The Ballers

Myra, her mysterious urge to fuck becoming almost uncontrollable, needed a time to be alone. She needed these quiet moments for thinking and hanging on and making her spinning universe settle into something she could recognize. This wild point of land seemed not only to defy the shape of reality, but to twist feelings and behavior among whatever humans dared invade it.

Surf curled onto the beach before her, its gray-green wall toppling in slow motion so that she caught herself holding her breath while she waited for the thud that seemed to shake the balcony floor beneath her feet. The dying hiss of each breaker drew itself out like the prolonged sigh that follows orgasm, amplified a thousand-thousand times.

And that was the whole problem, she thought. The whole scene throbbed with sex. The harder she tried to escape its erotic message, the more tightly it seemed to enclose her. The pulse of the surf felt like a majestic beat of the climactic waves of contraction. A lone seagull, soaring with motionless wings, reminded her of the full-curved silhouette of her own proud-standing breasts. The spray-laden breeze played over her body with the intimate caresses of a lover.

Where else, she asked herself, would she ever have considered such a weird notion as this: to come out onto the observation deck naked and stare at the scenery? More than anything else about Pulsegate, this behavior of hers was a symbol of the way the place was warping her impulses.

She loved the other two couples; she and Rocky had spent happy hours wondering lazily how many people were lucky enough to enjoy the kind of friendship they had with Leanne and Jim Stokes and Bonnie and Ward Ramos. She had concluded long before that the feeling was love — that mere “liking” could never be as deep and satisfying as the feeling they shared with their friends. But loving could be a nonphysical thing. At least, its physical components could consist of pleasant warmth in the harmless embraces they shared upon meeting or leaving each other and the occasional quick hugs that came spontaneously when delight bubbled over.

What was happening here was not like that innocent fairy tale she and Rocky had been living. Something — maybe it was the isolation from civilization, or the primitive savagery of the landscape, or the chemistry of pure, human nature — was reaching through the social fabric to awaken instincts and desires that must have belonged to prehistoric ancestors of man.

A flicker of movement in the undergrowth beyond the corner of the house to her right snapped the spell. She tensed in momentary panic, cringing inwardly and ready to scramble back into hers and Rocky’s bedroom. But she relaxed when she made out the head and shoulders of wolflike Soldier, the strange, surly brute who had survived his master’s death and continued to course the wild point in search of intruders.

Bonnie and Ward Ramos had been as surprised as anyone else to find themselves heirs to Pulsegate. Bonnie had known nothing about any recluse uncle, and she had clearly been stunned to learn about the lonely way he had spent the last twenty years of his life.

“A retreat!” Bonnie had exclaimed to the others when the facts had begun to sink in. “We can all use it for a retreat!”

And that idea had sprouted and taken hold until all six felt as if there had been no other alternative. So they were all here, airing the two-story lodge and turning it into a livable place to spend long weekends or vacations.

Bonnie’s mother had confessed the family’s conspiracy against Uncle Walt. They had excluded him when he had married the wild, sensuous Carlita; as if he had never existed, they had shut him out of their memories and away from mention. Until his death, thirty-six years later, they had known nothing of his whereabouts. They had been unaware of Carlita’s death in the sixteenth year of the marriage, unaware of the decay of the Pulsegate land — not knowing Pulsegate existed and never hinting to the younger members of the clan that the haunting, abandoned works of the mysterious poet, Walt Mason were those of a relative.

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