When I write a story it is not so much as a single story but several at the same time, often characters grow on me even if they are minor to the plot. Monetta is such a character. She had one chapter of interaction with my main character and a ‘cameo’ in another with one of the other major characters in The Hunt for Myth October (coming soon from Extasy.com). During the shaving down of the novel and reedits one of the chapters I had in the outline undeveloped, the fate of Monetta Podul.
The display of naught but shades of white, grey and black sharpened quickly as the distance between the ground and Monetta’s face lessened. For less than what a blink of her eye would have taken she saw the gravel pieces as individuals. Quickly those sharp edged rocks impaled into the soft tissue of her eye along with the shards of cheekbone thick of muscle, tissue and flesh, slicing through and colliding with the rods and cones to destroy any sight. For the slightest of moments the cold of the air was dampened by the flood of warmth of blood and mucus exploding from the exploded cartridge of her nose, a blessing overlooked from the pain of shattered teeth and jawbone lacerating her tongue and throat. The last word she would hear before she was thrown from the edge of the gravel quarry to its bottom was whore. If the force of impact had not cracked the sides of her skull to open as a blooming lotus and dislodging her eardrums she would have heard “we loved you” as she lay broken and dying. However it had and she did not before the last strangled laborious breath left her lungs.
Teresa Gallows bolted upright from her sleep to being wide awake and dripping in sweat. She had to peel the sheets from her legs before she could swing them over and then onto the floor. She braced her body with her hands on the mattress, her legs trembled. She began to breathe in through her nose and exhaling out her mouth to slow her heart from the rapid pace that it had been beating at. What the hell was that?
The passing of a curse a woman’s voice whispered in her ear.
Teresa bolted from the bed, her hands balled into fists ready to throw and turned to face the intruder that had snuck up on her. All she saw was the single bed with a twisted blanket, the tossed aside top sheet and the impression her buttocks had made in the bottom sheet as she sat the moment before. She looked around wildly to spot anything that cast a shadow that she would not ordinarily see from the streetlamp’s dull glare through her second storey bachelor apartment’s thin drapes.
The hairs on the back of her neck twitched wildly telling her that her eyes were deceiving her, something was in the room with her. Goosebumps formed along the entirety of her nakedness as wisps of ice cold slithered and encircled her. She stepped back until her back was against the wall, although the roughness of the paint against her bare skin felt like sandpaper it allowed a small sliver of ease to impale her mind. A moment later the sliver had disappeared as her head was forced back hard into the wall cracking the plaster. A series of sharp pains assaulted her stomach as if someone had punched her. Vomit spewed out as the pressure holding her head vanished. She doubled over and then dropped to her knees.
“He has forsaken us because you lusted for it,” she heard a voice of a woman that sounded older than the first. Teresa could sense the disdain in her tone. “You are nothing but a dirty whore.”
“Please, no, please, I’m not,” Teresa moaned through pants of pain as she held one arm tight against her stomach and kept her body from falling forward with the other. Her head snapped sharply to the side as if she had been slapped hard on her cheek by an unseen hand.
“Their deaths are upon you, whore,” the old woman’s voice said scathingly. “Your friends...your brother, your sister, all die because you chose to satisfy your own selfish needs over them.”
Teresa felt pressure under her armpits and she was lifted up until only the tips of her toes touched the floor. “No, please, I don’t understand,” she whimpered as the pain of the pinched muscles and skin under her arms increased with every second she was suspended.
Teresa felt a searing pain just below her midsection as if she was being carved into with a scalpel. Her eyes rolled back and the pressure under her arms ceased. Teresa slumped to the floor unconscious.
There was greyness in the Romanian afternoon sky as the nine stood side by side at the edge of the gravel quarry surrounded by their clan of eighteen souls. Monetta Podul stood on the end of the five and stole a glance before staring straight ahead again. Her older brother, Grigore stood beside her. Next to him was her older sister, Katrina, then the man she had been promised to when God would give his blessing, Viktor. The other three men and two women she had grown up with and cherished as much as her own family. Standing two steps ahead of the rest of her clan was her mother, the matriarch of their Gypsy caravan, Bogdana, with her back turned to the nine.
“My family, we are gathered here today as witness,” the old women spoke loud to the crowd. She raised her hands into the air. “Witness to the power of our lord and God. Yet around us there is nothing.” Her voice dropped, “But one failed our lord and God.” Murmurs resounded through the crowd.
The knot in Monetta’s stomach that had formed when her mother had instructed the nine to stand in front of the steep edge of the gravel quarry thirty five feet below tightened. The morning had been glorious, a large feast and the excited chatting of what bounties would be bestowed upon the clan for the work of God the nine had provided the night before. When nothing appeared but a sharp wind to icily slap all exposed skin it could find, Bogdana and the ten other elders had formed a council. Less than a half hour later came the order for all to march two kilometers to the gravel quarry. Her mother’s voice rising over the crowd brought her back to the now.
“God charged us to test and then sheppard on a holy quest, and test we did,” Bogdana stated. “We have discovered too late that the purity of that test was tainted.”
Tainted. The word drove Monetta’s mind back to the day before. She remembered her mother coming to her and telling the clan of the vision she had sent by God that they had been given a holy task. A man would be coming to their caravan and they were to entertain him and provide him with direction for the quest he was on. Bogdana stated that God had revealed to her that the man was neither holy nor pure and lust ravaged his body. They were to rid the man of the lust so that he may be attentive to his quest.
Questions flew at the old woman from all quarters. How was this to be accomplished? Who would do this? Bogdana had assured the clan that no one would be endanger of losing their entrance into the kingdom of Heaven by engaging in any act of lust. They would only be a lurid pantomime to beguile the man. He would be given several doses of mandrake, she explained, and with his mind made suggestively pliable the chosen would guide his mind down the Devil’s road. She went on to say that she would not allow the man in his altered state be alone with anyone of the clan lest the visions of lust were to be attempted in physicality. With her foot Bogdana drew out a large pentagram with the pit where their bonfire would be that night in the center. She placed a tree stump at each point and then asked for volunteers to carry out the ruse.
Monetta had not been surprised that her older siblings, Grigore and Katrina, stepped forward immediately. Viktor, the man she would be bound to when he had saved enough for the dowry, stepped forward. Monetta stepped forward with hopes that her cheeks were not blushed.. Though it would only be a lewd play, she could feel warmth spread in her groin at the thought of being with Viktor. Three couples already bound to each other stepped forward, Dooriya, Beval, Syeira, Ker, Rawnie and Durriken, to complete the pentagram. Bogdana nodded and led each to their respective stumps. She tried not to show her disappointment when Katrina was paired with Viktor and tried to feel pride that her mother had chosen her to represent the clan with the man who would be coming. That night she did as she had been instructed, filling the man’s cup with mandrake-laced drink and sneaking a peek across the bon fire at Syeira to copy the acts of a proper lover. Bogdana clapped her hand bringing Monetta back to paying attention.
Maerta shyly stepped from the crowd carrying a folded sheet. Monetta was horrified. Those were her sheet in her youngest sister’s arms. She watched as her mother picked up the sheet with her fingertips and lifted up so that the sheet billowed in the wind at the crowd. There were sounds of disgust. Bogdana turned and faced the nine so that they could see the sheet as well. There were spots where the sheet’s wrinkles were stiff and slightly stained.
“My daughter chose to betray the trust and honour of our clan by breaking her chastity,” Bogdana said loud enough that her voice echoed below in the quarry. “She chose to travel the devil’s road of fornication outside the bindings of love and greedily gave her body to lust.”
Monetta felt sick. She didn’t look at the others but she could feel their stares burning into the side of her face. She wanted to step forward and deny any wrong. She had done exactly what she had been told to do, nothing more. How could she be accused of damning the clan? Only a soft “no” escaped her lips.
Bogdana let go of the sheet letting the wind catch it and take it past Monetta and flutter down to the pit below. “To those most betrayed by her actions, I give allow to face the one who has damned us.”
Grigore stepped out the line and stood in front of Monetta. “You were trusted, sister. I trusted you. How much hate to you have to do this to me – to us?”
“Please, brother, do not do this, I did not, could not,” Monetta tried to stop shaking from the sharpness of his words as she responded. As the words came out of her mouth she tried to understand what had occurred. She had followed Syeira’s lead, had she not? She had poured the man drink after drink as she was supposed to. A realization came to her. Once or twice she had felt thirsty, the heat from the night’s bonfire was intense and having to stand so close. She lowered her head. “Please forgive me, I forgot my place and took a drink.” She then insisted that it was far too little to affect her.
Monetta whimpered as grabbed her by the top of her head and forced her to look him in the eye. “How dare you question mother’s judgment of your actions,” he said, rage causing his words to shunt. “It was your decision, wasn’t it? You knew what was in the tuica and you drank it, didn’t you? There’s a darkness in you, ‘Etta, and you have damned us because of it.” He gave her no time to respond before he drove his fist into her stomach three times. Grigore released the grip he had on her hair. Monetta fell to her hands and knees gasping to bring air into her lungs.
“Grigore,” Monetta through a wheeze as she lifted her hand to touch his. He flicked her hand away. “Grigore,” she repeated as she lifted her head to see the disgust written on his face. “How can you be this to me? Are we not of the same blood? Did you not do as I in the name of God? Grigore?”
“I brought you to the trailer last night,” Maerta’s voice burned in Monetta’s ears. She looked to see that the younger sister had hung her head low and nervously fiddled with her fingers. “I was worried. Kat and Grigore had returned and you had not.” She raised her head. “I saw you and the man...you were doing things to him...and he to you.”
“Maerta, no, please.”
“I brought your clothes back after everyone was asleep,” the sister continued, “I hoped that the sin could be forgotten.”
“We left you alone, Etta, because we trusted our love for you,” Grigore looked at the seven in line, “We believed that you loved us.”
Had she been affected just as deep by the mandrake as the man and only imagined that she saw the others there? The night was so vivid in her memory, she would remember breaking her vow of chastity let alone seeing the man without his clothing. “I do love all of you! Don’t you see? There’s been a mistake,” Monetta pleaded. “How could you think that I would do such a thing?” There was no time for her brother to answer as he was shoved away and her older sister stood before her, her face red with rage.
“Liar! Whore!” Katrina’s hand came across Monetta’s face, almost knocking both women off balance because of the force. “We were told to act the part of the Devil’s consort,” she shouted at Monetta, “You were the Devil’s whore and you enjoyed every moment.”The venom of the words from her sister struck deeper than her hand did. She looked up and searched for her younger sister. Monetta’s sadness only deepened when Maerta, head hung once more, wouldn’t look at her but moved back further until the bodies of her clan hid her from sight.
Monetta fought back the pain that screamed throughout her body as two men each grabbed her roughly under her armpit and stood up. The chants of “whore” blared around her, drowning out her whimpers for mercy. She watched as her mother took Grigore by the hand and led him right in front of her. She kissed him on both cheeks, and smiled. She told him to kneel. Mother and son both knelt, their foreheads touched for a few seconds before Bogdana leaned back. She put out her hand and a man that Monetta had called uncle all her life placed a pistol in it. He knelt beside her.
“Their deaths are upon you, whore,” Bogdana said scathingly. “Your friends...your brother, your sister, all die because you chose to satisfy your own selfish needs over them.”
“Mother, please, no,” Monetta screamed, trying to free her arms of the grip of the two men but failed. Her eyes widened as her mother put the barrel under her brother’s chin.
Monetta choked back the bile as the back of her brother’s head exploded and sprayed out splattering her with hair, sinew, muscle and shards of bone. The saltiness of blood stung her nostrils and burned her lips. She could feel small slices across her cheeks, neck, and breasts where pieces of bone had lacerated and embedded into her skin.
Her uncle caught Grigore’s caught and held the faceless body before the dirt could contaminate the gaping holes. He did not look at Monetta as he stood up with the corpse in his arms and stepped back. Viktor stepped out of the line and stood in front of Bogdana. He began to kneel down but hesitated. He straightened his knees and turned.
Four years,” he announced looking at Monetta with hatred etched on his face. “I have saved so that I could show your family how much I respected you, how much I could take care of you.” Monetta sobbed as he grabbed the collar of her dress.
“Viktor, please don’t,” Monetta whispered.
“Please don’t?” he answered with a snarl twisted on his mouth, “Why? You chose to be a whore?” Viktor pulled and ripped the dress until it tore in two and left her chest down to just below her calf exposed.
She tried to grasp the fabric together but the two holding her would not give her the slack to move her arms to even cover her breasts or pubic mound.
“You try to be modest now? You showed how little respect you have for me, so why be so modest when you were so free and proud last night to show off?”
“Viktor, I love you, please, don’t, forgive me,” Monetta said through sobs. “My heart belongs to you.”
“Your heart belongs to me?” Viktor laughed viciously. “But the rest can be used by any man freely? Am I just for a quick amuse until someone more interesting comes along?”
How could Monetta respond? She didn’t remember. The shame within would never let her forgive, so how could she request that he forgive her? She searched his eyes to see any of the doting want that he once had of her still existed. She saw none but a small ridge of wetness that she could tell he was trying to force back. She tried to back away when Viktor pulled the small pocket knife out of his pants and opened its blade.
Monetta bit her lip as she felt the tip of the blade puncture the skin under her patch of pubic hair. She tried not to let out a whimper as she felt the blade shallowly carve downward and then in an arc. Viktor stood back and glared at her.
“Just like hid your true self from me I mark you so that only those who truly seek shall know what you are, an evil daemon,” he said. Without a word Viktor knelt in front of Bogdana just as Grigore had. Bogdana kissed him on both cheeks before another man Monetta had respected as her elder and mentor came up and placed another pistol in her mother’s hand and knelt. Moments later Viktor was dead. Katrina was next, and then the others until only Monetta remained.
Bogdana stood up and turned to face those who stood as witness. “My family, my friends, say a prayer for the children that gave of themselves,” she said. She turned to face her daughter and took several steps until she was only a step away from her. Monetta could see nothing but blurred shapes through the thickness of blood only thinned by tears that flowed from her eyes. The smell of roses and lilacs wafted into her nostrils and she could feel the hot breath on her face. “All that remains is the betrayer.”
“Mother, please, don’t do this,” Monetta whispered. Through the thickness she saw nothing but harshness to the eyes that glared at her.
“She damned her soul to Hell,” Bogdana stated, “And with no regard for any other has done so to us as well.” She spat into her daughter’s face. “See how even after the innocent willingly paid with their lives she refuses.”
The pressure of the men’s hands holding her up disappeared. Monetta locked her knees to keep from falling back to the ground. The response to her plea came as sharp as the push on both her shoulders.
Monetta’s hands flailed wildly as she tried to twist her body to keep her footing but the tiredness and pain that ravaged her body failed to help her find the strength. Her feet left the solidness of the top of the quarry’s edge.
Teresa awoke when the glaring unblinking eye of the sun blazed through the light draperies and sent all things that dwell in the shadows to remission. She lay in her bed covered by the bed sheet and blanket atop her smoothly as if she had moved at all during the night. She flipped the covers off and frantically checked her arms and stomach for bruises but there was none that she could see. There was no dull thud or ache to say that it was but she felt the back of her head for swollenness. There was nothing. Teresa slipped out of the bed and walked over to the wall where her head had been pushed into. She could see no cracking or scuffing of the paint.
A dream? A nightmare?A nervous titter passed through her lips. Been working too much. She absent mindedly ran her fingernails through her thick mound of pubic hair. Or kinkily horny. Teresa shook dismissed it as a weariness playing tricks with her mind and set to showering. The itchiness she had felt retreated as the warm water ran over her body allowing her to forget about it without noticing the small slits of red welts that formed the letter “D” that the water had momentarily straightened and revealed from its curled camouflage. She would not notice as well that as she walked to work the shadow on the sidewalk was not wholly hers but the shade of a woman cast away without understanding how it happened.