Jesse learns a few truths
that spring him into action.
By Taylor Ryan
Copyright© 2017 Taylor Ryan
All Rights Reserved.
Volume 1: Part 6
I didn't expect much from a thrift store hair dryer, but I had managed to get my hair nearly dry before coming upstairs. Out of all of the shocks to my system, the long hair seemed to bother me the least. In fact, I hardly paid it any mind at all until the shower. It was kind of a pain to take care of, but I managed. What really bothered me the most, was the fact I was getting used to my new female attire; the tights in particular.
A dim light stretched across the quiet auditorium. I'd never been to a live production of anything, but the lighting was not unlike that of a movie theater before the show. Brighter lighting cast down on the stage, but there were no spotlights focused there. Two girls stretched on stage, unaware of anything going on outside of their world. Rows of seats, lined with red velvet, stretched away from them like a giant fan. One girl sat alone amongst the middle.
Cautiously I proceeded down the aisle, getting closer to the girl who sat alone. She didn't even seem to notice as I reached her row and started to walk toward her. Finally, as I approached the seat next to her, she glanced up at me. Her glasses caught a slight reflection from the stage light. For a brief moment I could even swear she smiled at me.
"Tory said you've had a productive day," Leann said.
I took a seat next to her. "I guess you could call it that," I said.
"I'm sorry I was… such a bitch to you last night," Leann said, swallowing hard; presumably with her pride. "The situation caught me off guard."
"Water under the bridge," I said, trying to play it cool.
"It's just that I tend to… research the girls that come here," she said.
"How is that possible?" I asked. Her silence struck me as off-putting, and I turned my body to face her. "Wait a minute… You know who's going to be cursed?"
"Sort of," Leann said. "It's more complicated than that."
"I want to know."
Leann turned her face slightly toward me. "We know when there are items in the wind, so to speak." She sighed. "Don't get me wrong though. It's not our fault they're out there."
"Who's fault is it?" I asked. "The Nymphs?"
"So she told you…" Leann turned her face away toward the ground.
"Not everything," I said. "I still have a million questions."
"Well, since you asked that one in particular," she said. "Yes. It is the Nymphs. A long time ago, we used to all be together. We were all sisters; so-called Maidens of Artemis."
"Sort of like Amara, but not all of us priestesses," Leann said. "Everyone that came under this spell, or curse as you call it, originally sought to serve as Amara once did. They devoted themselves to becoming a maiden of Artemis. Some even established temples for her, and set up their own ranks of devotion."
"So where do the Nymphs come in?"
Leann breathed a long sigh. "Eventually the temples were abandoned and forgotten. The priestesses and high priestesses abandoned the old rituals of worshipping Artemis. They left the maidens, new and old, to fend for themselves, and find a new way." Leann turned to me once more. "That's when the corruption seeped in."
"Corruption?" I asked.
"How much do you know about Artemis?" Leann asked.
I chuckled slightly. "Would you believe last night is the first I heard of her?"
"It's not surprising," Leann said. "Sometimes she's not even mentioned in history classes anymore."
"So tell me," I said, turning my body more toward her.
"Very well," Leann said. "Artemis was a Greek deity. Twin sister to Apollo. Daughter of Zeus and Leto. She was the goddess of hunting, animals, the wilds, the moon, childbirth, and virginity. She was also the protector of young girls, and many believed she cured sickness. Many believe after she was born, she helped her mother deliver her twin brother."
"Pretty ambitious," I mused.
Leann looked at me with disdain. "Do you want to hear this or not?"
"Sorry," I said. "Just never got into the whole Greek gods and goddesses thing."
"I'm not surprised," Leann said. "They're all but myth now." She turned to look at the stage. "I wouldn't believe it myself, except for the curse. Still… I don't believe everything that's written. For one, I find it hard to believe a newborn child could help deliver another child, fresh from the womb. At times I even wonder if maybe Amara wandered into something else during her servitude. Something darker… more sinister…"
"So how does that lead to the Nymphs?" I asked.
"Well… Artemis was the goddess of virginity," Leann said. "Abstinence. Chastity. No matter what you call it, Amara, along with all maidens and priestesses after her, held highly the belief of never having sex."
"And the Nymphs like to get freaky?" I said, smiling.
Leann sat back, pushing her glasses up onto her nose. "If you must put it so crudely," she said. "Yes. The Nymphs were eventually tempted, and overcome by carnal lust. They have no qualms of using sex to get their way. They overindulge in it at times."
"You would think that, if anything, would break the curse," I said, chuckling.
"If only," Leann said. "Sadly, there's no true love's kiss either in our reality. It's a difficult thing to forfeit. Sex, that is. Especially when you're gifted a young flawless body that cannot be infected, nor transmit disease. Men all but drool over you. Which is why the Nymphs find it so easy to bend them to their will."
"So everyone here is a virgin?" I asked.
"Not everyone," Leann said, shifting nervously. "As I said, the old ways were abandoned. While a vow of chastity is encouraged for maidens, it is no longer a requirement. It's more of a suggestion now. Though I would caution from abusing the leniency. Most likely it will lead to a depraved lifestyle."
I turned my gaze up to the ceiling. The whole convent setup was starting to make much more sense to me. For some reason, I felt Leann wasn't being fully honest with me. If I had to guess, I would say that every single girl in the building was a virgin. To most guys, that thought alone would be an incredible turn on.
However, since I was a virgin myself, I found it hard to look at the girls here as if they were conquests waiting to happen. I'd probably come off as stupid and childish for attempting anything. In fact, the youngest girl here was probably twenty years older than me. They all seemed wiser, poised, more educated than myself. Every single one of them seemed to carry themselves as an adult, despite their bodies stating otherwise.
"Why did you lie to me?" I asked quietly.
"Huh?" Leann's head jerked to face me. "When?"
"You said we weren't fully immortal," I said, pulling my gaze back down on her. "Tory told me otherwise."
Leann turned away, shaking her head. "I don't know why she goes and does that," she said. "The lie is meant to protect you."
"I don't need protecting," I said. "Especially if I can't die."
"Well, that's not entirely true," Leann said. "You can die, but there are very few people who can k…"
"Kill us?" I asked.
"I shouldn't have said that," Leann said. "There's nothing to worry about."
"Except the people who can kill us?"
"They're way too busy to worry about it," Leann said. "Trust me though. As long as you don't go out playing superhero, they won't even bother."
"Are they Nymphs?"
Leann shook her head quietly. "They're… something else," she said. "Entities which wield a horrible dark magic."
"So we can use magic?"
"None of us here are capable," Leann said. "That much is true. As far as I know."
"Can the Nymphs?"
"They are tricksters," Leann said. "In the past, they sometimes used temporary things like potions, or faerie dust. But they don't possess any real magic, or anything beyond highly seductive behavior."
"What exactly does that mean?" I asked.
"You really do have a million questions," Leann said with a slight laugh. "It means the only spell they can cast on you, is wearing you down until you relent to what they want. Some call it 'enchantment.' I call it guys thinking with their… you know." She gestured toward my lap.
This was all becoming harder and harder to grasp, let alone take seriously. Despite what had happened to me, I still refused to believe there were people like this living out in the world in secret. Why would they choose to dwell in Greater West Allis, when they could live anywhere? I turned my attention back to the stage. The two girls were now progressing through some warm-up routines. It seemed like Leann and I were about to be a two person audience for them.
"I come here to think," Leann said, catching my gaze. "Sometimes those two take center stage, and dance the night away. Sheila is the one with the fire red hair," she continued, pointing toward the girl. "She was born in Ireland right at the turn of the eighteenth century. For her seventeenth birthday, she received a pair of fashionably ornate dance slippers."
"And that's what changed her?"
Leann nodded. "Paige is the other girl," she said. "Born in nineteen-eighty, she turned in ninety-five. Believe it, or not, another tights girl. Only more specifically, they were hot pink dance tights."
"I like her purple hair," I said, nonchalantly.
"She definitely stands out," Leann said. "And she can be a little spunky at times." Leann smiled as she mused over something. "Paige was taking ballet at the time of her change," she continued. "Was really getting good at Pointe work. It took her a little while to come to terms with her new life, but since then has been taking lessons, of sort, from Sheila. She's said before that it makes her truly feel alive when she dances. Sheila enjoys teaching her classic styles." Leann smiled once more. "Although, as time passed, I believe they both taught each other some new techniques," she finished.
"You know an awful lot about them," I said.
"Well… like I said, I research the girls usually before they come here," Leann said. "Your case threw me completely for a loop."
"How did you know where to find me?"
"We all get this… feeling… when an item is used," Leann said. "It's hard to explain, but eventually you'll feel it too. It sort of directs us to new girls." Leann shrugged. "I guess it was used to seek out new maidens in the old days. Now it's used to try to get to them before the Nymphs do."
"How often does a new girl fall victim to the curse?"
Leann shrugged again. "It depends," she said. "There can be long dry spells, over years. Or we could have one next week, or next month."
"And you get this same feeling when a new item is created?" I asked.
"Not exactly," Leann said. "The Nymphs are tricksters, and they hold true to that title. Sometimes they'll simply feel like turning a girl on a whim. Other times they might be longtime entranced servants, that they grant the gift of youth. And sometimes it's for revenge, and they plan on using them for… more despicable purposes." Leann cringed at the thought. "Either way, we have someone on the inside that lets us know when there's a new item out there."
"Like a spy?"
"She's a Nymph," Leann said, reluctantly. "But sympathetic to our cause. Don't get me wrong. She's not entirely on our side, and she likes to play games. She only tells us there is a new item in play, and sometimes the name of the girl."
"Like how you were looking for someone else when you found me?"
"Julie Hanover," Leann said. "The name was accurate. She just didn't have the item."
"I've never heard of her," I said. "I got the tights from my best friend, Erin."
Leann laughed. "You mean you raided her drawers looking for panties," she said.
"How…" I jerked my head to face her. "How did you know that?"
"I've been busy today," Leann said. "Secret mission." She winked. "Doing a little research on you."
I looked at her angrily. "To what end?"
"Honestly… to know if we can trust you," she said. "We were convinced Julie would be fine. But you, and your friend, kind of threw a wrench into it."
"Look," I said. "I don't even know how Erin got the tights, okay. And I was going to give them back…"
"Julie gave them to her," Leann said. "Simply let Erin have them at a sleepover. Neither girl got around to wearing them. Yet, you managed to put them on the day after raiding her drawers."
"Yeah…" I looked down at the floor. "I really can't explain why I did that."
"Oh, I can pretty much figure that one out," Leann said, glancing down at my lap. "But we'll just leave it at 'fate' for now. I'm concerned they might try to take Julie again, however."
"Well, if it's any consolation," I said, "you can trust me."
"I believe I can," Leann said. "You're less of a risk than I thought you'd be."
"And I kinda get why you didn't want to tell me everything," I said.
"To be fair," she said. "I'm like that with any new girl. I don't want them to get any crazy ideas. Imagine… hundreds of girls running around thinking they're Wolverine, or Deadpool."
"Wait a minute," I said. "Do we get cool regenerative powers like theirs?"
Leann looked at me crossways. "If I said yes, would you disregard the fact that I know what you're talking about?"
I studied her for a moment. "You're totally a comic book nerd too, aren't you?"
She looked away from me. "I'm a Marvel girl," she said, before turning back to glare at me. "But I only read them when I'm completely bored. So don't go passing it around," she said with a huff. "There's enough prattle around here about me being a nerd as it is."
"Cool," I said, turning my gaze toward the girls on stage. "I mean, not that you're considered a nerd. But about being a comic book… erm… aficionado." I turned and gave her a wink. "Your secret's safe with me. Although, I don't know why you'd hide that."
"It's… complicated," she said.
"Sometimes we have to be what everyone wants us to see," I said, looking back at the stage.
"Where did you hear that?"
"My mother used to say it to me," I said. "When I was really little. One of the only things I remember about her."
Paige boldly sashayed out to the center of the stage. I was kind of disappointed that nobody was running the spotlights now. It seemed the two girls were ready to give their performance. Sheila cleared away some mats, and other items they had been using to stretch and warm up. Then she walked off to the side, and leaned over a CD player. It was probably the most modern item they had around here to play music.
Light, airy flute music began playing; something I didn't recognize. I was tempted to ask Leann, but decided to simply watch the performance. With a few long strides, Sheila quickly joined Paige in the center. As the music continued, the girls began their dance. They probably didn't take notice of us at all.
Paige moved first, doing a series of fast, brisk steps. As she neared the side of the stage, she did several leaps; the last taking her high in the air with her legs spread completely parallel to the stage floor. She landed it flawlessly, and then gracefully did another smaller jump which landed her facing Sheila. Then she slowly gave a low curtsey, and came back up.
From center stage, Sheila repeated nearly all of Paige's moves the opposite way. There were some slight variations, like a few moments of quick sashays. Her final leap brought her back foot up to nearly touching her head. She too landed it flawlessly, and did a series of small jumps until she was facing Paige. Then she returned the curtsey.
After a brief moment of stillness, the two started dancing toward each other. At first they would do some quick footwork. Then they would linger in an elegant pose. A series of small jumps came next, followed by another elegant pose. Then, as if they discovered each other, they cautiously moved in. Eventually they reached each other, and began a rather mesmerizing dance.
Sheila seemed to let Paige take center stage, so to speak. She continued to dance, but she let Paige dance around her. There were a few moments where Sheila would take Paige in her arms, and spin her around. Other times she would act as if she were entranced by Paige dancing around her body. At one point, Sheila reached her hand out for Paige's cheek, and appeared to be bringing her in for a kiss.
The music suddenly broke into ABBA's "Dancing Queen." A song my father loved to play secretly, but vehemently denied it. Paige pushed Sheila away. She began dancing on her own, in a rather contemporary style of dance, but still mainly ballet. Sheila slowly backed away, as if she was losing Paige to the new music. She even seemed to display an attitude of the music being too risqué to dance along to with her.
Full of energy, with a fast-paced series of moves, Paige danced out the entirety of the song. At several points she would writhe, and snap her body about, trying to gain Sheila's attention. By the end of it, she had spun to the floor. She held her knees tight to her chest, and looked across the stage at Sheila. If I were to attach a story to the scene, it would appear like Paige was looking to Sheila for approval. Like she wanted Sheila to join her in the high energy dance.
Instead, another song came on quickly after. It was very classical, with the main instrument being a harpsichord. Sheila danced out into the center. Her steps looked as if they belonged in the king's court, or at a Renaissance faire. She danced as if she were trying to impress upon Paige the importance of taking it slow and steady. Each of Sheila's steps were perfectly timed, and fit beautifully with the music. Eventually she ended up back on her side as the music drew to a close.
The two girls looked as if they had been split by a great divide. Music had brought them together at first, but their differences in time had split them apart. Sheila held her hands over her head, and suddenly started clapping. A lively Irish jig began to play, and she danced out with more energy and enthusiasm. She seemed to shed the stale dance of the nobles, and looked as if she stole away to have some fun.
Slowly, Paige lifted herself up, and moved toward Sheila. Paige seemed intrigued by the new dance. It had liveliness like hers, but it was to older music like Sheila's. As they moved toward each other, they suddenly found a new love for the dance they had both shared. At least that's what I was writing in my head at the time. Eventually the two reached center stage, and began dancing with each other again. By the end of the song, Paige held tight to Sheila, as Sheila dipped her; running her hand through her hair.
I started clapping once the music finished. Both girls seemed startled, as well as Leann sitting next to me. She hesitantly joined in clapping, as if she had never applauded the two girls before. They both straightened themselves, and walked out to the front of the stage. For a brief moment they squinted, trying to see us, but gave up. Then together they gave a few deep curtseys, and retreated from the stage front as our applause subsided.
"That was beautiful," I shouted toward the stage.
"Thank you," Paige responded, looking out into the darker auditorium. "Whoever you are."
"It's Leann," Leann said next to me. "And Jesse."
"Oh," Paige said. "Leann and the new girl. Thought we were alone in here."
"She means, thank you for the audience," Sheila pronounced loudly, as she nudged Paige with her elbow. "It pleases me that you enjoyed it." After a short pause, she addressed us again. "If you don't mind we would like to work on a few steps now."
"The stage is yours," Leann shouted. "I've always wanted to say that," she said, in a lowered voice.
We watched silently as the two girls ran through some moves. Even in practice they looked graceful and flawless. It was actually rather soothing to watch them move about the stage so effortlessly. I could see why Leann chose this place to think. Especially if Paige and Sheila were always on form like this. They both had their own flare to their dance, but I could tell they had picked up things from one another. Watching them gave me time to think as well.
"Something I don't understand," I said, still watching the stage. "I get why the Nymphs don't want to change back. It's a pretty sweet deal if you're in it for their reasons. But why do the girls here want to change?" I asked. "Watching those two, makes me wonder why anyone would want to give that youthfulness up."
"I've asked myself that question so many times," Leann said. "The short answer is that some of us here don't want to change back. The long answer… Well I haven't figured that part out yet." She took a deep breath. "We were all maidens once. I imagine back then it wasn't a curse at all. To have eternal youth. To never get sick. In a time when people had shorter lives, and less access to medicine. Even in the time I grew up, before the change, people had the same problems. Maybe we're just tired of watching everyone around us die. My sister and I lived through so many wars…"
The mention of her sister reminded me of the conversation the night before. "How did your sister die?" I asked, turning abruptly to look at her.
Leann turned, looking surprised at me. "My sister isn't dead," she said, chuckling. "She just isn't here."
"Well where is she?"
"The Nymphs have her," she said, turning away again.
"They're holding her," Leann said.
"For how long?"
Leann swallowed hard. "For about ten years now," she finally said.
"Leann, that's insane!" I exclaimed. "Why haven't you tried to get her back?"
"Because the person holding her wants something she thinks we have," Leann said. "Even if we did have it, I still wouldn't hand it over to her. If it's one thing she pounded into my head, it was to never give the Nymphs what they want. They'll simply want more."
"But it's your sister!"
"She's alive," Leann said. "The Nymph, I mentioned earlier, gives me updates. She seems in good spirits, and is well taken care of; from what I hear."
"So you know where she's being held?" I asked.
Leann nodded. "She's being held by a woman who believes she's the reincarnation of Aphrodite," she said.
"We should get her back," I said. "Screw Aphrodite, and whatever she wants. Let's just go and demand they release your sister."
"No," Leann said, turning to face me. Her face had a look of dread upon it. "This woman is… unpredictable. Plus she has many loyal followers. She could possibly destroy us."
"She would have done that by now, if she had the power," I said. "We should just go to the cops," I said.
"We can't," Leann said.
"If anyone outside of our group finds out about us," Leann said. "Our entire livelihood could be at stake." She sighed. "Besides… anyone that goes into that place, runs the risk of becoming entangled in the Nymphs' web of seduction. Men especially are weak to their ploys. And they're not above enchanting women either." She sighed yet again. "At best, they'll let their toys go, and laugh as they try to remember where they've been. At worst…"
"What is it she wants?" I asked.
"Aphrodite?" Leann asked, rhetorically. "She's under the delusion that every so often, Amara is reincarnated in one of the maidens. And she thinks Amara has some key to a hidden treasure. So she likes to take girls, and put them through tests, where she ultimately decides if they are one of these reincarnations."
"What happens if she finds one?"
Leann shrugged. "She hasn't found one yet, as far as I know," she said. "She thought my sister was one of these reincarnations. She also thought my sister had an amulet that could point her toward them."
"Is there any validity to what she's claiming?" I asked, still not trusting Leann to give me the whole truth.
"Like I said, she's delusional," Leann said. "She thinks I've hidden the amulet, but it simply doesn't exist."
"Well, delusional or not," I said. "I think we should try to get your sister back." I reached over and placed my hand on hers. "I'll go with you. I'm sure Tory would go as well."
Leann turned her face to look at me. "I'm scared of what she might do," she said. "She could hold us captive as well." She swallowed hard. "Goddess only knows what she does to the ones she feels aren't Amara. She probably keeps them as sex slaves, or worse."
"Leann," I said, calmly, as I took her hand in mine. "We have to try."
Leann looked into my eyes with concern. "Always the daredevil, aren't you?"
A smug smile spread across my lips. "If the occasion calls for it," I said.
To Be Continued...
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks.