There have always been
a concentrated group
of people who
will know

the wise way to go, but
how do we get all
the others out
there to

of our current trap?
There are those
to the right,
they who

thing amiss about
class conflict,
but believe
to be

Then, there are those
on the ultra-left
who are not

without any faults.
how can one

thin a space to get
us all out of
this mess

Analysis of ‘Burn!’

Burn!, or Queimada, is a 1969 historical film directed by Gillo Pontecorvo. It stars Marlon Brando, with Evaristo Márquez and Renato Salvatori. It was written by Franco Solinas and Giorgio Arlorio, who based the fictional story partly on the activities of William Walker, an American filibuster involved in the 1855 invasion of Nicaragua, and whose name was used for Brando’s character. The music was composed by Ennio Morricone, with the beautiful, anthemic “Abolisson” (“abolição,” or “abolition”–i.e., abolition of slavery, or abolition of private property) playing during the film’s opening credits.

Burn! has been critically acclaimed in the US and abroad. Edward Said praised it and Pontecorvo’s film, The Battle of Algiers, saying they “…stand unmatched and unexcelled since they were made in the 60s. Both films together constitute a political and aesthetic standard never again equaled.” The film gives a raw and uncompromising depiction of colonialism, imperialism, and slavery. Of these three evils, David N. Meyer said in The Brooklyn Rail that “…few other films ever address them at all,” something Michael Parenti has also observed. Indeed, anti-imperialist cinema like Burn! typically gets minimal distribution in theaters…for reasons that should be obvious.

Here is a link to quotes from the film, and here is a link to the full movie, partly in English and partly in Italian with English subtitles.

Sir William Walker is an agent provocateur, sent to the island of Queimada in 1844 by the British Admiralty, for the purpose of stirring up a slave revolt among the blacks on the island to remove the Portuguese regime, so the Antilles Royal Sugar Company can take over and economically exploit the place. In the Lesser Antilles, Queimada literally means “burnt,” because the Portuguese once had to burn the entire island down to put down the resistance of the indigenous people, after whose deaths blacks were brought to the island to work the cane fields.

The flames of Queimada are the hellfire of imperialism.

It’s interesting how in this film we have an American actor playing a British character based on an American, a casting that suggests the intersection of American and British imperialism. The notion of burning the entire island down, in a film made in 1969, when the Vietnam War was still going on, also invites comparison between the destructiveness of the imperialism of the past with modern imperialism, with its napalm fire and bombings of all those people today who try to defy the US/NATO empire.

Empire rules by a cunning combination of the carrot and the stick. We usually note the stick, but don’t pay enough attention to the carrot. Burn! brings our focus to the carrot in how we see Walker entice José Dolores (Márquez) into leading a slave rebellion to help the British oust the Portuguese.

In all of Walker’s machinations we also see an example of inter-imperialist conflict. As competitors in the production and sale of sugar, the British and Portuguese naturally dislike each other, as we see in the altercations between Walker and Portuguese soldiers at the beginning of the film.

We should wince when we see the stark contrast between the wealthy whites, in their fine clothing, getting off the boat with Walker, on the one hand, and the appalling poverty of the blacks, the children of whom are typically half- or fully naked. José appears, offering to carry Walker’s bags: this offer of service will be a motif repeated in the middle of the film and at the end, with strongly ironic overtones…of the sort of the Hegelian master/slave dialectic.

Walker’s original intention on coming to Queimada has been to meet with a black rebel named Santiago, but the rebel has been caught, and he is to be executed. Walker is informed of the bad news by Teddy Sanchez (Salvatori, in dark makeup), a man of mixed African and European background with revolutionary ideals for the island, but ultimately an ineffectual leader. José is standing by as Walker hears the news, a kind of foreshadowing that he will soon replace Santiago, for Walker’s purposes.

Walker later provokes a Portuguese soldier to get himself arrested, so he can watch Santiago’s brutal execution, which includes the use of the garrote and decapitation, from the window of his prison cell. Being white and wealthy, though, Walker can get a lawyer and be freed promptly.

He follows the widow and children of Santiago as they carry his headless corpse from the prison back up a hill to their home. He gives them a hand in carrying the cart part of the way up the hill; in this act of his, knowing how two-faced he really is, we can see in Walker a personification of the liberal who pretends to care for the downtrodden, but who is really just using these people for his own ends.

We see a similar thing going on today when our movie stars are all simping for Ukraine (Ben Stiller, Sean Penn, Mark Hamill, etc.), pretending they care about the suffering of Ukrainians, when it’s really about promoting the interests of the US/NATO empire, even to the point of defending neo-Nazis (however much the celebrities in question are unaware of, or in denial of, that ugly reality). In this way, it is fitting that a Hollywood actor is playing Walker, a bad guy pretending to be a good guy (though, in Brando‘s defence, he did reject his Godfather Oscar as a protest against Hollywood’s mistreatment of Native Americans; also, Brando considered his performance in Burn! to have been the best of his career).

Alberto Grimaldi, producer of Burn!, wanted Sidney Poitier to play José, but Pontecorvo wanted Márquez for the role. I agree with the director’s choice, not out of disrespect for Poitier, of course, but because an unknown actor is more fitting to play the underdog José.

Since Santiago is dead, Walker needs someone to replace him, someone brave, who takes initiative, someone with nothing to lose. He spots these qualities in José, and tests the black man by abusing him with strikes to the face, calling him a “black ape” who stole his bags when he was arrested, slandering his dead mother, and asking if everything a white man says is correct. At first, José is submissive, suggesting he won’t make a good revolutionary leader…then José tries attacking Walker with a machete.

José is Walker’s man, after all.

What’s ironic in Walker’s provocations of José is that his white supremacism is, of course, genuine, rather than merely posturing as a test to awaken José’s rage. The reality of that white supremacism will be clear to José in good time.

Such dialectical juxtapositions of contraries as these are a theme running throughout the movie. Walker as both “friend” and foe of the blacks, the carrot and stick of imperialism, wealthy whites in their finery among half-naked blacks, and half-white, half-black Sanchez, who lives among the privileged but, sympathetic to the blacks, is ultimately powerless and useless to their cause. Even the band of blacks whom José gathers to commit a bank robbery, meet in a church…and the bank–house of the wealth of the privileged Portuguese–is the Banco Espírito Santo.

The Portuguese soldiers will be distracted by drunk, reveling blacks at night, making the robbery much easier. After informing the Portuguese of where José and his men are, Walker supplies his revolutionaries with weapons and teaches them how to use them. His playing of one side against the other reminds us of how two-faced Walker is.

Since Walker has lied to the Portuguese about a supposedly small number of black thieves, they overconfidently send too few soldiers to retrieve the stolen money, and they are killed by José’s men, an encouragement to his people. Soon they’ll have to fight more Portuguese, of course, and in the process, Walker’s robbery grows into a full-blown revolution.

In making José into a revolutionary leader, Walker has made him into both a blessing and a thorn in the side of the British, as we’ll soon see…another example of the theme of juxtaposed opposites in the film.

While José’s revolution is carrying on, Walker of course has his own, British agenda. In a meeting with a group of wealthy white men, Walker discusses how paid workers will be economically preferable to slaves.

In making his case, he uses a shrewd, if “impertinent,” metaphor: men’s use of wives vs. their use of prostitutes. The wife, in the context of the patriarchal family, is analogous to the slave; she’s her husband’s chattel, but all of her expenses are paid by him, even her burial, if he should survive her. The prostitute, on the other hand, is analogous to the modern-day wage labourer; in belonging to no man (her pimp notwithstanding!), she is “freer,” but her client pays only for her services, and she has to pay for her expenses all out of her own pocket.

This analogy is another example of the film’s dialectical juxtapositions of opposites. The British Empire ended slavery not so much out of humanitarian reasons (though these, as well as slave revolts, were significant factors) as out of the economic reasons Walker has laid out in his women-as-property analogy. Slaves are freed, a good thing; but now they’re wage slaves who are no longer provided for, a bad thing.

So, freeing the black slaves isn’t really freeing them, any more than a prostitute is freed…not if the Antilles Royal Sugar Company can help it. This means that Walker et al cannot allow José Dolores to become another Toussaint L’Ouverture.

For a time, the blacks are happy, celebrating, dancing, and making music. What’s left of the Portuguese regime is allowing them a day of freedoms, the “Dia de Reis,” a kind of Saturnalia. The increasingly demoralized Portuguese soldiers can only stand around in disgust at the sight of the costumed revelers.

Now, just as Walker is using the blacks for his purposes, so is he using Sanchez, whose blackness he sees more than his whiteness. At the same time, presumably because of that whiteness, Walker is more direct with Sanchez about how he is using him–to assassinate the Portuguese governor so Sanchez can head the new provisional government, freeing Britain to exploit the sugar cane industry.

José and his men are to lay down their arms and be workers for the Antilles Royal Sugar Company in exchange for the abolition of slavery in Queimada. We hear Morricone’s “Abolisson” again at this point in the film.

José, wearing the uniform of one of the Portuguese soldiers, doesn’t yet know of Walker’s double-dealing, and he still imagines that “Inglês” is his friend. José still thinks that Queimada belongs to him and his people.

José will soon learn the disillusioning truth, though. He’s already uncomfortable having to negotiate a new Queimada constitution with a provisional government made up of white men. He is cool even when meeting Sanchez, seeing his white skin more than his black; this is all in spite of how Sanchez warmly greets him and sincerely hopes for the best for José’s people. He warns Sanchez to be plain with him during the negotiations.

Over the course of a month of discussions with the whites over how to establish the new constitution, it becomes clear to José that they have no intention of relinquishing control of Queimada. To their obviously self-serving suggestions, he can only say “No.” In frustration, he leaves the room, calling them all “Bastards.”

They rationalize their control over the sugar cane industry by insisting it will be good for the blacks economically, but José can see through these white exploiters. All that matters to them is maintaining a maximization of profit, while he cares about his people. He orders his men to remove all the whites from the building.

Walker carries on with the rationalizing, telling José that his politically inexperienced blacks cannot modernize Queimada without the help of the whites. Walker speaks of who, other than the whites, will handle commerce, teach in Queimada’s schools, and cure the sick among the blacks; but as anyone familiar with colonialism will tell you, those whites will handle commerce, teach in schools, and cure the sick only for the benefit of other wealthy whites. The poor blacks won’t enjoy any of those benefits.

José knows that it’s better, for Queimada to go forward, if the whites go away. The blacks, in their inexperience of modern forms of government, commerce, education, and medicine, will surely stumble many times, but they’ll also learn from their mistakes, and in doing so, they’ll move much farther forward, in due time, than they will as exploited wage slaves, forever mired in poverty, because their white slave masters have never had any intention of giving up their power.

José goes outside at night to reunite with his people. He’s saddened by his disappointments with the whites, but to see his people again, those he loves and who love him, brings a smile back on his face.

Walker finds José in a tent, and with a revolver he is prepared to shoot the revolutionary he’s created; but José finally agrees to his men’s laying down of their arms and returning to the plantations. He can see the pragmatism of going along with the British, to prevent extreme poverty and starvation from engulfing the island; but he warns Walker of who has the machetes, which can cut off heads as well as the cane.

In his warning to the British, who in their selling of the cane that he and his people cut, in their dependence on their black workers, the British are reminded of the slave/master dialectic. This observation should be seen in connection with the following scene the next day, when José offers again to carry Walker’s bags, “for a friend,” as the agent provocateur is going to his ship to leave Queimada. This offer to carry Walker’s bags should be remembered at the end of the film, again in symbolic connection with Hegel’s master/slave dialectic.

Walker is going to Indochina, to do more of his imperialist cajoling there. He shares a pleasant drink with José, the two of them exchanging friendly smiles, before he boards his ship. His fake friendship with José perfectly exemplifies the two-faced nature of liberals towards those oppressed by imperialism, something the oppressed should be ever wary of.

Ten years later, Walker is sought out so he can go back to Queimada and quell an uprising of José’s in response to the British takeover of the island. What must be emphasized here is how imperialism is in the service of wealthy capitalists. It isn’t just governments who are bullying the blacks of Queimada.

A scene at the London Stock Exchange demonstrates clearly how the financial success of the sugar businesses has given them great political power over their plantations. Men from the Antilles Royal Sugar Company look for Walker, so he can do something about José. He is found in a pub, in the middle of a fistfight that he wins; this detail adds to our understanding of Walker’s brutishness, for we even see him hit the two men seeking him out.

When Walker returns to Queimada, we find not only José rebelling against British exploitation, but also Teddy Sanchez is growing to be uncooperative. Paid for by the Antilles Royal Sugar Company, Walker will act as a military advisor to help put down José’s rebellion. In this we can see clearly how imperialism and colonialism are working in the interests of capitalism; this point would normally be so obvious that it wouldn’t need to be said, except that right-wing libertarians generally refuse to admit that their precious “free market” is ever guilty of any wrongdoing. Government acts alone in these forms of wickedness, in their opinion.

Sanchez hopes Walker will be able to negotiate with José as he had before–to offer the blacks equal civil rights, higher wages, and a general amnesty. The other men in power are hoping Walker will simply get rid of him, and Walker is leaning towards their way of solving the problem.

Another example of the carrot/stick tactic of imperialism is having many black men on the island work as soldiers for the British. We see some of them round up a group of insurgents, line them against the side of a building, and shoot them. One can imagine how the other, powerless blacks must look on these uniformed men as traitors to their own people.

Walker saves one of the men to be shot, needing him to mediate between Walker and José. Though he saves the man’s life for this purpose, because the man tries to run away, Walker shoots him in the leg. In this act, we see, in a symbolic sense, how even when Walker does something good in itself, bad always accompanies the good–more juxtaposing of opposites.

In his conversation with Walker, the man repeats what he’s heard José say, which is the reason for this revolt: the plantation workers, toiling away for the most paltry of wages, are still slaves because they have only machetes, but no ownership of the sugar cane business. We Marxists have always understood how the same basic contradiction has existed throughout history, regardless of if it’s in the form of master vs. slave, feudal lord vs. peasant, or bourgeoisie vs. proletariat: those who own the land and means of production have the power, and they will always be at war with their powerless labourers.

Walker tells the man, just before he is to ride off on a horse to tell José of Walker’s intentions, that he will be pleased to see him. Walker even has the man give José an alcoholic drink as a gift. Such acts are yet more examples of the two-faced liberal pretending to be the friend of the man he’s oppressing.

Walker asks a black soldier working for the imperialists why he isn’t fighting on José’s side. The man doesn’t answer, having a look of shame on his face, but the answer is obvious: his work is safer and better paid…hence, Walker’s smile.

Walker’s container of alcohol is returned from José, with a message on it, saying that he doesn’t drink anymore. José is wise to Walker’s lies now. The message has been sent to him on a cart with dead imperialist soldiers tied to it. It’s obvious that José is done with negotiating. This is war.

In preparing for this war, Walker as the military adviser notes how, in spite of how the imperialists have far more men, weapons, money, etc. than José’s men have, the imperialists haven’t been able to defeat José for these six years; apart from the guerrillas’ inaccessible location, the reason for this frustration is that the imperialists fight for their pay and because they have to, whereas the guerrillas fight for an idea, because they have nothing to lose but their lives. They fight for their love of freedom, and this love motivates them in a way that nothing comparable can for the imperialists. Revolutionaries must never forget this edge they have over the powerful, and must use this edge to steel their courage.

The black collaborators manage to find where the guerrillas and the people they’re protecting are, and they round up the people; then, carrying torches, they burn down the forests where the guerrillas have been hiding. As with the Portuguese, the imperialists’ method of victory is total, indiscriminate destruction, with no respect for plant life, just like the “innocents raped with napalm fire” during the Vietnam War.

A dying black collaborator tells his comrades that the guerrillas emerged from the fire, themselves burning, and killed him and his fellow collaborators there at a fort. The dying man describes the guerrillas as inhuman devils, an obvious projection of how inhuman and devilish the torchers of the forest are.

The imperialists find other villages where the rebels’ people are living, and the black collaborators round them up, too, and burn down their homes. Dogs chase a guerrilla through the fields until he comes to a clearing, then he is shot.

Sanchez, ever torn between his wish to help the blacks and his being forced to help the whites (perfectly symbolized in his half-white, half-black skin), tells all the rounded-up people that the war is José’s fault, it will end soon, and they will all go back to work. The frown on his face shows how reluctant he is in telling them this.

Bread is offered on a cart to the hungry people, and while they are expected to sit and wait patiently for it to be distributed, they rush for the cart, and the collaborators have to fire their rifles to bring about order. Sanchez, in his growing frustration, makes an attempt to take control of the government for the sake of the blacks. His unwillingness to cooperate with the Antilles Royal Sugar Company will be his undoing. In his downfall, we see how the government is controlled by the capitalists, not vice versa.

British redcoats arrive on the island to help defeat José. Sanchez is arrested on a trumped-up charge of treason, and he is executed by firing squad. His arrest is “in the name of the people of Queimada,”…but we all know which people are being referred to here.

The redcoats start fighting the guerrillas, and we see them rounding up the blacks, including women and children. We see the trauma in the eyes of a naked black boy when he has rifles pointed at him. Cannon and rifle fire have left a fog of smoke and a sea of flame all over the plantations…Queimada, indeed. Guerrillas are getting shot left, right, and centre, including the one who mediated between Walker and José.

Shelton (played by Norman Hill) complains of the destruction of the sugar cane plants that has resulted from the battle. After explaining that the plants can be grown again for future exploitation by the Antilles Company, Walker tells Shelton why the island is named Queimada, and that the danger of revolutionary fervour passing from here to other exploited islands greatly outweighs any momentary loss of profits.

José is spotted in Walker’s telescope; he is climbing a mountain with his fellow guerrillas. Here he is shot and captured. Just so we have no doubts about Walker’s duplicitous nature, he describes José as “a fine specimen” who started as a water and bag carrier, made into a revolutionary leader for England’s purposes, and then when he is no longer useful, he is eliminated, “a small masterpiece”; Walker says all of this while smiling.

Just as Walker has spoken of new sugar cane crops growing after a burning, so does José speak of a rebirth of revolutionary feeling after the imperialist fire has defeated him. José says this among the black collaborationists, as if to plant the seed in their minds, to move them to redeem themselves. José knows that others with replace him after he’s executed, hence he doesn’t fear death.

Walker comes over to greet José and shake his hand, but the latter of course won’t shake the hand of the man who’s stabbed him in the back so many times. Walker offers José drink, but he remains cool. Walker has a soldier give José his horse; this gift doesn’t make Walker any more his friend by the weight of an atom.

A naked black boy is found in one of the desolate villages; Walker orders a black collaborator to grab the boy and take him with them. We hear the cries and screams of the boy as he’s carried off. As this is happening, Walker rides over to José and angrily blames the victim, calling José a “black ape” again, and accusing him of starting the bloodshed, in true imperialist fashion. José spits in Walker’s face.

When José is to be hanged, Walker hopes to free him, not out of any sense of camaraderie or remorse (as the Wikipedia article spuriously claims), but because Walker fears making a martyr out of him, inspiring future revolutionaries. If Walker can make it seem to the blacks that José has betrayed them, or has fled death like a coward, then the spirit of revolution may die with him…or at least be weakened.

This attitude is what we should see in Walker when he enters José’s tent and tries to cut him loose. He feels no remorse whatsoever for having betrayed José. In offering him a chance to save his life, Walker is making no act of atonement. Earlier, we even see Walker tie the noose to hang José with.

José chooses to be hanged rather than run free, since he knows that staying alive would be convenient to the British. His martyrdom will indeed inspire future revolutionaries among the blacks; a spark of such inspiration is to be seen in the final scene, as Walker approaches the ship to take him off the island.

The frown we see on Walker’s face as he goes there is, as I said above, not a frown of remorse, despite what the liberal editors of Wikipedia would have you believe. His is a frown from having not done the best he could have done at his job, something he earlier said he prides himself on. He’s frowning at José’s martyrdom, a danger to the empire, and a sign that Walker has ultimately failed in his imperial project.

His failure is to be openly displayed when he hears a black man offer to carry his bags again. Hearing the voice from behind, Walker has a brief hope it’s the voice of José. He frowns in disappointment to see it’s a different man, who then sticks a knife in Walker’s gut.

As he lies dead on the ground, we see black workers looking from all around at him, frowning because of all the pain, suffering, and death that his machinations have caused them, but they’re also content to have finally got their revenge. After the burning, the spirit of revolution will be reborn.

This act of service, offering to take his bags, then stabbing him, is once again a symbolic manifestation of the master/slave dialectic. Capitalists will hang themselves on the very rope they make, just as they made José hang, since he so willingly allowed it. We don’t need the capitalists; they need us, the proletariat. It’s their very dependance on our work that will be their undoing, and this is what the taking of Walker’s bags, then the taking of his life, at this final moment of the film, symbolize.

We in today’s world can use Burn! to teach us to beware the carrot as well as the stick of imperialism. When they offer us freedom in manufacturing our consent for their wars, they’re really scheming to cause us to suffer more servitude to the depredations of empire, that juxtaposition of contraries that I mentioned above.

It’s obscene to call the Ukrainian war against Russia a struggle for Ukrainian freedom and democracy (as the European bootlickers of the US assert), when the very Ukrainian authorities being given all the Western money and aid include neo-Nazis who have banned eleven opposition parties and corruptly used much of the money for their own personal use. Indeed, a substantial portion of military hardware sent to Ukraine has ended up sold on the black market.

The war planned against China, using the Taiwanese no less as cannon fodder as the Ukrainians are being used, will also be spuriously presented in the media as a fight for democracy. The real plan is to weaken China and Russia, and to bring about regime change in the two countries, and therefore to ensure a lasting US hegemony. In Burn!, we see the same basic idea: use the blacks as cannon fodder to remove the Portuguese and ensure British hegemony on the island.

We mustn’t allow the Walkers of the world to have their way. We mustn’t be the José Dolores who goes along with such schemes, only to be stabbed in the back, dolorous in the end. Instead, we must be the José who takes up the real fight, and who spits in the face of the Walkers of the world.

If we carry his bags, we must carry a knife, too.

‘Sister Sorceress,’ an Erotic Short Story

Mary MacDillon, 22, thought nothing of her being moved to a new convent in a new city. She assumed most of the nuns here, just as they were in the one she’d just left, would be almost all plain-looking or much older than she.

As soon as she came in, however, she noted a peculiar thing about the place. Not only were there, as she first started looking around at all the nuns, more…and more…young, slim nuns with pretty faces, but all of them were young, slim, and pretty…without exception!

What a strangely fortuitous occurrence, she thought…with a bit of a shudder. It was paradoxically good and bad luck for her. Secretly, she had lesbian desires that her strict Catholic upbringing would never accept, so being surrounded by unattractive women would keep her safe from temptation. But now,…

The bad luck was precisely that this was also good luck.

She whispered a “Hail, Mary” prayer over and over again as she approached the cell where she was to sleep. As she looked over the sea of faces of nuns walking by, hoping to see at least one wrinkled face or one obese body, yet being disappointed (and secretly thrilled) to see only beauties, she noticed one nun from a distance who lifted up her tunic to reveal a creamy-smooth white leg with a…tattoo?…up towards her left thigh.

No, it couldn’t be a tattoo! Mary thought. What self-respecting nun would have one of those on her body? My eyes must have been deceiving me! It was a large birthmark of some kind, surely.

Finally, she reached her cell. “Here you are, Sister Mary,” said Father Funn, the only male (also young and handsome, not that she was interested) who lived in this convent…alone in his own cell, surely! He put down her two bags of luggage by the door. “In you go now, and meet your cellmate. If you need anything, you know where to find my cell.”

“Thank you, Father,” she said as he turned around to leave. “Goodbye.” She faced the door. Before opening it, she took a deep breath and said another “Hail, Mary.” Lord, don’t put me to the test, she thought as she slowly turned the doorknob. Please, cellmate, be fat, old, and ugly.

She opened the door wide. Not only was her cellmate not fat, old, or ugly, she was also…not…dressed.

Mary stared at the naked loveliness of her new cellmate with her eyes and mouth at their widest. The young woman had her back to Mary, who in a daze was admiring her coffee-coloured skin, her curves, and her round buttocks. Her hair was a wavy cascade of brown that draped down to just below her shoulders.

She turned her head around to see Mary. She grinned from ear to ear. “Oh!” she said in high-pitched delight. “You must be Sister Mary MacDillon, my new cellmate. So nice to meet you finally. I’m Sister Jessica Bell, but everyone calls me Jessie.”

She turned around and walked towards Mary to shake her hand, displaying her frontal nudity–firm, medium-sized breasts with erect, brown nipples, and all her pubic hair removed!–in all insouciance.

Mary, in her amazement, had forgotten that the door was still open.

“Mary,” Jessie asked with a smirk, “do you want to display my body to all passersby, or do you want to close the door?”

“Oh! I’m sorry,” Mary said, snapping out of it and immediately turning around to close the door.

As the door clicked shut, Jessie began to say, “Father Funn just passed by before I reminded you of the door. I’m sure he just got the best thrill he’s had in a long time.” She giggled lewdly at this.

“I’m sorry,” Mary said again, trying to look Jessie straight in the eyes and not look any lower. Why does she have to be so immodest?

“That’s alright,” Jessie said. “It’s my fault. I just returned from the shower and took off my bathrobe. It’s been such a hot day that I didn’t want to put anything on at the moment. Instead, I was making some tea, which just heated up the cell even more. Would you like some? It’s really tasty.”

“Oh, yes, please, Jessie, I’d love some.” Why won’t she put some clothes on? God, why are you putting me to the test?

“Have you eaten dinner? They just finished serving it, and we all just ate in the dining hall, so I think you’ll be too late to have some.”

“Oh, I’ve eaten already. I’m quite tired actually, and ready for bed.”

“Oh, good,” Jessie said, handing Mary a fresh cup of hot tea.

Mary brought it up to her nose. “That’s quite a unique aroma.”

“Yes, I combine a lot of special ingredients–herbs, spices, mushrooms, and other things–to get a unique flavour. Try it. It’s also very healthy.”

“Yes, of course,” Mary said, then took a sip. “Mmm. As you said, it’s really tasty.” She turned away from Jessie for obvious reasons, put the cup on the bedside table, and looked with alarm at the one bed she was to share with Jessie every night, Jessie who was as unashamed as Eve was before eating the forbidden fruit. Trying to take her mind off her temptation, Mary reached down to her bags to begin unpacking, and said, “I always thought cells were supposed to be lived in by only one person at a time. In my previous convent, we all slept together in a dormitory, but I thought I’d be alone in my cell here.”

“Well, there are budget constraints in our convent, so we nuns are paired up in our cells,” Jessie explained, still not bothering to put anything on. “Often, new nuns like you are paired up with nuns like me, who have been here for quite a while, to show the new girls the ropes. Only Father Funn sleeps alone in his own cell, and I hardly need to explain to you why that is.” She giggled lewdly again.

“I see,” Mary said with a sigh of annoyance at Jessie’s flippant attitude. Mary took some clothes out of her bag and put them in a drawer by the bedside table.

“Drink your tea,” Jessie said. “Don’t let it get cold.”

“Oh, I won’t.” Mary picked up the cup and had another, larger sip, then went back to unpacking. She looked out the window for a moment: the sun was setting. She noticed, while still trying to resist the temptation to look at Jessie’s body, that her nude companion wasn’t having any tea for herself. “Aren’t you going to drink some?”

“Oh, I’ll have some a little later. You just enjoy yours for now.” After that, Mary noticed that Jessie was whispering something to herself…was it in Latin?

Once Mary finished unpacking, she began taking off her habit. It would feel good to take it off, for as Jessie had observed, it was a really hot day; though Mary had her own reasons for sweating so profusely–her nervousness, for the eyes of ever-naked Jessie had lit up to note her undressing. Mary had another gulp of her tea and tried not to think about that naughty nun.

She made sure that she had her nightgown ready to throw on as soon as she was stripped down to her bra and panties, for Jessie was still looking at her. Jessie also hadn’t drunk any of the tea she’d made, though Mary finished her cup and gave it back to Jessie with a “Thank you,” naïvely not even considering the possibility–with all of her worries of her naked cellmate watching her undress–that there might have been something…unusual…in that tea.

Mary got into bed and closed her eyes, now feeling remarkably relaxed. “Good night, Sister Jessie,” she said, then let out a big sigh and let herself go.

After turning off the light, ever-nude Jessie climbed into bed beside Mary, using the dim night light from the opened window to watch her silhouette drift into…what Mary would assume to be…unconsciousness.

Jessie continued chanting in Latin, but no longer in whispers. Mary was able to make out fragments of what Jessie was saying, the first fragment being, “Blessed art thou among women…” Was Jessie chanting the ‘Hail, Mary’ prayer? Mary wondered. Whatever she was chanting, it suggested that Jessie was a good nun after all, if a little eccentric.

Next, Mary heard, in Latin, “He who loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love,” emphasizing the word love. Again, Mary felt reassured of Jessie’s commitment to her faith. Her nudity must have been an anomalous occurrence, nothing more. Mary was able to relax even more, though something in her was making relaxing surprisingly easy.

Then she felt a light, brief kiss on her lips.

Instead of rising from her bed in wide-eyed shock, though, Mary just enjoyed the sensuous touch of Jessie’s lips. She opened her eyes slowly and saw…her young mother’s face? No, that couldn’t have been: her mother was now fifty-five and living in a city on the other side of the country. Mary must have been having a dream.

The dark room was moving left to right in slow waves, as Mary saw it. A spot of moonlight from outside, coming in the window from Mary’s far right, was trailing in a wavy line when her eyes moved to the left, away from it. She felt her body undulating with the waves in the air all around her. She felt as if she were merging with her surroundings.

She felt another kiss on her lips. Her eyes, having adjusted to the dark, met those of her kisser, and she could make out Jessie’s face this time. Again, though, instead of being shocked, she welcomed the kiss. Something in her body was telling her there was nothing sinful about what she and Jessie were doing.

She felt more soft kisses on her lips, cheeks, nose, and forehead. She fell Jessie’s hands stroking her hair and caressing her cheeks. Jessie said in Latin, “These three last forever: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love,” this last word being stressed, as before.

Now Mary felt Jessie moving up on the bed to bring her breasts level with Mary’s face. She felt the raspberry nipples of those sugary breasts brushing gently against her face. Mary opened her mouth and took Jessie’s left nipple inside. She sucked on it for several seconds, then looked up at the face of her naked lover.

The face shifted back and forth between being Jessie’s and being her mother’s. Still, Mary wasn’t shocked: she just enjoyed her ‘dream.’

Jessie moved back down to bring her face level with Mary’s again; as she moved down, she brushed her breasts against Mary’s chin, neck, and chest.

They resumed kissing, but this time with Jessie sliding her tongue deep inside Mary’s mouth. Jessie put Mary’s right hand between her legs, soaking her fingers. She also put her hand under Mary’s nightgown and slid her fingers under her panties to touch her in the same, wet place. As she stroked Mary’s vaginal opening and hymen, Jessie did more Latin chanting, but this time it was nothing from the Vulgate Bible or anything Mary recognized as being even remotely Catholic. In fact, Mary felt herself to be in such a dream-state that she couldn’t make out the meaning of this Latin at all; she only knew that it was Latin.

She didn’t want to listen to or interpret any Latin, anyway. These were the best sensations she’d ever felt in her entire life! After another minute or so of this delectable touching, she let out a high-pitched sigh with Jessie, and they both climaxed. In Mary’s dream-state, she had a vision of a river flowing from between her legs.


She woke up just as the sun was beginning to peek through the window. She saw Jessie in an almost unrecognizable form: she was fully dressed, in a nun habit!

Jessie looked over at her with an unexpectedly innocent smile. “Oh, you’re awake!” she said. “Good morning, Sister Mary. You must be hungry. Hurry up and get dressed if you don’t want to miss breakfast in the dining hall.”

“Oh, yes,” Mary said as she got out of bed. Nowhere on her body did she feel any traces of the sensations she’d felt the night before, though she remembered them all vividly. It was just a dream, she thought.

As she changed into her habit, Mary found herself always wanting to look at Jessie’s pretty face. Oddly, now that her cellmate was finally decent, this was when Mary found she couldn’t stop staring at her.

Jessie didn’t exactly look like Mary’s pretty mother, though her eyes and voice bore an uncanny resemblance to those of her mother. The humble, pious attitude that Jessie was demonstrating now, in radical contrast to her vampish ways the night before, also reminded Mary of her beloved, almost saintlike mother.

The fact that Mary had…dreamed?…of receiving such sensual pleasure from naked Jessie only cemented her feelings for her cellmate all the more.

Was she falling in love with Jessie?

Oh, nonsense!

That couldn’t be!

Mary was wedded to Christ!

Jessie took Mary to the dining hall, where they sat across from each other and ate breakfast together. As they talked about the daily routine of the convent, Mary couldn’t stop looking deep in Jessie’s eyes, sighing at the sound of her voice, and grinning at her beauty, knowing what anatomical delicacies were hiding underneath her habit.

She imagined the bread she was biting into was Jessie’s flesh.

“After breakfast, I’ll need to take a shower,” Mary said.

“Be quick about it,” Jessie said. “We have to go to deliver crates of food to an orphanage on the other side of town.”

“Oh, yes, of course,” Mary said, then drank from a glass of milk while looking down at Jessie’s chest, and remembering the relevant part of her…dream?


She hurried over to the shower, went in, got naked, and ran the water over her body as she lathered the soap in her hands. As she rubbed the lather on her upper body, she looked at herself in a tall mirror on the other side of the room. She frowned at what she saw.

Small breasts, pale skin, a bit of flab on my belly, and an excess of pubic hair, she thought. I wish my body could be as attractive as Jessie’s is. I’m sure that would please her more.

After rinsing off her upper body, she rubbed some lather between her legs. She yelped in shock at what she felt down there…or rather, what she didn’t feel down there.

My hymen is gone! she thought with a gasp. My virtue! My virginity…is gone? That can’t be!

How could she have lost it? How could it have disappeared? Nothing happened the night before. She’d only had an erotic dream…didn’t she?

And even if Jessie had really seduced her, if she had punctured her hymen, why wasn’t Mary at all sore?


After her shower, she quickly rejoined Jessie to help with delivering the food to the orphanage, always trying to stop herself from staring at her beautiful cellmate…but rarely succeeding. The bright, hot sun reminded Mary of God looking down on her from heaven. At least the act of charity to the orphans had a somewhat mitigating effect on her guilt.

She was touched by the devotion she saw in Jessie as she gave to the orphans, working so hard to be of help to them in all ways possible. Jessie’s actions so reminded Mary of her mother’s charity. The love was swelling in Mary’s heart.

When they returned to the convent, Mary went into the church to pray at a pew.

When she bowed and did the Sign of the Cross before the altar, she looked over at an icon of the Virgin Mary. On the face of the Blessed Virgin, she imagined she saw the face of her mother, what seemed a disapproving face, and Mary felt a pang of shame.

She hurried over to a pew, knelt there, and put her hands together. She remembered St. Paul’s words in his Epistle to the Romans: “God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature.” She shuddered at the memory of that verse, one she’d always successfully used before to control herself.

God, help me, she prayed in her thoughts. Deliver me from the Evil One. Help me to love Jessie in an honourable, decent, Christian way. A tear ran down her cheek.

She looked up from hearing the sound of shoes tapping on the floor of the aisle to her immediate right. Father Funn was walking by. She got up and went over to him.

“Father?” she said from just behind his left shoulder.

He looked behind himself. “Yes, Sister Mary?”

“I know this is abrupt, but do you have time to receive my confession?”

“Why, yes, I have a few minutes,” he said. “Come this way.” He gestured to an exit leading to the confessional booths.

They went over and got in.

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” Mary said with a trembling voice.

“Be at peace, Mary,” he said soothingly. “The Lord is always willing to take back any lost sheep who have strayed from the flock.”

“I have had…,” she began, “…impure thoughts.”

“What kind of impure thoughts?” he asked with…a smirk on his face?

“Lewd ones. Lustful ones. Unnatural ones. Shameful ones.” She began sobbing. “And I don’t think I’ll be able to stop myself from thinking them again.”

“With God, all things are possible,” he reassured her. “Remember that the Lord helps those who help themselves.”

“Yes, Father! Thank you!”

“I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” he said, doing the Sign of the Cross with her.

She left the confessional so determined not to have sexual feelings about Jessie, that she would prove it every time she was around her, as a test of that determination. She went back to the pews to pray.


That evening, after hours of prayer at the pew, she returned to her cell.

I will not have romantic thoughts about Jessie, she insisted in her thoughts as she approached Jessie, who was outside, tending a garden just beside the cell. Among the flowers and herbs she grew there to make her tea were a number of rather large mushrooms. The sun was sinking low, leaving darkness all over the convent.

Mary came up beside her cellmate. “Good evening, Sister Jessie.”

Jessie looked over at her and gave her such a disarming smile that Mary, shivering with pleasure, already lost half of her resolve not to think of Jessie in a sexual way. “Good evening, Sister Mary. I’m about to make us some tea. Would you like to watch how I make it?”

“Oh, yes, very much!” Mary sighed, then thought, Now, I can see if she is drugging the tea…which, surely, she isn’t! “You said last night that you mix mushrooms in the tea. What kind of mushrooms are they? I had such a wild dream last night, not the kind of thing I would ever describe, for modestly’s sake!” She tittered a little. “Those aren’t those ‘magic mushrooms,’ are they?”

Jessie let out a loud laugh. “Oh, no! Of course not! That must have been a wild dream that you had! No, these mushrooms only have a medicinal effect on the consumer. Whatever ‘wildness’ you experienced in your dream was something already inside you, I assure you.”

Though Mary felt reassured that there was nothing psychedelic about those mushrooms (and, surely, Jessie was telling her the truth about that!), she found it disturbing to think that that whole dream’s contents were just ‘something already inside her.’ Mary had always hated the unbridled sin of her unconscious mind, something she could never control.

Jessie finished collecting the ingredients for the tea, and she took them into the cell, Mary following closely behind her.

“Oh, I’m so glad it isn’t as hot today as it was yesterday,” Jessie said as she stood in front of the kettle, getting the tea ready. “These summer days have been killer. But I can tolerate keeping this habit on, at least for the moment.”

Mary let out a sigh of relief…yet of disappointment, too.

“I must say, Sister Jessie, that I admire how loving and caring you were to the orphans today,” she said. “The smiles you put on all the kids’ faces as you talked to them. Your charity is truly an inspiration.”

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Jessie said. “I’m just doing the Lord’s work. It isn’t me; it’s the Holy Spirit working through me.”

“Your humility and charity remind me of those of my mother, as I saw in her when I was a child,” Mary said, looking over at Jessie with such yearning.

“Your mother must be a remarkable woman. I’m flattered to be thought so similar to her.”

“You are, Sister Jessie, in so many ways,” Mary sighed.

“That’s very sweet of you to say–thank you.” Jessie, having finished making the tea, brought two small cups over. “Here you are, honey.” She handed Mary a pink china cup, while keeping a yellow one for herself.

“Thank you.” Mary was relieved to see that yellow cup this time, to see Jessie sipping from it. Mary thus felt encouraged to drink from hers.

(What she didn’t realize was that Jessie had made mushrooms for Mary’s tea, and no mushrooms–and different herbs–for her own.)

“OK, I’m getting little too hot now,” Jessie said, and she undid her guimpe and tunic, which for her, unusually, had front zippers. When unzipping and pulling them wide apart, she revealed a black, lace brassiere holding those creamy breasts in shape, the sight of which made Mary salivate and pant audibly. Jessie looked over at Mary, whose eyes immediately looked away. Jessie smirked.

Mary drank a gulp of tea. She looked out the window to see the growing darkness and the sun almost fully set. She yawned. “I don’t know why I feel so sleepy. Apart from moving the crates of food, I didn’t do much–just a lot of praying.”

“That’s fine,” Jessie said, continuing to undress and now just in her bra and panties. “Let’s just go to bed.”

Mary took no more than split-second, furtive looks at Jessie, who was now removing her bra. “Yes,” she yawned, “I suppose I should…take this…hot thing…off, too.”

Smiling Jessie removed her panties, turned off the light, and got into bed. Mary, too tired to reach for her nightgown, just stripped down to her underwear and got into bed. She lay on her back, closed her eyes, and let out a long sigh.

“Good night, Sister Jessie.”

“Good night, honey.”

Mama used to call me ‘honey,’ Mary thought.

That soothing, undulating feeling was beginning to flow all through Mary’s body again. She could hear Jessie whispering something in Latin again, though again, she felt too drowsy to make out the meaning of the words; she could only distinguish the pronunciation as distinctly Latin.

She felt Jessie’s hand on her right thigh.

A shiver of pleasure…and fear…rode up and down all those waves she felt permeating her body.

Still, Mary felt too much in a stupor to resist.

Jessie’s hand was playing with the elastic on Mary’s panties.

“Jessie,” Mary said in a slurred voice. “When I…showered today, I noticed…that my hymen…was missing.”

“Really?” Jessie whispered, then kissed Mary on her right cheek.

“Did you have…anything to do…with that?”

Jessie’s finger slid under the panties and began playing with Mary’s pubic hair. “I’m liberating you…from your theological prison cell.” She gave Mary a peck on the lips.

“Are you?” Mary sighed. “Ooh!”

“Purity and innocence…are lies…Not even Adam and Eve…were innocent…in the beginning.” Jessie was giving Mary kisses on her lips, cheeks, and neck as she continued whispering.

“That can’t…be true. Ah!

“Oh, it must have been. If they were truly, utterly good, neither would have…given in…to temptation…and eaten…the forbidden fruit…There was never…a Fall, so Christ’s death…as redemption…was meaningless. There was never…primordial grace, and so there’s no grace…for us to return to…through Christ’s death. Let’s sin bravely.”

Mary opened her eyes and, her eyes adjusted to the dark and with plenty of moonlight and starlight shining through the open window, she could make out the silhouette of Jessie standing up on the bed, with her back and ass to her, her legs spread apart on either side of Mary. She wasn’t nude, though: Mary looked up and saw Jessie wearing a white coif and black veil on her head, but a tight-fitting, shiny black leather outfit was covering her from her neck to her feet, which were in black high heels. The outfit showed off Jessie’s curvy figure and round buttocks most flatteringly.

Jessie looked down at Mary over her left shoulder and asked, “Do you like it, Mary?”

“Sister Jessie,” Mary said in sighs, trying to regain at least some self-control, in spite of how stoned and turned on she was, “dressing like that…is so disrespectful…to your vows…as a nun. Remove the coif…and veil…at least.”

“Mary, what coif? What veil? I’m naked, head to toe.”

“But,…that skin-tight…black outfit…you have on.”

“I’m not wearing any outfit, Mary. I’m displaying my body, for your viewing pleasure. I know your secret desires, Mary. Don’t be afraid to express them.”

“How do you know them?”

“I have my ways. Let me help you liberate yourself, Mary.” Jessie bent down, bending her knees and lowering her back, so Mary could see what she had hiding between her legs and buttocks. Now Mary no longer saw the black clothing or the nun’s headdress. She saw naked Jessie’s delectable secrets, which were coming closer and closer to her face.

Jessie, on all fours now and facing Mary’s feet, pulled off her panties and spread her legs out wide. Both of them began tasting each other. Though Jessie was pure of any urinary or fecal smell–in fact, her vulva and anus smelled fragrant from a fresh shower–Mary was worried, after having used the toilet just before returning to their cell, that her own body odour would be most unflattering.

Yet Jessie was licking, kissing, and sucking without complaint.

(Actually, her magical, Latin incantations, herbs, and mushrooms all served to obliterate any and all unpleasant smells. Mary would learn the next day that Jessie’s magic would make even more, shocking changes to her body.)

In any case, Mary soon forgot her worries about her body odour, for she was too busy enjoying giving and receiving physical love. She no longer regretted the loss of her hymen, for Jessie’s long tongue was now free to probe deep, deep inside, tickling Mary’s vaginal walls with its tireless flickering.

It felt so good, so physically good, that she realized something.

This is no dream! she thought. This is really happening!

Both women’s sighs were rising in pitch and volume as they approached climax. Mary had a vision of two dams bursting, with rushing water coursing out between two pairs of legs. Mary’s was a river; Jessie’s, a waterfall.

…and Father Funn just happened to be passing by their cell window at that very moment.


The next morning, Mary woke up with her panties back on, as if never taken off. There were no vaginal secretions as she had felt the night before, which she found inexplicable. With the sun peeking through the window, Jessie was fully dressed in her habit.

Mary saw her smiling face…O, that lovely face!

The two exchanged good morning wishes.

“Sister Jessie,” Mary asked. “What…did we…do last night?”

“We’ll discuss it tonight, Sister Mary,” Jessie said, moving about the cell in a hurry to get ready to go. “Get dressed. We have a busy morning. There’s a soup kitchen downtown where we volunteer every week on this day, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner to the homeless. We’ll be leaving about a half hour after breakfast. You’ll want to hurry if you hope to squeeze in a shower before we go.”


Though they ate facing each other in the dining hall, they said little to each other, Mary fearing that the other nuns would overhear their conversation and pick up hints as to what they were doing every night. She saw Father Funn walk by their table with a smirk that made her even more paranoid.


After breakfast, she hurried over to the shower with a change of underwear. She had put on her habit so quickly after getting out of bed that she didn’t take a minute to notice anything different about her body. But now that she was naked and in the shower, she saw herself in that mirror; the changes couldn’t be ignored.

Larger, firmer breasts.

No flab.

No pubic hair.

No paleness of her skin.

Perfect curves.

There was no other way to explain these changes.

Jessie was a witch.

Her tea and incantations were part of her spells.

Any pleasure Mary took in the changes in her body were overridden by the horror she felt in knowing what Jessie really was.

She’d bewitched Mary.

She’d defiled her.

She’d debauched her.

She’d led her astray.

She’d made her break her vows of chastity.

Mary remembered, with a shudder, Exodus 22:18.


After her shower, she joined Jessie and the other nuns to go to the soup kitchen to serve meals to the homeless there. Again, these acts of charity helped to soothe and ease her guilt…to an extent. That blazing, blindingly bright, hot sun outside reminded her of God’s judgement.

As she served the homeless with a smile, she saw the same loving smile on Jessie’s mesmerizingly pretty face. Mary saw no trace of phoniness in the sorceress’s smile: it looked perfectly sincere, like that of a genuine servant of Christ.

She recalled Paul’s words: “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.”

Still, Mary couldn’t understand how Jessie could fake being a Christian so skillfully. Her charity looked so authentic, and it made Mary feel all the more in love with her.

It was also challenging her faith in God; for how could He allow this to happen?

Inwardly, she shook with shame at her sinful love. She remembered Paul’s words: “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.”

Speaking of doing what she hated, she slipped a knife under the sleeve of her habit just before the nuns all finished and left the soup kitchen to return to the convent.


That evening, as the sun was setting and darkness was about the envelope the convent, as soon as they’d returned, she went to Father Funn to give her confession again. In the booth, she was weeping; he had that enigmatic smirk on his face again.

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” she sobbed.

“Be at peace, Mary,” he said calmly. “The Lord is always willing to take back any sheep who have strayed from the flock.”

Mary remembered that these had been his exact words from last time: they sounded like a meaningless formula now!

“I have had…more impure thoughts,” she sobbed.

She couldn’t bring herself to complete her confession and admit to the sexual contact with Jessie…not only out of her personal shame, but also because she didn’t want to expose the shame of the woman she loved.

“Have you any more confessions to make?” he asked after noting her awkward several seconds of silence.

“N-no,” she said, bowing her head in shame over her cowardice in not fully confessing.

“Very well,” he said in a voice that sounded almost bored. “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Both of them did the Sign of the Cross–so formulaic.

She stepped out of the booth and slowly walked back to her cell, frowning. I feel no peace from that at all, she thought. Surely Father Funn suspected that my confession wasn’t complete. God wouldn’t have…couldn’t have allowed such absolution…if He truly existed.

It was getting darker and darker outside.

She fondled that knife in her sleeve.


She walked into her cell and saw Jessie standing naked by the window, outside of which was the black of night. Jessie was facing Mary, with her usual insouciant display.

Mary began shaking, and clasped the knife, keeping it hidden in her sleeve. “Are you making more tea?” she asked with a frown.

“I don’t think I need to,” Jessie said with a smile. “Not the kind I was making for you before, to free your mind.”

“Those mushrooms really are magic mushrooms, aren’t they? You literally do magic with them, don’t you?”

“They, as well as my other herbs and my incantations, don’t do anything more than bring out what’s already inside you, Mary.”

“You’re a witch masquerading as a nun.” Her eyes tearing up, Mary let the knife slip down so Jessie could see the blade pointing at her chest.

“You aren’t going to stab me, Mary.” Jessie took a step toward Mary.

“‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,’ from Exodus.”

“‘Thou shalt not kill,’ also from Exodus.”

“‘The devil can cite scripture for his purpose,’ from The Merchant of Venice,” Mary said with a shaky voice, the hand holding the knife shaking even more.

“I’m not a witch, Mary,” Jessie said, taking another step closer to Mary. “I’m a sorceress.”

“What’s the difference? the Bible makes no distinction.”

“A witch uses her magic to harm. A sorceress uses it for good.” Jessie came closer to Mary. “My spells are liberating you.”

“Liberating me from what? I love my religion.”

“You didn’t become a nun out of love for Christ or the Virgin Mary. You became one to please your mother.”

“Your witchcraft makes you read people’s minds,” Mary said, weeping.

“So, you admit it’s true?” Jessie asked, stepping forward and now with Mary’s knife mere millimetres from her breast.

“You read my mind…when I saw myself…in the bathroom mirror yesterday,…and you know…that I didn’t like…how my body looked,…and you used your magic…to change my appearance,” Mary said in sobs.

“Don’t you like how it looks now? You wanted your body to please me more. It didn’t have to be changed. I liked your body as it was, with all of its supposed imperfections. I can change it back, if you wish.”

“N-no.” Mary kept sobbing. “But you seduced me…made me fornicate with you. You robbed me…of my faith in God.”

“Is that a bad thing?”

Her face contorting with rage, Mary brought up the knife, ready to stab Jessie in the chest.

“You won’t kill me, Mary. You’re in love with me.”

Mary stood dazed for several seconds.

“Y-yes, I am.” Mary lowered her head, brought her arm down, and let the knife fall to the floor. Now she was sobbing loudly. Jessie put her arms around her.

“No!” Mary said. “Let me take this off first. If I’m going to sin with you, at least let me not dishonour the habit.”

Jessie helped her remove the tunic and guimpe, revealing–to Mary’s shock–a black corset with red lacing, and knee-high black boots with high heels, with red crosses on the knees.

“How did these get here?” Mary asked with a gasp, then she looked at Jessie, realizing how foolish her question was.

Jessie smirked lewdly as she looked at Mary. “I like it.”

“Well, I don’t. It’s tasteless. Help me take it all off. I’d rather be as nude as you; it would feel less indecent.”

“Very well; as you wish,” Jessie said, still smiling at the sight.

Mary, now nude, turned off the light, and they got into bed.

Jessie lay on her back, and Mary got on top of her. They exchanged kisses on each other’s lips, cheeks, and necks. Mary cupped Jessie’s breasts in her hands, giving them slight, gentle squeezes. Jessie fondled Mary’s bottom, giving the cheeks stronger squeezes.

They were rubbing their crotches against each other, then they put their legs in a scissor-position, rubbing their vulvas against each other and feeling their clits getting harder, and their labia swelling, moistening all over.

They were so focused on their pleasure that they paid no attention to how voices can carry. Their sighs, moans, and squeals were getting higher and higher-pitched, and louder and louder. The squeaking of the bed was getting louder and faster in rhythm, too. The wide-open window was no help in keeping the crescendo of their sin a secret.

A few members of the convent passed by their cell and heard the approaching climax. One nun peeked in the window, but saw only grinding silhouettes in the dark. The other passers-by were on the other side, listening at the door.

Finally, Father Funn rammed into the door, breaking it open. The other nuns came in after, one of them turning on the light and exposing the nakedness of the lovers, who never bothered pulling the blankets on themselves, it being such a hot summer night.

Their viewers were in bathrobes and slippers. Mary tried to pull the blanket over her body, but Funn stopped her.

“Oh, no, you don’t,” he said. “Both of you will come with us as you are. There will be no hiding of the truth.”

Mary walked out of the cell in tears, her hands covering her breasts and crotch. Jessie, walking beside her with her arms at her sides, made no attempt to cover her nakedness; she kept a lewd smirk on her face that Mary couldn’t understand. Funn walked behind both of them, his eyes never straying away from the sight of their tasty buttocks.

Mary and Jessie were taken to the open-air court area in the middle of the convent. All the other nuns were assembled there, in their bathrobes and slippers. All were looking at the naked duo with expressionless faces that weeping Mary could barely make out in the dark, with only moonlight and starlight to keep the black from being absolute. Not knowing what they were thinking, while imagining they could only be judging and condemning her sin with Jessie, was torturing Mary. Jessie, on the other hand, just kept smirking.

A bench was in the middle of the large courtyard, with two paddles lying at its sides. Mary and Jessie were taken there.

“Kneel before the bench,” Funn said. “Put your heads on the seat. Don’t move.” He picked up the paddles and gave one to one of the nuns. “Cooperate, you two, and this will be over with in a few minutes.”

He and the nun called out numbers with every whack they gave Mary’s and Jessie’s buttocks. Both girls screamed with each strike: Mary, bawling; Jessie, grinning.

“Jesus, help me!” Mary wept between screams. “Beat the sin…Oww!…out of me!…Oww!

Oww!” Jessie screamed. “You’re making my…Oww!…bum all red!…Oww!

Out of the corner of Mary’s teary eye, she saw something odd.

The nuns all removed their bathrobes and kicked off their slippers. They were now as naked as she and Jessie were.

“Twenty!” Funn and the other paddler called out.

“We’re finished,” he said. He and the nun put down their paddles, then removed their bathrobes and slippers, too.

Mary and Jessie looked behind them, and all around the courtyard. Mary’s eyes and mouth were agape. Jessie was still grinning lewdly.

Everyone there was naked.

Funn was fully erect. Mary looked away with a blush, and back at Jessie.

“They’re all the same as you, Jessie?” Mary asked.

“…and you, now, Mary,” Jessie answered.

“Nuns by day, nudists by night?” Mary asked.

“Think of it as a dialectic of asceticism and eroticism,” Jessie explained. “We worship the Lord by day, and the Lady by night.”

Lady? This indecency is worshipping the Blessed Virgin?”

“Look up in the night sky and see the Lady in her half-moon phase,” Jessie explained. “Half lit up, half dark. There is the Goddess, known by many names: Luna, Selena, Mary, Nut, Ishtar, Inanna, and so on. And in the daytime, there is the Lord, also known by many names: Sol Invictus, Helios, Jesus, Tammuz, Osiris, Dionysus, etc.”

“You’re all pagans? This is blasphemy!”

“Is the largely unpunished sexual abuse of children by priests, of nuns, any less blasphemous to the Church?” Jessie challenged. “At least we’re honest with our sexuality here.”

“As for your question of paganism, I think I can explain, Mary,” Father Funn said. “We here are a dialectical mix of pagan and Christian, to be exact. When we do our daily charity, we are sincerely Christian, but also because the world–being as prejudiced as it is against paganism–would only accept charity from the Church. But enough of this! Let’s get on with tonight’s ritual! Our weekly orgy must be done, to raise power and spread the energy of real love, grounded in the body, throughout the world, to save it from war, greed, and hate!”

“But people outside will hear, and suspect us,” Mary said.

“Not with our magic, which has, if you will, soundproofed the area,” said the nun next to the priest (Mary noticed a genuine tattoo on her upper leg; it said…Motorhead? She must have been the nun Mary saw on her first day here!). “Nobody outside will hear a thing; don’t worry.”

“But an orgy?” Mary said. “I don’t want to be involved in an orgy.” She looked over at Jessie. “I love you, and you alone. I don’t want to make love with anyone else. What I’m doing with you is fornication enough!”

“Very well,” Jessie said with a smile as she got on top of Mary. “You and I will have only each other.”

They resumed their tribadism there on the grass. Funn entered the tattooed nun. Though Mary and Jessie looked only in each other’s eyes, they heard a surrounding sea of moans and sighs. All the other nuns paired up, engaging in the licking, kissing, and fingering of vulvas, or with lips wrapped around nipples.

The group sex had a ritualized rhythm, with synchronized grinding and groaning. Everyone’s sighs and squeals rose together in pitch and volume, getting faster and faster, and resulting in a collective orgasmic scream.

As everyone lay back on the grass, panting with satisfaction, Mary looked up at the stars with a grin.

Whether the Queen of Heaven was Mary or the moon-goddess no longer mattered to her.

Jessie was right.

Mary was now free.


The next morning, the nuns arrived in a van at a homeless shelter near downtown, delivering used clothes there. As they all cheerfully took the boxes of clothes off the van and gave them to the volunteer workers at the shelter, Mary found herself looking at Jessie’s pretty face as often as she could.

That mix of the sensual and the saintly that she saw in Jessie, knowing what delights her habit was hiding, made Mary all the more in love with her. She looked up at the shining, hot sun–the Lord, the Son, Helios, Tammuz, whichever–and smiled, waiting for the glowing Lady to peek out of the darkness that night.

She licked her lips, wanting more of that tea.

Analysis of ‘Stalker’

Stalker (Russian: Сталкер) is a 1979 Soviet science fiction film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky and written by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, based loosely on their 1972 novel, Roadside Picnic. The film stars Alexander Kaidanovsky (in the title role), Anatoly Solonitsyn, and Nikolai Grinko, with Alisa Freindlich and Natasha Abramova.

The premise of the novel is that after an alien “Visitation,” various items of the aliens were left behind in “Zones” in six places around the world. These alien artifacts have properties not understood by humanity, as are all the strange and dangerous phenomena experienced in the Zones. Still, some people, known as “stalkers,” illegally sneak into the Zones, risking apprehension by the police who guard the dangerous areas, and hoping to take some of the items out and sell them.

In the novel, Dr. Valentine Pilman compares this leaving-behind of alien artifacts to garbage left behind after a picnic on the side of the road, hence the name of the novel. According to Pilman’s analogy, the aliens are the picnickers, we humans are like the animals living where the picnic took place, exploring all the items left behind, not understanding what they are, things that may even be dangerous to the animals.

The novel is divided into four sections (preceded by an introduction involving an interview with Pilman) of which the last is the basis of Tarkovsky’s film, and even this section of the novel is radically reworked. An alien “Visitation” is considered a possible reason for the existence of the “Zone” in the film, though it may have been caused by a meteorite hitting the Earth. Redrick “Red” Schuhart of the novel is simply known as the “Stalker.” Instead of going into the Zone with young Arthur Burbridge, who dies in the “meatgrinder” of the novel, the Stalker goes in with two middle-aged men, known as the “Writer” (Solonitsyn) and the “Professor” (Grinko), neither of whom dies in the meatgrinder. In the novel, they seek the wish-granting “Golden Sphere” (or Golden Ball, depending on the translation); in the film, the three men seek a room that grants one’s deepest desires.

The making of the film was fraught with difficulties. It was originally filmed with film stock that was unusable, so Tarkovsky had to reshoot it almost entirely with the help of new cinematographer Alexander Knyazhinsky. Stalker initially got mixed reviews, but it has since been regarded as a classic of world cinema. The British Film Institute ranked it #29 on its list of the “100 Greatest Films of All Time.”

Here is a link to quotes from the film in English translation. Here’s a link to the full movie with English subtitles. And here is a link to Antonina W. Bouis‘s English translation of Roadside Picnic.

During the credits of the film, we see a black-and-white shot of a bar (which, in the novel, is called “the Borscht”). Next, we get a shot, still in bleak black and white, of the Stalker’s home, through half-way open doors leading into his bedroom. He, his wife (Freindlich–Guta in the novel), and their daughter, “Monkey” (deformed because of the Stalker’s exposure to the Zone, and played by Abramova in the film) are all lying in the same bed.

As they’re sleeping, we hear a train going by outside, shaking up the room. The Stalker is already awake, ready to get up and sneak out, to meet with the Writer and Professor, to take them into the Zone and find the desire-granting Room. His wife wakes up soon after, noticing he’s taken her watch; she begs him not to go and risk being put in jail again.

She fears his going back to jail, this time for ten years instead of five, as he did last time (in the novel, Redrick is incarcerated for a time for having been in the Zone); but the Stalker insists that he’s “imprisoned everywhere.” This ‘imprisonment’ is what the black-and-white filming is supposed to represent: the bleakness of their everyday existence, from which the Room in the Zone is supposed to be an escape.

He won’t be dissuaded from going, and he leaves her. She falls to the floor, weeping after having cursed at him for ruining her life. What we notice here is the close relationship between the nirvana of the Room and the suffering caused by desire for that Room, the heaven of the Room and the hell that surrounds it.

As we’ll learn soon enough, heaven and hell, nirvana and samsara, are even closer together than that.

He meets with the Writer near some train tracks (indeed, as his wife was weeping, we heard another train going by their home). The Writer has been drinking and chatting with a pretty young woman about how “boring” life is (i.e., black and white), and therefore there are no flying saucers, ghosts, or God to make it interesting. There isn’t even a Bermuda Triangle, according to the Writer…yet, there’s a wish-granting Room in the Zone that he’s risking going in to find?

The two men meet with the Professor in the bar. It’s fitting that they’d all meet here, with the Writer drinking in particular; for alcohol is as much an escape from pain for him as the Zone, and the Room, are an escape from pain for the Stalker, as we’ll see.

The Professor is in the sciences, physics in particular, though he alludes enigmatically to an interest in chemistry as part of his reason for seeking the Room, a reason he’d not have the other two know about until they find the place. The Writer claims he’s going there to regain his lost inspiration.

The Stalker tells them that their train has arrived, so they must go. He tells Luger, the bartender (named Ernest in the novel), to call on his wife if he doesn’t come back. Those trains we keep hearing and seeing represent that wish to go out there to find happiness…as opposed to being content with the happiness we have here, but don’t appreciate; and this is precisely what Stalker is all about.

(Though “stalker” in the novel and film has no relation to our notion of a disturbed fan or rejected lover following around a celebrity or other object of desire, one can in a way see a connection between the two uses of the word…someone obsessively chasing a desire or form of happiness that isn’t his to have.)

They drive to the entry to the Zone, dodging and hiding from the police who patrol the area on their motorbikes. Since the Zone is, for the Stalker in particular, a kind of Eden away from his miserable world, those police are like the cherubim and the flaming sword that forbid re-entry into paradise, to get at the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:24).

Now, how should one think of the ‘happiness’ as promised by the Room in the Zone? Since Stalker is a Soviet film (i.e., one approved by the Soviet government), one might think that one’s deepest desire is for the establishment of full communism: a classless society with such an abundance of commodities as pure use-values that one can obtain without need of money, and therefore no state is needed, either, to protect the interests of one class against those of the other. Police preventing entry into the Zone can thus represent capitalist encirclement–imperialism.

Now, while Tarkovsky, as his son would later insist, was no political dissident with regards to the ideology of the USSR (i.e., he didn’t leave the USSR during his last years for political reasons; and it should be noted in this regard how George Lucas once said that one had greater artistic freedom as a filmmaker there than in Hollywood, as long as one didn’t criticize the government), it would be too simplistic to reduce the meaning of wish-fulfillment and ultimate happiness to the socialist goals of the Soviet Union. No: Tarkovsky was far too spiritual for dialectical materialism.

The point is that happiness, having what one wants most deeply in one’s soul, in the true, spiritual sense, is elusive, and there is much pain that one must go through to find that deeper happiness, not just having one’s wishes granted.

And in the end, one often finds that what one truly wants is not what one thought one wanted. The Writer admits, early on, that he isn’t really seeking inspiration from the Room, and that one often doesn’t know what one does or doesn’t want. He acknowledges this unknowing before even entering the Zone.

Still, the three men risk apprehension by the police at the entry to the Zone, then risk all the booby traps in the Zone that surround the Room…all to attain a most enigmatic happiness. Such is the seductive allure of nirvana, the desire to end the desire that causes suffering.

The Stalker drives their car on a train track among the patrol guards, who shoot at them. When one has seen the filthy urban sprawl that they live in, blanketed in pollution, one can begin to understand the lengths they’ll go to in their quest for a better life.

Having gotten past the cops, the three find a railcar to go on to get into the Zone. We see in this transport the connection between the trains and the going out there to find happiness. We hear the clanking of the railcar against the tracks as the three men go forward into the Zone, thus reinforcing the thematic connection between the sound of trains and the search for happiness…out there.

The police won’t follow the three into the Zone because they’re scared to death of what’s inside, as the Stalker explains to the Writer, who asks him what it is that’s inside. The Stalker says nothing to answer the Writer’s question, because nothing is precisely the answer to the question–a nothingness of nirvana, Wilfred Bion‘s O, Lacan‘s Real Order, a paradox of heaven and hell, Rudolph Otto‘s notion of the numinous, a mysterium tremendum et fascinans.

As the three men are going along the track, we hear the clanking of the railcar and other twanging noises as a fitting soundtrack to the sights of industrial clutter all over the land, a reminder of the bleakness of their world. And finally, the black and white of that bleakness changes to colour, and the railcar stops.

We see mostly the green beauty of nature, with trees, bushes, and grass…but still some urban clutter to remind us that the world isn’t as perfect as it may seem. The Stalker nonetheless joyfully says that they’re “home at last,” for in spite of the dangers of the Zone, the three have arrived at his conception of happiness, hence, the change to colour. He loves how still and quiet the place is, a stillness and quiet of peace, without the hell of other people…apart from the three of them, though, of course.

To navigate the Zone and avoid its booby-traps, the Stalker will use a kind of slingshot, throwing metal nuts here and there, rather like David’s way of defeating the danger of the Philistines (this flinging of nuts from a slingshot is also done by Redrick in the novel).

They have to proceed through the Zone in a very roundabout way, to avoid the dangers therein. In the novel, there’s even a reference to minesweepers that were used by stalkers in the Zone, and how two stalkers were “killed by underground explosions.” This is the sort of thing that I mean when I refer to booby-traps in the Zone. Indeed, in keeping with the socialist interpretation of the heavenly aspect of the Zone and the Room, one might associate these mines and other booby-traps with the mines and other bombs that the imperialists left in places like Laos during the Vietnam War.

On a deeper level, we can see in the heaven/hell paradox of the Zone a symbolic association between the meteorite/aliens and humans, on the one hand, and the sons of God mating with the daughters of men, on the other (Genesis 6:1-4). The offspring from the Biblical mating were the Nephilim; in the case of the Zone, the offspring of stalkers, who have been exposed to the alien presence, are children like the deformed “Monkey”–unable to walk, but possessing telekinetic powers, as we discover at the end of the film.

The point is that, in the Zone, there is, symbolically speaking, a taboo mixture of the human and divine worlds, giving rise to the heaven/hell paradox of the place. Wishes may come true, it’s divinely beautiful in its greenery, but people die here. I discussed, in my analysis of the primeval history in Genesis, how any mixture of the human and divine worlds resulted in evil (i.e., man trying to be like God in having knowledge–expulsion from Eden; man trying to be like God in deciding when another will die–Cain’s punishment; and the mating of the sons of God with the daughters of men–the sinful world leading to the Flood).

The Stalker describes the Zone as a complex maze of death traps where “everything begins to move” when people are there. The Zone is an alien land, altered by divine, celestial beings, as it were, and when man enters it, we have that mix of divine and human that brings with it the danger of a deluge of evil.

This is why, though the three men have quickly found the building where the Room is, they cannot risk death by directly walking into it. They must follow the deliberately circuitous path directed by the Stalker. “Former traps disappear; new ones appear,” he says. Safe paths become dangerous, and vice versa: a dialectical shift between the opposites of good and evil, shifting up and down like the waves of an ocean…or a flood.

The Stalker speaks of the Zone in almost religious language, as though it’s a God-like presence that will punish you with death if you don’t behave properly. Still, he thinks that it isn’t the good or evil who either make it to the Room or perish. It’s the wretched, those who’ve lost all hope, who go thus from the lowest low up to the highest heaven. Yet even the wretched may perish if they misbehave here.

So, instead of going into the building, they will get there indirectly by first going into a dark wood where the Stalker has tossed one of his slingshot nuts. Thus we come to Part Two of the film. “Long is the way/And hard, that out of hell leads up to light.” (Milton, Paradise Lost, Book Two, lines 432-433)

The Stalker hopes, again in that quasi-religious attitude of his, that the other two men will believe (i.e., in the truth of the Zone), believe in themselves, and “become as helpless as children.” (Mark 10:14-15)

Another paradox in the film is the Stalker’s belief that it is in softness that there is life, and in death we find hardness. Strength and hardness kill, in his view; in softness and flexibility are life, rather like the notion that the meek are blessed, for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).

The Professor, not realizing that the Stalker has been continuously guiding him and the Writer to the Room, however circuitously, but incorrectly thinking he has just been showing them something, has left his backpack and wants to go back to retrieve it. The Stalker insists that he mustn’t, for fear of the death traps, but the Professor won’t be dissuaded, because he has something in that backpack that he needs when reaching the Room.

The Stalker and Writer come to a place of rushing water that the former calls “the dry tunnel,” as a joke. Since the Professor is no longer with them, they assume correctly that he’s gone back for his backpack, and that they must go on without him. They go through the soaking wet of the “dry tunnel,” and after we see a close-up shot of rippling, shallow water with such various forms of leftover trash as used needles and pieces of paper, the two men are surprised to find the Professor on the other side, with his backpack and calmly eating and drinking from his thermos.

They’ve managed to get through an area the Stalker deemed dangerous, a watery area the Professor has navigated with no help (and the Writer has alluded to Peter almost drowning, a reference to Matthew 14:22-32); here, we see the Stalker, the most ‘religious’ of the three, being the one “of little faith,” while the Professor hasn’t needed any faith.

The three men lie down and have a rest.

Since this place is, on the one hand, a wish-fulfilling paradise, and paradoxically on the other hand, a place of death, a heavenly Hades, if you will, the appearance of a dog–whose howling we heard when the three men arrived on the railcar–is fitting. This dog is symbolic of Cerberus, guarding, as it were, the underworld of ultimate fulfillment.

We see a brief black-and-white shot of the water, close up, leading to the Stalker, who is lying prone on the ground by that water, his head on his hand in an attitude of exasperation. Meanwhile, the other two have been chatting about whatever wishes they may hope will be granted them. Inspiration for the Writer? A Nobel Prize for the Professor? The latter taunts the former about his talentless, vain writing, but the Writer, spitting on humanity, is interested only in himself. The Stalker’s exasperation must come from his secret knowledge that the granting of one’s wishes is a truly empty pursuit.

Still, taking people into the Zone is extremely important to him, as a kind of act of religious faith, as we’ll see towards the end of the film.

“Truth is born in arguments,” we hear. Indeed: dialectical thinking is the basis of all the paradoxes of Stalker.

We return to colour, with the Stalker now lying supine on the grass. He seems more at ease now. He brings as many people as he can into the Zone, wishing to bring in more…to find happiness. He agrees that one has never found a single happy person in the world, a reminder of the first of the Buddha‘s Four Noble Truths…yet the Stalker still wants to bring people here.

One seeks happiness like a dog chasing its tail, never catching it. Still, one chases after it.

When asked if he’s ever used the Room, the Stalker says that he’s happy as he is…with no smile on his face.

…and we briefly return to black and white, with the dog running up to him. His whole world is just as bleak in the Zone as it is outside. Deep down, the Stalker knows that the Room’s promises of happiness are empty, so he only brings other people here to give them that hope. He is, in essence, a kind of religious charlatan, selling bliss, and he knows it.

He’s lying on a tiny island, as it were, of land, just big enough to include his body, and he’s surrounded by shallow water. Sometimes Brahman is compared to an ocean (as I have done), with Atman compared to a drop in this ocean. But here, this water is shallow, like the shallow hope of happiness the Stalker is selling. Sometimes, nirvana is compared to an island, but his ‘island’ is so small as to be insignificant.

The Writer acknowledges the emptiness of his desire to gain inspiration from the Room. After all, the whole point of being a writer, for him at least, is to prove his worth, as such to himself and to others. This need to prove himself is fueled by his own self-doubt. If the Room grants him his wish of genius, he has no more need to prove himself; then, what need has he anymore to write?

What we can see here, therefore, is a kind of ouroboros of wish-fulfillment. I’ve discussed, in many other articles, my use of the serpent biting its tail as a symbol of the dialectical relationship between opposites. The ouroboros, coiled in a circle. represents for me a circular continuum; extreme opposites meet and phase into each other where the head bites the tail, and every point in between has its correspondence on every intermediate point on the serpent’s coiled body.

So, for the Writer to achieve his wish of inspiration is to lose his whole motivation and meaning for writing. The talent of writing kills the writer. The Stalker knows, deep down, that the granting of wishes, the giving of happiness, kills it; therefore, he’ll never use the Room. The Professor knows of the potential danger of misuse of the wish-granting of the heaven-hell Room, so he has special plans for it, which necessitate his bringing along of his backpack.

One can conceive of an ouroboros of the Zone, too. When the three men arrive, having come from the black-and-white bleakness of their ordinary world and the danger of being shot by the patrol guards, we come upon a colourful world of beautiful trees, grass, and bushes. What’s more, the Room has been discovered to be quite close.

They can’t go in directly, so they’ve had to travel from the heavenly biting head, as it were, of the ouroboros of the Zone, down the coiled length of its body in the direction of its bitten tail, where the deadly meatgrinder is, just before the Room. As can be expected, this move along the coiled length of the serpent’s body, so to speak, has meant an experience of less and less bliss, more and more pain. The Stalker has to guide them through the increasing intensity of danger. Hence, these black-and-white moments, indicating a decrease in heavenly bliss; hence also the increasing lack of civility in the men’s discussions.

We see a shot of what looks like a stretch of muddy land, yet it moves in waves…at once like that Brahman-ocean metaphor I discussed above, yet also like a field of diarrhea. Such is the heaven/hell paradox of the Zone.

We hear a voiceover recitation of Revelation 6:12-17 begin as the Stalker, still lying on his little island, stares in front of himself in a wide-eyed daze. The film switches to black and white again, with a slowly moving close-up shot of the shallow water with random pieces of trash in it: a needle, coins, a picture of a saint, a gun, etc., and muddy tiles on the bottom. The shot ends with the Stalker’s hand.

With what is heard and seen, we again have juxtapositions of the holy and the horrifying: a description of the terror of Armageddon from the Bible, and the oceanic Brahman of water, but shallow water with things that hurt (the needle and gun); a holy man’s picture, but that which, if we love it too much, is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10).

We return to colour, with a shot of the dog. The Stalker rises from his resting place, and he contemplates the two disciples going to Emmaus and seeing the risen Christ (Luke 24:13-18). This narrative, of course, brings us from the despair of the disciples, over Christ‘s crucifixion, to the joyful realization of His resurrection…only the Stalker stops his recitation just before that moment of realization. Instead, as the Stalker discusses music, we see a shot of a beautiful lake, surrounded by trees. Renewed hope and joy can come in surprising forms.

Recall the presence of the dog…for the next scene shows the entrance to a tunnel leading ultimately to the Room. This is the place of death, a kind of Hades, that one has to go through before reaching the heaven of the Zone. This is the bitten tail of the ouroboros that I mentioned above. It’s a harrowing of hell, the meatgrinder one must risk death going through if one is to reach the nirvana known as the Room, the serpent’s biting head.

In the novel, Redrick simply plans, from the beginning, to sacrifice Arthur to the meatgrinder, so the former can gain access to the Golden Ball. In the film, the Stalker has all three men draw straws to see who will go first into the meatgrinder and risk death. The Writer is the unlucky one.

Like Arthur, the Writer is the Christ figure who must suffer so the others get the benefits of the Room. Unlike Arthur, though, the Writer won’t die; he’ll just have to endure the stress of thinking he could die. He’ll have to go through this dark, filthy, polluted tunnel that curves like the inside of the coiled ouroboros. The Writer, before drawing straws, says he doesn’t think he should go in first, rather like Jesus, praying in Gethsemane, hoping God would let this cup pass from him (Matthew 26:39).

The Writer goes through the tunnel, the Stalker and Professor following from far behind. The Writer reaches a door, through which he must go. Before opening the door, though, he takes a pistol out of his coat pocket; the Stalker forbids him to use it, for it would seal their doom. Christ, during His Passion, of which the Writer’s current ordeal is the representation, never used a weapon–neither must the Writer.

He opens the door, goes into a passageway flooded with water, and must descend stairs to get chest deep in it to reach the other side. Of course, the other two must follow. The gun must be left in the water.

The Writer has gone ahead into an area with wavy hills of sand on the floor, reminding us of that stretch of muddy land outside that undulated. The Stalker warns the Writer to go no further. Those waves of sand again remind us of the oceanic nature of the Absolute, which is both heaven and hell. The Writer is lying on his side in a puddle, in exasperation, as the Stalker was before.

The Writer gets up, then speaks of this place as someone’s “idiotic invention.” The Zone, like religion, is just an invention to him. He’s furious with the Stalker, believing he cheated him into taking the wrong straw.

The Stalker is amazed at the Writer’s good luck in having survived, since so many have died in the meatgrinder. The Writer’s survival, allowing the other two to get through alive, is thus symbolic of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice and resurrection. Later, we will even see the Writer put on his head a wreath of branches like the crown of thorns.

Finally, they’re in the Room. What’s fascinating about the shot Tarkovsky takes of the Room is that we see it from outside, from the entranceway, just like his opening shot of the Stalker’s home, with the doorway leading into the bedroom. A similar shot has been given of the way in the bar. The implication is that these similarities show that the way to true happiness is not somewhere out there, a place we have to find, but right here at home, if only we had the eyes to see it. The problems is that we are, so to speak, colourblind–hence, the black-and-white shots.

A telephone rings in the Room. The call is from a clinic, the Professor’s place of work, and he phones back to talk to the caller, a colleague he has contempt for. The Professor proudly admits to what the caller knows that he intends to do to the Room. In a sense, the Professor is having his deepest, secret wish come true right here, for he has found the courage to tell the caller that he is defying the wishes of the institution of his employment, from which he expects to be fired.

…and what does the Professor want to do, and why does he need that backpack so badly? In it, he’s been carrying a bomb he’s meant to use to destroy the Room, so no one can misuse it to grant wishes of power, or to do other forms of evil.

The Stalker struggles with the Professor to take the bomb away and to prevent him from destroying the Room, but the Writer stops the Stalker, still mad at him for cheating him into making him go first into the meatgrinder. In any case, the Professor will change his mind, take his bomb apart, and toss the pieces into a large puddle. What we truly want is often a surprise to us, for we don’t really know what it is.

The three men look out at a large opening where a wall would have been, as if this were the entrance to the Room. We never see what’s on the other side, as if to preserve the mystery of the Room; but I don’t think that this opening leads there, however much it is implied that it does. The light coming out from it suggests that it’s the way back outside, rather than the way into the Room. (When we saw the building earlier from the outside, when the three men had just arrived and the Writer was approaching it, we saw a huge hole in it, a wall removed, and a door to a small room to the right; what we see now corresponds perfectly to this earlier sight.)

I believe the little room with the telephone and a glowing ball of a ceiling light (corresponding to the novel’s Golden Sphere?) is the actual Room, though Tarkovsky may have been teasing us with ambiguity as to which area was the real Room (i.e., which way is the real way to heaven?). The men have just stepped out of the Room for a moment, having not yet decided on what their wishes will be; then they’ll go back in.

The little room has a telephone, electricity, even sleeping pills…all odd things to find in one of so many abandoned buildings of junk and filth, if this isn’t the wish-granting Room. Still, what we want is so often not what we really want, hence the ambiguity as to which place is the real Room.

And in spite of how ambiguous this Room is in terms of its wish-fulfilling properties, and its paradoxical heaven/hell status, the Stalker still wants his Room to continue existing, not just so he can continue making money taking people here, but because he sees in it the importance of maintaining a sense of hope in life, a faith in some kind of religious feeling. He is, as the Writer observes, “one of God’s fools.”

When the Stalker talks about making one’s wish, now that the time has finally come, he is nervous and dripping with sweat, as though getting one’s wish is a terrifying thing. Heaven is hell.

So what the men end up doing is sitting outside between the Room and the open space, in quiet contemplation, instead of making wishes. All this effort…for nothing.

Yet, the Stalker mentions again, as he did when they’d first arrived in the Zone, how still the place is.

They return to the bar, and we return to black and white. The Stalker’s wife is there, with Monkey. We see the two of them outside, through the window of a door, in a shot reminding us of those of the Room, of the way in the bar, and of the way into the Stalker’s home’s bedroom. The place of our wishes is here with us, with family and friends, all in its dull black and white, with all of its troubles and miseries.

The dog has come with them, further demonstrating the unity of the Zone and what’s outside it. When the Stalker goes home with his family and the dog, we return to colour, with the Stalker carrying Monkey on his shoulders.

Back in his home, the Stalker, not feeling well, is complaining of the lack of respect and appreciation the Writer and Professor have for the Zone and Room, like a religious person complaining of atheists. Fittingly, we see black and white again, to reflect his own lack of appreciation for all that he has, in his own home. He ends up back in bed, as he was at the beginning of the film, which has thus come full circle.

His wife, in a monologue that breaks the fourth wall, speaks of never once regretting marrying him, in contrast to her cursing of him at the film’s beginning. She, too, calls him “one of God’s fools.”

She concludes that, in spite of all the sorrows she’s had with the Stalker, she has no regrets because, as the film has pointed out so many times with all of its symbolism, without pain, there’s no happiness or hope, either.

…and who is her hope, and his hope? Monkey, of course!

And this is how the film ends, in colour, with Monkey seen reading a book. A golden shawl is wrapped around her head and draped on her shoulders, presumably to hide her deformities. She is mute throughout the film. We hear the Stalker’s wife, in voiceover, reciting a poem as the child, having put the book down, sits there staring into space.

The film ends with her using telekinesis to move two glasses across a table, making one of them fall off of it. Here we see the true meaning of wish-fulfillment: using one’s mind to make happen what one wishes to happen. As a deformed child of the Stalker, and therefore of the Zone, Monkey is clearly his wish-fulfillment personified, even if he doesn’t realize it. As the offspring resulting from the symbolic mating of one of the sons of God and the daughters of men, she isn’t literally one of the Nephilim, but she is a giant hope for her parents.

The fulfillment of wishes, the finding of happiness, isn’t supposed to be selfish–it’s to be shared with others. This is why we see colour now in the Stalker’s home: his happiness is here because his wife and daughter are here. They are his happiness. Happiness is a collective one, not an individual one…which is actually the goal of socialism, incidentally.

A similar conclusion is made in the novel when Redrick shouts out, in imitation of Arthur, who has first shouted it before being killed by the meatgrinder: “HAPPINESS FOR EVERYBODY, FREE, AND NO ONE WILL GO AWAY UNSATISFIED!”

Nonetheless, we hear the rattling of that train again, the wish to find happiness out there. The temptation to go astray is ever present. As the camera does a closeup on Monkey, though, with her head lying on its side on the table, her like a reclining Buddha, we hear a chorus singing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

How fitting.

‘Mad Dogs and Islington,’ a Horror Short Story

Iona held her copy of the Islington Post in one hand and her cup of coffee in the other. Her eyes almost popped out of her head after reading the headline on the front page.

“SECOND MAD DOG ATTACK IN ISLINGTON,” it said. She looked over at her English Springer Spaniel, Jenny, who was eating her Iams in her bowl on the kitchen floor just to the right of Iona’s right foot.

She put the paper and coffee down on the table and stroked her dog’s back and head. “Oh, my poor baby,” she said, in near sobs. “What if one of those dogs attacks you?

She went back to reading the article. It said, “This dog, Maggie, her owners being the Grissom family on Trenton St. near downtown, had not been bitten by any of the five rabid dogs bitten by Elroy, the dog of the Feldmans on Mayberry Rd. on the east side of town. Still, the symptoms of both Maggie and Elroy are exactly the same–blood-red eyes, foaming at the mouth, a hoarse growl, and a shaking rage–prompting questions as to a possible common cause of their infections.”

Iona picked up her coffee with a shaking hand, spilling a bit on the table before bringing it to her mouth for a sip, which she did as she looked down at Jenny. She read more of the article.

“As we reported last time, Elroy had bitten not only five other dogs, infecting them and bringing out the same violence in them before he was finally caught and put to sleep, but he bit and infected all of the members of the Feldman family–the mother and father, as well as their pre-teen son and daughter–also bringing out the same violent tendencies. The five bitten dogs have also bitten their owners, as well as the other pets of those owners. All human victims have been hospitalized and sedated to curb their violent rage; all animal victims have been put to sleep.”

Iona was trembling as she looked down again at Jenny, who had just finished eating her Iams and was lying contentedly on the floor by her bowl.

What if my Jenny gets bitten? was all Iona could think about.

She went back to the article: “The transmission of this violence-inducing infection has been too fast for the authorities to contain it. As of this printing, Maggie has bitten at least eight dogs, all the members of the Grissom family (the mother, father, and three teenage kids, all now hospitalized), and she still hasn’t been caught. All residents of Islington are being warned to stay indoors and to keep all their pets indoors until further notice.”

She put the newspaper down, got off the chair, and walked out of the kitchen. Jenny looked up at her as she found a chair in her living room. She looked back at her dog.

“Come here, baby,” she said in sobs, snapping her fingers. Jenny went out of the kitchen and over to Iona, who put her arms around her dog. “What am I going to do if you get bitten?” she sobbed as she continued hugging Jenny.

Iona looked around her living room: no TV, for she hated the garbage shown on it every day. She preferred to read her news in the paper. No cell phones or tablets: she hated even the idea of internet addictions.

Afraid of people all her life, Iona lived a solitary existence in this small house she’d inherited from her mother when she died, along with a lot of money so she could live without needing a job. Jenny was Iona’s only friend in the whole wide world. The loss of her dog to this infection would be nothing short of devastating for her.

Jenny was Iona’s only friend because, as her mother told her when she was nine years old, Iona had no talent at all at making friends with anybody. Only her mother could ever show her kindness, and now her mother was gone. And what her mom said came true, for all through her childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, Iona’s every attempt at making friends was at best short-lived, and at worst doomed to failure before she’d even tried.

This was the wisdom of her loving mother, to have been able to predict such difficulties for Iona!

So she was a lonely girl all of her life, bullied as a kid at school, and ignored by men as a ‘plain,’ introverted woman. The good thing about pets, dogs especially, is that they love you unconditionally, not caring if you’re chunky or pimple-faced, as Iona was. The best thing about pets is that they don’t talk, so you don’t have to fear them ever saying hurtful words to you.

She’d already had Jenny as a cute puppy, with those adorable, big, sad eyes, when her mother died (her father, whom she never knew, had abandoned her mother on finding out she was pregnant), so Iona at least had Jenny for company since the loss of her mother, her only human friend.

Jenny was Iona’s entire world now, her only love.

Putting an infected Jenny to sleep would destroy that world utterly, would shatter it, smash it to pieces.

Her dog could never get infected…NEVER!!!

In the middle of summer, Islington was an unbearably hot and humid town. Being terrified of people, Iona rarely went outside anyway, beyond taking Jenny for walks or buying what they needed from the nearby grocery stores. During these dog days of summer, she went out even less, preferring to let Jenny roam about and relieve herself in the backyard.

It amazed her to look out her window in the summer afternoons and see so many people outside, kids especially, baking in that oppressive sun. Surely not even running through sprinklers was enough to compensate!

And now, mad dogs were running loose in the heat.

Only mad dogs and Islington went out in the midday sun, as Iona observed. But these mad dogs were making her fear ever going outside at all!

Did she have enough food, drink, and Iams stocked up to ensure that she and Jenny could get through this mad dog crisis? Did she dare even let her dog out in her backyard for a quick pee and poop?

So far, the mad dog sightings had been in the east end and downtown areas, whereas she lived in the west end. So far, Iona and Jenny were reasonably safe.

So far.


The next morning, Iona received her newspaper on her front porch as usual. She picked it up and took it inside.

As she walked with it through the living room and towards the kitchen, she read the headlines on the front page. As soon as she saw the headline that she was anticipating, she dropped the paper on the floor and began trembling.


Jenny went up to her, and she sank to her knees. Sobbing, she held Jenny close, looking in her dog’s beautiful, black, loving eyes. Jenny whimpered a bit, not as if hungry or complaining, but as if in compassionate concern for Iona. Then, with enormous dread and reluctance, she picked up the paper to read the story.

“Furry, the Saint Bernard owned by the Vaughan family on Becker St. ten blocks west from downtown Islington, has been infected not from a bite by Maggie or Elroy. Furry has bitten and infected the entire Vaughan family, all hospitalized and sedated: the parents, their nine-year-old son, and the wife’s parents. Furry has the same symptoms as the other infected dogs: red eyes, foaming at the mouth, etc.

“An investigation has been made to discover the source of the infection. What Furry, Maggie, and Elroy have in common is the receiving of a ‘vaccine’ from a veterinarian and former resident of Islington named Max Rooney, who has since left town without any way to contact him, raising suspicions that what he injected the dogs with was what has caused the infection.

“Each dog received the shot on successive, consecutive days, just as each dog, in the same order, first showed signs of the infection on consecutive days. There must have been an incubation period of three days between receiving the shot and manifesting the violent symptoms.

“Dr. Rooney’s so-called vaccine was supposed to be against rabies, yet the infection that seems the result of the shot shows symptoms much worse than those of rabies. Though there seems to be a three-day incubation period between the dogs’ receiving their shots and the emergence of the symptoms, there is no incubation period at all between one being bitten or scratched by the infected and showing symptoms oneself.

“Instead of the usual rabies symptoms of hydrophobia, brain and meninges inflammation, paralysis, and insomnia, the infected are wildly violent and aggressive, attacking people and animals on sight, making rabies aggression seem tame in comparison. An examination of the hospitalized victims has shown some of the symptoms of rabies, such as anxiety, confusion, agitation, abnormal behaviour, paranoia, terror, and hallucinations.

“If suspicion of Dr. Rooney, for whom police have begun a manhunt, is proven true, the shot he gave the dogs seems to have contents resulting from some form of gain of function research. A possible motive for Rooney to have deliberately released a pathogen into the Islington community is revenge against them for a malpractice lawsuit filed against him (which he lost) nine years ago.”

Dr. Rooney, Iona thought when finishing the article. That bastard, I remember him. Our old cat, Dotty, died under his ‘care’ ten years ago. Mama wasn’t among the litigators back then, but she should have been. I hope the cops find him and make him pay for all he’s done.

Hoping to find something else in the paper, something that might cheer her up and take her mind off her worries about Jenny, Iona flipped through the pages. The only articles that caught her eye were ones on the Russia/Ukraine war, the danger of China invading Taiwan (and the Western military buildup to protect the island), a small article on the American military occupying a third of Syria, stealing their oil and wheat, and an op-ed arguing that George W. Bush should be tried for war crimes by the ICC.

Pretty depressing reading.

Another article in the Weather section discussed a soon-to-come heat wave in Islington.

“All the more reason to stay indoors,” she whispered.

She went over to the living room window–with the curtains closed to keep the obnoxious sunlight from blindingly brightening up, and heating up, her home–and pushed a curtain to the side to look out. She was grateful to see no nosy neighbours trying to peer inside her home and pry on her personal business. She was also grateful to see no mad dogs anywhere.

Well, I guess it’s safe to go out there and get some food for myself and Jenny, she thought. I’ll have to stock up while I can. The mad dogs are getting closer and closer to home. They’re like all the wars that infect more and more of the globe. It’s terrifying, all that death and destruction disrupting the lives of ordinary people.

She got her purse and took a few tentative steps outside.

“Still, no dogs anywhere,” she whispered, then closed and locked the door behind her.

As she walked off of her porch and towards the sidewalk, she looked around the neighbourhood with a frown. Still, there are a lot of people out here today, she thought, noting all the kids in bathing suits running around and playing. How can they like it out in this horrible heat? I’ll bet at least one of these brats is gonna make fun of my appearance, calling me ‘fat’ and ‘ugly,’ the way they did when I was little. Kids are so cruel.

She kept walking along the sidewalk on the way to the nearest grocery store, always keeping an eye out for shaking dogs with red eyes and foaming mouths. So far, she saw none…so far.

She saw a few kids walking in her direction. She shuddered, fearing they’d say something mean to her. Her lonely, sensitive heart just didn’t cope with such things.

They were getting closer and closer, just chatting with each other.

One of them, a boy of about ten, looked at her for a moment.

Her heart started pounding. She was shaking all over.

The kids passed by her, saying nothing.

Sweating, she let out a huge sigh of relief.

As she continued towards the grocery store, she saw a few stray dogs barking at each other, just by the store’s entrance.

She froze.

Eyeing the dogs with tense care, she saw…no red eyes, no abnormal shaking, no foaming mouths, no aggression beyond the barking and growling.

They were okay.

She walked around them and reached the front door of the grocery store. She went in.

She went straight over to the pet food section, where the big bags of Iams were. Ensuring that Jenny had enough food to ride out this mad dog crisis was the top priority. Iona’s getting food for herself could wait.

She picked up two big bags of Jenny’s favourite flavour, then went over to where the food she liked was: first, she’d get some cheese, then she’d go over to get some meat, then some bread, and finally, some Folger’s coffee. As she looked at the cheese, she heard a sudden, loud, almost growling noise from a man.

She yelped, then looked behind her.

It was just some middle-aged man sneezing. No red eyes, no foaming mouth. She was safe.

Still, why do some people need to sneeze so loudly? She was already tense enough as it was, and that sneeze scared her so much, she almost wet herself.

As she waited in line to pay for her groceries, she noticed, among the newspapers, a small, local newsmagazine written by a dissident reporter on world affairs. The headline read: “China Doesn’t Want War with Taiwan, but the US Wants to Provoke China, as with Russia over Ukraine.”

“Pfft!” Iona said with a sneer. “Sure.”

After paying for and bagging her groceries, she went to the door and looked outside before opening it.

The dogs were gone, and she didn’t see any others anywhere, near or farther away, mad or normal. Still, standing at the doorway, she kept looking for another ten seconds or so, just to be sure.

“Miss, are you gonna block the doorway all day, or are you gonna move?” a woman behind her said with a scowl.

Iona went outside and out of the woman’s way, her heart pounding. Why do people have to be so hurtful?

As she walked back to her house, her eyes always on the lookout for mad dogs and Islington meanies, her body always dripping with sweat from that oppressive sun overhead, she remembered another reason she so rarely went outside: every time she did, it seemed, someone would bite off a piece of her, as that woman just did.

She was passing the houses of her neighbourhood, the few before reaching her own, when behind her, she suddenly heard sharp, loud, rapid-fire barking.

She felt as if she’d jumped ten feet into the air.

She looked around and behind her, with wide-eyed dread.

It was her neighbour’s pit bull, chained by his house, yapping at her. Its eyes and mouth were normal.

“Goddammit, do I have to be startled every five minutes or so?” Iona growled, baring her own teeth at the dog.

She continued back to her house.

As soon as she unlocked the front door and went inside, she saw her sweet little Jenny wagging her tail and shaking–not the shakes of the infected, of course, but shakes of love to see her owner back home. Iona put the bags down by the door, closed it, and went over to her dog.

Weeping, she held Jenny. “Oh, my baby!” she sobbed, stroking Jenny’s head. “Only you love me! You’re my one true friend. What’s gonna happen if you get bitten or scratched by one of those mad dogs? If that ever happens, I won’t be able to bear it! I’ll go mad! I’ll wanna kill myself if I ever lose my baby!”

Jenny licked her face and looked at her with those big, sweet, loving eyes as Iona kept hugging her and slowly rocking her from side to side.


The next morning, Iona went out to get her newspaper. As she held the door open with her left foot while bending down to reach for the Islington Post, which lay on the porch beside the welcome mat, Jenny was by the door, noticing a cat sniffing around on the lawn.

The dog raced outside, chasing the cat.

“Jenny, no!” Iona screamed.

But her dog was already past four of five houses down the neighbourhood running after that cat. Iona, already not a fast runner, found it all the more awkward running after Jenny in her bathrobe, nightgown, and slippers.

She’d only had time to read the headline before dropping the newspaper: “THREE MAD DOGS SPOTTED IN WEST END OF ISLINGTON”.

As she ran, dripping sweat from the summer heat, she was startled again by the machine-gun bark of that pit bull. She could see Jenny far off ahead of her; her dog was still running so fast in pursuit of that cat–how could Iona catch up to her, let alone get her back safely into the house?

By the time she’d reached the grocery store, Iona collapsed from exhaustion. Sobbing and panting for breath, she felt that regaining her strength to resume the chase was taking an eternity. She saw Jenny, tiny and far off in the distance, but at least still not out of sight. Her dog didn’t seem to be chasing the cat anymore.

Because of her heavy panting, Iona didn’t hear an approaching, growling dog.

After a few more seconds, though, she felt a bite on her arm.

“Oww!” she yelled, then looked behind her.

The last thing she noticed, while her world still looked normal, was the dog’s red eyes, its foaming mouth, and its shaking body.

Now, her eyes had gotten red, excesses of saliva were dripping from her lips, and she began shaking wildly. Everything she saw around her was as red as her eyes.

…and at just that moment, Jenny, recognizing her from far off, was running back to her.

As her dog was coming nearer and nearer, Iona was seeing an alternating vision, all in red, of sweet Jenny with her big, loving eyes, eagerly running up to be loved…and a flying torso…of…delicious…dog…meat…coming up to be eaten.

Shaking, salivating Iona was utterly confused.

Over and over, the thought flashed in her mind: TASTY DOG MEAT.

Affection was fading out…appetite was fading in.

The part of Iona that still saw her one true friend was mentally screaming No! to the part of her that was taking over and licking her lips.

Finally, Jenny reached her. Iona put her arms around her dog and received licks on her cheeks.

Then she sank her saliva-soaked teeth into Jenny’s neck.

The dog let out a loud yelp as blood sprayed all over Iona’s face. Within seconds, Jenny’s eyes turned red. She was salivating and shaking, and she saw a world as red as the one Iona saw.

Police in body armour showed up just after Jenny’s transformation. They got out of their cars and pointed their rifles at Jenny, Iona, and the other mad dog.

“Get the tranquilizer gun ready for the woman!” one of the cops shouted as he was aiming at Jenny.

“Don’t…hurt…my…dog!” Iona grunted in a near-zombie voice as she got up, ready to attack the cops.

Just when she and the dogs jumped forward to pounce on the police, all of them fired on their would-be attackers, killing the dogs and hitting Iona with a tranquilizer dart.

It took several minutes for the dart to knock her unconscious, but the force of it hitting her in the chest made her fall back onto the ground, knocking the wind out of her. As her vision slowly faded to black, she hallucinated seeing Jenny’s body being shattered to pieces, over and over again.

“N-n-noooo!” she stammered.


The line between dream and consciousness was blurred for Iona, because of the hallucinatory world brought on by the infection and the semiconscious, hypnotic state brought on by the sedative she was given in the hospital.

All she saw, over and over again, was a squad of soldiers firing machine guns at her in a world of red, in the middle of a besieged city. The buildings all around her were crumbling. Bombs were dropping from the sky like hail.

…and Jenny, in what looked like a red tape loop, ran up to her with those big, sweet eyes…then the gunfire tore her body into fragments right before Iona’s horrified eyes. She saw her dog’s gory fate again, and again, and again…

The worst part was that Iona, overwhelmed with grief over the violent killing of her one true friend, was starving for revenge, craving to attack anyone randomly in a desperate effort to rid herself of her pain…but the sedative and bed straps kept her unable to move beyond mere fidgeting.

All she could do was weep.