Straight and True, My Arrow, Fly by Tony Noland
On a king-size bed in a discreet motel, a man and a woman regard each other ecstatically and embrace. She runs her fingers through his curly brown hair, bright red fingernails scraping deliciously along his scalp. He cups her breasts through her blouse, feeling her arousal demonstrate itself in the hardening of her nipples. From the parking lot, the yellow sodium light filters through the curtains, giving everything a fiery, hungry cast.
He kisses her chin, her throat, and undoes the topmost mother-of-pearl button on her dark blue blouse so he can kiss the pale expanse of her. She knows that he likes the way her silver necklace looks against her bare skin, that he loves to see it dangle as she moves above him; she wore it tonight so he could see it on her that way, so he could catch at it with his teeth… but not yet. Not yet. They do not rush to strip themselves naked – there is plenty of time, and the anticipation is delirious. Mouths and fingers explore and caress, soft breath plays on warm skin.
They are so entwined, so lost in each other, they fail to notice the opening of their door and the slender man who slips through. He is dressed all in gray, with sleek, black hair and frightening eyes, of a deep, flecked green so cold as to make one think of polished Italian marble. The silvery moonlight glints off the barbed steel tip of the weapon he has pointed at the bed. With a darkening scowl, he closes the door behind him with his foot. It makes a solid “click”, and the man and woman on the bed jump at the sound, recoiling so violently the headboard bangs against the wall. She turns on the light and screams when she sees that the intruder is armed. The man shouts and moves fast to get out of bed, his shirttails flapping out of his unbuttoned jeans.
The would-be lover is coming around, low and ready for a tackle when he realizes the slender man has drawn back the bowstring of his enormous compound bow, drawn it back tight. The long, razor-tipped arrow is pointed straight at the woman. Even through the intruder’s silk shirt, ropy muscles bulge, their sharply defined ridges rippling across his torso and shoulders. For a moment, no one moves. Then, in a voice that is arresting, almost hypnotic in its round, measured tones, the intruder speaks.
“This arrow will kill her instantly, Neil, so sit down.” Neil hesitates, then sits on the edge of the bed. The smooth, dangerous man continues, “Jessica, I’m here on behalf of your husband.”
Jessica stifles another scream and pulls her blouse closed, fisted tightly as though it were some protection. Neil gets on his knees, moves in front of Jessica to defend her with his body.
“He hired a hit man?” Neil says. “What the hell for? He could have just said something and… and we could have had it out. There’s no reason to kill her.” Neil is pale, the sweat of fear driving away the lingering sweat of passion. Still, he does not move from between the arrow tip and his lover.
“I’m also here on behalf of your wife, Neil, and I’m not here to kill either of you.” The intruder relaxes the bowstring, but leaves his fingers on the arrow shaft, ready to fire.
“Then… ” Jessica is finding it difficult to speak. “What do you… I mean, what are you here to do? What do you want?”
“My name is Eros. I’m the god of love, and I’m here to end -” he waves at them in the bed, “- this.”
The two of them stare at him. Even as their questions and objections rise up, doubt does not. No one can fail to believe when faced with a deity who has revealed himself.
Jessica says, “The god of love? You mean… like Cupid?” Eros nods, the tip of the arrow waving up and down. “But we’re already in love,” she says, “You don’t need to shoot us with some kind of magic arrow!” Jessica clutches Neil from behind, her arms tight across his shoulders and chest.
Eros grimaces and shakes his head. “This isn’t love – it’s a mockery of it. You’re lusting so heavily for each other that you’ve only convinced yourselves that it’s love. Home and hearth and filial loyalty – that’s the wellspring of real love. Both of you want to get love the easy way, without investing time and energy into your relationships.” He shakes his head again. “That’s not how it works. Love is a garden that takes constant tending, and you’ve turned your back on it. No, Jessica, I’m going to put a stop to this and send you both back to your homes and spouses, where your true loves lie dormant.”
He raises the bow and draws the string, the iridescent black bow refracting in the yellow light.
Neil is frantic, says “Hey, you said that arrow would kill her!”
“So it would,” says Eros. He runs his fingers over the arrow fletching. The long feathers turn from blood red to bright golden yellow to dull grey.
“So… the gold ones make you fall in love?” Jessica asks. “Then can’t you -“
“But… the tip didn’t change,” she says, eyes fixed on the jagged metal tip. “The colors changed, but the tip didn’t! Why not?”
“Love always hurts, Jessica. Coming and going.” Faster than either of them can react, Eros shoots Neil in the chest, the barbed tip plunging deep into his heart, the pale wooden shaft quivering with the impact. Before Jessica has time to scream, a second arrow finds her. From her chest as from his, a thick stream of heart’s blood jets into the air, evaporating and dissipating into a thick reddish mist. They both collapse on the bed as the untoward lust is vented from their hearts. As the flow slows and stops, their phantom wounds close over, the twin arrows shafts fading to beams of silvery light dissolving over their unconscious bodies. Eros stands for a moment, looking at his victims before drawing a deep, deep, chest-cracking breath. He fills his lungs with trysting air still thick with lust, pauses, then exhales to fill the room with the clear, sweet scent of home and true love. This task complete, he sighs, opens the door, and walks out, closing it softly behind him.
On a king-size bed in a discreet motel, a man and a woman regard each other guiltily and separate.
Tony Noland is a writer, blogger and poet in Philadelphia. He takes his writing seriously, but has gotten a reputation as a funny guy. Most of his work is science fiction, literary fiction and magical realism. Tony is active on Twitter as @TonyNoland, and at his writing blog Landless.