The Arrow of Desirebyabrank2©
This is my entry for the 2007 Valentine Story Competition. It is set in Australia, and readers might find the following list of Australian words helpful:
bush - forest, or anywhere that is not urban
Holden - an Australian-made car
hoon - a hooligan, or a thug who drives a fast car
maggot - a despicable person
mozzies - mosquitoes
poofs - homosexuals
stonkered - drunk
sunnies - sunglasses
within cooee - within hearing distance
yabbering - talking
Part 1: Afternoon
Sweat was pouring down Logan's face. His air conditioner was broken and with his car stationary there was no breeze to cool him. The traffic had been stopped for ten minutes, with absolutely no movement. He got out of his car and scanned the two lines of stalled traffic. It was stopped as far ahead as he could see.
"Must be an accident," the driver of the car behind him said. He was also standing outside his car, and was smoking.
"Yes," Logan replied. "I wonder how far ahead it is."
It was early afternoon on Saturday in the middle of February, the hottest part of the day in the hottest part of the year. The sun was burning down from a cloudless blue sky.
Although Logan had shut his engine off, most drivers kept theirs running to power their air conditioners. The truck in front of him, a diesel, was also idling and the fumes were beginning to make him nauseous. He walked to the edge of the verge where the air was cleaner and a small eucalyptus tree offered a little shade.
He was feeling very frustrated. He had been looking forward to the Singles Club barbecue all week. It was being held at Sue's house. She had said she would invite a friend who was new in town, and she thought that Logan might get on well with her. Logan found it difficult to meet attractive girls; he was disfigured by a scar that covered much of the right side of his face. He had been severely burned when he had rescued his dog from his parents' burning house. Well-meaning friends had tried to fix him up with girls, but these were invariably plain and sometimes ugly. He told himself that he had no chance of ever going out with a physically attractive girl, and instead should look for inner beauty. Although that seemed both sensible and prudent, he found that such beauty was insufficient; without at least some level of physical attraction he found he had no desire for sex. He realized he was being unreasonable, but remained optimistic. Perhaps this new girl would be the one. Sue had said she was OK looking.
He had never been to Sue's house before. The directions were straightforward; proceed East along the highway. Go one kilometer past a petrol station to where the road bent to the right. Immediately after this bend turn left onto the road leading to Sue's house. The junction was marked by an unusual tree; it had two trunks that spread apart then curved inwards. The trunks and the lower branches enclosed a shape that looked like a heart.
He wondered if there was any way to bypass the traffic jam, but decided he was really stuck. He couldn't even turn his car around; a barrier prevented access to the two lanes in the other direction.
He regretted he didn't have his sketch pad with him otherwise he would be able to do some work. He was employed by the local television station as a graphic artist. He also did a little freelancing and had a project due the following week for an ad layout. For a hobby he liked to draw pictures of nubile women. His favorite pose for them was as chained slaves; if he couldn't have them in real life he could at least have them in his imagination. He had posted several of these drawings on his website and had received fan mail, almost exclusively from men. He wondered if he would get fan mail from women if he posted drawings of chained men, but decided he would probably still get it from men, mostly from poofs.
Fifteen minutes passed with no movement of the traffic. The heat was oppressive and the sparse branches of the tree offered only scant shade. He noticed a car four places ahead of him pull onto the verge, drive forward and turn onto a side road. Action, any kind of action, seemed better than inaction in the stifling heat. He got back into his car, started the engine, pulled onto the verge and followed the other car.
As he turned onto the side road he realized he had made a mistake; there was a long line of stationary cars waiting to get onto the highway. But he felt cooler with the car moving and the windows open, so decided to see where the road led.
It didn't go very far; after a kilometer it bent to the right, went straight for another half kilometer then ended at a barricade. As he approached the barricade he passed the car that had started ahead of him heading back towards the highway. The driver waved his hand at him to indicate that there was no way through.
He reached the barricade and discovered that it was guarding a washed-out bridge.
He turned his car around and was driving slowly back towards the highway when he noticed a dirt trail to the right leading into a eucalypt forest. He decided to explore it; perhaps it would lead to another road.
As he drove along it, two cars passed him in the opposite direction. His hopes sank; they must have had the same idea as he and had discovered the trail to be a dead end. It led to a small clearing where another car was in the process of turning round. Logan parked his car and got out. The trail continued beyond the clearing but became narrow and rocky, more suitable for a four-wheel-drive car than his Honda Civic.
He was anxious to get to the barbecue and meet the new girl, so decided to investigate the rocky trail in the hopes that its condition might improve further along. He took his water bottle and hat, locked the car, and began to walk.
The trail curved around the side of a hill then descended. Although rocky he thought he might be able to drive it at a very slow speed. But it was narrow and if he got stuck turning around would be difficult. So he continued to walk.
The trail flattened out and after another hundred meters he saw someone in the distance through the trees to the right. Rather than continuing to follow the trail he thought he would ask the person if they knew where it led.
He left the trail and walked through the trees. As he drew closer he saw that the person appeared to be a female archer. She had her back to him and was dressed in an olive green top and tights. Her hair was a mass of golden curls. She was holding a bow and shooting arrows at something out of sight.
He stopped. He didn't want to disturb her if she were hunting something. But he was not sure that hunting was allowed in the forest, it probably contained koalas.
He crept closer, moving as quietly as he could.
The woman was standing at the edge of a clearing firing a succession of arrows at a target fastened to the trunk of a large eucalyptus tree. Since she wasn't hunting, Logan walked up to her.
Even though he made a noise by treading on a couple of twigs, the woman continued to shoot at the target and did not turn round. He thought she was either deaf or too engrossed in her target practice.
He stopped behind her and watched. She was pulling a succession of arrows out of a quiver slung across her back and using a gold-colored bow to shoot them at a circular target. This had concentric bands of red and white, but the bull's eye was a red heart instead of the normal circle. She seemed to be a very poor shot, she was missing the target completely and there were no arrows sticking into it.
"Yes, I know. I'm a very bad shot," said the woman in a mellow voice.
She stopped shooting and turned around to face him. He immediately saw that his perceptions had been incorrect, she was he!
The man was dressed in a tight-fitting tunic and tights. The tunic stopped just below his waist and the tights revealed the outline of a large and erect penis. He was wearing rather unusual shoes; they were made of brown leather and had pointed toes that curled up. His face was androgynous; he had smooth hairless skin, and clear blue eyes. There were no visible wrinkles or blemishes, and he seemed to exude an air of youth and vitality. With his golden hair framing a smiling face, Logan thought he looked beautiful.
Logan was surprised at himself. He had never been attracted to men, but there was something about this youth that caused a flush of sexual arousal. He felt confused, ashamed that he would react in this way.
The youth was smiling expectantly at him and Logan felt compelled to say something. "What are you doing?"
"I'm practicing," the youth said in a gentle voice as if Logan has asked a sensible question. "I really am a bad shot. And it's caused all kind of trouble."
"You don't seem to have hit the target."
"Yes I know."
Logan found himself increasingly attracted to this youth. He didn't know what was happening to him, he had never felt like this before. He was torn by several conflicting emotions. Part of him wanted to deny the feeling, to walk away and repress this unnatural attraction towards the youth, but another part wanted to remain, to learn more about him. Logan had completely forgotten his original purpose in leaving the trail.
"My name's Logan," he said, stumbling over his words.
"They call me Desire," the youth said.
Logan thought that a strange name for a man. He had heard of Desiree as a woman's name, but never a male equivalent. He remained silent, surprised by his roiling emotions.
Desire continued to smile, then offered Logan his bow saying, "Why don't you have a shot? Perhaps you will have better luck than me."
"I've never used a bow before."
"Oh, it's quite easy, I'll show you how. Hold the bow here," Desire said placing the bow in Logan's left hand. He pulled an arrow from his quiver and placed it on the bow. "Hold the arrow and string with your fingers like so. Now gently pull it back."
Desire had touched his hand, and Logan was so overcome with emotion that he hardly knew what he was doing. He felt a strong compulsion to kiss Desire, and was so busy fighting this impulse that he could hardly pay attention to his instructions.
"Pull it back further, all the way. Good. To hit the target you have to aim above it. Higher, like this," Desire said adjusting Logan arms.
Logan could feel he had an erection. He was so embarrassed he could hardly think.
"That's right, now release the arrow."
Logan relaxed his fingers releasing the arrow and Desire stepped away from him. Logan felt a little sanity returning to his mind and watched the arrow as it soared towards the target. It missed high and to the left, even missing the tree to which the target was affixed.
'He's no better as an instructor than as an archer,' Logan thought as he watched the arrow disappear from sight.
A second or so later Logan heard a scream from the direction of the arrow. "Oh my God! I've hit something," he cried.
"I believe you have."
"Was that a person or an animal?" Logan asked. The scream had sounded human, but could have been an animal.
"I think you'd better find out," said Desire making no move.
Logan hesitated, then handed the bow to Desire and began to run in the direction of the scream.
As he passed the target tree he realized that he was no longer overcome by the strange sexual attraction that Desire had been exerting on him, but now was only thinking of locating the source of the scream. He was thankful and did not look back.
The ground beyond the target descended into a dry creek. On the opposite bank was a tree, and tied to the tree and facing him was a woman.
She was dressed in a khaki top and skirt and was wearing brown sandals. She was blindfolded and appeared to have something sticking out of her mouth. There was a chain around her neck and her wrists were tied to branches, stretching her arms behind and above her.
As he approached her she started to beg. "Oh please Billy, don't do it. Let me go; I promise I won't tell anyone. Let me go; I didn't mean it. Things can be like they were before. Oh please Billy, please, please."
Logan looked around wondering if Billy was nearby, but couldn't see anyone. The girl sounded so desperate, he realized this was unlikely to be a game; she seemed terrified of what Billy might do.
As he drew close he saw that the thing next to her mouth was a gag. Its strap went round the back of her neck, above the chain, but the ball of the gag was on her chin just below her mouth. There was a bruise on her forehead and dried blood below her nose. An arrow was lying on the ground in front of her, presumably the one he had shot.
"Billy?" the girl asked.
"I'm not Billy," Logan said. "I'm Logan. Billy doesn't seem to be here."
"Are you a friend of Billy's? Have you come to do his dirty work for him?"
"No, I don't know who Billy is. I just happened to be walking by."
"Thank God! Can you untie me? Quick before Billy comes back. He's going to kill me."
"He's my boyfriend. Or rather was. I never want to see him again."
Logan undid her blindfold and removed it. He gasped. The flesh around the girl's eyes was swollen and discolored with bruises.
The girl blinked and said. "Billy did it. He was stonkered and beat me up real bad this time."
"Yes. He's done it before, but never like this."
Logan untied her hands. She rubbed her wrists and then scratched her arms saying, "God, I like to tie that maggot up and let him get bitten by the mozzies." She reached behind her neck and undid the gag strap and said, "I'm very thirsty, do you have any water?"
Logan gave her his water bottle. She took a swallow and handed it back.
"Thanks I needed that. My name's Chloe by the way. I'm really glad you came along."
Logan was examining the chain around Chloe's neck. It was wrapped around the tree and padlocked. "Do you have key to this padlock?"
"No it's Billy's."
"I don't see how I can release you without the key."
"Can't you smash it with a rock or something? I've got to get away before Billy returns."
"I don't think that would work. I really need a hacksaw."
"Oh God. I've got to get away before he comes back. He's going to kill me when he does. He'll probably kill you too if he finds you here."
Logan looked nervously around. "Why did he leave?"
"He said he was going to get a spade so he could bury me. I don't know if he meant it or not, but it sure sounded like it."
"I think he would have killed you already if he was going to. Perhaps he's just tying to scare you."
"You don't know Billy. He beat me up after he tied me here. I pretended to be unconscious. Maybe the bastard thought he had killed me. He almost did. With the blood in my nose and the gag in my mouth I couldn't breathe properly, but I managed to force it out after he left."
"How long's he been gone?"
"I dunno. Maybe an hour."
"I heard you scream. What happened?"
"Something hit me, I thought Billy had returned and was trying to kill me. It looks like someone shot an arrow at me," she said indicating the arrow.
"How come it's lying on the ground if it hit you?" Logan said, unwilling to admit that he had shot the arrow.
"It bounced off. But don't stand there yabbering away, get me out of here. We can't be here when Billy returns."
Logan examined the chain again. It was padlocked around her neck, and another loop encircled the tree trunk. There was no way she could slip out of it. The padlock was large and strong. The tree itself was quite massive and would require a chain saw to cut. But Logan saw one possible way to escape. "I think we might be able to bend the links open," he said. "They're not welded. It's a cheap chain."
"Just like Billy. He's a cheapskate. Which seems funny considering how he's such a rich bastard. Anyway bend the damn links and get me out of here."
"The chain's much too strong. I need some kind of lever. Perhaps I could use the handle of my car jack. My car's parked a kilometer or so back."
"Don't leave me here. Maybe if Billy sees you here he will let me go."
"I thought you said he would kill me too."
"Well, yes. He might."
"I'll go back to the car. There's a traffic jam on the highway, that'll probably delay him. But if I see him coming I'll turn round and come back here. What does he look like? He doesn't have golden hair does he?"
"No, he's got brown hair. He's about your height only fatter. He didn't shave today and he was wearing a khaki shirt and shorts and wrap-around sunnies."
"OK, I'll be back soon."
"Yes I will. Don't worry."
"I ought to warn you he's got a gun. So stay clear of him."
"Thanks I will."
Logan ran up the hill till he was sure the was out of sight, then slowed to a walk. He didn't want to overheat, and also didn't want to run into Billy.
He passed the target tree intending to inform Desire about Chloe, but was surprised to discover that he had disappeared. There was no sign of either him or his target. All traces seemed to have vanished; there weren't even any arrows lying around.
Logan was worried about encountering Billy and anxiously watched the trail ahead as he walked, but reached his car without meeting anyone. He decided to take the entire car jack back to Chloe. He thought he might be able to force a chain link open with the handle, but if that failed he might be able to get the jack between the chain and the tree and crank it open to break the chain.
He looked around the clearing. There were no other cars or people visible so he locked the car and began to walk back to Chloe.
He reached the spot where he had met Desire. He was tempted to call out, but decided not to. He didn't want to renew his acquaintance with a man who had sexually attracted him, and was worried about making a noise in case Billy was within cooee. He continued on towards Chloe.
"Thank god you're back," Chloe said as he drew close. "What took you so long?"
"I came as fast as I could," Logan replied, a little upset by her criticism.
Logan picked up the jack handle and found that he could insert it into a chain link. He tried prying the link open by levering it against the tree but the end of the handle simply dug into the bark without affecting the chain.
"For Gods sake, hurry up. Billy's going to be here soon. He shouldn't have taken this long to drive home and come back."
"We're probably safe for a bit. The traffic jam on the highway seemed like a major one. Nothing was moving when I left; that's why I'm here. I was trying to find another route."
"Well don't take too long. Traffic jams don't last forever."
Logan was getting a little tired of Chloe's impatience. He was working as fast as he could. He thought she ought to be more patient, to be more appreciative of his efforts. But he realized that she was under a lot of stress, so didn't say anything.
He placed the baseplate of the car jack against the tree trunk and, using it to protect the bark, was finally able to get some leverage with the jack handle. He forced one link open and then released the chain. It was still padlocked around Chloe's neck but now had three loose ends hanging down; the original one and the two he had just made by breaking the loop.
As soon as she was free, Chloe put her arms around Logan and kissed him. He was surprised and gratified; he hadn't been kissed for a long time.
"Thank you," she said. "Now let's get the hell out of here."
She slung the ends of the chain over her shoulder and headed into the bush.
"My car's that way," Logan said pointing towards the target tree.
"We can't walk on the trail, Billy might see us," she replied. "We'll keep to the bush."
Logan picked up the arrow and examined it. The tip was made from a gold-colored metal. It had originally had a sharp point but it was now bent and slightly flattened. The shaft was wood and the feathers were curved, each one looking like half a heart. He wondered how it had bounced off Chloe, perhaps it had struck the chain around her neck. No wonder she had screamed, she must have thought Billy was trying to kill her with an arrow.