For a moment, Maria doubted this course of action. She thought about the boy her parents wanted her to marry. She hated him. She’d do anything not to marry that lout. Anything. If she lost her virginity tonight, with Dimitru, it would greatly diminish her in the eyes of her fiancé’s family. Better, if she got pregnant, they would surely refuse to allow their son to marry her. Her parents would keep their farm. And maybe she’d be able to talk Dimitru out of this crazy notion of leaving their home and traipsing off to the other side of the world. With one simple act of mating, she could destroy her engagement and bind to her the man she really wanted. She smiled up at her lover.
In answer to his question, she reached down between her legs and confidently guided him to her entrance. Then she took the initiative by tilting her hips upwards and pulling him into her with her legs. She wanted him to understand how much she wanted this, wanted him. And she wanted to be in control of her own life.
He responded by pushing into her, his uncertainty mixed with raw lust that he could not control. This was a moment they had both long waited for and, now that it was here, both were impatient for it to happen.
She felt pain as he pierced her, though not as much as she had been prepared for. Every girl was different; perhaps she was one of the luckier ones when it came to losing her virginity. And then he was inside her. Completely inside her. It was strange and painful and wonderful all at the same time. She closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around him, clinging to him and letting the feelings wash through her as he thrust.
She felt him struggle with his own responses to her feminine body. It wasn’t long before he couldn’t take the pleasure any more. He tried to pull out.
Instinctively, she wrapped her legs around his buttocks, preventing him from pulling out.
“Maria…I have to-”
“But you could get pregnant,” he protested. They had grown up on farms. They’d seen how the animals did things. They knew how babies were made.
She pictured herself with a baby. His baby. And she knew that he would never be able to leave her then. “It’s ok. I want you. I want you to be happy. I love you.” And I don’t want to marry that lout, Ion.
He tried harder to pull away, though there was reluctance on his face. “We don’t have to. I don’t mind. I don’t want to pressure you.”
She rolled them over. On top now, looking down at him, she felt exposed, but powerful at the same time. She was in control now. She saw the naked desire in his face, took him deep inside of her, and had never felt more like a woman. She put her hands on his chest for support and then ground herself into him, putting all her effort into giving him pleasure.
His face twisted. His eyes hooded. “Maria… I’m so close. We have to stop,” he groaned, while no longer making any move to actually help that happen. She had pushed him past the point of logical reason. She had made him hers.
Maria felt alive. Her own excitement rose in tandem with his: the discovery of real sex; the position of power as she controlled him from above with her womanly body; the way he was no longer in control of himself because of his desire to spend himself inside of her, and how it was her who had brought forth that desire; the thought of his seed impregnating her so that they would be together forever. She knew it was wrong, knew that it was selfish to lead him into this, to emotionally and sexually manipulate his future for her own ends, but she didn’t care. She wanted this. She wanted him. She felt sexual energy within herself building and the anticipation of release drove her to thrilling new heights.
“Maria!” he cried out as his body released its hold.
She knew that he was flooding her womb with his seed with each grunt and buck of his hips and gloried in accepting it. She pictured a baby taking root within her body. She pictured the enraged look on Ion’s face as she smugly announced that she was no longer a virgin, and that the engagement was over. She pictured holding her baby in a small, neat home with devoted Dimitru by her side. It drove her wild. Her own body climaxed and she let all control go, her cries of pleasure loud and long, no doubt ringing far out into the night beyond their tiny cabin. Then she collapsed onto his chest and the two of them lay there, hearts pounding, breathing hard.
Dimitru laughed into her hair, a mixture of relief and happiness. She laughed too and they cuddled, safe and warm and happy, still joined, the two of them alone together in a world of uncertainty and a future that both scared and excited them.
The night was silent for several minutes. Then the horse’s whinny carried through to them. They ignored it. But it came again. Then again, and each time it rose in mounting fear.
Dimitru raised his head with concern.
Maria lifted hers too.
Then the horse began to scream.
They both shot up, nudity and sex forgotten. Normally, a horse will neigh or whinny or nicker. But this was a primal squeal so high and terrified that it pierced the walls of the cabin and curdled the couple’s blood. It felt like a wholly unnatural experience.
Maria felt her skin crawl. “What’s going on?”
They heard the horse banging and kicking at the walls of the stable, trying to escape her prison.
Dimitru jumped into his pants and then ran for the rifle. He unlocked the door and prepared to throw it open.
“No!” Maria called, huddling in fear on the bed. “Don’t go!”
“I have to. There’s someone out there. Or a bear. Or wolves.”
Maria ran to him and clung to him. “It’s too dangerous. You should stay.”
The horse screamed again.
Dimitru flung open the door. “Stay here. Lock it behind me.” And then he ran off into the night.
Maria froze for a moment, unable to believe that he’d left her. After basking together in the afterglow of their love-making only moments before, she felt suddenly cold, alone and abandoned. Then she came back to her senses, slammed the door and flung the lock closed. She ran to the window and pulled back the heavy curtain. It was pitch black outside and Dimitru hadn’t taken a lantern, so she couldn’t see him. Besides which, the stable was on the other side of the cabin.
She went back to the bed and grabbed her dress, hastily throwing it over her body. She stepped on something and saw the newspaper page laying neglected on the floorboards. It wouldn’t do to forget that and have Dimitru’s uncle discover it so she snatched it up, folded it, and stuffed it into a pocket. Then she sat on the couch, peeking into the night, listening and waiting. The sounds coming from the stable ceased. Had Dimitru reached the horse? She listened as hard as she could, but there were no sounds. Minutes passed and her worry increased with each moment.
Finally, Dimitru appeared again. He walked cautiously by the window, head swivelling, searching the woods around the cabin. Then he reached the door.
Maria raced to the portal and yanked it open, allowing him inside.
He closed the door behind him.
“What was wrong?” she asked.
He looked confused. And scared. “I don’t know.” His voice shook. “She’s gone. There’s only-” He cut himself off and looked too ill to speak.
For a moment, he looked like he was going to hold back, perhaps protecting her, then relented. “Blood. Blood everywhere.”
A bump at the window drew their attention. There was another soft thump, then another. Then so many it sounded like something was drumming on the glass. They glanced at each other.
Dimitru stepped forward. Slowly, he reached out and grabbed the edge of the curtain.
Maria held her breath.
Dimitru whipped the curtain open.
Maria’s hands flew to her mouth. “Oh my gosh!”
They stared in shock. Thousands and thousands of moths covered the window pane. Tiny bodies crashed into the glass, the winged insects killing themselves trying to break through in their mad frenzy.
A pop sounded in the fireplace, followed by a short sizzling. Then there was another, and another.
The fire flickered. Then something small flared and popped. More and more flares sparked in the fireplace.
Maria stepped closer, trying to figure out what was happening.
The popping increased. Something was falling out of the chimney and burning in the flames. That something was increasing. A burning fragment fluttered out of the fire and landed at her feet. It was a moth. It quickly burned alive.
She looked at Dimitru. “Moths. They’re trying to come in through the chimney!”
More insects fell down the stone shaft. Burning moths spilled out of the hearth in greater numbers. At first, the fire roared as it grew , fed by the winged corpses. But soon, so many of the bugs filled the chimney that smoke could no longer escape and it billowed into the cabin. The mass of accumulated dead started to smother the fire. Live moths streamed out of the chimney and into the cabin.
Maria screamed and tried to brush them away. But there were too many. They landed on her body, on her arms, crawled along her skin and buried their way deep into her hair. They tried to burrow up her nose and between her lips, everywhere leaving trails of powder from their wings. She sputtered, sneezed and spit. She tried to protect her nose and bat them away all at the same time. But it was no use. Scared and frustrated, she lunged for the poker next to the fireplace. She blindly jabbed at the fire, stirring it up, spreading out the dead moths, making it easier for the fire to get air and consume its fuel.
The fire roared up in appreciation. It spread, devouring more and more moths.
Maria saw a log half burning, half sticking out of the flames. She used the poker to drag it towards her. Whimpering in pain at the heat, she grasped the burning log and waved it all around her head. She smelled moths burning and felt their bodies drop to the floor. The cloud around her lessoned, allowing her to use her free hand to scrape the living insects from her face and body. She burned each one and sought out more, determined to get them all.
Dimitru, without fire to aid him, stood nearby, crushing the bugs with his hands and feet.
Eventually, the moths ceased their attack, leaving the two of them panting.
Maria clutched the firebrand in her hand so hard that her knuckles were white. She looked at Dimitru, fear-stricken mind unable to think straight. “What was that? What’s going on?”
He could only shake his head, as ignorant as she was.
They looked out the window. The mass of moths was gone.
“Maybe we shouldn’t have come out tonight of all nights after all.” Dimitru muttered.
Maria looked at him questioningly.
He looked embarrassed, then shrugged one shoulder. “All Hallow’s Night.”
Maria shivered. Could she have been wrong to mock her family’s traditions earlier? Could there actually be something to them? Something that would explain such a bizarre event? She opened her mouth to speak.
The window shattered with a mighty crack and shards flew about the room. Dimitru and Maria spun out of the way in self defence.
Maria rose from the floor. She checked her body. None of the glass had cut her.
Dimitru stood. He too looked unhurt. They glanced down at the object that had come through the window.
It was the owl. It lay there, face up, staring at them with dead eyes. The impact must have broken it’s neck.
“What is going on?” Maria screeched.
Dimitru came to her and wrapped his arms around her. “It’s ok. It’ll be ok.”
She trembled in his arms, unable to believe him. Some mysterious power stalked them and she felt incredibly vulnerable.
A fog crept up outside the window, obscuring the forest beyond. Eerie tendrils slipped inside the broken window. Something wet sizzled in the fire and Maria groaned. “Not again.”
Dimitru released her and stepped towards the hearth. Frowning, he knelt down and looked at whatever was dripping down the chimney.
Maria, not wanting to leave his side, followed.
Dimitru reached into the fireplace. His finger came back covered in red liquid. “Blood?” he wondered.
Maria felt a chill in her veins. “Blood?” She shook her head. “That’s impossible. No. I can’t take this anymore.” She turned and ran towards the bed, wanting nothing more than to bury beneath the covers and hide until morning. She got about two steps and froze.
The horse’s head lay propped up on the pillows of the bed. Her eyes had frozen wide and her lips were curled back in permanent terror.
Dimitru cursed from behind her.
Maria screamed. And screamed again. And couldn’t stop screaming, even when Dimitru’s arms wrapped around her and tugged her away. She couldn’t tear her eyes from the macabre sight of the bloody animal’s face and Dimitru had to bodily drag her away and turn her from the sight. She collapsed to the ground, unable to stand, unable to process the horror.