Don’t Panic

The small island of Trikinos, just off the coast of Greece, has
been inhabited for many thousands of years, but humans have left
very little mark on it. The soil is too rocky and sterile to
support large-scale agriculture, and separation from the mainland
has encouraged the use of the local gray stone for building, so
that from a distance the island’s single village, Skirna, blends
seamlessly into the harsh, unchanging landscape.

The people of Skirna have always made their living from the
sea; the men leave early every morning in shallow, wooden boats,
and return in the middle of the afternoon with their catch of
anchovies and sardines. The old ways have been very slow to die
on Trikinos, and at the dawn of the twentieth century, while the
rest of Greece was undergoing the sometimes-painful transformation
into a modern industrial state, there remained on this isolated
island a sense of continuity, a blissful feeling that life was
much the same as it always had been and always would be.

It was midsummer, and the intense Mediterranean sun was high
overhead as a boy ran through Skirna’s empty cobblestone streets,
ducking through alleys and cutting through courtyards, two
identical square packages tucked carefully under his arm. Fifteen
drachmas extra if he made his delivery before the old church
struck noon, enough money to buy himself a pastry with real meat
in it for his dinner: lamb, or maybe even beef. His stomach
growled at the thought.

He came out of a narrow dirt alley onto a wider street and
slowed to a rapid walk, looking up at the numbers carved into the
stone arches above the gaily-painted wooden doors. Number thirty-
seven, there it was. He stepped up to the green door and rapped
firmly three times. He heard a scraping sound from inside, and
what sounded like the rustling of skirts and whispering female
voices, and he shifted his weight from foot to foot impatiently.
Finally the door opened, and he saw two beautiful girls – young
women, really – looking at him with barely-disguised

“I have deliveries for Miss Likatos and for Miss Nash,” said
the boy politely, in Greek. Then he finally remembered to take
off his cap.

The blond girl with the light freckles and wide blue eyes
looked helplessly at her dark-haired companion, who was now
smiling broadly.

“He’s delivering packages for us!” said the brunette, who was
even more beautiful than her cousin. “We must have been invited
to the Festival after all! These will be our dresses.”

The blond girl let out a little shriek of excitement, and
then managed to compose herself. “Should we pay him, Tasha?”

The dark-haired girl exchanged a few words in Greek with the
delivery boy, looked at the clock over the mantel, and then wrote
something on a scrap of paper.

“He says he’s already been paid, and that he hopes we enjoy
the Festival,” she said, as the boy ran off cheerfully down the
street. “Come on, let’s go upstairs and see what we’ve got!”

The blonde, whose name was Lizzie and who was an American,
from Ohio to be precise, eagerly opened the package with “Miss
Elizabeth Nash” handwritten on it. After carefully removing
several layers of tissue paper, she held up a diaphanous white
dress with gentle pleats.

“It’s beautiful,” she said, letting the cloth flow through
her fingers. “The fabric, it’s so smooth.”

“Hold it up,” said her cousin impatiently. “Oh yes, it’s
gorgeous. Why, you could wear that anywhere.”

“Isn’t it awfully short, though? And it leaves one shoulder

“Not at all, especially for a costume,” said Natasha.
“People wear the most daring things to the Festival. I’ve seen
women going in dresses that make that one look positively dowdy.”

“Is that so,” said Lizzie, brightening. “In that case I love

“There’s more,” said Natasha, looking into the open box. She
reached in and pulled out a pair of elegant leather sandals.
“Here’s your shoes, and…” Now she pulled out a green headband
made of woven vines. Lizzie took it from her and slipped it over
her head, where it rested gently on her thick, golden hair.

“You look like a vestal virgin,” giggled Natasha.

“Hmph. I guess they have me pegged, then.” Lizzie held the
dress up again and looked at herself in the large dressing mirror.
“Very fetching,” she said, adjusting the headband. “Some looks
never go out of fashion, eh?” In the mirror, she suddenly noticed
a pale woman standing in the doorway behind her, staring at her in
an odd, expressionless way, and she felt a chill.

Natasha squeezed her mother’s hand and kissed her on the cheek.
“Hello, Mama,” she said, simply. Lizzie said nothing, feeling
somewhat uncomfortable, as she always did in the presence of her
aunt. Anastasia had been the victim of some sort of strange
illness when Natasha was a baby; although she survived, her mind
had never recovered, and she hadn’t spoken a word or shown any
real awareness of her surroundings ever since, spending most of
her time wandering the house or sitting in her room looking out
the window. Now she turned and left as quietly as she had

“All right, it’s my turn,” said Natasha, after a short
silence. She quickly opened her package and pulled out a blood-
red dress.

“What a beautiful color,” said Lizzie, a bit jealously. Red
was her best color.

“It is, isn’t it? But look, it’s longer than yours. I won’t
be able to show off my legs as much.”

Natasha held the red dress up to her chest, and the two cousins
noticed the plunging vee of the neckline at the same time.

“My goodness!” said Lizzie. “No one will be looking at your
legs when you have that sort of neckline! I guess they noticed
who had the figure for it.”

“What sort of a tramp do they think I am?” protested Natasha,
but her heart wasn’t in it. She moved in front of the mirror and
tried to determine just how much of her chest would be revealed.

“It’s going to be daring, but for the Festival I think it will
do very well,” she decided.

Lizzie was rummaging around in her cousin’s box. “Here’s your
shoes – you’ve got heels on yours. And there’s a headband too –
or a tiara, really.”

She handed Natasha a pair of red leather shoes and a shiny band
of silver metal, inscribed with odd symbols.

“Wait, I’m going to try it on,” said Natasha impulsively. She
stepped out of her shoes and took off her blouse and her skirt,
leaving them in puddles on the floor. Then she shed her thin
cotton shirt and stood unselfconsciously topless in front of

“What are *you* staring at?” asked Natasha playfully. She
arched her back, causing her full young breasts to thrust out
proudly from her chest – two pale globes of flesh tipped with
small pink circles.

“You certainly have sprouted,” said Lizzie, blushing slightly.
She held up the red dress, and Natasha put her arms and head
through. “When I was here three years ago we were both as flat as
baking stones.”

Natasha freed her hair from the neckhole and let the long dress
fall down past her waist. “You’ve sprouted too, Lizzie. No one
could mistake either one of us for little girls anymore.” She put
the metal headband over her head and slipped into the red shoes,
which made her almost as tall as her American cousin.

“Everything fits perfectly,” she said, doing a little twirl.
“Oh, I can’t wait! I’ve been watching everyone else go to the
Festival for years…I think we’re both going to meet dashing
young men tonight – I can feel it. Can’t you?”

Lizzie didn’t reply. The sight of her cousin in the stunning
red dress brought back a flood of unwelcome memories. She was in
her room back home, and her mother was helping her put on a red
dress (much less daring, but pretty just the same), and they were
as happy as could be, chattering away like a couple of songbirds,
planning for the future. She and James were practically engaged,
and he was coming over to have supper with her and her family, and
then they would take one of their long walks around the park, just
the two of them…

“Lizzie? Are you all right?” Natasha saw that her cousin’s
eyes were glistening. “Oh, Lizzie, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have
said -”

“No!” said Lizzie, blinking rapidly. “Don’t be silly, I’m
fine.” She smiled through her tears. “Don’t mind me. I’m
looking forward to tonight, and I wouldn’t mind meeting a nice
young man. I wouldn’t mind it a bit.”

Natasha reached out and took her cousin’s hand. “He didn’t
deserve you,” she said fiercely. “Do you understand that? You’re
going to do a lot better.”

Lizzie nodded silently.

There was a creak on the stair, and an old woman in a
traditional black dress appeared at the doorway. Her eyes widened
and her brow creased in anger. “What’s going on here?”

Natasha turned pale. “Nana! We were just…aren’t these
dresses pretty?”

“Those are Festival dresses! You’re not old enough to go to
the Festival, neither of you.”

Natasha steeled herself, standing up straight. “But Nana,
we’ve been invited! They sent us our costumes, so of course we

“No! I forbid it, do you hear me?” The old woman’s voice was
trembling with emotion. “No good can come of it, none at all.
The Festival is just an excuse for-”

“For having a good time,” finished Natasha, her dark eyes
flashing. “For people to enjoy themselves, to dance, to forget
their boring, useless lives for one night. Is that what you

Lizzie looked back and forth helplessly at Natasha and her
grandmother, unable to follow the flood of angry Greek.

“You insolent little hussy! Don’t you presume to lecture me
about -”

“What’s going on here? What’s all this yelling?” A handsome
dark-haired man came up the stairs. When he saw his daughter in
her new red dress, his face suddenly seemed older. “Already, it
begins?” he asked quietly.

“Papa, we’ve been invited to the Festival,” said Natasha.
“Nana says we can’t go, but I know you’ll let us, won’t you? Oh
Papa, please…”

“It’s out of the question,” said her grandmother. “You’re not
old enough, not for a few more years.” But there was already a
note of defeat in her voice.

The man put a comforting hand on the old woman’s shoulder. “I
know how you feel, Madrone, but one must not refuse an invitation
to the Festival, it would be very…rude.”

“Oh, thank you, Papa!” Natasha threw her arms around her
father and gave him a kiss.

Dinner was a very quiet affair that evening. Madrone served
the food with a stern look on her face, her disapproval evident in
her eyes and in her posture. Andres sat at the head of the table
with downcast eyes and toyed with his food, lost in his own
thoughts. And Anastasia, wife of Andres, daughter of Madrone,
mother and namesake of Natasha, was, as always, a silent presence
at the foot of the table, like a ghost.

The two girls, although excited by the upcoming evening, were
chastened by the grim atmosphere at the table, and they ate
quietly and with perfect manners. Lizzie in particular was
nervous, not knowing what to expect. She wished she could be as
carefree and bold as her younger cousin, as comfortable talking to
young men, as experienced in the ways of the world.

She recalled with a twinge of guilty pleasure the long,
intimate discussions she and her cousin had been having about men
and sex. More like lectures than discussions, really – Lizzie had
known shamefully little about sex for someone who had been hoping
to get married at the end of the summer.

She recalled one lazy afternoon a few weeks ago, the two of
them sunbathing on a little wooden dock with the desolate, rocky
coast on one side and the quiet, blue Mediterranean on the other,
and not another living soul in sight. She was listening,
fascinated, as Natasha told her how men craved sex, how they
thought about it all the time, how you could hold a man’s prick in
your hand and stroke it until it exploded all over…

“Really, Tasha, I think you’re exaggerating,” she had said, not
knowing what else to say. “I’m sure nice young men don’t want to

“There’s no such thing as a nice young man!” laughed Natasha.
“Not the way you think, anyway. Even the polite ones with good
manners want to touch you all over, and have you touch them. And
most of all, they want to stick it inside you.”

“I know all about how babies are made,” said Lizzie, not
wanting to seem completely naive. “My mother told me last year.”

“I bet she didn’t tell you how much fun it was,” said Natasha
with a wicked grin.

“No…no, she didn’t.” Lizzie felt a peculiar sort of warmth
inside her, that had nothing to do with the sun. “One thing I
don’t understand…”

“Just one thing?” teased Natasha.

“How does it fit? If a man’s…if it’s as big as you say,
there isn’t enough room.” She blushed, knowing that she was
admitting to exploring how much room there was.

“I wondered about that too. You have to break something
inside, and then there’s plenty of room.”

“Break something?”

“I’ll show you,” said Natasha. She was also feeling the
peculiar warmth inside her, but she knew exactly what it was. She
sat up, turning to face her cousin, and pulled aside the crotch of
her loose cotton bathing costume.

“Tasha!” Lizzie stared at her with horrified fascination. Her
cousin’s sex was covered by a thatch of shiny blue-black hair, in
contrast to her own light brown, but she could see the dark pink
lips underneath. “What on earth are you doing?”

“Do you want me to show you, or not?”

Lizzie swallowed, and said. “All right.”

Natasha lifted her knees up and leaned back a little, moistened
her fingers in her mouth, and put her hand between her legs. One
finger parted her secret folds and slipped an inch or so into her
hole. Then she took it out and pushed in two fingers, side by
side. They disappeared slowly, like they were sinking into
quicksand, until they were completely inside, and her private area
was spread open in a way that Lizzie found both exciting and
slightly repulsive.

“I…guess you’re right,” said Lizzie. “Doesn’t it hurt?”

Her cousin looked at her dreamily through half-open lids and
shook her head. “It feels wonderful. When a man is inside you,
everything gets all slippery and smooth, and there’s this
wonderful feeling of being filled up…it feels so good you can’t
help moaning.”

“Oh, it all seems so strange,” said Lizzie. She ran her tongue
over her dry lips and shifted on her towel. The odd feeling of
urgency and longing inside her, which came over her more and more
often these days, had never been so strong. Then she thought
about what Tasha had just said. “You mean you’ve actually done
Her cousin was leaning over the edge of the dock, rinsing her
hand in the sea. She looked over at Lizzie and said “You must
think I’m a terrible slut.”

“No. No, of course not… I wish I had done it.” And at that
moment Lizzie truly meant it.

As evening fell and the summer heat began to dissipate,
carriages and oxcarts filled with cheerful young men and women
began to creak along the bumpy road toward the uninhabited
southern end of the island. Boats also started arrived from the
mainland, as the Trikinos midsummer festival was one of the
largest and most anticipated events in the region.

The festival site was the grounds surrounding a rambling, long-
deserted monastery. The land had been cleared of rocks and
flattened over the years, and the grass had been closely-cropped,
making it quite a suitable site for an outdoor event.

By the time Lizzie and Natasha arrived, having withstood a
barrage of last-minute warnings and several changes in hairstyles,
night had fallen, and the grounds, lit by hundreds of colored
lanterns mounted on wooden stakes, were already filled with

Lizzie stepped down carefully from the cart and instinctively
took her cousin’s hand. The atmosphere, although festive, was
slightly intimidating: a mass of people dressed in colorful,
flowing garments, laughing madly and shouting at each other in
Greek to be heard over the music of a large orchestra, all lit by
the dim, flickering light of the lanterns.

“We’re just in time,” said Natasha, her face glowing with
excitement. “They’re about to light the bonfire.” She led Lizzie
into the crowd, pulling her toward an open area near the crumbling
wall of the monastery. Neither of them was fully aware of the
many admiring eyes that followed their progress.

Suddenly there was a roar from the crowd, and a pyramid of
orange flames reached up into the night sky, hissing and crackling
like some primitive beast. The crowd moved back, forming a wide
circle as a wall of hot air and reflected heat moved outward from
the bonfire, and there were a few moments of relative quiet as
everyone stared into the flames.

“Why such a big fire?” asked Lizzie.

“Don’t know,” answered Natasha. “It’s an old tradition. It’s
probably supposed to drive away evil spirits or something.”

“Actually, the bonfire was originally a way to request a
special favor from the gods,” said a man standing behind them.
They turned and saw a tall, blond man in a flowing cloak and black
leather boots. He smiled at them, giving them each a long look.

“Is that so?” said Natasha, who thought the man was terribly
handsome. “What kind of favor?”

“In the old days, everyone who came to the festival would bring
a log with a personal request carved into it for the bonfire.
Successful fishing, health for their families, things of that
nature. By burning the logs together in a huge fire, they thought
they could attract the attention of their gods.”

Lizzie couldn’t follow what the man was saying, but she noticed
that he and Natasha were staring into each other’s eyes, and she
had to stifle a giggle. It certainly didn’t take her cousin long
to attract a suitor. And this man was certainly handsome: tall
and thin, with an angular, masculine face, although there was
something about the way he was looking at Tasha that Lizzie didn’t
like – an air of superiority, a hint of a sneer in the curl of his
thin lips.

“You look familiar,” the man said, moving closer to Natasha.
“Perhaps we have met before?”

“I really don’t think so. I mean, I’m sure I would have
remembered meeting you,” she answered with a coquettish smile.

At that moment the orchestra launched into an upbeat melody,
and the crowd came back to life.

“I think the dancing is starting,” said Natasha.

“Indeed,” said the blond man, raising one eyebrow. “Perhaps
you would care to dance?”

Natasha turned to her cousin and saw that two grinning young
men were vying for her attention, each one gesturing towards the
orchestra and trying to elbow the other out of the way.

“I’d love to,” said Natasha, and the man took her outstretched
hand in his.

As a spirited dance came to an end, Lizzie congratulated
herself on having managed most of the steps and looked around to
find her cousin. Instead, her gaze fell on a broad, well-built
man with wide blue eyes and a cap of dark curly hair who was
staring at her with an admiring smile. She smiled back at him in
spite of her shyness, and he came towards her, gliding smoothly
through the crowd with a sort of athletic grace.

Lizzie swallowed and looked around again for Natasha, but she
was nowhere to be seen. When she turned back the man was right in
front of her.

“May I be so bold as to request the next dance?” His voice was
deep and masculine, and his tone, although formal, was unaffected
and friendly.

“You speak English!” said Lizzie, astonished.

“Indeed I do. A skill that has served me well in the past, but
perhaps never more than right now, seeing that it allows me to
converse with the most beautiful girl on the entire island.”

Lizzie blushed prettily, and allowed him to take her hand. He
kissed it gallantly, and then led her back to the dancing area.
The orchestra struck into a lilting tune, and she found herself in
the man’s arms, moving in perfect time with the music.

“You’re a wonderful dancer,” she said, truthfully. She felt
like she was floating.

He smiled and looked into her eyes, but said nothing, and
Lizzie felt an odd sense of well-being creep into her chest, and
she wondered if maybe there really was such a thing as love at
first sight.

The next few hours were a blur of dancing and laughter. The
festival became increasingly loud and gay, making conversation
virtually impossible, but Lizzie nonetheless felt herself falling
under the spell of her new suitor. He seemed to have an aura of
vitality about him, a sort of electrical charge, and when he
touched her she felt a strange sense of excitement and her
thoughts became muddled. When he suggested that they find a place
to talk and catch their breath, she assented eagerly, and he led
her toward an arched doorway leading into the ruined monastery.
As they approached, Lizzie caught a flash of movement from a
cloistered walkway along the top of the wall of eroded stone, and
she stopped, peering upward into the darkness.

“What is it?”

“I just saw someone up there on the wall…for some reason I
thought it might be my cousin. Someone asked her to dance hours
ago, and I haven’t seen her since. I hope she’s not getting
herself in too much trouble, she’s kind of…outgoing.”

The man stared thoughtfully up at the top of the wall. “I
don’t see anyone up there. The person she was dancing with – was
it a tall blond man, with a dark red cloak?”

“Why yes, do you know him?”

“I’ve seen him here at the festival in the past,” he replied
after a moment. Then he put his hand around her narrow waist,
resting it on the swell of her hip, and urged her toward the
doorway. “Come on, I want to show you something interesting.”

As they descended a dusty set of steps to the lower level, the
thick stone walls quickly reduced the joyous clamor of the
festival to a faint murmur. They walked along a dim corridor
which led into a small room with a domed ceiling.

“This wasn’t always a monastery, you know,” said the man with a
wistful smile. “It was originally a temple. There isn’t much
left of the old structure, though. Just these lower rooms.” He
gazed reflectively around the dark, musty chamber, and Lizzie got
the impression he could penetrate the darkness better than she

“A temple? What sort of temple?”

“To the old gods. The ones people believed in for thousands of
years before converting to Christianity. Religion was a very
different matter in those days – people worshipped out of fear and
respect rather than love.” He pointed to a stone slab built into
a niche in the wall. “That’s where people would leave sacrifices
– gifts for their god of choice. Food, usually: fresh fish, or a
chicken. Sometimes a fine clay pot, or even jewelry.”

“How do you know all this?” asked Lizzie curiously. “Are you a

“Yes. I suppose, in a way, I am.” He stepped over to her
quickly and put his face close to hers. His blue eyes smoldered
with an inner light, and Lizzie felt something tangible radiating
from him, an aura that made her feel giddy and weak.

“I want you, Lizzie Nash.” The words echoed flatly against the
stone walls, and for a moment she thought she was going to faint,
but then his arms were around her, holding her up, pulling her
toward him.

“Right here…” His voice was low and throaty, filled with
indescribable desire and need. His body seemed thick and muscular
and solid beneath his tunic, and Lizzie’s nostrils were suddenly
filled with the sweet scent of freshly-cut grass.

“Right now…” She couldn’t answer, couldn’t move a muscle.
He picked her up easily, as if she was a doll, and gently sat her
on the recessed stone shelf, which was really an altar, so that he
was standing between her spread legs. He leaned forward and
kissed her, and she noticed that his movements and his manner were
different now – rougher and less refined. But she kissed him
back, enjoying the feel of his thick, hot lips covering hers, and
she knew she was powerless to deny him anything.

Then she felt his hand under her dress, sliding up her thigh,
and she stiffened slightly, an automatic reaction.

“Relax…spread your legs and relax.”

A tearing sound as her underwear was removed, and a thick,
rough finger was between her legs, touching her sex, pushing
against the delicate membrane covering her vagina, fondling it
with a gentleness that was somehow obscene.

“Yessss…I’m going to be the first, Lizzie Nash. You should
be honored.”

His voice was muffled and odd, and she noticed with a faraway
twinge of horror that his teeth were much bigger than they were
before. Bigger than anyone’s teeth should be. In fact, maybe it
was just the dim light, but wasn’t his whole face different?

He slid her hips forward over the cool stone, and she gasped as
she felt something round and smooth pressing at her opening,
stretching the membrane.

“Close your eyes…and receive me.” His breath was hot against
her neck, and she closed her eyes and gritted her teeth as the
pressure increased. Just as it started to hurt, something let go,
and his phallus began to slide up inside her, slowly filling her
up, just like Tasha had said. She whimpered with confused
pleasure, filled with strange emotions. Why hadn’t Tasha told her
that a prick was so smooth and slick and cool, like polished wood?

The sliding and filling seemed to go on forever, the pressure
building up in her loins, until her legs were around his waist and
she was cleaved onto him like a tender piece of meat on a spit.
He stood up with terrible ease, pulling her against his broad,
flat chest, and began to pump in and out of her with long sucking
strokes that filled her insides with a fiery turmoil. She uttered
a strangled cry and reached her arms blindly around his thick,
corded neck, sinking her hands into the dense mat of curly hair.
A strange explosion of pure pleasure coursed through her body, and
then another, and her head filled with a hollow rushing sound,
like a waterfall.

Her hands wandered upward across his skull, seeking something
to grip, and they found two…handles? She opened her eyes and
saw that she was holding onto a pair of horns, and that his eyes
were round and flat and orange, and that he wasn’t a man at all.
She closed her eyes and fainted away and began to dream that she
was lying in a newly-mown meadow.

When Lizzie awoke she was lying on the ground outside, and
people were walking all around her, stepping over her arms and
legs. The orchestra was still playing, a slower tune now, full of
sadness, and it took her a few moments to realize where she was.
With an effort, she sat up and looked around. The bonfire had
burned down to embers, the crowd had thinned out considerably, and
with a start she realized it must be very late.

A young man in a tunic stopped and offered his hand, and she
took it and allowed him to pull her to her feet. He said
something to her in Greek, and she shook her head in frustration.
The boy shrugged and turned away, and she saw that everyone was
walking toward the road that led back to Skirna.

“Natasha!” she shouted, looking around. A few people looked
over at her, but no one replied. She stumbled around the grounds,
calling her cousin’s name, trying to remember when she had last
seen her. Had they agreed to meet somewhere? Could she have left
without her? She remembered dancing with a good-looking man with
curly hair and blue eyes, but nothing after that.

Finally she joined the stragglers as they stumbled towards the
road, and managed to find a seat on one of the last carts, wedging
herself between two of the twenty or so occupants. Then, to her
delight, she saw her cousin sitting in the front of the cart.

“Tasha! It’s me! I’ve been looking all over, where have you
been? Tasha?”

When she heard the tentative knock, Madrone closed her bible,
made the sign of the cross, and went to open the front door. To
her relief, Natasha and Lizzie were both there.

“You’re late!” she said angrily. There was no response, and
she stepped forward, squinting at them in the dim light. Her
blond grandniece was as white as a sheet and her eyes were wide
with fear; she opened her mouth but said nothing. Then the old
woman noticed that Natasha’s red dress was torn and soiled, and
that her face was blank and expressionless.

“Natasha? My God – what’s the matter? Say something…oh God,
please say something…anything…” There was no response, and
she fell to her knees and started to weep. Behind her, Andres
appeared in the doorway, his face a rigid mask of fear. When he
saw his daughter, he let out an unearthly scream. “Not
again!….Oh God, why?…Not again…”

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