MYSTERIUM 2008, part 1: Church99

Posted by Ace on August 1st, 2008 filed in Mysterium 2008, Tales of the Interregnum

I zap the door with my key card, haul it open, and the four of us walk forward into the humid, chlorine-smelling air, deep echoing sounds of laughter and splashing and conversation all reaching to enfold us, bright gleams of light reflecting at our feet off the surface of the water.  I scouted this place myself earlier in the day, when both it and the entire hotel were seemingly abandoned–  paced the length of it silently, trailing my fingers along the smooth concrete of the walls, moving on without witnesses.  But while we were out at dinner taking our fill of meat and fish and toasting each other over cool draughts of Sancerre, someone placed a book-sized whiteboard in the lobby welcoming us, and directing us to a Pool Party.  So we have followed along gamely, and now here it is before us:  the placid waters alive with swimmers, the empty lounge chairs filled with happy people, getting their first look at us as we get our first looks at them.

We drift to a halt at the pool’s edge, an unsteady phalanx.  None of us are wearing bathing suits, and in that we are alone.  I in particular am wearing a rayon floral-patterned overshirt, jeans and a cowboy hat, and in that, I am REALLY alone.

Church99 moves up on the left, narrows her eyes and pulls the corners of her mouth tight as she glances around, sizing up the room.  The women sitting closest to her look up at her from their towels, then back to each other as she looks at them, without offering any greeting.  Her brows raise.  “I’m gonna find out what’s goin’ on,” she tosses over her shoulder, to no-one in particular.

I open my mouth to respond, but she is already gone, a receding blur of khaki and long hair with a hint of clenched fists, bee-lining up the side of the pool to the far end, making me smile.

Church is a pilot.  She hails from down south, but then again, she effectively hails from everywhere, since as a pilot she’s flown over and traveled through and lived at and gotten drunk in more places already than I probably ever will for the rest of my life.  She is in love with the world, with the glory and the grandeur of it, with the people within it, and it shows in her enthusiasm, in her walk, in the energy at her disposal.  She smiles readily;  laughs often and loudly, if sometimes self-consciously.  She will seek you out and talk to you if you’re someone she already knows, introduce herself and get you talking if you’re someone she doesn’t, and she will not forget you in either case.  She is hell-bent and determined to have fun, and you have two choices:  come with her, or get the hell out of her way.  After five hours in my station wagon watching her rein it back, she’s almost out of the bag, and I’m amused to see what’s going to happen next.

The women on the chaise lounges, I notice, aren’t looking at me or talking to me either, nor to any of us, and there it is again, that lurking sense of something wrong, of a missing observation.  What’s the problem here? I think, hands on hips, determined to gain my own ground.  Set-up’s right.  They’re all ages, they’re all demographics, they’re all-


I slowly turn my head through the whole arc of the room, casual-like.  Around  the gathered clusters of seats, in the water, even among my own companions, Church, Mesnab, Aderyn:  every last person I can see is female.

“Uh…” I mumble, nervously. “I’m-  gonna go see how Church is doing.”

I make my way down that same side of the pool towards her distant figure, stepping around chairs and towels.   Aderyn falls in silently behind me, and along the way, I lean gently towards her ear and whisper, double-checking.  “Am I-  the only guy here?”

She breaks into a devilish, frozen stage grin, whispers back through her immobile teeth, “Iiii believe sooooooo…”  And something in the lilt of her voice suggests to me that there’s still something I’m missing, even now, something that should be obvious.  The women raise their eyes to watch us pass, young and old, nonchalant and frequently beautiful.  Wow, I think, throwing glances right and left.  I AM the only guy here

The light breaks. I’M THE ONLY GUY HERE.


Church has come to rest at the far corner of the pool;  she is standing with her arms crossed, facing a group of five sharing the same chaise lounge, who look for all the world like they might have deported themselves thusly to have their portrait painted.  We move up to join them, and I raise the brim of my cowboy hat up off my eyes, smile and acknowledge them all with a lift of my chin.  “Hi,” I say.  Their heads turn to me, and to Aderyn, and to Mesnab coming up behind, evenly, inquisitively.  Church turns, too, with her arms still crossed.  “What’s up?” I ask her, with everything that implies.

Her grin starts out as a smile, and she can’t contain it-  it breaks across her face and wrinkles her eyes, makes them flash as they meet my own.  “They’re not here for Mysterium,” she says, thumbing at them, but still looking at me.  “Apparently we’re sharing the hotel with the ‘Women of Faith’ convention.”

I drop my head, pulling the brim of my hat down snugly over my eyes.  And when the laughter starts, when it bursts from her and from them and from Aderyn and from everyone else around us, I can only join in.

This is gonna be a good time, I think, smiling.

3 Responses to “MYSTERIUM 2008, part 1: Church99”

  1. Yoko Says:

    What a great story.

  2. Church Says:

    Ace, you have a way with words that makes me relive that experience every time I think of your story. I come to read your story about Glip, and I have to read them all. Again!
    See you around!

  3. Ace Says:

    Thanks! There’s supposed to be a Part Three to the Mysterium entries, but it’s more complicated than the others, and I haven’t had the chance to sit down and think my way through it yet…