted in his arms, and then he was gone until the seasons would return him to her once more next autumn.
So that is lust. I begin to understand.
It was a mystery solved, a poem deciphered. Cascadia now had a word for the delightful feeling. The importance of Helen escalated in her eyes. First Female was right again.
Helen’s grim tone brought her back from ecstasy. “You must learn this, Cascadia: lust can take on darker forms. Mythic gods all around the earth can be devastatingly cruel. I myself was raped twice as a child. Satyrs hunt down unsuspecting women. Succubi ravish men in the night until they die. The Moroccan Qandisa seduces youngsters in order to drive them insane. ”
Cascadia was more than a little baffled. Maybe lust wasn’t so delightful after all, not if it could extend to lunacy.
“Lust is an itch, a craving. Inextinguishable desire. Whether it is reviled or adored by humans, considered a sin or rapture, well, that depends on which of the gods they worship in the Chamber of Mythologies.”
Cascadia thought back to the brown skinned girl in the woods, murdered by the human male after their brutal coupling. “It is dangerous for humans, this emotion that can feel so good or hurt so bad.” She saw how volatile lust could be. It was not to be trifled with.
“Yes. You must control the men who want you. You cannot be in their power.”
“But how will I overpower them?”
“When you’re ready, I’ll bring you a human who is the Skill Master of the Knife. First Female has selected him as your teacher.” Helen cocked her head and winked. “I think he can teach you a thing or two about lust, as well.”
END OF EXCERPT