Shiva's Messenger

Flotsam in a Rip Tide

Chapter 2

Flotsam in a Rip Tide

“Lyra Droski.” A young woman who closely matched the exotic female in Tariq’s fantasy nightmare flipped through her newest passport and said the name as if tasting a succulent flavor. Her sculptured chin rested lightly in a cupped palm and her graceful fingers touched her high cheekbones as her sapphire eyes read the fictitious Eastern European surname.

“~Tell me about my father again.” She spoke in the Russian of her fake nationality but in truth, Lyra had never lived there. She and her mother were multi-lingual and used any known at a whim.

“~You know how much pain that story gives me.” Jinder Droski was of Anglo-Hindi extraction. Her hair was deep mahogany, her skin was of a polished teak hue and her almond-shaped eyes were coconut brown.

“~You’ve never explained to me why it hurts.” The daughter Lyra had one-quarter heritage from India but little of that showed. Lyra’s waist-length hair was the exact tone of her mother’s flesh but her clear complexion was as coffee with a triple dollop of cream liqueur. The description with an alcoholic flavoring was apt as her burgeoning beauty was of intoxicating intensity. “~Other parts of your life were horrid, so what could be worse?”

“~Do you mean having my innocence snatched from my violently murdered family or my living in a harsh world of virtual slavery, forced prostitution and drug addiction?” The mother’s ironic voice betrayed no horror at her being torn away like flotsam in a rip tide. Although she was now working independent from organized crime or pimps, chemical dependencies still ruled her life. “~Let me just teach you more Tantra instead. I won’t have you unprepared as I was.”

“~Why not both.” As the girl negotiated, she stripped to the buff to perform body techniques and mental routines. Some Tantric instruction may even extend the session of reminisces. “~How could experiences with my father be worse than those nightmares?”

“~Feel the tingling of your imagination traveling like foam flotsam over your skin in flows of energy.” The exercises Jinder taught had originated in India and included sexual instruction as well as a variety of moves and meditations. She called it Tantra but the mother was schooled in a number of eastern spiritual disciplines that were not connected with any particular faith. “~Worse is the wrong word. I couldn’t take the tsunami of happiness I had with your father. That makes my memories of him less easy to deal with.”

“~I can feel the magic like a tsunami of pleasure.” Gooseflesh raised along her flesh as the naked girl concentrated on certain anatomical parts. The tiny body hairs standing up and tingling underneath was in waves, like a zephyr over a wheat field. The human body certainly does have enchantments that these disciplines only hint at. The words and thoughts brought Tolkien’s sorcerer to Lyra’s mind. “~When I read ‘The Lord of the Rings’, I pictured my father as the wizard Gandalf.”

“~His hair wasn’t nearly so long,” Jinder chuckled as she compared her mental picture to the actor in the movie version, “~and his nose was not quite as grotesque. I’m sorry I don’t have any pictures of him.”

“~You’ve explained that part. He allowed photos only for his ID’s.” Lyra went through some body postures as she continued to speak. “~My mind’s visions from written words are different from the film and to me, he has the same mysterious strength as the grey wizard.”

“~He was my one true love and substantially older than I.” Jinder took a position to demonstrate moves for her daughter to imitate. “~I suppose that means he was timelessly old before you was born, as was the semi-eternal Gandalf.”

The two generations of striking women sat cross-legged in front of each other. The younger was taller and around age seventeen. Her complexion held sufficient natural pigmentation not to lighten at her bikini lines. The elder did not look dramatically older: her Asian genetics lent a semblance of youth despite the aging tendencies of her profession and drug use.

“~Then he died?” Lyra urged but knew she wouldn’t be answered. Her mother never confirmed if he was living and her depictions of him were never definitive either way either.

Moisture misted the mother’s eyes. Unlike many prostitutes, she didn’t use heroine to dull her spirit at work. At home with her daughter was where the opiate was most needed to stave off both withdrawal symptoms and the torments of her past.

“~Your father has looked after us.” As if in response to the topic, the mother assumed a position lacking only a male counterpart to be downright pornographic.

In recent times, the word Tantra has come to have an assortment of connotations. People who read smut magazines will see it as a collection of ancient sexual positions and techniques: like the Kama Sutra on steroids. To those interested new age religions, it is deemed as a physical discipline like Judo as combined with Zen spirituality. In fact, it’s both and more but generally, the people interested in the one aspect, are leery of the other, so they all fail to find the full flavoring.

“~This one must be quite enjoyable.” The younger female copied the move and her nudity compounded the hyper-erotic effect. Lyra grinned at a thought. “~I suppose that’s why you keep working your craft.”

“~I have my reasons.” Jinder didn’t elaborate further, as the daughter had correctly surmised one of the biggest: her prostitution was now largely to gain sexual release without the strings of commitment. “Have you finished all your homework?”

The girl allowed the conversation to shift into matters related to their home life. From experience, Lyra knew what happened each time her mother reached a certain potion of her retelling. We jump from ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ to ‘The Return of the King’ and I never find out what happened in ‘The Two Towers’.

The mother carried on with the lessons and the small talk: while the daughter sought for a way to carry the topic back to her goal.

“~Release your excess energy from your head’s crown as opening of lotus leaves.” Bliss passed over Jinder’s features as the mental action of sending imaginative energy skyward, sent physical pleasure down from her scalp, in a tsunami flood.

“~Do you suppose death feels as this? With life’s energy flodding like in an orgasm?” Lyra grew impatient and tried a sneaky segue. “~Did my father die peacefully in his sleep or passionately in bed with his hot young tantrika?”

“~I—uh—wasn’t with him.” Jinder stammered. The sharp return to a sensitive topic had caught her by surprise. “~It’s better if I don’t tell you that and risk ruining your opinion. Your father was an honorable man but there are other things about him.”

Lyra watched as Jinder’s eyes dreamily closed: seemingly, she was in the grasp of a memory. As the lids reopened, several tears flowed and the woman’s fingers trembled.

“~I’ll take some medication.” Jinder reached for an end-table drawer.

He was honorable but with other things? This information was new for Lyra to mentally digest but it presented a dilemma. After hearing a full recounting, it may be impossible to rebuild a shattered image. Sour but un-tasted grape juice could still be sweet in the imagination. Regardless of possible vinegar taste, the tongue of the girl’s curiosity still yearned for a sample. For the present, Lyra pushed the image of Gandalf into the back of her mind. She looked out the window at the idyllic lush setting and blue sky. “Argad dee.”

“~What?”

“~Argad dee means good air in Thai.” Lyra fished her fingers into the same drawer of the antique occasional table. She deposited her passport and took out a zippered manicure kit. “~You say that about nice weather here in Phuket.”

The mother and daughter had lived in many places in the world, but currently they were in Phuket and the climate was superb. A jewel on the coast of Thailand, the city was an electromagnet for sun-seeking tourists. It was also near perfect for Lyra’s mother because where men came for relaxation: they also wanted women for extra-marital relations. Another plus was a reliable supply of drugs filtering out of the Golden Crescent region in the north. The longer she had remained addicted—the closer Jinder had drifted to the pure source of the quality product.

Will I ever read the mid book in the trilogy? For her life’s story so far, ‘The Two Towers’ represented a father she didn’t know and the mother who wouldn’t talk about him. Lyra sat on the tile floor and used a file to shape her mother’s toenails while the junky prepared an injection.

Life for the two was as good as it could be. They leased a small house on Phuket’s beautiful Patong Beach but unbeknownst turmoil was on the near horizon. It had naught in common with either the two wizard’s towers in Tolkien’s fiction or even the World Trade Center skyscrapers. This life-shaking event was a portion of the Indo-Australian tectonic plate suddenly rupturing and bolting under the Eurasian one. A trench dropped into the floor of the Indian Ocean creating a shock with a magnitude of 9.2 on the Richter scale. Over 200,000 would die on the Indonesian Island of Sumatra alone, as today was December 26 of 2004.

The Boxing Day Tsunami hit the Thailand shoreline like a phalanx of warriors with blue-black armor and white-crested helmet plumage. Fluidic soldiers rampaged into the row of dwellings above the high water mark like a blood-frenzied surge over a flimsy rampart.

“~There is a big noise outside.” Lyra raised her voice above the battle cry of the liquid troops. “~Can you see what’s happening?”

Before the drugged woman could find voice to answer, a salt-brine cavalry brigade assaulted their home. The wave’s advancing face stove the picture window in, without breaking the glass and buckled the seaward side of the bungalow. Using an uprooted palm stump as a battering ram, the wet regiment bashed the door off the hinges.

“~Mother!” Lyra reached out with both hands to grab at Jinder but a splintered end of the palm stem somersaulted through the water and slapped her hands. Pain pulsed up the girl’s arm, as two fingers on her left hand were snapped like twigs and twisted back to her wrist. She gasped, then grasped with her remaining good hand—but it was an instant too late. Lyra’s outstretched fingertips only grazed the side of her mother’s cheek.

The saltwater soldiers stormed into the door and window as the full crest of the tsunami swelled to the height of the ceiling. The girl’s head was briefly submerged and when she lifted her face, the battle’s tide had pushed the two women further apart. An older man’s visage flashed in the girl’s thoughts, but he wasn’t Gandalf.

“Please help me catch her!” She called in English but the phantasm in her mind’s eye was of no physical assistance.

The rear wall of the house held against the front-line onslaught for just long enough to lift the building off its foundation. The cottage began a slow end-for-end roll and a simultaneous clockwise swivel. Lyra watched in surrealistic seemingly frame-by-frame action as a teak wood slab of broken interior wall struck her mother’s head.

Jinder Droski’s eyes fluttered closed and diluted pink blood spewed from her hairline onto her forehead, like a spent wavelet on a sandy beach. Then, the undertow on the tidal wave’s back slope tugged the unconscious woman towards the glassless window.

The girl tried to swim to her mother but as raindrops on opposite sides of a continental divide, each was destined for a differing river. Then, the same rent wall that had struck Jinder flipped end-on-end. It wedged in the shattered door-frame and pinched Lyra’s ankle.

Like a paper boat in a gutter’s torrent, Jinder’s peaceful face swirled twice in an eddy of foam and then was swept away as flotsam in a rip tide.

The structure was torn free of its moorings and tumbled several times as the wave progressed inland. The girl gripped the broken door-frame and wrenched at her caught foot. She adjusted her equilibrium in the wreckage as it somersaulted in the water. At last, the shack’s exoskeleton collapsed inwards and a thick timber from the rafters snapped free on one end and swung like a cricket bat. It struck the side of her head and as if squirted by a squid, her vision’s ocean suddenly faded to inky wet blackness.

Ah! The end of life is like an orgasm. Her body, if that was truly what she was sensing with, felt wonderful. Lyra’s eyesight was gone, but she still had an awareness that was both keener and in a full sphere. It was as if she were a drifting balloon, rigged with cameras pointed in all directions.

There is much death out here. The young woman could see wisps of silvery light hovering above a number of cadavers in the immediate area and one especially caught her interest. The wave had pushed a large man to a power pole. He struggled briefly as his back contacted the wood, but the tsunami’s tidal surge was an irresistible force, with the pole as an immovable object. Like a radiant yoke emerging from a cracked eggshell, the man’s spirit was freed from his broken body.

Mother, are you here with me? Many times in Lyra’s life, people had acted cruelly towards her: it was often owing to her mother’s lifestyle. In fact, the girl’s new vision was seeing an instant replay of those events and more as well. Jinder had always been there to console her and to share insights. The world of death was a vibrant new country to explore and the daughter wished her Mom were with her for this too—but she wasn’t.

Father, where are you? If he were really dead as she surmised, then he should be greeting his long-lost daughter—but he wasn’t around either.

“It’s not your time.” She felt a soundless voice that resonated through her essence. As if it were a torchlight beam caught by a black hole, the white light of Lyra’s soul was sucked back to the nest of her physical form. She felt a familiar comfort—I’m never truly alone—then dreamlessly slept.

shivasmessenger

“It’s a horrific time of year to have that happen.” Tariq rubbed as the scar on his hand but the phantom pain he felt was in his amputated fingers. It was still on the evening of Christmas Day, when the Boxing Day wave struck on the other side of the date line. The programmer had returned to Toronto for a brief visit and to procure more subsistence money.

“It’s awful for me,” the forger spoke to the television, where his misted eyes were welded to the scenes of the rip tide’s carnage, “regardless of when.”

“Do you know people there?” Tariq asked, but he had to wait until an advertisement let Sam shift his focus away from the coverage. Even then, the old man didn’t answer: he just sighed. His witnessing footage of the wave’s power had also reminded the programmer of how small and mortal he was too. “I’m so hopelessly out of my league.”

“Did you ever play football?” Sam asked and his question seemed to be completely out of nowhere.

“Yes.” Tariq told of his high school team in Toronto. “My speed and size made my usual positions as wide receiver or defensive corner.”

“I don’t mean that pigskin punishment they play here.” Sam scoffed. “I’m talking about real football—that North Americans call soccer.”

“I’ve played it but not recently: what’s your point?”

“In England, the professionals compete for the FA cup and that’s the pinnacle of the sport. But every team in the country, right from the lowest amateur squad, is technically qualified to play in the final match to take the highest trophy. All they need do is win their way through to the top level.”

“How often does that happen?”

“It’s not a regular occurrence,” Sam Levy gave his Arabic friend a wry look before returning his eyes to the now resumed scenes form Asia, “but my point is that it can happen.”

Tariq later searched on the Internet and found it had only happened once and that time was over a hundred years ago but the old rascal had succeeded in giving some much-needed encouragement.

shivasmessenger

“Pavel?” A blonde young man, with his hair cut military short, viewed a heap of splinters that resembled building demolition remains.

Lyra awoke to the sound and spit out some grit that had lodged in the corner of her mouth. Now hours later, the tsunami’s wake had left a path of destruction and the girl’s tragedy had surfed on the breaking swell. She was half buried in mud, bereft of her clothing and parent in the remnants of her shattered house. The young woman struggled to free herself from the sandy muck, to find her leg was still trapped.

“~Brother, are you in there?” A high-pitched juvenile masculine voice broke the silence again, speaking in Russian.

“~I don’t think he’s here.” Lyra answered in the same language. She craned her neck to look around at her prison of twisted fragments. “~It’s just me and I seem to be alone.”

“~The cabana we shared stood just about here.” The young man talked as he tried to force a way in. “~Now your place is here instead and I don’t know where Pavel is. I survived by climbing a partially uprooted tree.”

“~My mother was in the room with me but the water took her away.” Lyra could now see portions of the rescuer as he labored at lifting away debris. “~I don’t know how far I traveled after she was gone.”

“~There is much death out here.” The Russian was moderately tall and close to Lyra’s age: perhaps a couple years older. Despite the thinness of his youth, he had the wiry strength to shift the waterlogged wreckage.

“~I know that.” His words struck the girl with a force overshadowing the pain in her swollen leg, throbbing head and dislocated fingers. I said the same, but how could I have seen what was blocked from my eyesight? “~Go carefully with that section: my ankle is under it.” She tugged her bruised foot free as her rescuer hesitantly jostled it.

“~My brother is—uh,” as he lifted the waif free of her imprisonment, his voice checked at the sight, “~gorgeous.” The young man’s tongue let slip his mind’s impression as a slender nude female stood amid the soggy rubble like the Goddess Venus standing on her clam shell.

“Was he really?” Lyra puzzled slightly at his halting stutter and gaping expression before realizing she was standing fully naked. She glanced down at herself: mud, some dry and the rest damp, clung to her body like a patchy and alligatored second skin. It provided a mottling effect, but no cover for her modesty. The unclothed girl brazened out the situation by conversing ordinary and observing him unabashedly.

“~I mean my brother isn’t you.” The young man withered slightly on her appraising stare and his cheeks reddened. “~My name is Dmitri.” He realized he was gawking and his mind sent an order to his eyes not to look, but his male urges rebelled. “How—uh—are you?” Finally, he jerked his gaze avert to find a floral-patterned cloth. The dirt-soiled sarong that he proffered over his shoulder was probably pulled off a tourist woman’s legs when the tidal wave hit the sunny Phuket beach.

“~Thank you.” Lyra wrapped the cloth around her torso, like a towel after showering. “~I’ll go look for my mother now.”

“~I’ll come too—uh—and look for my brother.” His disappointed eyes found her now clothed. “~Maybe, they’re both together.”

“~That’s doubtful,” the girl could see his true intent as if written in red lipstick on his forehead, “~but we’ll see whatever we see.”

How can I know his real motivations so plainly? Lyra had occasionally felt that she could envision what a person’s inner thoughts were, but these were always hazy. She had deemed that those impressions were wishful or sometimes dreadful thinking that everyone experiences, from time to time. Now, the knowledge felt sharp and accurate. I feel positive that my sense is correct, but I don’t even know what grants me that feeling of certainty.

Dmitri is male and I’m an attractive female—who he has seen naked. As they walked, the girl second-guessed her impression to discount any paranormal ability. I’m sure I just sub-consciously factored that into my reasoned deduction—as I do in my personal people-watching game.

“~This was Pavel.” Only a moment away, they found where the elder brother’s body was twisted around a power pole. He was bent with his head nearly touching his feet but it was with his obviously broken spine against the post and his waist bent backwards. “~The pain must’ve been excruciating for him.”

“~No. It was very quick.” Lyra recalled her seeing this man die in her death dream. “~Even if his brain lived on for moment,” she covered her blurting out seeming unknowable insight, with physiological speculation, “~any sensation of pain couldn’t have traveled up the severed spinal cord.” She glanced from the corpse to the similarly twisted wreckage of her left hand. “~I almost wish that my wrist had suffered similar nerve damage.”

“~You need a hospital.” The young man followed her gaze and noticed the deformed fingers for the first time. Up to now, his eyes had not strayed from the other interesting parts of her anatomy. He reached instinctively for her hand and held it despite her wincing.

“~Other people need medical attention more than I do.” Lyra took a deep breath. “~Just help me straighten the fingers and I’ll be fine.”

“~I can’t!” He tried to pull away but her still intact digits held him.

“~The longer you hesitate is the more that this hurts.” She drilled her eyes steadily into his and spoke the rest through her gritted teeth. “~Now sow wow and just do it.”

“~Uh,” he yanked gingerly on her pointer finger, “~sow wow?”

“~I could tickle them myself.” Her voice was nearer to a shriek. “~Now grab them both together and pull them straight!”

The young Russian man gripped firmly but hesitantly tugged. With her right hand, the injured woman grabbed his wrist and jerked hard. A double pop resulted that sounded like meaty knuckles cracking, punctuated by a tormented scream.

“~Sow wow means shut up.” She pulled her hand away.

“~I didn’t—,” his reply was cut shot by a heave in his stomach. The young man bent his head around the post that had killed his brother and he vomited. After a few moments of heaving, Dmitri stood and wiped his mouth with his sleeve. “~I’ve never seen anything bad like this.”

The girl cradled her throbbing hand and watched as the boy regained his composure by rummaged his brother’s corpse for the few effects to be recovered. A wallet containing some soggy cash and sandy bankcards were in one pocket. Another contained a hanky but the young man tossed it aside without a second glance.

“~I’m sorry for your loss.” Lyra recovered the cloth: she wound it around her fingers and knotted it tight with her teeth.

“~Brother—uh.” Dmitri stood up from attending the body. “~I’ll try to do better for you later.” Supposedly, he was speaking to the corpse but his eyes furtively flicked towards the nubile female. “Right now though, I have help to find this girl’s mother. Uh—I don’t even know her name—uh—I mean hers—not the mother’s.”

“~Her name is Lyra.” The girl suppressed her urge to smile in spite of the somber moment. The young Russian is certainly not suave: that was an awfully awkward way of asking my name.

“~I guess that’s all for now.” Dmitri concluded his hasty eulogy.

“Death leaves a heartache that no one can heal.” Lyra recalled some appropriate words in English that she had once seen carved in a headstone. “Life makes memories that no one can steal.” She paused to reassuringly grip his arm. “~I can’t remember the rest of it.”

“It sounded good enough without adding more.” Dmitri’s reply was spoken in English then he switched back to his more comfortable tongue. “~Now let’s go and find your mom.”

As the two searchers threaded their way back towards the ocean they chanced upon other scenes that were just as grisly as Dmitri’s brother had been. Some bodies were badly mangled and served as an indication of how much raw power the wave held when it first struck the shore.

“~I’m supremely fortunate indeed, to still be alive.” Lyra commented the fact aloud, but there was no conviction in her statement. The tsunami’s energy had been much dissipated before it even reached where Dmitri’s bungalow had stood, and still Pavel was killed. She bent at the waist and peeled some of the dry mud from her shins. “~My home took the full brunt of the wave’s force.”

“~Me too. Uh—I mean that I’m still living. And with you too.” As her back was half turned away from him, Dmitri scanned the curves only marginally concealed under her light wrap. His mind flashed to what she looked like before donning the cover and sexual excitement befuddled his concentration on what he was saying. “~I—well—my exceptional good luck is—uh—you are alive—as well as here.”

“~I can’t imagine how my mother could’ve lived through this.” Lyra turned a head and caught his eyes globe-trotting on her buns. “~It’s likely that my mom’s body would’ve been dashed against something.” The girl looked at the broken flotsam curled and crushed around various unmoved obstacles. “~Then as the water rushed back, she may have been washed out to sea.” She brushed away the flakes of mud remaining and stood again. “~It’s quite possible that I might never find her remains.”

“~Have you a boyfriend?” Dmitri innocently asked, as they rounded a curve on a flagstone walkway. They emerged onto the pool deck of a tiny resort: a few honeymoon style bungalows were clustered around this garden courtyard. The foliage was nearly all flattened by the wave and the peanut shaped pool held murky salt water.

“~I’ve had crushes.” Coming so quickly on the heels of thinking about her mother’s probable death, his question unnerved her and she wished to quickly quell the topic. The current setting at pool steps and the itching she still felt from the mud on her body provided an ideal diversion: she went into the water for a wash. Let him try to keep the question in his mind while I’m bathing. Keeping a boyfriend had been difficult. Invariably, a guy she liked would find out about her mother, and his attitude towards a prostitute’s daughter would rudely change for the blunt and horny.

“~It’ll soon be dark.” Dmitri’s voice semi-quavered as he watched her wade in deeper: she gradually lifted her covering, as silt in the water hid her nakedness. Finally, the girl ducked in, up to her neck and set the sarong on the pool’s edge. “Uh—I could,” he stammered. While they wandered, he had daydreamed about this coming night and been plotting an optimum way of broaching the subject. Now though, his imagining of where her hands were touching her body under the water had his brain all jumbled—again, “~pay for a—uh—hotel room.” From the pocket where he had been fingering it, Dmitri brandished Pavel’s credit card.

“~I doubt we can easily find any rentable vacancies.” Lyra pluralized the rooming requirement, whereas his statement had implied only a shared double. She swept her hand around at the bungalows, before snatching up her wrap. “~These could do with some industrial chambermaid services.”

“~The evening sun’s desire for a moonlight dip in the warm ocean,” he retorted, “~will not wait for us to be choosy about our accommodations.”

“~Will you hand me that towel,” she pointed to the upper rail of a wall of trellis that screened a change room: the towel had been hanging above the wave, “~and then find us somewhere comfortable while I dress?”

During the interval he was away, Lyra had the time to rinse her sarong, hang it in a breeze, and to dry off before she wrapped the towel about her body. Suspiciously, he arrived precisely when she was finished and fully covered again. Another mistrustful indication was that the shelter he took so long to find—was right around the corner of an adjacent cabana.

“~This looks nice and snug.” Dmitri showed where a relatively intact wall of a collapsed cabana was wedged against an uprooted palm tree on one side, and an intact bungalow’s side on the other. The result was a lean-to structure with a flat lawn floor.

“~It does.” Lyra saw where broken fronds and a soggy mattress had flowed about the stump like grass clippings bent around the tine of a rake, to make a semblance of protection from the tree side as well. She glanced over at Dmitri: his eyes were furtively shifting from her to the proposed shelter, and with each look at her—he blushed deeper.

He played ‘Peeping Tom’ while I was at the pool and he’s now worried that I’ll detect the train of thought currently racing down his one-track mind. Lyra said internally. A fresh glimpse my nude body has his below-the-male-beltline-mind’s single eye envisioning a set of rails where his phallic engine may be approaching my Felliniesque female tunnel—I need to quickly derail that notion.

“~But where will I sleep?” She added after her mental pause. “~Or did the time you were away allow you locate another nook for yourself?”

“~I—uh—didn’t.” Trapped as he was, the young man blushed cock’s comb red from the eyebrows down. A look at the horizon showed that the sun was now down. In an equatorial area such as Phuket, the dawn and dusk periods are very quick. He had only had the time to offer her some assurance of her safety—from him, or face sleeping outside in a possible rain. “~I only found this, but I wasn’t planning —uh—anything.”

“~I’m sure you weren’t and I’m weary to my bones.” Lyra surmised his backing up the fraudulent statement made her safe for an unmolested sleep. She crawled into the hut. “~Tonight we can share. Goodnight.”

“~Sleep well.” The Russian boy wrapped his arm protectively around her shoulder but his fingers were resting near a tempting area for a casual touch of her—uh. Even his mind stammered at the prurient thought. His arm began trembling uncontrollably and he shifted his hand away from the perilous vicinity. Would he get any rest at all? This desirable female was already wedged tighter into his fantasies than her body was pressed against his in actuality.

The girl slept peacefully and sound, except when the young man left for a few minutes: probably for a nature call. I’m glad I satisfied those needs in the pool. Someone, either her father or the older man she had pictured, seemed to hover just slightly outside of her dream’s field of vision. A kaleidoscope of swirling horrific images from the previous day made up her night phantasms. In a rapid succession, they seemed less traumatic and in dreaming, her subconscious mind helped Lyra cope with the memories.

shivasmessenger

“~Did you bring what I asked for?” Dusk was now sweeping Kiev in the Ukraine but for a thirtyish year-old lawyer in a swanky hotel suite, the onset of this night was to be savored instead of dreaded.

“~She is just outside.” A bear shaped man nodded towards the door.

“~Bring her in now,” the barrister placed his case on a slate coffee table, “~as this won’t take but a moment.” He extracted a sheet of paper that held only an email address. “~This establishes your contact with a rich man, who has need of the special services you can provide.”

“~And you are the channel for the money that he sends me.”

“~Precisely.” The lawyer rubbed his hands in anticipation, as the squat man opened the hallway door. “The arrangements are for me to receive a percentage of each of those disbursements.”

“~Here is your deal sweetener.” A prostitute the mobster admitted was a petite young blond: she crossed to the suite’s bedroom door.

“~She is certainly a honey,” the lawyer noted that she was also quite bruised, “~and we are now concluded.” He stood to usher the thug out.

“I love my job here.” The lawyer switched to English after closing the door. Noting a complete non-comprehension residing vividly on her highly expressive face, he continued. “I’m well-paid from one side of this deal, but the mobster wouldn’t have felt secure without blackmail in my file—so I’ll be well-laid from the other end.” As a bonus, he was also on retainer to another man who rewarded his information providers.

“~Isn’t it awful?” The young Ukrainian whore hesitated by the TV set. A montage of tsunami images marched in lockstep across the news screen.

“~Just switch it off and show me what you’re good for.”

shivasmessenger

Dmitri had passed his night more fitfully. Whether in his night visions or in any brief rousing, the girl filled the panorama of his senses. Her hair smelled both earthy and herbal as only a woman’s could. Then, as the lady of dawn raised her black nightdress, to display the radiance of her daytime undergarments, the Russian boy could see through the furze of his eyelids.

The curve of her cheekbone as seen from behind her ear, reminded him of the swell of her butt, that his forearm was rested against. The towel she wore as a garment had loosened in her sleep: helped by his occasional tug, concealed in natural-seeming nocturnal movements. His eyes skied down the slope of her upper arm to where the elbow disappeared behind a sharp flare of her hip. He shifted his arm slightly and as intended, the towel moved. Though she was still turned away from him, he could tell that the valley of her thighs was in the open and his memory’s cinematographer ran a video clip of her trim brown pubic thatch.

A stiffening lump at the crack of her buttocks aroused the slumbering girl. That signals an arousal of a sort I’m not ready to address. She slid away from the provocative bulge and quickly stood to adjust her apparel.

“~You’re moonlighting in a money laundry?” Lyra looked back at the lean to and she chuckled.   His midnight excursion was obviously spent in peeling soggy bills from his brother’s pocket wad and draping them over a broomstick clothesline. “~Are you awake yet?” She took his dry mouthed mumble as a ‘yes’. “~You were good at finding this spot. Today, can you use your keen eyesight to find me some more clothing?”

“~I have some cash now.” Dmitri grinned as he sorted and folded his now dried currency. “~I can buy you something nice.”

“~That’s not what I asked you for.” The girl snapped back and glared. The day that I can be bought is the one when I become my mother.

They retraced some steps from the previous day but on finding nothing of note, they widened the search to the more densely populated areas. Aid and rescue teams began to factor into the emergency, but Lyra’s mother had taught her stay away from any officialdom, and she avoided those.

“~We’re starving and if that restaurant owner,” Dmitri pointed with a nod, “~had started his cleanup in the place where he actually conducts his business, instead of in cleaning his religious decoration first: we could be eating a late breakfast right now.”

“~People of Thai culture see their spirit houses much differently than you do. It’s not just a church or a shrine to pray at, it’s erected and kept up as a home where souls of the dead can stay—and protect the living.”

“~Pavel would make a fine watch-ghost, but he’s too big to fit in that.”

“~A body is a bulky shell that remains after the essence has moved on.” Lyra knew that his comment been trying to make a joke to downplay his earlier lack of cultural knowledge, but her voice still held a condescending edge. Prior to her strange vision during her death experience, Lyra thought the spirit house theory was just folklore but now she saw the custom in a way she didn’t even fully comprehend yet. I now know the wisps do exist: I was briefly one of them. She wasn’t entirely sure if they stayed around. I wasn’t dead long enough to find that out.

“~I am famished,” the Russian’s gaze found a wheeled brazier cart where a man was selling barbequed meat kebabs, “~but I’d hate to survive the wave: only to die from eating whatever it is that he’s cooking up.”

“~This one seems as good clean rice paddy fed rat meat.” Lyra wended her way over to the vendor and selected a few skewers. “I’ll take two of these haunch-of-dog sticks, and one of the buzzard breast.”

“~It looks like beef, pork and chicken.” Dmitri’s belly rumblings had won out over his mind’s grumbling.

“~Believe whatever you want to.” She stood back to watch the grilling process. “~I’ve eaten this type of fare many times, and with no ill health effects. It’s too bad he doesn’t have some honey-fried insects for desert.”

“~I’ve seen stalls selling those!” The Russian grimaced. “~Could you ever be famished enough to eat a bug?”

“~After the repast, a grasshopper’s leg makes do for a fine toothpick.”

“~Don’t even joke about that!” Dmitri muttered under his breath.

After their choices were cooked and handed to them in sleeves made from newspaper pages, they found a three-step stoop to sit on while eating.

“~Thailand is called the ‘Land-of-Smiles’ and even amid the tragedy and wreckage,” Lyra was watching the restaurateur scooping water from his business with a large cooking pot, “~he is still moderately cheerful.” In an area known for heavy tropical rains, people installed high sills to keep the frequent gutter torrents from entering their homes and shops. When water overwhelmed these defenses though, they worked in the reverse. The tidal surge had receded but each business on the street was now a wading pool filled with floodwater.

“~I’ve seen that general spirit too. Awfulness can be seen at every head turning in the tsunami-ravaged area but in each vista, people are coping and many are even seemingly optimistic. It’s a shame that its all in vain: Phuket is utterly finished as a holiday destination.”

“~Other than the human cost,” the girl retorted sharply, “~the damage is largely cosmetic. It’s like the resort city was caught with long trousers in a sudden rain.” Her hand swept up to indicate higher than the street level. The buildings were stained at the base but above the waterline, they were clean and had fresh paint in a wide array of tan or taupe shades with trims in complementing darker earth tones. “~After the dirty pant legs are laundered, Phuket will be well-dressed as a tourist destination once again.”

“But the reputation is ruined and the tourists won’t come back.”

“The vacationers who have broomsticks of status-quo shoved up their butts might stay away, because some people who have no clue either, tell them they shouldn’t go. But a few will come back, and then more will.

“~In the west,” the young man correctly surmised that she’d included him in the group depicted with the anal dildo: as he finished the last of his kebabs, Dmitri returned his attention to the restaurant man and his bucket, “~the term bailing out a business has a whole other connotation.”

“~That one involves liquid solvency other than water.” Lyra chuckled as she wiped the meal’s grease from the corners of her mouth. She stood to make ready for further searching. “~What’s your job back home?”

“~I am soon to be—.” He began.

“~Don’t just stand there.” Lyra’s high-pitched shout shocked Dmitri’s attention. “~Help her!” About ten meters away, a Thai man on a motor scooter had veered into a middle-aged European woman as she spoke on her mobile phone. The opportunistic crook latched onto the valuable item pressed against her ear. The girl had heard of this motorized form of purse snatching but had never witnessed it first-hand.

“~Okay!” By the time young Russian looked at what was going on, the perspective had changed enough for him to misinterpret the action. The thief had now pulled the expensive phone from the woman’s ear but she determinedly hadn’t released her grip. Dmitri only saw the older woman trailing behind the bike and he envisioned that the motorcyclist was trying to abduct her. The Russian ran and grasped the woman’s trailing hand. He tugged hard and his force finally broke the victim’s hold on her property.

The distraught woman’s forward momentum now caused her to sprawl onto the pavement but Dmitri’s grip at least slowed her fall. The robbed woman looked up disappointedly to watch her assailant gunning the engine of his get-a-way vehicle.

“~That was only half of the tag team.” Lyra hadn’t been either idle or acting as her partner, in a counter-productive manner. She had spied a pok-pok club in some wreckage. These are very common as they’re used with a wooden pestle for crushing chili peppers and making papaya salad. The shape is akin to a baseball bat and this particular one had half of the length and heft: it was of institutional size and it had likely floated out from the same restaurant they had been commenting on.

The young woman stepped up to the home plate of the curbside. Lyra used her uninjured hand and took a tennis player’s forehand stroke at the accelerating fastball of the perpetrator’s approaching head.

‘CRACK!’ The wood took the thief across the bridge of his nose. The splintering bar briefly blocked his vision but his sight rapidly faded into the pulp of unconsciousness. The phone thief tumbled boneless from the seat to tumble along the pavement with his scooter, before coming to a stop.

“~Driving without a helmet is hazardous,” Dmitri glanced both ways to see if the robber had any accomplices, “~and that’s one reason why.”

“~He will wake up in police custody,” the victim retrieved her phone from the snatcher’s limp hand, “~and he’ll suspect the light at the end of his tunnel was a train’s headlamp.”

“~I think he’ll sleep for awhile and awake with headache to match his road-rash.” Lyra handed the broken weapon to the woman for her defense should the criminal wake up. “~Will you be alright if I leave?”

“~I’ll tell the police,” the lady laughed at a small irony, “~that a knight-in-distress and I were saved by a damsel-in-shining-armor.”

“~I would’ve acted differently if I had realized what was happening.” The quip featuring a reversal of stereotypical male/female heroics set the coils in his ears glowing like an electric stove’s burner with embarrassment providing the power. In the moment prior, he had been about to brag about his finishing training as a police officer. Now, the information would seem ridiculous in light of his inactions. Dmitri wished he could have the last few minutes to do over and his mind pictured a few alternate scenarios featuring him as the hero and salvaging the situation.

shivasmessenger

“~We’ve wandered in a big circle.” The Russian surveyed a familiar setting. Another half day of further searching had brought the pair back to the remains of a small resort near to where Lyra and her mother had lived.

“~That was by my intention.” The girl remarked despondently. “~I’ve lost nearly all my hope and my search should end where my trials began.”

“~Isn’t that back where I found you?” Dmitri saw the staff had been gathering scattered furniture, luggage and corpses onto a large deck area.

“~My mother went one way,” Lyra circled a once blue diamond shaped pond that was now filled with brown water, “~whilst I traveled the other.” That could be true in another interpretation, with my continuing to live on while she walked onto a path of the dead.

“~In that case,” as if Dmitri had viewed the contents of her thoughts, he nodded over to a gazebo where a large billiard table held bodies covered with water-stained sheets, “~that is probably where you should look.” The Russian boy had watched her peeking under numerous shrouds over the past 24-hours. To wait, he sat on a piece of overturned furniture that had a comfortable, if haphazard, cushion of kelp.

“~This one is obviously a man,” Lyra’s hand hovered over the cloths as if loath to even touch them, “~and this woman is fatter than my mother.” She bypassed those first two, but paused at the third. “~This could be her.”

“~Just look and get it over with.” Squirming his seat, Dmitri urged.

“~Something odd is telling me that she is here.” The daughter’s hand shied away from that corpse covering and she went on to rule out the other two first. One seemed close in body type, but turned out to be a teenaged Thai boy, laid on his side. The last cadaver required nearly the full sheet to provide cover: by shape, it could’ve been a beached young walrus washed in from the Arctic, but was more likely a large middle-aged Slavic man.

“~Don’t keep torturing yourself,” the Russian was now leaning forward in anticipation, “~or me either.”

Lyra returned to the third body and ripped the sheet away. The woman was Caucasian and she had doubtlessly been in her early retirement years. Her calm features were almost regal in death. Lyra respectfully observed the cadaver. I can’t really think of her as a person anymore. The spark of life making her human is gone from her eyes and even from her skin.

“~Eyaiiii.” Dmitri’s impromptu seat collapsed with a loud splintering of wood: he had leaned too far over, on a piece not built as a chair. “~I guess your premonition was wrong.” He pronounced from his rubble pile.

“~That’s what’s left of my mother’s favorite antique!” She suddenly recognized the shattered heap he was sitting in: the carved scrollwork on the drawer face was unmistakable. “~My passport is under your elbow.”

“~I’m—uh.” Again, he was stuck for a proper response. Should he be prideful for finding it, or abashed for destroying her one possession. “I’m sorry your hunch turned out only to be in the form of broken furniture.

“~Forget about it.” Lyra still felt that the portent she experienced was not about a dead body or an antique, albeit a prized piece. Could I feel an omen emanating from something dead? She shrugged off the odd feeling. “~I’m resigned now to a realization that I’ve done all I can do here.”

“Things can always be replaced,” the Russian sagely offered, “if you have enough money. I have enough for that.”

“~I said it doesn’t matter!” She retorted sharply. That’s the 2nd time he’s tried to buy my affections.   “~It’s irreplaceable at any price anyways.”

“~We could search more around here.” He mistook her abruptness as being over her loss, instead of his trying to lure her with cash.

“~No. I want to go somewhere that isn’t affected by the tsunami.”

“~We could go to the Ukraine.” Hot blood rushed into the boy’s face as his hormonal stress spiked higher. “~Er—that is, if—uh—you want to.”

“~I’ll think about it.” Inwardly, Lyra smiled at his so obvious male dilemma. Has he ever even been laid? It would be odd if he hadn’t been. This was Thailand where the sexual attitudes are liberal and where many Asian girls seek Western men—whom they call Farangs. “~First, let’s just go somewhere away from Phuket.”

The two searchers turned and as they walked away, a pair of bellhops carried one more sheet-draped person from between two cabanas. They set their burden on the pool table and a hand fell out from under the covering cloth: the fingers still tightly clutched a syringe.

shivasmessenger

“~I suppose we’ll only really need the one room until you decide what you want to do.” While a uniformed desk clerk filled out the form, Dmitri turned to the girl standing three paces away, with folded arms: her reply was a shrug. He slapped his passport on the counter and spoke in English. “Upgrade it a superior.”

They had caught an overnight train to Bangkok but the bunks being too narrow for two to sleep together had put his conquest plans on a temporary hold. The Russian then jeopardized his prospects again, with his selection of a hotel near to the Nana Plaza: Dmitri had rued the somewhat less than ideal choice but this was where he stayed on route to the resort city and the only one he knew in Bangkok. This accommodation would give a wrong impression: well, right but not quite what he wanted to so blatantly imply.

“~This is just perfect.” The Russian’s remark sounded chipper but he inwardly meant it sarcastically because when the bellhop opened the room’s door, they saw a large king-sized bed with a single one beside it. The additional sleeping space was a feature of the superior room but it wouldn’t have been in a standard. Retrospectively, Dmitri knew that: during their previous stay, Pavel had taken the upgrade while the younger brother only had the rack-rated room, so he had seen both. Unfortunately, he hadn’t recalled this until just now.

“~Do you want more rest?” He asked hopefully.

“~Let’s get a coffee.” Lyra took some clothing from a plastic bag. She had used most the trifling money from her mother’s drawer in buying a few necessities from a street-side vendor’s stall.

“~I’ll call room service.” He called as she changed into the washroom.

“~I’d prefer it flavored with some fresh air.” The girl’s slightly caustic rejoinder was targeted at his cloying presence, as opposed to the outside ambiance. The outdoor air in central Bangkok could only really be called fresh in the moments following a downpour of rain. Her recent closeness with her companion though, was starting to feel like she was locked in a clothes closet with him. I imagine he would like that—especially if it was in a horizontal position: that would feel for me like being a double coffin.

A uniformed waiter brought the coffees while Dmitri was across the way using an ATM, but the Russian had left a small amount of cash to pay. The server returned with the change and Lyra tipped him the standard 20 baht note: the amount was about 65 cents American. She put cream and sugar in Dmitri’s beverage before fixing her own.

“Mmm.” The young woman lifted the cup to her nose to savor the rich aroma. Her eyes roamed to where the Dmitri was now putting a second card into the cash machine. I suppose that a limit on just one prevented his procuring an impressive enough wad of bills.

Her gaze then strayed up the road further to where an elderly woman was sweeping litter from the gutter: her back was permanently bent from osteoporosis, hard work, or both. The cleaning lady ambled slowly to the opposite sidewalk to empty her dustpan into a bin: she then continued her sweeping work and was headed in Lyra’s direction.

Lyra looked at the change from the coffee bill. A cashier had included an excessive amount of coinage to subtly encourage a larger gratuity. A ten baht coin and two fives remained. The girl quickly flicked her finger and sent the larger coin scooting off the table: it rolled into the gutter.

“~Have you thought about,” Dmitri returned and braved the question that had been trying to burn past his lips since Phuket, “my buying you a ticket to Kiev?” He fanned a bundle of crisp 1000 baht notes before stuffing them into his bulging wallet.

“~Not yet.” The girl’s eyes were fixedly looking into the street from the slightly elevated outdoor deck of the Coffee and Beer Bar. Why would Dmitri bring me to a prostitution area like the Nana Plaza? I should think he might’ve picked a major shopping district—where he could try to ply me with trinkets. Lyra had been to Bangkok several times with her mother and she knew about the city’s three main red light zones.

My mother didn’t choose her initial involvement in the sex trade, Lyra mused, but she had opportunities to stop: she stayed of her own volition.

“~What are you looking at?” Dmitri followed her gaze after the non-committal answer. He saw only ordinary morning doings but his eyes hit on the very skimpy shorts that one Thai girl was wearing: they seemed as if only painted on nude flesh above her lean bare legs.

“~I enjoy watching minor human dramas.” Lyra nodded towards a tiny clustering of people on the street corner. “~I find reality to be much more interesting than television—even of the supposedly reality type.”

“~I like that too.” Dmitri lied to further his ulterior purpose and took a haphazard guess at what was occurring. “~Those three men are drunk and one of the three women is especially offended by their intoxicated state.”

“~Only the two foreign men have been drinking heavily.” The girl smiled at how inexpertly he had botched his evaluation.

Lyra paused the telling of her assessment because in the unrelated tale, the old woman’s street cleaning efforts had arrived at the place where the coin was lurking. The straw broom whisked away debris covering the tiny treasure: her eyes found the bi-metal brass and nickel coin.

“~The Thai man is a taxi driver and I suspect he’s also a pimp.” Lyra continued her description of the onstage action. In the foreground, and nearly under the scene like in an orchestra pit, the cleaning woman stooped painfully to retrieve the found money.

“~How can you tell?” Like he was watching a tennis match, Dmitri switched his gaze from Lyra to the subject of her talk and then back. He couldn’t hear but wondered if she might. “~Do you speak Thai?”

“~I can understand nit noi, a little, but they are probably speaking English.” Lyra took a sip of coffee: it was flavorful and fresh. “~From a distance the body language, expressions and actions are easier to read than lips.” The young woman set her small cup back onto the saucer.

Dmitri impatiently gulped down some of his drink without tasting it. The street scene had piqued his curiosity and the girl’s delay with her beverage was an annoying interruption.

“~The two johns have likely been drinking with the three hookers for most of the night.” She elaborated after noting his expression of urging. “~The cabbie was doubtlessly hired exclusively to them for the duration and has become friendly. That’s why he is participating in the talk instead of sitting in his car.”

“~Does that make him a pimp?” Instead of viewing the full scene, Dmitri was focused on the two men with their girls. In their actions and appearance, he could envision himself and Pavel on their brief stopover. The younger brother had been quite plastered too and he was extremely excited about it finally being his first full sexual encounter: as it ended up, he had been far too eager and he had finished before actually starting.

“~I saw the transaction where the driver was paid for his chauffeur services but he is still there. That suggests he has another interest.” Lyra’s eyes flicked to where the cleaning woman had temporarily left her duties to purchase a few incense sticks from a vendor. “The most likely scenario is that he procured one of the women before the customers found two females to suit their own tastes in one of the bars they drank in. Now it’s time for a happy ending to the evening’s fun. Two of the three prostitutes have been selected, but the third, if she wasn’t the first, is distraught about not being picked. The spurned lady is connected with the cab driver because he is also putting up a fuss.”

They watched on for a moment as the argument flared briefly. The farangs then turned from the bickering and staggered up the road with their dates. After a withering glare at his jilted woman, the pimp jumped into his taxi and roared off. The one female stood forlornly alone.

Dmitri was again at a loss for something appropriate to say or ask that would elevate his stature in the eyes of his chosen. Isn’t it part of the pay-4-play-game for a participant to experience rejection sometimes? It was a one-night thing anyways? Is the cab driver her husband? He mentally tested several questions and finally opted for one seeming philanthropic. “~Should we give her some money?”

“~That would insult her injured self-esteem.” She plucked a bloom out of the table’s centerpiece. Without a whispered word, Lyra went to the woman and spoke volumes. After handing over the flower, she put palms together in the wei of a Buddhist prayer position and bowed her head.

“~What was the point of that?” Dmitri was still perplexed when the girl returned. “~I’m sure the woman would’ve gladly taken cash.”

“~When you walk in a house,” Lyra hiked her butt up onto the high barstool, “~why do cats and dogs purposely try to trip you up?”

“~I don’t know,” the young man was perplexed on what household pets had to do with prostitutes and clients, “but it’s annoying.”

“~They’re seeking a body contact and just saying I’m here in a universal language.” Lyra adopted a smile that was as unreadable as the Mona Lisa’s. “~I basically told her the same thing and I saw in her eyes that she understood. It was nothing but yet important.”

A movement captured the girl’s attention and she noted the ending to her other small street theater. The cleaning woman had lit her incense at a spirit house and was holding the smoking gift to the Buddha while praying. She placed the sticks in a receiving cup and headed back to her waiting broom. Lyra noted a big change in the woman’s demeanor. Despite her menial job and her very low stature, the bliss on her face is enviable.

“~Now that you’ve explained,” the boy tried hard not to look dejected, “~it still doesn’t make any sense.” His latest effort at elevating her opinion of him had netted a negative gain of several floors because he had fibbed about enjoying the game and not been able to back up his boast.

“~Growing up with my mother’s situation showed me things.” Lyra looked at his quizzical face and didn’t suppose any elucidation was likely to register on him. Some people are too immersed in the complexity of life to fathom its simplicity. “~One is that however we try to live as lords of creation, our physical bodies are still animals.”

Having failed to understand her point, Dmitri’s first idea was to ask about her mother’s situation but in looking the tantalizing girl, the thread of his thoughts became further tangled. “~We all have basic urges.” The young human beast in him was experiencing primitive desires right now.

Lyra captured his eyes but said nothing. His flushed cheeks suggest that both of his male heads have wandered in my direction again.

“~We have fundamental requirements too,” his raised eyebrows invited a response to his earlier query, “~like a home and shelter.”

“~Let’s go find the hotel’s swimming pool.” The girl rejected his tacky segue back to that issue. She didn’t want to have any conversation about a continued relationship stemming from the sex-for-hire drama.

Lyra finished her last swig of coffee. The street cleaner had returned to the point where she had left off. The old lady reached up under the table to grasp Lyra by the wrist: she held it firmly for about ten seconds while brief smiles were exchanged. Then, the woman resumed her tedious task.

shivasmessenger

“~Has anyone in this hotel noticed there was a disaster in the southern part of the country?” Dmitri reclined on a deck chaise. The serene scene with guests basking in the sun was almost identical to Pavel’s and his last tranquil morning before the wave.

“~Should the earth stop revolving before noon,” Lyra inquired acidly, “so we can all stay in morning?” With a small set of clippers in one hand, the girl was trimming the nails on the other.

“~I just meant—.” As Dmitri tried to explain it, he realized his point was ridiculous and gave it up uncompleted.

“~Let me see yours.” Lyra finished her manicure and reached for his hand: but he snatched his hand away.

“~Mine are short enough.” He curled his fingertips to avoid her seeing that his nails were bitten down to the quick.

“~Did your dental salon trim your cuticles too?” From her lounge chair next to his, Lyra tallied their fellow bathers and sun-tanners. About four of each five men were at least over forty, with some up to sixty-something. There were approximately one Asian girl for every three men and their ages were all seemingly less than thirty. Lyra noted an absence of nuptial rings and that some of pairings were mismatched by up to forty years. If I didn’t already know this hotel was close to the Nana Plaza, this sampling of guests would be a sure giveaway.

“~Do you really want to see?” The young man tentatively offered his hand. He had noticed her wandering gaze and wished divert her attention.

“~Oh never mind.” The girl brushed his hand away. Dmitri is utterly inept at getting what he wants—me. Instead of seeking to win her with one small step after another, like by establishing closeness by allowing her to care for him in personal ways, he persisted like a charging bull and was seemingly intent only on goring his bare horn into her vitals.

“~There are not many European women here,” the Russian sought to mitigate his danger area by remarking on the blatantly observable facts—as if they were a wonder for him too, “~and a number of the Caucasian men seem to have young oriental mistresses.”

“~That’s because you booked into a place just down the soi from a go-go and beer bar area.” She overstepped his pitiful defense and slashed her verbal blade across his exposed throat. “You needn’t pretend you didn’t already know. I’ll further surmise that you and your brother previously checked in here precisely because of the convenient location.”

“~Uh,” the tongue trapped Russian man stammered: his planned ploy of working the situation casually into the conversation was blasted away like his pedal bike had driven over an anti-tank landmine, “the soi?”

“~Down the soi: it means small street in Thai.” Lyra gave a language lesson and went back to her surveying while pondering. Whatever his true intent was in bringing me here, I hope I’ve now squished it like a mosquito. Was he hinting about her status in a continued relationship or a subtle suggestion that he could get a companion who would put out, if she didn’t? Either way, I need to give serious thought to my options.

Lyra’s eyes were now concentrating primarily on the men around the pool deck: fully half were intently observing her. With all the other girls being obviously Asian, I appear exotic to them

“~Are you mad at me?” The young man’s voice quavered slightly. Inwardly, Dmitri wondered if he should seem to be indignant of the covert leering or prideful that she was with him. He certainly felt the latter, even though the envious eyes didn’t know that she wasn’t quite with him.

“~No.” In the baffling language of females, the snap answer shot over her shoulder could’ve meant either yes or no but in this case, it translated as ‘don’t bother me while I’m thinking’. Lyra felt the boy’s quizzical eyes drilling into her from the side but she paid him no heed.

She reclined on the deck chaise and closed her eyes. The male stares burned like lasers into her velvety young flesh, but the hazy hot Bangkok sun warmed and smoothed away the imagined ocular pockmarks. Daddy, where are you? Gandalf, her fantasy mental image of the father she didn’t remember, drifted into her mind. My childhood drowned with my mother in Phuket but I feel that I’m still too young to manage life on my own.

“~Can I buy you something to drink?” Dmitri interrupted her pause of solitude after he had thought of something appropriate to say.

“~Just a juice.” Lyra shaded her brow from the pool’s dazzle to watch her friend, as a potential boyfriend, walk away. His scrawny limbs poke from his brother’s baggy bathing trunks like a baby swaddled in an overly large plaid-patterned diaper. Her gaze then circled to the other men.

At least Dmitri isn’t grossly overweight. Nature, age and heredity play cruel jokes on a physique storing excessive kilos of fat. The girl watched as a few men stood to stretch and then reposition in the sun or as several strutted. Some of the unusual body configurations were reason on their own for staying slim—and should be outlawed from wearing Speedos.

Is that posture a bizarre form of chair exercise? Her eyes landed on a Japanese man. His butt was high in the air and one leg was fully extended out to the side. In fact, his heel was brushing the man in an adjacent seat. As she continued to look on, the sundeck samurai moved into another contorted form and his eyes flicked over towards Lyra. Were the unnatural poses showing off his limberness and appeal? I can’t imagine Japanese girls or females of any other nationality finding pretzel men sexy.

Since they’re all watching, the girl gracefully swung her legs over the side of her chair and stood, I should give them a good show. Her arms spread wide in an exaggerated stretch and she extended her chin to the sky. As a diamond ring revolving in a jeweler’s display case the invaluable young female performed a slow pirouette. She enjoyed the warm sunlight on her body, while also showing off each facet to prospective customers.

With tantalizingly deliberate motions, the girl stripped off the colorful wrap she had worn as a skirt over her bikini swimsuit. She folded the cloth carefully and bent at the waist to set the material down.

Did everyone get a good view? Lyra looked around quickly: in time to see that every male eyeball was either on her form or was in process of averting. She skipped to the pool and dove. Her long supple body sliced into the cool blue water with barely a ripple to mark her liquid entry.

Lyra swam a few strokes when her head found the surface but stopped when she approached a large man floating on his back, as motionless as a driftwood stump. The girl rolled over to attempt the same float—but she sunk. The slender female could only keep her chin and upper chest at the surface by holding a lungful of air. Muscle and bone are heavier than the water they displace, whereas fat is lighter. Lyra abandoned the doomed attempt and sculled with her hands instead.

I could likely earn a living by having men yearning to possess me. Her lazily squinted eyes detected the lascivious male stares. Each at the pool appeared to want her, even the ones with an Asian girl at his beck.

‘Life deals beautiful girls a winning hand,’ Lyra recalled some of her mother’s words. ‘before they know how to play the game.’ The quip was astute and accurate, but it not particularly helpful advice just now.

The girl found she had drifted to the far water’s edge where a blue-tiled wall doubled as a waterfall. She hoisted her body out of the water and set her backside on the deck’s edge as a mermaid ascending a sea rock. Her legs were in the pool and the water feature wall was behind.

“~Oh my!” Lyra involuntarily released a sigh as a trim European man in his late forties or early fifties strode onto the sun deck. If Dmitri were put together like that, I mightn’t be so hesitant with him. The man had grey hair on his head and across his heavily muscled chest.

I might find a rich man to be my sugar daddy. Her eyes followed as the newcomer picked up a book, but he soon found the nymph partially in the water. He smiled at her and promptly lost interest in his novel’s pages.

Lyra flipped her long brunette hair over her shoulder and used a motion of adjusting her bikini to admire her own form. Her hips were narrower than her mom’s and her chest likely had more to grow as well. Looking up from her self-inspection, the girl observed that the attractive man still had his attention unwaveringly on her.

As their eyes met, the gentleman dropped his gaze to his hands. He set his cigarette in the ashtray and then rubbed his thumb over the topside of his forefinger. It took her a few seconds pause to surmise what the gesture implied. His hand is counting imaginary money. The girl suddenly felt a stirring of awakening in sections of anatomy concealed in her lime-green two-piece swimsuit. He’s subtly offering to pay me for sex! Should I?

This is another occasion of my thinking about prostitution, the girl averted her gaze back to the pool without first returning an expression of rejection or even of understanding, and this occurrence comes complete with an opportunity. Then, a movement in her peripheral vision showed that Dmitri had come back: her mildly erotic sensations faded as the boy set the tray down.

Lyra stood and walked tiptoed, as it made her legs seem longer. Back at her place, she entertained more by bending at the waist and deliberately toweling off her legs: most of the audience was still rapt but the one she was really playing for had now returned his face to his book. He’s seen me as Dmitri’s girlfriend and he believes that I’m unavailable. Right now is a pivot point in the course of my future.

“~What’ll we do this afternoon?” The bikini-clad female’s display for the others had coincidentally given Dmitri’s male stick a swizzle as well. His hand trembled wildly as he handed her a glass. The umbrella garnish fluttered and the ice clinked to ensure that his unsteadiness was noticeable.

“~I don’t know yet.” The young woman had made a decision. Mother nature shuffled my cards and fate has dealt me into the game whether I’m prepared or not. “~Excuse me for a minute.” She crossed the sundeck and perched on the edge of the older man’s deck chair.

“My rate is three thousand a night.” Lyra spoke in a low sultry whisper and rested her hand on the man’s left thigh: she felt a quiver in his muscles.

“Three thousand baht?” He was surprised by this unexpected turn.

“Dollars.” Lyra trailed her fingertips lightly up his leg.

“I could probably get fifty girls for that price.” The man’s mental math had determined the different currency equated to a multiplication in the cost—by the factor of thirty.

“How many of the fifty will look as I do or speak English as fluently?” Lyra flirted her eyes to his crotch. “Will any of those other courtesans be as well-trained as I am in the ancient methods of Tantra?”

“What about your boyfriend?” The man took a long swig from his beer bottle and some condensation dripped onto his chest.

“Mind him no heed.” Lyra had to take her own advice too, as she could almost feel Dmitri’s eyes stabbing into her back like kebob skewers. “What is your room number and when shall I tap on your door?”

After the man supplied the information, the playful female tickled hairs on his inner thigh in a parting gesture. She returned to her spot and took a casual sip of her beverage.

“~What was that all about?” Dmitri took a drink at the same time as she did, but he spoke excitedly before he finished swallowing his mouthful of juice. Spittle of orange liquid splashed down his square jaw onto his t-shirt: he didn’t notice the drool as his mind was in turmoil.

“~I’m going to have sex with that man for money.”

“~You don’t have to do that.” As usual, the young Russian man was nearly lost for what to say to her but this one time he wasn’t stuttering. “~I’ve been looking after you. I could pay you instead of him.”

“~I refuse to be owned by anyone.” The girl took his eyes sternly. “~I don’t know yet how my actions will affect our relationship, but I’ll address that afterwards. In the meanwhile, I won’t renege on my arranged tryst.”

shivasmessenger

“~Did he spot your purse camera?” The mobster snatched the blonde prostitute’s handbag. He turned it inside out and removed the DV tape.

“~He had attention and fingers only for my body.” The girl shuddered: it was more of a convulsion. “~Please, may I have my treat now?”

“~You will record your next meeting too,” the burly boss tossed over a needle kit, “~and ensure that it clearly shows him handing you the money.”

“My American friend has needs,” the mobster turned to another man in the room, and switched to English to exclude the unilingual girl, “that are inserted-in-your-back-street.”

“The term is up-my-alley.” The 2nd man’s posture would be expected on a parade square and his deep voice was as bile frozen into a Popsicle.

“Having our coxswain delivery boy on video is but cream on her pie.” The mafia chief took no offense from the correction: his say could have his lieutenant’s words pushed back in with a bayonet. “Blackmail on a man is a dark stain on his employer too and I’ll be obtaining more than money.”

“I’ll perform my new duties with panache.”

“Pancake?”

“Panache, as a plumb of feathers in my cap.” The leaner man sneered as he delivered up a lesser-used definition. This man’s reputation needed no feathers: he always executed with enthusiasm and vigor.

shivasmessenger

Still in shock from the afternoon’s turnabout, Dmitri spent sleepless hours walking a beat on his room’s carpeting. He would pace to the door, while considering if he should forget about Lyra and find a willing girl from the Nana Plaza bars. By the time he reached the doorknob though, he had changed his mind, and his feet trudged him back to the lonely bed. He would check the time, close his eyes for a few moments but then a vision of the available sex partners down the street would bubble up into his brain and the process would begin yet again.

While his physical body was pacing the repetitious cycle, his spinning mind trod a similarly vacillating treadmill. If she was already a hooker, then why did she not make an offer to him? If she had suddenly decided to whore, then why wouldn’t she choose her friend to be her first customer? Would Lyra come back to his room at all? Did he really want her to? If she did return, would he be willing to pay for her services? That last was an easy question and the answer always returned as an emphatic—YES!

With the dawn creeping under his window shade, finally there was a light patter on his door. Wordlessly, Dmitri pulled the knob and stood aside to allow her entry. She appeared as fresh and rested as when she left.

“I didn’t know you were—.” His hastily started sentence trailed off, as he hasn’t preplanned what he really wanted to say.

“I won’t explain myself to you.” Conversely, her retort was thought out in advance and it could’ve fit almost any anticipated opener.

“I would’ve paid you if I had known.” Dmitri took a quick breath and then lowered his pitch to a near whisper. “I still will.”

“That’s what you’ve been trying to do since we found your brother’s wallet.” Lyra faced him with her fists on her hips. “Now, I have my own money too and the ability to get more whenever I need to or want to.”

“~I thought about being a butterfly last night,” he braved a timid smile, “~but in the end—I couldn’t bring myself to do it.”

“~Straight up honesty works better with me than stupid games do.” She softened her stance and reached out to stroke his arm.

“~I’ll attempt to live by that knowledge.” With her having understood the somewhat obscure reference, Dmitri’s evaluation of the young woman had multiplied. A butterfly is a term for a man that flits from woman to woman, sipping some nectar from each. Up until now though, the young Russian man had been as a housefly buzzing against the girl’s dazzling light bulb—until his wings had nearly burnt off.

“~Prove it.”

“~Until just now,” Dmitri searched his new feelings towards her and he found a liberating change, “~I’ve seen you as a virginal prick-teaser and I’ve been spending all my thoughts on how to be the first man in your bed. My knowledge that you’re experienced as a woman has relieved me of a big pressure. I simply need treat you as a grown-up and you’ll come to me if and when you are ready to.”

“~That’s the most mature thing I’ve heard you say.” The girl was half tempted to think this was just another of his ploys until she noticed that his stutter had abated. “~The moment is nearer than you imagined possible.”

“~I think,” the young Russian man paused for a long moment while he did just that, “~that you would be better off in the Ukraine—with me.”

“~I suspect you could be right but what would we do for a living?”

“~Your profession is in demand everywhere,” he nervously laughed, “~but as a policeman, I may have to bust you. If you wanted a day job, my brother had an Internet business.”

“~Should we book our flight before,” Lyra took a step towards him and grinned impishly, “~or afterwards?”

“~Before or—uh?” Dmitri’s stammer suddenly returned as he figured out what she was referring to. “~Uh—are we going to—uh?”

After surviving catastrophe and finding kinship where all relations were lost, the two young people shared an earth moving with Lyra sending his sensations for several extra spins around the globe. Then, they flew further in relocating to Kiev, where their lives settled into a domestic routine. And the planet continued its rotations, until it was ready to upset gravity again.

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