Moon in Aries
Premiered – 1 May 2004 (Beltane)
(July 18 th )
He was deep into the woods, his principle lifeline a casually drawn map of a shaded, meandering road. He did have the slight additional advantage of a four-wheel drive vehicle, but as the alleged road narrowed and twisted among the tall pine trees it was becoming less and less clear the extent of the advantage; the vehicle's value, after all, was limited to the amount of gas left in the tank. Only the occasional passing of a vividly described landmark gave him any encouragement that he was anything but hopelessly lost.
For the fourth time, Herman checked to see if he was dreaming. He wasn't. Neither beautiful maidens with food and drink nor hulking monsters wanting his head appeared on the scene. Just trees and the passing of time as the sun continued its trek across the afternoon sky. Then turning a heavily shaded corner, he abruptly came upon the cabin, nestled, hidden, and generally obscured by the trees (or the forest -- depending on whether one couldn't see the trees for the forest or vice versa).
Herman was momentarily amazed at his success. The directions which he had acquired from Tess' mother, Lisa, had been flawless, even if casually drawn. Of course the local population had not believed that such a place existed, much less that the map Herman carried had any relation to where the locals thought they were. From their perspective -- given that the perspective of Mainiacs is inherently flawed -- there were entirely too many roads on the map. Only one old man had thought that he recalled a trail or two in the general location surrounding Tess' alleged home. Which when Herman came upon them, he had had to agree; several of the "roads" did in fact resemble trails, albeit dual, parallel trails.
It was still light when he arrived, but clearly too late for Herman to attempt a return trip until the following morning. The moon was close to third quarter but couldn't be counted on to provide enough light for night traveling, particularly with the roads being so heavily shaded from the prolific overgrowth. Even with Herman's unfailing sense of direction, finding his way out of the wilder portions of the wilds of Maine could easily be too much of a challenge for Herman the Intrepid.
Obviously then, Herman would have to spend the night. This assumed that Tess would let him – something which was not an automatic. Tess often had her own ideas about what she should or shouldn't do. In fact, Tess was particularly fond of wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with "Don't Shouldn't On Me!" It seemed to speak volumes on her attitude toward life in modern society.
As Herman got out of his rented four-wheel drive vehicle, he noticed the air. It was fresh -- almost soothing! In addition to the normal aromas of forests, there was even the hint of an ocean nearby. Apparently, his jigsaw-patterned travels had turned him around sufficiently that he was once again near the coast. Or else, Tess was importing salt air. With his luck, Herman began to think, there was probably an interstate highway four blocks to the south, but which, of course, you couldn't get there from here. (The inability to get "there" from "here" is one of the great truths of Maine .)
The sound of a screen door slamming received his immediate attention and he turned to see Tess walking out on to the porch and for several brief seconds recalled what a good looking woman she was.
Her most noticeable asset was her tall, slender, athletic body. Designed for speed, this gal could probably outrun a doe had she been so inclined. Tess also had the light tan of someone who spent many hours outside, but sufficiently in the forest so as to prevent too much sun. She wore a short tunic such that her graceful features were clearly evident.
Tess might have been the woman men fell for, except for one thing: her bearing. There was the sense of nonsense not being tolerated, sex being only for recreation -- on her terms -- and there were much more important things to do in life than hassle with a man. The penetrating expression on her face was inevitably one of independence, separateness, and an inquiry into the other person's intentions. Ultimately, Tess simply intimidated people -- a trait which is not known to win a lot of friends.
To Herman, however, she gave a wry smile.
"Hi, Sis!" Herman smiled his best brotherly return smile, countering her wry smile and raising the ante slightly.
"Hello, Herm. Welcome to my house." With that said she walked up and gave him a genuinely affectionate but sisterly hug. When Herman smiled, feeling welcomed, Tess added, "Come on in and sit a spell."
As they began to walk toward the cabin, their arms around one another's waist, Tess said, "You planning to spend the night?"
"If you don't mind," Herman answered apologetically, "Finding my way out of here in the dark might be close to impossible."
"No problem," Tess said. Then she turned slightly toward him. "Just don't try any thing. The last guy that decided to drop in and check us out was some university professor up here on a thrill-seeking weekend of voyeurism. He's now providing nourishment for wild flowers!" When Herman looked sufficiently stunned, Tess added matter of factly, "Just another of the glories of the food chain." Tess smile and turned back to open the cabin door.
Herman was shocked and taken aback that he might be considered to move in such undesirable company. "Surely you're not worried about me!" At the same time he quickly tried to block out the memories of his recent hours spent with April -- just in case Tess was into reading minds. After all, Tess might not approve of wanton sex -- even if wanton sex was often the best kind.
Tess gave no hint of her being aware of Herman's immediate past, however, and instead gave Herman a quick hug. As she did, she said, "Ah Herman, you never change."
"Did you want me to?"
Tess leaned back to look at Herman for a moment. "No," she decided. "I think I like you the way you are." When Herman could only give her his best grin, Tess chuckled and shook her head in resignation.
As they entered the cabin itself, Herman took very careful note of where he stepped. This had the advantage of his not stumbling in the darkened room, as well as reducing the possibility of his making his own personal contribution to the food chain. Then as his eyes became accustomed to the dark, he saw three women in the room, two sitting at a table shelling peas, while a third seemed intent upon merging with the large upholstered chair in which she was sitting. The upholstered lady looked slightly dazed.
Tess made the introductions. "Ladies, this is Herm, my half-brother. He's a little over-sexed, but otherwise okay." As Herman started to protest, Tess gestured to the women, "This is Teresa, Alice , and Lena . Teresa's pregnant." Herman realized it was Teresa in the upholstered chair, and who was something on the order of eleven months pregnant. This accounted for why the upholstered chair seemed so upholstered. It also accounted for why Teresa was slightly dazed -- one wasn't supposed to be eleven months pregnant! Herman made a quick gesture to acknowledge the introductions, as Tess added, "Just a few sisters in need of a rest from men."
Herman grimaced and turned to Tess. To her specifically, he asked, "Are you really that against men?"
Tess seemed surprised by the question. "No. I just like to make my own choices as to when and where." When he seemed to understand her answer, Tess added, "But some men prefer not to allow the average woman any choice. So I endeavor to help my sisters make their choices despite such men. "
Herman was cool about it. "I can handle that."
"I know. Because if I thought you couldn't, you wouldn't be here."
Herman smiled his best Cheshire Cat grin.
Then Tess' smile took on a slightly darker shade. "We're just no longer willing to put up with a patriarchal society, where the men call all the shots. As a matter of fact, it's about time to pull the patriarchs down by their balls!"
Herman knew Tess well enough to know her feminist leanings, even if he had never thought of her as being particularly extreme. Tess was just definite in her views, a trait which he could easily handle as well. Nevertheless, he often liked to challenge such views, if only for the recreational value of debate. Accordingly, his question was direct and to the point. "How do you propose to do that from here?"
"What do you mean?" Tess was genuinely perplexed.
"How do you 'pull the patriarchs down by their balls' when you live here?
Tess quickly understood, and began to explain. "I headed for these woods when it became apparent the world was going to hell in a hand basket. When the economy is crashing, the environment is being destroyed, the educational system and the media are being used to push self-serving lies and deceit, and when being anywhere near a city has become a death wish… It's time to move. Only now, I've realized that there's hope. There are now people making some very profound changes, a fundamental revolution from the grass roots up. As it all begins to turn around, I will want to be in the midst of it. It's a cause worthy of my time and energy."
Herman watched Tess' face for several seconds, before he asked in his "little boy" voice, "Can I be on your side?"
Tess laughed. "Sure! In fact, I think you already are."
Herman usually knew which side he was on, but for the moment…
"So what did you bring me from mom?"
Herman smiled. The principle reason Herman had been given directions to Tess' cabin, had been that he was carrying a message from Tess' mother, Lisa. Knowing her mother and how she thought, Tess had already guessed that Herman would have something for her. What she didn't know was that Herman's being allowed to carry the message had not been an automatic, in that Lisa was not certain she was willing to entrust her letter to Herman's care. But then a telephone call to someone Herman couldn't pick up on had changed her mind, and Herman was now a trusted courier between mother and daughter. Herman, of course, did not know why he was being trusted, or who had implied he could be trusted. But it had been a mystery Herman felt no immediate need to unravel.
Accordingly, Herman simply retrieved the unopened, unscanned letter from his jacket pocket, and handed it to Tess. She took the letter without a word, and walked outside to read it. The other women had long since begun to ignore his presence, and he suddenly felt alone in a room that contained three other people. 'So much for the rules of polite society,' he thought. But then he decided the others were under no obligation to entertain him, a fact which once accepted could do wonders for anyone's life. Smiling at his profundity, he began to wander about the cabin, explore a bit! Just in case Tess and her comrades were stockpiling weapons in preparation for an assault on Bangor , Maine .
As he moved through several of the rooms, in something of a mock spy fashion, he noted that it was much larger than it looked from the outside. Easily five bedrooms, a large kitchen, three bathrooms, and what would have to be considered a small arsenal. Not your typical arsenal, of course -- unless you were still living in the dark ages -- but nevertheless an accumulation of weapons. There was a multiplicity of bows and arrows and other forms of hunting equipment, but with the notable exception of guns and other loud weapons.
Herman was considering the implications of the "arsenal" -- and whether to inform the appropriate authorities in the CIA/FBI Joint Task Force on Armed Loonies -- when he began to hear all manner of scurrying and strange sounds from the cabin's main room. Obviously, the three women were excited about something! And after a moment's reflection, Herman was fairly certain why. It was apparently Baby Time!
Suddenly Alice opened the arsenal door. She was momentarily surprised at the sight of Herman, but recovered just as quickly. "Where's Tess?"
"Outside," Herman replied.
Alice turned without a word, leaving the door open. Herman assumed that perhaps he could help find Tess, and seeing an exterior door for the arsenal went outside by that means. He abruptly found himself involved in something of an adventure. For as he stepped out, Teresa (the eleven month pregnant lady and soon-to-be mother) was just coming down the stairs from the kitchen. She was only moderately clothed, and as she reached the shaded, grassy area behind the kitchen, she went down on all fours and begin to pull at the grass. At the same time she began to make noises, which at best could be described as guttural, animalistic, and totally weird. The woman was literally rooting about!
As Herman watched her, amazed beyond belief, Tess came to the door. "Herm! Instead of being a peeping Tom, why don't you make yourself useful?"
"Is she okay?" Herman asked, hardly hearing Tess' comment.
"She's just getting in touch with Mother Earth," Tess answered.
'Ohhhhh!' Herman thought. 'That certainly explains absolutely nothing!'
"Maybe you can pace," Tess suggested, as Herman turned to go into the house. Then she added, with a touch of sarcasm. "That's about all men are good for at a time like this."
Herman looked at Tess for a moment before proudly informed her, "Don't count on it! Among many other talents, I know how to coach breathing. I've even done it before!"
Tess studied him before relenting. "Okay. We won't need that, but you can help Alice fill the tub."
"Fine," Herman replied, totally confident of his ability to handle any birthday crisis. Then, as he followed Tess, it hit him! 'Wait a minute!' he thought. 'What happened to boiling water!? What tub!?'
As he entered the living room, he found out. In the middle of the room was an extra large tub, an oversized version of what once constituted the primary means of taking a bath in the early west. The modern version also had several additional features designed especially for giving birth. Herman didn't know it yet, but this was going to be a water birth.
Quickly, he began helping Alice and Lena carry water to fill the tub, while Alice took careful pains to achieve just the right temperature -- 101 degrees Fahrenheit, he learned later. Finally when the water reached the level of a small line on the tub, Tess returned, helping Teresa waddle into the room. (All pregnant women waddle; it's one of their most attractive features.)
Tess immediately addressed Herman. "Teresa has requested you help her with the birth. She'd like a man involved." Tess had the look of uncertainty as to just how wise Teresa was being, but was willing to accede to any wish of a woman in the process of giving birth.
"If you don't mind," Teresa said, sincerely and gently pleadingly. Then suddenly, she yelped as ye olde contraction hit, right on schedule. With Lena rushing to support Teresa from the other side, Herman felt obligated to do anything that might be necessary.
"Sure, I'll help. Whatever you want."
The universe is very clever. It often sets us up to agree to do something which had we known all the details we would almost certainly have balked. Then we find ourselves committed, end up doing it (initially with minimal enthusiasm), and then discovering we wouldn't have missed the experience for the world! The universe had just been clever with Herman – only he didn't know it yet.
The details arrived immediately. "Great!" Tess announced, "Now strip and get into the shower! Pronto! Alice will help scrub you down."
Herman felt the ground give way. While it was self evident that Tess' orders were not to be ignored, nevertheless, her most recent command was a bit too much for Herman. He simply stood there in total uncertainty. For Alice , however, the directions were clear.
Within seconds, Alice had Herman in the shower, scrubbing him furiously, and without the slightest hint of sexual overtones -- obviously a whole new experience for Herman. Then Herman found himself, almost as quickly back in the living room, naked except for a bath towel which he had insisted on draping about him. He was also still dripping wet. Alice had seen no need for him to dry.
"Into the tub!" Tess ordered.
Herman stopped short. Teresa was already in the tub! But then everything became clear as she leaned forward, and Tess began to indicate the position that he was to take: behind Teresa, with his legs running alongside hers. At this point, Herman no longer felt any need for control over his actions, and simply obeyed.
He was immediately rewarded by the pleasant warmth of the tub and the softness of Teresa's body. The obvious comforts of home were then followed by a more esoteric feel as the significance of the moment became evident. Herman reached forward to hold Teresa by the shoulders, to gently help in anyway he could. Tess smiled, as she sensed Herman joining their efforts.
"Have you ever seen a water birth?" she asked.
"No," he replied. He didn't mention that he'd never heard of one.
"The idea," Tess explained, "is for the baby to enter the world with less trauma. Not suddenly find themselves out of the womb, and into a cold, bright, noisy, sterile operating room. It's also a great deal easier for the mother as the water supports her and the pain is enormously reduced."
"Oh!" Teresa confirmed, delighting in the warm relief. If Herman had had any doubts about the pain aspect, Teresa had forever dismissed it with, "Oh!”
After a few moments of Herman becoming accustomed to the gentle rhythms of Teresa going through the first moments of birth, Alice announced, "Here she comes!"
He was just able to look over Teresa's shoulder to see a small head, followed by two arms as they slipped out of Teresa's vagina. Everyone in the room watched silently as the baby's upper torso moved with the slight movement of the water. Then the baby moved its right arm, and momentarily broke the surface of the water. Just as quickly, the arm ducked back down into the warmth. For several more seconds, Teresa simply sat there, watching her baby's partial entrance into the world.
Later, when the baby girl was fully into the world, her birth time carefully recorded by Lena , Herman breathed a sigh of delight. Until Tess said with a tone of complete authority, "We're not done yet."
Apparently, only Herman had not been ready for a multiple birth. This turned out to be equally as wondrous as the child's now nestled in Alice 's arms. The twin was a boy, who seemed to be quite comfortable at having placed second in the local birthing sweepstakes. Within a short time, both babies were being held, one on either side, against their mother's breast. After that, it was the more traditional delights of receiving twins into the world.
The miracle of birth, especially one without traumatic pain and emergency procedures, is one of the greatest of all wonders. As such, it enormously affected Herman, much more than his previous stints as an expectant father or involved assistant. He was, in fact, almost overwhelmed with emotions as he bathed in his own special afterglow. He felt like the twins' godfather in the best sense of the word. His previous experiences couldn't hold a candle to what he had just been through. Even when offered a portion of the placenta to eat, he didn't hesitate to join the others.
That is, until after he had tasted it and inquired as to what he was eating. Then, he very nearly lost it.
Moments later, Tess sat down beside him, obviously pleased herself. "Two healthy Cancers with their moon in Aries. What more could you ask for?"
"I have no idea," Herman replied, quite literally.
"Astrologically, it's a very auspicious time," Lena added, as she came back into the room." When no one disagreed, she added, "I'm not sure, but they may have a Gemini rising. Certainly some nice trines and sextiles!"
Tess agreed. "I'll ask Chirles about it. He'll give us a complete reading."
Herman's thinking processes continued to savor the moment, even as he wondered about what the women were talking. The mention of Chirles' name caught his attention slightly, but not enough for him to force the issue.
"There's a third quarter moon out there," Lena said. "Perhaps an appropriate ceremony might be in order. One especially designed for twins."
"Good idea," Tess agreed. As Lena left to check with the mother and her two babies, Tess quietly whispered to herself, "Twins." Then turning to Herman, she announced what he already knew. "I was a twin, you know."
"So I've heard." Herman hesitated, waiting for Tess to finish.
For a few seconds, her thoughts simply wandered, until in her mind's eye she found herself walking down a beach, taking a quiet stroll. Suddenly she stopped and just as suddenly realized that she didn't want to be on that beach alone. She needed someone to help, to save him from drowning, to save him for her! Tess leaned against Herman for support as she struggled once again with the thought of why he had had to die, why Aaron had had to make such a stupid challenge! As the tears welled up in her eyes, Tess put her head against Herman, pressing against him for comfort.
He could feel her emotions. He had no hint of what was running through her mind, but he knew she needed someone to lean on, if only for the moment. He was content to be there for her. As he held her, it occurred to him that it was nice to know Tess was not all bravado. She was a thoughtful, considerate person, and Herman could care a great deal for her. Then again, he always had.
The "ceremony" was held outside, under a magnificent starry night. Moonlight cast a soft glow on the forest, muting the landscape such that the details were indistinct. There was even a mysterious beauty lurking about, draped in a panoramic view of nature. Shadows merged, wondering where the sun that gave them existence had gone. It was as if a brilliant ego which had been illuminated by the sun, had discovered itself to be only one among many in a sky full of twinkling souls, a soulscape invisible in the waking life.
The small party walked into the trees as if walking into their own thoughts. Tess led them across the terrain, their feelings reflecting the kinship they all felt as if they themselves were an unselfconscious part of nature.
Herman felt total awe as the four women, one man and two babies took up residence on a grassy knoll, nestled within the rocks, overlooking a calm and peaceful bay. Lena seemed to lead the proceedings, although Herman could hardly be sure. He was in another world, finding himself receptive to a new civilization's conception. He recalled Tess, or perhaps Lena , saying things about twins named Chloris and Stefan, the Return of the Goddess, Temples of the Brain, and a highly independent woman named Lilith. Herman knew he would want to talk to Tess about it later, after the ceremony.
Only he never quite awoke from the dream until the next morning. He had found himself on the living room couch, covered with a soft blanket and his head nestled with a pink pillow. He vaguely remembered making it to the couch but he had no idea when the pillow and blanket had arrived. As he arose from the couch, he suddenly recalled a dream -- or the sense of one. It had been a very eventful dream, one of great significance, another ceremony which included him even when he hardly knew why.
A slight noise in the kitchen disturbed him, causing the dream to fade (at least for the moment) even as he got up. With hardly another thought, he walked into the kitchen where Tess sat munching on some grapes. Alice stood by the counter cutting into a honeydew melon. Tess smiled at his arrival and told him where the food was so that he could prepare his own breakfast.
Herman grinned to himself, thinking that, naturally, he would have to fend for himself in this household. On the other hand, if he really wanted to catch hell, all he had to do was suggest one of the females should make breakfast for him. Here, such insensitivity would probably amount to a capital crime. Fortunately, he knew how to cook. In fact, he figured to conjure up something particularly special and wow the women with what he was not going to share with them – or perhaps just enough to whet their appetites and to ensure they'd know the kind of gourmet meal they had just missed.
Unfortunately, there was nothing but fruit. This just might impose some limitations on his gourmet leanings. Herman, however, would never admit to having been limited. He would just be quietly innovative, and neglect to tell anyone that he would be stopping at the first fast food joint he could find once he was back to "civilization".
Meanwhile, he would feast on fruit, and ignore the strangeness of the breakfast. He was sure it had some excellent health reasons but he wasn't about to ask. Instead, he hoped for some clever conversation. This, as it turned out, was not forthcoming. There was, in fact, little if any conversation -- all the ladies seemed to be meditating within. Herman never felt he was in a position to ask any of his pointed questions, to draw Tess aside and find out what she knew.
Until Tess walked him to his rented auto just as he was about to leave.
"You were quite wonderful last night," she said earnestly. "I really appreciate your participation. It's such a wondrous event and you made it just a little nicer." As Herman smiled sheepishly, she added, "And not just the babies, but the ceremony as well." With that, Tess seemed complete.
"You said something last night," Herman said, not being complete himself, "about the 'Return of the Goddess' and about a 'Lilith", whoever she is..."
Tess was totally blasé. "It's the Great Goddess; she's returning and she's going to make some big changes. There will be many who won't accede to her, and because of that Lilith might well destroy their cities." As an afterthought. "Considering the current state of cities, they probably ought to be destroyed."
He smiled. "You don't think that's a bit extreme?"
Tess' answer was terrifyingly simple. "No. In wilderness is the preservation of the world'. Cities have become a bad idea. Nature is where it's at. Where cooperation is the key and competition is so much bullshit."
Herman's missed that one. "I thought competition was a part of nature. You know... 'Survival of the fittest'?"
"'Survival of the fittest' is not about competition. It's about creatures that adapt best to a changing environment so that they can recreate themselves."
"Oh," he replied. Then, "That's good to know." When Tess only looked at him, he explained, "I wouldn't want to compete with you women."
Tess laughed. "Don't worry, Herm. We know whose side you're on."
Herman was still slightly sarcastic. "Great! That should allow me a bit more sleep, knowing that the women about to take over are on my side."
Tess shook her head. "We're not taking over, Herm. We should! We're certainly better equipped for it. But I don't think so. It's time to bury the hatchet!" When Herman grinned, she added, "Maybe in a smart-assed bastard or two."
Herman flinched, and took a quick mental leap. "Talked to Zak lately?"
Herman tried to appear nonchalant -- which Tess took two nano seconds to see through. "Just a feeling that Zak's making some changes. Thought he might have mentioned to you what's he's planning."
Tess smiled. "He and I haven't had a lot of in-depth conversations lately."
Herman stepped back, giving room for Tess to volunteer information.
"Of course, he may simply be responding to the inevitable. Perhaps Zak is recognizing the power of the hundredth monkey."
Herman looked at Tess blankly. "What in the world is the hundredth monkey?"
Tess grinned. "One of the reasons I decided to leap back into the fray, to decide that the world is going to make it after all." When Herman only continued to look blank, Tess added, "Didn't you read about the hundredth monkey in my mother's letter?"
Herman went immediately from confusion to offense. "I wouldn't do that!" he reacted. Then quieter, "I should have, huh?"
Tess continued to smile. "Don't worry about the future, Herm. Everything's working out splendidly. There may be some drastic changes in the wind, but the world is going to be much better for them."
"Better?" Herman asked, suspiciously.
Tess shrugged her shoulders. "I will admit it may be a shade traumatic for some, for those who are just too fat, dumb and lazy to think about anything else. Or those who are too attached to what is. But that really can't be helped -- that's what happens when the name of the game -- the universal one -- is change. And the Big Change is long overdue."
"Change is all I've heard lately. If I just knew in what direction..."
"Tell you what," Tess assured him, taking his arm. "I'll tell you within forty eight hours -- at the latest. How's that? Is that soon enough?"
"Forty eight hours? Why not now?"
"But do I have to come back out here?"
"Nope. I'll find you. Guaranteed."
Herman let himself be ushered into his car. He thought to protest, but protesting to Tess was like presenting a logical argument to the IRS on why Hawaiian trips were an essential medical expense. Tess merely smiled, assuring him that she'd be seeing him real soon. As he drove away, he was thoroughly confused. The only saving grace was he was encouraged by the fact that finally, someone was going to clue him in, even if he had to wait a couple of days.
Meanwhile, he would have to concentrate on his driving in order to return to what was the local idea of civilization (a questionable concept due to the fact it was located in Maine ).
His quest assumed, of course, that civilization was where he wanted to go. Which, he only suspected it was. He just wasn't immediately certain of why . Maybe there was something or someone to go back to. Nice idea, but who or what? Herman thought for several moments. He suspected he knew the answer -- if he could just remember the details.
Chapter Eighteen – Games
Chapter Twenty – An Invitation
2003© Copyright Dan Sewell Ward, All Rights Reserved [Feedback]