Jim didn't remember the curse until after they climaxed together. The darkened bedroom was quiet, some light spilling in from the hallway and bathroom, the silence more noticeable now after the low moans, sharp gasps, and urgent liquid slidings of a few moments before.
They'd met at a medical office management conference. 'A chance encounter,' she'd said during dinner that evening, smiling across the table at him. And afterwards had been pleasant, talking over drinks at his condo, discovering what they had in common. Jim had been startled when she brought the folded paper from her purse, handed it solemnly to him, looking slightly embarrassed. Blood test results, as clean as his from the previous month. 'Modern Courtship,' they'd called it, shaking their heads. She was on the Pill, but he'd used a condom anyway — there was always a risk.
The brown eyes looking down into his were narrowed with lust, her teeth bared in passion's feral grin, face sheened with sweat, short dark bangs plastered to her forehead. Her hands, so insistent and clever in their earlier urgings, rested on his chest, her wrists locked together inside padded steel cuffs. She was quite lovely. He was doing better than usual, Jim thought smugly. Medical meetings might have to replace the singles bars and his Health Club for his after- hours hunting pleasures. Smiling up at her, he tensed his stomach muscles, lifted his upper body off the bed, and kissed her swollen nipples, lightly caressing their hardness with the tip of his tongue. His shoulders strained against the silken bonds tethering his arms to the bed's headboard. She remained unmoving, still smiling, watching him intently.
His tongue and lips trailed over her breasts, lightly brushing the smooth firm skin beneath them. A little too firm, Jim realized, suddenly puzzled, jarred to attention by the texture of her flesh. Concerned, he released the slip knots holding his arms and tentatively touched her.
The skin under his fingers was hard, unyielding. Her breasts had become solid hemispheres, immobile against his hands, like plastic bowls adhering to her chest. Snapping on the nightstand light, Jim looked more closely, saw the gleaming mannequin semi-gloss of her skin under the runnels of sweat. His breath caught in his throat as he traced a fingertip across the stiffened lips, then over one dully glistening cheek. He moistened his tongue, ran it over his own suddenly dry lips. She had frozen during her orgasm. Or his. He flexed his body. The rigid woman rocked slightly, stabilized astride him by his cock within her, inflexible hands digging into his chest. Her glassy eyes remained locked on his.
Jim forgot completely the recent shared passion and the sweat stinging in the shallow scratches on his chest. Breathing heavily again, heart accelerating, he remembered the letter he'd received yesterday. Fear welled up inside him. He shuddered, rolling her body over and off his, slipping easily from inside her. She toppled stiffly onto her right side. He stood slowly, looked down at her expression of frozen lust. Panic surfaced more strongly and he ran into the kitchen, scrabbling through the mail stack, hoping that he hadn't thrown the letter out.
He found it, tearing it out of the envelope. Yesterday the message's bright red letters had meant nothing; today it made horrifying sense: 'You have taken my honor. From now, whoever your fresh seed touches will move never.' The writing was cramped, letters with a foreign slant, the 'e's' and 'l's' too open.
The Romanian woman. Maria. It had to be her. Jim had treated her younger sister after the girl had been sent to his hospital office from the Emergency Room. It hadn't been that complicated. And the older sister had been so grateful. At first.
Attracted by her dark sinister beauty, Jim had taken Maria to dinner that night, then taken advantage of her gratitude to get her into his bed. Maybe he'd pressured her — certainly she hadn't been happy when it was over and he hurried her out the door so he could get some sleep — but that wasn't his fault. She hadn't said no. 'Hospital Privileges,' he and his colleagues called it, with sidelong smiles and winks. A mistake, he knew now, a worse mistake not to return her calls in the days afterward. She'd cursed him somehow; the proof of it lay silently in his bedroom. Jim read through the words again, noticed that the color had changed, that the ink had faded to a dull red-brown since yesterday. He held the page up to his nose, inhaled the faint familiar odor of old blood.
No, it couldn't be. He pushed away from the counter, stood in the center of the kitchen, the linoleum cool on his feet, and forced himself to take five deep breaths. "No," he repeated, this time aloud, willing reality to reform into familiar patterns. There was no such thing as magic, and this was not happening to James E. Compton, M.D., successful young internist.
Holding the sheet of paper in both hands to control his shaking, Jim returned to the bedroom, hoping to find a disoriented but mobile woman. There was no change. No movement, no discernible pulse, no signs of life. She was still a statue, caught at the moment of ecstasy, wrists still bound together. Pulling her upright, grabbing under her arms, he lifted her off of the bed and tugged her across the carpet. He flinched from the slick hard feel of her skin as he positioned her near one wall. The gelid stare was too much for him. He brought a spare blanket out of the hall closet, covered her, leaving her looking like a museum piece in storage. Then he changed the sheets.
Jim lay in bed, staring out the skylight, unable to sleep as he wracked his brain for a way out of this waking nightmare. When he finally slept, Maria's dark laughing face floated through his dreams, muttering foreign words, mocking him, and the smell of old blood permeated everything.
* * * * *
Showered, fortified with a small breakfast and two cups of coffee, Jim drove to the library and read through what was available on curses. There was nothing quite like his, though the legend of King Midas of Phrygia was similar, turning what he touched to gold. Midas had inadvertently touched his own daughter and changed her into a statue of golden metal. At least gold had value, he thought. Plastic certainly didn't. He couldn't put his victim out by the curb for the recycling truck. But none of the books had anything on Romanian curses, only a few folktales. And nothing about lifting curses. He drove slowly home, deciding to get a blood test on Monday, when he was back at the hospital. He avoided the bedroom except to sleep, trying not to look at the silent draped figure squatting on the carpet.
* * * * *
Jim phoned his victim's office early Monday morning, after digging one of her business cards from her purse, gave a false name, fabricating an excuse to explain her absence.
With time, perhaps, he could somehow reverse the process. He had ceased thinking of it as a medical problem, and more of a supernatural one, which made it seem less like murder. His blood workup was normal, no surprise. There were no blood tests for curses. He tried a few occult bookstores, purchasing several books on magic. He learned more about curses and spells than he ever thought he would need, including removal. Medical training didn't help. And nothing worked. As the week progressed, and he lost himself in clinic rounds and private patients, Jim would forget the matter for hours, reminded only when he entered his bedroom. He'd thought he might hear from Maria, but she didn't call. And he couldn't bring himself to call her. That would be an admission of failure.
* * * * *
Late Friday afternoon, evening really, Jim sat in his private office, going over patient charts. His office staff was gone for the weekend. On Saturday morning, willing to try anything now, he had an appointment with a Gypsy woman reputed to be a witch. Until then, he tried to put the curse out of his mind. Maria still hadn't called, but why would she? Her wrong had been revenged.
There was a knock on the door. Puzzled at the interruption, he looked up. An Emergency Room nurse that he'd had a relationship with a few months before slipped in. Smiling, he tried to remember her name, but couldn't. She closed and locked the door behind her, a finger to her lips.
Clad only in green ER scrubs, her hair tied back, she came over to him and slid his chair back away from the desk.
Smiling enticingly, she undid his belt and slid down his pants and shorts, touching him while watching his face. Keeping her eyes on his, she lowered her head to his crotch, warm moist lips engulfing the head of his cock. Jim started to protest, but she covered his mouth with her free hand. Her arms rested on his thighs, her mouth wetly busy. He should tell her about the curse. But he could only clutch the armrests, beyond speech as he approached orgasm.
Unable to hold back any longer, he jetted into her mouth, her sucking more intense now. Suddenly, she seemed to quiver all over, and every motion stopped an instant later. Heart thudding, Jim hesitatingly touched one dully-gleaming hand and wrist. It had happened again. He grasped her stiff arms, pushed away from her rigid form, looked down into the unseeing eyes, glassy green spheres over the silent 'O' of her mouth. Her full lips remained extended over the space where the shaft of his cock had been moments before, and the tip of her hardened tongue lodged where it had been tightly stroking him. A thin stream of his ejaculate dribbled down over her chin, dangling in strings towards the floor. She still smiled gleefully to herself, overlaying that with a frozen expression of licentious imbecility. Looking into her congealed features, Jim could only think that becoming a statue of a blowjob was not a pretty end. He leaned back in his chair, eyes closed and one hand covering his face, unable to look into another fixed stare. Bad enough that a simple one night stand had ended the way it had, but now this.
Why had it happened again, and what to do?
* * * * *
Two hours later, after a cautious trip home in his Volvo, a second figure squatted in his bedroom. Jim sat nude on the end of his bed, examining the two frozen women. Without understanding why, he'd pulled the covering off his first victim. Looking at them, it occurred to him that he might never have normal sex again. It seemed likely. Not that sex should be even a remote consideration now. Still, as he thought about that prospect, gazing at the perfectly-preserved lust resting on his carpet, he began to have an erection. Masturbation, he reflected, as he watched his rising organ, might be the only form of sex left to him. He reached out with his left hand, holding himself as he stood and re-covered his two victims. Then he fell back onto the bed.
Jim brought himself to the edge of coming, held back as long as he could, then went over the edge. As the hot, viscous ejaculate cascaded forth, flowing down over his cock and the hand enclosing it, a sudden tingling spread from his crotch out over his entire body.
He tried to tear his hand away, and couldn't. It was locked in place, as if glued to the hardened shaft. He tried to move, but the tingling had left him as rigid as the two women on his carpet. He was completely stiff. In the wake of the tingling, Jim's hand, genitals, and crotch numbed, the lack of feeling swiftly spreading to engulf him completely. His eyes were fixed, unmoving, on a shining pillar clutched in an equally shining hand. He felt none of it. Except vision, and perhaps hearing, all sensation was gone.
It was the curse, his mind screamed, as his vision began to fade, his brain slowing inexorably as it struggled. Part of his medical training still analyzed the process, even as it altered his body.
One ejaculation—one victim. That was how it must work, and this was the final revenge Maria had wanted, knowing that eventually, unthinking, Jim would trap himself.
And he had. As that last thought surfaced, and the room darkened, his failing hearing sensed something stirring beyond the end of his bed.
Sounds of movement. A rustling of blankets. The women had been released, were coming back to life.
The curse had claimed its only intended victim.