tagMind ControlPanic Ch. 02

Panic Ch. 02


I'd known my boss's son, Kyle, for a long time—I remembered when he was a young teen and used to intern in the office during the summer when school was out. He was a pleasant young man. His fiancée I distrusted on sight, and nothing she did afterward altered my opinion of her. She was a pretty little thing—fair, with a sprinkling of freckles, curly brown hair cut in a sort of mullet, and blue eyes. Her name was Kymilla—yes, K-y-m-i-l-l-a. Before she'd been there an hour she managed to make it known it was spelled that way. She was wearing one of these two-piece dresses where the skirt rides so low on the hips it looks like it's about to fall off, with her cute little bisque-colored tummy showing between it and the top. Hey, I'm not petty. I swear that I did not dislike her because she could sit relaxed in that outfit and not have to consciously suck in her gut. She provided plenty other reasons as the morning wore on.

I had really expected Kyle and Kymilla to stay for a few minutes, maybe have a Coke, then turn around and leave, so they could accomplish their original mission, which was to meet Kymilla's parents in Tallahassee. That was why my boss had sent me the project she wanted me to begin working on—she figured they could just drop it off and be on their merry way. I think she must have envisioned my campsite as one of those places you see right off the Interstate, like a KOA campground or Jellystone Park. As it was, the kids had to ask for directions to the campsite when they were in Munson. Melea, who was the nearest thing to a leader in our group, thought that as long as they had gone to all this trouble, they should hang around and have lunch. God knows why—I wasn't in favor of it at all. I did not want Sophia's kid hanging about crimping my style.

I should say in all fairness that I don't think the girl was expecting to find herself this deep in the woods. But she had luggage with her—she could have looked through it and found some jeans to change into. She did not have to sit around in her white gauze dress and little cream linen espadrilles, trying to avoid picking up dirt. But what really got me was that twice she wanted to use the restroom and she made Kyle drive her into Munson. Each time this happened, I prayed they would not come back. Further, she smoked Capris and dropped the butts on the ground. Karen brought her an empty soft drink can to use as an ashtray, but half the time she forgot to use it.

All right, I did find it annoying that she sat there like Scarlett fucking O'Hara at the Twelve Oaks picnic, with the young guys buzzing around her like fruit flies around a banana peel. Especially as Jesse was one of the guys who was buzzing. True, I hadn't expected anything from him beyond this weekend. But I was anticipating the whole weekend, damn it! I wished that young Kyle had a bit more of a commanding presence—here were all these guys hanging around his girl, and he was just putting up with it. Was he that secure in the relationship or was he just being wimpy?

At one point, when I got what I thought was a minute alone with Jesse, I said, "You know, she is engaged."

"Yeah, and we aren't," Jesse retorted. "Geez—one night and you're telling me who I can talk to?"

"I'm not doing anything of the sort. But you might consider that if something makes Kyle unhappy, it'll make his mother, whom I work for, unhappy, and if she's unhappy, she'll do her damnedest to see that I'm unhappy. You can talk to anyone you want, sweetie. Just don't be surprised if you find yourself falling between two stools later on."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

Before I could answer, fifteen-year-old Jamie Travis, who was absorbed in a Gameboy in indifference to the non-electronic spirit of the weekend, piped up. "She means," he said, busily manipulating buttons with his thumbs, "that you might find yourself sleeping alone tonight after Miss Kymilla has gone and Miss Esmé is sufficiently pissed at you. I believe it's a British expression."

"Jamie!" said his mother. "Remember we talked about boundaries and appropriateness? That was not your conversation."

The boy flushed. "Sorry, Miss Esmé," he said. "It was none of my business. I'm sorry I listened in."

"'s all right," I said, unable to help smiling a little. Without looking at Jesse, I went to the tent and got my surf booties. As I made my way down to the creek, Mike DeCastro, who had gotten his guitar out and was just noodling around, started strumming the chords that just about everyone who hasn't been living in a cave recognizes as the theme song from—wouldn't you just know? The Young and the Restless.

I waded into the creek and splashed cold water over my head and my burning face. When I came back up, Jesse was still in the group of young people surrounding Kymilla. I got a bunch of grapes and a novel out of my car and sat down in a camp chair near the edge of the creek bank to read.

If Kymilla had stuck to the type she'd been playing when she arrived, things might have turned out differently. But it had apparently come out in conversation that she played softball—and was a pitcher, at that. To me, this did not compute—judging from her demeanor in camp, I couldn't imagine her in a million years sliding into a base when her team was at bat. In the absence of a ball, she demonstrated her aim by throwing empty cans at a half-submerged tree in the middle of the creek. But the wind blew them off-course, and they fell in the creek and floated downstream.

Melea frowned at her. "We do not do that," she said. "In all the years we have been coming here, we have taken pride in seeing that this campsite was in better condition when we left than it was when we arrived. Please don't throw any more cans in the water."

Kymilla shrugged charmingly. "Sorry," she said. "I can't do anything about the wind. I need something with a bit more weight to it." And before we could say anything else, she picked up an empty beer bottle and tossed it. This time she hit her mark. The bottle landed in a tangle of dead branches.

I gave Kyle a dirty look. Why aren't you keeping this child in order? "Kymilla," I said severely, "since your future mother-in-law has seen fit to use you to deliver something to me, even though I asked her not to, I am in a way responsible for your presence and your conduct. We are asking you nicely to not litter. We're not asking very much. I believe we have some horseshoes—you want to show off your mad pitching skillz, you can play with those."

Some of the guys set up the horseshoes, and the situation was defused, or it seemed to be. I went back to my chair and my book.

The trouble with reading in the sun is that the light bounces off the white page and right into your eyes. Every now and then I had to raise my eyes from the book and rest them by looking at something else. Out on the creek, the sun danced over the water. I thought what I saw next was the light from the book and the water affecting my vision.

In the middle of the creek, near the tree where Kymilla had thrown the bottle, the water seemed to pour in shining walls down the sides of something huge that was rising to the surface, the way it pours from a surfacing submarine or a whale—something that shouldn't have been there, because there wasn't room for it. It was abnormal and so out of proportion to its context as to induce nausea for a few seconds, and then the something huge resolved itself into what appeared to be a giant human figure, standing in the stream. Just as quickly as that, this impression vanished, and the male who waded ashore and made his way up the steep bank as if he were merely coming upstairs, was only a little bit larger than life. And that was when everybody else saw him.

Water dripped from his olive skin and mane of curly black hair. He wore only a loincloth, and since it was wet, it molded itself translucently over a penis that even flaccid, made impossible promises. He was broad-shouldered, heroically built, and something about him suggested decades of maturity—while he reminded me just a little of Jesse, he made that young man look like a stripling. Also, he had the hairiest legs I'd ever seen.

In his big hands, he held the cans that Kymilla had thrown into the creek and the bottle she had hit the tree with.

"Is the one who threw these present among you?" His voice fit him—it was rich and dark and resonant. But there was something about it that gave me a chill.

I have to hand it to her, she did step forward.

"I did—I was just messing around," she said. "I won't do it anymore."

"I'm sure you won't." The man looked around at all of us. "I've been observing you all morning. (From where? From where?). I can't believe you've let this unmannerly child flummox you as she has been doing—I thought you had more of a sense of community than that. The second time she did not obey your wishes, you should have set her on the road. It's clear she neither belongs here nor wants to be here."

"She was leaving after lunch anyway," Melea said. "Would you like her to—say, who the fuck are you anyway? It's more than fine with us if she leaves, but who are you?"

"That doesn't matter now," he said. "Anyway, I've changed my mind. I think I'd like the pleasure of her company for the weekend. Maybe I could teach her to appreciate nature a little more than she does." He sat down on one of the sturdier camp chairs in the clearing and said, "Come here, girl."

As if in a trance, Kymilla walked toward him and stood before him. He beckoned her a little closer, so that she stood near enough for her skirt to brush his hairy knees, and he passed a long brown finger over the tender bisque skin of her belly that showed between the two pieces of her outfit. Once, twice, and we could all see how she reacted to his touch: how her eyes glazed and the lids drooped, her lips parted, and her nipples suddenly poked through the thin material of her top. "You think you'd like that, little one?" Kymilla seemed incapable of human speech; she just gazed at him, her breath coming short and fast. She widened her stance so that she stood almost spraddle-legged, as if her pussy had become so swollen that she couldn't put her legs together. Like mine had felt, after Jesse had first worked me over with that silver ball in his tongue, even though he had only kissed me.... Finally she nodded. The visitor spread his thighs enough to give Kymilla a good view of his crotch. His penis, under the drying loincloth, twitched and sprang long and erect very quickly, so that the cloth slipped away from it. It was uncut, which was not surprising, and so big as to seem unreal, which wasn't surprising either, given the size of the man himself. Kymilla gave a little gasp and swallowed, never taking her eyes off him. "I think we're going to get along fine," he said.

I couldn't seem to stop looking at the sight either; it wasn't until the visitor let his cock subside—as if he had complete control over it—that I was able to look around for Kyle to see how he was reacting to this. He was looking much as you'd expect a mild-mannered, civilized young man to look who'd had his woman bluntly commandeered away from him by a man of obviously superior power: desperate and pissed; afraid, but trying not to show it. "Sir, what do you think you're doing? That's my fiancée."

"I wouldn't have known," said the visitor. "You seemed to have so little influence over her. Don't worry, she'll come to no harm—but you might want to take yourself to Pensacola and come back for her tomorrow. Or not." He looked upon Kyle with a bland expression. Everyone tried hard to look somewhere else while the young man spun around and ran toward his Jeep. A moment later we heard him start it up and drive away. Kymilla had not watched him leave, either. She was still staring at the stranger, still breathing with that shallow panting, her eyes glazed and lips swollen with arousal.

We'd all been standing around like a bunch of dummies, but at last some of the men—unlike Kyle, most were blue-collar working men, redneck hunters, some of them even ex-cons—started to act the way they thought they should. Earle Grafton stepped forward and spoke up.

"Look man, who the fuck do you think you are, coming here and taking that girl over like that? She doesn't have to go with you if she doesn't want to—"

"Watch this," the stranger said. But we were not meant to look at him. We followed his gaze out to the part of the woods that we traditionally used as the latrine area. John Tessier, who had been out in the woods on the other side of the creek and had missed most of this drama, had gone out there, no doubt to pee, since he did not take a shovel with him. We watched him follow one of the paths that led away to the left and disappear; in a few minutes he returned where we could see him...

"Watch this," the stranger repeated.

Tessier came up the main path leading back to the central clearing, and then...he started, he looked around in sudden confusion, as if he had found himself in some place he could not recognize. But how could he not? He'd only been coming to this part of the woods for twenty years. Also, he worked as a hunting and fishing guide. Yet here he was, making frantic little sorties into the woods, crashing through the underbrush. He made an effort to calm himself and get his bearings, and then started up the path again. Finally he broke, and was running around in little circles, desperately bellowing "Where is everybody? Where the fuck am I?"

The stranger made a slight motion with his head, as if he had made his point, and whatever strange thing had gotten hold of Tessier released him. He realized where he was and ran full tilt up the path and into the clearing, nearly crashing into a couple of tents as he came. He skidded to a stop in front of the stranger.

"What did you do to me? What the fuck did you do to me?"

The stranger stood up, moving the enraptured Kymilla aside, and put his hand on Tessier's shoulder. "Just relax, man. You'll be all right." Tessier looked at him dubiously and shook his head, hard, as if trying to shake snakes out of his hair. He sat down in one of the camp chairs and put his head in his hands. A few seconds later he raised his head enough to clear his eyes and looked over at the visitor.

"What the—who the fuck are you, anyway?"

The man from the forest looked around at all of us, a slow, penetrating but enigmatic look. "You have seen what I can do," he said. "You put it together."

We all looked at each other in incredulity and dawning fear, and I think that at this point I just checked out. I was raised by hard-headed, non-fiction-reading Episcopalians, and considered that I had a rational view of the world. Supernatural, woo-woo stuff rarely figured in it. This was more than I was prepared to deal with. I had to get my head around it, or leave. Maybe I should have left. But I decided to suspend my disbelief, come along for the ride, and see how crazy things got.

Half the trouble people get into is because of curiosity.

As the day progressed, we tried to carry on our usual activities with the stranger from the creek among us, but it was hard for us to go about our business while always keeping an eye on him. Much of the time he stayed in the main campground, and he kept Kymilla close by him, always within hand's reach, Sometimes she sat on his lap, where she twitched and squirmed with such ill-concealed lust that it was embarrassing to look at her and we sent the younger kids up the creek to play. At least there was no question of anybody driving her to Munson so that she could go to the bathroom. She whined a bit about having to go out in the woods, but her captor merely laughed and gave her a light slap on the ass as he pointed her to the latrine area.

"There, that wasn't so bad now was it?" I said to her when she came back.

"I—I guess not," she said.

"We've been doing it for years," I said. "You'll get used to it."

"Maybe," she said, and her eyes sought the stranger, who was talking with some of the men.

"You people need to get the sticks out of your asses," he was saying. "Don't mind me. I'm here to have a good time, just like you are. We're going to have a good time tonight—let's get ready for it. I know you have your biggest fire on Saturday night. Let's get us some wood to put on it." And sure enough, big surprise, he knew where there was a lot of it, and he led the guys into the forest. Presently we heard the whining of chainsaws, and a little while later the men emerged from the woods with big bundles of cut-up wood in their arms, which they brought to the clearing and stacked near where we always made the fire.

Karen and Melea and I got together. "So, it looks like we're in for a party tonight," Karen said. "I wonder what all's going to happen."

"If there isn't flute music," I said, "I'll be disappointed."

"Ha. Ha," Melea said. "We've got a problem here."

"You don't say," As far as I was concerned, our problem had begun as soon as my boss's milquetoast son and his nasty little twitch of a fiancée had entered the campsite, but I didn't think that was what Melea was talking about.

"This is serious. What do we do with the kids?"

"We send them to bed early," Karen said. "Saturday night has always been for the adults anyway, what with the reefer and all."

"That won't do," Melea said. "I just have a feeling that this party is going to be different. The kids need to be out of here before the fun begins. In fact, I really think that anybody who's got kids under eighteen needs to cut the weekend short and get out of the area."

"Out of the area," Karen said. "Is that going to be possible? Will he...will he even let us? You saw what happened to John...I don't get it. We've been coming here year after year after year, and we've always cleaned the place up, and we've only ever burned deadfall, we've never cut a living tree, outside of maybe putting a temporary ringbolt for a hammock; you suppose we wounded one of his girlfriends by mistake? Why is he visiting himself on us like this? And for littering--so then why all the sexual stuff?"

"Personally I think he was picking up on emotional currents running through the group—her doing the southern belle at the ball thing with the young guys, and then Esmé being pissed at her because Jesse'd been her honey the night before," said Melea.

"That's right, blame me. He was just showing us what he could do," I said. "As for...why, it's a well known fact that the...the gods get pissed for not much reason, or at the wrong people, just like mortals do, and do things just because, like mortals do; if there's anybody here that plays the pipes, he'd better not play better than this guy; he might skin him alive, or give him donkey ears or something—no, wait, that was Apollo...As to getting the kids out, he might think it's a reasonable idea. Why doesn't one of us just talk to him?"

"Since you know so much," Melea said, "You just got elected."

"Thanks a whole hell of a lot," I said. "Where is he, anyway?" Neither he nor Kymilla were in the main site where they had been. Someone said that the two of them were down in the creek. I didn't see them there, but they could have gone upstream, as I had done the day before. Maybe I should wait until they got back. But I knew I was merely putting off what I didn't want to do, so I resolved to get it over with. I made my way down to the stream and started up it. The weather was as nice as it had been the day before, if a bit hot. I thought of how Jesse and I had walked up the creek together, and how excited his kisses had made me. I hadn't seen much of him since the woods-god had put dibs on Kymilla's company; he had spent most of the time among the other men. He had been in the gang the stranger had sent into the forest to gather fuel for the evening's bonfire. I remembered how badly we'd wanted each other, and all that had kept us from doing it right there on one of the sand flats was the possibility that some of the kids playing further upstream would decide to come back to the campground. I wondered where the kids were; probably at the swimming hole where they'd been the day before. They had not seemed to take much notice of the visitor. Probably the way he wanted it; had he been in a different mood, he might have muted his primal and outrageous sexuality to surround himself with the children, letting them climb all over him, singing them songs and telling them wondrous stories...

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