Venus lives precariously close to the Sun, quite out of Mars's reach. Mars can only watch as waltzing Venus burns with madness in the Sun's aura. For eons they have been intimate strangers. Recognition without knowledge. Mars dare not, cannot approach; it would upset the celestial balance. Between them lay all of Humanity; an indifferent hindrance.
Two dozen doors had opened in the dimly lit corridor and at once each was filled with a silent, curious occupant. Each of them witnessed the unusual sight of a terrified, naked woman standing near a man in his undershorts, who was holding a candelabra and a torn nightgown. There was no movement. There was no sound. Venus's mind was one big short circuit at that moment. She had frozen into a pretzel-like position, vainly attempting to cover herself with her arms and legs. Her face was screaming but only a faint hissing sound came from her mouth. Not a word was spoken by anyone in the seemingly endless few seconds before two dozen occupants shook their heads, went back inside their apartments and bolted their doors again. This was almost more maddening for Venus; for now she wasn't sure that what just happened had really happened. For the very first time she thought she might be going mad.
Mars spoke, interrupting
the sirens in Venus' head. He quietly put the candelabra down on the floor,
and approaching Venus, held out the torn nightgown with both hands. He slowly
wrapped the gown around the still quivering hysterical woman, covering her the
best he could. He apologized for running after her and accidentally tearing
her clothes off. Venus, still in that pretzel position, began blubbering softly.
Mars listened but couldn't make it out. Then he asked if he could help her back
to her apartment. She didn't answer. She couldn't answer. She didn't even look
at him. Venus was in shock. Mars didn't know what to do with her. He looked
up and down the corridor, as if the answer might be there. He couldn't just
leave her there in the hall way like this. He had no idea where she lived. If
he knew her name he could look it up. She certainly wasn't carrying any identification.
Mars asked her several more times which apartment she lived in. It was no use.
He decided to take her back to his place long enough to call the guys in the
white coats to come and get her. He figured he could put up with her for that
long, provided he keep sharp objects away from her. Heavy objects too, he thought,
especially that candelabra.
Mars gently put his arms around Venus' shoulders and turned her toward his apartment. Slowly he got her to put one foot in front of the other. Mars picked up the candelabra as they passed it. He consoled her along the way back to his apartment. They were only two hallways away from it but it seemed to take forever to get there. Each time they passed a shuttered window Venus would look at it and begin to laugh uncontrollably for a few moments before lapsing back into her trance. By the time they did get to Mar's apartment Venus had ceased her blubbering and had lapsed into silence, staring at the floor. Mars didn't know if this was a sign of improvement or worsening.
Mars sat Venus in a large overstuffed chair. He fetched a blanket from his bed and wrapped it around her. In a soothing tone of voice, he told her to relax. He tried telling her that what had happened in the corridor was no big deal, and that it could've happened to anyone. Venus just sat there staring at the floor. Mars had no way of knowing if she was hearing what he was saying. When he thought he'd said everything he could think of to make her feel better, he asked her to stay put, he'd be right back. First he got some more clothes on. Mars then went to make his phone call.
Who do you call? 911? He tried 911. He told them the story. The person on the other end of the line asked if this was an emergency. Mars asked her: If she had just lost her mind would she consider that an emergency? And wouldn't you want somebody to call for help? The other end of the phone said yes, but she couldn't help. It's not our kind of emergency, she said to try calling the police, and hung up. The police? Mars thought, "This person didn't commit a crime, she's sick". So, he called the hospital. After being put on hold twice, a nurse came on the phone to say: "If the victim is not bleeding to death as we speak, forget it. Call the police." She says and hangs up. Mars didn't want to call the police but if he didn't he'd be stuck with this crazy woman. He had to call the police. They said they'd send somebody right over.
Venus, all wrapped in the security of a nice, warm blanket, sitting deep down in a big overstuffed chair, had retreated to a safe place way down inside herself. Venus was now at the apogee in her orbit about the Sun. Waltzing around the fiery globe like a moth near a flame. By the time Mars came back into the room Venus was smiling with her eyes closed and softly humming childhood melodies to herself. This development Mars took as a good sign and it made him more at ease.
Mars spoke to her again, asking if she felt better now. She didn't hear what he said but she did hear the sound of his voice, so she looked in the direction it came from. She looked up and saw Mars standing directly in front of her. One imaginary world evaporated into another as her attention was drawn to Mars' voice. She slowly raised her eyes until they came to rest on his face. That face! The face in the painting in the ballroom. A smile of recognition widened across her face. Her eyes sparkled as they too smiled. Mars thought he heard her whisper the word "destiny", but he wasn't sure. He asked in vain, for her to repeat what she said. Then he asked her again in his most pleasant voice, where she lived. Nothing. He asked her what her name was. There was no response. It was as if she was deaf. Venus just sat there with that incredible smile on her face, staring straight into his. The smile of a person in the presence of greatness. That smile seemed out of place for the circumstances. This made Mars uneasy again. There was something going on inside this woman's head and it was a different show than the one going on out here in the real world. Mars looked around to make sure there weren't any sharp or heavy objects laying around. He wasn't about to turn his back on her now. He wanted to keep watch on those eyes of hers for any sign of what might be going on inside that head. Venus, smiling that unrealistic smile and rocking back and forth, saw that Mars was looking right into her eyes. Their eyes were locked on each other now.
Mars was looking right into her eyes and had been almost hypnotized from staring but he heard it this time when Venus again muttered the words, "it's destiny". Venus was really beginning to frighten Mars. He asked her what in the world she was talking about. Venus just sat there smiling and shaking her head like she couldn't believe her good luck. Mars wondered what was keeping those cops.
Venus' mind had woven it's own explanation for the events she could recall. She had come to see the wizard-prince, hoping that he could cure her of the spell she was under. He had graciously extended his hospitality to her, but she had yet to meet her host. Venus remembered dancing at the ball and meeting all the wonderful guests. Being desperate, she went on her search for the prince, thinking that surely she would eventually run into the prince in the passageways or find someone who knew what room he could be found in. Then, just when the spell had finally driven her mad she was rescued by the prince who's apartment she now sat in. Yeah, that was it. It was destiny that put that spell on her that led her to seek this particular wizard-prince. It was destiny that smashed that candelabra into that particular door, at that particular moment. It was destiny that chased her down that hall, tore off her nightgown, stole her voice and forced her to find refuge in this apartment. She rocked in her chair, wrapped in a blanket, smiling, for now, finally she'll have the spell broken.
The real reason for the madness overtaking Venus was an acute stress disorder brought on by, among other things, her job as an air-traffic controller, compounded by her loss of that job and the news that her husband was leaving her for another man. The ballroom she had danced in earlier was really the lobby of this 3rd rate apartment complex called 'The Camelot Apartments'. It had a cheezy neo-mideval theme-park achitecture. The large painting of the prince she saw was really an 8x10 photo of Mars, the superintendent of the building, stuck into one edge of a framed mirror in the lobby. The candelabra that she carried around in her search for the wizard-prince was in fact the only remaining possession left after her house in the suburbs burned to the ground. Something terrible it seems had happened to just about every person she ever loved. Talk about destiny.
Mars of course, knew nothing of this. Even though he was the building superintendent, he didn't know everybody in the building. He just fixed things when they didn't work. He stayed pretty much to himself. He certainly didn't know anything about tenants' private. Even if he had known Venus previously, he might not recognize her now. She had changed that much.
Mars got some soft drinks. This might help kill some time until the police got there. Venus stared at him in awe as he placed a cold soft drink in front of her on the coffee table. "Destiny?", Mars asked. The sudden change in her disposition and the look on her face made Mars nervous. He couldn't know what was going on inside Venus' head. He shrugged it off and asked her again if she was feeling better. She made a halting attempt to answer him uttering something to the affirmative but unable to find the words, drifted back into that stare of amazement. Mars wondered again to himself what happened to the cops. What was taking them so long. He nudged the soft drink in front of Venus closer to her and suggested she drink some.
Venus wobbled on her axis in her orbit about the Sun. "Of course!", she thought. "The drink! A magic potion. The one that could remove the spell". It was really just Pepsi. Venus reached out and took the aluminum can and, cradling it in her hands, raised it to her lips and took a sip. Then another. For the first time she noticed how bright and sunny it was in this room. It had tall windows and they were wide open with the drapes pulled aside. She took a deep breath and smelled the aroma of the honeysuckle and thyme that grew on the grounds around the apartment complex. The familiar odors brought her momentarily toward reality. She took another drink. She was waiting for something to happen. Her grip on reality was still weak.
Mars got up and went to the window to look for the police cars. They still hadn't arrived. As Mars was standing at the center of the knee-high window, he thought about calling them again.
Venus watched Mars at the window. He was facing away from her and seemed to have a halo around him as the Sun silhouetted his figure. A breeze billowed the curtains on either side of him. A heavenly aura appeared around him. Venus perceived this as a sign of Mars power and greatness as a wizard-prince. She uncrossed her legs out from under herself and planted her feet on the floor. Her gaze was transfixed on the image framed in the window. She had to touch his greatness. This would surely cure her, she thought. Venus slowly and silently rose from the chair she was sitting in, leaving the blanket she was wrapped in behind. The torn night gown was still loosely wrapped around her, hanging at odd angles. She made her way around the coffee table with catlike stealth.
The police had finally arrived at the apartment complex and had pulled up in front of the building three stories below where Mars stood at the window.
With a burst of speed, Venus sprinted, arms wide, across the remaining open space between her and Mars. On about the third or fourth step, Venus stepped on the dragging part of her nightgown, causing her to lose her balance. Mars turned around just in time to see Venus lunging at him and no time to react. Venus collided with Mars and they both tumbled out the window.
(to be continued.)
Way Out West ©1993 Martin Scherer. Venus & Mars © 1995 Martin Scherer. E-mail: Scherer@tesserak.net