“In the Valley of Vision” by Samuel Palmer found at Thomas Sheridan’s Official Blog
Green note: This here’s for Jules, one of the coolest chicks on the planet. She wanted to know more about the Lunatic Beauty. I think Jules has a more mystical idea of what the she’s like, but here’s what I found…
In the process of taking chip samples of a rare species of rock, geologist Gerard Bonner’s headlamp fell on a crouching shape at the back of the mountaintop cave he was in. The shape scream-growled and sprang at him, clawing and trying to sink its teeth into his jugular vein.
Bonner’s expedition guide called “Cowboy,” jumped on the filthy creature’s back, got it in a headlock and rolled off Bonner with it biting and scratching like a wildcat. Bonner tossed Cowboy a rope and he bound and gagged the beast, rolled it onto its back.
Through the growling and the black of dirt and hair everywhere—legs, armpits, and a long, tangled mass of it about the head—was a raving beauty. Her breasts were full, her body svelte. Her eyes were ice blue, so light as to nearly be white in contrast with her black lashes and brows, and her lips were round below a duchess nose.
The two men stared with a mix of reverence and horror. Bonner was the first to speak. “I want her,” he said. “I’m taking her back with me.”
The woman’s legs and torso bumped violently against the sides of the mule. She counted the hoof-steps. Every four hundred or so of them Bonner looked back at her, so happy with her, his new toy.
Her body ached. The ropes chafed her skin. The cowboy that had pulled her from Bonner’s neck had roped and tied down many a calf. He was agile and strong and had secured her well. And he was wise, couldn’t be faulted for leaving her tied and in the hands of a pretentious twit. If he’d freed her, she would have killed them both. She might just yet.
She began to smell her blood. The ropes and her gag had cut in, exacerbated by her movements as she worked through them with her sharp claws and teeth. She reckoned they were nearly halfway down the mountain, and she knew she’d be loosed before the trees thinned down to brush.
Bonner was lost in his imaginings. As a geologist, this beauty would be his quintessential find, no mere rock species, but a coveted possession of the highest order: living and breathing.
Keeping her tied up until she took a liking to him would be critical, would necessitate renting a car and driving back to New York with her. They would take their time, three days, maybe more.
He looked forward to their first night in a hotel. He’d draw a bath and carry her to it, scrub the dirt from her body between the ropes, tenderly cleanse her face around the gag, and wash her hair so her classic beauty shone.
He looked back to see how she was doing, and there she was, riding astride the mule, her ass-length black hair sticking in the bloodied, winding strips where the ropes had cut her more deeply than he thought possible.
She made no sound, just stared at him with her freezing blue eyes. He tried to read the silence, to formulate a plan.
Bonner halted and the tethered mule stopped just shy of his horse’s withers. They were so close, he and his beauty, and yet his pumped up ego withered with her freedom and he dared nothing. He opened his mouth to speak and the beauty was on him like a bolt of lightning, straight up through him.
The thundering sound of retreating hooves pounded in his ears as he lay on the ground. And out of the corner of his eye, he watched his beauty gulping the blood spurting out of his throat, his sad life feeding her vital one, until his light grew dim and was gone.
The woman ate more of the meat of Bonner until her hunger was sated, then bounded back up the mountain. She took from her cave only that which she could wear on her body and burned the rest. And she left, as the light of a nearly full moon replaced the day.
She headed across the ridge to avoid the confused spirit of Bonner hovering over his body wondering how his brilliance could have come to darkness. And she descended upon a log cabin, crept soundlessly up the steps to its porch.
With a deft and silent flick of a fine knife-tip, she opened the door and moved soundlessly to the bedroom where the cowboy slept. She grasped the handle of the knife in her belt and withdrew it silently.
Look at him lying there, she thought. Only his breathing had changed, only part of him sensed her presence. He was just a cowboy, awake on his feet, not in his sleep. He was not like her, a killer from an early age, a lunatic long before that, maybe even from birth, a dirty animal who would have smelled him coming.
She put the knife back in her belt. There was no bad thing within the cowboy. She would not kill him like she did her mother, who drove her wickedly, relentlessly on the pageant circuit, drove her to smother the source of her pain.
Cowboy eased his hand over and between the mattress, grabbed his revolver and sprang out of bed. He cleared the room, his cabin, his property. No one. He went back in, sat on the edge of his bed. He’d seen the lunatic beauty, she was at his throat, not to kill him but to bless him with a kiss. He touched the place on his neck. Must’ve been a dream.
He woke to rays of sun coming in with dust like diamonds through his window and he remembered the dream, shook his head.
He took his coffee out to the porch, sat back and shook out the paper and there it was: “Geologist Found Dead At Base of Burr Peak.”
Apparently, around 5pm yesterday, the horse and mule showed up at Manuel’s place all covered in blood. He’d called the police and they’d found Bonner’s mauled body.
“Oh shit!” Cowboy sat bolt upright. They were calling it an animal attack right now, but once Bonner’s family was in on it and an autopsy done, they’d be after the beauty.
He saddled up his horse and headed up Burr Peak. There was no oppressive heaviness in the air like he’d felt when leading Bonner there yesterday, only the smell of smoke.
When he was just shy of the cave, the visual was all he needed: the mouth of the cave was black with soot and smoke was still drifting out it.
“Good girl,” he said, and headed back down the mountain.
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