“Halloo!” Perdita Poorwhit crept slowly up the darkened steps to the room at the top of the stairs, intent on at last determining the identity of the mysterious stranger who had stolen her virginity and worse, murdered her father in cold-blood at the very stroke of midnight on her seventeenth birthday. She patted the knife she had sheathed between her pert breasts, feeling the cold steel rub sensuously against her bare flesh. Tonight, revenge would be hers.
Suddenly, the door slammed open, the mighty crash echoing in the tower, SLAMSLAMslamslamslam. . . and he appeared. Like the devil himself he stood before her, his face as tan as roughened cowhide, his teeth flashing white, his shirt and breeches black as an abyss of darkness. His shadow loomed forever downwards, drawing her into hell.
She felt for the security of the knife, but instead, it was the hard, pebble-like betrayal of her nipples that her fingers found. Dear God, had she been raised by her mad aunt in the convent, only to find herself forsaken by her traitorous desire for the one man who had ruined her life?
Like the Poorwhit wanton the nuns had always called her, she drew forward, a throaty moan escaping her full lips, her heart waltzing in four-four time. Sweat beaded on her forehead, down her back, between her breasts, until her clothes were dripping wet and clinging to her body, her every curve and crevice exposed to his heated gaze.
He held out his hand, an invitation to ruination, and like a fool, like generations of Poorwhit women before her, she answered his call.
“I knew you would come.” His voice was low, rough, as if he had just quit smoking.
His vanity peeved her. “I come for no man.”
“You will come for me.”
His long, brown fingers ripped her dress asunder, leaving her bare to his gaze, her knife balanced precariously between her firm, uptilted breasts. “You brought a weapon? My weapon is the only one you’ll need.”
“Ha!” She grasped the knife firmly, did a double flip, and then pirouetted to a perfect temps d’interception, her feet balanced lightly, her angle precise, just as the nuns had taught her in school. She raked the blade down his chest, his silken shirt parting like the Red Sea, a line of crimson forming in the wake. “Your weapon is weak. Mine can draw blood.”
“As I drew yours before.”
Angered because he was correct, that she could not forget the night he brought her to ecstasy seventeen times before they both succumbed to an exhausted slumber, she stamped her foot, her porcelain orbs heaving with indignation. “I’ll see you in hell first.”
“I will have you.” He took a step closer, touching a tender hand to her cheek.
She worried her lip, his words twisting inside her, melting, dripping, dropping, zipping, zopping, chipping, chopping, lopping, popping, pounding, mounding, each one grounding, stripping away the steel codpiece that she had worn over her heart for so long. “Not.” She turned her face into his palm.
“Will.” He pressed his body against hers, until she felt the hard length of the Eveready flashlight he carried in his pocket.
“Not,” she whimpered, her convictions fluttering away like the leaf that floated through the air in the cool autumn breeze, swaying this way and that, skimming along the surface of the stone walls before finally coming to rest on her toe. She stared at the leaf and suddenly everything became clear. She realized how fragile life really was, how short, and how foolish she would be to walk away from love. He was her oak tree, her touchstone, her knight in shining armor ready to slay her dragons as easily as he slew her father.
And tonight he would be hers.
When she raised her mouth for his kiss, he could see the answer shining in her eyes.
He had never known such happiness as what she brought him. Never seen such a fine example of innocence and beauty. But her beauty was deeper than her pouty lips or sultry eyes, or the cute way she smiled when she nervous. No, her beauty ran deep below her epidermis, below her dermis, through her follicles, and down to the very heart of her soul.
His jaw dropped as the weight of his need feel upon his shoulders like Atlas. Helplessly he shrugged and dropped to one knee, pressing feverish lips to her hand. “I will always be yours, Perdita. Be mine as well. Let me worship at the temple of your thighs, let me lick you until your cries of desire echo like the wolf that bays at the moon.”
His fingers, his sweet, savage fingers crept inside her, causing her to sway and shimmy like a snake to the charmer. Each time she rose higher, and fell further, until finally, overwrought with her passion, she staggered to her knees and they tumbled to the floor, entwined in each other’s arms.
She ripped, he tore, she gasped, he moaned, he bit, she licked, he wept, she screamed. Finally, when he reached the highest peak of pleasure, when he knew he had found the piece that completed him completely, he gazed into her innocent blue eyes, wanting her to see his heart. Tortured tears fell down her cheeks as the last tremors shook her body. She could never forgive him, even though her body would always be his. However, her heart was not so easily fooled.
Still, she had to ask. Had to know. “Why did you kill Papa?”
He rested his forehead against her own, his body still shaking as if he had finished first in a 5K run. The truth was so ugly, he had thought to shelter her from it. But it was not to be, and his heart shattered into a million, tiny pieces. In his mind, the sound echoed over and over and over. CRASHCRASHcrashcrashcrash. “Your father tried to sell you to the slave-traders. He was a drunken sot who only wanted money to buy more gin. I tried to talk him out of his plan, but he stood firm. I saw no choice. I would not have him prostitute you, Perdita. You belong to me, no one else.”
“Oh, Norman, I had no idea. Forgive me?”
“Consider it forgotten,” he answered with wicked purpose. His flesh hardened once more, and he began to move inside her again.
And as the sun rose the next morning, they were still at it, like rabbits who had been deprived of all contact with other rabbits until they were frantic with desire, their little paws clawing at the cage.
Finally, hand in hand, they came down the stairs, his knees wobbling and bruised from beating against the stone floor, and her legs bowed from much use.
Together, their wounds would heal. After all, love could mend hearts, buy forgiveness, treat infections, cure the common cold, and solve the petty squabbling in the Middle East.
And for Norman and Perdita, that would be enough.
Purple Prose as written by Sherry Thomas:
The view beyond the transparent forward hull of The Steadfast was breathtaking: abyss-black nothingness studded with countless distant stars, their brilliance true and unwavering in the nearly absolute vacuum.
Maya was oblivious to the magnificence of the universe, separated from her only by one meter’s thickness of titanium-reinforced glass. She had also lost that slightly terrified awe of the yawning, bottomless void which surrounded her. After five solitary months in the far reaches of the solar system, part of every space cadet’s training requirement, she was more than anything else, bored.
Bored out of her mind. Bored stiff. Bored to death, on one side, by that insignificant piece of rock Pluto which somehow elevated itself into a planet, and on the other side, by the starscape that changed too little to capture her interest anymore.
Frankly, she would have requested recall after two month - and therefore failing to ever qualify for deep-space assignments - if it hadn’t been for a box of curiosity she had smuggled on board when she first arrived.
The box had belonged to Maya’s great-grandmother, who sadly passed away the previous year at the still-prime age of 100. It was found, stashed under Great-grandmother’s bed, secured by the most advanced prime number combinatorial lock. What could it have contained? Classified documents? State secrets?
Everyone held his/her breath when the lock was finally decoded and the lid lifted to reveal - what?! Old paperback tomes from Gran-gran’s youth back in the ‘70s and ‘80s of the previous century. And not even anything that could be properly labeled reading material. They were romances, good grief, well-preserved romances, with cover pictures of massive, menacing men whose bulging muscles were supposed to imply similar endowment below waist and melting, draping, sleepy-eyed females with spilling silicon breasts and pouty collagen lips.
Oh, the laughing, wheezing, chortling and snickering that followed. Father nearly collapsed with mirth. No wonder poor old Gran-gran had to go to such length to keep the content under lock. Egad, could you imagine the field day the comedians would have had if it had been exposed during her eighteen laudable years in the senate and two superb terms in the White House that the first ever female majority leader and Commander-in-Chief had been a devotee of such pulp fiction!
There was a brief ensuing debate over whether the books should be turned over to Gran-gran’s presidential library. Mother put her foot down and said she wouldn’t allow Gran-gran’s ridiculous little secret to ruin her own chances at senatorial re-election. And that was that. The books were to be demolished and the knowledge was to go no further than the present company.
But something happened to Maya when she first laid eyes on the sinuously intertwined figures of warriors and maidens, sheiks and desert roses, pirates and their swooning preys. A little thump of the heart she experienced, perhaps a little brightening of awareness. The blatantly lascivious eyes of the oversexed and underdressed men seemed to be looking at her directly, challenging her, inviting her. Come and read for yourself what we are about to perpetrate in these pages, they communicated, we really are every bit as sinewy, powerful, and overwhelming as our portraits suggest.
In the end, without really knowing why, Maya volunteered for the demolishing chore. And then, instead of dutifully disposing of the torrid books, she took the box back to the Academy and slapped a label of “Training Run Logs” on the outside so her roommates would not bother to open them.
There had been no spare hours for any extracurricular reading for the remainder of the semester. But boy oh boy, was there plenty of time to kill aboard the very staid Steadfast with nothing much to do and no holovision signals from Earth strong enough to gel into images and sounds.
So she had cracked the box open a few centimeters, and giggling to herself as she did so, grabbed the first book that floated out in the zero-g environment. A harem story. With on the cover a dark sleek pasha and a slave girl garbed only in an implausibly long tumble of platinum blond hair.
Maya had taken a few courses in middle-eastern history and had even visited a preserved harem on a tour to Istanbul. What a wretched place it was. Completely sealed from the outside world, with nothing to do all day for the women who once lived there but bath, gossip, eat sweets, and grow obese while waiting for the whim of the master. A certain sultan even had his entire harem drowned so he could start anew.
But the hero of this particular Arabian tale was - gasp - three quarters European! How that came about Maya could not fathom. But it scarcely mattered as the story already had her in its thrall. A nearly white pasha, and a completely white slave, he horny as a tomcat, needing the service of two women every night and conversant in every conceivable and inconceivable vice, she innocent as a new-born lamb, with no idea at all that what she had between her legs was good for anything except certain unmentionable functions in the lavatory.
How could the girl possibly survive, let alone prosper? Yet prosper she did. For once his ramming rod breached the flimsy defense of her virginity - huh? oh, oh, meaning once they had screwed for the first time - she instantly changed from a dowdy to a foxy. Maya marveled at the heroine’s metamorphosis. She herself had been laid a reasonable number of times, but she was nowhere near as bold now as that little ex-virgin who until the previous scene had been totally ignorant of her own internally plumbing.
And the language, good God. Why was it never simply and straightforwardly “his hard penis entered her wet vagina” but always “his throbbingly turgid masculine sword slid into her lushly flooded feminine sheath” or “his engorged, swollen shaft of desire cleaved into her wantonly inundated love canal?”
Maya had to scratch her head at first in an effort to decipher this complex code that seemed part and parcel of the books, but soon she became fluent in their secret terminology. It was a language for only the sisterhood of the initiated. And two months into her lone sojourn far from civilization, she had become more than an initiate. She was, to put it bluntly, hooked. Ah, the rippling muscles, the heaving breasts, the hot cylinders of male arousal, the dewy petals of female flowers. She could not get enough of the fervid embraces, the roaring spats, the shrill “sszzzz” of silks, and satins, and linens torn asunder by large arrogant hands and the “tump tump” of buttons splattered everywhere in the wake of every mass destruction of historical undergarments.
Sadly, the supply of romances was limited. After five months in space, even with most careful rationing, Maya was down to one last unread volume, one that proclaimed itself on the front cover, the back cover, and the spine to be sizzling, dazzling, nuclear meltdown hot, one that warned its readers to have a glass of ice water and a fire extinguisher standing by in case the book should suddenly combust spontaneously and consume both itself and the engrossed reader in leaping tongues of flames.
She strapped herself in the commander’s seat in the hull - she was commander, pilot, liaison, maintenance, in short, the entire crew - so that she would not float away and bump her head during this final thrilling adventure. Then with the book wide open, its anatomically improbable couple on the cover visible for hundreds of kilometers to anyone who had a toy telescope - but there’s no one within millions of kilometers and the next supply ship was not due to arrive for a month - Maya began her reading.
A stubborn race, these earthlings. The entire planet had been Dusted some one hundred earth years ago, after the race had shown itself capable of space flights and therefore, ready for Contact. Alas, the chemical Agent of Change proved insufficient, as subsequent endo-atmospheric checks sadly confirmed.
The earthlings squabbled over their sightings of the surveillance flights. One unfortunate crash in particular sent them into a frenzy of debate. The sensible ones pointed to the incidents as irrefutable evidence of extraterrestrial life forms. The skeptical ones asked why then, those highly intelligent otherworldly beings had not bothered to Contact them?
Why? He mumbled to himself as he adhered his non-physical form to outside of the transparent hull. Idiots. How can we Contact you before you have Changed your speech patterns? The Universal Translator would be ineffectual unless the users are all fluent in the Official Speech Pattern of the Alliance. What would we have to say to you after we have shown you our right triangle and demonstrated our understanding of a2+b2=C2?
So now things had to be done in the old-fashioned way - transmitting the Change physically, one by one if necessary. But to do that, he needed first to locate some receptive Candidates. It would have been a daunting task. The only subset of earthlings who had been at all affected by the Agent of Change Dusted yesteryear, it seemed, was a segment of the female population who wrote and/or read certain books of love stories. The most exceptional of these writers exhibited a style of writing surprisingly similar to the venerated Official Speech Pattern.
Unhappily, those writers were roundly ridiculed for being ahead of their time, their devoted readers were shamed into never daring to display their books in public, and their lyrical, intricate, hyperbolic usage of language had to bear that dreaded, humiliating label: Purple Prose. How ironic, when that was precisely how the Official Speech Pattern was affectionately referred to within the Alliance, given that purple was the Alliance’s signature color.
He had steeled himself for a grueling search. Purple Prose on earth died out about fifty years ago, the prophetic books probably all met their ignominious end being recycled to make toilet paper. Devotees would be few and difficult to locate.
But as luck would have it. He found one without even looking. There she was, on the other side of the glass wall, her face nearly buried in the pages, completely absorbed. He knew the content of the book by its cover. Why was it that the closer the writing in a book came to the Official Speech Pattern, the more lurid the picture on the cover must be? He could only imagine the earthlings’ reaction if they were to read an official Alliance communiqué now. Well, what could one say about those literarily still primitive people. . . .
He banished that depressing thought and focused on the bright hope in front of him. Yes, she was ready. And he was ready to Change her. Forever.
Very carefully, he permeated through the titanium-reinforced glass, until he was inside the vessel, and took on physical form. He willed her, with his considerable power, to look up at him, and not be frightened or shocked, but merely a little dazed.
Maya looked up.
And this giant with his granite-hard muscled physique had a chiseled face to match. He had deep-set icy blue eyes, a conqueror of a nose, and sensual, yet slightly cruel lips. Maya stared at him for one more minute. Then she looked down at her book and flipped it so she could see the cover.
She looked up again. “Rorik? Rorik the Viking who has slain hundreds and raped thousands?” She whispered.
“Fear not, fair maiden.” The giant answered, his voice deep, gravelly, and smooth all at once. Amazing. “I have no intention of raping you. I only wish to share the pleasure so unique to the joining of a man and a woman.”
“And you talk just like him too.” Maya marveled aloud.
“As soon you shall too, my little one. Soon you shall too, when I have demonstrated to you all that is possible between a virile man and a willing woman.” He advanced a step, his eyes smoldering.
“Thank you for...uh...the offer.” Maya stammered a little. His presence was so...so...unbelievably unsettling. He made her feel small - of course - and soft and feminine. “Though I don’t believe you can demonstrate to me anything I don’t already know. You see, I worked as a sex-ed instructor for three summers and I have done a good bit of everything too.” His lips sneered in disdain. “Sex? Sex is for those of no refinement. We will possess each other. Have you done a good bit of that too?”
She had to shake her head in honesty. Possess each other? He did speak just like Rorik.
He was now just in front of her. “Disrobe for me, my vixenish wench. Astound me with the spectacle of your mammary convexity, and arouse me with the voluptuous concavity of your womanhood.”
Maya almost scratched her head, puzzling over his words. They were even more arcane than the language in the romances. If she had not been reading Gran-gran’s books, she wouldn’t have a clue as to what he was talking about. “Oh, you mean you want to see my T&A?”
Again he frowned in distaste and mumbled something about the atrocious human tendency to shorten everything. Not bothering to give an affirmation, he simply passed his enormous hands nimbly over the force field snaps on her space cadet uniform. Maya had a momentary regret that in this advanced day and age, there were no more primitive textiles for impatient males to rend. Her uniform fell apart without a sound, and she stood as naked as the day she was born in front of a complete stranger who had leapt off a cover of romance book.
As she watched, mesmerized by something beyond her control, he passed his callused fingers over her skin, over her chest, and slinked beneath one breast to test its weight. “Such rondure, such sphericality.” He murmured.
Such geometrical terms. She supposed he approved.
Breathlessly, she waited, biting her lip, as his hand slid lower, lower, past her belly, to linger between her legs.
“The vale of pleasure, the dell of delight, nature’s most wondrous hollow, galaxy’s greatest grotto.” He pronounced.
She should laugh, really. She should fall to the floor, convulse and howl. All that elaborate metaphor for a simple vagina, for a few inches of narrow space from labia to uterus? But for some reason she did not feel the desire to laugh. His eyes held her, they compelled her, they etched those seemingly ridiculous words on her brain, until she accepted them without question.
“Let me see the instrument of your spermary delivery.” She heard herself say.
He smiled for the first time. “Not bad, Candidate.”
Then he showed her what he had in his trousers. By all the kilometers from Pluto to Earth, it matched his size inch for inch and pound for pound.
She gasped. She nearly fainted. “All that potent Herculean brawny length for my dainty, minuscule recess?”
Her reaction, or perhaps her words, pleased him. He grew even more.
He unstrapped her from the commander’s seat, and they floated, literally. “I will assault you with my lips.” He promised velvetily. “I will consume you marble smooth skin, I will worship your twin mounds that are as high and proud as Mt. Olympus, I will sample your coral-pink aureoles as if they dispensed ambrosia and nectar, I will circumnavigate your portals to heaven and enter your paradise.”
She couldn’t get enough of his eloquent verbosity and his passionate euphemisms. “Oh, do possess me, my demigod, drown me in the flood of your fervent words.”
They clawed at each other - not as easy a task as might be supposed, since without the force of gravity, they were in constant danger of spinning apart. Until finally, he had her against the glass wall, and by some secret mechanism she was never to learn, anchored himself to the wall, and sank the solid pillar of his raging lust deep into the deluged softness of her silken dale. “Occupy me!” She cried. “Intrude, invade, trespass, overrun me! Pummel me with your thick staff, shred my soul to pieces with your lovemaking!”
“I will do precisely that.” He seemed to have no problem talking. “I will flood you with my essence and you will be Changed forever!”
One last audacious upward plunge, and Maya went over the edge.
She passed out.
He knew his luck wouldn’t always hold thus. Nothing but hard work awaited him ahead. But his gratification was immense. He had Changed someone personally just now. That was a task he hadn’t performed in years. Now he knew he still had what it took.
Furthermore, the former Candidate, presently a new Agent of Change, would be effective as soon as she set out to work. Earthlings who spends more than one cumulative hour in conversation with her would have their speech pattern modified for a year. If they made love to anyone, the recipient of their amorous affection would undergo a similar alteration. If she made love to anyone from now on, that person would be Changed forever, just like she was.
Every one of his energy nodules quivered in satisfaction of a job well-done. He looked ahead and allowed himself to fantasize about a whole new planet of people speaking, writing, and communicating in the exquisitely longwinded fashion of the Official Speech Pattern.
She saw the book she had been reading. Those romance novels. Was that what they did to an addict? Something triggered in the bank of her mind, she tried to latch onto that fleeting bit of memory but it evaded her and disappeared. Oh, well, nothing bad happened to her. In fact, she was feeling better than ever.
She felt ready to Change the world.