VS Ch. 01bygossog©
(Author's note: this is part of a sprawling, I mean epic, story of several chapters. Some characters may disappear for a while, but will be back when plot threads are resolved.
Warnings: this chapter has a nonviolent rape scene.)
VS Ch. 01: Underwater
Karla's cell phone rang -- U2's "New Year's Day" -- and she hopped up from the rickety sofa piled with binders and charts. "My boyfriend," she announced. "I'll be back in a bit." She padded barefoot over to her room, leaving Bernard to admire the view from behind.
Bernard stifled a sigh. I didn't know you had a boyfriend, he wanted to say. I had no idea. You keep such secrets.
He knew the guy had another name, but Karla used the term Boyfriend so much that the given one had faded into history. Boyfriend called each night about 8 pm Athens time, give or take ten minutes. There were five framed photos of Boyfriend in the cottage she and Bernard were renting: one in the kitchen, one in the living room serving as research room and library; one in the single bathroom they shared; and two in the bedroom she used, where she retreated each night when Boyfriend called. And Oh did she miss Boyfriend. One week into a month-long stay overseas, and she was homesick for her beau. The cute girl pining for her guy "back home" was dismayingly common at the university.
Even though this was a research trip, sponsored by the Anthropology Department, Bernard couldn't help constructing pleasant fantasies about spending a month alone with Karla. Surely a cordial scholarly relationship could blossom into something more; working together for a common goal could strengthen bonds... but Karla seemed to be repeating the Boyfriend Boyfriend Boyfriend mantra just to ward off any such opportunity.
Working closely with her had become even more agonizing as she started shedding clothing to combat the stifling heat. Whatever qualities the "pleasant Mediterranean climate" supposedly offered did not extend to their island. The Sun was unforgiving, the humidity stifling. The second day here Karla had "gone native" and stopped wearing a top. At the cottage, she no longer wore anything at all. She was gorgeous with no clothes on, everything he had imagined since the day she arrived at Miskatonic last August, and she had to know he was enjoying the view. But she didn't seem to care one way or another. Perhaps that was worst of all; his attention was of no concern.
Karla lounged on the cheap, lumpy cot that served as a bed in her sunbaked room. Brent's voice, thin and canned over the cell phone, seemed impossibly far away. The oppressive heat would have been much more tolerable if he were sharing this bed: a torrid romance for a torrid climate. They said goodbye and she put the phone aside, leaving her fingertip resting on her vaginal lips, where she had been teasing herself during the entire call. A poor substitute for Brent, but better than nothing. Sheets stuck to her skin and dampened. She raised her knees to circulate more air. She plunged a finger inside, and tweaked a reddening nipple, imagining his touch; in less than a minute she brought herself to a silent and fleetingly satisfying orgasm.
She peered between her raised legs, noting the bedroom door had been left open. No big deal; Bernie knew her room was off limits and wouldn't have peeked inside. And so what if he did? He'd already seen so many intimate things several times over: the sprinkling of freckles above and between her breasts; the way her nipples always seemed half-erect, even when she was engrossed in her work; the slight dusting of pubic hair below, as if, at 23 years, it were still growing in. She knew he stared at her bare bottom every time she left the room, and at her vagina when she slouched back on the couch, or lay prone on the floor. She didn't care. If anything, his reverence was a sort of daily affirmation, that she was not just attractive, but sexy.
She sat up and the cot creaked in protest. The pungent musk of her wetness wafted up; no doubt Bernie would notice that. Let him. She walked back into the living room.
He was seated at the single table that served for food and work. He wore navy swim trunks that he rinsed out each night. "Found something," he said. She stood behind him, peering over his shoulder. If she moved closer, her pubic hair would tickle the back of his arm. A playful voice in her mind was urging her to do just that.
"Compare these two" -- he placed side-by-side a pair of drawings, by different artists, annotated in different scripts -- "to what you have yesterday, and you might have the key to the Squid Doc."
"Really?" Her curiosity sparked, she forgot about teasing him. The "Squid Document", photos of a set of stone carvings featuring a cephalopod in menacing postures, had been a dead end up to now. The writing had been so much gibberish, and there wasn't enough to find any patterns or meaning within itself; they had needed more information to corroborate, or triangulate, what was being said.
"Let me see," she said, taking the drawings. "If you're right about this..." She bounded to the far corner of the room, where the Squid Doc photos were laid out. She dropped down and lay prone on the floor, scrutinizing the scans with newfound enthusiasm. He knew she was excited because her feet were flipping back and forth, like a frog's. Between her spread legs he could make out her pussy lips, a sight he never tired of. Swollen, and a little moist; she had probably fingered herself while on the phone with Boyfriend.
He crouched down beside her. "Making sense?"
"You are right, Bernie!" she crowed. She grabbed a pen, started scribbling on a notepad. "This is the most progress we've made since we got here! You're a genius!"
"It's all teamwork," he said, gazing at her lovely ass, which flexed minutely as her feet kicked. He experimentally rested a hand there; she continued writing. Time passed as she compared notes, started a list of translations, asked him for clarification. But she didn't brush his hand away.
Her praise for his insight and acquiescence to his touch emboldened him. He started caressing the outside curve of her butt, just with the fingertips, but certainly she would notice that, and raise a fuss if she objected. Instead, she let her feet drift down, coming to rest on the floor. Her ass was heavenly. By touching her this way, he might be burning through all the good will he had earned with his breakthrough; but he didn't want to let this chance pass. His fingers gradually wandered to the treasure between her slightly spread legs.
Karla was aware of this, but didn't consider it worrisome. She felt like an old sea salt who, having finally found the "X" on the parchment map, had dug four feet and felt the shovel strike wood. That wasn't too far from what she and Bernie were doing here. He might have uncovered the final clue for their own "X".
His touch amused her; despite all the scenarios obviously running through his mind, he had never been this forward with her. She was kindled enough by the puzzle pieces in front of her that she didn't really mind what Bernie did, one way or another. Actually, it was sort of pleasant.
But she needed to say something, at least to acknowledge him. "I think you've earned it" sounded crass, even by her standards, but those were the words that came out.
Bernard knew better than to ask questions, or even to take her to the bedroom; anything that might give her a chance to reconsider her offer. He stripped off his swim trunks and kneeled behind her. He was already hard.
To her credit, she accommodated him, instead of lying there inert. When he reached around for her breasts, she propped up on her elbows; when the head of his penis poked between her legs, she raised her buttocks to give him a better angle.
She enjoyed it more than she had expected. Walking around topless downtown, and nude in the cottage, had bathed her in male desire and attention (Bernie's and others') that had kept her arousal at a slow simmer. A man's hands cradling her breasts, even if it wasn't the right man, generated warmth that flowed out to her fingers and toes. When Bernie's cock pushed inside, that, too, was a sensation she had sorely missed. She casually wondered if her butt jiggled when he thrusted; there had always been those few pounds she couldn't seem to get rid of. As if he would care. He seemed to be deliberately taking his time, making it last as long as possible, which she found endearing. When he could no longer avoid coming, a week's worth of distilled lust shooting inside her, she felt more alive, more charged than in weeks.
He pulled out and she settled down, resting her head on folded arms. "Thank you," he whispered, a warm hand on her shoulder.
"Mmm-hmm," she said. "Just this once, you know. We are not making a habit out of this." She didn't want to become a fringe benefit for him, her body an attendance award for merely being around. She didn't want to get hooked on it either.
"Sure," he said, and stood up. He left the room, and she heard the shower turn on. She considered cleaning up as well, but lassitude had struck and she didn't feel like getting up. She turned her attention to the Squid Doc.
Around midnight, Bernard went to bed. Karla was still wrapped up in her work. He knew her offer might never be repeated, but he was still heartened by the "We" she used, and the three weeks stacked in front of them. There was an inkling, valid or not, that he at least had a foot in the door. He fell asleep with a smile.
Karla stayed up until after six in the morning. When Bernard awoke two hours later, she was fast asleep. Her snoring was audible from the living room. He smiled; she was dead to the world. Probably sprawled out immodestly on top of the sheets. He was tempted to check but wanted to respect her privacy. Her room was hers alone.
She had cleared the table so he wouldn't miss the note.
FOUND IT SEE NOTEBOOK NEED SLEEP SAIL TOMORROW
"You did it, Karla!" he said to himself. "You did it." He picked up her notebook, where she had summarized her findings on the last two pages. If the evidence was right -- there was a preponderance, like an overhang of snow ready to avalanche -- then less than thirty miles from here would be a religious site, a shrine, built by a race two to five million years in the past. "Lucy", the oldest known ancestor to Man, clocked in at three million years ago.
He remembered the outrage following the original Squid Doc monograph. Fortunately, no one at Miskatonic had been involved in that work; several careers were ended in disgrace. Talk of sloppy research, contaminated sites, and outright fraud made the Squid Doc a pariah for any further work. The carved stones were carted to Miskatonic, to languish in a dank storeroom. Anthropologists joked about their "half-life", as in 50,000 years before they would be safe to study again.
The University, and Bernard's department, maintained a tradition of doing significant constructive research "under the radar," with some risk to the participants if things went public and sour. (Not ten years ago, a spectacular screwup had required the services of an air strike involving eight fighter jets that were not military and bore no insignia.)
In keeping with the Miskatonic tradition, within five years a young professor and team of grad students had dusted off the rocks, which were genuine if not five million years old, and what was found there led to Bernard and Karla being sent to Greece. On the cheap. They suspected they were spending as much out-of-pocket as the school was.
So: if Karla's work was correct (and it probably was), the site lay between two islands not far from theirs, a two-hour ride on one of the motorboats for hire. It used to lie on an isthmus, but water levels had changed since then. No problem: both of them were certified divers, and their equipment had been shipped with them.
Karla didn't wake up until one in the afternoon: too late to reach the site, explore and return before sunset. "I'm sorry," she said, yawning and stretching. "We'll go first thing tomorrow."
With a free afternoon, Bernard had been hoping for some leisurely afternoon sex, but never saw an encouraging sign. She pulled on a tiny bikini bottom and walked to the beach. He explored the cottage road, following it around a set of bluffs to a dead end at an olive grove. Goats patrolling the area eyed him placidly.
The next morning, they hired a boat. The negotiation was unpleasant. Karla had gone to church enough times to know that Christos did not deserve the name he had been given at birth. He was a fat, hairy shirtless man, about fifty, with a graying beard and skipper's cap. Venal and lewd, he was the bachelor uncle no one trusted around his or her teenage daughters. He leaned in close as they spoke, touching Karla's forearm, ignoring her flinch. She wore a modest one-piece dark blue swimsuit, yet felt more exposed here than back at the cottage wearing nothing.
"The boat is very small," he said. "With all your equipment, I can only take the girl. Your boyfriend will have to stay on shore."
He's not my boyfriend, Karla almost said, but thought better of it.
"I think it's better if I go," Bernard said, standing up straight.
"I'm not interested in taking you," Christos said. "Maybe I'll stay in the harbor and catch fish." Unfortunately, his was the only boat still available.
"Can't say I trust you with her."
He smiled expansively, waving a weathered hand. "Don't worry. I'm an old man, with an eye for a pretty lady. I have a wife and two sons. I am harmless."
"Honey, it's our one chance to go today," she said. "I'll take some photos, then we'll return with a larger boat tomorrow."
Christos clapped his hands; the matter was settled. "Demetrious will take you tomorrow. Large enough boat for both of you. And I take the pretty lady today."
Neither felt entirely comfortable with Christos, but didn't want to waste another day. They loaded her scuba gear, tools, GPS, torch and ziplocked notes into the aluminum boat. Before hopping aboard, Karla gave Bernard a hug and a brief, but open-lipped, kiss. All for Christos's benefit. "Bye, honey," she said.
"Be careful out there," he said. He knew it was a ruse, but he'd take for-show affection from her any time. The blue one-piece swimsuit was more than he'd seen her wear in days, and she was still alluring. Christos yanked the outboard engine into sputtering life. Bernard watched until the boat was out of sight. He figured, based on trip time and the air in her tanks, that she should be back by about five at the latest.
Gentle waves slapped the aluminum hull as the boat skipped along. For about an hour, Christos left her alone, content to steer the boat and ogle his passenger. She tried to disregard this, and followed their progress on her chart and GPS handheld. She hoped she had the site pinned down to within a hundred yards. The water was calm and visibility looked to be excellent.
On the open water, with a few islands shouldering above the horizon, Christos cut the engine.
"Why are we stopped?" Karla said, instantly alert.
"You look very pretty in that swimsuit," he said, "but now it is time to take it off."
"Oh, you gotta be kidding me," she said, reaching for her cell. She had started to dial when Christos smacked it out of her hand. The phone skipped once on the water and sank. Karla stared at her hand, which flared and stung like a spanked bottom.
"I'm faster than I look," he said. "Now this is the deal I make for you. You take off the swimsuit and do what I ask, and I take you to your place and back. If you don't, all the rest of your stuff goes overboard, and you follow it."
"Do what you ask...?" she said, cradling her injured hand. Nothing was broken, but it still hurt like hell. Would she be able to fight him off left-handed?
"I am not a greedy man," he said, turning on a greasy smile. "Just you, naked, we fuck one time on the way out, and one time on the way back."
She gazed beyond him, into the distance. Should she just jump overboard? She recalled a saying, something like "No Sharks in the Med", but couldn't remember who said it, or if it was even true.
"I seen you walking around the town, bare tits," he said. "But you did not dress that way today."
She didn't answer.
"Take it off," he said. "Anyone asks, I could easily say you fell overboard, never came back up. I tried to save you, you know? Think about it."
Am I going to die out here? she wondered. What a shitty way to go, at the hands of an old troll who wanted some young tail. But the thought of him touching her intimately evoked similar terror.
"Come on, pretty girl," he said. "Don't make me do this the hard way."
There appeared to be no way out. She took a deep breath and pulled the shoulder straps down over her arms. The boat rocked and her breasts swayed as she gracelessly peeled the suit the rest of the way off. I should have just worn a bikini, she thought: more revealing at first, but easier to strip off with some dignity. She freed her ankles, picked up the suit, and lay it down next to her.
Christos reached over, tossed the suit overboard, restarted the engine and drove away.
"Oh, come on!" she protested, watching the limp suit quickly disappear from sight.
"You won't need it," he grinned, showing yellowed smoker's teeth. "How close are we to your spot?"
She looked at the GPS. "About 3 miles."
"Okay. We go another 10 minutes and take a break."
She sat up, preparing to turn away from him, when he said "No. Face this way." He leered at her breasts, which jiggled each time the boat crested a wave.
The "break" was vile. Karla endured it like a little boy forcing down a plateful of lima beans. She had to sit on his lap, his sweaty, hairy gut pressing against her stomach, his oily, thick cock forced inside her. He ran his hands through her hair, roughly pulled her closer, and pawed her breasts. His grunting orgasm, which she had at first dreaded, was now a relief: at least that meant it was over.
True to his word (at least for now), he let her retreat to the bow. She sat sideways, legs clamped together, keeping a vigil with her GPS display. She looked forward to a scalding shower, with antibacterial soap and steel wool. What a detestable man. There was still the one more ride (at the very least) he was demanding on the way back.
Her GPS beeped. "Half a mile," she announced.
"Yes Ma'am," he chuckled, hand on the throttle. "About 100 yards out, we slow down."
At the spot, Karla peered overboard. Shelves and outcroppings of rock or coral dotted the landscape below, like a Grand Canyon ten feet deep and thirty feet underwater. One island broke the surface a few hundred yards away, with steep rock cliffs. Its neighbor was a bit farther away in the other direction.
She strapped on her tanks and her weight belt, to which the rest was hooked. They were probably going to chafe her skin, since Christos had seen fit to jettison her swimsuit. Vague ideas of revenge swirled in her brain as she pitched backward into the water.
She broke the surface again, got her bearings, and swam a short distance to align herself between two landmarks (she hoped) in the rock cliffs. She dove in and began to search for anything that looked man-made. Small schools of fish appeared and scattered; larger fish continued on their flight plans, judging her no risk. She saw no sharks so far.
She remembered that diving without a buddy was a bad idea; she'd never done that before. But curiosity spurred her on. She mouthed a quick underwater prayer for a safe return, and added one for Christos to repent.
Nothing looking like a man-made structure showed up. There was always the chance this dive would come up empty. She surveyed a ridge that seemed to lead toward the island, but was solid. Rock, coral, capped with sand at its end.