The reading was over, and I was tired and scared. I didn’t like what I saw in the cards tonight, just before the coming of the dusk, when day betrayed me to the night. The wind blew, and I pulled the shawl over me snugly. He would be here soon to keep me safe.
I hated the dusk, the time that lay between day and night when the sun disappeared in the horizon, and the moon would take its sweet time in illuminating the darkness with its reflected light. Shiraz knew it and always found a reason to come closer to be with me, to hold me while the air around us grew still and thick, the scent of jasmine filling our nostrils as the winds blew gently.
It had been a busy day for both of us, and our pockets were heavy with the day’s wages. Wages I had earned for telling people their fortunes, their futures while Shiraz guarded the door to the darkly-colored tent, his hands crossed over his chest, his face glowering. Inside, I told people their futures, their pasts, and their dreams. I read what they revealed through their eyes and told them what they wanted to hear. Sometimes the cards told me the opposite of what I told them. People are funny that way. They yearn to hear the truth, but not hear it. They only want to hear what they want to hear.
I was tired and hungry. Shiraz took some dried meat from the pouch over his shoulder and handed me a few strips to eat. There was a camp just outside of town, and we were headed there, he told me. “They are celebrating the night. The moon awakes at its fullest tonight.” He said, his lips very close to my ear and I found myself shivering as the hairs of his beard brushed against my neck and cheek. He pulled me tighter against him, our bodies seeming to blend into one. I closed my eyes and breathed him.
That was us, Shiraz and me.
The camp was not too far, but by the time we arrived, I was famished. We knew a few of the people there, or Shiraz knew them. But we were welcomed, invited to partake of their feast and I found myself savoring the taste of freshly roasted lamb, feeling the juices run down my fingers. It had been days since we’d eaten a decent meal, I thought. This was more than just a feast. It was heaven on earth, with Shiraz right beside me.
Shiraz pitched the tent for both of us, leaving the bigger tent that we used for my fortune telling still rolled up on the wagon. We didn’t have much, just a wagon with the barest of necessities. The clothes on our backs were now in sore need of a wash, the cloaks white from dust and dirt. Shiraz always promised me we would get to wash in a river soon, and I was getting impatient.
The night’s festivities began with the beat of doumbek thundering through the air, bringing both of us to our feet. Something in its beat led us back to the circle of the celebration, where the fires illuminated the musicians and the women with their heavily painted faces framing the campfire. A woman was singing, her voice an instrument on its own. An exquisite instrument. I felt Shiraz reach for my hand and bring me closer, his eyes closed as he held me, my back to him as we both faced the fire. I could feel his breath against my cheek and I, too, closed my eyes to feel the woman’s voice as it spoke to me in its strange language.
I felt my hands begin to move, drawing out strange shapes and figures in the air, just as I had been taught as a child. I felt my body move away from Shiraz as if propelled to move on its own accord. I moved towards the center of the circle, close to the fire but not too close. My eyes were still closed; I needed no sight to know where everything was. My bare feet felt the essence of the ground, feel its vibrations through the soles, and the toes. They made my feet tingle; my fingers almost electrified as I moved to the woman’s music. It called out to me, and I answered.
I had never danced like this in front of strangers. But tonight, it seemed like the only thing to do, and I danced, feeling the rhythm of the music match the beating of my heart, the pulsing of blood through my veins. This was how it felt to be alive, I thought, as I moved sinuously to the music. It thundered through my very soul, waking me and swallowing me up in its fury.
I must have fainted for when I came to, Shiraz was carrying me to the tent, behind him the concerned faces of the revelers, their eyes wide and staring. But the music still continued, the woman no longer singing. Just the sound of drums, many drums filling the air as people began to move to the beat, and the wide-eyed faces soon disappeared in the darkness as Shiraz took me inside the tent.
I called out his name, but he didn’t seem to hear. His face was set in an expression I had never seen before. It scared me and excited me, but I couldn’t understand why.
I felt his hands on my body, moving quickly and urgently to release my flesh from its bonds. Before long, I was naked and so was he, his body straining against mine as the music outside continued, seeming to get louder with each passing moment. I felt his lips against my skin, my eyes, my face, devouring me it seemed, and my body responded automatically. Shiraz always knew how to bring me to a state of utter abandonment of mind, body, and spirit. He held my hands over my head as he continued to explore every inch of my face, my neck, my bosom.
I could feel his breath against my hair as he kissed my ear. His body was ready, his muscles taut. When he plunged into me, I cried out, and the drums seemed to explode outside in response to my cries as he pounded into me savagely. It scared me for Shiraz had never been like this before. He was a gentle lover, careful to coax me out of my sheltered existence and into a world where nothing mattered by the earth beneath our feet, the air we breathed, and each other. He was my protector, my friend, and my lover. He would never hurt me.
But here he was, plunging into me with a savagery I had never seen before. My legs wrapped around him protectively, responding to the urgency of his body. He was liberating me, it seemed, forcing the timid figment of myself out of my body, every minute inch of it, with each thrust of his manhood, he cried out words I didn’t understand. I could smell him, the scent of his being so strong and pungent. Everything around me, it seemed, was magnified with each movement of his body against mine. The music outside mirroring each movement he made against me as if urging him to continue his assault on my body.
I wanted to scream for him to stop, but something was slowly building inside of me, something I had never felt before. He had always been gentle with me, even though I sensed that he was only doing it so as not to scare me. It had not been too long since I had left the only home I had ever known to be with him and be an outcast forever. The sensation began within the very core of my body, from my womb, growing ever so slowly with every thrust of his manhood, dancing the dance of his being. It continued to rise inside me, engulfing every cell of my body, making my skin tingle like never before as I began to gasp and moan, my fingers scratching the smooth skin of his back.
His mouth descended to claim my lips, the hair of his beard scratching my skin, his teeth brushing against my own as his tongue proceeded its conquest. I wanted to scream but I couldn’t. My body began to shake, trembling with an excitement I had never known before, the very core of my body screaming for release. I sucked at his tongue desperately, my fingers pulling his hair.
And then the flash of white as my whole world was engulfed in a white light so bright it almost blinded me. He released my mouth, his lips descending on my neck and I shuddered, my body having a life of its own as my mind and soul surrendered to Shiraz completely. His hand squeezed my breasts, leaving marks against the smooth pale skin, his fingers raking against my ribs as he exploded inside of me, crying out my name as he came again and again.
I could hear the bells just outside the tent, in time with the drums. Outside a wind blew, causing the tent to sway slightly. Shiraz lay on top of me, his body still shivering, just as mine trembled with excitement it had never known before. I looked at him, his eyes closed tightly, his lips red and swollen. I reached out to touch him, and he moved his face to brush against my hand tenderly.
This was the Shiraz I knew, and the Shiraz I barely knew. And I loved him.
But I would betray him.
I read it in the cards today.
2002-2018 ©Liz Durano
I wrote this story in 2002 and every time I stumble upon it again, I’m always reminded how this remains one of my favorite stories. Short and mysterious.
You can find Dusk and other dark short stories in Les Gargouilles and Other Short Stories by Liz Durano. It’s a collection of dark stories featuring ghosts, spirits, and even a gargoyle. Even better, it’s FREE!