Fantasies of sensual enchantment
it was already dark when i boarded and the train's lights were out so i made my way to my reserved seat with some difficulty. it was in one of those six-person compartments, and when i opened the door i was struck by how the light from the full moon shone through the mist that had floated into the compartment creating dramatic lighting on one of the seats. as if to balance out this illumination, the darkness in the rest of the compartment seemed even deeper than elsewhere on the train. working by feel -- it was so dark that when i stuck my arm out beyond the spotlit area i couldn't make out anything of my hand beyond a vague sense that something was probably there -- i hoisted my bags to the rack above and made sure the the arms of the seats were folded up so i could like down when it was time to sleep .
as i was sitting back down i heard a voice. "that bracelet looks particularly lovely when it catches the moonbeams."
"thank you. i got it in los angeles." the bracelet was made up of quarter-inch silver cones, each with a small colorful piece of crystal at the end in a few different shades of blue. in different light it glinted turquoise, cobalt, azure, midnight, topaz, and other shades of blue. it always got a lot of compliments.
"I have a similar one in peridot and sapphire -- not with me, alas." her voice reminded me of somebody but i wasn't sure who.
"really? it must be beautiful. apologies for not introducing myself earlier, i didn't realize anybody else was here!"
"nice to meet you. you can call me Artemis. I'm surprised you didn't smell the perfume, my friend Selene and I spilled some a little earlier."
as soon as she mentioned it, i noticed that despite the open window the compartment was filled with a subtle and complex combination of tones that simultaneously conveyed serenity, depth, and sensuality. embarrassed about not having noticed it earlier i grasped for something to say and blurted the first thing that came to mind: "it matches your voice." i immediately wondered whether it had come out sounding inane.
"thank you!" she said, and i could hear her pleasure in her words. whew, apparently not.
"it's nice to meet you as well, Artemis. you sound familiar somehow. have we ever met before?"
"possibly. or perhaps it's just a premonition. in any case, Selene's closed her eyes, at least for a few moments, and i was just going to have a cup of tea to relax. would you like to join me?"
"i would love to -- although first let me go visit the washroom."
the sound of the train in my ears as i groped my way to and fro in the darkness, i thought about my compartment-mates. i resisted the urge to imagine what they might look like and instead concentrated on what i had experienced so far: their names, Artemis' words, her or Selene's perfume, her voice. maybe she was right and my sense of familiarity was really a hint of the future. i wondered where they were going and fantasized that we might turn out to have similar destinations.
when i got back to the compartment there was a japanese iron teapot and two teacups sitting in the moonlight. "would you mind pouring?" she asked me.
"not at all! um, how did you do that?"
again i could hear a smile in her voice. "I had the tea in a thermos. Selene already had a cup before she lay down."
"ah. i'm impressed. i was wondering if it was your goddess powers."
"not this time. but the night is young."
as i handed the tea to her in the darkness i felt our fingers brush together. the electricity as we touched was intense and i imagined it potentially leading to a spark bright enough to see the two of them but then the moment passed and we were both sitting back down. the tea tasted of chamomile, jasmine, peppermint, more exotic flavors. "this is wonderful," i said. "is there lemon myrtle in it?"
"yes there is, and lavender as well as a few other things that I will be more circumspect about"
"because they relate to your goddess powers?"
"answering that question wouldn't be circumspect of me. anyhow hopefully you will find it very relaxing."
"are you kidding? sitting here drinking this, in the dark with you and the moonlight and imagining Selene lying there ... 'relaxing' is an understatement. does the tea have a name?"
"it does. 'fantasies of sensual enchantment'"
"good name." i inhaled, enjoying how the smell of the tea mixed with the perfume, and then tasted it again. "it certainly is very sensual."
"I'm glad you think that. one thing you should know, though, is that for some people it has side effects."
"yes, i probably should have told you this first. occasionally people find that 'fantasies of sensual enchantment' leads them to a mental state so deeply relaxing that the edges of reality blur just a little for them ... a pleasurably floating feeling, and a sense of serenity ..."
"that doesn't sound so bad."
"it's a state somewhere between awake and asleep so it is very unfamiliar to some people, but it is not bad at all unless you fight it. just make sure to think of pleasant and relaxing thoughts."
"i'll think of you and Selene!" i responded gallantly.
she laughed. "you do have a way with words. i wonder, as well as being framed so charmingly, are your words also good at predicting your future? in any case, please do. and there's nothing to worry about. it's not at all addictive, at least not physically, and while repeated indulgence can lead to increased sensitivity and susceptibility to the effects ... well, enough about 'fantasies of sensual enchantment' for now -- we can talk about that more tomorrow if you want."
we moved on to other topics. she was a great conversationalist, although i noticed she revealed very little about herself and instead kept attention generally focused on me and the topics i came up with. it was easy to talk to her and her questions and comments were incredibly insightful. i found myself opening up to her rapidly.
after a while she complimented me on my poise. "you are unusually charming and articulate for a mortal in the presence of two goddesses."
"thank you! although it's all an act: i'm fully aware of how rare and fortunate it is to meet a goddess and am tremblingly fearful that i won't meet your approval -- or that i'll say something stupid and earn your wrath."
"there really is another side to a lot of those "Artemis' wrath" myths," she said with sounded like a slightly irritated tone.
"let's hope so, because i have a feeling i just did what i feared: said something stupid and ...."
once again she laughed. "you certainly do recover quickly. and if it's an act, you do put up a good front."
"well, i spent a chunk of time hanging out with Eris when i was helping her with the golden apple, and got a lot more comfortable around goddesses. she's such a trickster that i had to learn fast."
"oh, that was you who remixed the judgment of Paris? I wasn't shortlisted. Neither was Selene, which is even more unfair, but probably just as well ... we might well have squabbled about it. i was suprised you didn't give it to Aphrodite."
"lots of other deserving candidates weren't nominated either. and are you really saying you're surprised i'm not as sexist and easily influenced as Paris?"
"the thought had crossed my mind."
"ah. well, i have to say, he was no doubt waaay better looking than i'll ever be, but i try to behave with a little more awareness and integrity than he did in this case, and that tends to lead to a lot less squabbling. as much as i've heard about Aphrodite, personally i don't see any reason to give the apple to only one goddess, or for that matter to limit it only to goddesses -- after Helen and i got to know each other better she eventually told me she'd much rather have been a competitor than a bribe. it took a while to talk Eris around but she's trying to get beyond the 'discord' thing and so now she's cool with it."
"i'm sure you were very persuasive with all of goddesses. and with the most beautiful woman in the world as well. what did Zeus and Paris say?"
"not sure, i didn't ask them. i did however spend a wonderful long weekend in Paris -- the city, that is, not the Trojan -- and checked with Cassandra who of course warned me it would take me a lot longer to resolve then i thought and that there were some unexpected events ahead that she foresaw but wouldn't tell me because i wouldn't believe her anyway."
"of course. did you know Apollo offered to lift the curse of nobody ever believing her prophecies, and she said no?"
"why am i not surprised to hear that. anyhow i also checked with all ten of the Muses who thought it was a very artistic idea, so i figured if Zeus didn't like it, too bad."
"i like how you think." we sat quietly for a few moments and i was surprised how disappointed i was when she said "and now i really do need to be thinking about getting to sleep". still, i consoled myself, we would probably have a chance to talk more in the morning.
"would you like the window open or closed?" i asked.
"open," she said, "to allow the moonlight in. how splendid she is tonight, flooding the earth with clear silver light. if you think you might be cold i have something you can use."
"oh, i've got my jacket."
"this will be more comfortable ... and would you like a pillow as well?"
"wow. you're prepared!"
"we do a lot of traveling. here." she handed me a pillow and a sheet, both soft and satiny feeling. when i brought them into the moonlight i could see that they were both shades of blue, the pillow with a monogrammed A on it and the sheet with an S. "there's perfume on them, i hope you don't mind."
in fact there were different perfumes on the sheet and pillow, and it seemed to me like it was their combination that was filling the cabin "let me guess. there are some ingredients in the perfumes you need to be circumspect about, and it will stay noticeable on my clothes and me for weeks."
"if you scrubbed at it fiercely 24 hours a day, you might get them off you in a few weeks, but why would you want to do that?"
"when you say it like that ..."
"and this way if the side effects of 'fantasies of sensual enchantment' start to kick in the fragrances should help keep pleasant thoughts of the two of us in your mind ... and your dreams, if you're asleep at the time. do you want to sleep with your head by the open window?"
"i defer to your expertise here." she certainly seemed to know what she was doing.
"a wise choice. i think you will have sweeter dreams with your head in the moonlight. it might seem too bright, but fortunately i have a blindfold. lie down on your stomach and cover yourself with the sheet, and as soon as you have gotten yourself comfortable, close your eyes, and i'll put it on you." the idea of her blindfolding me seemed completely natural, and so i did as she instructed and made myself comfortable. once my eyes were closed, she added "i'll need some light for this. i'm just going to get out some candles." i heard her open a couple of pockets in a travel bag and remove some items, and then in a minute the sound of a match. i smelled new scents with some different accents (patchouli? vanilla? sandalwood?) and pictured the candlelight mingling with the moonlight in the mist.
even though we weren't touching, i could sense her presence near me. lingering slightly (or so it seemed to me) she stretched out the time. i assumed she was as conscious as i was that with the candle, if i opened my eyes and turned over i would see her. in the strange mix of sensation i wasn't sure what i was imagining and what was real. was it the wind rustling through her hair, and if so did it sound more like longer or shorter hair? had she just removed the sheet (it had been laying over me so lightly that i couldn't really tell), and did i sense some movement from her hands almost as if they were making passes above me as i lay there? was that her breath triggering goosebumps or a breeze? the candle or her warmth?
it was probably only a few moments but it seemed much longer and then i felt her gently place the blindfold on my still-closed eyes and secure it on me. i was sure i would feel another spark when her fingers actually touched me but it was only the leather until she whispered in my ear "is the blindfold comfortable?" it was. i felt the sheet settle oh-so-gently down on me. "good. roll over and lay on your back and let the moonlight kiss your face." i could tell she was still next to me and i listened to her breathing and mine. after a few moments she spoke again, very gently.
"are you feeling any side effects?"
"it can be very subtle at first. let your breathing slow ... good ... take deep breaths. picture a pure blue color. peaceful. calm. relaxing. now picture the moonlight outside shining through mist on a lake on you lying here, shining through mist onto a like. picture yourself in the mist, relaxed, feeling it throughout your body and your mind ... floating on the lake ... gently kissed by the moonlight ... do you feel like you're floating serenely?"
"now that you mention it, i do."
"oh dear. it seems like you are affected by 'fantasies of sensual enchantment'. so it is very important that you have some pleasurable and relaxing thoughts in your mind as you go to sleep."
"i'll do my best."
"good. I hope it won't bother you if Selene reads some poetry aloud, we like do that to relax after a long day. if you want you can imagine my voice reading as well ... and picture yourself reading and thinking the words. after the first poem the best thing for you to do is not pay attention to any of the individual words, just listen to the sound of our voices and let them wash over you as you drift off to sleep."
"thanks very much. it's been very nice meeting you, Artemis, and i hope you sleep well."
"I'm enjoying meeting you as well. sweet dreams. kallisti."
a few moments passed, and then i heard a soft voice reading barely above a whisper, feeling my lips move as i repeated the words myself and at the same time and trying to imagine Artemis' voice as well:
Drinking chamomile tea,
From a mug with images
Of flowers and leaves:
Chamomile of course,
Saffron and peppermint,
Comfrey and lemon balm,
Rosemary and jasmine.
On the inside it says
"Sip a bit of serenity."
I do, and think of you.
the poem ended and it was silent for a few moments. for the most fleeting of instants and with a touch so light i once again wasn't sure whether it was real or i was imagining it, i felt somebody's lips against mine. the kiss tasted like honeycomb, chocolate, and the tea we had just shared. then after a moment i heard a rustle of pages followed by Selene's voice starting to read, now speaking even more quietly. remembering Artemis' suggestion i didn't even try to concentrate on her words but instead relaxed into their voices and drifted off to sleep.
my dreams were vivid, realistic, intense -- and all about them. some were romantic: us waking up on crisp linen sheets in a vacation in a bed and breakfast. others were set far in the future, as part of a long friendship, or with us reencountering each other for the first time since this night. some were adventure dreams, us as pirates, persons-of-space, explorers. some were sensual and erotic, image of limbs intertwined and no boundaries, delicately stimulating nerve endings with touches as featherlight and subtle as the kiss, sensations i can't even imagine let alone describe when i'm awake. and some were abstract, complex interacting imagery and intricate, evolving, almost-geometrical patterns, a sense of transformation and limitless possibilities. i know it doesn't sound like those last ones were exactly about the two of them, but they were.
the first thought that popped into my mind as i woke up was that i would quite possibly think about this kiss (and the prequel, and the aftermath) every single time i kissed somebody for quite a while. as i lay there, listening to the rhythm of the train and feeling the warmth of sun that was now streaming in through the open window, i realized that the blindfold had somehow come off during the night.
i contemplated whether they would be there if and when i opened my eyes. the whole night seemed surreal, and while i was pretty sure i hadn't imagined it i wasn't 100% convinced -- and for that matter i could even imagine Artemis collecting the blindfold, sheet, teacups, and pillow and leaving before i woke up. it was with with some relief that i noticed that i was still lying on the pillow, which still felt satiny and most definitely had not been something i had brought with me. i thought about what i would want to say to them if we got a chance to talk in the morning.
i still had no idea where they was going, but i was sure that i wanted to find a way to stay in touch with them. there have only been a handful of times where i've met someone who had such a powerful experience on me, and they usually turn into friendships that blossom quickly and steadily deepen. plus there was their seductiveness. sure, you can't rely on having a train with the lights out, a crescent moon, and mist every night of the year ... still, these seemed to me like people who certainly knew how to take full advantage of the setting. on top of that they traveled with candles, satin sheets, and 'fantasies of sensual enchantment'. oooh!
what would it be like, i thought to myself, to fall steadily more and more under their spell? 'fantasies of sensual enchantment' and an unforgettable kiss, followed by dreams about sensual enchantments, night after night, with me steadily becoming more susceptible to the serenely floating side effects. and as for what treats the day might have, it was hard to imagine.
"want to find out?" a voice asked.
my eyes shot open. sunlight flooded the room. had i imagined it? or were they able to read minds, too? "huh?" i cleverly responded, or words to that effect.
"want to climb out? Selene got off earlier, and will be catching up with me after dark ... I'm not sure where you're going but I'm getting off at the next stop. there are lockers there; you can dump your bags, enjoy the morning, have some petit dejeuner, and decide what to do next." it was definitely Artemis' voice but with a different energy, somehow brighter and eager and active.
it didn't take me any time at all to think about it. "coincidentally enough, i'm in a remarkably flexible and spontaneous mood. and now that i think about it, i'm not sure where i'm going either."
"how fortunate for you then that we happened to run into you. i hope you are able to stay the night, i'm sure Selene is looking forward to dinner with you just as much as i am. there's a festival and so it may be hard for you to find a hotel, but we have a room and if you want you can sleep on the floor at the foot of our bed tonight. speaking of which, did you sleep well? I hope the side effects didn't trouble you too much."
"they were certainly noticeable. thanks to your advice and the poem i was able to keep pleasurable and relaxing thoughts in my mind and so yes, i slept quite well and had some wonderful dreams, and feel utterly refreshed. i heard what you said about the effect of repeated indulgence in 'fantasies of seductive enchantment', but i think i'm willing to take my chances. it's strange, though, i still have no idea what either you look like -- one or both of you were in every single one of the dreams but none of them involved a physical image of you."
"perhaps that was an application of our goddess powers."
"if so, well done."
"am i going to get to actually see you today?"
"would you like to join us for dinner? i'll leave you the address of the restaurant, and there will be a table under my name. if you're still interested in hanging out with us, that is." i expressed that i most certainly was! "wonderful! and now I'm going to apply some non-goddess powers and go freshen up -- and change into something that doesn't look like I slept in it. i'm not going to put the blindfold back on you yet, so close your eyes please."
once i heard the door close, i got up, and by feel changed into something that didn't look like i had slept in it, folded up the blue satin sheet and stacked the pillow on top of it, and as i looked out the window at the brilliant blue sky waiting for her return tried to picture her peridot and sapphire bracelet. i wondered to myself if we would be having 'fantasies of sensual enchantment' to start the day off, or whether that was more an evening tea and she'd have something different in mind for morning.
i heard her knock on the door, and closed my eyes again.