Twilight Eyes Page 16


“We’re more than halfway.”

“. . . a pit, a gulf . . .”

“Shut up,” I said as gently and lovingly as I had ever said two words, and I took hold of her again, kissed her again.

We kissed and caressed with rapidly increasing fervor but with a determination to savor this first exploration. Although we must have sat there on the grass for no more than five or ten minutes, it seemed that whole days passed unheeded. When she again pulled away from me, I started to protest. But she said, “Hush,” in such a way that I knew I should be quiet. She rose to her feet, and with none of the frustrating fumbling with buttons-clasps-zippers that could sometimes bring a chill to ardor, her clothes slipped away from her, and she stood thrillingly revealed.

Even at night in this dark woods, she seemed to be the daughter of the sun, for moonglow was nothing more than a reflection of solar light, and now every beam of that secondhand sunshine appeared to find its way to her. The rays of the moon made her skin translucent and accentuated the exquisitely sensuous curves and planes, convexities and concavities, of her faultless body. Eros in a fluid interfolding of black and silver: the frost-silver sphere of firm buttocks, perfectly cleft by darkness; a frostlike film molded to the enticing musculature of one thigh; a few crisp, shiny pubic hairs touched by a glint of silver; the concavity of her belly, curving from the pearly touch of moonlight into a smooth little pocket of shadow, then swelling back into the pearliness again before reaching the darkness beneath the heavy breasts; and—oh, yes—her breasts, uptilted, heartrendingly contoured, the turgid ni**les painted half silver and half black. Milky light, snowy light, platinum light shone upon—and seemingly from within—her elegant, smooth shoulders, traced the delicate line of her throat, and licked along the fragile ridges and folds of one shell-like ear.

She descended like some celestial entity, as from a great height, with slow grace, and lay upon the thick, soft grass.

I undressed.

I made love to her with hands, with lips, with tongue, and before I even considered entering her, I had brought her twice to cl**ax. I was not a great lover—far from it; my sexual experience was limited to two women at other carnivals before this one. But through my sixth sense I always seemed to know what was wanted, what would please.

Then, as she lay sprawled on that bed of black grass, I parted her sleek thighs and moved between them. The initial moment of penetration was the usual and unremarkable anatomical mechanics, but as we joined, the experience ceased to be usual, ceased to be unremarkable, was elevated from mechanics to mysticism, and we became not merely lovers but a simple organism, instinctively and mindlessly pursuing some half-glimpsed, mysterious, but desperately desired apotheosis of both spirit and body. Her responsiveness to me seemed as psychic as mine to her. As she clung to me, she never moved in disruptive opposition, or murmured the wrong word, or in any way disturbed the deeply satisfying and astonishingly complex rhythms of our passion, but matched each flex and counterflex, each thrust and counterthrust, each shuddering pause, each throb and stroke, until we had achieved and then surpassed flawless harmony. The world receded. We were one; we were all; we were the only.

In that sublime and almost holy condition, ejaculation seemed like a gross affront, not a natural conclusion to our coupling but a crude intrusion of base biology. But it was inevitable. Indeed it was not only inescapable, but also not long in arriving. I had been within her perhaps four or five minutes when I felt the eruption building and realized, with some embarrassment, that it was uncontainable. I began to withdraw from her, but she clasped me closer, entwining me with her slender legs and arms, her sex tightening heatedly around mine, and I managed to gasp out the impending danger of impregnation, but she said, “It’s all right, Slim, it’s all right, I can’t have babies, anyway, no babies, it’s all right, just come in me, honey, please, come in me, fill me,” and with the last few words she was shaken by another orgasm, and she arched her body against me, pressed her br**sts against my chest, tremors racking her, and suddenly I was unknotted and untied, and long, fluid ribbons of sperm spooled out of me, unraveled within her.

We were a long time regaining a sense of the world around us and even longer parting. But at last we lay side by side, on our backs in the grass, staring up at the night sky, holding hands. We were silent because, for now, all that needed to be said had already been said without resorting to words.

Perhaps five long, warm minutes passed before she said, “Who are you, Slim MacKenzie?”

“Just me.”

“Somebody special.”

“Are you kidding? Special? I couldn’t control myself. Went off like fireworks. Jeez. I promise more control next time. I’m no great lover, no Casanova, that’s for sure, but I usually have more endurance than—”

“Don’t,” she said softly. “Don’t bring it down like that. Don’t pretend it wasn’t the most natural, the most exciting . . . the most most you ever knew. Because it was. It was.”

“But I—”

“It lasted long enough. Just long enough. Now shush.”

I shushed.

The filigree of clouds had blown away. The sky was crystalline. The moon was a Lalique globe.

This extraordinary day of contrasts had encompassed the most appalling ugliness and horror, but it had also been filled with beauty that was almost excruciating in its intensity. The leering goblins in Yontsdown. To compensate for them: Rya Raines. The grim grayness of that miserable city. To balance: this splendid canvas of moon and stars under which I now lay, satiated. The visions of fire and death at the elementary school. On the other hand: the memory of her moonlight-kissed body descending to the grass with a promise of joy. Without Rya it would have been a day of unimaginably stark and unrelieved despair. There on the shore of that dark lake, she seemed, at least in that moment, to be the embodiment of all that had gone right in the divine architect’s plans for the universe, and if I could have located God right then, I would have yanked insistently on the hem of His robe and kicked at His shins and would have made a general nuisance of myself until He agreed that He would reconstruct those vast portions of His creation that He had screwed up the first time, and that during the reconstruction He would use Rya Raines as the supreme example of what was possible if only He would put all His mind and talent behind the project.

Joel Tuck was wrong. I was not infatuated with her.

I was in love with her.

God help me, I was in love with her. And although I did not know it then, the time was rapidly approaching when, because of my love for her, I would desperately need God’s help merely to survive.

After a while she let go of my hand and sat up, drew her knees up, clasped her arms around her bent legs, and stared out at the lightless lake, in which a fish splashed once and then swam on in silence. I sat up beside her, and still we felt no need to be any more talkative than the swimming fishes.

Another distant splash.

A rustle of wind-stirred reeds at water’s edge.

Cricket song.

Mournful mating calls of lonely frogs.

In time I realized that she was weeping again.

I put a hand to her face, moistened a fingertip in a tear.

“What?” I asked.

She said nothing.

“Tell me,” I said.

“Don’t,” she said.

“Don’t what?”


I was silent.

She was silent.

Eventually the frogs were silent.

When she finally spoke, she said, “The water looks inviting.”

“Looks wet is all.”


“Probably covered with algae, and the bottom’s mud.”

“Sometimes,” she said, “in Gibtown, Florida, during the off-season, I go out to the beach and take long walks, and sometimes I think how nice it would be to swim out into the sea, out and out, just keep on and never come back.”

There was a shocking spiritual and emotional weariness in her, a distressing melancholy. I wondered if it had something to do with her inability to have children. But mere barrenness seemed insufficient cause for this black despondency. At this moment her voice was that of a woman whose heart had been corroded by a bitter sadness of such purity and acidic strength that the source of it defied imagination.

I could not understand how she could plummet from ecstasy to despondency so quickly. Only minutes ago she had told me that our lovemaking had been the most most. Now she was almost gladly sinking back into despair, into an utterly hopeless, sapping, sunless, private desolation that scared the hell out of me.

She said, “Wouldn’t it be nice to swim out as far as you could go and then, exhausted, swim even farther, until your arms become like lead and your legs like a diver’s weights and—”

“No!” I said sharply, grabbing her face in both hands, turning her head, forcing her to look at me. “No, it wouldn’t be nice. It wouldn’t be nice at all. What are you saying? What’s wrong with you? Why are you like this?”

There was neither an answer on her lips nor in her eyes, just a bleakness in the latter that was impenetrable even to my sixth sense, a loneliness that seemed ultimately impervious to any assaults I could hope to make on it. Seeing this, my gut clenched with fear, and my heart felt hollow and dead, and tears filled my own eyes.

In desperation I pulled her down onto the grass, kissed her, caressed her, and began to make love to her again. At first she was reluctant, but then she began to respond, and soon we were as one, and this time, in spite of the talk of suicide and in spite of the fact that she would not allow me to understand the cause of her despair, we were better together than we had been before. If passion was the only rope that I could find to throw to her, if it was the only thing that could pull her back from the spiritual quicksand that was sucking her under, then it was at least reassuring to know that my passion for her was a lifeline of infinite length.

Spent, we lay for a while in each other’s arms, and the quality of our mutual silence did not degenerate into funereal gloom, as it had done before. In time we dressed and started back along the forest road, toward the fairgrounds.

I was buoyed by the beginning that we had made tonight, and I was filled with a hope for the future that I had not known since the day I had first seen a goblin. I wanted to shout, throw my head back, laugh at the moon, but I did nothing of the sort, for with each step of our return from the wilderness, I was also afraid, deeply frightened that she would once again oscillate from happiness to despair, that this time she would not ever swing back to the light again. And I was afraid, as well, of the not-forgotten vision of her bloody face and what that vision might portend. This was a mad brew of conflicting emotions and not easily kept below boil, especially not for a seventeen-year-old boy far from home, cut off from his family, and in dire need of some affection, purpose, and stability. Fortunately Rya remained in a good mood all the way back to the door of her Airstream trailer, sparing me the dispiriting sight of a new descent into those melancholy realms and leaving me with some small measure of confidence that eventually I could persuade her to turn away forever from consideration of that suicidal swim into the uncaring embrace of the surging Florida seas.

As for the vision . . . well, I would have to find a way to help her avoid the danger ahead. Unlike the past, the future could be changed.

At her door we kissed.

She said, “I can still feel you within me, your seed, still so hot inside me, burning. I’ll take it to bed with me, curl myself around the heat of your seed, and it’ll be like a watch fire through the night, keeping the bad dreams away. No graveyards tonight, Slim. No, not tonight.”

Then she went in and closed the door behind her.

Thanks to the goblins, who fill me with a paranoid tension when I’m awake and who disturb my sleep with nightmares, I am accustomed to insomnia. For years I have lived with little sleep, a few hours most nights, none at all on some nights, and gradually my metabolism has adjusted to the fact that my raveled sleeve of care will never be entirely mended. Tonight, again, I was wide-awake, though it was now four o’clock in the morning, but at least this time the cause of my insomnia was irrepressible joy rather than cold terror.

I walked up to the midway.

I followed the concourse, preoccupied with thoughts of Rya. Such a torrent of vivid images of Rya filled my mind that I would not have believed there was room for thoughts of a different kind. But in a while I realized that I had stopped walking, that my fists were clenched at my sides, that a chill had taken possession of me, that I was standing in front of Joel Tuck’s Shockville, and that I was there with a purpose. I was staring at the Snap Wyatt banners strung across the front of the tent. Those portraits of the freaks were more disturbing now, in the fading moonbeams that barely limned them, than they were in the uncompromising light of day, for it was within the power of the human imagination to conjure up worse atrocities than even God could commit. While my conscious mind had been fixated on Rya, my subconscious had dragged me here for the purpose of investigating that patch of earth in the twelfth stall, from which I had received strong psychic impressions of death.

Perhaps my own death.

I did not want to go in there.

I wanted to walk away.

As I stared at the snugged-down flaps of the tent’s entrance, the desire to walk away became an urge to run.

But a key to my future lay within. I had to know exactly what psychic magnet had drawn me there yesterday afternoon. To maximize my chances for survival, I had to know why death energies had radiated from the dirt floor in front of Joel Tuck’s platform and why I had sensed that very plot of ground might become my own grave.

I told myself that there was nothing to fear in the tent. The freaks were not here but in their trailers, fast asleep. Even if they had still been in the tent, none of them would have harmed me. And the tent itself was not inherently dangerous or evil, just a large canvas structure, haunted (if at all) by nothing worse than the stupidity and thoughtlessness of ten thousand marks.

Nevertheless, I was afraid.

Afraid, I went to the securely belayed canvas flaps that closed off the entrance.

At the flaps I untied one line, trembling.

Trembling, I went inside.

Chapter ten


Humid darkness.

The smell of weathered canvas.


I stood just inside Shockville, very still, alert, listening. The large, chambered tent was perfectly quiet but had a peculiar resonance, like a giant conch shell, so I heard the imitation oceanic susurration of my own blood flowing through the vessels in my ears.

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