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dark shadow knocking loudly on the windshield ended his afternoon nap in the shade of the cathedral. Startled, he rubbed his bloodshot, sleep-laden eyes, and was ready to bless the intruder and his immediate womenfolk, when a red paper showing a man with an odd beret, hanging askew instantly caught his attention. A tall, fashionably dressed Westerner with cropped black hair and dark sunglasses emphasizing his square manly face was impatiently waving a crisp 50 Bundesmarks too close to resist the temptation:

“Bitte sehr, meinem Herren, nehmt Sie mich das schneller zum Aladja Kloster! Danke schön, dziękuję bardzo! Please, to my sirs, take me the quick to the Aladja Monastery! Thanks very much!”

He shrugged and opened the back door of his Lada. All he knew was the stranger needed to go to the cave dug Aladja Monastery and was willing to part with a West German note, worth twenty times the journey. The finer details, such as the highly irregular German, mixed with improbable Polish and Pidgin English were completely lost on his simple, liberated from the educational illusions mind. He rumbled an invitation, spoken in the rolling dialect of the semi-literate Turkish population, north and west of Varna. The man jumped inside and clattered:

“Brrr… Schnell! Schnell!” – with his left hand clutching an imaginary steering wheel, his right hand made the unmistakable sign of a fast moving vehicle. The message was lost, its intent - not, so the cabdriver dutifully revved the engine, heading north. He barely missed the announcement for the forthcoming emergency drill and the wailing of sirens signaling the lockdown. The tourist looked at his expensive watch, tapped nervously his forefinger and rattled again, in more irregular German and Polish, excitedly waving the West German note in the air:

“Meine Mädchens – schnellen, bitte… bystro Aladja Kloster… dziękuję bardzo! My girls… quicken Aladja Monastery – please… thank you very much!”

Soon the Lada was climbing the steep winding road to the monastery. The setting sun has turned its blindingly bright precipices ominously dark. Recessed torch lights shone from below, giving it the look of a sinister big mouth, ready to devour everything in sight. It was moving, as the hot air from the heated rock was slowly climbing up, following the curves, twisting the giant mouth in a malicious grin. Mesmerized, the cab driver jammed on the brakes and crossed himself, in a very un-Muslim gesture, and opened the door, his teeth rattling with fear.

The tourist tossed the note and waited several minutes then watched him turn around and quickly disappear behind the road bend. He walked briskly behind the official ‘No entrance’ sign removing his shirt. The path ended sharply behind an overhung cliff. He turned left, finding hidden openings in the wall, pushed with all his strength. The rock moved slightly aside, barely allowing him to pass, then slid back in place. 

Once inside, he stopped to collect his breath and get his bearings. He was at the bottom of a narrow winding corridor that gradually climbed up the steep cliffs. Naked athletes, Satyrs, Sileni and merry-faced women with long flowing hairs decorated the walls. They were all kissing, embracing and lying on top of one another. Goats and bulls with mighty horns were grazing the green lawn, bees clouded the flowers. Eros figurines floated in the air, aiming their arrows at the frolicking crowd. Big phallic shaped candles smelling sweet illuminated the corridor and the figures trembled and came alive. The air was thick with the fresh smell of pine twigs and frankincense. He felt an instant, urgent stir in his groins. For several nights her hands and mouth had slowly, adroitly brought him many times to the brink, leaving him mercilessly yearning for relief, hot and strained. His virile, nineteen year old body was aching and longing for respite from the growing tension. She had vaguely mentioned about a spectacular reward at the right time and severe punishment in case he would do something stupid, so his excitement and curiosity grew every day. Confused, he hesitantly stepped on the first step, when her sultry, commanding voice scared him:

“Welcome, lover boy! Keep going and you’ll be rewarded in a way no one ever has been!” 

The corridor ended in an oval shaped landing, covered in thick soft carpet of freshly mowed grass and flowers. Aleksandra was standing barefoot in the center with the Olympian dignity of an ancient goddess. Her neat brown bush contrasted nicely with the clear red tunic making her body incredibly erotic. She had pulled her hair, Queen Nefertiti style with snake-shaped brooches. Their ruby eyes shone ominously like blood drops in the weak light accentuating her olive face and pointed features. In her right hand she was holding a thyrsus – a wand of entwined fennel staffs and green ivy vines. A green pinecone adorned its top. The feeble light made her yellow eyes even more menacing. She stood in front of a hexagon shaped table, layered with figs and grapes. There were several bowls on the table, and a huge rhyton resembling a naked woman, with a phallic drinking horn between her legs. 

With a royal gesture she beckoned with the wand, firm breasts flying up in the air and piercing the clear tunic:


The excitement in his groins grew even higher, so he obeyed.

Dipping her hands in one of the bowls, she drew wide circles on his smooth bare chest with her manicured hands, tormenting his hardened nipples and sending warm waves down his crotch. With her forefinger she drew the Greek letter Delta by placing a big red dot at the ridge of his nose, then a sharp triangle, beginning from the dot, going down on the two sides of his nose and finishing with a horizontal line just below his mouth. The liquid looked like blood at the candlelight. Next she extended the rhyton:


He drank slowly and deeply, the liquid both loosening his limbs and sending another wave of hot desire down his crotch. He felt empty-headed, while his excitement grew stratospheric.

She slowly knelt, tracing with her hands his muscular abs, and releasing his pants, continuing tormenting his already rigid manhood. Yuri was violently shaking. Satisfied he had kept his promise, she slowly got up, her unblinking tiger eyes never leaving him. She placed a wreath of ivy and vine with red grapes on his head. She took a wide purple toga with blue grapes on the chest, golden bees around the waist and silver ivy leaves on the shoulders:

“Put this dress on your godly shoulders, oh Dionysus, double natured, thrice born, two-horned and two-shaped lord of wine and merrymaking! You are wandering in the wilderness, liberating us from us!” She then pointed to a sculpted pedestal next to the table.

In other times his brain would have reacted with shock and incredulity but even though he heard them, the words remained in the air. His head felt lighter as he stood on top of the pedestal. She skillfully secured his legs with soft velvety ropes loose enough to move; yet tightened if he would try to get off. 

Sensuous melody of rhythmic pounding drums and flutes drowned the room, then a dozen women with ivy wreaths and clear carmine dresses burst from all sides. Their hairs were flowing like manes of frenzied galloping mares. They circled the room a few times, their dance becoming more in tune with the melody. Every other woman held a rhyton from which she drank slowly, flicking her head backwards. Then she stepped inside the circle, knelt on her right knee and extended the rhyton high in the air. The next woman stepped in, drank, and then knelt. The tempo gradually turned so wild the clear robes became a hurdle to the dance, so the women tore them in frenzy.

Yuri simply could not believe his eyes – twelve beautiful women frantically throwing their clothes in front of him, his arousal reaching heights he had never known existed. He stirred and heard Aleksandra’s sensual whisper:

“These women are ready for you, oh Dionysus, bringer of Ecstasy, wanderer in the wilderness! Help us liberate us from ourselves. These women will do anything you tell them, they’re all yours, just tell them!”

Then louder, she intoned:

“Hail to you, Dionysus, god of abundant clusters! We may come again rejoicing in this season, and from now for many a year” – and she quickly tore his toga, revealing his raw male beauty. Majestically he turned around, showing off his magnificent body, making the women even more frantic at every turn. Sensing the moment, she whispered again:

”Now is the time! Let them see the stream of life gushing from your groins! Show them what only I have seen!”

His rigid member jumped in the air. The women gasped and approached, mesmerized. His left hand on his waist, muscular legs spread apart, his right hand slowly found its place, pulling up and down, tantalizingly slow, savoring the moment until the final explosion would bring him relief.

In the midst of the oblivion, shaking violently with all-engulfing passion, he felt a prick in his left shoulder. His left hand fell limb while his right hand continued. Groaning loudly he sent a long stream in the air and instantly collapsed, his heart pierced seconds earlier by a thin ritual knife. Something pulled and poked his body from all sides. The last thing his rapidly disappearing mind registered before it plunged into eternal darkness, were pieces of meat with oozing dark liquid looking familiar…

Several hundred kilometers to the west, in a deep underground mine, a tall dark skinned woman screamed in silent horror. Invisible force immediately splashed her neatly braided hair down her shoulders. She anxiously raised her slender olive hands in front of her eyes, nearly gouging them out, trying to block the horrible scene, yet the horror stayed. Instruments attached to her body instantly smashed, frozen in unspeakable dread. Other instruments in a neighboring room plunged into even deeper chaos…

The women continued their wild orgy - modern day Maenads - drinking, chanting, and scratching viciously each other’s faces, breasts and bodies with fingernails, oblivious to the pain. Hairs were pulled, whips hissed, blood spilled…

In a far corner Aleksandra watched the scene motionless, a cruel smile lighting her darkened face. She looked at the small orifice on the ceiling. The moon had disappeared behind a dark cloud that seemed to be devouring it, like an evil dragon. She approached a life-sized marble statue of Dionysus and sharply pulled its left arm. The statue turned around, then the floor split in two, plunging the terrified women in a dark abyss. Their shrieks of horror mingled with the unmistakable cracking of bones and bodies impaled on sharp spikes. Everything drowned in the hissing noise of fine sea sand and millet… “I am curious what will the archaeologists from the next millennium think of this – an ancient cult revived at the end of the twentieth century?” – she grinned. How could she possibly know that very soon she would be plunging, hopeless to her own death, in a similar way, from far above? 

Something caught her eye, bringing her musings to an end – a dark mass, hanging upside down from the pedestal - Yuri’s mutilated body stiffly limp, its legs held by the ropes. His head was twisted at an impossible angle, ghastly staring at her with its eyeless, bloody sockets. Aleksandra looked closer, appalled – the disfigured corpse, with its mutilated limbs bore no resemblance to the vibrant, raw, masculine body. Its flesh was ripped off in several places, with thickly clotted wounds on this, no longer a man’s body… She was no stranger to death, especially in its violent form, yet she shuddered how death had transformed his virile, godlike body into something hideous and gruesome. She suppressed the desire to throw up with an inhuman effort.

She had to do something and do it quickly, before the daybreak. The task was simple, yet formidable – getting rid of the heavy stiff corpse, then back to her official residence. Probably her husband was engaged in one of his own little escapades, so that was the least of her worries. She quickly scanned the empty room for a tool to cut the ropes – the daggers, the curved ritual knives – everything had disappeared, buried beneath fifteen meters of sand and millet, tightly packed, ready for the next millennium…

Something scratched her side, making her jump. She was alone in the natural fortress with thick iron doors, safely locked inside, yet… Then she saw it – the thin, sharp ritual knife with which she had pierced Yuri’s heart somehow had ended in her ritual sandals that she vaguely remembered putting on. She pulled it quickly – its tip and edge were covered with thick, red liquid. She tiptoed back to the pedestal, eyes averted from his twisted, eyeless head and frantically started poking and piercing the ropes. They would not yield, then gradually, slowly, maybe several hours later gave up and his body landed with a muted thump on the floor. 

Aleksandra walked briskly back to the statue and carefully climbed it. With her right hand firmly embracing the statue’s chest, she extended her left arm high above her head. She found several empty hemp sacks with some millet left. Jumping down, holding the sacks in her left hand, she felt a small lump in her right side. She probed it carefully and was relieved to find her golden heart shaped watch still working – twenty-eight after midnight.

About an hour later, completely exhausted, she had managed to shove Yuri’s stiff body in two sacks, tighten them with the remaining ropes and drag it down the walkway to the garage. Her navy-blue Volga with government  license plates was waiting. With another superhuman effort she stood Yuri’s body erect, then pushed him in the trunk. She removed the torn ritual dress and placed it in a small zipper bag next to the hemp sacks, slamming the trunk with the finality of a coffin lid. Grabbing another duffel bag from the back seat, she walked to the nearby shower.

The woman emerging sometime later bore little resemblance to the priestess of the past night. She was dressed in tight velvet jeans and a short sleeved cream blouse, showing just a modest bit of cleavage. She had pulled her hair high above her ears and meticulously plaited it in two long braids in the manner of high school girls. A significant amount of creams and lotions had nearly eliminated all traces of the tempestuous night from her face.

Aleksandra looked at her watch again - ten after two, the dreadful Bull Hour in ancient Chinese mythology. The time when the evil demons of destruction and death roamed, engaged in their wicked play, bringing immense fear, insanity and demise to man and beast alike. As far as she was concerned, all the known demons were either solidly buried, or about to be buried soon - no need to worry about the unknown ones.

From the glove box she pulled a thin, military style dark green walkie-talkie and skillfully pushed a combination of buttons. Three tiny violet lights came to life, informing her the encrypted connection was established and her correspondent standing by. She whispered quickly and forcefully:

”My car is broken! Come and get me!” 

She then pushed another series of buttons and after the violet lights brightened up once again, repeated the phrase, with a few meaningless words. She drove west of the monastery, and stopped at a resting place, surrounded from three sides by tall outcrops.

The black convertible BMW appeared instantly, its powerful violet lights shattering the darkness. The driver, a bear of a man in shorts and a tight T-shirt approached slowly – a menacing mass of raw, primeval muscle and not enough brains – a modern day dinosaur. This impression was made stronger by his disproportionately small head standing like a stump on top of his impossibly thick and short neck. The man’s wide shoulders and deformed, flattened to the skull ears bespoke a free-style heavyweight wrestler. His mighty biceps were heavily tattooed with dates, an assortment of naked women, ship anchors, all held together by menacing, intertwined snakes with multiple heads that made him formidable and intimidating even at night. 

Several years ago her husband had secretly exercised his clemency power, literally at the eleventh hour before the gas chamber closed off around him. He had acquired a fiercely loyal gopher and a bodyguard. Bypassing the usual background checks, the former wrestler and pardoned murderer had received a new identity, a nice government salary and a pompous, yet meaningless title. In exchange he was available round the clock. 

When he came closer, Aleksandra got out of the car, and approached, hips slowly rolling, breasts swinging, big seductive smile on her face, her catlike yellow eyes locked in his:

“Perfect timing as usual! I am proud of you! After this is over, I will reward you” – and her left hand slid down his crotch, squeezing him a few times, while her right hand caressed his barrel chest a few times. Sensing his excitement, she giggled childishly, then stepping back a few steps, she purred in her sexiest voice:

“Once you’re done, I have a thousand here for you” – and she dangled a wad of Bundesmarks. 

She waited several more minutes, sat behind the wheel of the convertible and drove away.

The powerful Volga was handling the curves nicely and effortlessly. He simply couldn’t believe his luck – a thousand crispy, new Bundesmarks! A lot more than he had ever seen, so he’d better do a damn good job… During the day, the road tracing the seashore provided a dramatic panorama with its pine groves, quiet secluded coves and the expanse of calm turquoise water, punctuated by the occasional sail. At night, it felt lonely, even gloomy, with the infrequent beam of the sea light pushing away the darkness. His task was made easier by the thickly clouded sky, letting in once in a while the feeble light of a distant star. Several kilometers to the north he saw the place. A rusty metal barrier stood in front of a narrow roughly paved clearing to the right of the road. The barrier had the usual signs prohibiting entrance to the site and the use of deadly force without warning. 

Back in the late forties the Navy had tried to install a high-caliber, long range artillery unit to protect the air and sea space of Varna Bay. After several months of drilling, digging and blasting through the limestone, they abandoned the project, leaving a deep shaft-like hole. The years filled it with dark brackish water and decaying debris of every imaginable kind. A thicket of vines and ivy kept in place its outer wall, with a picturesque view from the sea. Nothing in its thick green cover, in sharp contrast to the surrounding bare limestone cliffs suggested a one-way deadly trap. After several children from the nearby villages plunged to their deaths to be never seen again, the locals renamed it, ‘Şeytan siyah göz’ - 'The Devil’s Black Eye’. Once in a while its dark bottomless waters would close with an ominous splash around a dead body or an aborted baby, filling the official statistics of missing persons, leaving all questions behind…

The man lifted the squeaky barrier, and gingerly drove down the slanting road towards the wide opening.

Forty-five minutes were needed to prepare the concrete and get the dump truck ready. At first the ZIL didn’t like having its midnight slumber interrupted, but after serious waking with the crankshaft, accompanied with the usual pleading, coaxing and cursing, its powerful engine finally woke up with a violent shudder and a loud growl, sending dense smoke up the air. As instructed, the man tossed the walkie-talkie in the thick liquid behind him, and picked his official pass, allowing him to transport concrete at any time to special government sites.

Fifteen minutes later, he saw the navy-blue Volga crawling slowly, centimeter by centimeter to its final destination. The man opened the trunk and was about to remove the heavy sack, when motion and loud grinding noise instantly caught his attention.

“His mother…” were the last words to leave his mouth, when the heavy ZIL thundered down, oblivious to the sound of crashing metal, glass, curses… It kept advancing, slowly, surely, until the Volga, its load and hapless driver were safely out of sight and at the bottom of the ‘Devil’s Black Eye’. The ZIL did a sharp U turn, its driver engaging the hydraulics and ten tons of fast hardening concrete poured in less than a minute, covering everything…

The dump truck had just reached the road, and was already accelerating, when Aleksandra pushed a button on the walkie-talkie. At first nothing happened, then the truck shook imperceptibly as a miniature, precise explosion disabled the steering wheel, denying control to its driver. Frantic, he jammed on the brakes but the hydraulics line was already torn by another explosion. 

From her vantage point, high above, she saw the truck jerk around without control. She almost saw the pale scared face of the man, trying to place the big moving mass under his control, a cruel smile twisting her evil, almost invisible lips. Seconds later the helpless machine plunged off a ravine, tumbled a few times in the air, then finally came to an explosive stop of debris and smoke, about a hundred meters below. Men were such hopeless fools – just a piece of soft clay in the hands of a strong, adroit woman… There was a faint sliver of red on the horizon – the sun was rising up for another bright day. Perfect timing, Aleksandra, she said and drove away…


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