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Jaskri and the Flotsam
by Leem

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Author’s Note:

Skip to Dramatis Personae | Skip to Story

For some time now I’ve been thinking about writing a story that would tie the Jaskri and Flotsam storylines together, and this is it. You’ll also find references to my male story The Sculptor’s Model, and the male Ketrin series.

This story has turned out a little longer than originally intended, in fact it’s turned out to be my longest story to date: twenty-two thousand, seven hundred words. Half the length of a short novel. No wonder it’s taken me ages to finish. But please don’t let the length put you off reading it. I’ve done my best to keep up the momentum from start to finish. The last thing I’d want is for you all to get bored and go away.

Regular visitors (assuming there are any) will know that sex is treated fairly discreetly in the Jaskri stories, while things tend to get a bit more explicit in the Flotsam series, so the chapters involving Telna’s visit to the Maiden are less raunchy than the chapters involving Morenn and the Flotsam.

I’ve done my best to make the prose in this story as clear and evocative as possible. Paragraphs, sentences, phrases and even individual words have been obsessively revised, rearranged and niggled over for hours, often into the wee small hours of the morning (sleep? I’ve forgotten what it feels like!), so I just hope it’s all been worth it.

Some of the concepts in the Flotsam stories were inspired by Margaret St. Clair’s 1953 story Thirsty God. The use I have made of those concepts is however original, and no plagiarism is intended.

Jaskri’s planet has a ten-day week. Here on Earth most people work for five days out of seven, taking a weekend break on the sixth and seventh, so 71.4% of the week consists of work days. On Jaskri’s homeworld everyone works seven days out of the ten, taking a midweek break on either the fourth or fifth day, and a weekend break on the ninth and tenth. In other words, only 70% of their week consists of work days. Whoever said metrication didn’t bring any benefits?

Dramatis Personae
(Roughly in order of appearance)

Telna, a girl
The Maiden, a loving statue (formerly Jaskri, a girl, now joined by the souls of hundreds of her friends and family)
Morenn, a girl, later one of the Flotsam
Several dozen alien nymphomaniacs
Ketrin, a wild boy, subject of a novel and later a shadowreel (legendary/historical)
Silverpaw, one of Ketrin’s lupinoid ‘brothers’ (legendary/historical)
Sakíri, a girl, Saravin’s sister
Saravin, a boy, Sakíri’s brother
Chernu, a brat (cameo)
The Flotsam, hundreds of paralysed humans and humanoids exploited by the aliens
Viréni, a female soul, part of the Maiden (formerly a girl, Jaskri’s first and fondest lover)
Yenisei, a girl (an erstwhile statue)
A train guard and her niece (cameos)
Chekrina, a girl, Sakíri’s rebound lover (that’s not ‘re-bound’ as in bondage, but...oh, never mind)

One: Telna

Telna stepped off the Central Electric at Maidstone Village Halt one fine Firstday in midsummer. To all intents and purposes she was no different from any other visitor to the picturesque village, but she had not come to sightsee. Her business was more pressing - in fact it was life and death.

With a flurry of sparks from the overhead power lines, the train rattled onward down its four-cubit broad gauge track, while Telna made her way out through the modest terminal building and into the village square. She carried no case, and apart from a small bag containing sundries and a little money her only luggage was a well-thumbed paperback copy of that enduring bestseller, Ketrin of the Lupinoids.

The book had long been a favourite of Telna’s, not least because it was lovingly illustrated with colour pictures of the naked feral youth. Telna’s mother had given her the book for her twelfth birthday, and there might have been a certain knowing glint in her eyes as she had handed it over.

The train compartment had had curtains, which meant that she could read without too much eyestrain, but now she was out in the daylight. Even with her dark glasses, the sun shining on the paving stones was giving her a headache. But she did her best to ignore the throbbing in her head as she tried to figure out which way to go.

The village had once been an isolated farming community, but over the years the city of Dravinye had slowly grown outward, so that the village was now effectively a suburb, although its inhabitants still called themselves villagers and prided themselves on upholding their old traditions.

For that reason the village was a little old-fashioned compared with the city centre, although there were some signs of modernisation. Overhead wires had been strung up on new-looking poles to provide the villagers with electricity and telephones, and the old-style overhead lamps that lined the streets looked as if they had been hastily converted from gas to electricity.

Even so, Telna found herself missing the city already; the quietness of the village made her nostalgic for the buzzing of electric railbuses, the whirring flywheels and honking horns of steam-powered carriages, and the noise and bustle of crowds.

The irony was that when she returned to the city she would soon find herself cursing the noise and the crowds and missing the relative tranquility of village life.

Assuming, of course, that she ever did return to the city. One way or another, she might never be going back.

A few of the villagers glanced at her curiously. Telna wondered if they could tell that there was something wrong. Then she realised it was her sunglasses that were attracting the attention. They must still be as much of a novelty here as electric light bulbs. Well, there was no help for that. She couldn’t take them off without being blinded by daylight. Hypersensitivity to light was just a side effect of the medication, her doctor had told her apologetically, and there was nothing she could do about it.

One young man stepped up to her and asked her if she needed directions.

“No, thank you,” she said, forcing a smile. “I know the way.”

“Oh, but you’re sweating,” he said. “Is the heat bothering you? If you’d prefer to sit in the shade, the teahouse has just had some of those new electrical fans installed. They do nice dewfruit pies as well, if you’d care to join....”

“No, thank you!” Telna insisted. “I’ll be all right!” The villager seemed taken aback by her reaction, but she hurried on before he could reply.

She wasn’t all right, of course. That was the trouble. It was not just the heat that was making her sweat. Her medication seemed to be wearing off, and it would be another two hours before she dared take another dose. It took a considerable effort to walk away casually without - she hoped - showing any sign of discomfort.

Fortunately she did not have far to walk. A short distance from the square stood the old village well, which still produced clear, fresh water, although it was of course no longer the village’s main water supply. There had been talk of bottling the water for sale, but the villagers had vetoed the idea, fearing that excessive consumption might lower the water table and cause the well to dry up.

And a little further on, gleaming in the sunlight, stood the village’s greatest treasure: the Maiden - the life-sized and astonishingly realistic figure of a very beautiful naked woman, apparently carved from pure white marble. It was the Maiden that had given the village its new name of Maiden Stone, now contracted to Maidstone.

The statue had stood in the village for more than three hundred years, ever since they day that - according to local legend - she (never “it”) had simply appeared out of thin air.

But there was another, stranger legend; a legend that claimed the statue was neither carved nor sculpted, but alive. According to that legend, a sorceress had turned the most beautiful girl in the village to stone, cursing her to remain alive and aware and helplessly inanimate forever.

That might have seemed like the most terrible fate imaginable, an existence far worse than death, but for the other part of the legend, usually spoken only in whispers between lovers; namely, that when the girl was turned to stone, she was also given the gift of everlasting pleasure - a joyful orgasm that would never end.

And lovers, hearing the legend, would try to imagine what that everlasting pleasure might feel like, and would do their best to make their own pleasure last as long as they could for the Maiden’s sake.

Those who happened to live nearby, or who had the opportunity to visit, often took their pleasure in the presence of the Maiden herself, frequently embracing her as well as each other, usually at night when nobody would see - or at least when anybody who did see would turn a discreetly blind eye.

Rumour had it that those who made love before the Maiden would be rewarded with a portion of the Maiden’s own ecstasy, and that if the lovers happened to be of opposite sexes their union would be blessed with children, should they so desire.

Those who had never put these legends to the test viewed them sceptically, claiming that the Maiden’s lovers were too blinded by love and lust to make any objective judgement about what was happening to them.

The lovers replied that the sceptics should get out more and have fun.

The legends also said that the Maiden blessed the villagers with health and prosperity, and there was no denying that the Maidstone region - and indeed, all of Province Dravinye - had better than average harvests and lower than average health problems. Nobody ever complained about that, except insurance salesmen who were forced to offer lower premiums. Some experts called it coincidence, while others scratched their heads and wondered.

Telna had heard all of the rumours. The rumours were her reason for visiting Maidstone.

If they were true, the Maiden might be her last hope.

Sitting a little stiffly upon the edge of the statue’s broad pedestal, Telna began a breathing exercise, designed to help her forget the pain, and attempted to concentrate and project her thoughts.

Oh, Maiden, she thought, if you can hear me then send me a sign, I beg you. Only you can help me now.

Telna continued to project her thoughts for several minutes without success. Eventually she began to slip into a trance and all conscious thought faded.

Two: Morenn

Morenn’s dream about a girl visiting a statue faded, and she woke with throbbing pains all over. It took her a moment to remember where she was and what had happened, but then it all came flooding back. The swirling cloud that had drawn her ship in, the weird feeling of disorientation...and then the strange planet rushing toward her, and the struggle to bring her ship down in one piece....

She had succeeded, more or less. The ship was in one (badly dented) piece, but it seemed unlikely that its repair systems would be able to restore it to flying condition. The hull had been breached in several places, but the surviving instruments informed her that the air was not poisonous.

A lot of good it does to tell me that, she thought. If it had been poisonous, I’d be in no condition to read the stupid instruments anyway!

Apart from a large bump on her head and some severe bruises, Morenn herself seemed to be in better condition than she had any right to expect after such a bad crash.

Squeezing through the buckled hatch, Morenn limped from the wreckage of her ship. From the outside the damage was worse than she feared. The ship was a write-off. And there were still three instalments to go before I’d paid for the damn thing, she thought miserably.

But paying the last three instalments was the least of her worries. She had no way off this miserable planet, and the stacks of large-denomination credit chips in the hold, with which she had hoped to buy her way into the highest levels of galactic society, were now worthless junk.

Well, all right: to tell the truth they were worthless junk in the first place, but she had been assured the fake credit data stored on them would have appeared authentic enough to convince certain people; people who could have helped her climb the ladder right to the top.

Now the only ladder in sight was the buckled ladder she had just climbed down.

I could have had it all, she thought. Wealth, power, influence, all the politicians money could buy. But most of all, I could have had sex. My God, I could have had my pick of the sexiest men, women and robots in the whole damn galaxy. I could have had sex till it was coming out of my...ears. Was that really too much to ask?

And then this goes and happens. Who the hell ever heard of a goddam space warp outside of a cheap holovid serial anyway?

Morenn sighed and surveyed her surroundings. Apart from some boxy grey rock formations there was nothing to be seen but a featureless grey plain. There was no visible source of food or water.

There seemed to be openings, possibly caves, in the walls of the rocky outcrops. She didn’t know much about caves, but she thought that maybe she might find some water inside; a natural spring, perhaps, or maybe pools of condensation. Any possibility was better than none. So, with another sigh, she made her way to the nearest cave, not realising that she was being drawn there by a subtle telepathic signal.

Some distance away, that signal was also received by other beings, who immediately began making their way toward the same cave.

The interior of the cave looked artificial. In the light of her small biolamp she could make out what seemed to be faded writing on the walls. But before she could puzzle it out, she fell unconscious in response to another automated telepathic signal that was generated by alien devices hidden in the walls and floor.

While she slept, those devices scanned her body from head to foot, carefully analysed their findings, then, after a few moments, set to work on her. Under their anaesthestetising rays, Morenn dreamed pleasant dreams of a girl sitting beside a statue in a village, blissfully unaware that alien machinery was changing her body, cell by cell, molecule by molecule, from the inside out.

Morenn’s body was very different from the species the machines had been designed to process, but their sensors had become worn over the centuries and as far as they could tell she was, albeit just barely, eligible for treatment.

They could not have realised that the conversion process, which was never meant for humans, would cause her to suffer strange and irreversible side effects. In any case, even if they had realised it, once the treatment had started they could do nothing but see it through to its completion.

So it was that when Morenn woke up, many hours later, she found that her body had turned bright blue from head to foot. What was more, when she stood up, feeling a little stiff, her clothes tore to shreds because they were now several sizes too small for her. She had grown to well over two metres tall. Shaking her head in confusion, she discarded the remnants of her clothing, and then stared disbelievingly at her blue limbs, torso, nails and hair.

Then she realised that she was no longer in any pain. The lump on her head had vanished, along with all trace of her other injuries.Whatever it was that had caused her to grow and change colour had also healed her completely.

What in the universe is happening to me? she thought.

As she pondered this question, her blue fingers were absently stroking her blue pubic hair, and within moments she began to feel hornier than a fembot with a voltage overload. Moaning quietly, she pleasured herself with greater and greater fervour, her body writhing and contorting upon the stone floor, coming closer and closer to the brink of orgasm only to find the bar being raised higher and higher each time.

At long last she came, howling like a lupinoid as pleasure exploded through her body like a supernova, and exploded and exploded and exploded and exploded and exploded....

At long last - there was no way to tell how long it had lasted - her orgasms faded and she fell into a deep sleep and dreamt of chains and manacles.

Not very far away, a small party was still making its way expectantly toward the cave in which she slept.

When she woke, her lamp was almost exhausted. Her arousal had given way to a relaxing euphoria. She was lying limply upon the floor with her head turned away from the entrance.

I wish I could lie here forever, she thought languidly. After a few minutes, however, she decided it was time to get up.

But when she tried to get up her muscles refused to respond. Whatever had transformed her body had also had a delayed paralysing effect.

Oh, God, no! she thought. This can’t be happening!

But no matter how she tried she couldn’t move. It seemed as if her wish to lie there forever had been granted.

For long hours Morenn made desperate but futile attempts to move, but gradually became convinced that she would remain helpless until she died of thirst or starvation. It was not until some time later that she began to realise that she didn’t feel thirsty or hungry, despite not having been able to eat or drink for hours.

Perhaps something was keeping her alive without the need for food or water. But if that were true she would be doomed to lie motionless on the stone floor for the rest of her life!

To remain forever helpless in that drab stone cave, with no kind of physical or intellectual stimulation whatever, seemed a fate far worse than death. But unknown to her, she was soon to be saved - at least, from incarceration in the cave.

Nearby, the small search party reached the wreckage of Morenn’s ship. Seeing this, they gave their equivalent of a cheer, knowing that their quarry was nearby.

Unhurriedly, they proceeded. They knew their quarry wasn’t going anywhere.

So it was that a little later, the helpless Morenn was startled to hear what seemed to be approaching voices chattering in an alien language. Moments later the voices became louder and more resonant. They had entered the chamber. Morenn couldn’t turn her head to see who or what they were.

Oh, God, please let them help me, she thought. Please don’t let them be hostile.

The small party circled her. From her awkward viewpoint, she could make out that they were small humanoid creatures. One of them knelt down and began poking and prodding her. In the dim light she could see its elongated face, big hands and furry but unclothed body. She also caught a glimpse of the crude spear it carried.

Hunter-gatherers, she thought. Am I going to be their next meal?

The creature beside her picked up her paralysed arm and began jabbing at it lightly with the stone spearpoint. She could feel the painful jabs but could not resist. Then it began to fondle her nipples. She could certainly feel that, but still she could not resist. Finally it slid its long tongue into her vagina.

Hey, no! she thought. Don’t do this! But the little alien could not hear her thoughts, and probably wouldn’t have stopped even if it could.

Morenn’s voluntary muscles might be paralysed, but she now discovered that her vaginal muscles were not - and if anything, her vaginal nerves had become even more sensitive than usual. And she couldn’t prevent her body from responding while the alien’s thick muscular tongue slid in and out, up and down, left and right, in and out, right and left, up and down...until at last she had a series of orgasms that compared with her supernova climaxes of the previous night.

Oh, my, she thought. So that’s how it’s going to be, is it? They’re going to use me as a sex doll, and there’s nothing I can do to stop them.

Part of her was horrified at the prospect, but she was surprised to realise that another part of her was fascinated and even excited by it, and could hardly wait to find out what the little aliens would do to her next....

Three: Telna

Telna blinked and sat up. She must have dozed off for a moment. Thankfully, the pain in her abdomen had temporarily faded to a dull ache.

“That was weird,” she muttered. “I had this strange wet dream about a girl who became a kind of sex doll....”

Then she forgot about the dream as she realised she wasn’t sitting in front of the statue any more. She was seated on a hillside overlooking Maidstone, but the village seemed smaller and had no modern buildings, and there was no sign of the railway.

“Good book?” said a voice behind her.

Telna turned and looked up to see a girl of about twenty wearing a simple green dress.

“Maiden?” she said. “Is it really you? Or is this just a dream as well?”

“It’s really me,” the Maiden assured her. “They call me the Maiden, but my real name is Jaskri. I’m sending you this vision to make it easier to talk to you.”

“I’m Telna. So...this place is part of your memory?” asked Telna.

“That’s right,” said Jaskri. “This is the village as I remember it, the way it was when I was growing up...while I was still flesh and blood.”

Jaskri sat beside Telna. Everything about her - her physical presence, her scent, her body warmth - seemed so real that it was almost impossible to believe that she and the hillside were merely illusions.

“So,” said Jaskri, looking at something on the ground between them, “Is it a good book?”

Following Jaskri’s gaze, Telna saw that her copy of Ketrin had also been duplicated in the dream-environment, nude pictures and all - as well as its tendency to fall open at those pictures.

Telna blushed. “Oh, well, um...” she coughed. “I, ah, I suppose you’ll have heard of Ketrin the wild boy....”

Jaskri grinned. “....Raised by carnivorous lupinoids in the jungle. Oh, yes. Someone read the book to me many years ago. And showed me the pictures, of course. I enjoyed it a lot, although there’s a lot about Ketrin that the writer either didn’t know or didn’t consider...suitable, I suppose.”

“You mean there really was a Ketrin?” said Telna, blinking in surprise.

“There certainly was,” said Jaskri. “Not only that, but his descendants are alive and well and still living with lupinoids in the jungles of Therinya.”

Jaskri picked up the book and studied the beautifully detailed picture of Ketrin standing explicitly naked in the dense forest, his faithful lupinoid brother Silverpaw at his side.

“He is handsome, isn’t he?” said Jaskri with a wry smile, presumably referring to Ketrin rather than Silverpaw (although the lupinoid was also a fine specimen).

Telna blushed scarlet. “My mother bought me the book not long after I had my first flow,” she muttered. “She told me I’d enjoy it because it was a literary classic, but....”

“But she bought you the illustrated edition,” said Jaskri, grinning.

“Every night,” Telna whispered, “every night until I was sixteen, and many nights since...I held that book in one hand and let the other roam where it pleased. I always imagined myself running with Ketrin in the jungle, the warm wind on our naked bodies, our furry siblings at our sides. And then, once we were done running....”

Telna sighed ecstatically.

“I guess you could say that Ketrin was my first lover. And in a very real sense he’s always been faithful to me.”

Jaskri smiled.

“And she knew, of course,” said Telna. “My mother...she knew perfectly well what that book would do for me. She knew because....”

“Because she’d read the book herself when she was your age,” said Jaskri.

“That’s right. And I could still kick myself for not realising it sooner. But then I guess most children never imagine their parents knowing about sex...despite the obvious contradiction involved.”

“From what I’ve heard,” Jaskri told her, “Ketrin is surprisingly popular with adolescent girls. Actually it’s almost as popular with adolescent boys as well, although whether that’s because they imagine being him, or...but no, it must be because of the book’s undoubted literary merits, mustn’t it?”

“There was a shadowreel version of the story not long ago,” said Telna. “Made in Farazelia, I think, but they spliced in dialogue cards in our language. Wasn’t very good, though. The jungle was obviously just painted backdrops, and the lupinoids were unconvincing wooden puppets. I think the thing everyone really hated about it was that the actor who played Ketrin wore a waistcloth the whole time. If it had been made in Dravinye at least we’d have had the nerve to depict him naked, the way he should be.”

Telna sighed. “Watching that reel was the most pointless twenty minutes of my life. You’d think the Farazelians would know better, being famous for all those nude statues like Dornal’s Darrizel, wouldn’t you? Anyway, as long as we have the book, I don’t suppose it really matters if the shadowreel makers get it wrong.”

The two girls sat in silence for a few moments. Finally Telna spoke again.

“The thing is, Mai...Jaskri...I didn’t come here to talk about the book, or the shadowreel, but I suppose you guessed that already. One reason I came was to see if the legends about you were true...for instance, whether you really were turned to stone by an evil sorceress.”

“Well, that’s more or less true, but she wasn’t evil, although I suppose you could regard her powers as a kind of sorcery. There was a time paradox involved, you see - call it a prophecy that could not be violated. She knew that I was destined to become the statue, and there was nothing anybody could do to prevent it. Not without creating an unimaginable catastrophe. So when the time came she performed the transformation without malice, and here I am. Now I can only move in dreams.”

“But isn’t it lonely, just standing by yourself in the square all the time?” asked Telna.

“No, not at all. The golden lightning that radiates from my body enriches the entire village and gives the people amazing sex. Including me, of course. I’m happy to know I’m helping them just by standing here, but I’m even happier with the everlasting pleasure the golden lightning gives me. In any case, I’m not alone, even when there’s nobody else near me.”

“I don’t understand,” muttered Telna.

“Well, you see, the Maiden isn’t just me anymore,” said Jaskri. “My friends and family are with me now, and many others.”

“I’m still not sure I understand,” said Telna. “What do you mean, with you?”

Jaskri’s dream-self smiled. “It’s not that hard to understand, Telna. All of my friends and family lived long and interesting lives thanks to the golden lightning, and when their times finally came I gave them all the opportunity of joining their souls with mine. All of them accepted, and so they are all part of the Maiden now, part of me, all sharing in my endless pleasure and projecting the golden lightning forever.”

“That sounds wond -” began Telna, but she broke of with a gasp as an agonising spasm lanced through her. She might only be dreaming, but she could still feel what her real body was feeling.

“Oh, you’re not well,” said Jaskri. “Why didn’t you tell me? Here, this will help.”

At once the pain faded, and Telna felt a soothing euphoria wash over her.

“Oh...thank you,” she sighed. “How did you do that? Usually it takes powerful drugs. I take as many as I dare, but they give me headaches and make me hypersensitive to light.”

“I focused some of the golden lightning onto your body,” said Jaskri. “My body generates it as a side-effect of the statue transformation. Normally it just radiates out in all directions, but I can concentrate some of it wherever it may be needed. And you do need it, don’t you, Telna? I can tell there’s something seriously wrong.”

“Yes, Jaskri. I’m dying. That was the real reason I came to see you. The doctors have done everything they can, but the pain just keeps getting worse. They tell me I could be dead within a year. Oh, Maiden, I’m so afraid. I don’t want to die. I’ve come to you in the hope that there might be something you could do.”

The dream-Jaskri crushed the dream-Telna to her in a fierce embrace.

“I will do everything I can to help you, Telna” said Jaskri. “That’s a promise.”

“Jaskri,” whispered Telna, “If I die, will you let me join with your soul? I would gladly become a statue forever, if only it meant I could be free from pain.”

“Being the Maiden is much more than just freedom from pain, Telna. It’s incredibly pleasurable. It’s like making love to the whole world. And I will gladly let you join me in that pleasure when the time comes, but I hope to keep you alive and well for many more years before that becomes necessary.”

“But how, Jaskri? I have seen some of the finest doctors in all of Dravinye and they all say the same thing. They are truly sorry, but this disease is very rare and has no known cure.”

“Well,” said Jaskri with a grin, “it just happens that I know a great many doctors who live outside Dravinye. A long way outside. I’m quite certain that they may be able to do something for you. I can contact them with my mind and have an answer for you within a few days. Until then, I want you to stay in the village....”

“Stay in the village?” said Telna. “I wasn’t planning on that. I mean, I don’t mind staying, it’s a nice place and all, but I haven’t brought any money for accommodation....”

“Don’t worry about that,” said Jaskri. “These are my people and they won’t let a visitor sleep in the street. And please don’t feel too embarrassed to ask them for help.”

“All right,” muttered Telna.

“The thing is,” Jaskri told her, “as long as you’re nearby I can continue to focus the golden lightning onto your body. That will ease the pain and slow the progress of the disease. You should chew some of the winegrass that grows around my pedestal too. It has natural painkilling properties, and it’s absorbed a lot of golden lightning itself.”

Jaskri hugged Telna again.

“You’re going to be well again, Telna, no matter what it takes. You have the Maiden’s word on it.” And then Jaskri kissed Telna full on the lips, in an embrace that was not quite sisterly....

Telna woke to find herself lying beside the pedestal. To her surprise, the sun had set and the deserted square was bathed in Silvermoon’s light. She must have slept the whole afternoon away. Sitting up a little stiffly, she was relieved to see that her bag and her book still lay undisturbed where she had dropped them when she fell asleep. She was even more relieved to find that the pain was still only mild.

So it wasn’t a dream, she thought. The Maiden’s influence is helping to keep the pain at bay. And what else did she say? Winegrass, that was it. Chew some winegrass.

Picking a clump of the aromatic grass that grew beside the pedestal, Telna began to chew. It did taste a little like wine, and as the juice trickled down her throat she began to feel relaxed and light-headed.

Just then she thought she heard footsteps approaching. Turning to look, she thought for a moment that a second nude statue had been placed in the square, until it moved and spoke.

“Oh...hello. I was just...you know...visiting the Maiden,” said the newcomer. Telna could now see that it was a girl of about eighteen.

“Oh, of course,” said Telna. “Please don’t let me stop you. I was just leaving anyway.”

The nude girl happened to catch a glimpse of Telna’s book. “Oh, Ketrin,” she said. “I just love that book. He’s so sexy, don’t you think?”

Telna couldn’t help but nod in agreement.

Moving closer, the girl said, “I’m Sakíri, by the way.”

Telna found herself replying, “Sakíri? That’s a nice name. I’m Telna.”

“You look nice yourself,” said Sakíri, reaching out to touch Telna’s cheek.

Hey, she’s propositioning me! thought Telna. She wasn’t quite sure whether to be shocked or flattered.

“Are you sure you wouldn’t care to stay and join me?” said Sakíri. “After all, the Maiden loves company.”

It might have been the effects of the winegrass, or the fact that she was almost completely free from pain for the first time in many moons, or just the silver moonlight that played seductively across Sakíri’s naked body. Whatever it was, Telna found herself, almost before she realised what she was doing, slipping out of her clothes and into Sakíri’s arms.

That silver night the Maiden had two lovers, and she rewarded them with some of the most sensuous and lasting orgasms they had ever experienced.

Four: Morenn

For three days the aliens had carried Morenn on their shoulders, away from the rocky plain where she had crashed and into the slightly more fertile hills, pausing only to eat and drink, and occasionally sleep.

Morenn, who could neither eat nor drink, felt neither hungry nor thirsty nevertheless. She wasn’t sure what was keeping her alive. Maybe she was drawing energy from the aliens themselves somehow.

Morenn couldn’t sleep either, although the rhythm of being carried sometimes lulled her into a kind of waking trance, in which she daydreamed about two girls making love to a statue by moonlight.

At the moment, the aliens were asleep but Morenn was wide awake. She lay stiffly on her back where they had left her, her limbs sprawled at random, and stared at the dull grey sky.

I’m never going to escape, she thought. I’m going to be paralysed forever. I’ll never see home again.

Being rich wasn’t important. I realise that now. If there was any way to get home, any way at all, just to see my friends again....

Oh, who am I kidding? I didn’t have friends, just acquaintances. Just people I lied to and cheated and robbed. Just men and women I fucked, not for pleasure but to gain influence over them. All I ever did, I did to become more powerful.

Well, I guess some people might call this poetic justice. I couldn’t possibly be more powerless than I am now.

Just then one of the aliens woke and strolled over to where she lay. It spent a little time studying her inanimate blue body, examining her arms, legs, breasts and crotch with its eyes, hands and tongue while Morenn tried vainly to shrink away from its touch. Then it spent several moments gazing curiously into her eyes.

Whatever it saw there seemed to excite it, because its small penis began to stiffen and rise until it was stoutly erect, quivering and straining toward vertical. The throbbing member looked disproportionately large for a creature with such a small body, but was quite big enough to copulate with a two-metre tall woman.

The alien hesitated for only the slightest moment. Then, apparently taking her passivity for acceptance, it lowered itself onto Morenn’s body and eased her legs apart, while her arms and back remained flaccid and immobile.

Oh, God, thought Morenn as the alien’s hot, quivering member slid inside her. This is it. I can’t stop him. I can’t even protest. And once he’s had his way with me he’s going to tell all his little friends about me. I’m just going to be their love-mannequin for eternity.

And yet the experience was not the way Morenn had always imagined rape would be. She had always believed that rape would be swift and painful and would give no pleasure, yet the alien’s movements were slow, even gentle - at least, to begin with - and Morenn’s genitalia were responding enthusiastically, sending slow ripples of pleasure to the rest of her body. Somehow, even though she had not consented to it, the experience did not feel like a violation.

Probably the alien did not consider what it was doing to be rape at all. Maybe it had taken the look in her eyes for consent. At any rate, it seemed to be doing its best to give her pleasure as well as take it from her, and she had to admit that it was succeeding.

After only a couple of minutes the creature moaned and stiffened and tightened its embrace. Its penis spasmed rhythmically and Morenn felt the alien’s hot semen pouring into her. Even that felt exciting, but she was nowhere near coming yet.

Is that it? thought Morenn, wondering whether she should feel relieved or disappointed. The alien lay against her, seemingly exhausted, but made no attempt to withdraw. Her vaginal muscles continued to squeeze and caress its hot, quivering erection as if hungry for more, and Morenn couldn’t prevent them from doing so.

It was ironic, she reflected. Apart from her eyes, her genitalia were the only part of her body that could still move, and she wasn’t able to stop them moving!

And after a while their insistent pulsing seemed to revive the alien’s libido, and it began thrusting again with even more enthusiasm than before. Morenn was still nowhere near full orgasm, but continued to experience mini-orgasms every few seconds. Once again the alien came with a hot rush of semen after a couple of minutes, and again her vaginal movements continued to sustain his erection ready for the next session.

In this way the alien experienced seven or eight orgasms while Morenn found herself helplessly driven to greater and greater ecstasy.

Actually, she wasn’t entirely sure it was the same alien that had had all those climaxes. She had a vague idea that after its third or fourth climax it had withdrawn, and then re-entered her a few moments later. But for all she knew, the one that re-entered her might have been a different male entirely! By that time she had become so acutely aroused she could scarcely see, hear or think.

And she wasn’t sure where all the semen from the alien’s - or aliens’ - multiple climaxes was going. She felt as if several litres had been pumped into her already. Maybe her body was absorbing it...even drinking it somehow. That would be no weirder than anything else that had happened on this crazy little planet. At any rate, there was probably no chance of her conceiving a half-human, half-alien baby, which was just as well. Pregnancy in her paralysed state probably wouldn’t have been a pleasant experience.

Finally, when it seemed as if she was going to die from frustration, her body was finally overtaken by climax after climax after thrilling, unbelievable climax. She was vaguely aware that while she was consumed by ecstasy the alien also came. The sensation of hot liquid rushing into her from its rapidly thrusting penis pushed her over the edge, into a realm beyond thought, beyond words; a true ‘realm of the senses’ in which nothing existed except her and her pleasure.

Never mind that it had been forced on her; she never wanted this orgasm to end.

But eventually it did end, leaving her lying on the cold damp ground in a euphoric daze. The alien was sprawled on top of her fast asleep.

All right, she thought languidly. So I can’t have wealth and power. So I’m trapped on an alien planet and can’t do anything but lie here like a doll.

But at least I’ve got sex. I always wanted a neverending succession of red-hot sexual encounters, and thanks to these little bastards it looks like that’s just what I’m going to get. Not quite in the way I expected, but as long as the little perverts continue to have their wicked ways with me I’ll never want for sexual stimulation.

Maybe being a paralysed sex-doll won’t be so bad after all.

And with that thought she was able to bring herself to a prolonged spontaneous orgasm, before she too fell asleep.

Five: Telna

Telna woke in the middle of a prolonged spontaneous orgasm. She had been dreaming about the paralysed sex-doll again. What was causing such vivid erotic dreams? Could it just be due to the Maiden’s influence?

Then she realised she was lying in the arms of another woman on the grass below the Maiden’s pedestal. Her passionate lovemaking with Sakíri had not been a dream. And just then Sakíri stirred and yawned and blinked and looked up at Telna, who was still in the throes of ecstasy, and smiled.

“Good morning,” she said.

Because Telna was still momentarily unable to reply, she merely held Sakíri and kissed her for a long, long moment.

“Thank you,” she said when she was finally able to speak. “You and the Maiden both, Sakíri. It’s been too long since anybody was able to make me feel this good.” Sakíri merely blushed in reply.

And then Telna realised that it was morning, and despite the bright sunlight she didn’t need her sunglasses. Of course, she realised. She had not needed her drugs because Jaskri had relieved her pain with the golden lightning instead, and without the drugs her eyes had not become oversensitive to light. And she was still blessedly free from pain, at least for now.

And then Telna realised that because it was morning, and a working day, people were up and about in the square, and she was lying with Sakíri in an openly erotic embrace in full view of all those people.

“Sakíri,” she whispered, reddening, “We’re naked in public! Everyone can see us! We could be arrested for this!”

“It’s all right, Telna,” said Sakíri. “This place is for lovers. Everybody knows that. Of course most people wait until nightfall, but no one is offended if they happen to see lovers here by day. After all, the Maiden is erotic and they can’t arrest her!”

“But...” Telna protested, “...but what about indecent exposure, public order offences, my gods, in some places they’d consider this a breach of the peace and send us to jail for years....”

“Not here,” Sakíri insisted. “You can look up the relevant laws if you like, but I can assure you that in Maidstone public nudity is perfectly legal as long as it isn’t intended to cause offence. And believe me,” she laughed, kissing Telna on the lips, “I wasn’t the least bit offended!

“But I guess it is time we were moving along. The ground here’s a bit hard for sleeping, and I need to work the kinks out of my back. Come on, let’s get dressed. I’ll buy us some breakfast and you can tell me all about yourself.”

“All right. I’m going to need a washroom as well.”

“There’s one at the teahouse. Fresh towels, perfumed soap and all. That’s one thing you can say about this village. Nobody skimps on the amenities.”

Sakíri and Telna dressed and made their way across the square to the teahouse with its whirring ceiling fans. Telna visited the washroom while Sakíri ordered breakfast. Once she had finished her ablutions and spent some time luxuriating in the scent of the soap, Telna stepped back into the electrically cooled teahouse.

Near the entrance she happened to notice a boy of about ten, talking to the young man she had seen the previous day. The boy pointed at Telna and grinned. “That’s her,” he said.

Then the boy approached Telna and said, “I was just telling Saravin how you’ve been doing his sister in the square. Looked like you were going at it real good, even in your sleep.”

Telna reddened, but decided she wasn’t going to let some little brat embarrass her in public.

Adopting a sultry tone, she stared the boy down and said: “Yeah, I must have come about eight times last night. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so horny.”

Now it was the boy’s turn to blush.

“What’s the matter?” asked Telna. “Jealous? Anyway, I don’t see that it’s any of your business. After all, we weren’t actually breaking any laws by screwing each other senseless, were we?”

The boy reddened still further. “Some people just don’t have any respect for enquiring minds,” he muttered, walking away quickly.

“Don’t mind Chernu,” said Saravin. “He just likes to rattle people. When you get to know him, he’s really quite...um...but then again, he’s not so...well, all right, he’s just an annoying little twit, but I suppose he’ll grow out of it sooner or later.”

Saravin extended a hand. “Anyway, as you just heard, I’m Sakíri’s brother Saravin. We met yesterday, if you remember. And you’re Telna. Sakíri has told me a bit about you already.”

“Yes,” said Telna, taking his hand. “I suppose I should apologise for being abrupt with you yesterday, but I’m afraid I wasn’t feeling very well at the time.”

“Yes...Sakíri mentioned that as well. I have to admit I was hoping we might become more intimate, but I guess my dear sister has beaten me to it...again. Anyway, let’s get to our table. Sakíri will have ordered for us by now. We can talk about your situation over breakfast.” Offering his arm, Saravin led her to the table where Sakíri waited.

“Um...by the way,” muttered Saravin, “I don’t mean to pry, but when you told Chernu...um, that is....”

“No, it wasn’t eight times,” said Telna.

“...Oh,” said Saravin.

“More like eleven...or maybe it was twelve. I did start to lose count after a while, but you can hardly blame me. Oh, my, those toasted rolls look delicious. I guess I have the Maiden to thank for giving me my appetite...or should I say, my appetites...back. Shall we eat?”

“I think we’d better,” mumbled Saravin.

“You really shouldn’t tease so, Telna,” laughed Sakíri.

“That’s not what you said last night,” said Telna, and giggled as Saravin turned even redder.

“I’m sorry,” said Telna. “It’s just that I feel so alive again, after being so ill for so many moons. I came to the Maiden for help as a last resort, and she has helped me more than I could have dreamed.”

“You mentioned coming to the Maiden because of your illness,” said Sakíri. “If you don’t mind my asking...I don’t suppose you’d be seeking the Maiden’s help unless it was serious, would you?”

“No, Sakíri. I’m afraid it’s about as serious as can be.”

Sakíri and Saravin each placed a hand upon her shoulders. Now it was Telna’s turn to redden, but she smiled a little as well.

“I’ve spoken to some of the best doctors in Dravinye,” Telna continued, “and none of them could offer me much hope. The last doctor I spoke to considered the Maiden to be a myth, but he also told me that the progress of the disease was much slower than he might have expected. He said that if I wanted to attribute that to the Maiden’s benign influence, who was he to argue? In any case, he couldn’t deny that faith can sometimes help, so I decided to place my faith in the Maiden. And here I am.”

“So, now that you’re here...can the Maiden heal you?” asked Saravin.

“Not directly, but she claims she knows someone who can. She told me in a vision. All I have to do is wait, stay close to her and chew winegrass from time to time, until she gets a reply, which hopefully won’t be too many days from now.”

“Well, you’re quite welcome to stay with me while you’re waiting,” said Sakíri. “My home’s quite near the square. Unless you’ve already made other arrangements, that is.”

“That’s kind of you,” said Telna. “No, I didn’t have any other plans, but...it’s just that...well, you hardly know me.”

“That doesn’t matter,” Sakíri insisted. “If the Maiden herself is prepared to go out of her way to help you, shouldn’t we be prepared to do as much?”

Saravin nodded in agreement.

“Well, all right then,” said Telna. “If you’re really sure....”

“I’m sure,” said Sakíri.

And so it was settled. Telna would live (and love) with Sakíri while she waited for the Maiden’s call.

Six: Morenn

For the next few days the aliens carried Morenn toward their home. The journey would have been much quicker if, during their rest stops, they had not spent hours playing with her unresisting body.

As far as they were concerned Morenn’s body was a wonderful toy. They loved its giant size, its furlessness, its exotic scent and its blue colour. They could lick it, stroke it, slap it and insert their tongues, fingers and penises into its various orifices. And though it was warm and resilient like a living body it always remained magically silent and immobile, never resisting their attentions, never failing to give them satisfaction.

That was what they loved the most about it. Her immobility was incredibly erotic for the aliens, and it could never have occurred to them that the immobile one did not feel the same way. And as they played their games with her, Morenn - willing or not - was being treated to climax after climax after climax after climax after climax.

And every time she climaxed she found her mind’s eye showing her the statue-loving girls it had shown her before. Sometimes she saw them walking in the quaintly archaic village, sometimes shopping for exotic vegetables, sometimes serving tea beneath whirring fans. On another occasion she saw them giggling like schoolgirls, as they pored over a book whose cover depicted a nude youth kneeling beside a big dog-like animal.

Often, of course, she saw them making love to each other: in bed, in the bath, on the floor, or even standing in a small closet; or outdoors, lying on the grassy verge beside the statue’s pedestal, or standing to embrace the statue “herself”, sometimes joined in this embrace by other women or men. It seemed that they were having almost as much sex as she was. Her climactic waking dreams showed her every detail of their sexual encounters, and she couldn’t help imagining herself in their arms rather than the aliens’.

At least then I’d be able to choose when to have sex, and when not to, and who to have it with, thought Morenn. And then we could go for tea afterwards. I really wouldn’t mind a nice strong cup of tea right now.

Seven: Telna

“I’m not quite sure how to tell you this,” said Telna, sipping her strong tea. “It’s a bit personal...embarrassing, even...but I feel like I have to tell someone.”

It was Fifthday, which for most Dravinyans was the mid-tenday work break, although some had already taken Fourthday off instead. (The main break occurred on Ninth- and Tenthdays.) Following a relaxing morning’s stroll around the village, Telna and Sakíri had just finished lunch at the teahouse.

“After all we’ve done together, what could possibly embarrass me?” asked Sakíri rhetorically. “Seriously, Telna, I’m your friend. You can tell me about it, and I’ll try not to be shocked.”

“Well...all right then,” said Telna. “The thing is, Sakíri...I keep getting these strange dreams.”

“What kind of dreams?” asked Sakíri.

“Erotic dreams,” whispered Telna, leaning closer. “Incredibly erotic. Orgasmic. But strange and a bit disturbing as well. I’ve been having them for a while now, and they keep getting clearer and more vivid.”

“What’s so disturbing about them?”

“Well...they’re about this girl...something strange happens to her, and she discovers that she can’t move. Not a muscle.”

“Like the Maiden, you mean?” asked Sakíri. “When she realised she’d been turned to stone?”

“Well, yes and no,” replied Telna. “As I understand it, she crashes some kind of flying machine on another world, and then enters a cave where she falls asleep. Then, for some unknown reason, these ancient hidden machines alter her body somehow....”

“Machines? Alter her body? What’s that all about?”

“Well, that’s a little hard to explain. You know how things often seem so clear in dreams and then when you wake up you find you can’t figure out what the dream meant? I got the impression that the machines are some kind of...well, electric doctors, if you can imagine such a thing, made to perform surgery on people. Only, the girl’s body is somehow different from the people the surgery was meant for, so something goes terribly wrong. A little while after she wakes up she loses the power to move...and somehow, she knows she will never move again. Ever.”

“Oh, my. That does sound disturbing,” muttered Sakíri. “But if the Maiden was able to stay sane when she discovered she couldn’t move, perhaps the girl could too.”

“Yes, but that’s not the whole story,” said Telna. “After she’s been lying there all helpless for several hours, she gets discovered by these strange creatures, like little men and women. They decide to carry her away, to their home I guess. And then....”

Telna leaned in closer and lowered her voice.

“This is the disturbing, erotic part...on the way home, they become aroused by her and start to use her body for sex - taking turns at her, the men and the women. Her vagina isn’t paralysed, and the constant stimulation keeps giving her red-hot orgasms. And the creatures seem to like the experience too, so they just carry on doing it, over and over and over again, for hours on end.”

“You mean they gang-rape her, and she can’t do anything to resist them?” said Sakíri. “That’s horrible. How could anyone stand such a thing?”

“Well, that’s the thing. I mean, she has to stand it somehow or she’ll go mad. Anyway, I got the impression that the creatures don’t think of it as rape at all. They seem to assume that because she doesn’t object, she must want them to keep doing it. It never seems to occur to them that she can’t object.

“For her part, I think she’s decided that she has to try to tolerate being constantly used against her will - even try to enjoy it - otherwise she would become permanently insane. And the thing is, by now she is starting to enjoy it - all those intense orgasms - although she’s not sure whether she ought to, if you see what I mean.”

“Like you said, it’s a weird dream,” muttered Sakíri. “But that’s all it is, isn’t it? Surely it just means you have a vivid imagination.”

“That’s funny,” chuckled Telna. “I used to think I didn’t have an imagination. But you know what’s even weirder? I got the feeling that while I was dreaming about this girl, she was dreaming about me. Well...about both of us, really, but she sees you through my eyes, just like I see the little creatures through hers. Now, what could it all mean?”

For a while the only sound was the clinking of teacups and the whirring of the ceiling fans.

“Maybe it’s the winegrass,” suggested Sakíri. “It may be just a mild narcotic, but you have eaten a lot of it over the last few days. It would certainly explain any strange dreams or hallucinations you’ve been getting.”

“Well, possibly, but I don’t think so. I seem to recall dreaming about the girl just before the Maiden first appeared to me, and I hadn’t eaten any winegrass then. And the dreams seem to have the same...what can I call it? The same flavour as my dream of the Maiden. Nobody doubts that the Maiden is real, and that suggests to me that this paralysed girl is real as well, and my dreams about her were true. I have a strange feeling about her, but I can’t imagine what it might mean.”

“Well, I certainly don’t see what connection she could have with you,” said Sakíri. “Not if she’s in some strange other world with flying machines, electric doctors and...and little rapists.” Sakíri took another sip of her tea, which by now was getting cold.

“Other worlds,” muttered Telna. “There’s a lot of speculation about life on other planets, but I read that astronomers had dismissed the idea. The other planets of our sun are either too hot or too cold, and if there are planets around other suns it would take thousands of years to get there even if you could build some giant rocket to carry you.”

“Pity,” sighed Sakíri. “I’ve always enjoyed reading stories about strange worlds out in space. Especially the ones that speculate about sex on other planets.”

“Who doesn’t?” Telna said. “Then again, there are the old rumours about our own world having been colonised from elsewhere. The scientists all say the stories are rubbish, but there is that bit in Ketrin about a hole in nothing, like a doorway from some other world. Just suppose it were true?”

Then another thought struck her.

“Now what was it the Maiden said to me when I told her I’d seen some of the finest doctors in all of Dravinye? ‘I know a great many doctors who live outside Dravinye. A long way outside.’ You don’t suppose she could have meant that they live outside our world, do you?”

“That would make house calls a bit difficult,” chuckled Sakíri.

Telna sighed. “Sometimes I think the Maiden isn’t real either. That I just dreamed her, and I’m wasting my time waiting for her to talk to me again.”

“How can you say that?” said Sakíri. “You know what we’ve both felt in the Maiden’s presence. Are you honestly trying to tell me that was nothing but a dream or hallucination? Anyway, you told me yourself that you were almost completely free from pain now. It can’t just be the winegrass that’s doing that, can it?”

“Yes, you’re right, of course. It’s just that...well, I’m worried, that’s all. I keep getting these sudden little twinges, and they’ve become more frequent in the last couple of days. If it wasn’t for the Maiden and the winegrass I think I’d be in serious pain by now.”

“What? Telna, why didn’t you tell me?” cried Sakíri.

“I didn’t want to worry you. But I’m afraid the disease is progressing, and if the Maiden doesn’t do something soon it’ll be too late.”

“She won’t leave it too late,” said Sakíri. “It must just be taking her a little while to organise things, that’s all. I’d put money on her contacting you before Seventhday.”

In spite of her anxieties, Telna found herself smiling. “I wonder what kind of thing could be holding up a living statue?”

“Oh, I’m sure she’ll be willing to answer that question herself just as soon as she makes contact again,” said Sakíri.

Their teas finished, the two girls rose from the table.

“How do you feel now?” asked Sakíri. “Think you’re up to a walk in the woods?”

“Oh, yes, I’m all right now,” said Telna. “As I said, I just get the odd twinge from time to time, and it’s really nothing compared to what I had been feeling before I came here. Besides, there’ll be plenty of winegrass in the woods, won’t there?”

The woods lay a little way outside the village, and on hot summer days they became a popular destination for villagers seeking shade and solitude. Of course, the more villagers that sought solitude, the harder it became to find, but after a while Telna and Sakíri found a secluded glade beside a rippling stream and sat beneath a tree listening to the song of the birds and the water. Telna picked some winegrass and chewed it languidly. Sakíri did the same, and within minutes they were both feeling blissfully relaxed.

“Um, Sakíri,” muttered Telna.


“Aren’t there poisonous jalgas and arachnoids and things in these woods?”

“No,” said Sakíri lazily. “Used to be, but nowadays the Maiden’s influence keeps them away somehow. Rumour has it that before she got turned to stone, the Maiden got bitten by a jalga. Almost died from it. So now she makes sure venomous creatures stay well away from people. Good thing too. Now the worst you have to worry about here is poison shanna.”

“What’s that?”

“A tree with big teardrop-shaped leaves.”

“What, like the one we passed on the way here?”

“Well...yes, now you mention it. Anyway, if you touch the leaves you get a rash that takes five days to stop itching. Drives you mad. But as I say, all you have to do is avoid tou....”

Then she saw that Telna was furiously scratching her hands.

“Oh. Oh, dear. You touched them, didn’t you?”

“Well, you could have warned me!”

“Sorry,” said Sakíri. “Look, I know it’s hard, but you have to stop scratching. All that’ll do is scrape your skin raw and rub the poison in. Look, there’s some more winegrass down there. Crush some in your hands and rub the sap over them. It won’t stop the itching completely but it’ll help.”

Telna did as she was bid. After a few minutes the itching did subside a little, and Telna was surprised to find herself laughing.

“What’s so funny?” asked Sakíri.

“Oh, it’s just that I’ve been so ill lately I’d hardly have noticed a plant rash. It’s only now that I’m feeling well again that I have the luxury of being annoyed by it.”

Telna sighed.

“Oh, Sakíri, I just pray the Maiden can find a cure for me. To be free from pain, to have the rest of my life to look forward to...it’s not too much to ask of her, is it?”

“Of course not, Telna. And the Maiden will find a cure. You’ll see. Maybe as soon as tomorrow. Have faith.”

Sakíri took Telna’s face in her hands and kissed her. The euphoric effects of the winegrass were beginning to reassert themselves, and the kiss became long and languid and sensuous and was accompanied by slow, unhurried embraces and caresses.

Some time later Telna found herself lying on the grass beneath Telna, with nothing between her and the grass and nothing between her and Telna. She couldn’t quite remember how that had happened, but it didn’t seem important. But as Telna’s hands reached between her thighs, Sakíri remembered something important.

“Hey, no!” she cried, hurriedly pulling away.

Telna was astonished. “Why not? You haven’t gone off me, have you?”

“No, of course not,” her lover replied. “But you can’t touch me there while you’ve got poison shanna on your hands! If you think that itches, you won’t believe how bad it feels if it gets on your sex. If you touch me there it’ll sting so much I won’t be able to make love for days!”

“Oh. That would be a pity, wouldn’t it?” said Telna. “Well, all right, we’ll just have to see what I can do without using my hands, won’t we?”

And so, without using her hands but using great deal of invention and ingenuity, Telna made love to Sakíri until they both fell asleep in the shadows of late afternoon.

Eight: Morenn

As the last female withdrew her tongue from Morenn’s throbbing vagina and the troupe prepared to carry her onward, she reflected on the dream she had just had. Her mental image of the two girls in the village seemed to grow clearer with each new dream. This time she had almost been able to smell the summer breeze and taste the grass the girls were chewing - in fact, she had almost been able to feel the poison rash on the girl’s hands....

Because of their lifelike detail and their un-dreamlike logical consistency, Morenn was becoming increasingly convinced that the visions she was experiencing were not dreams or hallucinations but actual events. It was as if, despite being trapped on an unknown planet with no means of contacting the outside universe, she had been given access to a mental communication channel, a conduit into somebody else’s perceptions.

And if that were true, then it might - just might - be possible to transmit thoughts and impressions as well as receive them.

For a while, Morenn entertained the idea of sending the girls in her visions a cry for help, in the hope that they might be able to contact somebody who could mount a rescue operation. The problem with that idea was that their world did not appear to possess much high technology. Morenn’s glimpses through the girl’s eyes had shown her no spaceships, no holovids, no sub-orbital transports, nor even maglev trains - although she did seem to recall seeing something that looked like a primitive electric-powered rail train at one point.

Oh, well, she thought, at least they’ve progressed beyond steam....

It might be a backward colony, or even a time-warped view of Earth in the distant past. At any rate, there didn’t seem to be much point holding her breath (which was another thing she couldn’t do anyway, thank you very much) for a rescue mission.

But at least she might be able to contact the girls directly, mind to mind. That way at least she would have someone to ‘talk’ to. It could help to keep her sane, assuming that the shock of hearing her contact them didn’t drive the girls insane.

She wasn’t able to talk to them yet, but she was confident that with time and practice she would eventually manage it. And so, as the aliens carried her on through the drizzly landscape with its scrubby vegetation, Morenn practiced her mental exercises and prayed that someday she would succeed.

After a while stony outcrops began to appear amid the scrub. Later on Morenn was able to see (as her head dangled between the heads of the aliens who were carrying her shoulders) that the stones actually formed straight lines. They were in fact the outline of a road. Eventually the unmistakable remains of buildings came into view. It was a city, or at leat what was left of one after centuries of neglect. Morenn found herself wishing she could turn her head to see it more clearly.

The buildings grew denser as the aliens proceeded. As they approached the heart of the city they turned toward a large round building that seemed to resemble a stadium. As they did so Morenn began to see other aliens converging upon the structure. There seemed to be at least a hundred of them.

My God, thought Morenn, as a sudden suspicion took hold of her. Maybe they’ve all heard about me, the incredible living sex toy. Maybe they all want to take turns at me as well!

A few moments later Morenn was carried through a short entrance tunnel and into the open courtyard at the centre of the building. Her initial impression had been correct. It was a large arena surrounded by circular tiers. The arena might once have been used for sporting events, but its cracked stony surface now appeared to host nothing but a contest between stubby weeds for access to the dim sunlight.

But as her bearers set her down for a moment Morenn saw that that was not quite true. In the very centre of the arena some of the aliens were engaged in a close-packed huddle. She might have suspected them of fighting, but given the way they had behaved with her she thought it much more likely that she was witnessing an orgy.

And then Morenn noticed for the first time that the tiers surrounding the arena, at least the small section of them that she could see clearly, were occupied by blue figures. Most of them appeared human, but some seemed to be different somehow. It was hard to tell from this distance whether that was due to some kind of bodysculpting, or whether they were in fact members of another species.

None of the blue figures were moving. That came as no surprise to Morenn. She had thought she was the only one, but now it was clear that whatever had trapped her had paralysed hundreds of others before her, and the aliens had been using all of them for sexual gratification for countless years.

The blue people all seemed to be wearing shiny objects on their foreheads. Morenn wondered if that was significant.

One of Morenn’s bearers had gone to speak to the group in the arena, although Morenn couldn’t help feeling they’d probably be too distracted to notice. But the little alien soon returned and helped its friends pick her up again.

They carried her into the stand, allowing her to see the other frozen people clearly for the first time. There were women with throbbing nipples and genitalia, and men with huge, pulsating erections who also had distended erect nipples. And there were the others, creatures with exotic cat-like faces, petite breasts (also with hardened nipples) and slender vertical phalluses that also pulsed and contracted rhythmically. That did not seem like any form of body sculpture that Morenn had ever heard of.

All of these people, including the androgynous creatures, appeared young and had firm, strong-looking muscles. Which was ironic given that none of their voluntary muscles could move. Morenn guessed that the conversion they had all undergone was keeping them healthy and rejuvenated forever.

There were people back home who would pay handsomely for such treatment, even if it was accompanied by paralysis. Such people could always pay others to move on their behalf.

It was also obvious that the frozen ones were somehow being subjected to powerful sexual stimulation, even though most of them were not currently being touched. Morenn could now see that the shiny objects on their foreheads were jewels, set into metal circlets. The jewels pulsed and throbbed with a blue radiance, keeping exact time with their wearers’ genital contractions.

Remote control sex stimulators? thought Morenn. I’ve heard of something like that being used at Festival. But what do the natives get out of that? Do they just like to watch?

The answer to that question was not long in coming...literally. In an empty stone alcove about five rows up, Morenn’s bearers sat her down, back upright, straight-legged and stiff, with her arms at her sides. The stone was almost freezing against her bare skin, and she couldn’t cry out from the shock of it. In the distance she could just see that the natives in the centre of the area had paused in their sex-play, as if waiting for something.

One of her bearers went away while the others began to fondle Morenn’s breasts and lick her vagina. Once more her body began responding against her will and there was nothing she could do about it.

Some little while after they had brought her to her second orgasm, the one that had left the group returned, carrying another of the jewelled circlets. It was already wearing one of its own. Reaching up, it placed the circlet upon her head, then stepped back and waited, masturbating expectantly.

Almost immediately Morenn felt her breasts, her lips, her genitals and her skin growing more and more sensitive, more erogenous, as if her entire body was turning into a giant clitoris. Within moments she was so aroused that it seemed as if a single breath of wind would give her an orgasm. But it did not, because her orgasm threshold had also become much greater.

Oh, this feels wonderful! she thought. It’s like being permanently on the edge, almost coming but never quite. But no - I don’t need to come any more. This is enough. Oh, my, is this what all those others are feeling too? Oh, God, I hope it lasts forever! I’d be perfectly content to stay paralysed for eternity, if I could only go on feeling like this!

But that was only the beginning. At a wave from one of Morenn’s bearers the natives in the arena resumed their orgy.

And Morenn could suddenly feel everything that every one of them was doing to each other, and so could every frozen human and humanoid in the arena.

Thirty seconds later, every living being in the arena came simultaneously, including Morenn, and every living being in the arena could feel every other living being coming, including Morenn.

If Morenn could have moved, she would have screamed.

Nine: Telna

Telna woke with a startled cry. It was evening, and the glade was illuminated by shafts of low sunlight.

“What’s wrong?” cried Sakíri, who was instantly awake beside her. “Are you in pain? - no, don’t rub your eyes! You’ve still got shanna on your hands, remember!”

“No,” gasped Telna, ”I’m not in pain, but - good gods! The dream! The girl - her name’s Morenn - they put something on her head and now - can’t stop it - too much for her - on and on and on - all those people - all the time, never ending -”

“Slow down, Telna,” said Sakíri. “You’re not making any sense.”

Telna took a deep breath. “It’s the dream I’ve been having,” she told Sakíri.

“You mean about the helpless girl who’s being used by little creatures?”

“Yes. Only now...well, I told you the dream was growing clearer as time went on, didn’t I? Now I can hear her thoughts clearly enough to know her name. She’s called Morenn, and she’s not the only one who became frozen....”

Telna went on to describe Morenn’s journey to the arena.

“And once they put the circlet on Morenn’s head, they all started having sex with each other. Morenn and all the others in the arena could feel everything they were feeling, and they could all feel each other feeling it, and their feelings just built up and up and up until they couldn’t stop having orgasms.”

“Well, that doesn’t sound so bad,” said Sakíri. “I mean, the Maiden is having an eternal orgasm and she loves it.”

“Yes, but her orgasm isn’t being amplified and intensified a thousandfold by the circlets. The frozen people in the arena are all having inhumanly powerful orgasms, one after another, hour after hour, and they can’t do anything to stop it. It’s like...like a huge echo that just gets louder and louder until it's deafening and you can’t cover your ears. The little creatures can’t get enough of it, but the frozen people are slowly going insane from the intensity of it. Morenn is afraid she may already be losing her mind, and some of the others have been there for centuries.”

“And it was those...intense sensations that woke you up?”

“Yes. My gods, I can still feel them.”

Telna was again about to rub her eyes when Sakíri restrained her.

“Sakíri, it’s not a dream. I know that now. It’s really happening somewhere, on some distant world. Those people are really trapped there in agonizing ecstasy.” Telna shuddered. “Oh, Sakíri, we have to do something! We have to help those people somehow! The little creatures aren’t being deliberately malicious, but they’re hurting all those people, torturing them with pleasure. If only they could be made to understand somehow....”

“But Telna, what can we do? Even if these visions are real, those people are in some unknown part of the universe and we have no way of reaching them, let alone freeing them.”

“The Maiden,” muttered Telna. “Of course! If she is able to contact people on other worlds, she must be able to get in touch with someone who can help the frozen ones. When she contacts me I’ll tell her all about my dreams and ask for her help.”

As if on cue Telna and Sakíri felt a wave of pleasure emanating from the direction of the village. A moment later they found themselves frozen in blissful ecstasy, and the forest glade dissolved into the hill overlooking the old village.

Jaskri was sitting on the hilltop before Telna and Sakíri. She was no longer wearing her green dress - nor indeed, any dress. She waited for a few moments while their ecstasy faded to pleasant euphoria, and then spoke.

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” she said. “It took a little longer than I thought to establish a communication channel.”

“Then you’ve found a treatment for me?” asked Telna, scarcely daring to hope.

“Yes, Telna. Actually there are two alternatives.”

“Two?” said Telna.

“Please, Maiden, don’t keep us in suspense,” said Sakíri. “What are the alternatives?”

“Well, they both involve long journeys. You’re both aware of the rumours about life on other worlds, of course. Well, I can tell you that this world is a colony that lost touch with its parent world - the part in Ketrin about humans arriving through a hole in the air are perfectly true, believe it or not - and all of that world’s high technology was forgotten, so you’ve had to start re-inventing it. Anyway, the point is that there are hundreds of worlds out there, with more diverse life and cultures than you can imagine.”

“I know more than you think about one of them,” Telna muttered.

Jaskri seemed not to hear that remark, but went on: “Many of those worlds also have incredibly advanced medicine. Telna’s first alternative is to go to a world called Triell, where there’s a specialist called Jacovian. He’s impressed the entire medical community with his total success rate at treating diseases like Telna’s. The treatment comprises several procedures administered over the course of about a year. I’m told it’s all quite painless. When you’re between treatments there’ll be plenty of time for sightseeing. Triell is a very beautiful place. And you needn’t worry about the expense. Some friends of mine have agreed to cover the cost of the treatment plus food, lodgings, sundries, and any travel expenses incurred.”

“That sounds marvellous,” said Sakíri. “Why bother with a second alternative?”

“The second alternative,” said Jaskri, “involves the dreams Telna has been having recently.”

“What? What do you mean?” cried Sakíri.

“I think I can guess,” said Telna, with a quaver in her voice.

Jaskri said: “For many years now we have been aware that space vessels were being drawn to a world that was...outside of normal space. I can’t really explain further, except to say that no manned vessel that went there has ever returned. But very small, unmanned craft with sophisticated sensors...you could call them electric eyes and ears...have been sent there, and they discovered the same thing Telna saw in her dreams. Everyone who lands on that world ends up as an immortal, paralysed sex mannequin, experiencing ferocious orgasms forever.”

“But isn’t there anything you can do to help them?” demanded Telna. “You are the Maiden, after all.”

“My friends and I have been looking at the problem for decades,” said Jaskri. “There doesn’t seem to be any way to physically retrieve them or cure their paralysis. No matter what happens, they are destined to remain frozen in their niches forever.”

“That’s terrible,” said Telna.

“Yes,” agreed Jaskri. “But some scientists have developed a device that will allow the paralysed people to stay sane, and communicate with their minds, and control the amount of sexual stimulation they receive. That way they’d be like me: physically powerless, but not lonely, and experiencing as much or as little physical pleasure as they need.”

“That’s all very well,” said Sakíri, “but someone would actually have to take it there, and that means they’d end up paralysed forever as well. You’d be asking some volunteer to give up their entire life for the sake of hundreds of stran...gers.......”

And then Sakíri fell silent as realisation dawned.

“Oh, gods,” she breathed. “That’s the second alternative, isn’t it? You’re asking Telna to be your volunteer!”

“Telna does have a psychic bond with one of the paralysed,” said Jaskri, “and I don’t believe that’s a coincidence.”

“Yes,” muttered Telna. “Her name is Morenn. I can almost hear her thoughts now. It’s almost as if I’m being drawn toward her....”

“But Telna, you can’t agree to this!” wailed Sakíri. “You can’t! It’s...it’s...it’s not right!”

“It isn’t right for any of the people who got trapped either,” said Telna, “and for many of them it’s been this way for longer than I dare to imagine. Oh, Sakíri, don’t you see? This is a chance for me to set things right for them at last. To relieve them of their burden.”

Sakíri turned to face her semi-namesake. “Why Telna, Maiden? Why has she of all people been chosen for this? Is it because...because she would have died anyway, so the world wouldn’t miss her? Is that it?”

“There may be something in that,” Jaskri admitted. “It may well explain her link with Morenn. Speaking as someone whose life was predestined from the day I was born, I have a great respect for the workings of fate. But unlike mine, Telna’s fate isn’t set in stone. She can still choose the first alternative, go to Triell and be treated by Jacovian, and my friends and I will search for another volunteer.”

“Yes,” said Telna, “I could do that. After a year I could return home cured and live a long and happy life. Maybe I could even become a shadowreel producer and make that nude version of Ketrin that everyone wants to see. I hear they’ve invented a process for making them in colour now. I certainly wouldn’t mind shadowgraphing nude actors in colour.”

“Yes, Telna, why not do just that?” Sakíri demanded.

“Because if I did that I’d still keep having dreams about Morenn. Every night I’d be with her, experiencing those endless hyper-orgasms, never able to help her. And when I woke up I’d feel guilty about being able to escape for a few hours while she couldn’t. And unless Jaskri’s friends can somehow find another volunteer, that’s how it will be for the rest of my life. I just can’t live like that, Sakíri. I’m sorry, but I can’t.”

“But Telna, I love you,” Sakíri sobbed. “I don’t want to lose you so soon.”

Telna embraced Sakíri and held her tight. (In the dream-plane they were still naked, but Telna’s hands were not covered in poison shanna.)

“Oh, Sakíri,” she whispered, “I know we’ve given each other a lot of pleasure, but you’ve only known me for a few days, and you have had lots of other lovers.”

“But this time...” sniffed Sakíri, “...this time it felt different. I really thought you’d want to stay with me forever, that once you’d gone off wherever and been healed you’d want to come back and live with me. Did you really think I only wanted a fling?”

“Sakíri is right,” said an unfamiliar voice. “Her relationship with Telna isn’t just a casual one.”

The newcomer was another nude girl, of about Jaskri’s apparent age, or perhaps slightly younger. “I’m Viréni,” she told them. “I was Jaskri’s first lover when she was flesh and blood, and now I live inside her stone body, experiencing her love and pleasure, as part of the Maiden.”

Viréni moved to Jaskri’s side and put her arm about her (equally nude) waist.

“I believe there is something special between these two,” she continued. “In fact their bond reminds me of the one we always had, Jaskri.”

Jaskri sighed. “I know, Viréni, and that only makes this harder for me. I hate to sever such a strong bond, but if I don’t then it will be just as Telna predicted. No matter what happens, she will always be haunted by her other bond, with Morenn.”

“Well, then, let me go with Telna,” cried Sakíri. “If two of us went you’d have twice the chance of success, after all, and once it was done we’d be together forever. Even if they put us on opposite sides of the arena, we’d still be able to communicate through your device, wouldn’t we?”

“No, Sakíri,” insisted Telna. “You can’t give up your whole life for me.”

“But you’re prepared to give up your whole life for Morenn!”

“Not just Morenn, Sakíri. For all of the hundreds of paralysed ones. Right now I’m the only person who has a chance of freeing them from their sexual torment.”

“But why couldn’t I come with you?” Sakíri demanded.

“Because you have a life here in the village,” Telna told her. “You have friends and family here who need you. You can’t just leave them behind. But I don’t have any. My only living relative is my sister, and we were never that close, even after our parents’ accident. When she found out about my disease she was terrified that it might be hereditary, even though all the doctors I saw told me it isn’t. Anyway, she wouldn’t even telephone me after that. Maybe she thought she could catch it over the wires. And apart from her there was no one who really needed me.”

“But I really need you,” breathed Sakíri.

“Oh, Sakíri, I never meant for you to fall in love with me,” said Telna. “And I never meant to fall in love with you. But now we are in love, and we can’t get out of it.”

For a long moment nobody said anything. Telna and Sakíri sat in each other’s arms. Jaskri and Viréni stood waiting patiently like the old lovers they were, their arms about each other’s waists.

Suddenly Telna was struck by a thought. “Sakíri, remember you said that if we were both in the arena it wouldn’t matter how far apart we were, as long as we could communicate with each other?”

“Yes, but I don’t quite see what that’s got to do with....”

“Listen, Sakíri: the bond I have with Morenn allows her to send me her thoughts and feelings even though she is in the arena and I’m here, gods only know how far away. Jaskri, wouldn’t it be possible for you to help me to link minds with Sakíri in the same way, so that she can keep in touch with me once I’m in the arena?”

“Well, I suppose in theory it’s possible,” Jaskri admitted. “It would mean modifying the device slightly, and Sakíri would have to have one of her own - just a tiny implant - to receive your signal. But yes, Telna, it could certainly be done. It would probably only take a few days.”

“We’d be together?” asked Sakíri. “And we’d be able to share our thoughts and feelings? Even...even our orgasms?”

“Yes, Sakíri. I’d be like the Maiden in that respect: no longer present as flesh and blood, but still able to be with you whenever you needed me.”

Sakíri wiped her eyes. “Well,” she said, “I’m still not too happy about you having to leave the world behind and become some kind of paralysed sex-slave, but...but I suppose if that’s how it must be, then it’s better than nothing. All right, Telna. I accept.”

“Well, there you are, Maiden,” insisted Telna. “Those are the terms. Link my mind with Sakíri’s so that we can stay together, even though we are a universe apart, and I will agree to join the paralysed ones and ease their agony and ecstasy.”

“Very well, Telna,“ said Jaskri, stepping forward to embrace her. “It’s agreed.”

“Excuse me,” said Viréni, tapping Jaskri’s shoulder. “May I cut in? Telna has already had the pleasure of the Maiden’s company. I think Sakíri deserves the honour this time.”

And so Jaskri made love to Sakíri and Viréni made love to Telna, and since time had no meaning in their dream-state their unhurried embraces seemed to go on for days. But when Telna and Sakíri finally woke in the throes of a slow, exquisite climax, it was only a little after sunset.

Once they were finally able to move, the fading twilight and waxing moonslight gave them just enough illumination to get dressed and find their way back to the village, and to avoid any more poison bushes en route.

The first thing Telna did when they got back to Sakíri’s house was wash her hands thoroughly. It didn’t get rid of the itching, but at least she wouldn’t accidentally get more poison shanna on her skin or Sakíri’s.

Ten: Morenn

Behind the constant explosions of ecstastic agony, Morenn thought she could discern images of girls: girls making love in a forest, girls standing on a hillside, girls quarrelling emotionally, girls scratching their hands...but she could make nothing coherent of them. It was becoming hard to think clearly at all. Perhaps it might be better to let go of sanity altogether and lose the burden of self.

Eleven: Telna

On Ninthday afternoon, following Jaskri’s latest instructions, Telna, Sakíri and Saravin stood waiting at the station as the train from Dravinye pulled in. Jaskri’s representative was not hard to spot. She was the only arrival wearing sunglasses. That had been Telna’s suggestion, remembering how conspicuous her own eyewear had made her.

Removing the sunglasses, the young woman approached Telna and her party. “Hello,” she said. “I’m Yenisei. And you’re Telna, of course. The Maiden showed me what you looked like. And you must be Sakíri and Saravin.”

After the introductions were exchanged the four of them walked out to the square.

“The return train arrives in just over an hour,” Yenisei reminded them. “We have a little business to take care of before then, but first there’s a visit I have to pay.”

And with those words, Yenisei led them all in the direction of the Maiden.

“You know, I’ve been helping the Maiden out with this and that for quite a few years now,” she told the others. “I even spent some time as a statue myself once.”

“Really?” said Telna, eyeing the newcomer up and down. She had to admit, Yenisei did have a statuesque figure.

“Oh, yes,” said Yenisei. “I did it as a favour for another of the Maiden’s friends, and it was certainly a unique experience. And yet I’ve never actually been to Maidstone before. This will be my first opportunity to meet the Maiden in the flesh, so to speak.“

“Well, here she is,” said Sakíri.

“So I see,” smiled Yenisei, stepping up to the pedestal. Acting with more restraint than Telna or Sakíri would have done, she simply planted a chaste kiss upon the statue’s cool lips. “Thanks for everything, Maiden,” she told the statue. “And don’t worry, I’ll see that Telna reaches her destination safely.”

+I know you will,+ replied the Maiden. +We all know what’s at stake here.+ Her voice in their minds was unmistakably Jaskri’s, but there seemed to be hundreds of other voices blended with it; the voices of all those who had joined their souls with Jaskri’s and become part of the Maiden.

“Well, I guess it’s time to give Sakíri her implant,” said Yenisei. From her travel case she drew a small metal tube which Sakíri stared at nervously.

“Nothing to worry about,” Yenisei assured her. “This is nothing compared to the one Telna’s going to get! You’ll just feel a small sting as the tube injects the implant, and then the implant will make its way to your brain. You won’t even know it’s there, until it begins relaying Telna’s thoughts to you. Now if you’d just roll up your sleeve, it won’t take a moment.”

Sakíri did as she was bid, and received her implant. A moment later the station clock chimed the half-hour.

“Well, I think we have time for a cup of tea before the train is due,” suggested Saravin.

“That sounds very civilised,” said Yenisei.

The tea was excellent, but the mood in the teahouse was sombre.

“I still can’t believe it,” Sakíri told Telna. “In just half an hour you’ll be stepping onto that train and I’ll never see you again.”

“I know what you mean,” said Telna. “I’ve only known you for eight days, and yet in that time...” she sighed. “Viréni was right. There really is something special between us.”

“Well, it’s not like you’ll be saying goodbye forever,” Yenisei reminded them. “Just the opposite, in fact. You may be separated by distance, but once your implants start working you will be able to link minds whenever you want to. You’ll be capable of sharing all of your thoughts, sensations and emotions with each other, just like Jaskri and her soul-partners. It’ll work out fine for you. You’ll see.”

With that thought in mind, the small group filed out of the teahouse and headed back to the station.

The Dravinye train pulled into the platform dead on schedule. Sakíri and Saravin embraced Telna and exchanged tearful farewells.

“I’m sorry you’ll never get to see that nude shadowreel of Ketrin,” said Sakíri.

“Oh yes I will,” said Telna. “Because if enough people want to see it, it’s going to get made, and then I’ll see it through your eyes. Take care, Sakíri. I’ll talk to you soon. I love you.”

The departure whistle blew, and with a final wave Telna stepped aboard with Yenisei. The station guard closed the door and waved his flag and the train buzzed and rattled and sparked off up the track.

Sakíri sighed, feeling as if a blissful holiday had just come to an end, and allowed her brother to lead her out of the station.


Aboard the train, Telna and Yenisei settled down in an unoccupied compartment.

“How are you feeling now?” asked Yenisei. “Physically, I mean.”

“I’m still getting some twinges every now and then, and they seem to be getting more frequent. I’ve got some dried winegrass extract in my bag, but I’m not sure how effective it’ll be now that we’re moving away from the Maiden’s direct influence.”

“I have some medicines that will help, and they won’t give you any unpleasant side effects,” Yenisei told her. “I don’t think your pain will get any worse, but on the other hand it’s probably not going to get any better. I’m afraid you’re just going to have to put up with the twinges for now.”

“It’s all right,” Telna assured her. “I can handle them.”

“Of course, the thing about the alien processor is that it can cure all known illnesses and injuries. God, if only we could get our hands on that kind of technology!”

“Right,” muttered Telna. “So once I’ve been processed I’ll be in perfect health...apart from the obvious side effects.”

“Yes, well...that’s the trade-off,” said Yenisei.

Telna sensed that it was time to change the subject. “You haven’t said much about how we’re going to get...where I have to go. Do you have transportation somewhere in Dravinye?”

Yenisei grinned. “Oh, no. We’re not going to Dravinye. We’ll be getting off the train before it gets there.”

“What do you mean?” demanded Telna. “This is the express! There are no stops before Dravinye! What are we supposed to do, jump off?”

If anything, Yenisei’s grin widened. “Nothing so drastic as that. Don’t you remember Ketrin?”

“What, you mean we jump aboard a pair of lupinoids as they run alongside?”

Yenisei laughed. “That would be fun, I’ll admit. No, Telna, we will shortly be leaving this train through a hole in nothing.”

“You’re joking!”

“Oh, no. Just wait and see.”

Sure enough, ten minutes later there was a shimmering in the air and a glowing rectangle appeared in front of the compartment door.

“See? Just like the one Whitebrush saw. Your ancestors, and Jaskri’s, and Ketrin’s, all came to this planet through things like this, although in those days they were a bit careless and let other things in as well...remind me to tell you the story of the sculptor’s model while we’re en route.”

“Is it safe?”

“Perfectly safe. I’ve used them hundreds of times with no ill effects. Come on, take my hand and we’ll step through together.”

“All right,” said Telna. “Just give me a moment.”

So saying, she took a small pad and pencil out of her bag and scrawled a hasty note, which she left on the seat with one other item. Then she stepped into the glowing doorway with Yenisei and it vanished behind them.


A little later the train guard entered their compartment. She could have sworn she had seen two women there earlier, but now the compartment was completely empty, apart from a well-thumbed copy of Ketrin of the Lupinoids. Slipped into the book’s cover was a note, which read:

Please give this book to some young person who will take pleasure in its artistic qualities. -T.

After the requisite half-year had passed without anyone claiming the book, it was returned to the guard, who gave it to her thirteen-year-old niece, together with the note. Her niece read the note, and then let the book fall open. The first page she saw contained a beautifully detailed picture of Ketrin standing explicitly naked in the dense forest, his faithful lupinoid brother at his side.

“Thank you,” she smiled. “I’m sure I’m going to enjoy this.”

The mystery of the missing passengers was never solved. They couldn’t have jumped off the train since no one ever saw them leave their compartment, the compartment had no outer door, and its window was unbroken. Certainly no bodies were ever found by the track. Over the years the mystery became the subject of a number of speculative newspaper and magazine articles and even a short, melodramatic shadowreel. The writers had wildly varied theories as to how the women could have disappeared, but they all agreed upon one thing: they certainly couldn’t have vanished into thin air!

Twelve: Telna and Morenn

Telna and Yenisei stepped through the glowing doorway in the train compartment, and emerged in what appeared to be a small bungalow with slightly austere decor.

At the far end of the room was an object that Telna might have mistaken for a small writing desk, except that it was not made of wood, and its angled top glowed and flickered with moving points and bars and circles of light. It was obviously some kind of electrical device. Above it was a small window, through which part of a huge blue and white ball could be seen floating against a black background.

“Welcome to my spaceship,” said Yenisei.

An irresistible compulsion drew Telna toward the window. The shining sphere was covered in cloud-white whorls and wisps, between which glimpses of blue, green and brown could be seen. “Is that...is that the world down there?” she breathed.

“That’s right,” Yenisei told her. “In your reckoning, we’re about eight hundred kilocubits above it right now. We’re circling it as the moons circle it, only much more closely. I had to bring the ship in close to the planet because I only have a short-range doorway. The view is a bonus. See, that tiny patch of brown in the middle of the green is City Dravinye, and Maidstone is just a little way beyond it...there. And Ketrin’s jungle is on the other side of the ocean, in the southern hemisphere. You can just make it out as a strip of green near the horizon.”

“But...but who steered this...ship while you were away from it? And who opened the doorway? I don’t see anyone else here.”

“It was all done by machines,” said Yenisei. “It’s really no different from setting an alarm clock, at least in principle. You see, Telna, first I instructed the machines to move the ship close to your world while I stepped through the doorway onto the Maidstone train. I had been able to determine which compartments were empty by using the ship’s scanning machines. At this distance the ship circles the world about every hour and a half, so by the time it came around again we were both aboard the Dravinye train. Then, following the instructions I had given them in advance, the machines scanned for my presence aboard the train and opened the doorway for us. And here we are.”

“And you say that’s like setting an alarm clock? It’s more like setting an alarm clock to walk downstairs, fetch the newspaper and deliver breakfast in bed!”

Yenisei chuckled. “Given enough time, your people will probably invent one that does just that. They’re very inventive, my friend, and I have no doubt that the Maiden’s influence has enhanced that tendency, among others.”

For a while Telna simply stared wordlessly at the beautiful bauble that contained all of the places and people she had ever known. Then at last she turned away with a sigh.

“Well, we’d best be going,” she said. “We can’t keep Morenn and the others waiting, can we?”

Yenisei patted Telna on the shoulder, then moved to the glowing cabinet and moved her hands swiftly over it. In response to her gestures the ship turned its back on Telna’s world and accelerated swiftly away.

After accelerating away from the planet for a few hours, the ship left the starry universe and entered a realm of swirling lights that Yenisei called hyperspace.

“Hyperspace is like the doorways,” Yenisei told Telna. “It shrinks distances to almost nothing. Somehow you’ve been exchanging thoughts with Morenn through hyperspace, but they’ve been travelling a lot faster than this ship. It’ll take us all of two days to reach the Adumreb Tetrahedron. Then again, without hyperspace it would take about twelve thousand years.”

“That would be a boring trip,” said Telna.

In the event, the trip was not particularly exciting anyway. The two of them were confined in a small space with only small niches for sleeping and ablutions. Yenisei was pleasant enough, but she made it clear from the outset that she had no sexual interest in Telna.

“It’s nothing personal,” she told Telna, “and it’s certainly not that I disapprove. Acceptance of alternative sexuality can be a sign of healthy social development - I learned that well enough on Sornel, where the repressive government tried to ban any form of sex except in the consummation of heterosexual marriages. The punishments they dished out for other kinds - you really don’t want to know. When I was a statue on Sornel, I was often fondled by women as well as men, and I didn’t find it unpleasant as such. I just wasn’t really stimulated or excited by it. I was more excited by their open defiance of authority, which meant the dictatorship didn’t have long to live.”

Nevertheless, Telna did not spend the entire trip celibate. To her surprise, Yenisei told her that her bunk had a built in neural stimulator, which could provide endless pleasure. Also, as she had promised, Yenisei told Telna the story of the Sculptor’s model from Farazel, who was given a uniquely personal insight into the world of sculpture. Telna found the story almost as arousing as Ketrin, and when she went to bed she turned on the stimulator and fantasised about it for hours, heedless of the fact that Yenisei could hear her moans and sighs. In the end, though, she was forced to admit that a machine could not satisfy her like a real person, so she turned it off and tried her best to sleep.

After all, once she became one of the paralysed ones, she would never sleep again....

On the second day the ship slowed down and the stars reappeared, but for a small patch of space that was occupied by a glowing, swirling something that was almost painful to look at.

“So that’s the thing that all those people got drawn into?” said Telna.

“That’s right,” said Yenisei. “This is as close as I dare get to it. Any closer and the ship will get drawn in. It’s another kind of doorway, only it seems to lead out of our universe altogether, and into a neighbouring one where the laws of nature are ever-so-slightly different. That’s probably why all of the paralysed ones seem to be immortal.”

“Well, then,” said Telna, “I guess this is as good a time as any to ask: if you can’t take the ship in, then how are you planning to get me there?”

“That’s all been carefully worked out,” Yenisei told her. “This ship is carrying a small pod, just big enough to carry you. The space warp plays havoc with a ship’s instruments, so the pod will use simple mechanical devices rather than complex electrics. You’ll be wearing a protective suit, and the pod is heavily padded against impact. But if all goes well the pod should set you down softly, close to the alien processing plants.

“That brings us to phase two. Once you’ve landed, no matter what condition you’re in, you have to try and get to one of the processors. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding the way. You will feel an irresistible compulsion drawing you there. Before you enter you must strip off the suit. You will be naked except for a locket on a chain about your neck. The locket will glow so you can see inside the dark chamber, but it’s what’s inside the locket that’s really important, and I’ll get to that in a moment.

“Once you have you have entered the building you can expect to fall unconscious within a few minutes. While you are unconscious your body will be processed, and about half a day later you will reawaken. Your body will be much bigger than normal - so don’t stand up without looking, or you might hit your head on the ceiling - and it will have turned bright blue. You may feel stiff and drowsy, but you will be completely free from pain. The conversion process completely heals all known diseases and injuries. If only we knew how to imitate it! But as you know perfectly well, the process also results in irreversible muscular paralysis, and you will only have a few hours before that happens. And that’s where this little capsule comes in.”

Yenisei opened the locket and took out an elongated oval object the size of a small fruit.

Telna looked worried. “What am I supposed to do with that?” she said.

“Why, swallow it, of course,” said Yenisei. “This capsule contains the equipment that will enable you to communicate with the paralysed ones and moderate their sexual sensations. You’ll also be able to communicate with your friends and the Maiden via hyperspace.”

“Swallow that?” Telna protested. “It’s almost big enough to be the landing pod!”

“Ah, but don’t forget, once your body has grown your throat will be bigger as well. You won’t have any trouble swallowing the capsule. Part of it will lodge in your abdomen and draw power from your body. Using that power, the other part will travel to your brain, allowing you to communicate telepathically via hyperspace. You won’t even feel it. And since you are probably about to ask, the reason you couldn’t have been given an implant before you set out on this mission, is that the conversion process would destroy it. In other words, you can only be implanted after you’re converted. And since you will become horny as hell soon after you wake up, you may only have a few minutes before you forget all about the capsule. So it’s vital that you swallow it immediately after you wake up. Don’t forget, Telna. The entire mission is depending on it.”

Telna swallowed. “Well then...I guess this is just about it. But I’d like to bathe before I go.”

Yenisei nodded, and Telna headed for the shower compartment. Showers were rare in Dravinye, but she suspected that, like sunglasses, they could become popular if only someone were to promote the idea.

Once Telna had towelled herself off, Yenisei handed her the locket containing the all-important implant device, and she placed it around her neck. Then Yenisei helped her into an outfit that resembled a diving suit she had once seen in Dravinye Museum, except that its helmet was not bulky and metallic. Before she put the helmet on, though, she leaned forward and kissed Yenisei for a long, startled moment.

“Sorry, Yenisei,” said Telna. “I know you don’t take pleasure in women, but I had to have that one last human touch before I go.” She reached out her gloved hand. “My love to the Maiden.”

Yenisei replied, “You’ll be able to give her your love directly once the implant is working. Good luck, Telna. I’m really proud of what you’re doing.”

Was that a tear in the stoical space pilot’s eye, Telna wondered? Surely not.

And then Yenisei attached the helmet and led Telna to the pod’s access port. Before she entered the pod, Telna took a last look at the viewport and the swirling cloud.

“You know,” she said, her voice distorted by the helmet, “I hate to say it, but that thing looks almost like...a giant anus!”

Yenisei laughed. “Well, that gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘the arse end of nowhere,’ doesn’t it? Anyway, I guess that makes you a giant...repository of the Maiden’s love.”

With that Yenisei helped Telna into the cramped pod, and with another “Good luck!” closed the hatch. Moments later the pod detached from the ship and Yenisei watched it accelerating toward the swirling anomaly.

Yes, she thought. Good luck....


Inside the pod, there was little to see except the view through a narrow port, and nothing to do but wait. This thing is well-named, thought Telna. I’m stuck inside it like a vart-seed in its pod, just waiting to hatch out.

After a few minutes the pod began to shake and rattle, and Telna was grateful for the suit’s padding, which was undoubtedly protecting her from serious bruising at the very least. Then there was a long moment of painful disorientation. Telna had just enough time to guess that she had entered the anomaly before she passed out.

When she came to the viewport showed her the stars rushing past, interrupted every few seconds by a brown blur. The blur must be the world of the paralysed ones, and she seemed to be spinning rapidly toward it. She only hoped and prayed that the pod was able to land itself safely as Yenisei had promised.

Before long the shaking began again. The planet soon filled the viewport for half of each rotation and a red glow of heat began to obscure the stars. A little after that there was a jolt as a small round canvas canopy unfurled from the end of the pod, followed by three bigger ones. Yenisei had explained that the canopies would act like sails, slowing the pod’s fall.

If Yenisei was to be believed, people had been jumping out of flying machines wearing such canopies for centuries. Right now, though, as the pod jolted and swayed nauseatingly beneath its domes of fabric, Telna couldn’t imagine why they might want to do such a thing.

Eventually there was a jarring impact as the pod hit the ground. The canopies detached themselves automatically and the pod went bouncing and rolling along the rocky plain until it fetched up against the stony wall of one of the processing plants. Then the pod split open, just like a vart-pod, and Telna crawled out. No sooner had she removed her helmet than she fetched up as well.

If that’s what Yenisei calls a soft landing, I hate to think what a hard one would be like.

Once her dizziness and nausea had passed Telna took stock of her situation. She was bruised all over, and she had no doubt that without the protective suit she would have been smashed to pieces. There were painful twinges in her abdomen too, warning her that her disease was no longer in remission.

Well, there was no going back now. She had arrived on the world of paralysis and alien nymphomania, and there was no way off it. She had no choice but to do what she came to do.

Maybe I should have gone to Triell instead, she thought. Then I could have gone back to Maidstone and become a shadowreel producer, and made that colour version of Ketrin....

But even as those thoughts crossed her mind, she could feel Morenn’s presence. The paralysed girl was very close, and Telna knew that she must soon join her.

Already she could feel herself being hypnotically compelled to walk toward a nearby opening in the stone wall. In the distance she could see lots of large metallic objects. She guessed that they must be the remains of the ships that some of the paralysed ones had arrived in.

All right, she thought. I’m coming....

Telna walked to the opening and stripped off her suit. Checking that the locket and its precious capsule were safe, she stepped naked into the processing chamber and lay down on the cold floor. Her body was aching all over and she felt as if someone was sticking fine needles into her gut.

At least, she thought, if Yenisei is right, I will soon be free from pai -

And then for some time she could not think at all.

With the care and precision of fine artists the processing machines carried out their pre-programmed tasks, blissfully unaware as always that their subject was not of the species they were designed for. If machines could have expressed satisfaction for a job well done, they would have.

Yet they might have been surprised at their subject’s reaction when she woke and found that she was not only big and blue, but also completely free from pain for the first time in years. Laughing and weeping at the same time, Telna danced around the chamber, all her cares forgotten (although she retained enough presence of mind to keep her big blue head down and avoid banging it on the stone ceiling). No pain! No needles in her gut! She was cured! Even the itching in her hands was gone!

And then she found herself becoming powerfully aroused. She had seen that happening to Morenn as well. There was nothing she could do but give in to her body’s demands, and so she made love to herself while she dreamt of making love to Sakíri, to the stone Maiden and her alter ego Jaskri, to Viréni, and to Ketrin...sometimes one at a time, sometimes two, sometimes all of them at once.

(But all the while she did so, something was nagging at the back of her mind, trying to break through to her consciousness. Wasn’t there something she had to do? Something she had forgotten? Something really important? But her conscous mind wasn’t listening....)

When at long last her body erupted in ecstasy upon ecstasy upon ecstasy, she found herself screaming: “Sakíri! Oh, Sakíri, I love you! I love you! Sakíri! Saaaa... kíííí... rrrriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!

By the time her climaxes finally released her, her throat was raw, but she didn’t mind. She felt a profound sense of satisfaction and closure. But then, just as she was about to give herself up to euphoria, the subconscious thought that had been nagging her finally made its way to her conscious mind:

“The capsule! Whatever you do, don’t forget to swallow the capsule!”

Oh, yes, she thought, dreamily toying with the locket. The capsule. Mustn’t forget that, must we? Really mustn’t. Mmmmmmmmmm....

Dreams of capsules and space doorways swirled around her head and became mixed up with images of wild boys, sculptor’s models, trains, teahouses and big blue people. The dreams kept threatening to make some kind of logical sense, but being dreams they never did.

Telna finally woke feeling calm and relaxed. Her first instinct was to yawn and stretch and rub the sleep out of her eyes. It was only when her body did none of those things that she remembered....

So, she thought, it’s really happened.

And indeed it had. Methodically, Telna tested every voluntary muscle she could think of. Not one of them responded. She had become as inanimate as a doll.

It was a strange and frightening sensation, yet somehow arousing at the same time. No matter what was done to her from now on, she wouldn’t be able to resist....

Too late for regrets now, she told herself. I am what I have become, and I have to accept my fate, just as Jaskri did, and the sculptor’s model. And Morenn.

Yes: Morenn. Morenn was still there in her head, closer than ever, although her thoughts were no longer coherent - all Telna could feel from her was a constant sense of arousal.

But Morenn was braver than me, Telna thought. Thanks to her, I know what to expect. She didn’t, and yet she was able to cope without losing her mind.

Yes, I know what to expect. The little creatures will be coming for me soon. And then...well, that’s something else I hope I can cope with as well as Morenn did.

After all, she’s the reason I’m here, the reason I swallowed the....

And then a horrible thought suddenly dawned on her.

Oh, gods! The capsule!

I can’t remember if I swallowed the capsule or not!!!

Yenisei had told her that she wouldn’t even feel the capsule once she had swallowed it, so there was no way to tell if she had done so. If the locket were open it would mean that she had removed the capsule from it, but she couldn’t reach for it to find out, or even tilt her head forward to look.

If she had not swallowed the capsule then her sacrifice would be in vain. She would take her place in the arena and suffer agonising orgasms along with the rest of its blue occupants, and it might be years or even centuries before the Maiden and her friends could find another volunteer to try again.

The uncertainty was the worst part. It would be days before she knew whether or not she had really failed, and until then there was nothing she could do but wait and pray.

Later that day, as expected, a small party of aliens arrived and looked her over. Telna was briefly distracted from her worries as they licked and stroked and slapped her all over, giving her three or four orgasms (she lost count) in the process. One thing was certain: her helplessness was making her arousal stronger.

One of the aliens took the locket from Telna’s neck and studied it for a while, but then decided it was of no interest and discarded it. At the time, Telna was too busy coming to notice whether it still contained the capsule she was supposed to have swallowed.

Then they picked her up and carried her out of the chamber, past the landing pod and its collapsed canvas canopies, and headed toward the hills with her.

From time to time the aliens stopped to eat and drink and copulate with Telna. She had been prepared to reluctantly tolerate being used as a sex object, but to her surprise she almost came to welcome the aliens’ attentions. That was at least partly because they distracted her from worrying about the capsule, but that wasn’t the whole reason.

It seemed there was a part of her that actually enjoyed being a paralysed sex toy. She wasn’t quite sure what that said about her sexual orientation, or about her sanity for that matter. Only one thing was certain: the aliens were giving her amazing orgasms.

Between halts Telna was carried through the dull grey hills beneath the dull grey sky with not a splash of colour in sight to divert her from her thoughts. It gave her plenty of time to worry about whether she had let Morenn and the Maiden down.

And if I don’t get to link minds with Sakíri, she thought, then I’ll never get to see that shadowreel of Ketrin.

By the time they halted on the third afternoon Telna had become convinced that she had not swallowed the capsule and her mission was doomed to failure. Her despair had become so great that she was actually impatient for the aliens to stimulate her and take her mind off her troubles.

One of the creatures had fallen hopelessly in love with Telna’s bottom. Once he had finished eating and drinking, he hastily rolled her onto her stomach before any of the others could get to her, and began to fondle and lick and slap her buttocks enthusiastically, revelling in their firm, well-rounded muscularity. Telna found this both amusing and arousing, and she knew there was only one possible outcome. But while she was awaiting the inevitable, something unexpected happened.

+Telna? Telna, can you hear me?+

The voice was speaking in her mind, a voice she thought she would never hear again.

Yenisei? she thought. Is it really you, or am I just imagining it?

+It’s really me, Telna+, Yenisei assured her. +You’ll be pleased to know the implant is working perfectly.+

“Pleased” was hardly the word. Telna felt an almost dizzying sense of relief. Oh, thank gods, Yenisei, thank gods! I couldn’t remember if I’d swallowed it! It must have been the last thing I did before I passed out. The last voluntary movement I ever made!

+Yes, but probably the most important,+ said Yenisei. +For the first time we’re able to communicate through the anomaly, and once the aliens put the circlet on you the implant will have enough power to send and receive over vast distances via hyperspace. It will also allow you to communicate with the other paralysed people, and allow them to alter their perceptions so they’re no longer tortured by ecstasy.+

Meanwhile the alien, unaware of Telna and Yenisei’s mental conversation, continued to kiss and caress Telna’s backside until he was too aroused to hold back any longer.

+Have you arrived at the city yet?+ asked Yenisei.

Not yet, Telna informed her. We seem to be a couple of days away, judging by the time it took Morenn to get there...oh. Oh, here we go.

+What’s happening, Telna? Are you all right?+

Oh...nng...yes, Telna replied, as the alien began thrusting his engorged member between her cherished buttocks. I’m just being...ohhh...bummed by a total...ah...aaahhh...stranger. Ohh, gods. You’d think that with all the...ng...all the practice they get, they’d be able to...ooohhhhhh...find the right...ah...ah...ah...orifice by now... ooooo...aaaaaagggghhhh... eeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!

+Maybe I’d better leave you two for a while,+ thought Yenisei.

By that time, Telna was so aroused she could not reply verbally. But she was surprised when, after a few moments, Yenisei spoke to her again.

+Tel...na...+ thought Yenisei, +The... the... im...plant.... It’s... too... strong...! I... can’t... break... the... link...! I’m... fee...ling... eve...ry...thing... you’re... fee...ling...! I...... can’t...... stop...... it......!+

Then Telna was startled to feel a hand stroking her vagina...until she realised that she was feeling Yenisei’s hand on her vagina! Yenisei was masturbating in response to the overwhelming sexual sensations she was getting from Telna’s implant, and the implant was feeding Yenisei’s sensations back to Telna.

Despite Yenisei’s claim to have no erotic interest in women, it seemed that she and Telna were going to share a sexual experience after all, and there was nothing she could do to prevent it.

Sure enough, Yenisei had three orgasms, which Telna also felt, before the alien finally brought Telna to an astonishingly sensuous orgasm, which Yenisei also felt.

When it was over, Yenisei projected a little shakily: +I... I think I’d better take a quick shower now....+

Telna, floating in a post-coital trance, replied dreamily: You might want to turn off your link for now. My little friend just went off to pee, but I think he might be ready to start again when he comes back.

+My God,+ thought Yenisei. +I never imagined it would be this intense for you. Are you sure you’ll be all right?+

Yes, my friend, I’ll be all right, Telna assured her. It’s all part of my position as the Maiden’s missionary, after all. Now that I know the mission is going to succeed I’ll be able to cope with whatever these little buggers do to me. You’d better go now, he’s coming back.

(Telna’s head was turned to one side, and just happened to be facing the way the alien had gone.)

It might be an idea to modify your receiver if you can, so that it only relays my thoughts and not my senses.

+Very good idea,+ thought Yenisei. +I’ll talk to you later. Good luck.+

From the size of his interest, it looks as if he wishes me well too. Or at least, my bottom.

Two days later Telna’s bearers entered the ruined city. As evening fell, they carried her into the arena and up to the fifth row, passing tens of frozen blue figures as they went.

Yenisei never told me where the non-human ones come from, she thought. Maybe she doesn’t know. What can sex be like for them, having penises and vaginas? Do they use them together, or one at a time? Do they wear clothes, wherever they live? What colour were they before they turned blue? Could I learn to communicate with them, or are they too alien?

So many questions. Maybe I’ll learn the answers somehow, someday.

The aliens put Telna down in front of one of the niches and one of them went off to fetch a circlet for her while the others languidly stroked her breasts and back. The neighbouring niche was also occupied by a girl, who sat like a stiff-backed doll and stared fixedly ahead as the jewel in her circlet glowed and pulsed.

Suddenly Telna realised she was face to face with none other than Morenn! Perhaps she shouldn’t have been surprised. She was the first new arrival since Morenn, after all, and it seemed the aliens were filling the niches in order.

As Telna watched, Morenn’s jewel faded, and Morenn blinked and looked around. When her eyes lit upon Telna’s face they widened in surprised recognition. Morenn had seen Telna’s face before, through Sakíri’s loving eyes, but Morenn was totally confused as to what Telna was doing here in the arena.

And the implant gave Telna the ability to explain telepathically. Hello, she thought. My name is Telna, and I know that you are Morenn, and the reason that I know is this....

Over the course of the next few minutes, Telna was able to give Morenn a brief summary of her story. It was hard to believe that it was less than twenty days since her arrival in Maidstone.

+And you...you came all this way and deliberately sacrificed your freedom for my...for our sakes?+

If not me, someone else would have. I just happened to be in the right place to help.

+Oh, look out,+ thought Morenn, +the alien’s coming back with your coronet. Is this implant of yours really going to be able to modify everybody’s senses like you say it can?+

Well, if it doesn’t we’ll both know soon enough Telna replied.

The aliens sat Telna on Morenn’s immediate right, identically posed. Then, as an apparent afterthought, they placed Telna’s left hand in Morenn’s vagina and put Morenn’s left hand over it, and mirrored this arrangement with their right hands and Telna’s vagina. The girls couldn’t help being aroused by each other’s touches, however involuntary.

+Well...nice getting to know you,+ thought Morenn ironically.

Likewise, thought Telna.

Then the aliens put the circlet on Telna’s head, and she was instantly taken to the brink of an unimaginable orgasm, yearning to climax but never quite getting there.

My... gods, she thought, this is... incredible! Oh, I wish this could... last forever!

+That’s what... I thought...at first,+ Morenn reminded her. +But then... the aliens all joined... in, and it all got... too much to... handle. I just hope this... implant of yours can... do what you... say it can!+

Well, this is... where we... find... out!

Appropriately, the aliens in the arena had chosen that moment to resume their orgy. Telna’s ecstasy was becoming greater and greater and greater and greater and greater as the jewel in her circlet forced her to feel what everyone else in the vast auditorium was feeling, and those feelings were reflected back and forth, amplified and reinforced a thousand times.

All... right... she thought. If... it’s... going... to... work... it’s... got... to... work... NOW!

At that instant, every living being in the arena came, including several confused rodents that had happened to stray into range of the telepathic signals. For a long moment Telna could no longer think as her body was wracked by indescribable climaxes. But then her implant started working.


In her spaceship on the other side of the space warp, Yenisei was surprised to see a sudden surge of activity on her instrument panel. Her radiation detectors were registering a huge surge of kilo-electron-volt neutrinos coming from the anomaly.

Wow, that’s incredible! she thought. Telna’s implant must have opened up a return conduit for the sexual energy that’s being generated by the paralysed ones. A massive burst of golden lightning! Now that’s something even the Maiden couldn’t have predicted. It’ll spread out across the Adumreb region and enhance the physical and emotional well-being of trillions of people!

Of course, it’ll take a few centuries to reach the nearest planets, but all good things come to those who wait.

In any case, she now knew that Telna’s implant was working, so there was no longer any need for her physical presence. Leaving a warning buoy behind, Yenisei turned her ship around and headed home.


Meanwhile in the arena, Telna could still feel her body coming and coming and coming uncontrollably, but it was as if a veil had been drawn between her mind and her body, a veil that she could raise or lower at will. Her sensations were still stronger than anything she had ever felt before, but they no longer threatened to swamp her brain.

+Hey!+ thought Morenn. +Is your implant doing this? This is incredible! I can actually regulate how much ecstasy I’m feeling! I’m not drowning in it any more!+

That’s right, thought Telna. Our bodies will continue to react physically, but we can now choose how much pleasure - or how little - we actually perceive. And the beauty of it is, our little friends don’t notice anything different. They’re still having the time of their lives, but now we can start living again.

+If you can call it living,+ thought Morenn. We’re still as helpless as statues. We can’t go anywhere or do anything. We’re trapped here forever.+

We may be helpless physically, Telna replied, but now we can all talk to each other - the humans, anyway. We can make new friends and even lovers.

+Lovers? Have you forgotten that we’re being forced to share our orgasms?+

Ah, but you’re forgetting that now we can choose who to share our orgasms with. And not only our physical sensations, but our emotions as well. We can become lovers in the true meaning of the word.

And with that, Telna demonstrated by allowing Morenn to feel the love she bore for Sakíri.

+Oh! Oh, my. I don’t think anyone ever loved me that much. But then, I was always greedy and materialistic before...before this. I only saw relationships as a means to acquire wealth.+

Telna sent her another burst of affection. There are no material possessions here because we’re all naked, and nobody is stronger than anyone else because we’re all paralysed. That means we’re all equal, and we can all forge new relationships on the basis of that equality. Starting with the two of us. Since we each have a hand in each other’s...affairs...we may as well learn to like each other.

+All right,+ thought Morenn. +But you’re forgetting something. What about the hermaphrodites? They can’t join our little ‘society of equals’. Human telepathy doesn’t get through to them.+

Not yet, Telna admitted, but maybe one day with the help of the implant we will be able to. Then we could find out who they are and where they came from.

+I’d certainly like to know that,+ Morenn admitted.

In the meantime, we humans can tell each other about all the places we’ve seen and done. There must be people here from tens of different worlds, and I’ve only seen one. I’d love to know what it’s like on other planets! And if we get bored with that, the implant will allow us to communicate with people back in the “real” universe. Which reminds me...there’s a call I have to make right now!


It was a pleasant summer night in Maidstone, and Sakíri and Chekrina were making love with the Maiden by the light of Goldmoon.

Sakíri had met Chekrina two days earlier at the teahouse, and had found that they shared many interests, including shadowreels and Ketrin.

Saravin had gently chided his sister. “Come on, sis, if you keep all the pretty girls for yourself there’ll be none left for us boys.”

“None left for you, you mean.”

“Exactly! Anyway, don’t you think it’s a little soon after Telna yet?”

“Telna and I discussed this before she left,” Sakíri had told him. “Telna won’t be coming back. I just have to accept the fact and move on. I’ve told Chekrina all about Telna, though I’m not sure she believed it all, and she knows I can’t make any long term commitments right now. She knows that all I’m looking for is...”

Saravin finished for her: “...a little mindless sexual pleasure with no responsibilities?”

Sakíri reddened. Much as she loved her brother, she had to admit that he could sometimes be incredibly crass.

“That’s right,” she had told him. “A little mindless sexual pleasure with no responsibilities...isn’t that exactly the same thing that men always want?”

Telna won that round. It was only later that she realised that sexual pleasure with no responsibilities was exactly what the little creatures in the arena were getting.

Oh, Telna, she had thought. If only I had some way of knowing that she’s all right.


Golden moonlight painted the lovers like statues themselves as they caressed each other’s soft, yielding flesh and the Maiden’s smooth hard marble. Eventually they gasped and stiffened, seeming to become statues in reality, as the Maiden sent her golden lightning coursing through their bodies.

“Oh, Maiden,” gasped Chekrina, “this is wonderful!”

+Well, I can’t take all the credit this time,+ the Maiden replied.

Chekrina was astonished to feel the Maiden’s thoughts in her mind, but Sakíri was slightly more blasé. But then something happened that came as a surprise to her as well.

There came another burst of pleasure, but it was not quite like the Maiden’s golden lightning. It had a different...flavour, somehow. It wasn’t coming (there was that word again!) from Jaskri.

But then, who? thought Sakíri.

+Well, who were you expecting?+ said a new voice in their minds. Then the new voice seemed to notice Chekrina for the first time. +Oh, hello. Sakíri, aren’t you going to introduce me to your new friend?+

“Telna!” cried Sakíri, laughing and weeping.

+Hey, I said I’d get in touch, didn’t I? How else am I supposed to see that shadowreel of Ketrin?+


The next morning Sakíri and Chekrina had breakfast with Saravin at the teahouse.

“You’re looking very cheerful this morning,” he told them.

“Five times,” said Sakíri. Chekrina giggled at that.

“Seriously though,” Sakíri went on, “somebody recently reminded me of a business idea they once had, and since they’re not here to follow it through, Chekrina and I were thinking we might try to get some people interested.”

“Business proposal, eh?” said Saravin. “Can’t say I’ve ever quite seen you as the entrepreneurial type, but what was it you had in mind exactly?”

“We’re thinking of making a shadowreel,” said Sakíri and Chekrina together.


Excerpts from The History of Moving Pictures in Dravinye,
Chapter 7: “Ketrin: Colour Shadowgraphy in the Flesh”

“Despite numerous financial, organisational and technical difficulties, The Maidstone Shadowreel Company’s red-green colour, ten-reel version of Ketrin of the Lupinoids was finally released to enormous critical acclaim, although its extensive depiction of total nudity inevitably proved controversial in some quarters.

“The producers’ greatest coup was in obtaining two real lupinoids to play Ketrin’s ‘brothers’, even though the director referred to them as ‘marvellous creatures but hopeless actors,’ and went on to say: ‘We had to improvise half the story around them because the stupid animals wouldn’t stick to the script. And they would insist on scent-marking all the sets....’

“Although the production took five years to break even, its chief executives, Sakíri, Saravin and Chekrina, always claimed that the integrity of the story was more important than money, and that they considered the picture a work of art.

“The first reel begins with a simple dedication: ‘For Telna, through our eyes’. Little is known of this Telna, except that she was a young woman who lived with Sakíri for a few days during the summer before the production company was formed, leading to inevitable speculation that she might have been Sakíri’s lover. After those few days she seems almost to have vanished into thin air. Her only known relative was her estranged sister, whose only ever comment was that she had no intention of watching the shadowreel.

“The recent rediscovery of the original two-strip negative in a forgotten basement in Maidstone has allowed the picture to be completely restored, ensuring the survival of this silent classic in all its glory for future generations. If the mysterious Telna really was the inspiration for this masterpiece we owe her our eternal gratitude, and so to her we dedicate this chapter: for Telna, in the hope that wherever she may be now, our gratitude will reach her.”

(And it did...)

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