Not much had changed when Buzyges woke up. There was still a murmur coming from a nearby brook. The myrtle smelled faintly sweet, the light slanted through the canopy, but it was clearly morning. His clothes were damp from the dew and, as he stretched, his legs were wooden and stiff, but he felt oddly invigorated. New sounds invaded the tranquil forest. Leaves rustled and branches snapped; there were splashing sounds farther upstream, and voices. It sounded like a song in a language he had never heard before.
He approached quietly, peering through bushes, staying close to the ground and beheld four beautiful young women running around a little glade where the river idled and widened, splashing each other with waves of water which were too large for such a small stream, cooing and laughing as it lapped around their feet and trickled down their naked bodies like a lover stealing kisses.
For all their nakedness, they moved with a seductive trickery, never bearing their full frontal nudity, only offering glimpses of it, their long hair rippling along their arms and past their calves. Nature helped, throwing up veils and whirls of petals or leaves around them.
But all of it, their hair, their skin, their breasts, their eyes, was not human. One girl had black hair, shimmering with cobalt highlights, akin to the night sky with its shooting stars. Her eyes were like flint set with opals and her skin was as the forest soil, dappled in browns and grays and dark greens. Another girl was greens all over. As sweet and tender as the bud of a daffodil in some places and as dark as acanthus leaves in others. Her hair was the creamiest white, pinked like a daisy; it burst into the space around her head with bouncing curls and she smiled with lips red as roses.
The other two were the ones throwing up waves. Their thighs and calves had a glow pearlescent while their hands were light as coral on the palm and dark as wet sand all over up to their shoulders and down their chest and back. As they moved, the light would catch a sparkle in that muddy skin. If you washed them, they must glow, he thought. Their hair sported garish ornaments made of watercress, making it hard to guess at the colour or even where the strands of hair stopped and the pondscum began. He was in the presence of nymphs, nature spirits.
Buzyges tried not to move or breathe, and took a little step forward ever so carefully. A throbbing desire reached down to his groin as he watched them dance and sing and giggle and leap in a riot of sounds and sighs and, as he neared, smells. He could taste the salty tang of the skin of the naiads. At one moment his memories would have him swimming, diving, cavorting with dolphins as he raced them to the deep. The next he could feel the wind whip through his hair as he sat on top of a peak, gazing down on the forest and the sea. It was all he could do to stop from laughing in glee. As he moved forward, his hands brushed against leaves and bark and bush, and his feet tenderly straddled the loam where he could feel the power of all that grew.
Before he knew it, he stood out in the open in front of the naiads, the dryad and the oread, his hands still grasping for greenery, his cock tenting his tunic obscenely, his arms slack by his side. His eyes, however, were darting to and fro, looking for an exit he knew his body wouldn’t even respond to taking.
They pretended not to notice him at first, their long limbs skipping over the grass. They were chasing each other. And then one stopped, made an exaggerated look of surprise at seeing him, and the others ran into her, toppling one another as they rolled in the grass and laughed. They rose as one and moved closer to Buzyges. The taller naiad locked her gaze on him, seemed to rape him with her eyes while he fell and fell into them. They didn’t really have a color. A flash of teal and navy blue would streak across his vision of it, but otherwise the color of her eyes was depth.
‘Sisters, we are being watched,’ said the oread with the dark hair. She didn’t mean: watch out, we are being watched. She meant: sisters, something looks delicious.
‘I was sleeping nearby,’ Buzyges replied to the unanswered question. His need for them was extreme. His chest burst with the effort of not grabbing one of them and taking her rough and hard. And as he thought it, he knew that they could smell every desire of his, see every forestalled motion, hear every pant and groan that he would have shouted out raucously into the new day. He didn’t care. He was afraid. Oh yes, he was terrified. These girls were more dangerous than a pack of wild bulls. But the fear only fuelled his desire. Sweet Aphrodite, he prayed, I could die a happy man if you would grant me the boon of having any one of them, right here, right now.
‘Our maidenhood is not hers to grant, human,” said the naiad, interrupting his thoughts. “We are servants of no-one. We dance with Dionysos, play with Pan and hunt with Artemis, but none of them controls us.’
‘So you would ravage us, strong boy? You would bite into us with your manhood?’ laughed the smaller naiad. Her small breasts bounced as she strode around him, touched him on the shoulder, the forearm, the lips, the chin. All of a sudden all of them were touching him somewhere. A fleeting touch, a soft caress or some lingering fingers, a pinch or a squeeze, and inevitably a slight stroking along his thigh that could have been hair brushing past, or a finger.
‘Please, ladies, I beg of you, let me go,’ Buzyges managed to say even though his mind was inflamed with passion, pleading and shouting out to his body to rip off his clothes, take a hold of any of these soft women. But they are not women, he rebuked himself, they are goddesses. Can’t you see? They’re not yours to touch.
They laughed and giggled as they whirled around him, taking his hands in theirs for a second, or sliding with their breasts along his back, making to kiss him on his bared upper arm or cheek. His inner turmoil made them laugh even harder and gently they pushed him toward the river, like dolphins nudging a shoal of fish to the surface before the feeding frenzy. And they take cues from each other, flying in to harass the fish from all sides, sending them into a panic by creating a wall of bubbles, herding them closer together until their grey scales flash up into the sunlight; the fish break the surface and find they are trapped. That is when the dolphins strike. Even the voices of the nymphs sounded more animal than human.
All the while Buzyges would plead, would force his voice over the din of their giggles with less and less conviction. They had removed his clothes – he had had no say in the matter – and for what seemed like hours he was standing naked next to the river. ‘Stop,’ he would moan from time to time as their hands wandered over his body, stroked him with long fingers, teased him and drew away from him with frustrating little chirrups.
‘So is this what you want, human?’ the dryad who had been silent up till now whispered in his ear as she nibbled his earlobe and let her hands cup his ass cheeks. ‘You would celebrate nature with your mortal body? You would set the eternal river to boil with this pale flame of yours?’
‘Please,’ he pleaded – not sure what for – and suddenly alighted on an idea, ‘would you show me my future in the water?’
‘Why? If you die here, you have no future but for the fish and the worms to eat your flesh and pass you on into nature. You are already dead.’ She smiled with her rosy lips right in front of him. The minutest movement of his hands, and he could grasp her by the small of her back, draw her against him, stomach to stomach, plunge himself deep inside her cunt. The urge was strong, but he resisted.
‘I need to know,’ he said, ‘if I might ever get to see my mother again. If it is in vain, I will gladly die here in your embrace.
The smaller naiad went to the riverside and cupped her hands into the water. Without spilling a drop, without even causing a ripple, she brought it up before him; her hair was dark green and woven through with algae, hanging down onto her nipples. She held her hands up before him and presented the water, which previously had been opaque. It shimmered with the light of the morning sun and darkened as soon as she whispered some words over it. He was staring into the depths of the ocean, rimmed by coral fingers, but he couldn’t see anything. The naiad on the other hand obviously could, because she stared in wonder.
‘Sister,’ with a surly look she turned to the dryad, ‘this kouros. We mustn’t kill him.’
‘My Lady,’ said the dryad when she peered into the mirror, seemingly addressing an unexpected guest. In a lilting song that sounded like the wind blowing through the trees, like ripples in a stream, like boulders sliding from a mountainside, they conversed. It was as if Buzyges didn’t exist, but neither did they. The more heated their discussion, the more they seemed to fade into the background, becoming a patch of shadow-strewn grass, or a small sapling, while the image of the naiads wavered like currents of hot air. Buzyges made a great effort to regain control of his body while they were distracted.
Every movement was the crossing of a mountain pass or swimming the length of a strong river. With a great dearth of speed, he got hold of his clothes and rolled them into a ball of cloth. He stepped down the bank of the river and crossed to the other side, making to sprint when he climbed up to the forest’s edge. The nymphs saw him leave in silence.
It took a while before his desperate escape led him far enough away where he felt safe. Safe enough to put on his clothes, even though he was wet and oily, the river’s water coalescing with his sweat. He looked down and saw that, sometime between the terror and the unnatural desire, he had reached an orgasm. His body had reacted to both stimuli simultaneously when the nymphs’ hold had waned. He felt ashamed, betrayed by his own body, and wiped in disgust at the streaks of cum that were spattered across his stomach and thighs. He didn’t and couldn’t save himself. An earnest desire had saved him, one that was now forever soiled with the memory of those nymphs. Still, hadn’t he wanted them even before they saw him? Or had they always known he was there? Or maybe he couldn’t resist them because no mortal could? What was that feeling of flesh against flesh, mixing all the parts, moving in an unknown unity, releasing every hold on the ego, untangling every complexity, to become one bright stuff that the universe is made of, a palpable captation of sensuality?
He screamed, roared at the trees and the stones and the water. He cried, then stopped himself from crying out of shame, then cried again as the shame of it overwhelmed him and found that his cock was still hard. And all the while he marched on, blind to the beauty of the morning wood around him. He saw no flowers. He saw no butterflies. He saw no deer or rabbits or foxes with their plumed tails. He didn’t see the forest, until he passed out of it into bright sunshine, like a child taken from the birthing canal and thrust into the hard glare of day.
A field stretched out before him, tilting like a seesaw across the landscape, to a far distant mountainside, dotted with a flock of sheep here and a village there, a copse over yonder and some river or other that flowed in between them like a discarded piece of string. And the oppression of the woods left him completely. Buzyges was no longer the Buzyges who had walked into the woods, or who had gone through the woods, or even the one who had been overtaken to within a sliver of the centre of his heart and who had yet managed to escape.
He was a dunce, and he was dirty, but he was no longer downcast. He was free once more. Free to consider that he was on a journey. Not one he had chosen for himself – one his anger had chosen for him, truly – but a journey nonetheless and he was used to journeys. So he walked out into grass that was still green and moist, and he did not see that behind him, the trees were turning their colours.