Sunday, November 15, 2015

Review of "Libidinous Zombie" (short story collection, ed. Rose Caraway)

What a treat! And what a great trick, too; bringing together eight of some of the best—and best known— authors in the business for an anthology of erotic horror that is simply fucking brilliant; highly imaginative, consistently well-crafted, diversely colorful, scary, entertaining, sexy—oh so sexy!— and just plain fun. I suspect that Libidinous Zombie will become part of many readers’ annual Halloween tradition alongside Jack-o-lanterns, candy apples, recitations of Edgar Allen Poe, and a tour through the local haunted house.

Horror and erotica are sisters under the skin. At root, both forms are transgressive, setting out to elicit strong visceral responses by stepping outside the boundaries of acceptable, ‘polite’ behavior.  As W.J. Renehan suggests in The Art of Darkness, “. . . horror fiction effectively lifts the constraints of social, sexual, and moral codes for our entertainment." Yet, it’s interesting to note that sex in horror films is almost always a harbinger of doom. The teenagers who can’t keep their raging hormones in check are invariably the first to die a grisly death at the hands of the villain, monster, or fiend du soir. This by-now well-worn trope—a lingering vestige of punitive Puritan morality that, like a zombie, simply refuses to die— is so taken for granted in the genre that it became the basis for parody, if not outright ridicule, by the late Wes Craven in his Scream trilogy, and more recently by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard in their meta-horror masterpiece, The Cabin in the Woods.

In the early 21st century, the zombie has captured and dominated the collective imagination like few other paranormal entities, and it’s not difficult to understand why. The zombie plays on our most fundamental apprehensions, fears and phobias; vast armies of dead things that don’t know they’re dead, corpses that won’t stay buried; a contagion from which no one among the quick is immune, no matter how watchful or cautious, normal or righteous, well-prepared or healthily paranoid. The undead evoke our reflexive disgust, forcing us to confront some of our most deep-rooted taboos; cannibalism, ghoulism, necrophilia, pure animal appetite without consciousness or conscience; social decay and anarchy. The mythos has been imagined and reinterpreted with a wide range of subtle—and often, not-so-subtle— variations, from the shambling, now almost quaint-seeming revenants of George Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead (1968) to the more fleet-footed and exponentially-more bloodthirsty hordes of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. (I’d also be remiss not to mention Edgar Wright’s hilarious genre send-up Sean of the Dead from 2004.)  

But what if a spark of self-awareness remained? A hunger for more than meat? A desire to consume human flesh in a very different way? Heightened senses, telepathy, even acute emotional awareness—albeit often confused by instinct? What could more effectively lift the constraints of normality than the quasi-necrophilic notion of sex with a reanimated corpse? For that matter, what would happen if a zombie girl—perhaps a little more than halfway through the change— walked into a butcher’s shop and applied for a job? (Rose Caraway’s claustrophobic, moody Devil Winds in which the hot late-August Santa Anna winds of southern California become a virtual character in the drama.) What if the last two survivors of a zombie apocalypse and a subsequent tsunami found themselves drifting out to sea on an improvised boat, only to discover that one of them might have been bitten before casting off?  (Tamsin Flowers’ harrowing, darkly sensual The Only Girl in the World)

Of course, more things other than zombies populate these pages. There are succubae and serial killers, werewolves, demons and vampiric wraiths, all brought to vivid, terrifying, luridly undead life by this hyper-creative cadre of writers. Jade A. Waters’  The Lucky One figuratively borrows a page from Todd Browning’s Freaks, with its portrayal of a paranormal sideshow complete with werecarnies, a thigh-dampeningly charismatic ringmaster, and audience volunteers for a live sex exhibition like no other. Something wicked and very sexy this way comes when a handsome doctor finds himself locked up with the inmates of an early-20th-century mental asylum in Mallin James’ shatteringly twisty, highly satisfying Alice in the Attic. Allen Dusk’s neo-gothic Damaged Melody conjures a storm of dark images while leaving a fair amount of mystery beyond the margins—enough to keep readers guessing long after the final paragraph.  Raziel Moore’s Spell Failure plumbs the occult with an intense, vividly-imagined, extended scene of demonic ravishment and a frightening cautionary tale of misinterpreted desire and good intentions gone horribly awry. Remittance Girl’s The Night That Frank Scored  is a delicious, macabre-ly tongue-in-cheek reimagining of the demonic-sex mythos, with a somewhat cynical, mind-reading succubus who picks up an apparent loser in a bar, only to change his life in the most unexpected and amusing of ways.  Janine Ashbless’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice closes out the collection with an equally-scintillating story about a succubus; this one held captive by a well-heeled occultist. Needless to say, all kinds of horrifyingly orgasmic wackiness ensues when the master foolishly leaves his horny young assistant in charge for a week.

Enthusiastically recommended! 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Review of recent erotic fiction by Korin Dushayl and Lola Bruce-James

Here is my critical take on two series that endeavor with varying degrees of success to combine elements of erotica with familiar genre forms; in this case, sci-fi/space opera, and historical fiction respectively 


Korin I. Dushayl: The Lady and the Spyder series

I have to admit, Korin I. Dushayl’s The Lady and the Spyder series has started to grow on me, notwithstanding some serious initial reservations. I have always been a sucker for space opera, ever since I saw my first episode of Gerry Anderson’s Fireball XL-5 one Saturday morning in the fall of 1962, a time when interest in space and space exploration was forefront in the collective consciousness, when the astronauts of Project Mercury were every true-blue young lad’s heroes, and the possibilities for adventure and discovery seemed limitless. Anderson’s marionettes made a deep impression on my wide-eyed four-year-old imagination, and I still had vivid memories of the show fifty years later when I purchased the complete series on DVD. Unfortunately, it’s true what people say about not being able to go home again. A kids’ series that was state-of-the-art for television in the early 1960s comes off as decidedly less magical in the early 2000s. Beyond the fact that Steve Zodiac and Venus’ strings are showing more obviously than ever (an “oops” mined for its full comic potential in Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Team America: World Police, itself a brilliant send-up of Anderson’s technique and style), not to mention the horridly atavistic attitudes towards gender equality, the “science”, such as it was in that crudely embryonic attempt at science fiction, strikes us nowadays as unbelievably bad. To save the time and expense of putting his puppets into space suits, Anderson had the characters take “space pills” whenever they needed to go EVA (the first real space walk was still three years in the future), and there were aspects of physics and planetology that would have driven more skeptical viewers up the wall even back then.

But I digress—if only but a little. Dipping into Spyder’s Trouble, the first book in Dushayl’s series, I was rather disconcerted to discover that the strings were showing—qiote overtly as it turned out. The space-opera aspects of the story are blatantly derivative to a point where at times I thought I was reading Firefly fanfic—the only difference being that the fanfic characters cuss in Hindi instead of Mandarin. Then, too, some of the characters’ names are so poorly disguised as to make me wonder how anyone could steal with that degree of cheek and not believe they would be caught at it. (Captain Mal Reynolds becomes Varyl Malonds. Jayne Cobb becomes Bunk—as in “I’ll be in my bunk”,  while Serenity’s chief maintenance geek Kaylee is thinly veiled as Tamara, albeit now a lesbian submissive.)

I might have simply stopped reading the aptly named Spyder’s Trouble—and, for a while, I was sorely tempted to abort the effort — but something kept me forging ahead. In melding decidedly well-worn space-opera tropes with elements of reasonably tame BDSM and—more interestingly— an exploration of issues surrounding religion, patriarchy, sexual repression and theocratic hypocrisy, Dushayl managed to hold my interest with increasing ease, especially in the second installment, Spyder’s Truth, which is written with a clearer vision and more acute technical assurance than the first book. Some of the “tech” aspects are actually pretty plausible (is there such a word as “near-fetched”?) and the author skillfully avoids the common pitfall of going too “tech heavy” at the expense of a genuinely human story.

And, at root, this is a deeply human story—albeit not a romantic one. The Lady whose collar all the crew—very much including the captain—eventually wear, is a fascinating character, alluring, persuasive, shrewd, deeply intelligent, but also at times tender, caring, empathetic and wise—precisely the qualities a great Domme should possess. Each character has a slightly different relationship with The Lady, a different, often interesting, history with her, and this lends a fair amount of variety to the narrative.  All fine and good.

Worth a look.

Lola Bruce-James

An attempt at erotic historical fiction, albeit neither particularly well researched or imaginatively executed. These two barely-chapter-length pot-boilers would have benefited considerably from the slightest bit of basic inquiry into the sexual culture of ancient Rome—that is, beyond a few re-runs of the Starz network’s Spartacus series, or soft-core Gladiator parodies on “Skin-emax”. It’s not as if such information isn’t readily available. Reay Tannahill’s Sex in History has been around for over thirty years now, and even a cursory glance at the first chapter of Melissa Mohr‘s Holy Shit: A Brief History of Swearing reveals a treasure trove of insight into the sexual attitudes, mores and taboos of the time.

Yes, there were sexual taboos in ancient Rome, and some fairly rigid ideas about what was and what was not appropriate. So far from the lurid cinematic visions of orgiastic free-for-all (Bob Guccione’s Caligula comes immediately to mind), the Romans were very clear about who they would and would not fuck—and even more specific about how they would and would not go about it. Basically, pansexualism had very little to do with eroticism as we understand it, and everything to do with class domination and the maintenance of the perceived natural order. A Roman citizen’s duty was to penetrate early and oftento penetrate (and thus dominate) as many of his inferiors as possible, and this imperative was without regard to gender or sexual orientation (a concept mostly foreign to the Romans). At the same time, oral sex was regarded as something filthy, low-down and deeply, deeply depraved. Enjoying fellatio was the sure mark of perversion. Female breasts were not thought of as especially erogenous, mostly kept covered up, and seldom the focus of erotic attraction we so take for granted in our own day . . . One could go on and on . . .

While the second book is marginally better than the first, in the end, author Lola Bruce-James employs ancient Rome as little more than a convenient one-dimensional backdrop for her little skit-like portrayals of half-baked anachronistic adolescent fuckery. Too bad that in her headlong rush to dress up a stroke book in the guise of “serious” historical respectability, she misses a huge opportunity to write something that could have been genuinely interesting and even reasonably original.

Not recommended. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Drunk and Disorderly--a short story by TAS

Drunk and Disorderly

She is by far the hottest kindergarten teacher I’ve ever seen in my life—the smokin’-est one I’ve ever dated for damn sure. Cindy’s shoehorned into a cute summer dress that leaves her arms and shoulders bare. A tad tight around the hips, its gay floral pattern accentuates her elegant curves with beguiling efficiency. She is all legs and ass tonight, and it’s all I can do to keep my watering mouth from overflowing. I am hopelessly captivated by the subtly sculpted flow of her flesh, and the cool updo that keeps her long black hair off the back of her neck only heightens my excitement

The drunks in the parking lot would seem to agree. They’re drawn like pheromone-crazed mosquitoes, and for a moment I’m not sure we’ll make it to the car in one piece.

“Hey, buddy! Z’zhat your girlfriend?”

“Must be the full moon,” I mutter.

“Just ignore them, Colin.” She’s right, of course, and I try my best, even as the mood, so carefree and flip only a moment ago, turns dead serious. The first nauseating trickle of adrenaline enters my bloodstream, pushing a curve of latent machismo and pure old-fashioned jealousy. I’m the one who’s supposed to be protecting her.

“Or z’zhee yer shhishter?” the drunk presses.

“Sure,” I humor them with a fib, “We were just on our way to a family reunion—weren’t we, sis?”

I can already feel Cindy’s disappointment with me—but hey! I’m a guy after all.

“We llllike your sister.”

“Good for you. Now as I was saying—”

“I mean, we really like your sister, y’know?”

“Uh huh.” I’m not yet sure what sort of drunks I’m dealing with; amateur, professional, happy, mean, aggressive, sullen, querulous—or maybe something else altogether. “See you guys around, alright?”

“D'yuh hear what I shhaid, buddy?” the talkative one talks to me without once taking his bloodshot eyes off Cindy’s naked shoulders. Damn! Who knew drunks could multi-task?

“Right,” I put an incestuous arm around my fake-sibling’s waist and start fast-walking her towards the car. I worry that I’m being a little too brusque with her, that my handling’s a bit too far to the rough end of the spectrum. But it’s probably better than actually losing it.  I mustn’t let that beast out of its cage—not after things have been going so well. I’d really like to get laid at the end of the evening, and the last thing I want is her thinking I’m some kind of asshole with anger management issues—even if it might sort of be true.

The drunks shamble after us like a curious herd of housebroken zombies.

“Hey! Where ya goin’, fella?” The aggressive one—the multi-tasker—puts himself in our path, “We was thinkin’ about havin’ ourselves a little party—”

“How nice for you.” I’m trying to envision a scenario that doesn’t end with a couple sucking chest wounds or a dozen sweaty dicks up my date’s bleeding bumhole. “Good luck with that.”

“—and we’ve decided to invite your Sweet. Little. Sister.” He puts a slobbery spin on the last word, leering openly at Cindy’s boobs.

“Look man, we don’t want any trouble here. We just want to get in our car and leave . . . like right now.” I’m trying to stay calm for Cindy’s sake, but my shirt is soaked. My sweat’s like burning acid, eating through my collar.

You can leave,” the loudmouthed one says, “s’long’s she stays.”

“No way that’s gonna happen.” The anger’s rising in me now for real. “I don’t think you understand—”

“Shush,” Cindy says calmly, “let me handle this, Colin.”

I want to argue, but she shoots a furtive pair of daggers in my direction, a look that clearly says ‘don’t’, and somehow, I manage to keep my trap shut.

“Hey there, big guy!” She saunters up to the ringleader, swinging her hips like a bimbo in heat, “I’m Cindy. What’s your name?”

He has to think about it for a second.

“Uhhhhh . . . Jax. The name’s Jax.”

“Nice to meet you, Jax,” she takes another step forward, close enough to give him an eyeful of cleavage as she extends her hand. “So, what did you and your friends have in mind?”


“You were saying something about a party?”

“You wanna party, baby?”

“Could be—”

“’Cause I can show you a real party!”

“I’ll bet you can,” she murmurs sultrily, “Why don’t you lean over a little so you can whisper in my ear and tell me all about it?”

“Sure baby!”

I want to vomit. It’s not just the idea of this interloping lowlife slip-sliding his filthy hams all over Cindy’s scrumptious peaches and cream, or the way he’s mildewing the inside of her ear with his sour yeasty breath, or even the fact that she’s letting him do it. No. It’s something else—something about these guys I can’t quite put my finger on . . .

I can only describe them by what they’re not. They’re not frat boys—a tad too old, not rowdy enough by half, way too quiet, and their shirts don’t match. Not bikers—no chains, no leather, and, anyway, where are the bikes?  Not surfers—well, that’s just obvious. Not a pack of Wall Street wolf cubs. The arrogance is there but it’s not the same kind. These aren’t the sort of well-dressed, self-entitled mega-douche diptards who wave a wad of cash under a pretty woman’s nose and think that buys her for the evening. Not rednecks or hipsters in spite of the bad teeth, greasy beards, and grungy flannel. Not cubicle-dwelling wage slaves, or undercover cops posing as blue-collar methheads, or anything I can think of except maybe—


She holds up an index finger to silence me. Jax is practically doubled over on top of her, bowing her upper body backwards beneath his considerable weight. She reaches down and cups his bloated crotch in her palm, whispering something in his ear as she begins to squeeze.

“Oh yeah, baby!” he roars, throwing his head back in crapulous triumph, “Wooooooo-WEE! We gonna have ourselves one hell of a party to-NIGHT! Ahhhh-OOOOOO . . .”

The other drunks take up the chorus, lifting their heads to the sky and baring their teeth—their incredibly long, sharp, yellow, great big the-better-to-eat-you-with-my-dear canines that probably haven’t seen the inside of a dentist’s office since the last time dentist was on the menu.

“Thought so,” Cindy wrinkles her nose in disgust, reaching back to pull a long pin from her hair. “You werewhack-jobs really cheese me off!”

Jax is bending back down, looking to give Cindy a hickey she’ll never forget—or survive. But the thing in her hand has magically morphed from a simple silver hairpin into a telescoping stiletto the size of a 10-gauge knitting needle. Her hair falls bewitchingly around her shoulders as the knife finds its way deep into the center of Jax’ left eye—or, at least, what’s left of his left eye.  

“You bitch!” he howls,

“Language!” she knees him in the groin, yanks the hairpin from his eye and plunges it into his heart.

“You fucking bitch!” Jax slumps to the pavement, doubled over in pain. Cindy plants a stylish but practical heel smack in the middle of his chest, pushing the last of the air from his lungs.

“Not so tough anymore, are you, buddy!” She surveys the parking lot, glaring at the cowering werewinos who remain, their own eyes now dilated more from fear than beer. “Anybody else want a piece?” She looks slowly from one to another as if to say ‘C’mon! Make my weekend!’ No takers.

“Boo!” she shouts, and the werewhatever-the-hell-they-ares scatter to the four corners of the night.

“What were those things?” I’m still trying to get my head around the casual act of manslaughter I’ve just witnessed.

She shrugs, her beautiful shoulders softly aglow in the moonlight, notwithstanding the gruesome arterial spatter down the front of her dress.

“Who knows? Probably just a bunch of garden-variety werewankers. Maybe some kind of survivalist douchebag-hipster hybrid. Whatever, they won’t be bothering us again.”

“Well, that’s good to know.”

“Hey! You’re not all weirded out, are you, Colin?”

“Uhhh no! I—”

“’Cause that would really be too bad, you know?”

“It would?

“I mean, I was having a super-nice time up until—”

“Yeah! Me too.”

“—and I’d hoped you thought—”

“Oh, god, yes! All things considered, it was one helluva great date!”

“So then, do you think you could drive me back to your place—like right this minute?”


“I wouldn’t normally ask a guy after the first date, but, for some reason, I really need a shower, and your place is closer—”

“Oh . . . sure. No problem.”

“That, and there’s one other thing—”


“—I figure you’re going to find out sooner or later so . . .”

“Tell me, Cindy.”

“Slaying werethingies always makes me horny as hell.”

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Story by TAS on the Microstory-a-Week site

My short story, Señor Gordo, is featured this week (October 14-20) on the Microstory a Week site. Read it here:

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Review of 'Counsel of the Wicked: Rebel Mage Book I" by Elizabeth Schechter

Let me count the ways I like this latest offering from Elizabeth Schechter!
Counsel of the Wicked (Rebel Mage: Book 1) is an exciting, fast-paced, genre-bending m/m romantic adventure; distinctively imaginative, sexy, thought-provoking, heart-warming, compulsively page-turning, and one heck of a cracking good read. Of course, all this is what her fans have come to expect from Schechter, a bona fide mistress of the storyteller’s craft with a hyperactively wide-ranging imagination, and a no-lesss impressively puissant intellect coupled with a preternaturally acute sense of focus.   

Counsel of the Wicked is the story of Matthias, a young man living as an outcast on the fringe of a post-apocolyptic religious community under the rigid patriarchal control of an outwardly pious elder. But when the elder’s son falls in love with Matthias, the old man sees to it that the pariah is summarily packed off to a notorious correctional facility known as The School.  Suffice to say, everything Matthias thought he knew about his world and the people who govern it--not to mention himself-- turns out to be a lie.

It’s probably not wise to offer too much more of the plot, lest spoilers be revealed. But oh! What wonders (and horrors!) there are to be discovered. And Schechter has hardly begun to explore this vast and intriguing magical paracosm of hers. (I understand that a pair of sequels is in the works—a wise move, since this first installment is bound to leave fans hungry for more.)

This is genre entertainment with a brain! Above all, it’s the consistent quality of Schechter’s writing, along with the deep love she possesses for her characters that sets Counsel of the Wicked apart.  

Highly recommended.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Review of "twentysix" by Jonathan Kemp

A great book (as fantasy author Kelly Link puts it) “[lights] up the readerly brain and the writerly nerves.” A great book (I say) kindles magic fire in the imagination and sets the heart and mind ablaze. A great book does what the best drugs are supposed to do; liberates consciousness from the conventional, opens up new worlds; flings wide the doors of perception (and, yes, the reference to Aldous Huxley and Jim Morrison is intentional); sets an unapologetic match to everything you ever thought you knew about reading, about writing, about dreaming, about life itself.

British author Jonathan Kemp’s twentysix is a great book.

The twenty-six very-short stories in this debut solo collection of m/m erotica are ostensibly arranged, as the title suggests, like a child’s alphabet, but with decidedly mature literary ambitions, and an undeniably grownup sexual sensibility. The language is beyond impressive, though Kemp consciously expends a great deal of it to lament the very inadequacies of language, the impotence of mere words confronting the sublime nexus of thought and sensation, as in this passage from S:

There are places only the night knows, places only shadows can show us. The city wears a different face when darkness falls, a face I prefer. I walk the occluded streets looking for something, looking for something, looking for something. A knowledge of the shadow that eats away at logic, creating patterns far brighter than I can bear; patterns that burn at the temperature of wanting. It traces its way through my veins, this wanting, finding solace only when I fall and feast . . . This map I draw with the tip of my tongue takes refuge in a book of dreams. Forgive me for not having the words to describe it, this place in which I dwell. I have tried, I have tried. I have drenched myself in words and sensations, seeking a way to make them speak to one another. This is all I have to offer.

The body wants what it wants. The chaos of the body’s wants—as we know— will never surrender itself to language, can never succumb to reason, even if, even if, even if it wanted to—which it never will.

Yet, Kemp is keenly aware of the limitations society itself imposes on language, and, by extension, on the expression of genuine emotion, muting the honest, full-throated cry of passion, love, lust, desire, joy:  

In this society I live in, everyone dreams of being able to speak like this. But it really isn’t possible to speak like this in our society. If sexuality has a voice, it has yet to find it.                                                       

Sex happens easily here. These pages teem with a deliciously explicit, celebratory sensuality, restless and unregretted. There’s a frank earthiness to Kemp’s descriptions. His characters are mostly urban, working class blokes, cruising dirty streets and cheap dives in search of connection, perpetually longing (as Freddy Mercury sang) to break free.

When he is naked I notice something I had not seen in the club. Now, in the grey daylight that breaks through the white sheet hung up against the window, I can see the letters standing out in legible scars across his hairless chest. D-E-N-I-A-L. For the briefest moment I love this wounded man/boy in whose eyes I see the recognisable burn of drugs and sex and hunger. He shines with a lost need, a lonely, greedy, fucked-up cock-sure need and we fall against each other and onto that grimy mattress. We lie head to toe, feeding on each other’s cocks. I occupy every last space available for this experience, I inhabit this feeling of pleasure, wanting it never to end. And that word, DENIAL, plays across the black expanse of my consciousness, repeats and repeats like a broken record, and I want to know what it means, why is it there, who did it to him, or did he do it to himself?

Though the narrator may at times seem to channel Bataille and Barthes as he reflects on broad and lofty themes, he does not look away from the seamier vision of life as actually lived, embracing it in all its pungant banality and deep fractal chaos. Sometimes it seems possible to choke on this wild surfeit of language, this sumptuous banquet of experience, as one might gag while joyously deep throating a magnificent cock.

I am giving birth to pleasure, to submission, to the destruction of my ‘self’; I am enabling the body to fragment, and the fragments to circle around the central column of a destabilised subjectivity, like gulls riding a thermal. I am coaxing that tricky little muscle to do something it doesn’t want to do. I am dominating myself, sodomising myself, raping my body’s own desire for unity, storming the citadel of my sovereignty with the battering ram of madness.

Jonathan Kemp’s twentysix is emphatically, ardently, passionately recommended!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Lovely Boy--a short story by TAS

From The Moon-Haunted Heart, this m/m re-imagining of the Pygmalion myth draws inspiration from poetry, music, and painting. I first became familiar with Coleridge’s Lines on a Child through the gorgeous, sensitive setting by Benjamin Britten in his Nocture, Op. 60 where the words, sung by a tenor, are underscored by a shimmering accompaniment of harp and strings. The poem itself magically evokes a sense of child-like innocence steeped in subtle eroticism—an irresistibly delicious, world-evoking paradox. I imagine my artist working in a style close to that of the famous Scottish Victorian painter Joseph Noel Paton (1821-1901) who may be best known for The Reconciliation of Oberon and Titania (1847).                                   TAS

A Lovely Boy

Encinctured with a twine of leaves,
That leafy twine his only dress!
A lovely Boy was plucking fruits
By moonlight in the wilderness.
The moon was bright, the air was free,
And fruits and flowers together grew,
On many a shrub, and many a tree:
And all put on a gentle hue,
Hanging in the shadowy air
Like a picture rich and rare.
It was a climate where, they say,
The night is more belov’d than day.
But who that beauteous Boy beguil’d
That beauteous Boy to linger here?
Alone, by night, a little child,
In place so silent and so wild—
Has he no friend, no loving mother near?

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Lines on a Child (1798)

He steps into the scene, summoned by the artist’s longing, gracefully materializing  in the foreground, born from seething moonlit mist and the glassy shadow of sepia-washed cloud-peaks. The boy stands on the rippling edge of this aqueous, star-dappled world, a seraphic intruder, wading along a curving stretch of shell-strewn shore, grasping for invisible fruits on low-hanging branches beyond the frame.

He is “old enough”, yet still unsullied by shame, naïve in his nakedness, utterly free in the unselfconscious perfection of his beauty. The man-child wanders on, a glowing creature from a dream of Eden.

And oh! To be in that garden with him! The artist would will himself into the scene also, as if pure desire might be transmogrified, and lust itself made flesh, cool and substantial and undeniably alive, Pygmalion, a god incarnate, humbled and amazed before his own creation, worshipping what he himself has wrought.

He calls out to the lad, standing a short way along the silvery littoral, realizing too late that the boy is mute. Even so, he asks his name, and a hundred other things—“Why do you wander all alone in this place? Have you no friend? No home?” But the answers are not the boy’s to give, for they lie somewhere already within the yearning mind of his creator.


The boy nods, yet it is enough.

The older man approaches or is mystically drawn, standing suddenly before the object of his desire  as in a dream, without memory of distance traveled. He wrestles the angel by the hair, gently pulling him close, covetous fingers buried in a halo of golden ringlets, impatient to touch, and fondle, and kiss. He enthralls the man-child’s mouth, taking his upper lip between the both of his, sucking greedily, as a bee drawn to precious nectar.

“What’s this?”

Awakening below, the boy is half-erect, his fecund phallus coyly articulated, a stalk of wheat insouciantly bowing on the breeze. The older man closes his eyes, permitting himself, if only for a moment, the selfish luxury of uninterrogated bliss—the unalloyed delectation of Ariel’s caress, his penis gently bobbing and billowing against his master’s belly, whence the artist’s own arousal takes puissant form, rising up until the mirrored shafts seem to salute one another, unbuttoned foils crossed before a duel.

“I love you,” he sobs, though the boy only gazes at him, questioningly. “Do you know what that is, Ariel?” His trembling hand slips over the flat plain of the boy’s abdomen, to find the tangled nest of red-gold hair below, “Do you understand what it means to love someone with every atom of your physical self—with the whole completeness of your immortal soul—yet never to know—always to be forbidden—that singular moment of joy requited?”

Sighing, he cups his lover’s low, soft-hanging pouch, reverently weighing the delicate treasures within. “Do as I do,” he whispers, “touch me . . . like this . . .” He closes his fingers around the boy’s shaft and pulls, delicately upwards, stroking the taut velvet flesh of the glossy glans with loving care a dozen times or more, drawing forth its sweet, precious  essence, pressing it to himself just in time to bear the brunt of the explosion against his belly, the burst of pale, translucent sap that seems to reflect the color of the moonlight on the cloud-tops far above.

Keening softly now, the artist is powerless to deny the terrible and delicious welling within him, the quickening sweetness that surges through his loins. His cry of release a ragged benediction as the boy falls to his knees, eager to receive that graced outpouring—joy made manifest—like a holy chrism upon his upturned face, his forehead first, his cheeks, his lips, his tongue. The older man stoops to gather his love to himself, throwing his arms out wide with the desperation of the dying, clinging to life in an ecstasy of denial, embracing the boy as he would the entire world, annointing him again with kisses and with tears.

“I never want to leave you!” he cries, “Oh Ariel! I never want to feel anything but what I feel at this very moment—” he takes the boy’s face between his hands and looks into his eyes, “I’ve never held a memory that was not tinged with sadness or with anger, yet now, for the first time in my life, I feel something pure! At this moment, all I can feel, without question, without doubt, without a single second guess . . . is love! Please! Please, let me hold this memory! Please! Let me stay with you forever!”

But the boy shakes his head. It is too late. The moment cannot last, for innocence is already lost, destroyed in the very act of its creation. In his hubris, Pygmalion has gone too far, imagined too completely, and so, in selfishly interacting with his creature, has inexorably changed him.

The old man weeps, and cannot be consoled. His tears stain the canvas, blur and streak the image whose glorious like shall never be conjured again. For a moment he entertains a frantic thought, but cannot bring himself to follow through. In the end,  for all his lavish longings, his aching emptiness, the bitter pangs of solitude, loneliness like the shallow shore before the sharp drop-off into the abyss of despair, and all his fierce devouring love, the artist dares not paint himself into the picture.