Analysis of ‘Venus In Furs’

Venus In Furs is a novella written by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch and published in 1870. Because the semi-autobiographical story is about a young man, Severin von Kusiemski, who persuades a beautiful woman, Wanda von Dunajew (her real-life counterpart having been Sacher-Masoch’s mistress, Baroness Fanny Pistor), to dominate, whip, humiliate, and enslave him, we derive the word masochism from its author…thanks to Richard von Krafft-Ebing in his seminal text, Psychopathia Sexualis.

Though the novella was originally meant to be part of an unfinished cycle of stories called The Testament of Cain, Venus In Furs is by far Sacher-Masoch’s most famous work, and it is one of the few of his writings to be translated into English.

Here are some quotes:

“Is there any greater cruelty for the lover than the beloved woman’s infidelity?” –narrator of framing story (page 4)

‘”And as a rule it is the man who feels the woman’s foot,” cried Madam Venus with exuberant scorn…’ (page 5)

“Yes, I am cruel–since you take so much pleasure in that word–and am I not entitled to be cruel? Man desires, woman is desired. That is woman’s entire but decisive advantage.” –‘Madame Venus,’ the talking statue in the narrator’s dream (pages 5-6)

“Woman’s power lies in Man’s passion, and she knows how to make use of it if man isn’t careful. His only choice is to be woman’s tyrant or slave.” –Severin, to the narrator (page 10)

‘…my beloved was made of stone…a stone statue of Venus…This Venus was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.’ –Severin (page 12)

‘Enough: this Venus was beautiful, and I loved her as passionately, as morbidly and profoundly, as insanely as a man can love only a woman who responds to his love with an eternally consistent, eternally calm stone smile. Yes, I literally worshiped her.’ –Severin, of his Venus statue (page 12)

“Nature knows of no permanence in the male-female relationship.” –Wanda (page 19)

‘My love was like a profound, a bottomless abyss, into which I kept sinking deeper and deeper, from which nothing could save me.’ –Severin (page 27)

‘Cold shivers ran down my spine. I looked at her: she stood before me, so solid and self-assured, and her eyes had a cold glint.’ –Severin, of Wanda (page 28)

“…the greatest passions…arise from opposites. We are such opposites, almost hostile to each other. That explains this love of mine, which is part hatred, part fear. In such a relationship, only one person can be the hammer, the other the anvil. I want to be the anvil. I can’t be happy if I look down on my beloved. I want to be able to worship a woman, and I can do so only if she is cruel to me.” –Severin, to Wanda (page 29)

“…sensuality now became a sort of culture in my imagination, and I swore not to squander its holy sensations on an ordinary creature but to save them for an ideal woman–if possible, the Goddess of Love herself.” –Severin (page 32)

“In my mind I always pictured a beautiful female ideal…” –Severin (page 33)

“So a woman wearing fur,” cried Wanda, “is nothing but a big cat…?” (page 35)

“I saw sensuality as sacred, indeed the only sacredness. I saw woman and her beauty as divine since her calling is the most important task of existence: the propagation of the species.” –Severin (page 36)

“Yes–you’ve aroused my most cherished fantasy.” –Severin, to Wanda (page 37)

‘”I’m afraid I’ve already found my ideal!” I cried and pressed my hot face into her lap.’ –Severin, to Wanda (page 37)

“You’ve corrupted my imagination…” –Wanda, to Severin

“Women are neither as good as their admirers and defenders would have it nor as bad as their enemies make them out to be.” –Wanda (page 47)

‘Wanda…was so kind, so intimate, so full of grace.’ –Severin (page 48)

“A woman’s infidelity is certainly a painful stimulus, the supreme voluptuousness.” –Severin, to Wanda (page 49)

“You may always address me as ‘Mistress,’ do you understand?” –Wanda, to Severin (page 60)

‘…from time to time I heard our Mistress enjoying herself, surrounded by admirers…’ –Severin (page 77)

‘Venus in Furs was jealous of her slave. She tore the whip from its nail and struck me across the face. Next she summoned the black maidservants, and had them tie me up and drag me down to the cellar, where they threw me into a dark, dank subterranean vault–a bona fide dungeon cell.’ –Severin (page 84)

‘I felt myself starting to hate that woman.’ –Severin, of Wanda (page 85)

‘…I saw that she was wearing only the fur, and I was terrified–I don’t know why–as terrified as a condemned man who knows he is heading toward the scaffold, yet starts to tremble the moment he sees it.’ –Severin, of half-naked Wanda (page 89)

‘…Wanda threw off her fur coat in a single moment and stood before me like the Goddess in the Tribuna.

‘At that instant, she looked so chaste, so holy in her uncloaked beauty that I knelt before her as I had knelt before the Goddess, and I pressed my lips devoutly to her foot.’ –Severin (page 90)

‘He was a handsome man, by God. No, more: he was a man such as I had never seen in the flesh. He stands in the Belvedere, hewn in marble, with the same slender and yet iron muscles, the same face, the same rippling curls.’ –Severin, of Alexis Papadopolis, his rival for Wanda’s love (page 96)

‘What I felt was fear–a fear of losing the woman whom I loved almost fanatically; and this fear was so violent, so crushing that I suddenly burst out sobbing like a child.’ –Severin (page 101)

“You know what I am,” she retorted nastily. “I’m a woman of stone, Venus in Furs, your ideal–just kneel and worship me.” –Wanda, to Severin (page 103)

“The moral is that I was an ass.” –Severin, speaking to the narrator (page 119)

“The moral is that woman, as Nature has created her and as she is currently reared by man, is his enemy and can be only his slave or his despot, but never his companion. She will be able to become his companion only when she has the same rights as he, when she is his equal in education and work.” –Severin (page 119)

The story begins with a framing device involving the original narrator telling Severin about a dream he’s had of conversing with a living statue of Venus, who has a huge fur wrapped around her marble body (page 3).

This notion of being infatuated with the statues of Venus is a motif recurring throughout the novella, for a man’s willful enslavement to a woman is based on his pagan worship of her (as he sees it) divine beauty.

This beauty is carved into immovable stone: cold, inflexible, hard, and therefore cruel. The immovability of the stone also suggests permanence; combine this unmoving, unchanging permanence with beauty, we have ourselves an ideal.

The notion of ideal feminine beauty is also a recurring theme in the novella. Recall Goethe‘s words: “The Eternal Feminine draws us on high.” Beauty on the outside is seen as a symbol of beauty on the inside…regardless of how unrealistic such ideals are.

Another classic work of art–a painting–has inspired Severin: Titian‘s Venus with Mirror, the goddess’s lower body wrapped in fur, apart from which she is naked. Both Severin and the narrator fetishize her in the fur.

In his paper, “Fetishism,” Freud pointed out that the fur fetish is based on desire for a woman’s pubic hair, a desire traced back to boys’ Oedipal desire for their mother, and their horror, upon seeing her genitals, at realizing she has no phallus. Camille Paglia, in Sexual Personae, believes that Venus In Furs supports Freud’s claim (Paglia, pages 258, 436).

As Freud himself observed: “…it is as though the last impression before the uncanny and traumatic one is retained as a fetish. Thus the foot or shoe owes its preference as a fetish–or a part of it–to the circumstances that the inquisitive boy peered at the woman’s genitals from below, from her legs up; fur and velvet–as has long been suspected–are a fixation of the sight of the pubic hair, which should have been followed by the longed-for sight of the female member; pieces of underclothing, which are so often chosen as a fetish, crystallize the moment of undressing, the last moment in which the woman could still be regarded as phallic.” (Freud, pages 354-355)

If Freud’s explanation seems far-fetched, consider Jacques Lacan‘s more metaphorical version. The mother’s lack of a phallus is, for Lacan, connected with the dissolution of the Oedipus complex and the father’s prohibition against a boy’s having of his mother; the boy cannot be the phallus that his mother desires, because his father won’t allow it. Hence, his father has symbolically castrated him. From this lack–manque–comes one’s desire.

Since a boy can’t have his mother, he must look elsewhere to gratify his unfulfillable desire, the objet petit a, a substitute for the forbidden mother that, in this story, Severin and the narrator can attempt to replace with the fur fetish and the Venus ideal. [For a more thorough explanation of such psychoanalytic concepts as those of Lacan, look here.]

Freud’s thoughts on fetishism seem to anticipate Lacan’s ideas about manque and the objet petit a in this passage: “In the conflict between the weight of the unwelcome perception and the force of his counter-wish, a compromise has been reached, as is only possible under the dominance of the unconscious laws of thought–the primary processes. Yes, in his mind the woman has got a penis, in spite of everything; but this penis is no longer the same as it was before. Something else has taken its place, has been appointed its substitute, as it were, and now inherits the interest which was formerly directed to its predecessor…We can now see what the fetish achieves and what it is that maintains it. It remains a token of triumph over the threat of castration and a protection against it.” (Freud, page 354)

That Titian’s painting has the fur covering Venus’ lower half further supports the symbolic association of the fur with her pubic hair. Cupid, Venus’ son, holds her mirror: the Goddess of Love and Beauty is the Mother.

Now we can see the origin of Severin’s desire to be dominated by a beautiful woman: he has an unresolved Oedipus complex, transferred onto Wanda. She symbolizes his mother, who in his unconscious has been split into Melanie Klein‘s “good mother”–his idealized parental imago whose beauty he desires to enjoy (hence, the furs)–and the “bad mother” who punishes him and is cruel to him.

Freud noted how a spanking can give erotic pleasure to a child: “Ever since Jean Jacques Rousseau‘s Confessions, it has been well known to all educationists that the painful stimulation of the skin of the buttocks is one of the erotogenic roots of the passive instinct of cruelty (masochism).” (Freud, page 111)

Severin, as a boy, must have enjoyed getting swats on his little buttocks from the hand of his pretty mama. Little is said in the novella about his relationship with his mother; the lack of any mention of his (as I suspect) shameful desires for her can easily be attributed to repression. Instead, Severin freely admits to desiring his beautiful but violent aunt–a clear displacing of his Oedipal desires from his mother to his aunt! (pages 32-34)

To return to the beginning of the novella, the narrator is woken from his dream by a hand “as brown as bronze” (page 6), suggesting another hard, cold statue, this time one of a man, the narrator’s “Cossack,” who stands “at his full height of almost six feet.” (page 6)

The Cossack tells the narrator that he must hurry and meet up with Severin, and that “it’s a cryin’ shame” (page 6) that the narrator is asleep when he must be going. This scene is symbolic of the father making a boy give up on his Oedipal dream of having Mother (symbolized by the statue of Venus in the dream). The “bronze” statue of the Cossack represents the father bringing the narrator (symbolic of a boy experiencing the Oedipus complex) into the world of reality.

Severin’s story, of himself also leaving his dreams (page 117) and coming into reality, will help the narrator understand the need to wake up, too; for the narrator is an obvious double of Severin. In fact, both men can be seen to represent the universal Oedipal desirer, the common male masochist. Severin’s story is written in a manuscript called Confessions of a Suprasensual Man. (page 10)

Speaking of writing, it seems prophetic that the narrator has a book by Hegel lying next to him as he sleeps (page 7); in the explanatory notes at the end of my Penguin Classics English translation of Venus In Furs (page 125), it is justifiably assumed that the passage of Hegel that the narrator has been reading before dozing off is the master/slave dialectic section of The Phenomenology of Spirit. In this dialectic, the slave gradually comes to free himself of his master, as Severin will of Wanda, and–one hopes–the narrator will of his slavish devotion to Venus in furs, too.

Before Severin meets Wanda, he–just like the narrator–has been idolizing a stone statue of Venus; only instead of it being in his dreams, Severin’s is in a meadow, in a garden in the small wilderness where his house is. Because of this ideal, he has had very little interest in Wanda…but she will soon embody that ideal for him, in the flesh.

There are numerous passages in the novella that suggest that Severin’s love for Wanda is at least comparable to a boy’s Oedipal love for his mother. To give one example: after kissing her foot, which causes her to run away, leaving her slipper in his hand–because she feels he is “getting more and more indecent,” he returns it to her the next day and stands “in the corner like a child awaiting its punishment.” (page 24)

Another example, suggestive of his relationship with Wanda as being like that of a mother and her little boy, is on page 82: “She started caressing me, cuddling me, kissing me like a child.” Yet another example, symbolically suggestive of a boy’s Oedipal jealousy, is on page 101: “What I felt was fear–a fear of losing the woman whom I loved almost fanatically; and this fear was so violent, so crushing that I suddenly burst out sobbing like a child.”

He remembers having his idolatrous fetishes from as early as the cradle; he “can’t remember ever not having them.” His mother told him he was “suprasensual” from those earliest years, “suprasensual” being his word for describing his desires. (page 30)

I’ve already mentioned his aunt, to whom–I believe–he made his first transference of his repressed Oedipal desires for his mother. Countess Sobol “was a beautiful, majestic woman with a charming smile; but [Severin] hated her, for the family regarded her as a Messalina.” (page 32) This love/hate is the splitting of the mother into her good and bad aspects, but displaced onto Severin’s aunt.

Severin describes his aunt beating him with a switch while wearing “her fur-lined kazabaika.” After the beating, he “was forced to kneel down, thank her for the punishment, and kiss her hand.

“Now just look at the suprasensual fool! The switch held by the beautiful, voluptuous woman, who looked like an angry monarch in her fur jacket, first aroused my desire for women, and from then on my aunt seemed like the most attractive woman on God’s earth.” (page 32)

Since Severin is telling the story, and since he’s clearly addled by his strange passions, it’s easy to believe that he’s an unreliable narrator. (His having been “healed” of the sickness of his masochism at the end of the novella is also unconvincing, especially given how Sacher-Masoch himself, on whom Severin and the narrator are based, carried on with his acting-out of his female domination fantasies years after the publication of Venus In Furs, to the irritation of his wife at the time!) When he admits he incestuously desires his aunt, this could easily be a cover-up for a much more forbidden desire…to have, and be punished by, his mother!

Severin explains his fur fetish to Wanda by speaking of “the bewitching beneficial influence that cats exert on highly sensitive and intelligent people.” (page 35) Yes, Wanda, “a woman wearing fur…is nothing but a big cat.”

Sacher-Masoch uses the word Katzen, in italics in the original German. Now, Katze innocently just means cat, the -n being the plural ending. But consider the context behind the usage of the word in this “erotic” conversation. (page 35)

In English, “pussy” has been used to mean a woman’s genitals as early as the 1870s, and probably earlier. In French, chatte, the feminine for chat, has had the same meaning, so the European association between the feline and the vagina has existed for some time.

Furthermore, Katzen sounds dangerously close to tzchen, the German word for kitten, or…pussy! Given the strict censorship of any lewd ideas back in the prudish late 19th century (Recall the scandal surrounding Oscar Wilde’s Salome, in which the title character would baiser John the Baptist’s mouth!), one should find it easy to believe that Sacher-Masoch was using Katzen as a euphemism for the yoni.

So, in all of this, we see further support for Freud’s idea that furs and velvet are associated with a woman’s pubic hair. If by Katze, Sacher-Masoch had innocently meant cat, what would make Severin’s conversation with Wanda such an “erotic treatise”?

Almost immediately after this discussion of furs and Katzen, Severin mentions his reason for worshipping woman’s divine beauty: “her calling is…the propagation of the species.” (page 36) Human life emerges from female genitals, our uncanny sight of origin (a seeming wound where a phallus might have been, if only in unconscious phantasy). Woman is a goddess because she is a mother, the Giver of Life. Severin’s sexual passions, and his pagan devotions, are at their unconscious root, Oedipal.

He wants to be “the slave of a woman, a beautiful woman,” one who ties him up and whips him, and who kicks him “when she belongs to another man.” (page 37) How similar such a woman is to the Oedipally desired mother who punishes her naughty son with spankings, and who belongs to another man…the boy’s father. Having found his ideal in Wanda, Severin presses his “hot face into her lap” (page 37), an area of her body where he often brings his face (pages 44, 50, 112), where–were her clothes to be removed–her pubic hair would be found.

She tells him he is “mistaken” to “believe that everything lurking in [his] imagination is in [her] nature too” (page 38), but he won’t listen. For such opposites as those of love and hate are what give us our greatest passions (page 29).

His experience of Wanda, as mentioned above, is a transferred splitting of the Oedipally desired mother into absolute good and bad. He likes these extremes because of the arrest in his childhood sexual development, as we saw with his aunt. He won’t learn or grow out of these fixations, what Wilfred Bion would have called -K, a refusal to know; and for this reason, Severin will suffer terribly as the story goes on.

Wanda herself comments on his refusal to know her, to grow in knowledge (-K): “Don’t you know me yet, don’t you even want to know me?” she asks him (page 28). For Bion, another important element in the Oedipus myth is the urge to gain knowledge (K) at all costs, as the Theban king wishes to do in learning the identity of Laius‘ killer; yet Tiresias understands the danger of revealing this identity, and so in his reluctance to tell Oedipus, represents -K.

Severin’s refusal to grow in knowledge (-K) is linked to his repressed, unresolved Oedipus complex, transferred first onto his aunt, then onto Wanda. His growth in knowledge would involve a reintegration of the split good and bad aspects of his mother, a movement from the paranoid-schizoid position (PS) to the depressive position (D).

In the fetishizing of his feminine ideal, Severin stays split: he idolizes the good mother, displaced onto Wanda’s beauty when in the furs; and he suffers the cruelty of the bad mother, displaced onto Wanda when she whips, kicks, enslaves, and–worst of all–cheats on him.

She warns him of the danger of arousing her narcissism by worshipping her and allowing himself to be unconditionally enslaved by her; but he won’t listen (-K, reversible perspective). She would have him integrate the absolute good and bad of femininity: “Women are neither as good as their admirers and defenders would have it nor as bad as their enemies make them out to be…The best woman sinks momentarily into filth, the worst woman rises unexpectedly to great good deeds, putting her despisers to shame. No woman is so good or so evil as not to be capable at any moment of both the most diabolical and most divine, both the foulest and the purest thoughts, feelings, actions.” (page 47)

Still, Severin won’t listen, for he prefers those extreme opposites that arouse passion (page 29), his split state of PS, over the sane moderation of D. He wants to stay in thrall to his ideal imagining of her, which he “both reviled and worshiped.” (page 105)

Now, she agrees to his absurd fantasy of enslaving him while wearing furs, though secretly she plans to cure him of his desires by pushing his fantasy too far. In living out his fantasy of being dominated by a beautiful woman, Severin is experiencing what Lacan called jouissance, a transgressive overindulgence in pleasure, a surfeiting that leads to pain.

In jouissance, one willingly endures this pain as a kind of extension of the transgressive pleasure. This is a shifting past the biting head of the ouroboros (extreme pleasure) to experience the bitten tail (extreme pain). In other posts, I’ve written of the dialectical relationship between opposites as symbolized by the ouroboros’ head and tail, with the coiled length of its body representing every intermediate point on a circular continuum between those extreme opposites.

While Severin thinks Wanda is indulging his jouissance in going past the biting head over to the bitten tail, she’s actually taking him in the opposite direction. She’s taking him along the coiled length of the serpent, further and further away from the biting head of pleasure, and closer and closer to the bitten tail of pain…unbearable pain, unbearable even for him.

By being enslaved by his “Venus in furs,” with Wanda as the replacement for his mother, Severin is using Wanda as his objet petit a, the unattainable object-cause of his desire. He can’t have Mother, in her desirable aspect (i.e., the good mother, who like the Virgin Mary, is “full of grace”–page 48), or in her domineering aspect (the bad mother); so he has Wanda. But Wanda as a symbolic mother introduces a torture that even masochistic Severin can’t accept: the male rival as symbolic father.

In the BDSM community, consensual limits–as to how much pain, erotic humiliation, etc., is given and received–are strictly respected (through safewords, etc.). No such restraint is seen in Sacher-Masoch’s novella or in the Marquis de Sade‘s pornographic novels, in which victims (including children!) are not only tied up and whipped, but also raped, tortured, and murdered–the wealthy, powerful criminals responsible getting away scot-free.

Severin wants to experience the jealous fear of Wanda cuckolding him, but only within a reasonable limit–just the fear of it (page 49). She carries things way beyond his masochistic fantasies, though, in particular with a Greek named Alexis Papadopolis. (page 97)

Normally, the mother/infant relationship involves the mother soothing the baby’s fears, anxieties, and frustrations by absorbing and containing them in what Bion called maternal reverie, then sending those feelings back to the child in a form tolerable to it. This exchange of energy back and forth, through projective identification, is how a baby grows in K.

What Wanda, as Severin’s symbolic mother, is doing, however, is a negative version of this container/contained relationship (the mother, as container, being a symbolic yoni, and the baby’s contained anxieties being a symbolic phallus), so that instead of soothing Severin’s anguish, she is turning it into a nameless dread, driving him mad with jealousy.

In a nightmare, he dreams she has turned into “a huge polar bear drilling her claws into [his] body.” (page 68) He awakens to “hear her diabolical laughter.” This is an example of the negative container/contained relationship: in his dream, it is he who must contain her hostility, symbolized by her phallic claws digging yonic wounds into his skin. When he wakes in terror, she won’t contain his fear; instead, she laughs at it, making him feel worse.

The persecutory anxiety of his PS continues when he dreams of being condemned to death for having “murdered Wanda in a raging fit of jealousy.” (page 80) He is about to be beheaded, but instead of feeling the blade of an ax go beyond touching the back of his neck, he feels a slap. Wanda has woken him up with the slap, and she demands her fur.

She is free to make him feel jealous all she wants, but he is forbidden to treat her the same way. When he looks too long at Haydée, one of Wanda’s African female servants, he is put in “a bona fide dungeon cell.” (page 84)

Freud’s theory about the fur fetish as a covering of the female genitals, the shocking sight of a missing phallus [Freud, page 352: “the fetish is a substitute for the woman’s (the mother’s) penis that the little boy once believed in and–for reasons familiar to us–does not want to give up.”], seems apparent when Wanda is nude before Severin, except for the fur she’s wearing (page 89). He narrates, “I saw that she was wearing only the fur, and I was terrified–I don’t know why…”

He doesn’t know why he’s afraid (one would think he’d simply be aroused) because the root of his desire is a repressed wish to have his mother; but her lack of a phallus, as Lacan observed, is associated with Severin’s having been forbidden to have her, a forbidding from the Name of the Father…and the name of Severin’s symbolic father is Papadopolis.

Severin is afraid to know Wanda’s beauty (-K), so when she throws off her fur coat and stands before him in her glorious nakedness, he doesn’t think about his “Goddess” lustfully, but instead kneels before her, for “she looked so chaste, so holy in her uncloaked beauty” (page 90). Like the Virgin Mary, Wanda is “so full of grace.” (page 48) He would rather have a reaction formation to her, seeing the pure, good mother, than lust after the naked, whorish, bad (symbolic) mother.

Still, she arouses his jealousy with a number of male admirers, including a poor young painter (pages 91-95), and finally, the Greek! (pages 96-97) Severin finds Papadopolis especially threatening, for he knows he cannot compete with him to win Wanda’s love.

Severin feels “seized with that dreadful mortal terror, an inkling that this man could capture her, fascinate her, subjugate her.” Severin feels “inadequate next to his savage virility…envious, jealous.” (page 99) This is the same Oedipal jealousy a little boy feels when he knows only Daddy can have Mommy.

Severin wants to run away from Wanda…but he can’t.

Ultimately, she has him tied up, but Papadopolis is to whip him! (pages 114-117) Since Wanda and the Greek are Severin’s symbolic mother and father, the whipping symbolizes a re-experiencing of the childhood, Oedipal trauma of a boy being punished by his father for wanting his mother. The pain is too much for Severin; in his indignant rage, he demands to be untied. (page 115)

This descent into greater and greater suffering is like moving along the coiled length of the ouroboros’ body to reach the bitten tail of the most excruciating pain, then to reach a state of clarity, to understand the need to give up his Oedipal jouissance, to realize his objet petit a will never be fulfilled. It’s like “awakening from a dream.” (page 117)

After escaping from this ordeal, Severin goes home to help his old and ill father. Along with an unrealized wish to join the army, we can see in this father/son reunion a symbolized identification with the father, which is precisely what happens to a boy after the dissolution of the Oedipus complex.

Wanda, one day long after, writes a letter to Severin, explaining how the excesses of her cruelty were meant to cure him of his strange passion, to send him past the bitten tail of pain and over to the biting head of self-mastery, a return to peace of mind.

Severin, however, is not truly cured; he’s just switched from masochist to sadist. Now, he dominates women instead of submitting to them (page 9). As Freud, reversing Severin’s process, once said, “A sadist is always at the same time a masochist…” (Freud, page 73)

Severin’s submission to, and idolatry of, Wanda has really just been a reaction formation against his wish to rule over women. The Oedipus complex, properly understood, is a narcissistic trauma: a child’s love of his mother is a selfish wish to have her all to himself, never to share her. She, as his ideal, is a mirror reflecting his narcissism back to him as he experiences the Imaginary Order. In worshipping Wanda, Severin has merely been projecting his excessive self-love (disguised as self-abasement in his reaction formation with her) onto her.

Women are wise to resist men who want to worship them. Sacher-Masoch’s wife learned this the hard way. True equality of the sexes will come when men stop deifying women, which dialectically resolves into misogyny, a shift from the ouroboros’ biting head of worshipping women to the bitten tail of despising them. The apotheosis of Woman as Mother, as Giver of Life, easily shifts over to the notion that “a woman’s place is in the home.” Women should be seen as neither goddesses nor slaves, but as human beings.

Severin himself acknowledges that woman “will be able to become [man’s] companion only when she has the same rights as he, when she is his equal in education and work.” (page 119) Still, he bosses around “a pretty, buxom blonde…bringing [him and the narrator] cold meat and eggs for [their] tea.” (page 9) This is Bion’s -K and reversible perspective: Severin can understand the basic principle of supporting equality, but the specific premises–that one must do what one can to promote equality in one’s day-to-day life–are rejected.

Severin is thus still trapped in the duality of the paranoid-schizoid position (PS). He can bear dialectical opposites, Hegel’s thesis and negation, but not the sublation of those opposites, the ambivalent feeling of the depressive position (D). He is by no means cured.

Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Venus In Furs, Penguin Classics, London, 1870

Sigmund Freud, 7. On Sexuality, The Pelican Freud Library, Penguin Books, London, 1987

Wilfred Bion, Elements of Psychoanalysis, Karnac, London, 1963

Analysis of ‘Black Swan’

Black Swan is a 2010 psychological thriller directed by Darren Aronofsky and written by Mark Heyman, John McLaughlin, and Andres Heinz, based on an original story by Heinz. It stars Natalie Portman in an Oscar-winning performance as ballerina Nina Sayers, with Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, and Winona Ryder.

The story, with its overarching themes of duality, dualism, and the dialectical relationship between opposites, is strongly influenced by Dostoyevsky‘s novella, The Double. Nina’s double is her dialectical opposite, Lily (Kunis); and just as the protagonist in Dostoyevsky’s story is paranoid about his double’s attempts to take over his life, so does Nina have persecutory anxiety about Lily supposedly scheming to take the role of Swan Queen away from her.

Here are some quotes from the film:

Nina (Portman): I came to ask for the part.

Thomas (Cassel): The truth is when I look at you all I see is the white swan. Yes, you’re beautiful, fearful, and fragile. Ideal casting. But the black swan? It’s a hard fucking job to dance both.

Nina: I can dance the black swan, too.

Thomas: Really? In four years, every time you dance I see you obsessed getting each and every move perfectly right, but I never see you lose yourself. Ever! All that discipline for what?

Nina[whispers] I just want to be perfect.

Thomas: What?

Nina: I want to be perfect.

Thomas[scoffs] Perfection is not just about control. It’s also about letting go. Surprise yourself so you can surprise the audience. Transcendence! Very few have it in them.

Nina: I think I do have it in me.
************

Nina: Beth! I’m so sorry to hear you’re leaving the company.

Beth (Ryder): What did you do to get this role? [about Thomas] He always said you were such a frigid little girl. What did you do to change his mind? Did you suck his cock?

Nina: Not all of us have to.

Beth[chuckles] You fucking whore! You’re a fucking little whore!

*************

Thomas: You could be brilliant, but you’re a coward.

Nina: I’m sorry.

Thomas[yelling] Now stop saying that! That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Stop being so fucking weak!

*************

“That was me seducing you. It needs to be the other way around.” –Thomas, to Nina

*************


Lily (Kunis): [about Beth] I can’t believe he calls her that. It’s so gross.

Nina: I think it’s sweet.

Lily: Little princess? He probably calls every girl that.

Nina: No way! That’s just for Beth.

Lily: I bet he’ll be calling you little princess any day now.

Nina: I don’t know about that.

Lily: Sure he will. You just got to let him lick your pussy.

**************

Erica (Hershey): What happened to my sweet girl?

Nina: She’s gone!

**************

Nina: You put something in my drink.

Lily: Yeah.

Nina: And then you just took off in the morning?

Lily: In the morning?

Nina: Yeah, you slept over.

Lily: Um, no. Unless your name is Tom and you got a dick.

Nina: But we…

Lily: But we what, Nina? [pauses] Wait, did you have some sort of lezzy wet dream about me?

Nina[whispers] Stop it.

Lily: Oh my God. Oh my God! You did! You fantasized about me!

Nina: Shut up!

Lily[gasps] Was I good?

*************

Erica: This role’s destroying you. [Nina violently pushes Erica aside]

Erica: No! Please! You’re not well!

Nina[yelling] Let go of me!

Erica: You can’t handle this!

Nina: I can’t? I’m the Swan Queen, you’re the one who never left the corps!

*************

“I felt it. Perfect. It was perfect.” –Nina

One visual cue to take note of throughout the film is the preponderance of blacks, whites, and greys, in clothing especially, but also in interior designs. Black and white have the traditional symbolism of, respectively, evil and good, sin and innocence, etc. Grey, as a mixture of black and white, can thus be seen as an integration, or a sublation, of the black and white thesis/antithesis.

Nina, the “sweet girl,” wears mostly white clothes, as well as her lightest of light pink coat and light-grey track pants. As she gradually loses her innocence over the course of the film, she’ll be wearing darker, greyer clothing until she’s fully transformed into the Black Swan, the evil twin, as it were, of the White Swan. Appropriately, at the beginning of the film, she dreams of dancing as the White Swan; that she’s being eyed predatorily by Rothbart, the evil owl-like sorcerer, already shows her repressed sexuality, for deep down in her unconscious, she wants to be seduced.

Nina’s mother, Erica, is always in black, except for an outfit that’s a combination of black and dark grey, worn once in the middle of the film–black enough. We’ll see the significance of these black clothes on Erica later.

Erica seems to be a generally good mother, though she is in many ways frustrating for Nina, too. Erica’s overprotectiveness and lack of respect for her daughter’s privacy force Nina to take on an exclusively “sweet girl” persona…a white swan. With Erica’s domineering overprotectiveness comes a repression and disavowal of Nina’s sexuality.

This disavowal of her sexuality comes in the form of projection. Nina tends to see people in black clothes, sometimes young women with Nina’s hallucinated face superimposed on them, as in one example in the subway station. The sexual brazenness she sees in some of these black-clothed people (Lily, and in particular, a lecherous old man on the subway making obscene gestures at her) is really a sexuality inside herself that she doesn’t want to accept. She’s the white swan “sweet girl,” so she projects that sexuality onto others through her hallucinations. An important question here is: where do we draw the line between what she actually sees and what she hallucinates? (I suspect that she hallucinates a lot more often than the times she obviously does.)

Thomas, the artistic director of her ballet company, wants to do a production of Swan Lake in which the same dancer will play both the white and black swans. This would be a challenge for any dancer, but it is especially so for Nina, who will have to integrate her white side with her disavowed, forbidden black side. She will have to discover some very dark shadows inside herself.

Naturally, as she does this uncovering, this integrating of white and black, she’ll experience conflict and resistance. Part of her must do this integrating to be worthy of dancing the part, and part of her will be terrified of discovering the dark sexuality hidden inside herself, a sexuality her mother forbids her to express, as we’ll soon see. Projecting that sexuality onto others, certain black-clothed others in particular, will achieve this purpose…for a while…

Thomas, as an agent of this integration of black and white, accordingly wears combinations of black, grey, and white. He makes demands on Nina to open up sexually, to loosen up on her meticulous, perfectionistic ballet technique in order to dance more freely as the uninhibited Black Swan. She mustn’t be all Apollonian discipline; she must also be Dionysian passion and fire. Nina can’t adjust at first, though her doppelgänger Lily, with her pornographic mouth and frank sexuality, can do it naturally, effortlessly. Lily usually wears black clothes; she even has a tattoo of black wings on her back.

Look at the two girls’ four-letter names, Nina and Lily. They have paralleled repeats of consonants, ls and ns, letters close to each other in the alphabetic sequence; both names’ second letter is an i, and both names end with an a or a y, two vowels at almost opposite ends of each other in the alphabet. Lily only seems to be Nina’s polar opposite, but she’s actually her dialectical opposite, for in the sublation of contraries, there is a unity. Nina does have Lily’s wild sexuality: it’s just repressed and disavowed, for reasons I’ll speculate about later.

Nina’s unwillingness to learn how to dance the Black Swan with the free sexuality that Thomas wants represents what Wilfred Bion called -K, a negation of the desire to gain knowledge (K) by linking between oneself and others (Bion, p. 47ff.). All those external stimuli that arouse sexual feelings are rejected by Nina, like Bion‘s beta elements: raw, external sensory data that aren’t processed in the mind or turned into thoughts.

Many consider this film an allegory of the agony one feels in the search to attain artistic perfection. Nina certainly is striving, to the point of self-destructiveness (as her predecessor, Beth, has), to be the perfect ballerina; but her quest isn’t so much about dancing perfectly as it is about becoming someone else–actually, being her True Self (in DW Winnicott‘s sense of the term).

Black Swan is Nina’s journey towards self-knowledge, and this journey is terrifying for her because it means revealing feelings she is ashamed of–her repressed sexuality, which is, to at least a great degree, lesbian.

Recall “how pink! So pretty” that grapefruit half is that Nina’s mom serves her for breakfast at the beginning of the film. At this early point in the story, only the unconscious mind of that “sweet girl” would be able to see the vulva symbolism of the pink inside of the grapefruit.

When Thomas awakens her sexuality with that hard kiss he gives her in his office (which she rejects by biting him), then later he invites her to his home at night for a drink–and he talks about sex with her–we assume he is being the stereotypical male lecher trying to take advantage of a pretty young woman, offering her career advancement in exchange for a sexual favour. Actually, though, he doesn’t take her to bed. He’d have her masturbate in her home instead.

This awakening to self-knowledge (Bion’s K) is, so to speak, the ‘Biblical kind of knowing,’ and Nina is conflicted about it. She tries masturbating the next morning, but she sees her mother sleeping in a chair by her bed. This would seem to be yet another example of her mother not respecting her boundaries and invading her privacy. I suspect, however, that this is actually another of Nina’s many hallucinations, a convenient excuse to stop exploring her sexuality, for Erica would never approve of it.

It’s interesting that we never learn of Nina’s father–he’s not mentioned even once, at any time in the film. There’s a good possibility that Erica has raised Nina all the way, or almost all the way, from infancy; perhaps a man got Erica pregnant and abandoned her, forcing her to give up on her dreams of being a ballerina herself, and causing her to be overprotective of Nina for fear of her being seduced, knocked up, and thrown over in the same way. Recall Erica’s warning to Nina about Thomas and his “reputation” with women: “I just don’t want you to make the same mistake I did.” Whatever the cause of her repressions of Nina, Erica has been, essentially, Nina’s one conduit to knowledge of the world, having stifled the growth of Nina’s sexuality.

Bion’s theory of thinking and learning is based on developments of Melanie Klein‘s notion of projective identification, which involves projecting feelings and ideas into another to the point of making the other feel and think those feelings and thoughts. A baby isn’t able to think and process external sensory stimuli (Bion’s ‘beta elements’) for himself, so he must expel and project the distressing ones, pushing them into his mother, who as a “good enough mother” can contain them, process them in maternal reverie, and return them to her baby in a form acceptable to him, pacifying him. Erica, I suspect, didn’t sufficiently contain baby Nina’s anxieties and frustrations, which, instead of being pacified, became a “nameless dread“; hence, her current pathologies.

Object relations theorists like Klein wrote of how we all make internalized objects of our early caregivers, i.e., our parents. These internal objects reside in our minds like ghosts in, so to speak, the haunted houses of our heads; they are homunculi in us. In fatherless Nina’s case, there is only one foundational object introjected into her mind: Erica.

Sometimes, Erica is the good mother, caring for Nina and protecting her (or at least trying to) from external dangers (sexually predatory men) and internal ones (Nina’s scratching and self-injuries). Of course, Erica carries that protection way too far, and far too often, making her into the bad mother.

Since Black Swan is a movie about duality, it’s important to note this good/bad mother duality in Erica, which Nina has internalized. Erica’s repression of Nina’s sexuality, infantilizing her (Nina, on two occasions, calls Erica “Mommy”), is another big part of the bad mother that frustrates Nina.

This frustration results in the defence mechanism of splitting into absolute good (white swan) and absolute bad (black swan). Thomas’s insistence that Nina dance both black and white swans necessitates an integration that threatens her ego defences, causing her psychotic break with reality.

Nina would resist this knowing (-K) of the integration of white and black; she’d rather be all-white, so all impulses and excitations (beta elements) luring her towards the black (which she nonetheless must accept if she’s to succeed in Thomas’s production) are frightening things she must eject from herself and project onto others (i.e., Lily).

The problem is that if Nina keeps rejecting these beta elements over time, never processing these taboo thoughts or allowing them to settle in her mind as alpha elements, the rejected beta elements will accumulate and become what Bion called bizarre objects, hallucinatory projections of herself (e.g., those talking pictures in Erica’s room). If Nina doesn’t accept her dark side, she’ll go mad.

I’ve mentioned Nina’s lesbian tendencies; recall the gossiping dancers who note her staring at Veronica. Then there’s Nina’s obsession with black-clothed Lily, and that notorious sex scene in which Lily performs cunnilingus on Nina. She’s not only hallucinated the entire lovemaking, but also superimposed her own face on lip-smacking Lily’s. Nina is constantly projecting her inner dark side.

According to classical psychoanalytic theory, children go through an Oedipal phase, usually loving and desiring the opposite-sex parent and hating the same-sex parent, wishing to remove this latter one out of jealousy. These children normally outgrow this phase and develop heterosexual feelings for people outside the family. Some people have a negative Oedipus complex, a homosexual version; again, in the best of circumstances, they’ll outgrow it and have gay relationships outside the family.

In Nina’s case, however, a father with whom she can pass through an Oedipal phase is out of the question. She is in no Oedipal love triangle, only a dyad. All she has is her mother–the good mother who serves her a “pink” and “pretty,” vulva-like grapefruit, and the black-clothed bad mother who disapproves of her ever being involved with boys.

Some bloggers have speculated that Erica has sexually abused Nina, thus causing her pathologies. It’s an interesting, even compelling, theory; but just as Freud downplayed and modified his seduction theory to accommodate what he considered to be the much more universal Oedipus complex, so must I respectfully disagree with those bloggers.

Though Erica’s relationship with Nina is inappropriately close, the daughter clearly being an extension of her mother’s will, I don’t see sufficient evidence of even implied sexual abuse. Furthermore, such a theory doesn’t harmonize with the symbolism of Nina as the “sweet girl,” the innocent, virginal white swan. The trauma of child sexual abuse is centred around a forceful robbing of the child’s innocence. On the contrary with Nina, it’s her innocence that Erica is so preoccupied with preserving.

I argue, instead, that Nina’s psychopathology is based on a combination of sexual repression (from Erica the bad mother) and an unresolved, repressed negative Oedipus complex (Erica the all-too-good mother). The dialectical relationship between these polar opposites is like the biting head and bitten tail of the ouroboros that I’ve used so many times before to represent the unity of opposites, how one phases into the other.

Bion elaborated on the Oedipus myth by focusing on how reluctant Tiresias was to tell the incestuous, patricidal Theban king that it was he who killed his father Laius (Bion, p. 45ff.). This reluctance to impart or acquire knowledge (-K) is seen in Nina’s not wanting to come to terms with her unconscious Oedipal feelings for her mother.

One way of avoiding those feelings, as we’ve seen, is through projection, that is, to project the internalized object of Nina’s mother onto Lily. In the lesbian sex scene fantasy, Nina has an acceptable sexual substitute for Erica in Lily; Nina has displaced her desire onto an object outside her family. Another way for Nina to disavow her negative Oedipus complex is through reaction formation, i.e., through being hostile to her mother (even physically hurting her), to mask her unconscious desire for her.

Indeed, the juxtaposition of Nina’s barring Erica’s entry into her bedroom with her imagined lovemaking with Lily represents the basic schizoid position (p. 8ff.) that WRD Fairbairn wrote about. In Nina’s relationship with Erica on the one hand, and with Lily on the other, we see Fairbairn‘s Anti-libidinal Ego (Nina) and Rejecting Object (Erica), and the Libidinal Ego (Nina) and the Exciting Object (Lily). What we don’t see is the Central Ego (Nina) with the Ideal Object (anyone), this last object being ‘ideal’ because a real person in the external world is ideally who one should have a relationship with.

Lily, the Exciting Object of Nina’s libidinal desires, isn’t in the room; she’s only an internalized object in Nina’s mind. Even her mother, as the despised, unwanted object rejected by Nina’s ‘anti-libidinal’ feelings, isn’t wholly the bad mother that Nina imagines her to be: Erica’s only partly a bad mother, but also partly a good mother. Nina must come to grips with this duality.

Nonetheless, in order to prevent herself from knowing (-K) about her Oedipal desires, Nina must imagine Erica to be all bad, and must reject her even when she’s trying to do good (i.e., help Nina when she’s obviously going mad, and stop her self-injuries). Hence, Nina’s schizoid position–or as Klein called it, the paranoid-schizoid position. In Nina’s splitting of the internal object into absolute bad (this is Lily now, for Nina imagines her to be trying to steal her role as Swan Queen) and absolute good (Erica, the good side of whom is ignored, physically attacked, and treated derisively: “I’m the Swan Queen! You’re the one who never left the corps!”), she is about to get very paranoid.

Though Nina has struggled to avoid the integration of white and black, and thus to know herself (-K), she has also, in her quest to perfect the role of Swan Queen, been forced to approach that self-knowledge (K). Nonetheless, just as Oedipus’ quest for knowledge of the truth destroyed him (as Tiresias warned him it would), so is Nina’s quest destroying her. After all, who would want to have conscious knowledge that he or she had incestuous desires for his or her mother?

In her drive to attain perfection, her ballerina ideal, Nina sees herself in the mirror and hallucinates that her reflection is moving in ways that she herself is not. This is Lacan‘s mirror, in which one’s clumsy self, unable to match the perceived perfection in the reflection, is alienated from that graceful image.

On the one hand, Nina is alienated from herself when she sees her reflection, but when she faces other people–as if they were her mirror reflection–she often sees herself (as a result of projective and introjective identification). These hallucinations make this normally graceful ballerina as clumsy as those psychologically fragmented infants seeing themselves in Lacan’s mirror for the first time.

Nina thus in a larger sense has many doppelgängers: her main one is Lily, of course, but there are also the pairs of Nina/Erica, Nina/Beth, Nina/Veronica, and ultimately, Nina White/Nina Black. The film expresses the universal idea that the self, or subject, is seen in the other, or object, and vice versa. Lacan’s mirror reflects the self/other dialectic.

Though Nina’s white and black sides are integrating, she’s still conflicted about it, and she’s still resisting the integration. She projects her black onto Lily and Erica, and she projects in the forms of vomiting into toilets, self-injury, and pulling a hallucinated black feather out of her back.

Though Erica is as annoyingly overprotective as always, she–as the good mother–is justified in trying to intervene when she can see that Nina is clearly going insane. In her bedroom, after slamming the door on Erica’s fingers, Nina hallucinates that her legs have transformed into those of a swan’s, bending backwards. Though symbolically this could be seen as a positive, in that she’s transforming into the Black Swan and thus mastering the role, it also represents, apart from her obvious psychotic break with reality, a fear of never being able to dance again (i.e., broken legs).

Her suffering from the paranoid-schizoid position is at its peak when she rushes over to the ballet company to ensure that she, and not (she imagines) usurping Lily, will perform as the Swan Queen.

During her performance as the White Swan, she hallucinates seeing her own face on one of the heads of the corps de ballet, giving her a jolt and causing her male dancing partner to drop her onstage. Weeping as she returns to her dressing room, she hallucinates seeing Lily get ready to play the Black Swan, when of course she’s really seeing a projection of her black half. Thinking she’s stabbed Lily with a piece of broken glass from a mirror, she’s actually stabbed herself in the gut with it.

She goes back onstage as the Black Swan, fully transformed. No longer is she in conflict about it; she fully accepts and embraces her dark side. She even hallucinates seeing her arms turn into black wings, and she grins at the transformation. Never does she notice her stab wound; nor does the audience, who loves her performance.

She goes offstage and kisses Thomas hard on the mouth, as if she were Lily. Finally, she is seducing him, instead of the other way around. He, just old enough to be her father, provides her with a symbolic positive Oedipal object, awakening her hitherto repressed heterosexual side, which was also awakened earlier in the dance club scene, with those young men, “Tom and Jerry.”

Back in her change room, Nina must become the White Swan again; not just for the sake of the ballet, but because she can be neither only black, nor only white. Lily…dressed in an all white ballet outfit!…appears at her door to congratulate her on her superb dancing. Nina realizes she never stabbed Lily.

Pulling out a shard of mirror glass from her bleeding gut, Nina weeps. Her persecutor has never been Lily, nor has she even been Erica in her bad mother mode. Nina’s persecutor has been herself the whole time, as the bad internal object of her mother.

Fully integrated now, Nina no longer sees people in terms of all good or all bad, for she understands how illusory her projections are. Lily is in white, but still brazenly sexual and using four-letter words, for she never was “all black.” Nina has merely imagined her to be that way…as she has imagined her mother to be.

Nina weeps copious tears as she prepares to go back onstage as the White Swan (presumably having bandaged her stomach as best she can), for she has switched from the paranoid-schizoid position to the depressive position. By stabbing herself, Nina was trying to stab the bad mother object inside herself, something projected onto Lily. Now she fears having killed her internal mother object, which means also killing herself. Thus sobbing Nina feels depressive, rather than persecutory, anxiety.

Back onstage, she has a sorrowful face as she dances in the finale, as brilliantly as always. Red is visible on her belly, the blood gushing out of a vulva-like wound suggesting the symbolic breaking of her hymen, her loss of virginity and innocence.

Is her mother–the good mother–watching her in the audience, tearfully moved by her performance, or is Nina just imagining her there, as part of her depressive wish for reparation with Erica? Either way, though she needs to be rushed to hospital, she is perfect…not just from a great performance, but perfect in that she’s complete–not half a woman, but both white and black.

‘Claws,’ an Erotic Horror Novel, Chapter Eighteen

Thurston fixed his tie and looked at himself in the mirror. Aren’t we handsome in that suit? he thought.

He left his apartment and got in his car.

As he drove to the 22 Division police station, he reflected on all that had recently happened.

It’s so good to be connected with Agnes, he thought. Close to her, in body and soul. I really love her; and better yet, there’s no more conflict with the beast. That bullet I put in its head sure did the trick. No more resistance.

He parked in the police station parking lot and got out of his car. He sucked in a deep inhalation of fresh air and smiled.

It’s so good to be fully in control again, he thought.

He walked into the police station, passed a number of desks in the direction of his own. He saw Hicks standing near his desk.

Hicks turned around and saw him approaching.

“Good morning, handsome,” Hicks said with a smile.

“Good morning,” Thurston said.

“Still no sign of Surian?”

“Oh, she’s around.”

“Really? Where? I still need to talk to her about her shooting the beast. If you could tell her to come out of hiding, I’d really appreciate it.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Thurston said. “You’ll be in contact with her soon enough.”

“Very well, whatever,” Hicks said with a sneer, which then turned into a lewd smirk. “And as for us, when are you going to come over to my place?”

“How about tonight?” Thurston asked with a grin.

THE END

‘Claws,’ an Erotic Horror Novel, Chapter Seventeen

[Sexual content]

Ten minutes later, Thurston finally found himself free to move. He swung his arms further than he thought they’d go, and whacked them against the steering wheel and door.

“Oww! Fuck!” he shouted, then: “Hey, I can move. It’s about time.”

Claustrophobic in his car, he swung the car door open and got out.

Fuck driving, he thought. I’ll just run over to Callie’s apartment building. He slammed the car door shut, locked it, and left the area.

Running down the sidewalk, he was approaching her apartment building when he saw a car being driven away from where it had been parked, in front of the building’s entrance. It looked like Surian’s car.

That couldn’t have been her car, he thought. If those visions were anywhere near true, I can’t imagine Agnes walking away from demoness-Callie in one piece.

He ran into the building and raced for the elevator. He pounded his fist on the elevator button over and over again, impatiently with that irrational feeling that doing so would bring the elevator down to the ground floor faster.

“C’mon!” he growled as it floated down floor by floor.

Finally, the elevator arrived. The doors opened far too slowly for his patience, so he pried them open as best he could and squeezed inside. He pressed the seventh floor button.

As the elevator rose with–to him–the same laziness as it had gone down, he shook with rage.

“Come on, for fuck’s sake!” he shouted, then thought, Oh, God, please, let Agnes be OK…at least let her be alive!

The elevator reached the seventh floor. Again, as the doors took their time opening, his impatient hands pried them open faster and he squeezed through.

As he began running down the hall to her apartment, he realized he forgot to hold his breath.

Wait, he thought, stopping halfway there. I don’t smell any pheromone.

Indeed…there was no pheromone smell at all.

He did a light jog the rest of the way to Callie’s apartment, found the door wide open, and took out his pistol. He poked his head in the doorway and looked around. He saw nobody there.

He crept in with wide open, alert eyes. He cocked his pistol as he made his way through her living room area, his eyes darting around everywhere to see if the hairy, clawed beast was hiding somewhere behind the furniture, waiting to pounce on him. He was approaching the bedroom.

Hit the beast dead centre in the heart or in the brain, he reminded himself as he reached the bedroom doorway, the door being halfway open.

Still no pheromone smell at all.

Absolute silence.

He looked past the opened half of the doorway. He saw nobody. He heard nothing.

He turned his head back to get another look around the living room area. No beast sneaking up behind him.

No Surian, either.

Is the beast hiding behind that bedroom door? he wondered, then looked through the crack between the door and the corner wall of the bedroom.

No beast.

He tapped the door open with his foot while pointing the gun straight in front of him, anticipating any possible danger.

The door now all the way open, he saw, on the floor, between the bed and the closet, the hairy body of the clawed beast lying sprawled in a pool of its own blood. That phallic spike was pointing up in a crescent arc from its groin to the ceiling.

Not even a drop of blood was on its sharp tip.

He heaved a huge sigh. I guess those visions deceived me, he thought.

He looked around the rest of the bedroom. Surian was nowhere to be seen, though a fired pistol was lying on the floor next to the beast.

“Where the hell is she?” he said, putting his gun in its holster and taking out his phone. She’s the one who killed the beast, isn’t she? he wondered as he looked for her number in his list of contacts. That’s her gun, isn’t it? It looks like hers. Surely there was at least some truth to those visions, wasn’t there?

He clicked her cellphone number and waited as the ringing repeated eight times before setting him up to leave a message. Beep.

“Agnes, this is Andy,” he said. “Where are you? I’m in Callie’s bedroom with the beast lying here dead. Did you do this? If so, great, but why did you leave the scene? Are you OK? Did the beast hurt you in any way before you killed it? Please call me back ASAP. Bye.” Was that her driving away in her car a few minutes ago? he wondered. If so, why would she just disappear like that, without calling me or Hicks about the beast? I guess I’ll have to get the police over here, instead of her.

Twenty minutes later, the room was filled with police. The beast’s body was taken away on a stretcher, to be driven to a group of doctors and biologists who, having followed the story in the news, were eager to do a necropsy on it to learn whatever they could about it.

Hicks was with Thurston, both of them baffled as to where Surian could possibly be.

“I can’t believe it,” Thurston said. “She found the beast, presumably, shot it, and just left? No calls, no messages as to where she is or what she’s doing? What the fuck?”

“I guess this ‘Callie’ was somehow involved with the beast after all, though she’s as missing as your girlfriend,” Hicks said.

“Where the fuck is she?” Thurston said.

“I guess she ran off with somebody else,” Hicks said. “Try someone else. Try a new experience.” He smiled suggestively at Thurston.

“No offence, but even if I was gay, I doubt you’d ever be my type,” Thurston said. “When we’re done here, I’ll drive over to her place and see if she’s there.”

“And I’ll be at my place tonight if you change your mind, Andy.” Hicks winked at him.

Thurston rolled his eyes.

***************

That night, the doctors and biologists were sighing and puffing in frustration as they looked down on the hairy body on the table.

“We’ve been examining every inch of this thing for hours,” a woman among them said. “It cannot be classified as any known species that has ever existed.”

“It doesn’t even qualify as Bigfoot,” a man standing next to her said.

“Is it a hermaphrodite?” a man standing on the woman’s other side asked. “It seems female, but is this spike in its crotch supposed to be a penis?”

“It’s totally baffling, anyway,” the woman said. “I give up. What do you guys think?”

“I agree,” some of them said together.

“It’s late. Let’s go to bed,” the first man said.

“I doubt we’ll gain any more insights from it through further examination,” the second man said. “I say we bury it and forget about it.”

“Yeah, OK,” she said. “If any new insights come in the future, we can always dig it up then and look at the skeleton.”

*****************

One night later that week, Thurston sat slumped on a chair in his apartment with a frown.

Still no response to my message on her phone, he thought. Every time I go to her apartment, she’s never there. She didn’t die, did she? Ballistics confirmed that the bullet shot to kill the beast was from her pistol. But God, where is she?

Suddenly, his cellphone rang; he checked it–it was her.

“Agnes!” he said into the phone. “Where are you? Are you OK?”

“Yes, I’m fine,” she sighed, as if irritated by the question. “I’m in my apartment.”

“So, you shot the beast?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said. “Are you proud of me?”

“Of course, but…why’d you leave Callie’s apartment?”

Because…the sheer terror of seeing that thing, with its…spike-dick…almost stabbing into my pussy, made me want to get as far away from the scene as I could. I needed to lie low for several days, with nobody to bother me…just to calm down.”

“I see,” he said. “Just needed to recover from the trauma, eh?”

Exactly…but I’m OK now. You, Hicks, and the others took care of the rest of the problem all right?”

“Yeah, of course. Everything’s sorted out, though I’m sure Hicks would like to talk to you. So, you’re at home?”

“Yeah. Wanna come over?”

“I’ll be there in ten minutes.” He hung up.

***********

Ten minutes later, he was standing in front of the front door of her apartment. He rang the doorbell.

She opened the door out wide. His jaw dropped.

Her face was brightly made up, she was in a pink see-through babydoll nightie revealing black lace underwear. She wore white high heels.

He reminded himself to be a gentleman and look back up in her eyes. “Sorry,” he said. “I j-just never realized how…curvy you are under your…normal clothes.”

“Why, thank you,” she said with a grin. “You can look if you want. I don’t mind.” She turned around for him. “You’ve always liked me, and now that the hairy beast is gone, I can confess that I’ve always liked you.”

“Why couldn’t you confess it before?”

“Because I was afraid of falling for you when the beast might kill you. That clawed, hairy animal reminded me of a bear that attacked and killed my old teenage boyfriend in the BC woods–speaking of trauma. If the beast had killed you, I wouldn’t have been able to handle it. It’s gone now, so I don’t have to worry about it. And you and I can celebrate our success.”

“OK.” He was grinning like a high school kid.

“Well? You gonna stand out in the hallway forever? Come on in.”

“Oh, yeah, all right,” he said, then entered her apartment.

“That’s a nice perfume you’re wearing,” he said.

“Thank you.” She took him by the hand and led him into her bedroom.

“Are you sure you want to do this now, Agnes? I mean, I’d love to, but we seem to be going really fast here.”

“You may be old-fashioned, but I’m a modern woman.” She removed the nightie and tossed it on a chair near her bed. He removed his gun and holster and put in on her bedside table, between the chair and the bed. “I’ve been through hell recently; I need some heaven to heal me.”

She kicked off the high heels. She then looked down at his crotch and giggled at the bulge in his pants. He blushed.

She removed her bra and wiggled her perfectly formed breasts with pride.

“Holy shit, Agnes. You’re better endowed than I thought.”

She giggled as she pulled down her black panties to reveal a hairless crotch. She now stood proudly nude before him.

“You’re shaved?” he asked with wide open eyes.

“I did it for you earlier today.”

“Wow.”

“OK, big boy. Now it’s your turn. Don’t be shy.”

“OK.” He stripped down to reveal a hairy body and a full erection. She giggled at it, then licked her lips.

“You’re hairier than the beast…and spikier, if you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“OK, Andy. Let’s fuck.”

They got on the bed in the missionary position. Up close, her perfume was a powerful scent.

When he pushed inside her, she let out a shrill wail.

Oh!” she squealed each time with his first thrusts. “That’s…more…like it! Ah!

“What…do you mean, ‘more…like it’?” he panted.

“The beast…with its…spike-dick…almost did…what you’re doing…now. Oh!

“Yeah,…you said…before. It tried to…rape you?”

“Yeah, but…I shot it.”

“That’s good. Oh!

“But it tore…a hole in a…good pair of pants.”

“At least…it didn’t hurt you.”

“No. Ah!” She came, splashing all over his cock. He pulled out. “OK,” she panted, then turned around to be on the bed on all fours. She looked back at him, and with a lewd twinkle in her eyes, she said, “Fuck me in the ass.”

“You’re into that?” he asked with a slight sneer.

“You aren’t?

“Oh, I’m game, it’s just…I never imagined you to be that kind of girl, Agnes.”

“Are you disappointed in me?”

“N-no, it’s just…well, you’re one surprise after another.”

“Andy, how much of my sex life have you ever known about? Like, none of it?

“Yeah, you’re right.”

“Look, the trauma over killing–and almost being killed by–the beast kind of fucked with my head, OK? Wild and wicked sex helps me process trauma, as weird as that must sound to you. I dunno, I’m just funny that way. Can you try to understand that?”

“Yeah, I guess that explains it.” He looked down at her ass. “You’re lubed?

“Yeah,” she sighed. “That’s how horny I am. Terror and trauma tend to get me hot. Now, c’mon, do me before I change my mind.”

“OK,” he said, then slid in. “Ooh! That…feels…good.”

As he moved in and out, he looked over at her face to see if she was showing any signs of feeling pain. She had only a lascivious smirk on her mouth.

I can’t believe it, he thought. I always thought she was the nice, girl-next-door type, like my teenage crush, the one Agnes physically reminds me of. Well, I guess what I imagined of the crush was just an idealized fantasy who has nothing to do with the real Agnes. I’ll have to accept that, and let Agnes just be herself.

Her moans grew louder as he moved in and out, faster and more forcefully with each thrust. Those loud moans began to sound a little bit like grunts.

“Am I…hurting you?” he panted, looking over at her face.

“No, I’m fine,” she said in an unusually husky voice.

“OK.” He kept on screwing.

His legs were as spread out as hers, and his ass was pushed out like hers, too, as if he were willing to get what he was giving her. This would seem appropriate…

…for suddenly, he felt a sharp, bone-like sensation stabbing into his asshole, ripping the anal walls and burrowing deep inside. “Aaaah!” he screamed hoarsely. Blood was dripping all over the bed between their legs. Shaking all over, he looked over at her face.

Agnes turned her head around, revealing the wild, hairy face of the beast, a face combining the features of Callie, Visner, and Agnes. Hair had grown all over the now hermaphroditic body. With painful effort, Thurston straightened up and looked down to see that the curled spike in his ass was coming from her groin…that phallic claw he’d seen on the beast.

He reached for his gun on the bedside table. To his surprise, the demoness helped him get closer to it…by using the phallic spike to pull his body onto her back, merging their torsos together.

Umph!” he groaned when their bodies collided.

He managed to get the gun out of its holster, but Kluh used her power to draw his two arms back to merge with hers, causing him to drop the gun on the bed to the right of the pillow. Their arms slapped hard together.

Ungh!” he groaned at the pain.

He felt his hands and fingers sticking to hers; when he tried to pull his apart from hers, it only hurt, so he gave up on that quickly. His palms felt as if glued to the backs of her hands. His chest was sticking to her back in the same way.

Soon, he could no longer voice his pain from merging with her body, for his face was buried in her hair. His nose disappeared into the back of her head; his lips kissed her neck so hard as to disappear inside it, too.

A bullet, dead centre in her brain, will kill Kluh, as the Yamas told Agnes and me, he thought as he reached with the greatest effort for the gun, fighting against Kluh’s pulling back of their now fully merged right hand. If I kill her, maybe my body will be freed and not killed with her…maybe Agnes will be freed, too. I have to try. If I die, too, at least I won’t live with Kluh possessing me.

His chest and belly had dissolved into her back; their hearts were merging. He felt his still-erect penis elongated and burrowed deep inside her body, plugged into her, as it were. His balls and her vulva were merged; that spike up his ass no longer felt like a stab wound, for it was as ‘plugged into him’ as his cock was plugged into her. Contained and containing flesh was intermingling. Their eight limbs were now four, fully merged.

We’re sharing one heart now–I can feel only one beating, he thought, grasping the gun. If I shoot myself through the chest dead centre, I’ll die with Kluh, presumably. Our brains aren’t yet one, though. If I can point the gun above her ear–which hasn’t merged with mine yet, and if I can put a bullet in the middle of her brain, I have a hope the demon will release me before leaving the physical world.

Despite Kluh’s resistance, he managed to wrap his fingers around the gun, his index finger touching but not squeezing the trigger. His whole face had disappeared into the back of her head. Their torsos were fully merged into one. Only their ears and brains were still doubled, the ears coming closer together, and their brains about to touch.

I don’t have much time, he thought.

It took all his strength to raise the arm with the pistol up to their merging head. No longer on all fours, the body was straightened up by Kluh to be on its knees on the bed. Its fingernails were lengthening into strong, sharp claws.

When the claws were fully formed, the left hand moved over to try to stop the right hand from firing the gun into the brain Kluh was controlling. The back of her brain was now starting to touch the front of Thurston’s. The left claws tried to stab into or slice off the right hand. Because he still had some control of both arms, she was so far only able to slice deep cuts into the right forearm.

She screamed their shared pain.

***************

At about the same time that night, the beast’s buried body–the one examined by the doctors and biologists, and thanks to Kluh’s power, not decomposed in the slightest–lay there underground, with its hair slithering back into its follicles. The phallic claw had already shrunk and disappeared into its groin. Its shape was bloating out in the middle.

***************

Thurston summoned all his strength to wrest control of both arms from Kluh. Not only was she no longer able to use the left arm to reach over to the right one to slice at it, but he managed–by tapping the tip of his gun on her ear as a reference point to feel his way around–to aim it at the head, the barrel of the pistol pointing more or less at the middle of her brain…which was beginning to merge with his.

Still, it was hard for him to stop the hand holding the pistol from shaking.

I don’t have much time, he thought. Gotta keep my hand steady.

Kluh no longer tried to cut off the right hand with the left. She chose instead to give him a false sense of confidence in his aim. Let him shoot, she thought. But keep his hand shaking…and have it shoot at the right time, putting the bullet either in his brain, or if it hits mine, let it be off-centre. Either way, he’ll be assimilated into me with Sandra/Callie, Visner, and Agnes. All options are working in my favour.

Still, he pushed himself to keep his hand steady. The pistol was barely wavering.

He cocked it.

Keep a rhythm, he thought. When my hand sways forward, it’s pointed at the centre of her brain; when it sways back, it’s off-centre or aiming at my brain. Back, forth, back, forth, back, f…

He pulled the trigger.

***********

The buried body was now completely transformed into the fresh corpse of Sandra Brahms.

‘Claws,’ an Erotic Horror Novel, Chapter Sixteen

[Some sexual content]

Dr. Visner, as nude as Callie now, got on the bed on top of her in the missionary position. Her eyes squinted shut and her mouth wide open, she sighed huffs of excitement, in rising pitches, as he slid inside her.

This sucks so badly, still-immobilized Surian thought as she strained to see the action through the two-to-three-millimetre-wide slit separating the closet’s folding doors. I can’t even watch the show.

The bed creaked to the rhythm of their sighs, moans, and grunts as the lovers rocked back and forth on it.

I can’t believe I’m doing this, the psychiatrist thought as he looked down in his patient’s eyes. I shouldn’t be doing this.

Callie played more mind games with him. The demoness would make him see–every ten seconds or so at a time, and each time about a second or two in duration–that black-haired, brown-skinned, curvaceous Thai beauty he’d had when he was young, instead of seeing blonde Callie.

So every time he saw a flash of black hair and brown skin, instead of the usual blonde hair and peach skin, he twitched in guilty agitation. With each successive switch from light to dark, he never twitched any less. He could never get used to it.

She gave him an evil grin with his every twitch, not just because of the sadistic pleasure she got from tormenting him, but because the union of opposites–his psychological agony and his physical pleasure–were giving her more power.

The same was the case with what was going on in that closet: the juxtaposition of life and death–living Surian huddled together with the headless corpses of the Yamas. Furthermore, Surian planned to shoot Callie, but Callie could easily kill Surian.

***********

Immobilized Thurston was fidgeting in his car no less than Surian was in that closet. What was worse, Callie flashed images before his eyes of Surian there.

He saw, from Surian’s point of view, her first sight of the headless corpses when the light was turned on, the jagged claw-cuts on the stumps of the Yamas’ necks.

He screamed, realizing this is what she’d seen.

“Agnes!” he gasped.

From that sensing of her point of view, he also felt how immobile she was in that cluttered closet, not his own immobility, but from the same cause–the power of the demoness Kluh inhabiting Callie’s body. He fidgeted violently, frustrated that he still couldn’t move.

Now Callie showed him flashes of Surian’s face up close.

He saw her agape eyes and mouth.

He felt her fear.

“Fuck!” he grunted, still able to do no more than fidget.

************

Callie screamed with pleasure when she came, splashing her ejaculation all over Visner’s cock.

He shook, imagining for a split second that that scream was her about to have a psychotic episode. Still, he kept thrusting, for she made him do it. He couldn’t refuse to screw.

He pulled out of her, then saw the Thai prostitute’s body for a second. Callie laughed when she saw the jolt she’d given him.

She may have traumas from being raped, he thought, but if anything, she’s raping me.

She rolled over and got on all fours. She stuck her ass out, pointing it at him. He looked at it: it changed from her peach buttocks and brown anus to the brown buttocks and black anus of the Thai prostitute.

He got another jolt. He looked at what was now the face of the Thai girl, who had a lewd grin and a sparkle in her black eyes. “You want fuck my ass?” Callie asked in the girl’s Thai accent and ungrammatical syntax, just as he remembered it from years back.

He looked at her ass again, with Callie’s peach and brown again, then back up at her face, with her blue eyes and golden hair. “W-well, I’d like to, but your step-father–“

“Oh, I’ve forgotten about Mort. Stick it in. I’m lubed.”

He looked back down there. She was.

Voodoo girl, he thought. Demon girl. I can’t say no.

He pushed in slowly, carefully, checking her face to make sure she wasn’t in any pain.

Callie wants anal? Surian thought. Doesn’t ass-fucking make her violent? She remembered the time she and Thurston watched her and that other lover of hers through his apartment window, when his attempt to force anal made her change into the clawed beast. She wants Visner to provoke her into killing him, doesn’t she?

She fidgeted, and still could do no more than budge slightly.

Visner moved back and forth, loving the tight, hugging sensation, but looking in her eyes with concern, for she was looking back at him. Her eyes sometimes told him of her desire, and sometimes of her fear.

His face would mirror that fear back at her.

Sometimes, her fearful face was that of the Thai prostitute, her dark lips in a frown, and her black eyes full of shame.

Again, Visner felt a jolt of fear and guilt shoot throughout his body, with her every change to the Thai girl.

Then, she’d change back to blonde, lewdly-smiling Callie. Though his arousal was rising, he found her changes back not very reassuring.

Surian squinted her eyes trying to see what was going on outside those folding closet doors. Is Callie’s skin switching back and forth from white to black, and back to white again, or am I seeing things? she wondered.

**************

Thurston was too exhausted to fidget anymore, so he let his body sit loose in his car. He’d budge every ten seconds from now on, to see if Callie had set him free.

Sometimes, he’d budge on other occasions, such as when Callie made him see such split-second visions as this:

Surian being stabbed between the legs with a phallic claw.

“Agnes!” he yelled with a jerk.

**************

Visner heard, after giving her a strong thrust, a grunt of what sounded like pain. He checked her face when she looked back at him. He saw a frown, like the kind the Thai girl would give him.

He thrust hard again, feeling forced to do so by Callie, in spite of her apparent discomfort. He saw another frown…and he heard a growl.

He kept moving back and forth. All he wanted to do was pull out, get off the bed, grab his clothes, and run, but he couldn’t. Her power was forcing him to continue with the sex.

She looked back at him, moaned, and gave him a ‘reassuring’ grin. His fear and arousal were merged and strengthening each other. And that merging of opposite feelings made her all the more powerful.

He felt himself nearing orgasm. Then he heard another growl. A shot of terror went through his body as he shot his first ejaculation. He saw hair growing on her arms as his come kept firing out. Claws were growing from her fingernails, making his eyes and mouth open wide. She looked back at him with a wild, hairy face.

She let out a loud roar.

He screamed. Then he felt his face being forcefully shoved into the hair on the back of the beast’s head.

Surian was shaking in that closet with all her might to overcome, still in all futility, her immobility. “C’mon, goddamnit!”

She peaked through that slit between the closet doors. All she could make out was his relatively hairless body seemingly stuck to her hairy body.

The odd thing was that there didn’t seem to be any slashing or stabbing with those claws, no blood splashing anywhere, just the two bodies clinging together.

***********

Thurston saw split-second visions of Callie and Visner, seeing the two lovers face-first as if he were sitting at the head of the bed, only she was getting hairier with each flash of them before his eyes. Her claws got longer and sharper with each flash, too. Strangest of all was how Visner grew closer and closer to her, as if glued to her.

“Fuck!” Thurston shouted, shaking in his car still with the same futility as Surian’s. “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Where’s Agnes! What’s happened to her?”

***********

“Let me out of here!” Surian screamed.

The reply she received was a growl and the calm words, “Soon, Agnes. Real soon,” only they weren’t with Callie’s voice, but with Visner’s.

The shaking on the bed had stopped. No more creaking, no more fucking. Just the sounds of the clawed beast’s grunts.

Surian strained again to see through that crack. Visner’s body seemed to lie limp on the beast’s hairy back, from what Surian could make out. What she could no longer make out was where Visner’s body ended and the hairy beast’s began, for the one seemed to phase into the other.

She wasn’t sure, but it also seemed that Visner was now beginning to grow long hairs on his torso, ones similar to the beast’s.

The width of the two torsos, one on top of the other in profile, seemed to be narrowing.

**************

Thurston’s visions of Visner and Callie on that bed now showed split-second flashes of what seemed to be one huge hairy body, with his head merged with hers from behind, as if Visner’s face were lost in the sea of Callie’s hair on the back of her head.

“What the hell am I seeing?” Thurston asked, sneering.

**************

Through that slit between the closet doors, Surian saw what seemed a singular, hairy figure get off the bed and stand in front of her, the closet doors the only things separating her and the beast. She heard a grunt.

Finally, she felt free to move. The demoness had let her go. She shoved the doors open.

Before her stood one naked, hairy beast with breasts and a curvaceous figure, but with Visner’s gut. It had a face that was a cross of the female beast’s and Visner’s, and between its thighs was a long, sharp, thick claw for a phallus, pointing up in an arc at her, ready to stab.

Eyes agape, she screamed an ear-piercing wail, then pointed her pistol at the beast’s chest, frantically trying to find the dead centre of its heart in so short time.

Her eyes and mouth still wide open, Surian couldn’t stop screaming, but the beast would end the noise. Its red, slithering tongue shot out of its mouth and went deep into Surian’s, a tongue of seemingly endless length, flying at her face like a snake racing inside a hole in the ground. That spike of a phallus reached for her crotch.

Gagging, she shook all over, but kept her aim: she fired a bullet in the hermaphrodite beast’s heart, as close to dead-centre as she could hit it, just when the point of the phallus had punctured a hole in her pants and underwear, between her legs, meeting her vulva.

‘Claws,’ an Erotic Horror Novel, Chapter Fifteen

“I’m gonna end this once and for all,” Detective Surian whispered to herself, then jumped in her car and raced over to Callie’s apartment building.

Detective Thurston didn’t even notice her car drive away when he arrived at the Yamas’ dry-cleaning shop. He got out of his car and, eyes and jaw agape, looked at Vanessa’s and Raymond’s heads on those poles stabbed into the front door of the shop. He retched.

When the other police cars arrived, he’d be too busy explaining what happened to the two owners to think about Surian.

************

She parked her car in front of Callie’s apartment building, got out, and took out her pistol. She ran up the stairs and through the front door, got into the elevator, and went up to the seventh floor. She pushed open the slowly-opening elevator doors to get out faster and squeezed through in her frantic impatience.

As she ran down the hall to Callie’s room, she noted that the pheromone smell was as powerful as ever, but it wasn’t weakening her will at all; indeed, after forgetting to hold her breath, she was surprised at not feeling in any way controlled by the demoness.

In fact, Callie’s front door was open.

She wants me to go in, Surian thought, remembering the opened door to Dr. Visner’s office when she’d gone in to plant the hidden camera. This is a trap. Still, I’ve got to try to stop her. There seems to be no other way, and I’m sick of this shit. A memory of that bear killing her teen boyfriend flashed before her eyes again, as did that dream of the hairy, clawed beast attacking Thurston. A bullet fired directly dead-centre into her heart should kill her, as the Yamas said it would.

She went into the room, her eyes darting around everywhere to see if Callie was there. Her pistol was cocked.

The apartment seemed empty of people.

The bedroom door was wide open.

She went in.

Nobody was there.

She checked behind the bed.

Nobody.

She went over to the closet, which had two folding doors. She opened the right-side one.

No Callie hiding in there.

The pheromone smell was so powerful, it cancelled out any other possible competing smells.

There was enough room for Surian to slip in and hide on that right side; the other side seemed crowded with clothes on hangers, and with boxes on the floor, so she figured she’d have no unwelcome company while hiding there.

She went in and closed the closet door.

She’d wait for Callie to return, then surprise her with bullets in the chest.

After a few minutes of waiting, she came to her senses and realized she should have properly checked the other side of the closet; the pheromone smell had interfered with her thinking after all.

She moved a few of Callie’s dresses aside, then groped around in the darkness with her left hand. She felt what seemed to be an arm. She raised her pistol in her right hand, ready to shoot, but realized the body wasn’t responding to her touch. It didn’t move at all.

She moved her hand up the body, above the shoulder, and felt around for the neck.

She felt only a stump, and the jagged, bloodless cutting-through of claws.

She gasped.

Just then, the bedroom light was turned on, and enough light shone through the crack to let her know that she was standing next to not only Vanessa’s headless body, but Raymond’s behind it.

Surian stopped herself just in time before screaming. She wanted to kick open the closet door and point her pistol at Callie, but found herself suddenly incapable of any movement beyond fidgeting of a few millimetres all around.

“Not yet, Agnes,” Callie told her from the other side. “Don’t worry, though: we’ll all be together soon enough.”

It took all of Surian’s effort to remain calm while paralyzed in that closet indefinitely, tolerating the proximity of those two corpses. She just shook and shook.

Callie, nude as usual, sat on her bed, closed her eyes, and–from what Surian could make out through the narrow slit in the closet door–began meditating.

Come, Dr. Visner, Callie thought, using the mana from the semen she’d swallowed during her sexual encounter with the psychiatrist. Come to me. Let’s make love.

************

Visner left his office like an automaton and went down to the underground parking lot to find his car. He didn’t need to know her home address: her power would guide him there.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, behind her remote control of him, a small voice was whispering in his mind’s ear: I shouldn’t be doing this. He also saw images of that Thai prostitute flashing before his eyes, flashing between the changing of the traffic lights.

************

Surian kept trembling in that closet, cringing at the thought of those two bodies she couldn’t distance herself from. She felt a presence inside her stomach, some kind of energy that felt connected in some vague way with Callie’s ejaculation in her mouth when Callie had manipulated Surian to perform cunnilingus on her; it was forcing her to stay in that immobile position, able only to jiggle a bit. Is this that ‘mana’ that the Yamas were talking about? she wondered.

She saw Callie still sitting cross-legged on her bed, her eyes closed and concentrating on something.

Come to me, Doctor, she thought. Come make love to me.

That mana in her belly, from Visner’s ejaculation in her mouth, was like a doll she could move around any way she liked, and Visner was the doll outside, his car nearing her apartment building.

**************

After enough discussion with the police about the Yamas’ heads, Thurston finally remembered Surian.

“Agnes!” he said with a jolt.

“Yeah, what about your girlfriend?” Detective Hicks said. “She found this horrible display, then just took off? Where’d she go?”

“I don’t know,” Thurston said. “I imagine she got so upset, she just went over to Callie’s apartment to arrest her.”

“We have no proof, apart from your hocus-pocus bullshit, that this ‘Callie’ is in any way connected with all these deaths,” Hicks said. “Hairs of the animal weren’t found anywhere near that apartment this time.”

“Still,” Thurston said. “I should go over there and help her. She’s putting herself in danger.”

“She ain’t interested in you, Andy,” Hicks said, then put his hand on Thurston’s shoulder. “Try a new experience. Open your mind.” He smirked lewdly.

“Sorry, Hicks. I’m not into men.” Thurston ran to his car, got in, and drove over to Callie’s apartment building.

As he was driving away, Hicks watched his car disappear. Andy’s an idiot, just like his girlfriend, he thought. He is good-looking, though.

************

Dr. Visner arrived and parked his car by the park across from the apartment building. As he crossed the road, he thought, This is dangerous. She really has killed people during sex, hasn’t she? I’m not in control of my body; she’s controlling it.

He went through the front door of the apartment building and approached the elevator.

This is some kind of voodoo magic, and I don’t even believe in such things, he thought.

He remembered fucking the Thai prostitute in the ass, then reading the news of her death in the paper.

What if my fucking of Callie triggers a rape trauma of her step-father, and she uses these powers to kill me, or do some other terrible thing to me?

He got in the elevator, and Callie willed him to push 7. See? he thought. How do I know she’s on the seventh floor? I have no control over my movements. I can’t stop myself from having sex with her. I’m putting myself in danger; she’s making my mind want to have sex with her. What is her plan?

He reached the seventh floor, got out of the elevator, and went straight to Room 717, knowing that’s where she was.

The door was still open. He went in.

“Hello, Dr. Visner,” Callie purred as he entered the bedroom.

Oh, shit, Surian thought. I should have known Callie would be luring him here. And I can’t stop her.

Callie spread her legs and lay on her back. Dr. Visner felt compelled to begin undressing.

***********

Thurston was a few blocks from Callie’s apartment building. All of a sudden, though, he felt himself being controlled by an alien intelligence, making him park his car in a parking lot in the area, instead of in front of her place.

“What the fuck?” he said. He budged to get out of the car, but now couldn’t move beyond slight budging.

Not yet, Callie’s voice whispered in his mind’s ear. Don’t worry, though: we’ll all be together soon enough.

‘Claws,’ an Erotic Horror Novel, Chapter Fourteen

[Some sexual content]

After leaving two…mementos…of her encounter with the Yamas at their dry-cleaning shop, the hairy beast ran and jumped down the streets in the direction of The Gold Star. Though she was seen by onlookers, including cops in patrol cars, throughout Toronto, the growing power of her pheromone smell kept everyone too dazed to follow her.

Eventually, by about midnight, she stopped her running and jumping, calmed down, and began shedding hair. Her claws shortened into normal fingernails. Her pheromone aphrodisiac, though adding to the erotic pleasure of seeing her transformation back into shapely, nude Callie, nonetheless kept its dazed sniffers at bay as she walked, in the most carefree, insouciant way, towards the front door of the strip joint.

One of those sniffers of her sexy smell was none other than Dr. Visner, who felt compelled to see her again at The Gold Star. In fact, he was walking on the same sidewalk that the balls of her pretty bare feet had just tapped on, so he noticed the growing amount of wisps of her bestial hair.

He picked up a few and sniffed that arousing pheromone smell. “Callie,” he sighed with a smile.

He looked further ahead down the sidewalk, and saw a beautiful nude female figure from behind. The street lights and shadows worked together to caress her buttock cleavage.

He walked faster towards her.

She sensed his approach and grinned.

When he was about five feet behind her, she turned around to face him. She grinned when he stopped and let his eyes roam down her body to feast on those wiggling breasts and that hairless crotch. Embarrassed by his lust, he yanked his gaze up to her eyes.

“You can stare at my body if you want to,” she purred. “Enjoy yourself. I won’t be mad.”

“Yes, but…you’re my…patient,” he panted, resisting the temptation to let his gaze drop back down below her neck. “I shouldn’t–“

“Come here,” she cooed. He did.

She put her arms around his neck. He put his hands on her ass and gave the cheeks gentle squeezes as they French-kissed.

She pulled her tongue out of his mouth and said, “Let’s go into a VIP Room. My services to you are free of charge tonight.”

They held hands as they walked into The Gold Star.

They went into a VIP Room, he sat on the couch, and she sat on his lap. Rubbing her buns against his erection, she leaned back with her flowery-fragrant hair (another example of Kluh’s growing powers, to smell so lovely after having just been the sweaty beast) brushing against his face. She turned her head back and looked in his eyes.

“I love revealing…all my secrets to you,” she sighed in his ear. “I revealed all my…private pain to you…during our therapy. Now I can…reveal my…private parts to you.”

“Yes, but is it…the real you…that you revealed to me?” he asked. “Is this some game?”

She frowned and stopped lap-dancing. “Of course it was the real me. All my private feelings.” She turned her frown back into a smile, then resumed rubbing. “Now I can…reveal my…private parts to you.”

“I’d love that, but…,” he grunted from the sensation of her massaging bottom. “I still feel…as though…I’m taking advantage of…a vulnerable, fragile patient.” The memory of that Thai prostitute he’d had when young flashed before his eyes.

“Dr. Visner, it is I who am taking advantage of you.”

“You are?

“Yes,” she said, grinning as she got up and turned around to face him. She rubbed her breasts against his face and slid down between his spread-out legs. “I’m practically raping you.”

“Oh,” he said with a slight smile.

She unzipped his pants. Another image of that Thai prostitute appeared in a flash before his eyes, a memory of her about to perform oral sex on him.

“Wait,” he said, stopping Callie’s hand. “Not here. People in the bar might hear us.”

“Oh, they’d hear my screams for sure, if you put it in my pussy.” She moved his hand out of the way and put her fingers inside his open fly. “That’s why it’s best if it’s only your moans, drowned out by that metal music the DJ’s playing.” She took his cock out and wrapped her wet lips and tongue around it.

Her hypnotic eyes stayed fixed on his as her head went back and forth.

As she continued blowing him, he saw her face shift back and forth between Callie’s and the Thai prostitute’s. His heightened guilt augmented his arousal as those moist lips and tongue slid and slithered back and forth along his length.

Is this me seeing both girls? he thought. Or is Callie somehow making me see this?

Finally, he came in her mouth, his body shaking as he shot every squirt down her throat. She swallowed every last drop greedily, as if dying of thirst. Grinning, she put his spent dick back in his pants and zipped him up. “OK, Doctor. I guess that’ll be all for now.”

“OK,” he panted, unsure whether to smile after getting the most amazing head, or to frown from his guilt. He took out his wallet.

“No, no,” she said, waving her hands. “I told you: my services are free tonight, as they will be from now on.”

“Very well, then. I’ll see you in my office next time.” He left the bar, still holding that wisp of beast hair between his fingers.

She grinned from the feeling of his ejaculation inside her body. Its energy, its mana, would be useful to her very soon.

***********

The next morning, Detective Surian was woken up by her ringing cellphone.

“Hello?” she said into it.

“Remember me, Detective?” the caller said in a rush. “I’m Sam. I helped you find the Yamas.”

“Oh, hello, Sam,” she said after a yawn. “What’s going on?”

“Hurry over to the dry-cleaners!” Sam said with agitation in his voice. “Something terrible has happened. You’ve got to see it. It’s too awful for me to describe. Hurry!”

She rushed over there in her car so fast, she forgot to call Thurston.

When she got there, though, she took out her phone to tell him. “Get over here, Andy,” she said. “I’m at the dry-cleaners. I know how the exorcism attempt worked out.”

She stood before the entrance to the dry-cleaners. Vanessa’s and Raymond’s bloody heads were on steel poles stabbed into the top of the wooden front door.

‘Claws,’ an Erotic Horror Novel, Chapter Thirteen

“I never asked you before: how much did it cost you to fix the dent?” Thurston asked Surian as they got in her car with the Yamas, who brought with them a small gong, a jingle bell (to be shaken on a handle), and incense sticks.

“It cost far too much,” Surian said with a frown, then she put her key in the ignition.

“What caused the damage to your car?” Raymond asked.

“Not what, who,” Surian answered, starting the car.

“Was it Kluh?” Vanessa asked.

“Yes,” Thurston said. “She jumped high in the air and came down on the roof.”

“Don’t remind me,” Surian said, remembering also the bear attack from her teen years as she got the car on the road.

“What else can you tell us about Kluh?” Thurston asked.

“What else do you want to know, specifically?” Vanessa asked.

“Like, what motivates her to kill sometimes, and other times, just to lure you in for sex?” Surian asked.

“Well, there are many motives for her to kill,” Raymond said. “Revenge on, or protection from, a rapist. Also, any threat to her growing power–“

“Which means, my husband and I are putting ourselves in danger,” Vanessa said.

“Since you know the danger, are you sure you want to go through with this?” Surian asked.

“Yes, we must do this. Only we can stop Kluh,” Raymond said.

“And if she kills you?” Thurston asked.

“You’re all screwed, not just you two, but everyone,” Raymond said. “Vanessa and I are your best hope to send Kluh back to the spirit world. Of all the people in the Polynesian community in the Toronto area, we are the most knowledgeable in how to perform the kind of exorcism that can defeat this demon.”

“If you two fail, and she kills you,” Surian said, “Andy and I will be standing by to shoot her if necessary.”

“No!” Vanessa shouted. “You drop us off at Callie’s apartment, tell us her room number and the floor she lives on, and Raymond and I will do the rest. You must drive far away when we begin the ritual.”

“Why can’t we be with you?” Thurston asked.

“Because you’ll distract us,” Vanessa said.

“We’ll be quiet and stay out of your way,” Surian said.

“No!” Vanessa said. “Your very presence, your psychic energy, your mana, will contaminate the ritual. With any luck, no one else in the halls outside her room will interfere, psychically or physically. I’m hoping anyone she may have made love with in the apartment will not be anywhere near there.”

I’ll have to make sure ‘Super-stud’ isn’t at home, Surian thought, assuming what the Yamas is saying isn’t total bullshit.

“You see, she is acquainted with both of you,” Raymond said. “Certainly with Andy, in an intimate way. The more intimate you’ve been with her, the more you’ll contaminate the sacred space.”

I guess I’ll have to stay far away, too, Surian thought, remembering her encounter with Callie.

“Kluh can exploit the mana she’s absorbed from you, to thwart us in our attempt to exorcise her from Callie’s body,” Vanessa said.

“From Sandra Brahms’s body, as I told you before,” Surian said, then handed Vanessa a photo of Sandra. “This, I believe, is how ‘Callie’ originally looked.”

Vanessa looked at the chubby teenage girl in the photo, then showed it to Raymond before giving it back to Surian. “If our exorcism is successful, we can expect to see Callie’s body change into this Sandra girl’s,” Vanessa said. “But as I said before, you two mustn’t be present. We also fear Kluh will try to kill you if she kills us.”

“OK, we’ll stay away from your exorcism, if you insist,” Surian said. “We’ll wait for a phone call from either of you, and if we don’t hear anything by tomorrow, we’ll go to your dry-cleaning place, and if you’re not there, we’ll assume Kluh has killed you.”

“OK,” Raymond said.

“But what else can you tell us about Kluh?” Surian asked. “Why d0es she have sex with some people, and lets them live?”

“Well, sometimes she does it for pleasure, of course,” Vanessa said. “But always to take some of her lovers’ mana, and now that Kluh seems to have a permanent female body–that is, she isn’t moving from one girl’s body to another’s with every sexual encounter–we can assume this Sandra, or Callie, is her ideal female, her female mate, so now she’ll be looking for an ideal male as a mate, to make herself complete.”

“So, she’s looking for Mr. Right?” Surian asked.

“That’s a good way to put it,” Raymond said. “Remember that she builds power by merging opposites.”

“And the fusion of male and female is one of the most powerful kinds of a merging of opposites,” Vanessa said. “I’ll bet that psychiatrist she got naked for in the video is her chosen male mate. He doesn’t seem to be a lover she wants to have only one time.”

“Oh, yeah,” Thurston said, remembering the night of his encounter with Callie. “I saw her say goodbye to Dr. Visner in The Gold Star.”

“She’s getting regular psychotherapy sessions with Visner, too,” Surian said. “What will happen if the two of them…mate?”

“Kluh will be almost unstoppable,” Raymond said.

“Oh, come on!” Thurston said. “Can’t we kill her by filling her chest with bullets?”

“Only a hit dead-centre in her heart, or right in the middle of her brain, will send Kluh back into the spirit world,” Raymond said.

They arrived at the front of Callie’s apartment building, Surian parking at the curb of the sidewalk there. The Yamas got out of her car with their things for the exorcism ritual.

“Are you sure you don’t want us in there with you, in case Callie turns into that thing, claws you to death, then goes rampaging through the night?” Thurston asked, looking up at the setting sun.

“We’re absolutely sure,” Vanessa said with urgency in her face. “Drive far away, and don’t phone us until tomorrow morning, if you hear nothing from us tonight. Or, you can try to contact us at our shop tomorrow.”

“OK,” Surian said, looking around the area. “I have to make sure ‘Super-stud’ isn’t in his apartment…oh, wait. There he is; he’s leaving.” She spotted the first-floor neighbour who’d had Callie; he was walking away from the apartment in a uniform, about to do the night shift, apparently. “That’s convenient.”

“OK, we’ll contact you tomorrow if you haven’t said anything by then.” Thurston said. “She’s on the seventh floor, Room 717. Goodbye.”

“Bye,” the Yamas said together, then watched the detectives drive away. Once Surian’s car was far enough away to have disappeared from sight, Vanessa and Raymond felt comfortable to begin the ritual. They heaved a huge sigh together. They then each lit an incense stick for themselves, to carry with the gong and jingle bell stick.

They went through the front doors of the apartment building, and as soon as they were inside, Raymond began hitting the gong with a mallet, getting a gentle, ringing bass tone from it, and Vanessa began shaking the bells. They were playing a triple-time rhythm of one gong beat for every three shakes of the bells.

Vanessa pressed the button to bring the elevator down to the first floor. They got in the elevator. As soon as it began going up to the seventh floor, they, always playing their 3/4 rhythm, began whispering a mystic chant in their native Tahaiwi language.

“Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!” (Kluh, go back! [to the spirit world]) The whispering grew louder as the elevator rose up the floors.

By the time they reached the seventh floor, the door opened, and they stepped out of the elevator, the whispering had grown to a loud, vocalized chant.

“Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!”

They smelled the powerful pheromones, but their incense protected them from its hypnotic properties.

Vanessa began a twirling, hopping dance as she and Raymond went down the hall towards Callie’s apartment. They hadn’t needed to know the number: both the growing smell of the pheromones and their ability to sense the presence of Kluh led them to the right apartment–Room 717.

Vanessa continued twirling and hopping in front of Callie’s door. The Yamas were shouting the chant now: “Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!”

No one else in the apartment opened his doors to find out where the shouting was coming from. Everyone sensed the effectiveness of the ritual intuitively, even without a conscious understanding of the nature of Callie’s power. There was a collective feeling of hope that their apartment was soon to be freed of a vaguely evil presence.

Callie, nude from head to toe as usual, opened her door to receive the Yamas, as if she were being compelled to. She reacted to them almost like an automaton.

“Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!” They entered the room.

Raymond had to use all of his strength to resist the temptation to enjoy looking at her shapely, buxom body, to focus on the ritual, to remember that he loved his wife. Callie, having closed the door and turned around to face the exorcists, flitted back over to him, and danced around in front of him to entice him with her body.

Still, he and Vanessa carried on with the ritual, not allowing themselves to be distracted by Callie.

“Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!” they shouted to the 3/4 rhythm, over and over again, him hitting the gong, and Vanessa shaking the bells and doing her twirling, hopping dance.

“Don’t you want me, Raymond?” Callie purred at him, gyrating her hips and jiggling her tits before his eyes. “That wife of yours looks like a little elephant-lady, she’s so chubby. Don’t you think I’d be more fun in bed?”

“Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!” the Yamas repeated, as if Callie hadn’t said anything.

Callie frowned. “She’s mine!” she shouted. “Sandra Brahms is mine. You’re not taking her from me. Make love with me, Raymond, and I’ll let you live.”

“Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!”

Callie began faltering in her counter-exorcist, erotic dance. Now scowling, she said in the Yamas’ native Tahaiwi tongue, “Sandra is my mate. I searched a long time, all over the Earth, for centuries, to find the ideal female body to control, and Sandra Brahms is she! She’s perfect. A pretty face with a chubby body: beauty merged with plainness. She would have been modest, avoiding sex, but her stepfather made her into his whore: chastity and unchastity combined. She’s suffered, but I’ve made her happy: joy and sorrow united. She’s the perfect merging of opposites, to give me enough mana to make me more powerful than anyone could ever know. She’s my mate, she’s mine! I have her male mate in my sights, too, and he’ll be mine soon!”

“Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!”

Callie fell to the floor in front of the living room sofa, on which a white blanket lay. She began shaking all over, as if having an epileptic seizure.

“Please,” she said in the whining, pleading voice of a frightened teen, “Get this demon out of me. I just want to be Sandra again. Please, help me!”

“Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!” The Yamas drew closer to her as they continued chanting.

Callie’s body started changing. She became shorter. Her pubic hair grew back. She lost her shapely curves, her body growing rotund, like Vanessa’s.

Nude Sandra looked up at the two chanting exorcists, who were staring at her with ritual intensity. Blushing, she pulled the blanket over herself.

“Thank you,” she said in a tremulous voice, her eyes avoiding theirs as they continued their chanting, shaking the bells, banging the gong, and dancing up close to her.

The chanting of “Kluh, sa-bang, Kluh, sa-bang” grew softer and softer until becoming the whisper it had been in the elevator. The Yamas, even closer to Sandra now, bent down to get a good look at her to make sure she really had Kluh exorcised from her.

Raymond was still hitting the gong, though softer, and Vanessa was still shaking the bells…softer and softer. They looked into Sandra’s eyes.

They never noticed the hairs snaking out of her arm follicles.

“Unh!” they grunted together when they felt her stabbing claws dig into their guts.

The tall, curvaceous, hairy beast grinned, looking down at the two bloody bodies lying on the floor.

**************

Late that night, Surian and Thurston were sitting together in a café with their cellphones lying next to their half-drunk coffees.

“Come on, Vanessa,” Surian said. “Call me!”

Analysis of ‘Salomé’

I: Introduction

Salomé is an opera by Richard Strauss that premiered in 1905, the libretto being Hedwig Lachmann‘s German translation (with some editing by Strauss) of Oscar Wilde‘s 1891 French play. Wilde’s play, of course, was in turn inspired by the Biblical narratives in the Gospels According to Mark and Matthew.

Wilde transformed the brief Biblical story, making what’s implied explicit, namely how Salomé’s dance sexually aroused the Tetrarch Herod Antipas, elaborating on it as The Dance of the Seven Veils, considered by some to be the origin, however unwitting, of the modern striptease. Wilde also altered certain details, such as when, in the Biblical version, Herodias tells her daughter, Salomé, to demand the head of John the Baptist; instead, Wilde has Salome ask for “the head of Iokanaan” of her own accord.

Both Wilde’s play and Strauss’s opera caused scandals on their earliest performances, resulting in performances of them being cancelled or banned, for example in London, for many years. Now, Strauss’s opera is considered a masterwork, a regular part of any orchestral or operatic repertoire.

II: Quotes

Here are some quotes from Wilde’s play (some of which are not in Strauss’s opera), in English translation:

“How beautiful is the Princess Salomé to-night!” –Narraboth, the young Syrian, Captain of the Guard

“You are always looking at her. You look at her too much. It is dangerous to look at people in such fashion. Something terrible may happen.” –Herodias’ page

“How pale the Princess is! Never have I seen her so pale. She is like the shadow of a white rose in a mirror of silver.” –Narraboth

“The Jews worship a God that one cannot see.” –First Soldier

“After me shall come another mightier than I. I am not worthy so much as to unloose the latchet of his shoes. When he cometh, the solitary places shall be glad. They shall blossom like the rose. The eyes of the blind shall see the day, and the ears of the deaf shall be opened. The suckling child shall put his hand upon the dragon’s lair, he shall lead the lions by their manes.” –the voice of Iokanaan, heard from below, in a cistern

“What a strange voice! I would speak with him.” –Salomé, of Iokanaan

[Approaching the cistern and looking down into it.] “How black it is, down there ! It must be terrible to be in so black a hole ! It is like a tomb. . . . .” [To the soldiers.] “Did you not hear me? Bring out the prophet. I would look on him.” –Salomé

“Thou wilt do this thing for me, Narraboth, and to-morrow when I pass in my litter beneath the gateway of the idol-sellers I will let fall for thee a little flower, a little green flower.” –Salomé

“Oh! How strange the moon looks. Like the hand of a dead woman who is seeking to cover herself with a shroud.” –Herodias’ page

“Where is he whose cup of abominations is now full? Where is he, who in a robe of silver shall one day die in the face of all the people? Bid him come forth, that he may hear the voice of him who hath cried in the waste places and in the houses of kings.” –Iokanaan, having emerged from the underground cistern

“It is his eyes above all that are terrible. They are like black holes burned by torches in a tapestry of Tyre. They are like the black caverns of Egypt in which the dragons make their lairs. They are like black lakes troubled by fantastic moons. . . . Do you think he will speak again?” –Salomé, of Iokanaan

“Who is this woman who is looking at me? I will not have her look at me. Wherefore doth she look at me with her golden eyes, under her gilded eyelids? I know not who she is. I do not desire to know who she is. Bid her begone. It is not to her that I would speak.” –Iokanaan, of Salomé

“Speak again, Iokanaan. Thy voice is as music to mine ear.” –Salomé

“Back! daughter of Babylon! By woman came evil into the world. Speak not to me. I will not listen to thee. I listen but to the voice of the Lord God.” –Iokanaan, to Salomé

“Thy hair is horrible. It is covered with mire and dust. It is like a knot of serpents coiled round thy neck. I love not thy hair. . . . It is thy mouth that I desire, Iokanaan.” […] “There is nothing in the world so red as thy mouth. . . . Suffer me to kiss thy mouth.” –Salomé

IOKANAAN: Never! daughter of Babylon! Daughter of Sodom! Never.

SALOMÉ: I will kiss thy mouth, Iokanaan. I will kiss thy mouth.

“Cursed be thou! daughter of an incestuous mother, be thou accursed!” –Iokanaan, to Salomé

HEROD: Where is Salomé? Where is the Princess? Why did she not return to the banquet as I commanded her? Ah! there she is!

HERODIAS: You must not look at her! You are always looking at her! […]

HEROD: I am not ill, It is your daughter who is sick to death. Never have I seen her so pale.

HERODIAS: I have told you not to look at her.

HEROD: Pour me forth wine [wine is brought.] Salomé, come drink a little wine with me. I have here a wine that is exquisite. Cæsar himself sent it me. Dip into it thy little red lips, that I may drain the cup.

SALOMÉ: I am not thirsty, Tetrarch.

HEROD: You hear how she answers me, this daughter of yours?

HERODIAS: She does right. Why are you always gazing at her?

HEROD: Bring me ripe fruits [fruits are brought.] Salomé, come and eat fruits with me. I love to see in a fruit the mark of thy little teeth. Bite but a little of this fruit that I may eat what is left.

SALOMÉ: I am not hungry, Tetrarch. […]

THE VOICE OF IOKANAAN: Behold the time is come! That which I foretold has come to pass. The day that I spoke of is at hand.

HERODIAS: Bid him be silent. I will not listen to his voice. This man is for ever hurling insults against me.

HEROD: He has said nothing against you. Besides, he is a very great prophet. […]

A THIRD JEW: God is at no time hidden. He showeth Himself at all times and in all places. God is in what is evil even as He is in what is good.

A FOURTH JEW: Thou shouldst not say that. It is a very dangerous doctrine, it is a doctrine that cometh from Alexandria, where men teach the philosophy of the Greeks. And the Greeks are Gentiles: They are not even circumcised. […]

FIRST NAZARENE, of Jesus: This man worketh true miracles. Thus, at a marriage which took place in a little town of Galilee, a town of some importance, He changed water into wine. Certain persons who were present related it to me. Also He healed two lepers that were seated before the Gate of Capernaum simply by touching them. […]

THE VOICE OF IOKANAAN, of Herodias: Ah! the wanton one! The harlot! Ah! the daughter of Babylon with her golden eyes and her gilded eyelids! Thus saith the Lord God, Let there come up against her a multitude of men. Let the people take stones and stone her. . . .

HERODIAS: Command him to be silent.

THE VOICE OF IOKANAAN: Let the captains of the hosts pierce her with their swords, let them crush her beneath their shields. […]

HEROD: Dance for me, Salomé.

HERODIAS: I will not have her dance.

SALOMÉ: I have no desire to dance, Tetrarch. […]

HEROD: Salomé, Salomé, dance for me. I pray thee dance for me. I am sad to-night. Yes; I am passing sad to-night. When I came hither I slipped in blood, which is an evil omen; also I heard in the air a beating of wings, a beating of giant wings. I cannot tell what they mean . . . I am sad to-night. Therefore dance for me. Dance for me, Salomé, I beseech thee. If thou dancest for me thou mayest ask of me what thou wilt, and I will give it thee, even unto the half of my kingdom.

SALOMÉ: [Rising.] Will you indeed give me whatsoever I shall ask of thee, Tetrarch? […]

HEROD: Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, even unto the half of my kingdom.

SALOMÉ: You swear it, Tetrarch?

HEROD: I swear it, Salomé. […]

SALOMÉ: I am ready, Tetrarch. [Salomé dances the dance of the seven veils.]

HEROD: Ah! wonderful! wonderful! You see that she has danced for me, your daughter. Come near, Salomé, come near, that I may give thee thy fee. Ah! I pay a royal price to those who dance for my pleasure. I will pay thee royally. I will give thee whatsoever thy soul desireth. What wouldst thou have? Speak.

SALOMÉ [Kneeling]: I would that they presently bring me in a silver charger . . .

HEROD [Laughing]: In a silver charger? Surely yes, in a silver charger. She is charming, is she not? What is it thou wouldst have in a silver charger, O sweet and fair Salomé, thou art fairer than all the daughters of Judæa? What wouldst thou have them bring thee in a silver charger? Tell me. Whatsoever it may be, thou shalt receive it. My treasures belong to thee. What is it that thou wouldst have, Salomé?

SALOMÉ [Rising]: The head of Iokanaan.

HERODIAS: Ah! that is well said, my daughter.

HEROD: No, no!

HERODIAS: That is well said, my daughter. […]

“You have sworn an oath, Herod.” –Salomé

“Well, thou hast seen thy God, Iokanaan, but me, me, thou didst never see. If thou hadst seen me thou hadst loved me. I saw thee, and I loved thee. Oh, how I loved thee! I love thee yet, Iokanaan, I love only thee. . . . I am athirst for thy beauty; I am hungry for thy body; and neither wine nor apples can appease my desire. What shall I do now, Iokanaan? Neither the floods nor the great waters can quench my passion. I was a princess, and thou didst scorn me. I was a virgin, and thou didst take my virginity from me. I was chaste, and thou didst fill my veins with fire. . . Ah! ah! wherefore didst thou not look at me? If thou hadst looked at me thou hadst loved me. Well I know that thou wouldst have loved me, and the mystery of love is greater that the mystery of death.” –Salomé, holding and gazing upon the severed head of Iokanaan

“She is monstrous, thy daughter I tell thee she is monstrous.” –Herod, to Herodias

“Ah! I have kissed thy mouth, Iokanaan, I have kissed thy mouth. There was a bitter taste on my lips. Was it the taste of blood ? . . . Nay; but perchance it was the taste of love. . . . They say that love hath a bitter taste. . . . But what matter? what matter? I have kissed thy mouth.” –Salomé, still with Iokanaan’s head

HEROD: [Turning round and seeing Salomé.] Kill that woman! [The soldiers rush forward and crush beneath their shields Salomé, daughter of Herodias, Princess of Judæa.]

III: Themes and Beginning

Recurring themes in the play/opera include these: lust, with gazing/leering/staring at the object of desire, hence objectification; the conflict between, and complementarity of, opposites (love/loathing, spirituality/carnality, desire/disgust, white/black, male/female roles, beauty/ugliness, life/death, victim/victimizer, etc.); and the decadence of the ruling classes, as against the assurances for the oppressed that revolution, redemption, and liberation are soon to come.

The story begins at night, just outside a banquet held by Herod, his wife, Herodias (widow of his half-brother, Herod II), and her daughter, Salomé, along with all their guests in Herod’s palace. The moon is shining, silvery-white and bright. Silvery-white because, as Narraboth says, “She [the moon] is like a little princess…whose feet are of silver,” and “who has little white doves for feet.”

Narraboth, a young Syrian and Captain of the Guard, amorously declares how beautiful Salomé looks. The Page of Herodias wishes he wouldn’t always stare at her, for the Page fears that disaster will come of his passion.

The moon is a pale, virgin, silvery white, as is Salomé’s flesh. The moon looks so pale and white, “She is like a woman rising from a tomb. She is like a dead woman,” as the page of Herodias observes.

The princess-moon, with her innocent white feet, can drive men lunatic, as can Salomé’s virginal beauty; as, in turn, the holy purity of similarly-pale Iokanaan drives her mad with love for him. In this play, virginal innocence is dialectically related to the deadly sin of lust: the one opposite dissolves into the other.

IV: Enter Salomé

Salomé leaves the banquet area, finding it disturbing how Herod keeps staring at her with lust in his eyes. Of course, Narraboth is eyeing her similarly, but she will soon be an ogler herself, for she hears the voice of Iokanaan from the cistern below.

He has spoken harsh words against her mother, Herodias, as well as against Herod (i.e., his incestuous marriage with his half-brother’s widow); Salomé knows of this, but instead of being offended by Iokanaan’s words, she’s intrigued. It seems evident that Salomé has hardly any less contempt for her mother than she does for her adoptive father: alienation, including that between family members, is a typical symptom in a world of class conflict, in this case, that of the ancient slave vs. master variety.

Thus, any speaker of ill against Salomé’s family is a singer of sweet music to her ears. Small wonder she’d like to take a look at that mysterious man down in that dark, yonic pit. She looks down into it, awed by its darkness. This blackness, of course, is associated with Iokanaan’s mysticism. An ominous, eerie tritone is heard in the musical background when she looks into the cistern and notes its blackness, near the beginning of scene two.

Let’s compare some images used so far. Pale Salomé is consistently associated with the silvery-white, virginal moon, an ominous orb portending imminent evil. The cistern is black, as Salomé observes, but since it houses a holy man, a celibate man, it could be seen as virginal, too, the yoni of a virgin such as Salomé herself. The cistern’s blackness thus has a dialectical relationship with the silvery-white moon, which phases from white full moon to black new moon, and back again. Iokanaan, like the moon, also portends an evil coming too soon for comfort.

She insists on having Iokanaan brought out so she can see him, to have his mysteries revealed…just as Herod will want Salomé to dance a striptease for him, to reveal her anatomic mysteries. The lecherous, decadent tetrarch, of course, also hopes to make the young beauty replace her mother as his new queen, so her virginal yoni‘s dark secrets can be revealed to him…just as she wishes to have Iokanaan, the secret of the dark yoni of the cistern, revealed to her eyes.

The parallels between Iokanaan’s display and that of her nakedness continue, first with Narraboth’s and the soldiers’ insistence that the prophet not be allowed out (by Herod’s orders), on the one hand, and Herodias’ disapproval of her daughter dancing erotically for Herod. Also, Salomé entices Narraboth with suggestions of her favouring him (offering a green flower and a smile) if he’ll allow Iokanaan to come out, and Herod entices her with an oath to give her anything she wants if she’ll dance for him. Both Narraboth and Salomé are persuaded to do what they’d otherwise never do.

V: Enter John the Baptist

Iokanaan emerges from the cistern, pale, hairy, and filthy, but always shouting his imprecations against the decadent kings and queens of the world, especially Herodias. His holiness inspires Salomé’s passion for him, symbolizing the dialectical relationship between the erotic and the ascetic (something also explored in Hindu myth, as Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty observed in Siva: the Erotic Ascetic, pages 33-36).

At first, Salomé loves Iokanaan’s white flesh, a parallel of the love Narraboth and Herod have for her pale flesh. The prophet, of course, rejects her wish to touch his body; indeed, he can’t even bear to have this “daughter of Sodom” look at him. She’s angered by his rejection, feeling narcissistic injury, no doubt; but his chastity fascinates her all the same.

Salomé is used to having a train of admiring men following her everywhere, leering at her, lusting after her. Such men bore her, annoy her, inspire her contempt; but Iokanaan is no lecherous pig. With him, the sexes are reversed, and the man is disgusted with the woman’s lechery. She’s hurt by his rejection, but she can only admire him all the more for it. This man’s spiritual willpower is as rare as her physical beauty is, and her desire for him is made all the hotter for this.

As soon as he rejects her, she speaks ill of his whitest of white body, which she’s just finished praising. Now she speaks of loving his blackest of black hair; note the immediate juxtaposition of opposites–loved/loathed, beautiful/ugly, and white/black. When he rejects her wish to touch his hair, she’s now repelled by it and begins loving his red lips.

VI: Baiser

She wants to kiss his mouth, saying in Wilde’s French: “Laisse-moi baiser ta bouche.” Baiser, as a verb, originally meant ‘to kiss,’ but it grew to mean ‘to fuck,’ this new meaning starting as early as the 16th or 17th century, having been used this way in, for example, a few poems by François Maynard. This usage began to grow more common by the beginning of the 20th century, prompting the French to start using embrasser to mean ‘to kiss’ instead.

My point is, given the already shockingly erotic overtones of Wilde’s play, as well as in his choice to write it in French instead of his usual English, did he use baiser as a double entendre? Was he suggesting a secondary meaning, a cunnilingus fantasy of Salomé’s, to get head from Iokanaan?

Now Strauss, in using a German translation for his opera, used the word küssen, which only means ‘to kiss.’ Perhaps he was aware of the growing use of the sexual meaning of baiser, and wanted to mitigate the scandal by eliminating that problematic French word. I’m guessing that my speculations hadn’t been discussed by critics back around the turn of the 20th century, given the-then taboo nature of this subject; but this taboo use of baiser has been discussed more recently.

VII: Lustful Staring

Back to the story. The prophet is so shocked by this “daughter of Babylon” that he curses her and goes back down into the cistern. Salomé’s unfulfillable desire has turned into an obsession; speaking of which, Narraboth’s has caused him to implode with sexual jealousy, since he can see she clearly prefers Iokanaan to him. Thus, he stabs himself and dies, fulfilling Herodias’ page’s dire prediction that his obsessive, mesmerized staring at Salomé would bring evil.

Of course, the young Syrian hasn’t been the only one staring at Salomé to the point of such ogling being dangerous. Herod enters with Herodias; he slips on Narraboth’s spilled blood, an obvious omen.

The tetrarch speaks of the silvery-white moon and Salomé’s pale skin, an evident identifying of the one with the other, just as Salomé has identified the chaste moon with celibate Iokanaan. We see more unions of opposites: virginity and whorish objects of desire, in both her and the prophet.

Herodias is annoyed with Herod’s staring at her daughter, with Iokanaan’s insulting diatribes against her, and Herod’s–to her, absurd–belief in omens and prophecies. She is a purely materialist, decadent queen: the moon is just the moon to her.

She wishes he would just give Iokanaan over to the ever-disputatious Jews, who come out and begin a clamorous storm of debating over whether Iokanaan has seen God, whether he is Elijah having returned, and whether this or that dogma is correct. This is another example of wanting to know mysteries, to see secrets.

In all of this arguing among the Jews, we see dramatized the dialectic of contradictory viewpoints. Added to this is the contradiction between the Jewish point of view and that of the Nazarenes, who now come onstage.

VIII: Revolution

Since the Crucifixion hasn’t happened yet, discussion of how the Messiah will save the Jews from their sins is never in the Pauline notion of a Divine Rescuer dying and resurrecting, so that believing in Him will confer God’s grace for the forgiveness of sins. Instead, salvation for the Jews is understood to come in the form of a revolution against Palestine’s Roman imperialist oppressors. Recall Matthew 10:34.

Revolution! Insurrection! Such words terrify decadent rulers like Herod and Herodias, who naturally don’t want to lose their privileges as members of the ruling class. Thus do we see the dialectic move, from the Hegelian sort we heard among the debating Jews, to the materialist sort that Marx discussed: the contradiction between the rich and poor.

Iokanaan prophesies the downfall of sinful rulers like incestuous Herod and Herodias, as well as the redemption of the downtrodden. As the prophet says at the beginning of Wilde’s play, “the solitary places shall be glad. They shall blossom like the rose. The eyes of the blind shall see the day, and the ears of the deaf shall be opened. The suckling child shall put his hand upon the dragon’s lair, he shall lead the lions by their manes.”

Such welcome changes can be seen to symbolize revolutionary relief given to the suffering. The blind seeing, and the deaf hearing, suggests the enlightenment of the poor, hitherto ignorant of the true causes of their sorrows. The idea of gladdened solitary places suggests the replacement of alienation with communal love. The suckling child, with his hand on the dragon’s lair, and leading the lions, suggests the end of the oppression of the weak by the strong, replacing it with equality.

Marx similarly prophesied the end of the rule of the bourgeois, to be replaced by communist society. The bourgeois today, like threatened Herod and Herodias, are scared of their imminent downfall, for many believe their days are numbered.

My associating Iokanaan with Marx is no idle fancy, for in 1891, the very same year Wilde wrote Salomé, he also wrote The Soul of Man under Socialism, inspired by his reading of Peter Kropotkin, and in which Wilde considered Jesus to be a symbol of the extreme individualist he idealized. Wilde would also have been aware of the short-lived Paris Commune twenty years prior, which Marx joyfully described as being a manifestation of his notion of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

IX: The Music

It seems apposite, at this belated point, finally to discuss Strauss’s music. Influenced by Wagner’s musical dramas, Strauss used Leitmotivs (“leading motives”) for each character in Salomé, as well as for many key moments or concepts in the story.

There’s the light, dreamy Leitmotiv heard when Narraboth expresses his admiration for Salomé’s beauty at the beginning of the opera. There’s the Leitmotiv when she sings of wanting “den Kopf des Jochanaan,” which gets increasingly dissonant with her every iteration of the demand for it, to ever-reluctant Herod.

And there are Leitmotivs for Iokanaan and his prophetic abilities, the former being a stately, dignified chordal theme heard on the horns; and the latter melody being a trio of fourths, C down to G, then F down to C, then–instead of another, third perfect fourth–there’s a tritone of A down to D-sharp, then up to E, now a perfect fourth (relative to the previous A). These three sets of perfect fourths symbolize Triune, holy, divine perfection; the tritone, though the diabolus in musica, nonetheless resolves to E, symbolizing a prophecy of sinning imperfection soon to be made perfect, redeemed.

Strauss, as a late Romantic/early modern composer, anticipated many of the revolutionary musical ideas soon to be realized in full by such modernists as Stravinsky, Bartók, Schoenberg, and Webern. Strauss was thus a kind of musical Iokanaan. Strauss, through his extreme chromaticism, pushed tonality to its limits, while not quite emancipating the dissonance, as Schoenberg would soon do. Since some have seen the emancipation of the dissonance as linked with the emancipation of society and of humanity, the music of Strauss–as musical Iokanaan–can be seen symbolically as heralding the coming of that social liberation I mentioned above.

The harsh discords in his score symbolize the contradictions not only in the class conflict between the decadent rulers (puppet rulers for imperial Rome) and the oppressed poor, but also in the conflicts between what Narraboth, Salomé, Iokanaan, Herod, and Herodias each wants. Also, the contrast between these dissonant moments and the prettier, more tuneful sections suggests the dialectical relationships between beauty and ugliness, and love and loathing.

Finally, the choice of ‘harsh‘ (at least from the point of view of English speakers), guttural German–instead of Wilde’s erotically lyrical (if a tad idiosyncratic) French–reinforces the dramatic tension, especially when Salomé demands the prophet’s head on a silver charger.

X: Dance for Me, Salomé

Back to the story. Herod is so obviously troubled, on the one hand by the threats Iokanaan is making against his rule, and on the other by his fear of the prophet as a man of God–which means he can’t kill him–that the soldiers note the tetrarch’s sombre look.

Herod hopes that Salomé will dance for him, to take his mind off his troubles. This escape into sensuous pleasure is an example of the manic defence, to avoid facing up to what makes one so unhappy.

Always annoyed that her husband stares lustfully at her daughter, Herodias forbids Salomé to dance for him. But his oath to give her anything she wants, even to half of his kingdom, puts a sly grin on her face and a twinkle in her eye; so Salome agrees to dance.

Wilde‘s brief stage direction, of Salomé dancing in seven veils, has been made so much of. It says nothing explicitly of a striptease, but why else would she dance in those veils, if not to remove them one by one?

Strauss’s exotic, sensuous music certainly makes much of the dance, starting with a slow, erotic, mysterious aura and building up to a fast, frenzied, and dissonant climax, once almost all (or absolutely all, depending on the boldness of the woman playing Salomé) of the veils have been removed.

XI: Getting Naked

As each veil is removed, more of the mysteries of her body are revealed to horny Herod, just as the mystery of Iokanaan was revealed to lascivious Salomé when he emerged from the vaginal cistern. This story is all about the desire to have secrets revealed, including, as the Jews obsess over, the mysteries of God, through such things as prophecies, as the Nazarenes are concerned with. Mysteries thus may be sensual or spiritual: note the dialectical relationship between these two.

While we usually think of men objectifying women, as Herod is doing with Salomé here, in Salomé the objectifying is a two-way street, since she lusts after chaste Iokanaan. And while it is usual and correct to be concerned with the injuries done to female strippers, sex workers, and pornographic models and actresses, consider how pathetic the men are, those addicted to porn, prostitutes, and strippers, using these as a manic defence to avoid facing their own sadness. Consider their shame at knowing what pigs they’re being (or at least seen as being), each a modern Herod, walking guiltily in and out of strip joints, whorehouses, and the porn sections of DVD rentals.

There are two sides to objectification: the view to destroy, as Salomé does to Iokanaan, and as Herod does to Salomé at the end of the opera; and there’s the view to admire, to worship the beautiful object, as any connoisseur of art understands…and as Salomé and Herod also do to their adored objects. Looking to admire and to destroy are, again, dialectically related. This obsessive urge to look, a pagan adoration of divinity that is–in this opera–thematically related to whether or not the Jew or Nazarene has ‘seen’ God, is also a weakness that can be exploited.

Salomé is certainly using her sexuality to take advantage of this weakness of Herod’s. And since, on the one hand, the tetrarch is objectifying and using her for his pleasure, getting her to strip down to a state of nude vulnerability; and on the other hand, she’s turning his lust against him, we have here a male/female variant of Hegel‘s master/slave dialectic, or a dialectic of feminism meeting antifeminism.

XII: Switching Roles

The master (Herod) uses the, so to speak, slave (Salomé) for his own pleasure, but she uses her creativity (her dance) to build up her own mastery over him. Thus, master and slave switch roles, making her especially triumphant, since she’ll cause the doom of two men–decapitated Iokanaan, and the revolutionary toppling of Herod, as it is assumed will happen to him when the Nazarenes (and God!) are so enraged to learn of the execution of their beloved prophet.

Women are perceived to be inspiring of lust and sin (the misogynistic, antifeminist side of the dialectic), yet Salomé and Herodias triumph in thwarting the tetrarch and killing the male religious authority (the feminist side). What’s more, Salomé is all the more feminist in wishing for Iokanaan’s head for her own pleasure, not out of obedience to her mother.

Herod pleads with Salomé to ask for something else. The tetrarch has made himself a slave to his oath, of which she’s the master. He offers her rare jewels, ones even her mother doesn’t know he has; he offers her rare white peacocks. All she does is repeat her demand for “den Kopf des Jochanaan,” each time given more and more aggressively, with increasingly tense music in the background. Finally, he is forced, in all exasperation, to relent.

XIII: The Head

When the executioner is down in the dark cistern, Salomé waits by the hole and listens. Suspense is built when she hears nothing. She grows impatient, thinking she’ll need the soldiers to do the job she imagines the slave who went down with his axe is too incompetent or cowardly to do. Nonetheless, he emerges with Iokanaan’s bloody head. The ruling class’s indulgence of their petty desires always brings about violence of this sort.

Still, there are contradictions even among the desires of the different members of the ruling class. Herod is horrified to see Salomé’s maniacal gazing at the head, but Herodias is pleased to no end. Salomé kisses the mouth, triumphant in having achieved what the living prophet refused to let her do. In her mania, she imagines for the moment that Iokanaan’s eyes should be looking at her, as if the severed head could possibly be alive. She is thus disappointed that the eyes don’t look at her.

She wishes that he could have accepted her love, that if he’d looked at her, that if he’d just let her kiss his mouth, he would have loved her back, for love is a greater mystery than death.

XIV: Decapitation as Symbolic Castration

Since Wilde’s use of baiser has the implied secondary meaning of “to fuck,” and since she says, “Ah! thou wouldst not suffer me to kiss thy mouth, Jokanaan. Well! I will kiss it now. I will bite it with my teeth as one bites a ripe fruit. Yes, I will kiss thy mouth, Jokanaan,” she is implying that she has a symbolic vagina dentata, which will castrate him when they make love. She compares his body to a column of ivory, a column being a phallic symbol. Thus, ‘fucking’ his mouth with the implied vagina dentata means his decapitation is a symbolic castration.

Herod’s unwillingness to have Iokanaan beheaded is thus an example of castration anxiety, especially since loss of the phallus is a symbolic loss of power. Herod’s fear of Iokanaan’s execution provoking a Nazarene revolution, spearheaded by none other than God, reinforces this symbolic fear of castration. Iokanaan’s “Kopf” is a cock.

XV: Conclusion–Who Wins the Sex War (and the Class War)?

Salomé (and by extension Herodias, since she has wanted Iokanaan’s death from the beginning), having the prophet’s head in her arms, is now symbolically the powerful phallic woman. She, especially in her madness and perversity, is a threat to Herod. Regarding her as “monstrous,” he orders all the torches to be put out. He says, “Hide the moon! Hide the stars!” For the whiteness of the moon and stars resemble her pale skin far too much for his comfort.

Finally, the male/female dialectic sways back in the antifeminist direction, and Herod orders his soldiers to “Kill that woman!” The men surround Salomé with their shields, and crush her to death with them, ending the opera with a barrage of discords.

Still, we know that the days of all decadent kings and queens–as well as those of the tetrarch, it seems–are numbered. Herod is still quaking in fear over the consequences of killing a holy man. The Nazarenes believe the tetrarch cannot stop the march of God through history, just as we Marxists believe the bourgeoisie cannot stop the dialectical movement of historical materialism.

Herod can hide the moon and the stars for only so long. Recall Iokanaan’s words: “In that day the sun shall become black like sackcloth of hair, and the moon shall become like blood, and the stars of the heaven shall fall upon the earth like unripe figs that fall from the fig-tree, and the kings of the earth shall be afraid.”

Furthermore, Salomé may be dead, but her double, that pale moon overhead, is still shining. In his poem, ‘Problems of Gender,’ Robert Graves wondered which gender to assign the moon, asking, “who controls the regal powers of night?” In Salomé, I think we know which sex controls them.

‘Claws,’ an Erotic Horror Novel, Chapter Twelve

The next day, Detectives Surian and Thurston were sitting on a bench in a dry-cleaning store, waiting to talk with the mom and pop owners, both of them of Polynesian descent. The detectives were watching a video recording on Surian’s cellphone.

“How were you able to sneak a hidden camera into Dr. Visner’s office without him or his receptionist knowing?” Thurston asked.

“I think ‘Chloe’ used her powers to distract those two so I could get in,” Surian said, trying to fast-forward the video to the exact point where Visner’s session with Callie began. “The door to his office was conveniently left open, with neither the shrink nor the receptionist around at the time to see what I was doing there.”

“If ‘Chloe’ used her powers to help you get info,” Thurston said, “then this must be part of a trap she’s laying for us. We’d better be careful.”

“Yeah, I know,” Surian said. “We’ve always known the dangers involved in pursuing her. Let it work. We need everything we can get to learn as much as possible about her. We’ll have her hoisted on her own petard soon enough. By the way, since I’ve already watched this video recording, I know what name she goes by from day to day: Callie Seaver.”

“So, ‘Chloe’ is just her stripper stage name?”

“Yes. It’s also Sandra Brahms’s mother’s name. And Callie is Sandra’s middle name, and Seaver was her mother’s maiden name.”

“Hmm. Interesting set of coincidences.”

The store owners walked up to them.

“Hello,” the female owner said. “My name is Vanessa Yama, and this is my husband, Raymond.”

The detectives got up and shook their hands. “Hi. Detective Andrew Thurston. Call me Andy.”

“Detective Agnes Surian,” she said, shaking Vanessa’s hand. “To get an idea of what I was talking about before with you, let’s watch this video I got of ‘Chloe,’ the stripper name of Callie Seaver, during a psychotherapy session with a man named Dr. Visner.”

“They allowed you to record this?” Vanessa asked.

“No, but I think the spirit inside Callie allowed me to sneak in and put a hidden camera in the room,” Surian said.

“If Kluh helped you do that, then she has plans for you as well as Callie and the psychiatrist,” Raymond said. “Kluh is all about…bringing people together.”

“So, what do you know about this ‘Kluh’?” Thurston asked.

“Let’s watch the video first, to see if this Callie really is possessed by the demoness,” Vanessa said. “We’ll be able to tell by her manner if Kluh is controlling her.”

They all sat side by side on that bench with Surian in the middle, all of them leaning over to look at her cellphone. She pressed PLAY.

“So, what has Kluh done lately, besides almost seduce me in The Gold Star?” Dr. Visner asked Callie in the video.

“I seduced one of the two cops who have been following me,” she said. “He was fun in bed.” She giggled.

Thurston’s face went red. Surian looked over at him and smirked. Now the Yamas’ faces went red.

“Did the beast claw him to death?” Visner asked as he jotted a few notes down. “I didn’t hear anything in the news about any killings lately.”

“We’ve heard about all those killings, of course,” Raymond said. “A hairy female beast with claws slices up her male lovers during sex. That sounds like Kluh.”

“And the girl in the video sure looks like a typical female host for the spirit,” Vanessa said. “Beautiful, sexy, and seductive.”

“Kluh can change the physical appearance of the host to make her more attractive to men,” Raymond said.

“We suspect that ‘Callie Seaver’ was originally Sandra Brahms,” Surian added. “A rather plump teenage girl sexually abused by her stepfather, who was killed by the beast in Hamilton a month or so ago.”

“She wrote about trying to contact the spirit world in several entries in a diary we found in her stepfather’s house in Hamilton,” Thurston said. “She tried to contact her mother’s ghost.”

“That is how Kluh is typically summoned,” Vanessa said with widened eyes. “The demoness initially pretends to be the ghost of a loved one trying to communicate with it. She exploits the emotional weaknesses of people she wants to take over, to get in.”

“Hey, let’s pay attention to the video,” Surian said. “Watch what Callie is doing. She’s undressing in front of the shrink!”

“Callie, please don’t do that,” Visner said, covering his nose and mouth. “That isn’t just any old perfume, is it?”

“Kluh’s pheromones,” Raymond said. “Her aphrodisiac for luring you in.”

In the video, Callie was standing before Dr. Visner in only a black lace bra and panties, and in black high heels.

“C’mon, Doctor,” she said, unhooking her bra. “You’ve seen it all already. Live a little.” She removed it and shook her breasts.

“She must be Kluh,” Vanessa said, noting the black panties coming off. “This is exactly the kind of exhibitionism we’d expect from the sex demoness. We’ve seen enough. We’re convinced this girl is the host.”

Surian stopped the video, saying, “Right when it was getting interesting.” She set her phone up to get an MP3 recording of her conversation with the Yamas. “OK, what do you know about Kluh? What does she want? How’s she going to get it?”

“I remember hearing stories about a ghost named Kluh back in my childhood, when Raymond and I grew up in Tahaiwi,” Vanessa said.

“Tahaiwi?” Thurston asked.

“It’s a small, obscure island in the Pacific Ocean, just south of the Equator at the northeastern-most point of the Polynesian triangle,” Raymond said. Thurston and Surian still had confused looks on their faces. “It’s northeast of the Marquesas Islands.”

“Thanks for the geography lesson,” Thurston said. “But what about Kluh?”

“To know about Kluh, you need to know a bit about Polynesian beliefs,” Vanessa said. “Our gods are similar to those of other Polynesians, but we have a lot of local beliefs that are really different from theirs, including how we conceive of mana.”

“What’s that?” Surian asked.

“It’s a special power in all living beings, but some have more of it than others, due to political influence, success in war, or, as we in Tahaiwi understand it, due to a stronger connection with the spirit world, which unifies everything,” Raymond said.

“We Polynesians stress the duality of all life,” Vanessa explained. “Body vs. spirit, good/evil, birth/death, pleasure/pain, etc. But in Tahaiwi, mana can grow through the merging of opposites.”

“OK,” Surian said. “But where does Kluh come into all of this?”

“Well, she builds power by uniting such opposites as beauty and ugliness–for example, having a sexy body, then turning into the horrible, clawed beast. She has sex, implying the creation of life, then kills her lover, causing the end of life,” Vanessa said.

“The merging of her spirit with Callie’s body is another merging of opposites,” Raymond added. “The same is true of her merging of opposing identities: the uniting of self and other.”

“That’s what Kluh has done with Callie,” said Vanessa. “And she’ll continue to do that, again and again, until…” She paused, not knowing how to continue.

“Until what?” Thurston asked.

“It’s hard to say,” Vanessa said. “It’ll sound over-the-top. You won’t believe it.”

“Just say it,” Thurston said.

“Until she’s absorbed all life on this planet, making it all a part of her,” Raymond said. “Causing the end of everything as we know it, like the end of the world. Then, there will be a new beginning. The end of the old life cycle, and the beginning of a new one.”

“You’re right,” Surian said. “I don’t believe it.”

“Look, all you need to know is that we need to stop her before she kills again,” Vanessa said. “We’ll need to do an exorcism as soon as possible, before she gains any more power. I’m not sure if we’ll be able to stop her as it is, but we must try.”

“Yes,” Raymond said. “Let’s go over to her place right now. You know where she lives?”

“Yes,” Surian said. “Let’s go.”