It is spring. There is cat hair everywhere.
Hopper never painted this, but I would
call it “American Solitude: prayer
to pull the icy door open.” Wormwood
mixed with green tea, orange sherbet,
hazelnuts soaked in moonshine. Boisterous
as they were tongue-in-cheek. Once, this chocolate
made me green like spring. Now my facetious
joys come sober to me and my cat: She
Who Sheds and Sleeps All Day Long. That’s jargon,
the field of change, the thaw’s vernacular.
Soon it’ll be Spring Cleaning. Obscurity
shall fade. Let this painting fade too, now hung,
as an effigy of the dark-cold winter.
iyabode and the demoness of the shadows 
Story contains a touch of graphic violence.
Please read at your own discretion. Cheers!
one more night alone
with all my grotesque passions
tender as the rain.
… she had no eyes in her face, not even the hint of sockets; her elongated skull was smooth to the touch and exquisite to behold. Now, crouching in the underbrush where the trail took a sharp bend, she could smell the man long before she heard him. What he was doing in the forest she couldn’t fathom, for creatures such as these remained bizarre and alien to her. They were dangerous and merciless, bringing death with them wherever they went. There was something, though, tragic and fascinating about them, too, she thought. They were only following their dark natures, which was why they frightened her as much as they did.
Sunlight cast dappled patches across her body, warming her, making her hiss with pleasure. She could smell the greens and golds all around her, breath in the riot of colors. When she concentrated she could distinctly hear each leaf rustling in the forest’s canopy far overhead.
Slowly tensing, she listened as the man stooped to pick fruit fallen to the ground, chewing on each as he went along. She thought about what she was about to do and paused. Of late she had become disturbed, upset even, whenever the necessity of violence appeared before her. She loathed violence, but some seed of self-preservation deep within her soul meant that she had to eat to survive. She said a silent prayer to Xeraxa, Lady of the Hunt, that it would be quick and merciful as she readied herself. Her shoulder blades arched, her segmented tail curled upward. She could smell everything about him now; the fruit digesting in his stomach, the musty cardamon of his clothing, the ancient leather of his wallet, the sour milkish fear his senses were just starting to give off as some primitive part of his brain realized something was lurking in the shadows.
With a blood-curdling screech, she erupted upwards, grace in motion, landing full upon her prey even as he turned.
The man’s eyes widened in shock and panic as he saw her. His arms flew up to try to protect himself even as her claws dug deep into his chest, her teeth burying themselves into the flesh of his neck. Blood spouted against the side of her face and despite her best efforts to remain dispassionate a rumble of satisfaction ran through her. At times she loathed the bestial side of her nature, but when it kicked in there was something deeply satisfying, erotic even, in the chase and capture, the killing and devouring, that she had never truly purged from her psyche, no matter how often or fervently she prayed.
She paused with reddish meat hanging from the sides of her mouth, raised her sightless head and breathed in deeply. Something was coming. She drew in a great breath, tasted every molecule that flooded her lungs, thought hard about what each one said. Someone was coming; a second man had entered the forest, but this creature was unlike anything that she had ever encountered.
The village of Adesuwa lay on the border between Benin and Burkina Faso, sleepy and alone. The nearest city, Tanguieta, was a hard two hours drive, and since the recent assassination of Thomas Sankara, whom the Western press had dubbed, “Africa’s Che Guevara,” it was uncertain who would fill the power vacuum and whether the peace that Adesuwa had enjoyed for over a decade would continue.
The village had a shaman —- some called her a healer while others a cursed albino witch, though truth be told Kafoucha Sazu was neither, having written her dissertation on “Traditional Midwives of the Fon people and their impact on Post-Colonial transition,” at the Université des Sciences et Technologies du Bénin back in 1981 —- who had once come face to face with the Démoness d’ombres and had walked away unscathed. It was for that reason that Iyabode had tracked her down, begging an hour of the her time and listening to everything that she had to say.
The young man leaned forward as Kafoucha spoke about the bloodthirsty creature that lay in wait in the heart of the Pendjari forest. Iyabode did not believe in superstitions. He believed in poachers, for Pendjari was home to more than three thousand West African elephants and, as his father and grandfather had done before him, the Benin government paid him to track down these ivory thieves and use whatever force necessary to persuade them to find less hazardous careers.
Try as he might to ignore his doubts, though, Iyabode was troubled by the story of a star beast that had fallen from the sky. Occasionally poachers had been known to murder hapless villagers who had witnessed more than they should have; but not like this. Neighbors would simply vanish, their mutilated bodies turning up days later. There was nothing in Pendjari that could inflict the sort of catastrophic violence that was being reported. Iyabode had heard stories of madmen escaping into the hinterlands, living like beasts, but the mad were not clever, they couldn’t hunt and more often than not simply perished in the summer heat before anyone could find them. This, though, whatever it was that dwelt in the shadows, was anything but mad. It left no trail, no trace, nothing the young man could use to follow. It simply struck and disappeared.
Iyabode lay under the sky that night, trying to sleep. The air, warm and muggy, caused the great arm of the Milky Way overhead to blur and dance. The forest had never once unnerved him —- he had grown up in it, knew every animal that passed through its borders, could tell the difference between a Swallow-tailed Kite and a Black-rumped Waxbill just by their calls —- but tonight everything was different. Somewhere out there, in the dark, lay a puzzle that he could not comprehend. How could he track something that left nothing behind? How could he follow something that simply vanished? Despite the wet heat in the air Iyabode shivered and did not know why, while a dozen feet away, wrapped in dark so tightly that not even the little red termites that crawled upon the forest floor knew that she was there, Xia, as she called herself, watched. She saw his rifle laying near by and the backpack that he used as a pillow and wondered where he had come from. He smelled different somehow … tempting.
Licking her lips, she shook her head and made a noise, kssh, the closest that she would ever come to purring. As Iyabode watched the stars twinkling in the night sky, he heard a weird rumble off in a patch of darkness nearby; darkness that appeared to sway in a different rhythm to the wind-blown grasses all around him. Forehead furrowed in curiosity, the young man raised himself on one elbow and briefly saw moonlight flickering and dancing across a huge shape: obsidian skin, teeth that glowed dully as saliva dripped, a tail like a scorpion that snaked slowly back and forth. Even as he stared, unsure of what he was seeing, the clouds parted and what he mistook to be Kafoucha’s Demoness of the Shadows instead resolved into a small bush, silver-black in the moonlight. Frowning, he laid back down after staring hard at the bush for a long moment.
Sighing, Iyabode finally fell asleep, not knowing what the sunrise would bring.
Iyabode awoke in the pre-dawn, the sky slowly turning from gun-metal blues to pinks and oranges; giving off a humid heat that found its way everywhere. Somewhere out there, hiding in a tree like one of the big cats, or perhaps asleep in one of the numerous caves carved out from the rocky hills, lay his mystery. He was sure it wasn’t a lion or cheetah, none of the obvious answers that sprang to mind; for obvious answers left behind evidence of themselves, spoor and marks, anything that he could follow and track. Iyabode often told himself that he did not believe in the supernatural, but the more he studied the problem the more he had to admit that it felt as if he were chasing a ghost, something that would be caught only if it wanted him to catch it.
Shouldering his backpack Iyabode stepped forward, leaving the rolling lands of the savanna and entering the shadowed world of the Pendjari forest.
Xia dreamed, making small clicking noises of contentment. Xia loved dreaming. It was the only time she didn’t feel absolutely and utterly alone.
Curled around the stump of an old balboa tree she recalled how, long, long ago, she had tumbled down from the heavens. She had only been an egg back then, drifting through the cosmos, until the gravity of a gentle blue-green planet pulled her to it. She had no idea how old she was, really, but after 91,3105 days she officially stopped counting. If Phrace, the Life Giver, or Niss, Queen of the Hive, wanted her to know they would have told her. Sometimes they did visit her while she slept. They were the only ones who ever called her daughter, called her, “my darling love,” let her know that she belonged somewhere, to someone. Nothing in her waking world ever made her feel that way.
Breathing heavily in the heat her tongue darted out to lick the dew off her exoskeleton, her small slit-nostrils twitching. It was then that she smelled him.
Now fully awake, Xia sat up, her long tail twitching. She plucked stray strands of grass from off her thorax and took a deep breath. All around her the world gave off fascinating and terrible scents. She could smell the negative ions of a bank of storm clouds a mile overhead; there was the constant musk of tree rot and mold; plants bursting with chloroplast; the beating heart of a hartebeest far out on the grassland; the pheromones cicadas give off when they are in heat. In the middle of all that, making his way deeper into Pendjari, was the strange hunter. She padded lightly across the glen, her morning dreams forgotten. Slipping up into a tree she looked about and waited, hissing happily to herself.
When the scent seemed to fade away she did her best impression of a frown. Growling in disappointment, she tensed, then bounced high into the air. For a moment it felt like she was flying, until, softly, she landed with ease in another tree. The leaves whispered as the trunk tilted from the force of her impact, causing mottled sunlight to run in crazy circles all over the forest floor.
Xia’s sharp translucent teeth suddenly bared themselves as she tried to make sense of what she was smelling. The race of man couldn’t simply disappear into thin air, not like she could. They always left trails that she could follow. She could hear them breathing before they even entered the forest, could smell their footprints hours after they passed by, could read their moods by the amount of adrenaline running through their blood. Dropping to the forest floor she moved on all fours from shadow to shadow, following the man’s tracks, until she came upon a water hole near a small bubbling creek. Ferns and vines grew in clumps along its bank. It was here that the footsteps simply disappeared.
Xia sat back on her haunches and thought. He wouldn’t have walked into the pond, the mud would have pulled him under. She had seen it happen before when buffaloes came to drink and doubted that even her monstrous strength would be enough to free her if she was foolish enough to venture in. Growling low, she sniffed the ground. She could tell where he stopped at the water’s edge, that was easy. But after that there was nothing. Frowning and hissing, she glared at the shadows here and there, trying to fathom how he had evaded her.
Iyabode nearly screamed when he finally saw what had been tracking him. He had known for a while something was up in the trees, a shadow leaping from trunk to trunk every time he turned his head away. He held the hollow river reed nightly in his mouth, trying to get his heart to stop pounding in his ears as the star beast that Kafoucha had warned him of materialized from out of the forest. It was huge, towering over the edge of the water. There were no eyes in its dark face that it turned this way and that, sniffing the air. Its skeletal arms were folded over naked, mammal-like breasts. He could see a crest behind the deformed, oblong skull. It looked entirely out of place in the warm West African sunlight.
Slowly Iyabode attempted to shift his weight in the heavy mud. For whatever reason the mud and water appeared to render him invisible to the monster. Instead of repositioning himself, though, he floundered. The mud was much stronger than he realized. The act of moving began to suck him down, as if to claim him for itself. Suddenly he was no longer breathing air but pond water as his reed disappeared below the surface. His lungs expanded for their last time and he could feel blood painfully contracting in his ear drums. He opened his mouth to scream and a flood of blackness poured in.
Xia’s head snapped to the left at the first commotion that broke the surface of the mud pond. So he had chanced to hide underwater in the one place that evaded her sense of smell and sound. She couldn’t decide if that had been foolish or brilliant. Standing to her full height she reached out and dragged the half-drowned man out from the mud, holding him aloft like a trophy. She could hear his heart beating and slowly he opened his eyes, the one part of the human body she never really understood, and gazed at her. Hissing softly she pressed her face to his.
It was this gesture, one so unmistakably human, that shocked Iyabode the most. The star beast was even more horrifyingly exotic up close. It? She? held him as if he were a rag doll to play with, a much loved toy. Purring her strange alien purr, she nuzzled his neck, his chest, rubbing herself against him.
Xia grinned, an expression that was nearly indistinguishable from her frown. She had finally caught her prize. She leaned down and breathed in all his scents, memorizing the odor of his DNA, her queer tongue with its tiny jaws licking away the mud from his face, his ears, neck and lips, slowly exploring his mouth until her great tongue filled him. A low rumble started in her chest and she pulled his body to hers until he was nearly smothered between her breasts. She didn’t see fear in his expression, only amazement.
Iyabode felt that he was quickly losing grip on reality. He was aroused. How could he be aroused? He shuddered when she continued to lick and rub. Her skin was so soft, her tongue was so different from anything that had ever touched him that it made his blood boil. Moving down his body he felt her claws lightly rake him. She could already smell the blood that had puckered across his chest caused by her long nails.
He wanted to call her something —- beast, monster, devil, nightmare —- but Iyabode found that he had lost the ability for speech as her impossible tongue wrapped itself around his cock.
His hips jerked and he gasped as her tongue, wet and rough, tasted him, as he grew harder and longer with each touch. Pleased to no end, she turned her eyeless head as if watching his reactions, as her tongue, wrapped around him, dragged his cock into her mouth. She heard him give his own hiss and wondered if it was in pleasure or pain. She hoped both.
Still purring hard, she continued to explore his pleasure centers. She could hear his rapid breathing, his chest heaving up and down. The human body is so easily fooled into thinking death pleasurable. When she tasted the first signs of his oncoming orgasm from the tip of his cock, she continued to lap, hoping for more, loving the cosmic taste. This was what space dust had tasted like when she had been nothing more than an egg, lost in the void.
She had never understood certain parts of her anatomy. Her clit brought her pleasure, that was obvious. But, by Jah and all that was holy, the wet little slit underneath it made no sense. If that was where her eggs came from then she must be barren, for no matter how much she played with it she had never felt a stirring deep within, never had used long forgotten muscles to push the fragile shells out. Perhaps if she had been among her own people she would have been better informed. Perhaps if she could remember her dreams better then her holy mothers would have explained everything to her. Perhaps.
Now, though, she felt powers well up from deep within, the abyssal magic, that she had no possible way to say no to.
Purring hard, she crawled over Iyabode’s inert body, her long tail sweeping down to curl gently around his cock. He groaned as she tightened, holding him in place. Taking a deep breath she lowered herself down onto him.
“Kssh … !”
He groaned with pleasure, his eyes rolling back into his skull. The rumble in her breasts increased as she impaled herself. She was tight, throbbing, radiating. Her tail let go and he slid, glorious inch by inch, into her. A whimpering hiss escaped from her lips, her mouth opened wide in pleasure, her long tongue hung limply, the tiny jaws snapping at the virgin air.
Trilling in bliss, she became accustomed to his size and began to move. So … this was the secret of joy. He gasped and both of his hands dug into the wet pond mud. With her skeletal fingers she lifted each from the ground and placed them on her soft, mammalian breasts. Whimpering and hissing, she grooved and ground her hips slowly down against his, delighting in how his pelvis bone rubbed her at each stroke. She loved the queer, little noises he made in the heat of passion.
Inarticulate noises escaped from his lungs. Iyabode knew that he wouldn’t last long like this. She was well over seven feet in height, weighed possibly twice as much as he did, had muscles that could bend steel if she set her mind to it. None of that mattered. As she rocked against him, letting him fill her at each stroke, he surged up, quickly wrapping his arms around her wide hips, his cock buried to its hilt, pistoning inside her. With a war cry he rolled them both onto their sides.
Xia growled, but Iyabode could hear her moan with passion as well.
His lover now found herself on her back, her tail whipping itself back and forth between their legs, tickling his balls. Breathing hard, he propped himself up on his elbows, allowing her long legs to get a good grip in the mud. Grunting, he drove hard into her and heard her yowl and growl in pleasure. His sweat rolled off his back, causing little rainbow dots to appear all over her exoskeleton wherever they fell. He could feel his orgasm bubbling up: hot, rude and unstoppable. He managed to pant out, “I’m gonna cum.” Words that were lost on Xia.
Iyabode had been taught that it was poor manners to cum on your first date, but at that point he didn’t care. Biological laws of inter-species mating meant nothing. He felt his cock rise and throb even more, if that was possible, shudders running down his spine as he tried to pull out of her. But Xia’s cunt, which she was just now learning how to control, was clenched tight around him. She simply held him tight, using her muscles as if she possessed a vagina dentata, sucking him in deeper and deeper in, over and over and over.
Twisting violently in her embrace Iyabode’s orgasm sprayed his soul deep inside her, triggering Xia’s own tidal wave. As she exploded into stars she felt awe that there now existed another creature in the universe to cause the sort of pleasure that for the last 2500 years only she herself was capable of. She threw her head back, opened her jaws and gave the longest, drawn-out alien shriek that the forests of Pendjari had ever heard. Birds flew in panic into the air; elephants stampeded; the last twelve remaining African painted wolves howled; and Dr. Kafoucha Sazu, midwife and shaman, sat up in bed and smiled to herself.
Xia’s scream came from another world. It was filled with triumph and pleasure and astonishment. It was the cry that comes when the very last of a species realizes that it is no longer alone.
Panting, allowing their mutual earthquake-shivers to pass between them, Iyabode felt like a dead thing in her arms as she arched her back and pressed his lifeless body between her breasts, her thorax, her thick thighs that held his cock deep within her and brought, even for just a moment, peace.
laying in my arms
I’m amazed how your eyes now
hold all the cosmos
flooding in and out
your cunt is the river’s mouth
my tongue the long tide