What is the price of life? What is the value of a human soul?



We had known each other as lovers during the night. Reclining in bed, spent, as morning pried its way into her bedroom, I surveyed her face as she slept. She was not as I remembered her. There was something cold and distant in her countenance now. An almost rigid mask of humanity seemed to be pulled tightly over her skull. Even in slumber, there was pretense in her posture.

Still, she was beautiful. The finest woman I had ever seduced during a casual meeting, in fact.

Out of all the men attending last night's party, some of whom had been more handsome, wealthier, and wittier than I, she had chosen me to bed. I did not regret the experience, to say the least, but I found it perplexing. No stud was I. Nothing worthy enough to write home to mamma. So why me?

It must have been the alcohol, I reasoned, or the full moon. Maybe she had some fetish for shy, bookish men. She hadn't seemed interested in my mind, however. And I could only vaguely recall our sexual encounter.

Suddenly, I was no longer certain we had had sex at all. The entire evening was fogged in my mind, fast fading like a poorly remembered dream.

Grasping at the last wisps of the illusion, I sat upright in bed. Rubbing my eyes, I struggled to wipe tangled webs from my mind and recall everything that had transpired the night before. I was alarmed to realize I could remember nothing of the encounter. There was no warm thrill of post-copulation satisfaction, no headache from the abundance of alcohol I had consumed, no recollection of entering her home, or of driving there, or of undressing. The only thing I knew for certain was that I had met the woman at last night's party.

I distinctly remembered the introduction, her red lips, liquid mocha eyes, dark skin, and subtle body. She had been wearing a green evening dress covered with bright sequins that had shone like distant stars. Her hair was dark and straight to the shoulders, where it curled inward lightly to accent her delicate ears.

I recalled the parting of her teeth as she smiled and spoke my name for the first time, acknowledged my existence with the cool grace of a goddess. Her eyes had peered into mine mischievously . . .

. . . and so my memory of the previous evening ended. Could her beauty be so bewitching? I thought myself a level headed fellow, immune to impulsive over indulgence and emotional hysteria. But here I was, not to be denied, in bed with a strange woman whose name I found I did not know, pondering a period of black-out like a whiskey maddened alcoholic.

"What's the matter, love?" Her husky voice startled me, made me snap my fingers away from my mouth as if my mother had caught me chewing my nails. "Is something wrong?"

"No," I replied hastily. "Nothing. Everything is wonderful. Getting better all the time."

That made her giggle, and she sat up beside me, using the sheets draped across her right forearm to cover her peaked nipples and fluid breasts. Behind, I could see what the sheet did not conceal, the long, slow curve of her spine to her hips and that dark gap between her shapely buttocks. Her movement sent waves of intoxicating perfume wafting through the room, a heavenly mixture of fragrance, sweat, and the scent of love making.

"You're funny." But she didn't seem to believe her own banality. It was simply something to say.

A brooding silence settled between us. I felt more out of place than ever.

To ease the moment, I cast my gaze about the room to find some point of interest, some landfall of common ground that might provide the seeds of conversation. Unfortunately, there was nothing to draw attention in the bedroom, either on the walls, or atop the sparse furnishings. So functional was the room, I began to wonder if we were in a hotel.

Nothing seemed personal. Right down to the floral pattern of the bed spread, the place seemed institutional.

"Where are my clothes?" I asked finally.

"Mixed in with the blankets. I think."

Rummaging nakedly through the twisted linen, I discovered she was right, and began to dress without rising from bed. She watched me patiently, aloof, like a cat monitoring the death throes of its prey in anticipation of the ultimate kill. Her gaze was unsettling and erotic at the same time. I felt myself stiffening unbidden.

After buttoning my wrinkled shirt, the first thing I found, I began to search for my underwear. Unexpectedly, her hand closed solidly around the shaft of my manhood, and I gasped to feel her chilled flesh and icy fingers there.

Stroking gently, she smiled and started purring like a cat. "What's your hurry, lover boy?" I sat back against the pillows and the headboard, "Don't you want to play some more?"

"I-I have to . . . go . . ." I managed to say. "It's . . . it's late . . . I-"

"-have to stay right here and let me take your temperature. You're not well at all, you know." Her head disappeared beneath the sheets, "You need a nurse, and I know just what to do."

And she did. My eyes closed tightly, I weathered the gale.

When it was done, she whispered, "Do you want to hear a story?"

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