Jaskri’s one regret in life was that, despite conferring the Maiden’s gift of fertility upon the rest of her village, she never bore a child of her own, and by the end of the story she was no longer in a position to become pregnant. But where there’s a will (and a devious author) there’s a way....
1. The Present
“Mummy,” asked Jevríni, “will the nice lady come back?”
Viréni did not need to ask who the “nice lady” was.
“No, darling,” she said. “She had to go away, and I don’t think she will be coming back. But I’m glad you remember her. She was a very special friend of mine. Her name was Jaskri. And there was something else that was special about her. If you look at the statue of the Maiden in the village square you will see that the statue looks just like her. So tomorrow when I take you to the square, you can say hello to the Maiden and we can both remember how pretty Jaskri was. Would you like that?”
“Good.” Viréni kissed Jevríni. “Now go to sleep.”
“Good night, mummy.”
“Good night.” Viréni turned out the lamp, closed the bedroom door and went to her own bedroom where Jeruvin awaited her.
“She still remembers,” said Viréni. “It’s been a whole year and she still remembers Jaskri. Isn’t that amazing? Jevríni was only two years old last time she saw her.”
“She’s got your brains as well as your beauty,” said Jeruvin. “I just hope there’s something of me in her as well.”
Viréni considered this for a moment. “Your cool head and your common sense. Not to mention your superb judgement, which you demonstrated by marrying me, of course.”
Jeruvin chuckled at that. “Coming to bed?”
“Not yet, Jeruvin,” said Viréni. “Tonight there’s something I have to do first.”
“Oh. You’re going to visit her. The Maiden. Can’t I come with you? You know she doesn’t mind sharing.”
Viréni kissed him. “Not tonight, Jeruvin. As I said, it’s been a year. A year to the day since Jaskri disappeared. Something just tells me I have to see the Maiden tonight, alone.” Even as she spoke, Viréni was removing her clothing. When visiting the Maiden by night it was customary to undress rather than dress for the occasion. Once she was naked she turned to go. “I won’t be long, Jeruvin. And when I return I will be charged with the golden lightning.”
They kissed again for a long, sensual moment. Then, as she was leaving, Jeruvin said, “Give the Maiden my love. Tell her we’ll visit her together soon.”
Viréni smiled and walked into the night. It was rather cool for the time of year, but once she was close to the Maiden the statue’s aura would help fend off the cold. Naked and unashamed, Viréni walked down the short street to the square. If anyone happened to notice a nude woman passing their window, they would be discreet about it. After all, that sort of thing had been going on ever since the Maiden had appeared more than twenty years before.
Soon Viréni arrived at the square where the beautiful nude Maiden stood by the well, and warm flesh and blood embraced cool marble.
“A year,” said Viréni. “I can’t believe it has taken me a whole year to figure it out. But then I remembered that conversation about Jaskri wanting to travel back in time to see where the Maiden came from. Do you remember, I told her it was impossible to go backwards, unless Diann had some sorcery that could do it? Ah, but of course you remember. And that is just what happened, isn’t it...Jaskri?”
Was it Viréni’s imagination, or did she feel a sudden burst of warmth emanating from the statue?
“You see, it suddenly occurred to me. Twenty-one years ago, the Maiden appeared out of thin air on the day a baby was born. The baby, Jaskri, grew up to look just like the statue, even down to the small scars she acquired on her arms when she was bitten by a venomous Jalga and
healed by Diann’s magic. You, Jaskri, disappeared into thin air at Diann’s house, a year ago this night. Diann disappeared too, and some people thought she’d captured you, but I think she just went home because her mission was done. I think her purpose was to make sure the Maiden would appear on schedule, twenty years before. So: the flesh and blood Jaskri vanishes, travels back twenty years, and is somehow transformed into the stone Maiden, who appears on the hill to be discovered by the villagers. And as soon as the Maiden appears, her aura begins to radiate into the village and its farms, enriching the crops and making the people happier and healthier.”
Viréni took a step back and looked at the statue. “Is that why she did it, Jaskri? To make sure the village was blessed by the Maiden’s gift of fertility? But then, if she hadn’t done it, and the Maiden had not appeared, would the last twenty-one years have not happened? Would the past have been changed? My head starts spinning whenever I try to figure it out.”
She took a deep breath and looked the statue in the eye. “And what about you, Jaskri? What can it be like for you? Never to speak or move...oh, my love, I can’t imagine how that must be for you. I could accuse Diann of doing this as some kind of malicious joke just so she could seduce you and abandon you. But somehow I can’t believe she was evil.” Viréni embraced the statue once more. “Oh, Jaskri, my friend, my lover...is it very lonely for you?”
As if in answer, a slow wave of pleasure began to radiate from the statue into Viréni’s body. Unlike the orgasmic energy the Maiden usually produced, this felt soothing and relaxing, and Viréni found herself slipping into a euphoric trance as she leant against the statue with her arms about her marble waist....
Viréni found herself sitting upon a grassy hillside overlooking the village. Jaskri, no longer marble but flesh and blood, was seated beside her, chewing upon a stalk of winegrass. It was a glorious summer day and the sun was caressing their bare skin.
“Oh Jaskri, it’s so wonderful to be here wth you again,” said Viréni.
But then realisation dawned.
“It’s only a dream,” she sighed, unable to conceal the disappointment in her voice.
“Yes,” replied Jaskri, kissing her gently, the taste of winegrass upon her lips, “but it’s a true dream. You wanted to know what it’s like for me, being the Maiden. Well, the easiest way is for me to show you. Don’t be afraid.”
Viréni laughed. “I was always the one who used to tell you that.”
Viréni was standing upon a broad, flat pedestal by the well. Her pose was demure yet subtly erotic, and an enigmatic smile was carved upon her lips. She could not move or make a sound, try as she might. The thought of remaining in such a state forever seemed terrible, but then something else
happened. A slow ripple of pleasure began to spread from her genitalia outward until it reached every part of her body. It was the most wonderful thing she had ever experienced. And then she felt the energy radiating out of her and into the village, the fields, the crops, the farm animals, the birds, the soil and the people. The pleasure she felt was giving life and fertility to the whole village. After a while the surge of orgasmic ecstasy began to fade, only to be followed by another, then another, then another. Each wave of sensation was subtly different from the last, new, fresh and exciting, and each one brought her untold physical ecstasy and emotional joy. And each one served to enhance the village’s health and well being a little more.
It was like making love to the whole world. Viréni would have wept with pleasure if she could.
And then the dream within the dream faded, and Viréni found herself sitting upon the dream hill once more with the dream Jaskri.
“Oh, Jaskri,” she breathed. “Is that what it’s like for you? All the time? Oh, my friend, I could never have imagined how strange and terrible and wonderful it could be.”
“Terrible, yes, and wonderful,” said Jaskri. “I do miss being able to dance, and I miss being able to embrace you and Jeruvin. But you mustn’t feel sorry for me, Viréni. This is what I am now. It is what I was always destined to become from the day the Maiden first
appeared in our village.”
And Jaskri explained to Viréni, as best she could, the time paradox: that the Maiden was her future self, but her future lay in the past. Had she died - or even become slightly disfigured so that her appearance no longer matched the statue’s - the past that had already been (literally) set in stone would paradoxically have been changed. And had such a change occurred, time would have collapsed. The universe would have ceased to exist, or even to have existed. Because of this paradox, Jaskri had been, for the twenty years of her mortal existence, the most important being in the entire universe, and the stranger Diann had been sent from another world to ensure that the past was not changed.
“I’m not sure I can take this all in,” muttered Viréni. “My head’s reeling.”
“I know how you feel,” said Jaskri. “Even I still find it confusing, and I’ve had twenty-one years to think about it.”
“So that night when you disappeared - when you went back - it was Diann that sent you, as I suspected.”
“Yes. I thought I was visiting her of my own free will, but really I was just acting out my destiny. But before she sent me back, Diann made love to me.”
Viréni was astonished. “Diann? But we all thought she was celibate. Or frigid. She never had sex with anyone during her whole time in the village.”
Jaskri laughed. “Oh, believe me, my friend, she wasn’t frigid. Not after I was finished with her, anyway! But she did it for my sake. She did it to prepare me somehow, so that the sexual energy would begin flowing through me and out of me as soon as I was transformed into the statue.”
Jaskri took Viréni’s hands in hers and said, “Come with me, Viréni. Let me show you what it was like for me when I first became the Maiden. I have a few surprises for you.”
2. Twenty-one Years Ago
She couldn’t move. Nor, for the moment, could she see, because of the thick cloth that covered her almost from head to foot. It had been draped over her a little while before to serve as a veil. “Statues have to have unveiling ceremonies,” the village councillors had decided, “so we’ll hold one for the Maiden. It will take place just as soon as she’s moved to the market square.”
And so four of the strongest men in the village had been chosen for the honour of moving the Maiden, and after tying the sheet in place about her had loaded her onto a vornik-drawn cart which proceeded at a leisurely pace into the centre of the village. Jaskri could hear the cheers of the villagers as the cart trundled into the square. The cloth covering Jaskri had been tied around her ankles to prevent it from slipping off while she was being moved. It seemed to be somebody’s winter bedsheet. But blind-hooded though she was, she could still feel movement and so knew when the cart came to a halt. Then she had felt herself being picked up and carried while one man gave instructions to the other three. It occurred to her that she really ought to enjoy the ride, since it was likely to be the last time she would ever experience movement. For that matter, it would also probably be the last time her body would be covered.
The workmen’s task was made slightly more difficult by the fact that the figure could not be separated from her pedestal. Oddly enough, the base seemed to be part or the original marble block from which the statue was carved. This meant that they had to move the statue by lifting
the pedestal by its corners. Despite this handicap, however, it was not long before the Maiden had taken her place of honour in the village square, upon a cleared patch of ground not far from the well - a position whose symbolic importance was not lost upon the villagers. Beauty, it seemed to say, is almost as vital to life as water.
The Senior Elder gave a short speech extolling the statue’s beauty and chastity (Chastity? thought Jaskri. Hah! If only they knew!). And then the ropes were removed from the sheet and it was carefully removed. (The village was certainly not so wealthy that it could afford to waste good linen.) To ringing cheers and applause, the Maiden was unveiled in all her glorious nudity.
Jaskri was glad to be able to see what was going on. Part of the paradox of her existence as a statue was that, although to all outward appearances the Maiden’s eyes were lifeless stone orbs, Jaskri could see as clearly as ever. She could even look up, down, left and right as if her eyes could still move. It was as though she no longer saw or heard with her real senses, but with ghostly replicas that worked independently of her inanimate body. There was probably no use trying to understand. Nobody had ever been turned into a statue before. Even if they had, she couldn’t have asked them what it was like and they couldn’t have answered! Well, perhaps Diann could have given her some idea of what to expect... but of course she had said nothing.
Jaskri turned her thoughts back to the present. Most of the village had turned out to see the statue unveiled, even though almost all of them had already seen her on the hill where she had originally appeared. Food and ale and even wine had been laid on. Some of the villagers made a kind of wine from zalberries, which was generally regarded as an acquired taste. Jaskri was one of many who had decided not to acquire it. But today somebody had brought bottles of wine with printed labels, a rare luxury in the village. Jaskri wondered who had supplied them. Probably some of the better-off villagers had pooled their resources to lay down a bottle or two for special occasions.
Jaskri had been a statue for less than a tenday, and she wasn’t sure she would ever get used to the experience. Here she was, naked in full view of the entire village, and incapable of covering herself. She could not help but feel slightly embarrassed, despite knowing that the villagers thought of her as nothing more than a fascinatingly shaped piece of stone.
And then there was the Golden Lightning. Long, slow waves of pleasure continued to well up inside her and radiate outward until every part of her body was aflame with ecstasy. She was able to moderate the sensation to some extent, so that she was not completely overwhelmed by it and
could still think clearly, but it never stopped. Jaskri knew that the pleasure she was feeling represented only a tiny portion of the energy that her statue-body was radiating into the village. (Diann might have called it “the tip of the iceberg,” but Jaskri and her fellow villagers knew nothing of icebergs.) Because of the Maiden’s Blessing the villagers would enjoy better health, harmony and prosperity than they had ever known. All in
all, being a statue had some compensation.
Though she really did miss being able to dance.
As if to make up for this, many of the villagers were dancing, and singing, in celebration of their newfound Maiden. Even though they believed the statue to have been lost by, or stolen from, some rich lord, they were glad of the opportunity to look after her until her rightful owner could be found. (Of course, in the event no one would ever claim
the statue, and she would stand in the village square in perpetuity.)
Among the villagers who were not dancing was a young couple with a newborn baby. The mother still looked a little tired, but her labour had not been especially long or strenuous and her daughter was a fine, healthy babe. The proud parents were younger than Jaskri remembered, but she had known and loved them all her life. Hello, Mother. Hello,
Father, she thought. And hello, little Jaskri!
Baby Jaskri was looking in the direction of the statue, as if she could hear the Maiden’s thoughts. But of course a nine-day-old infant could not see distant objects clearly. It was probably just a coincidence. Oh, Jaskri, if only I could tell you what life has in store for you, thought Jaskri. Then she laughed to herself. There I go...talking to myself again!
The celebrations lasted well into the evening, until finally the villagers, having eaten their fill and danced until they could dance no more, began to drift back to their homes. A little after the last of the revellers had departed, two of them returned, a young man and woman. In the
fading light Jaskri found it hard to make out their faces - the Maiden’s senses seemed no sharper than Jaskri’s mortal ones, and neither moon had yet risen - but she could tell from their silhouettes that they were naked. So, thought Jaskri wryly, these are to be the Maiden’s first lovers.
“Hello, Maiden,” said the woman shyly, and stepped up to kiss Jaskri’s marble lips and embrace her. “Some of the others say they can feel a power flowing from you, a kind of aura. They believe you can confer fertility to the soil.”
The woman’s voice was eerily familiar. Viréni? thought Jaskri. No, that’s impossible. She hasn’t been born yet! She was three seasons younger than me.
Oh. Of course. It’s Viréni’s mother! And she’s with Viréni’s father. Or rather...they will be her mother and father, just as soon as they....
And then Jaskri realised what was happening, and found herself wishing she could laugh out loud.
“Maiden, if the two of us lie together in your presence, will you also bless our union with fertility?” She paused as if listening for an answer. Jaskri was thinking: Oh, yes! Viréni was three seasons younger than me...three seasons, plus the nine days that passed between the day of my birth and rebirth, and the day of her conception!
As if the girl had heard Jaskri’s thoughts, she stepped back, kissed Jaskri once more, and stepped down to where her lover waited. Oh, this is wonderful! thought Jaskri. And it’s fitting too. Viréni was my first lover when I was flesh and blood, and now her parents are going to be my first lovers now I’m a statue. They are going to close the circle by conceiving their daughter this very night, with the Maiden’s blessing!
At first the couple made love upon the ground before the pedestal. Then, after resting a little, they stepped up and began to embrace and caress Jaskri’s marble skin as if it were still flesh and blood. Jaskri all the while was concentrating on the Golden Lightning, attempting to focus her pleasure upon the lovers and share it with them. Judging by their cries of pleasure, it seemed she was succeeding. She was also surprised and delighted to find that she could sense their pleasure in addition to her own. She was not sure how she was able to bear it, but she was. And when at last the exhausted lovers departed, a crescent Silvermoon rising at last to announce that dawn was not far off, Jaskri knew that Viréni had indeed been conceived upon her parents’ very first attempt.
Their many subsequent orgasms had merely been a delightful bonus....
But Jaskri knew that what they, and she, had experienced this night was nothing like the golden lightning’s full extent. Some sixteen years hence, the flesh-and-blood Jaskri, finding her first, same-sexual, lovemaking to be a disappointment, would be coaxed by Viréni to embrace the Maiden in a threesome. The erotic encounter between Jaskri’s past and future selves would at last unleash the full potential of the Maiden’s sexual blessing, and trigger off an unprecedented wave of fertility among the villagers.
As the happy couple departed Jaskri felt a deep sense of satisfaction. In his speech, the senior elder had insisted that the Maiden was not to be worshipped as a goddess, but simply revered as a thing of beauty. Yet as waves of pleasure continued to sweep over her and into the village, Jaskri could not help but imagine that this was how a goddess might feel.
Jaskri no longer slept, but she was able to blank her mind and give herself up to the pleasure in a kind of orgasmic trance. In that state she could feel the power of the golden lightning invigorating the grass, the trees, the crops and animals and humans over a huge area surrounding the village. The people and animals seemed unconsciously to feel that something was happening to them, although none of them knew exactly what it was. Jaskri overheard one passer-by describe it as being like the sense of renewal he always felt on the first spring day after a long, grey winter.
Renewal, thought Jaskri. Yes...a renewal for the village; and then, in years to come, as the villagers made their way into the world, each carrying a little piece of the Maiden’s gift, a renewal for the whole world and the worlds beyond. An end to war, torture and slavery, and all the other forms of human misery that Diann had only hinted at. Diann probably would have thought such a thing too good to be believed, but Jaskri was convinced that with the Maiden’s power it was not only possible but inevitable. All she needed was time, and now she had all the time in the universe.
It was then that she heard the voice.
+Jaskri? Can you hear me?+
There was no one there. The voice seemed to be speaking from inside Jaskri’s mind.
Diann? She thought. Is that really you, or am I imagining things?
+No, Jaskri. It’s really me. I’m
speaking to your mind, and I can hear any thoughts you direct at me.+
Jaskri found this astonishing, but then, she told herself, it was surely no stranger than all the other things she had learned about Diann.
So...are you the Diann of this time, or the Diann that I knew in the future?
+Ah, I might have guessed that you’d ask me that. I am the Diann of the future. I’ve followed you back in time.+
Then where are you, Diann? Why can’t I see you?
+I’m not in the village, Jaskri. It wouldn’t do for anybody to see me thirteen years before I’m supposed to arrive. But as you know, I have the means to communicate over long distances. I’m actually in space, about one fifth of the distance between your world and Goldmoon.+
Oh. Of course. I suppose after everything else you’ve done that shouldn’t surprise me. I won’t ask why you don’t fall down from such a great height. I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation for that too.
Diann gave a mental chuckle. +Yes, Jaskri. Remind me to explain orbits to you if I get the chance. But I wanted to tell you the reason why I came back to talk to you. To be quite honest I wasn’t sure if I should do this - for one thing, it’s still technically illegal, even though I was granted special dispensation to resolve the time paradox. But I
decided I should come back because I felt there were things I still had to say, things I shouldn’t have left unsaid before.+
What things? Asked Jaskri, although she thought she could guess.
+Jaskri...the first that I knew of your world was when my people became aware of a time paradox in this region of the galaxy. At first we weren’t sure what was causing it, but then we saw that something had become looped back in time and had entered stasis. The time loop was a kind of knot in time, and if it became unravelled then the rest of the fabric of time and space would go with it. My job looked simple enough at first. All I had to do was visit the relevant world, identify the object in question, make sure it didn’t get damaged, send it back in time and freeze it into stasis. No problem at all. Then when we began to get more detailed data we saw that the object was alive. I had a few qualms about putting a defenceless animal
into stasis, but if it were necessary in order to save the universe I would simply have to harden my heart and do it. But then...+
But then you discovered that the “object” was a person. An innocent girl from a small farming village. In other words, me.
+Yes, Jaskri. You. Can you imagine how I felt about that? Sending a person into eternal paralysis...it seemed such a terrible price to pay even with the whole universe at stake. But I had no choice. The Maiden was already standing there, frozen forever. All I had to do was make
sure you became the Maiden.+
Diann gave the mental equivalent of a sigh. +I did my best not to become emotionally involved. If I seemed cool or aloof while I lived in the village, that was the reason. But in the end it was no good. You reminded me so much of...someone I once knew. Her voice, her walk, the way she laughed. Every time I looked at you I’d be reminded of her, and then I’d remember what was in store for you. I’m not sure how to say this, Jaskri, but....+
Then perhaps you should let me say it, thought Jaskri. You fell in love with me. This person I reminded you of...she was your lover, wasn’t she? Every time you looked at me you were seeing her. And whenever you thought about the day when you’d have to turn me into the Maiden, you thought it would be like losing her again, didn’t you?
+Yes. Yes, it’s true, Jaskri, all of it. Oh, Jaskri, I’m not sure I deserve somebody as understanding as you.+
Hey, I’m not just Jaskri any more, remember? I’m the Maiden. And if the Maiden doesn’t understand you, who can? So...was that why you made love to me before sending me back, Diann? Because you felt guilty about my fate and wanted to atone for it? Or was it something to do with the golden lightning?
+Well...both, actually. You see, when I found out about the golden lightning - the energy field radiated by the statue - I realised you’d still have to be fully conscious while it was being generated. And there was another thing. You see, although the golden lightning can be perceived as sexual pleasure, there was no guarantee that the Maiden herself was actually feeling the same thing. My research suggested that the Maiden might perceive the golden lightning either as ecstasy or agony. If I hadn’t taken steps to prepare you, you might have been doomed to spend eternity in horrible, horrible pain, far worse than any Jalga bite.+
Oh, my...well, I’m glad you’re telling me this now rather than then. I can’t imagine how terrible that would have been.
+I would have allowed the universe to die rather than condemn you to such a fate. Fortunately that wasn’t necessary. When you came to my house that night I gave you herbal tea laced with drugs that would heighten your pleasure and make you insensitive to pain. Then I made love to you, not just for my benefit, but also to help prepare you for your new role as the Maiden. But I could never have guessed how much pleasure your lovemaking would give me, and I’m not just talking about physical pleasure. It’s helped me to come to terms with my loss. Now I can move on.+
+But there’s one thing I have to know, Jaskri. Are you angry with me? Do you blame me for turning you into a statue?
Angry? No, Diann. I understand why you had to do what you did. And being a statue really isn’t so terrible, considering the benefits the golden lightning will confer upon the village. Do you really want to know how I feel about you, Diann? Well, let me see: this mind-speech of yours works both ways, doesn’t it?
And without further warning, Jaskri summoned up the golden lightning and projected it directly into Diann’s mind. Consumed by physical and emotional ecstasy, Diann experienced the first in a long chain of spontaneous orgasms.
Of course you can’t, thought Jaskri. Neither can I! Whoever experiences the golden lightning also gets this little reminder that it comes from a living statue. You wanted to know how I really feel about you? I love you, Diann. Never doubt it. This is my gift to you, and you can pass on this gift of pleasure to anyone you
choose, and they in turn can pass it on, in an endless chain. This is what the Maiden can do, Diann. By turning me into the Maiden you have given me a greater gift than you could possibly have imagined.
Inflamed with ecstasy, Diann could not answer. When at last her climaxes faded, she thought: +Thank you, Jaskri. I wasn’t sure whether to come back, but now that I have I’m glad I did. I know the village will be in safe hands with its Maiden. And you’ve helped me more than I can tell you. I’ll return from time to time and talk to you.+
I’d like that.
Then Jaskri had another thought.
You know, Diann, before you go...there is one thing I regret about being the Maiden, and that is the fact that I never had children. It didn’t really seem fair at the time. All of my friends were expecting thanks to the Maiden’s blessing of fertility, and yet no matter how I tried I couldn’t conceive.
+Ah...well, you see, Jaskri, the truth is...+
The truth is that when you cured me from the Jalga’s bite, you also gave me something that would prevent me from conceiving.
+Yes, it’s true. I’m sorry, Jaskri. That was the only thing I ever lied to you about, and I regretted having to do it, but...+
...But you’d seen that the Maiden bore no signs of having borne a child, which meant that Jaskri could not be allowed to become pregnant. It’s all right, Diann. I don’t blame you. It’s just a shame, that’s all. Why couldn’t the Maiden have had a few discreet little stretch marks?
There was a brief pause. Jaskri sensed that Diann was thinking to herself.
+You know, Jaskri, I’ve had an idea. Back home we have something called surrogate motherhood. If you can’t have children of your own, sometimes another woman can bear them for you.+
But how is that possible?
+Well, that would take time to explain in detail...+
Diann! You can travel in time, and I have all the time there is.
+True enough. Well, I’ll give you the short version for now. When I cured you of the Jalga’s venom I took samples of your blood and skin. I still have them preserved. Now, our scientists have learned that all plant and animal tissue is composed of millions of tiny cells - in the case of a person, there are skin cells, blood cells, brain cells and
so forth - and each of those cells contains all of the information needed to create a complete body if only you have the skill to do so. It’s fairly easy with things like torva bushes - I grew a whole grove from one fruit - it’s just a lot more complicated with people.+
But of course your people do have the skill, thought Jaskri, not without irony.
+Yes. So it should be possible to use the information from your tissue samples to impregnate one of your friends, and there you have it. A child of your very own.+
You’d do that? For me?
+Um...well, I was just raising the theoretical possibility...+
Oh, Diann. Please? Thought Jaskri, simultaneously projecting another bolt of golden lightning at Diann.
+Oh...ohh, my...ohhhh my...I can’t
moooove...ohhhhhhhhhh, God...all right, Jaskri. All right.
Talk about emotional blackmail! It’s lucky this ship’s on autopilot. All right, I’ll do it. Just say where and when.+
Twenty-one years from now, thought
Jaskri. Viréni. She should be the one. A brother or sister for Jevríni. The circle that was begun with Viréni’s conception in the presence of the Maiden will be completed by the growth of my child in Viréni’s womb.
+All right,+ thought Diann. +Now all I have to do is work out how to achieve the actual implantation without being seen....+
3. The Present
The vision within the vision ended. Viréni was once again
lying in Jaskri’s arms upon the winegrass.
“Strange,” she muttered. “If it hadn’t been for the Maiden I wouldn’t even have been born. And now the Maiden is asking me to bear Jaskri’s child!”
Jaskri caressed Viréni sensuously. “Will you consent to this, Viréni? To bear a child that will be yours and Jeruvin’s, but who will bear my blood?”
“Oh, Jaskri, my love, of course I will. That would be wonderful. So the child will really be yours and Jeruvin’s?”
Jaskri chuckled. “Oh, no. Jeruvin was only my second lover. You were my first. The child will be ours, Viréni, yours and mine.”
“But...how is that possible? We’re both women!”
Jaskri laughed and began to caress Viréni even more intimately. “I know that well enough! But Diann said it was possible to create sperm cells containing my DNA...sorry, Viréni. Diann’s taught me a lot of science over the years, things you wouldn’t believe. I’ve had a lot of time on my hands, after all! Anyway, what I mean is that when Jeruvin makes love to you tonight his seed will contain my heredity and not his. Diann has assured me that it will work, just as long as she plays her part. Now all I need to do is make sure you’re prepared.”
And with that, Viréni moaned aloud with pleasure...and found herself frozen in orgasm, embracing the Maiden’s marble figure while the golden lightning coursed through her.
As soon as she was able to move once more Viréni kissed the Maiden’s firm breast and made her way back home.
Jeruvin stirred. He thought he had heard something. Raising his head, he seemed to see a figure silhouetted against the doorway.
“ Viréni?” he muttered. “Is that you?”
But the newcomer appeared to be clothed, and Viréni had been naked when she left the house. There would have been no point in her getting dressed again if she was coming back to bed. Unless she wanted him to undress her...but no, her clothes were still beside the bed where she had left them.
And now that he realised it, the doorway where the figure stood was not where the door should be.
“Who - ” he began, but at that moment the stranger seemed to point something at him and he became limp.
Jeruvin was vaguely aware of being carried through the doorway that shouldn’t have been there and laid naked upon what seemed to be a table of some sort. There was a sharp pain in his groin, and he would have cried out if he had not felt so lethargic, but after a while the pain faded and he found himself becoming aroused.
“Not yet, Jeruvin,” he seemed to hear someone say. “She’ll be home soon, and then you’ll both have the time of your lives. Till then, just...sleep. This has all been a dream.”
And sleep he did, until he really did hear the door open and woke in his own bed, and Viréni came to him, fully primed with the golden lightning, and they both felt incredibly aroused, and they made love as they had never made love before, so that when dawn finally arrived they
were thoroughly exhausted.
Later that morning when her mother took her to see the Maiden, Jevríni - being a perceptive child - noticed that she looked a little tired, but once Jevríni had said hello to the statue her mother also gave the Maiden a chaste kiss upon the cheeks and said, “Thank you, my friend.”
Then her mother knelt before Jevríni and asked, “Do you think you’d like a little brother or sister?” and Jevríni nodded.
Did it work? Thought Jaskri.
+After all the effort I put into this,+ thought Diann, +it had better. Have you any idea how fiddly it is to convert an X chromosome into a Y?! I must admit I was a bit worried when Jeruvin woke up, but luckily I was able to convince him it was a dream. If he’d known I was going to operate on his testes in order to replace all of his semen with genetically modified super-sperm containing your DNA, he might not have taken too kindly to the idea. One thing about this operation, though - it did give me the chance to see what a fine figure of a man he is. Lucky Viréni.+
Lucky me too. He was my lover as well, remember.
+True. Ah...yes, my instruments are getting a reading now. Wow, look at that...99.7% probability of conception!+
That’s even better than I imagined. Thank you, Diann. For everything.
+Congratulations to you, Jaskri. You’re going to be a father!+
February - March 2000
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