Chapter seventeen

Venus & Mars

Mars patted his breast again with his hands and with a voice squeaky from lack of use said, "It is I, Mars. Donít be afraid."

Venus squinted at him, leaning forward. She barely recognized him in the dim light but it was him alright. She covered her gaping mouth with her hand exclaiming softly, "You look so different. What happened? What are you doing here?"

"I might ask you the same question." Mars replied.

Venus laughed and agreed, letting her queries go unanswered. She and Mars sat there across the fire from each other with the same thoughts going through both their heads: "Of all the strange things that have happened since we met, this is the strangest by far. And now what? Is this mine going to cave in on us? Does it all start over again? Why do our paths keep crossing? Is there some deeper meaning to all this? Am I going to wake up now?"

Their thoughts were interrupted by a sound. Mars recognized it immediately as a very soft version of the howling that drew him into this cave in the first place. It was very near but it's source was not easy to determine. Venus became alarmed as the sound grew in volume and she looked around her to see if she could see what was causing it. She now recognized it too as the sound sheíd followed in the tunnels. As the draft of the wind out of the mine increased so did the ghostly howling sound. The embers of the fire being, in a direct line of the draft, began to blow about the room like red-hot fire-flies. Venus and Mars got to their feet and covered their faces to avoid the swirling embers and tried to find a safe spot in the room while the howling grew louder. By now burning embers had settled on the bed and other debris in the chamber and the wind fanned them into flames. Smoke began to fill the room.

"Letís get out of here!" Mars cried as he took Venus be the arm. "Get down on the floor and follow me."

They quickly crawled across the room toward the exit tunnel. When they got there, it was still blocked by a crate of bottles. Mars began to laugh out loud. Heíd found the source of the howling sound. The wind going out of the mine increased in velocity as it came to this narrow point, then blew across the mouths of the bottles creating a sound that was amplified by the room acting as a resonator and then sent out the exit tunnel which acts like a trumpet horn. He moved the crate out of the way and the sound instantly ceased. Venus and Mars crawled the next few yards into the tunnel, then got to their feet and ran the rest of the way out.

It was daybreak. Mars walked away from the mine entrance shaking his head, laughing and coughing. Venus followed him to his old campsite where they both lay down filling their lungs with large gulps of fresh air.

Mars tried not to think what he was thinking; that it was starting all over again. Thereís no escaping this woman. Just when he thought she was gone forever and he could live happily ever after out here alone in the wilderness, she appears out of nowhere. Under ground, yet! And the place catches on fire! What next?

"I think I ought to tell you," Venus said, breaking the silence, "I was being chased by some commandoís when I fell into that mine." She turned her head and looked at Mars. "I mean, they might still be looking for me."

Mars groaned, covering his eyes. "Commandoís?! Never mind, I donít want to know."

"I think I saw something I wasnít supposed to see. You wouldnít believe it if I told you."

"Then donít." Mars said, and to change the subject added, "You must be hungry. I still have some things I gathered yesterday. Letís eat." Mars built a small fire and then they ate in silence. They both couldnít help thinking there must be some reason for these coincidences but neither of them wanted to be the first to talk about it out loud.

Mars, regardless of his feelings about his not being able to avoid Venus, was still able to maintain a Zen attitude about his situation. "No matter what happens," he thought, "it will happen. I am but a leaf in the storm." Still, the coincidences were compelling. Itís not like they ran into each other on the street somewhere. The odds on running into each other in that mine are astronomical. The moment Venus entered that room in the mine, Mars hit his head on a shelf, and that room did catch on fire.

Venusí mind was full of questions for Mars; about what happened to make him come here and end up looking like this. What was he doing out here? About the dreams; did he have the same dreams? What did he think about these coincidences?

She was paranoid about the army finding her. They couldnít be too far away. It was impossible to relax. What should we do?

Venus never asked any of those questions out loud. From every encounter she ever had with Mars she couldnít blame him for wanting to avoid her, maybe even disliking her. Even she could see how she appeared to be a jinx but she couldnít help it if they kept being thrown together like this. Venus couldnít read anything in the expression on Marís face behind that unkempt hair and beard. His weathered look made him appear older than his true age and gave him an air of a man whoíd seen a lot of hardship and suffering. He appeared to be very healthy and fit, though weathered. His eyes though, spoke of a quickness of intelligence, a the joy of discovery and a gentleness that hinted of a deeper man.

By the time they were done eating, the fire in the mine seemed to have burned itself out. Smoke had stopped coming out of the mine entrance. As he extinguished their campfire, Mars thought how lucky they were that there werenít any explosives among those tools stored in the mine.

Mars thought it best to take Venus to the base camp. There were more of the comforts there that civilized people require and there was no to reason to stay here any longer. The camp was a half-dayís walk from here.

On the way Venus told Mars of her adventures leading up to the present. From the ĎBlues Bros.í to the Nazi Youth, then Wohaka and the US Army. The photographs, her poetry, the scenery, her dreams, and everything. When she concluded her tale Mars told of his adventures and encounters and his dreams. At first Venus actually winced at parts of his story and almost cried at one point. However, his was a story so bizarre that it was actually funny in itís retelling. By the time they got to the campsite they were both laughing so hard that tears ran down their cheeks.

They took turns bathing in the creek and washing their clothes. While Venus was washing her things Mars went off to catch some fish and gather some other food stuffs.

That evening, around a campfire Venus and Mars compared their stories again, noting the similarity of the times and content of their dreams. They also noted the number of deaths theyíve witnessed, as well as their encounter with the aliens. In the middle of it all of course were Venus and Mars.

"So, here we are." Venus said, shrugging her shoulders. "Now what?"

"Weíll just have to see what happens." Mars answered. "But you canít sit around waiting for it. You just get up every morning and try to enjoy your life. Whatever happens, deal with it. Worrying about it has no effect on the results."

"But are we just going to stay out here in the woods? I mean, youíre camping here, right? Youíll be going back to civilization soon, right?"

"This is my home now." Mars answered. "I have absolutely no need for civilization." He added with a chuckle. Then looking at Venus and sensing her dread of the concept of actually living here in these woods, Mars offered a bit of advice. "No offense but, you mustnít think of life in terms of supermarkets, 9 to 5 jobs and flip-switch convenience . . . even if you decide to go back to civilization."

"No offense but, uh, point the way." Venus countered in a huff.

"Just follow the creek through that narrow gap in the mountain to the river. At the river follow the railroad tracks downstream until you come to a highway - about a two or three day walk. From the highway itís five miles East to the nearest town."

"Iím sorry," Venus said "I didnít mean to snap at you. Youíve been very kind offering me food and comfort. Iím much obliged." Then shifting nervously, "Itís just that I donít want to live like a caveman. Call me spoiled, or whatever you want - I want civilization. I need civilization. I feel like a refugee out here."

"Again, no offense but you are a refugee. Youíre caught between worlds. You could go back to civilization but youíll have nothing but the clothes on your back, no identification, no money, no transportation, no address, no place to go - and youíll be a wanted criminal by your own government. Or, you could live here. Youíll still be a wanted criminal but weíre off the military reservation here. They wonít be coming around here."

"Or, I could go back and give my self up to the authorities. Iím not a spy and they probably donít have much of a case against me. Eventually Iíd get my life back in order." Venus said shrugging her shoulders. "Iíd rather take my chances in the civilized world than live out here on a mere survival level."

It had gotten late and so Venus and Mars retired to their sleeping places. Venus to a mummy bag in a small dome-tent, Mars to a hammock.

Venus lay in her tent thinking about her situation. She was at a quandary. Besides the one theyíd just discussed around the campfire, there was the reality of Venusí attraction to Mars. This was puzzling because she found nothing particularly attractive about him. She found a few things about him quite unattractive. Never the less, the more time she spent with Mars the fonder she grew of him. He was a nice guy and intelligent and if he was cleaned up heíd be fairly good looking too but she couldnít have anything to do with him if he insisted on living out here like a caveman. Heíd have to live alone, or at least not with Venus. Thus satisfied she allowed herself to go to sleep.

Lying in his hammock, Marís thoughts too were drawn to Venus. Though he really wanted nothing to do with her and wondered why they kept running into each other, he wondered also what she was like; as a person, a woman, a companion, that is. Venus was pleasant company, when she wasnít mentally disturbed, and though not particularly beautiful, she wasnít unpleasant to look at. Mars judged from her poetry that Venus was creatively talented. He too had feelings of attraction for Venus and he too couldnít understand why. He suspected that animal instinct was doing itís thing. He kept flashing back to his dreams of her as well. He couldnít help thinking that it meant something. Heíd spent the last two years of his life cursing her existence, having been beaten like a dog every time he so much as thought about her. Now he was feeling something like infatuation, or at the least affection. Before he went to sleep though heíd decided it wasnít a good idea to get involved with Venus. It wouldnít work out. On the other hand, since it was impossible to avoid her, heíd just have to go with the flow. He couldn't help wondering though, 'what if . . .'

Sleep overtook the two and eventually they came to dream. They dreamed of each other. They each had the same dream, as if it was broadcast directly to their brains.

In this dream, judging from his attire and surroundings, it appeared as though Mars was a very wealthy man. He looked every inch the millionaire and quite comfortable with the part. He and Venus were sitting at a glass table set for brunch on the veranda of a palatial home at the edge of the sea somewhere in the tropics.

Mars wiped his lips with a napkin, rose to his feet and went to the railing, leaning on it heavily. He stared out to the vast, empty, featureless sea.

"Whatís the matter, darling?" Venus asked, sounding concerned.

Just when she thought he wasnít going to answer, he replied in a tone that at once expressed his irritation and exasperation. "Wealth is such a bore."

"Oh, not that old gripe again." Venus teased him. "Well, you tried spending it all and that didnít work. You tried to give it all away and got carpal tunnel syndrome from writing checks while thousands of people camped out in our front yard. Thatís why we had to move to this island, remember?"

Mars turned and sat on the railing. Venus got up from the table and sat next to him. "Iíve come to realize," He said putting his arm around her, "itís not the money, itís all the accouterments that go with it."

"Learn to relax and live with it." Venus laughed. "Iím just as rich as you are and it doesnít bother me. If that gold mine gave out today weíd still have more money than we could possibly spend. We can afford to live any way we want. You could buy Canada and go live in the woods like you used to if you wanted."

"Would you go with me?" Mars asked with a straight face. After Venusí hesitant answer he replied. "I didnít think so." Then, with an affectionate hug he said "Thatís why Iím not in those woods right now. Because I want to be with you, my love. Where ever you are." With that, he turned and kissed her.

When they came up for air, Venus smiled, and with bedroom eyes cooed, "Do you mean it?"

They locked in a passionate embrace, kissing long and hard. Their passion was one thing that their wealth had no effect on. It wasnít long before they were rolling around on the veranda like a couple of nymphomaniacs.

The domestic help was discrete and made sure the couple went undisturbed and unobserved when Venus and Mars were in an amorous mood, which was quite frequent. The hired help was used to the sexual antics of their employers by now. It was known among the house staff that the mood could strike Venus and Mars at any moment, anywhere in the house or on the grounds. Their love-making was torrid and vocal. Two or three times a day sometimes. What went unobserved did not go unheard. In fact most of the house help was kept in a constant state of horniness from overhearing the shenanigans of their employers. No matter how discrete the help was, it was impossible not to hear what was going on around them.

However passionate their love-making was, it was not satisfying. It was not a matter of dysfunction, it was more like: too much is never enough. At the end of each sweaty, breathless session of carnal pleasure neither Venus or Mars could actually remember it, except in some vague way, as if it were a distant memory. However, neither of them ever mentioned it to the other.

That same evening they were at it once again. It began with a kiss in the living room on the sofa, in front of a roaring fire. They kisses and squeezed and groped and licked each other into a heightening frenzy. In the heat of passion Venusí high heels ripped large gashes in the sofaís upholstery fabric spilling the stuffing. When they rolled off the couch they knocked one of the legs off the gilded Louis XIV coffee table sending itís contents of lead-crystal and fine porcelain crashing across the floor. It crunched and dug into their flesh as they rolled around on the antique Persian rugs on the marble floor. Lamps were knocked over, their bulbs imploding with a spark. The lovers felt no pain as their cuts left bloody prints on everything they touched. Their clothes now reduced to shredded bloody rags lay strewn about the room. They took liqueurs from the bar and took turns pouring them on each other then licking the bloody cocktails off each otherís skin. The French doors rattled in the door jambs when Venus rode Mars like a bucking bronco. The crystal chandeliers danced jangling at the end of their chains as the couple made furious love atop the grand piano, Venus wildly pounding the keys. Beads of sweat glistened in the light as it flew off the lunging, grunting couple. Two antique English chairs collapsed under the weight of their lovemaking, dashed to splinters. As the fury of their passion increased the room became a shambles until finally in the center of the large room the couple became a pair of violently rutting bellowing beasts and a vortex of energy began to form around them. Spiraling around them slowly at first, then picking up speed, it began to generate a wind in the room. A wind that quickly grew to a considerable force as it howled about the couple oblivious to it. Bits of paper and sofa stuffing and flowers from bouquets swirled around the room, then the furniture started to move and the wind grew louder. Curtains were torn lose and sailed around the room in the tornado, the chandeliers swung wildly in wide circles, taxing their mountings. Still the grunts and the screams of Venus and Mars could be heard. Larger objects became airborne and were smashed against the walls or into windows. The wallpaper began to come lose and tear off in strips. Bits of broken furniture and the smaller rugs were lifted into the vortex. Items in the room that were too heavy to become airborne were still drawn into the tornado and traced itís path on the floor. The piano, sofa, wet bar, giant screen TV and other things raced around a circle surrounding Venus and Mars, who still had no awareness of their surroundings, even as the chandeliers came crashing to the floor in rapid succession. A moment later the ceiling disappeared into the black night sky, taking with it the second story of that part of the house. The walls followed shortly after, sucked up into the sky with all the other things that had been swirling about in the vortex surrounding Venus and Mars. Even the fireplace and chimney were torn in chunks from itís foundation and tumbled up into the darkness on the howling wind.

Then it stopped. The wind died the instant Venus and Mars collapsed of exhaustion on the cold marble floor. There was only the sound of the crickets and the distant crashing of waves accompanying the coupleís labored breathing.

When Venus and Mars opened their eyes it was morning in the camp. She was in her tent and he in his hammock.

(to be continued.)

 


Way Out West ©1993 Martin Scherer. Venus & Mars © 1995 Martin Scherer. E-mail: Scherer@tesserak.net