LaPorte Caves – Chapter 15
Written by circes_cup :: [Sunday, 19 February 2017 02:00] Last updated by :: [Friday, 24 February 2017 15:10]
This story contains adult sexual content, and violence. If you are not of age to read this stuff, don’t. No resemblance between these characters and real people on Earth is implied or intended.
“That’s odd.” Ruth’s flawless skin glowed amber as the dawn sun crept above the ocean horizon. But the expression on her face was still shrouded in darkness.
“What’s wrong?” Julia asked.
“Someone stole one of the dune buggies.” She gestured with a foot at the vehicles, which were lined up on the beach. There was a gap in the line. Ruth crouched down on her knees and inhaled deeply through her nose. She was wearing a skintight elastic top and bottom, the former undergoing considerable strain to accommodate her chest as it expanded with the breath. “It wasn’t one of my men. Nor Howard. It was a stranger.”
Julia squatted down as well and took a sniff. Ruth was right: the scent was definitely male, but unfamiliar.
“I guess it doesn’t matter. After all, we’ve got the money to replace it. But it nonetheless annoys me,” Ruth concluded, standing.
“I’m about to head out for some yoga. You’re welcome to come.”
“Sounds nice. But I’ve never done it before.”
“You’ll be a quick study. I have an extra set of clothes. Want to join me?”
“Sure, I …” Julia looked around with a sinking feeling. Her bag was gone. “I left a bag out here last night – mostly gear but also some personal items.”
Ruth stood and swept her gaze across the beach. “Anything important?”
Julia took a deep breath. “Most of it is replaceable, except some earrings. From my father. They’re one of the …” She tried to finish the sentence, but couldn’t.
Ruth’s hand settled on her shoulder in reassurance, which helped Julia find new resolve.
“They’re one of the few things I can remember him by.”
“Notify the police, Ruth ordered her husband,” who had by now emerged from the house to see what had happened. She then turned to Julia and cupped the younger woman’s face in her palms. “Don’t worry. We’ll find them. And punish them. Only a fool eludes the Nourished.”
Julia was grateful for the invitation to yoga: it would get her mind of the loss of the sentimental earrings. She was also grateful that Ruth lent her some clothes, although she took umbrage with the description of the elastic items as “clothes.” They were more like an outer film, clinging to every undulation of her body like another layer of skin. Julia didn’t mind, though. Her body, by the muscular standards of this world, was perfect. As the two women jogged along the beach, what few men were awake at that hour turned their head in shameless appreciation.
“Where’s Howard this morning?”
“Sleeping in. He had a rough time of it in the swamp. I’ll take him back to Earth later today.”
“Really? I hadn’t heard he would be leaving.”
The ladies were jogging at only thirty miles an hour, far faster than a medal-worthy Olympic sprint back home. Conversation was easy at such an effortless pace.
“He’s not leaving,” Julia replied. “It’s just a quick visit to keep our personal affairs in order. We should be back by the evening – if you’re still willing to have us, that is.”
“You can stay with us as long as you like, of course.”
“That’s so kind of you.” Julia wasn’t thrilled with the idea, truth be told. She had grown weary of constantly imposing on someone else’s hospitality, of having them pay for the food,the clothing, even for the smallest purchases. But there was nothing to be done about it: Julia and Howard were foreigners here. She would have liked alternate arrangements, but didn’t even know how to raise the topic.
Luckily, she didn’t have to. Just then, they came across a boat being pulled out of the water by a pickup truck. There wasn’t enough room to go around, so Ruth simply said “over.”
The ladies cleared the boat in a single leap. As she watched the watercraft pass far beneath her feet, she wondered what the record here was for women’s long jump: fifty yards? A hundred? More?
Their feet put craters in the ground where they landed, but it did not slow their run.
“Can I ask you a question, Ruth? I’ve been having these strange dreams recently.”
“I’m not very helpful with dreams, I’m afraid.”
“I’ve had two of them now. In the second one, the world seemed to be in disarray. And the plants were dying. Not just any plants, either. The tr—”
Ruth raised a hand. “I’ve got more than enough worries as it is … how the company has been doing … what happens if things don’t get turned around soon. That’s why we finally took a vacation here – needed to get away from all the bad news somehow. And with all that going on, I honestly don’t have the capacity to worry about the dreams we’ve been having.”
“We? You’re having them too?”
“It is not helpful to talk about these things. And I don’t want to be late for yoga. Come on.” Ruth rocketed away, quadrupling her speed from that of an Olympic sprinter to nearly ninety miles an hour.
Julia’s enhanced muscles had no difficulty managing the ninety-mile-per-hour pace, but the rush of the wind made conversation, especially intimate conversation, far more difficult. She realized that, in the world of the Nourished, speed was one way to bring a topic to a close.
And at that pace, being late was not an issue. They were several minutes early, in fact, which left Julia enough time to peruse several reference books on yoga that resided on a shelf near the registration desk. The books were only a few hundred pages a piece, so she was able to memorize all three of them before class started. But even in the first few pages of perusing, it was clear to Julia that yoga here was unlike anything on Earth.
The class assembled on an open air platform, about twelve women in all.
“Today, we’re going to start with an elevated scorpion,” the instructor announced.
Julia put her palms flat on the ground and then tipped her body upside down. Her feet stretched around until their soles were against the back of her head. It was a pose that required a combination of strength, flexibility and balance that the old Julia never could have mustered.
“Clear your mind. Create an empty space where your worries once resided.”
Julia tried, replacing anxieties and pressures with blankness.
“Let all your worries drain out of you.” The woman’s voice was soothing. “Let the tension in your back drain down into your shoulders, the tension in your shoulders drain down into your neck. The tension in your neck, the worries in your head, let them all flow out of you. Let them flow through your hair into the ground. Think of it like a waterfall – a waterfall of concern, flowing away.”
Julia felt the tension beginning to leave, replaced by a restorative calm. Her old body took hours to unwind. But her new one was more resilient – it shed tension the way a colander shed water. She was quickly at peace.
“Now transition into a simple one-handed handstand.”
Julia had never been able to hold a handstand before, even with two hands. But her body transitioned into the one-handed version instantly, her hands holding her 375-pound mass in perfect balance.
“We’re going to talk about conflict today,” the instructor said. “Conflict and balance. We are powerful beings. We must respond to conflict in ways that restore our balance. Think about the emotions or thoughts that are out of alignment inside of you, and gently bring them back into balance – in just the same way that your body is perfectly in balance.
Julia had forgotten that she was supporting herself with one hand.
“Now shift into the hawk position ladies.”
Everyone dropped out of the handstand and suspended their bodies horizontally over the ground, in a prone position, a single hand supporting their weight just beneath the sternum, the other three limbs spread wide in a hawk’s flight.
“I want you to think about any conflicts you have with your sisters, your mother, your daughters, your girlfriends. Take a deep breath and let them go. Let them go like they are birds. Like they are seagulls. Once caged, but now free, they fly quickly away.”
Julia heard the class breathe deeply and wondered how many animosities and resentments were now taking wing.
“You are the superior gender. You must not be in conflict with each other. The men rely upon you too greatly for that. Unburden your spirit and let it soar. Let it soar like a hawk. There is room enough in the sky for each of you. Your womanly conflicts flap back and forth below you, feeding on scraps. But you soar, higher, feeding on choicer prey.”
More deep breathing.
“Good. Let’s go into a One-Handed Cross now.”
Julia pulled herself up out of the hawk position, righted herself, and went directly into a Cross: torso vertical, eyes on the horizon, legs in a wide split, pointed away from each other, one palm on the ground right below her bottom, holding her body about six inches above the floor. Her old body couldn’t have held this pose for more than a few seconds.
“We’re going to stay in this pose for about five minutes,” the instructor’s voice soothed.
“Think about the men in your life – your husband, your fathers and brothers and sons, your Claimed, your casual affairs, friends and acquaintances. It is not easy being a man. They, like you, are birds. And when they are discouraged, when they have let you down, they are chicks that have fallen from your nest to the ground. Happiness is having them back close to you. Let your spirit surround them – surround them and raise them up – up back to your nest, back to you. Tilt your head toward the blue sky. Deep breath as you lift and raise their spirit with yours.”
Julia let the freshness of the ocean air fill her lungs. Yes, Howard, rise up, she thought. Lift your spirits. Know that I love you. Let go of your ego, your need to be better. Let it fall to the ground. I love you for who you are, not how strong you are. Another deep breath brought more fresh, ocean air into her.
“Continue to think about men. Have any of them hurt you recently, left you aching with sadness and disappointment? Or perhaps they stepped out of line and disrespected your authority? Search your emotions and your thoughts for the pain you harbor. We women often think of ourselves as invulnerable, but it is only the physical wounds to which we are impervious. Find the hurt inside.”
It wasn’t hard, Julia had plenty. Not from Howard – no, he had been great to her. The damage came from others, from earlier. There were boyfriends who had been more little boy than friend. And of course, there was the what had happened to her father – the lawsuit. She thought about how it ended his career, how his outlook on life began to darken after that, and how all manner of health problems emerged in the ensuing years. That lawsuit had broken his heart, she knew. And after it was done, the rest of him broke along with it.
“Now replace your flat palm with a tripod,” the instructor said.
Julia shifted her hand so that it was no longer palm down but instead supporting her superhuman mass on three fingers.
“Settle your thoughts on the hurt inside of you. What would rid your heart of these wounds – of the emotional wounds that our men sometimes inflict? Think of these wounds like a fire. Can you dip a bucket into the well of your compassion, and pour it on the flames. Imagine the hiss of the steam as the flames sputter and die out under the cooling effect of your compassion. Deep breath.”
Julia inhaled so deeply that she had to steady herself again on the three fingers holding her nearly four hundred pounds aloft.
“Are there other wounds as well – wounds that burn so hot, they exhaust all of the water in your well? Would stepping into the fire and breaking up the logs with your bare hands extinguish it? Yes, that’s sometimes what we ladies have to do. Imagine, with unhurried, peaceful thought, breaking the men who so hurt you. Think about the cracking sound their fragile male bones would make. Think about the way their soft flesh would compress under your fist, the way that it would turn yellow and then black and blue with the lightest of punishing touches. Think about their screams as their bodies say what their minds cannot --- that they are so sorry for disturbing your happiness, that they want you to be at peace. Allow a small bit of that piece to return to you now. Deep breath. Promise yourself that you will indulge in the revenge that you need to extinguish the fires of your anger. Another deep breath now, ladies.”
Julia almost fell flat on her face. Was all that for real? Break bones? To restore ‘inner peace’? The rest of the yoga session went by in a blur, the constantly shifting poses producing more nausea than contentment.
“Did I hear that right?” Julia asked as Ruth gathered her belongings. “Is that legal here? To hurt a guy?”
Ruth shrugged her shoulders. “No, but everybody does it from time to time.”
“But would you get … I don’t know … arrested?”
“Have you ever seen someone get arrested for jaywalking?”
“No, but jaywalking is such a minor offence. Are you saying that beating up on a guy is minor?”
“Yes, relative to your own well being.” For the second time this morning, the older woman took Julia’s face in her hands. “We are superior gender. The best way to care for our men is to be at peace with our own emotions – to be contented and in balance. The other day, you denied your body the sex it wanted, and before you knew what was happening, you had imprisoned the man that you love in a bar. In the same way, if you heart has been wrongly wounded by a man, or if he has disrespected you, do not compress the anger inside: you will just wind up taking it out on the innocent. No, when you are hurt, you should take the retribution you deserve on the man that deserves it.. Indulge yourself in a few broken bones. Believe me, it feels very good.”
The ocean rumbled as it crashed against the rocks. The water was slowly wearing them down, transforming what had once seemed fixed and permanent to little more than dust. “But surely women here must view it as wrong – to inflict damage on another human being.”
“Well, if he’s Claimed, of course it would be wrong to lay a finger on him,” Ruth sanctioned, as if that somehow evidenced this society’s high appreciation for morals. “Only the Mistress of a Claimed may punish him. If you have a grievance, you must take your grievance to her.”
“That’s it?” Julia was repulsed. “All a woman has to do is check for a Claim tattoo, and if his neck is clean, she can beat the crap out of him any time the mood strikes her?”
“Not any time the mood strikes you. He must truly have hurt you. In here.” Ruth pointed at her heart.
“Hurt my feelings? But who is the judge of THAT?”
“You are, of course. Every woman must decide for herself where to draw the line between compassion and punishment. Personally, I’ve seriously damaged only a handful of men in my life, mostly when I was younger. As I have grown older, I have come to believe that the more experienced the woman, the less she needs to inflict harm on the inferior gender to achieve her ends. These days, I’ll carry out a light beating, maybe break a bone or two, to make an example of a man who has been particularly bad.”
“Particularly bad?” Julia felt a bit of nausea coming over her.
“Sure. Say, for example, a man harms one of my Claimed, or impugns my reputation with other women, or destroys my property. All of those things hurt me. Whenever I decide to hurt him back, I simply express myself, physically, in a way that reflects my inner feelings. I hurt them only as much as they’ve hurt me.” Ruth reached over to the frightening swell of her bicep: one of the communication beads on her armlet was vibrating. She switched it off. “We can discuss it more, later, if you wish. In the meantime, I’d like you to meet Ashleyn.”
Julia turned to find the yoga instructor standing alongside. “’Ash’ is fine,” she smiled. The woman had a firm handshake, probably a few thousand pounds.
“I have to take a call in a moment,” Ruth announced, extracting one of the beads from her armlet and inserting it in her ear. “Things just seem to be getting worse and worse at the office.”
Ashleyn’s face slumped into a knowing concern. The women had discussed this before, Julia realized.
“But Ashley and I usually run home together: our houses are within a mile of each other down there,” Ruth said. ‘And I don’t want to hold you ladies up. Perhaps you two could start heading back and I will follow.”
Moments later, Ash was leading Julia on a hundred-mile-per-hour traverse of the beach. The woman was short – only six-foot-eleven – but what she lack for stature, she made up in other beauties. She had striking red hair and a fair complexion. Burgundy yoga pants, skin tight of course, clung assiduously to the perfectly rounded globes of her rear. A matching grey and burgundy top stretched just as tightly over the woman’s bust.
As the rounded an isolated point on the coast, something odd tickled Julia’s nose. Mixed in with the ocean spray were more mechanical odors – engine oil and metal. Julia tapped on Ash’s shoulder, and the women slowed to a jog.
“Just a hunch …” Julia explained as she lead her acquaintance inland, toward a group of craggy rock escarpments a half mile down the beach. The fissures between the crags ran all the way down to the sand, producing countless tiny inlets and coves which people used to escape the midday heat on the beach. But it wasn’t mid-day yet.
When they were three hundred yards out from an opening in the rocks, Ash slowed to a standstill. “I can hear something.”
Julia could too.
“… got it from a house on the other side of the bay” the voices said “… she won’t care … she’s about to lose it all anyway … put on a strong face but she’s high as a woman’s forehead in debt …”
It was three guys, hanging out at the opening of one of the crags. There were vehicle tracks in the sand, and the smells of engine oil and metal were now all the stronger. “A dune buggy went missing from Ruth’s house this morning,” Julia whispered. “I think this might be it.”
Ash nodded. “Hi boys!” she announced. “Watcha doing?”
They answered with some sort of nonsense about just hanging out.
“Anything hiding behind those rocks you want to tell us about?”
Two of the guys started to run, but Ash intercepted them. With a hand on the sternum. She shoved them into the wall of rock with such casual force that the wind left their lungs with an OOFF. “It’s funny how some of them always try to run, when they all know that women can run ten times faster. Just an old primeval instinct, I guess. But it’s very helpful. You never have to wonder who is guilty.”
The remaining man was not possessed of that instinct. He stared a Julia with a cool malevolence as she strode directly into the opening on the crag. Sure enough, the dune buggy was there.
“I believe this belongs to my friend?” Julia accused a she emerged from the opening with the vehicle’s thirteen hundred pounds in one hand.
“Ohhhh,” Ash reacted. “You STOLE from a Nourished. That’s extremely risky behavior for boys who don’t have tattoos on their necks. A girl like me could do anything she wants to you.” Both men were sliding up the rock wall an inch at a time, courtesy of Ash’s ferocious grip on their throats.
“Is there a problem here?” The voice came from above. Julia poked her head around the side of the suspended dune buggy to see a life guard or cop of sorts, peering down from the top of the rock bluff. The authority figure had a badge pinned to the shoulder strap of her bathing suit – a suit so minimal that it would have made Baywatch appear to be a show about beachside convents.
“Yes, officer.” Ash replied. “Men. Theft. The usual.”
The officer shook her head. “It’s becoming all too common on this beach. Would you like me to hold one of them while you two punish the others?”
“That’s so kind of you!” Ash gushed, hauling the two men off the rock wall and dandling them by the throat. “I think we’ve got it under control”.
“OK,” the cop said, as she jumped down from the 30-foot bluff with a BOOF onto the sand. “If you decide to break some bones, just let me know so that I can call the ambulance.” She jogged away down the beach, large plumes of sand forming behind her.
As it happens, Julia knew, I don’t WANT to hurt these guys. But I could change my mind at any time. The cops wouldn’t stop me. The other women couldn’t stop me. And the men – they had the strength of insects. In this society, we women don’t just get the huge muscles. We get free license to use them. We get power, true power, over men. Her nipples scrunched into hard bullets underneath her mesh yoga top.
“What about the bag?” she asked the third man, who now stood in front of her. “Did you guys see a bag on the beach?”
The two guys in Ash’s arms shook their increasingly blue-ish heads back and forth in a clear “no”. The yoga instructor released them from her hold. They tumbled onto the sand, gasping for breath.
“Guys,” Julia crossed her arms. “There was some really sentimental stuff in the bag. A pair of earrings. I need the truth.”
But she got nothing. The third guy – the one who had not been throat-lifted – only stared back, eyes hard. Was it malevolence? Resistance? Julia couldn’t be sure. But she could tell he was their leader.
“Here, Julia, since you’re new in the world, let me help you with this.” Ash took Julia’s hand and rested it on top of his shoulder. “There’s all sorts of pain and damage you can do to a guy here. And the levels of damage are graduated, so that you can progressively increase the pain as you interrogate him. Squeeze, and you’ll get all the information you need out of him.”
“I don’t want to hurt you,” Julia said down to the man. “But when you steal from another person, that’s wrong. You owe them an apology, and you owe them the truth. I just want the truth.”
“Screw off,” he seethed. “Just kill me now so that I don’t have to listen to your stupid lectures.”
Stupid lectures? She used to think her dad’s lectures were stupid. But now, she would have given anything – anything – to be with him one more time, to get a stupid lecture from him one more time. Something inside her snapped. “Come to think of it, I DO want to hurt you.”
Julia squeezed his shoulder just a little bit. The flesh squished under her grasp. The man writhed, and then a guttural scream erupted from his mouth.
“Tell me what you did with the bag and I will stop.”
Those earrings … she could still remember the way her hands felt warm whenever she held them, as if her father’s love still resided in their lustre. And now they were gone. She felt the blood rise to her face: it had been years since she had been this mad.
Violence had never been Julia’s thing. Never. But she had never been so awesomely strong before, so utterly invincible, so thoroughly sanctioned to do whatever she wanted. That kind of power – the tips of her fingers tingled with the thrill of it. She could do whatever she wanted to this man, and there was nothing – nothing – he could do to stop it.
Julia allowed her anger to flow down her arm, where it piled up and squeezed the man’s shoulder even harder. There was a tearing sound. Julia listened to it with dispassionate curiosity. “Oh, that’s interesting, Ash. I think I just felt something give way.”
“Probably a ligament,” Ash replied, taking the dune buggy out of Julia’s free hand. At only thirteen hundred pounds, she had forgotten she was holding it.
Julia squeezed his shoulder a bit more and felt more ligaments and tendons giving way. The man lips offered only moans now, nothing useful. “Ready to tell me something useful yet?”
He shook his head.
Julia’s anger only grew.
“Press a little sideways with your thumb, you can dislocate their shoulder, which I guess is really painful for them.”
Julia tried it – just a little nudge – and was rewarded by a POP as his weak male body instantly gave way, the shoulder dislocating out of its socket.
That got an even louder yell, followed, finally, by words. “I sold it! I sold it all – the bag the equipment, the earrings. The earrings didn’t get much. They were pretty ugly.”
“Dude.” Ash raised an eyebrow. “Do you have a deathwish?”
But Julia’s hand had a will of it’s own now, compressing the man’s shoulder with terrifying force. There was a CRACK as his shoulder blade gave way.
“That’s it,” Ash encouraged. “Don’t bottle up your anger. Pour it out. Pour out your anger into him.”
Julia’s body seemed to know this intuitively. She listened with dispassionate fury as his shoulder blades and collar bones went POP-CRACK-POP under the unstoppable force of her genetically enhanced digits. In Kentucky, how much would he have gotten for this theft – a few days in jail? Probation? Nothing at all? She, the victim, never would have gotten the satisfaction she felt right now – to exact revenge, to get it quickly, to ensure that the pain he felt at least equalled the pain he had caused her. Julia felt her nipples ache all the more at the immense girl power she possessed. “You’re right,” she admitted. “This is liberating.”
“You can maim him, too, if you like,” Ash reminded her. “Maybe pull his limbs off. Do whatever restores your inner peace.”
That induced a guttural moan of panic from the broken mass of maleness at Julia’s feet. “I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry,” the man pleaded, his voice mixed with the agony in his shoulder.
Julia released him and watched him finish crumpling to the ground. “No, that’s enough. I have more anger in me, but I am going to save it for the man that put it there. Let’s get going.”
As they began to walk away, Julia peered ahead to Ruth’s beach house, several miles in the distance. Howard was outside the house, preparing for the trip to Earth. Behind Julia, she could hear the moans of the men she and Ash had just defeated, and Julia could not help but wonder whether Howard was at risk of the same treatment someday. Maybe he would be safer back in Kentucky? Or maybe there was a way to make him safe here, too? “What we just did, Ash – does it ever happen to a Claimed?”
“No. Statistically, a Claimed is several times more likely to be struck by lightning than harmed by a woman, other than his mistress. So it really comes down to how his mistress treats him.”
That settled Julia’s nerves. She had every intention of Claiming Howard, and no intention of ever laying a finger on him – especially after what happened with the bar and the swamp. Julia took the dune buggy from Ash and draped an arm around the woman’s shoulder.
“Thank you for helping me listen to my inner voice,” Julia said over the receding sound of the man’s whimpers. “I’m glad I asserted myself with those men. It made me feel a good deal better.”
“Well, that’s the natural state of the woman – to be at peace and in charge,” Ash replied, resuming the run.
Maybe, Julia thought, as she accelerated to match Ash’s pace, the thirteen-hundred-pound dune buggy in her left hand doing nothing to slacken her pace. The bars of the vehicle produced a high pitched whistle in the hundred mile-an-hour wind, but Julia was too lost in thought to hear it. If the natural state of a woman is to be at peace and in charge, she wondered, then what is the natural state of a man – subservience and fear?
Julia wanted better for Howard.