Season 1, Episode 5
Written by Tof Eklund
Read by Tawn Krakowski
Bess ran without thought, without hope. Trees whipped by, but their branches did not catch him. Brambles fell under his feet, but they did not trip him. He ran until his breath was spent and his legs ached from the effort. He then slowed to a walk, but never looked back. Still sniffling, and with the scorch marks on his arms and legs beginning to hurt anew, he stumbled on.
He had been traveling aimlessly for hours and was becoming groggy when he spotted a faint glow ahead. For a moment, he thought it was his mother, come to take him to be with her. Terror and relief broke through his despair in that moment, but it soon became clear that the glow was merely moonlight breaking through the dark wood. The lighter spot in front of him opened up into a clearing that was barely lit by the light of a slender crescent moon and a smattering of stars.
A great, uneven mound of grass-covered earth dominated the clearing. About halfway up it, there was an even, gently sloping patch, large enough to stretch out on. His eyelids drooping, Bess summoned the strength to clamber up, kicked a few rocks off of the soft grass, and lay down. He looked up at the stars and found them odd, out of place, in his last lucid moment before falling into a deep sleep.
He dreamt of slick, smooth skin, curves of soft flesh, lips, hips, buttocks, flanks and pressing, impatient motions, flesh against flesh, slow sliding that became quick, frantic thrusting, then, tantalizingly, slowed again. Bess’ breath quickened and his eyes fluttered open. Seeing no-one and feeling only his own arousal, he let his eyes fall shut again.
After that, he didn’t think much of doing anything, as waves of pleasure crested in his loins and rolled up his spine. There was something like a series of delicate touches, soft as silk, all over his body, and a tightening around his cock. The sensations blended together and became more intense, as the phantasmagoric images of soft flesh filled his mind’s eye. He panted and gasped, and then he came.
He’d touched himself before, out behind a tree after using it as a latrine, and when he was alone in the hovel. It felt good at the time, but he always felt empty afterwards, and it reminded him of things his mother’s visitors said and did. Bess did not know enough to understand, just enough to be repulsed, and that had tainted his furtive masturbations.
Now, however, he did not feel disgusting or dirty, he simply felt relaxed. He lay there for a while, comfortably surprised. When the stickiness in his trousers began to bother him, he stripped them off and cleaned up as much as he could with a few leaves. Lying back down in the hollow, naked from the waist down, he fell asleep quickly, clutching the fragment of his mother’s blanket.
From her vantage point atop the mound, Isa watched as the strange boy slumped into the clearing. She was surprised and alarmed to see someone else here, in her secret place. After the first night, she’d avoided Barrow Wood for a fortnight, but since then, curiosity and desire had led her back. A couple of times a week, if she wasn’t completely worn out from her chores, she’d sneak into the Wood at night, make her way to the hillock, and let the strange visions and delicious sensations wash over her. Now she feared that it was all over, that the stranger would ruin it somehow.
Isa stayed low, hoping not to be seen, and had been relieved when the boy went to sleep near the base of the hillock. She’d watched with interest, as he began to shift and groan, and then in alarm when he lifted his head. She dropped to the ground, but she needn’t have worried, because the boy was caught up in his own rapture.
After he came, Isa continued to lie prone atop the mound, hoping to avoid notice as he stripped his trousers off and ineffectually swabbed himself with a couple of Elm leaves. It was only when he was soundly asleep again that Isa crept closer to have a good look.
She could see the tear-tracks on his face, which still looked sad, even in sleep. There was something about the angle of his nose that she liked, and the slow rise and fall of his chest pleased her. There were small spots on his arms, small and shiny in the faint moonlight. They weren’t pox. Had he been burned? His hands were dirty, covered in ash. With a thrill of forbidden curiosity, she shifted her gaze and got a good look at his nakedness. She’d seen male farm animals, and bathed her younger brothers, but this was different.
Despite a lankiness that spoke of undernourishment, the young man’s bare legs looked strong, with just a little auburn hair on them. That hair grew thick just above his male part. She stared at it, fascination mixing with fear. It was like a snake sleeping in the sun—if you poked it, it might strike you down.
Isa sat down and stared. That was the part of a man that went into a woman. How did it go in? She’d heard contradictory things: that it hurt, and that it felt good, and that if it felt good, you weren’t a good girl. The starlight suddenly seemed brighter as she sat there, and she felt that by-now familiar feeling come upon her.
It was like a gentle caress, a light touch at first, and it gradually grew more insistent. Her head swirling with thoughts she had no name for, Isa relaxed and sat down beside the boy. She pulled her nightdress up, and experimentally touched herself, tracing her slit and, as the pleasure built, slipping a fingertip inside. It felt good at first, really good, but then, as she pressed two fingers in as far as they would go, she hit a barrier and it didn’t feel quite so good anymore. Pulling back a bit, it felt good again. She was still gazing at the half-naked boy as she came, wondering if having a man inside you broke your body or if it felt anything like this sudden bliss.
The stars overhead flared, bright and near, as her pleasure crested and receded. Only then did she realize that the boy’s eyes were open. It took Isa a moment to recover herself enough to realize what that meant. He could see her. He was looking at her. He’d seen her naked, seen her do…that. Panicked, she pulled her nightdress down, stood awkwardly, and took off at a run even as he was opening his mouth to speak. Isa took one more look back at the boy as she sprinted towards the other side of the clearing. She ran until her sides ached and she was out of breath. When she had to stop, she looked around nervously for signs that she’d been followed. Finding none, she continued to make her way back to the farm, her heart pounding in her ears.
Something nudged Bess out of deep sleep, and it took him a moment to realize what he was seeing. He wasn’t alone. There was a girl of about his age, with straight dark hair, a wide face with round cheeks and full lips, and a stocky build. Bess had some idea what pretty girls were supposed to look like, and she didn’t look that way, but he was certain she was very pretty nonetheless.
The strange girl sat close to him, and her eyes were half-lidded but her expression was intense, focused rather than sleepy. The soft, well-worn fabric of her shapeless dress brushed his hip. Her hands were busy, one clenching the dress as she held it up, exposing her thighs, and the other moving between her legs. As he gaped, her expression shifted several times—was that pleasure? pain?—and she groaned.
He wanted to say something to her, but he had no idea what. Then it was too late as she looked up at him and her face filled with fear. Like a startled rabbit, she leapt up and dashed away. Suddenly, the night seemed darker and emptier. Bess was left with a vivid image of her glancing back as she hopped away, and a very confused feeling. He wondered what he’d done wrong, and if he should tell his mother about this. Then he remembered that he didn’t have a mother anymore, and he cried a little before falling back asleep.
By the day’s light, Bess found that there was a tiny stream not far from the clearing, a thin trickle from a natural spring, but enough to quench his thirst and clean himself. He found some pines with edible needles and large cones he was able to smash the nuts out of with a stone, and spent a couple of hours working to free enough pine nuts to fill his belly. He also found a rangy wild blackberry bush. Most of the fruit was still green, but it yielded a handful of small, tart berries.
Time passed. Bess was able to feed himself by foraging, and every night the strange visions came, and with them, so did he. He felt safer here by the great mound than he ever had in Kukendor, and was relatively well-fed. Even the pain of losing his mother lessened to a dull ache, but he couldn’t stop thinking about the dark-haired girl.
Why had she been staring at him? Was she thinking about him? Why had she been here, in the middle of Barrow Wood? Didn’t she know it was haunted? He knew why he was here—he had nowhere else to go. Was the same true of her? He’d frightened her off—if she had nowhere else to go, did that mean he’d stolen her refuge? There was enough here to share…
He was munching on pine nuts and watching the sun set one evening when the sound of a twig snapping broke his reverie. He turned and saw the girl standing at the edge of the clearing, dressed for travel in a man’s tunic and trousers, both too large for her, and carrying a bundle wrapped up in the night-dress she’d been wearing when he last saw her. She looked like she might turn and run, so Bess called out, “Stay! Please…”
She hesitated, then smiled a little. She approached slowly. “My name’s Isa,” she said.
© 2012 Copyright Tof Eklund
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