The Loinfire Club reads... Moon Shadow

"Moon Shadow," by Lucinda Betts

It's the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the year (yes it is, the moon does not work on your solar calendars). And the Chronicler, being Chinese and all that, is culturally obliged to invite everyone over for the Ancient and Honoured festival of Mid-Autumn, commonly known as Moon or Lantern Festival.

Pillywiggin did quip (at a different gathering) that there must be something more to this festival than just eating and staring at the moon – after all, it'd be like calling Christmas "Shiny Tree Day" or something.

All this preamble is, of course, just building up to the fact that eventually, eventually this gathering descended into a meeting of the Loinfire Club (all present being members, but not all members are present). The Chronicler had been threatening one at some point since her return from Far Away Futureland*, but the Anthropologist was busy writing her dissertation.

For the long, more rambly story of the Pagan Rites of MoonFest. What follows is the longer and more rambly (and probably more wrong) write-up of our reading...

The Balance (pouring out the drinks): "Pick your poison..."
The Chronicler: "No, the book needs to be decided on first... Pick your poison..."

(There were many books. The long lull in meetings meant that there was a great surplus of unread books. Lady Miriam who had decided that her name was really a joke too old decided she wants a new name, in the end the Club settled on "The Pedant" as she was complaining about the grammar of the book. She also brought a new and most excellent volume by Nina Bangs, seemingly a sequel to An Original Sin from the first page, but The Chronicler is getting ahead of herself...)

As always, the book is fetched from its hiding place and the Anthropologist goes through what we're drinking for. It's been a while and we are wont to forget. The definitions are carefully explained to Bonegeek, who will be reading this evening and is new to this whole shenanigans. 

(It is also to be noted that Decadent keeps falling out from its grave behind the sofa during this session. The Chronicler regrets this greatly and it has forever ruined titular word for her. It is, incidentally, a terrible book. The Loinfire Club looks forward to reading it Officially, but the Anthropologist has spoiled us all with excerpts and to be fair, it is somewhat unlikely to happen at this rate.)

In the summary of what we all drink for, the Anthropologist ends up in a long digression about what qualifies as a Limp Moment and starts telling us about the hero of the book with the succubus who had a problem with women who consent...

The Anthropologist: "To be fair, the last and apparently only time a woman consented it was because she was luring him into some sort of evil trap in which he was tortured for information. The consequent association isn't exactly...." 

Digressions result from this and debate ensues. Bonegeek, reading ahead, is sniggering over the contents of Moon Shadow.
The Anthropologist: "Can we start reading before Bonegeek dies?"

Bonegeek reads...
I needed the perfect man.
So, I prepared to cast the Rurutu spell, a spell lost and uncast for millennia. Maybe longer.

Bonegeek begins giggling uncontrollably: "I'm sorry... I know, we're just on the second paragraph..."

With a shrug of my shoulders, my thistle-colored robe fell to my feet, a puddle of silk. My nipples hardened in the room's cool air-and with anticipation. I became increasingly aware of my desire hormones coursing through my system.

The long, lilac-colored feathers of my wand vibrated...
Big L: "She has some kind of wand. Is that a euphemism?"
(Vague reference to those Harry Potter extracts where the word "wand" is replaced by the word "cock" are murmured.)
The Pedant: "The nipples haven't pebbled yet, so it might not be a woman..."

The intricate hearts carved into the ebony floor began to shimmer with golden light as they channeled the earth's electromagnetic energy.
(The Balance: "She's a sexual compass.")

Tracing the ancient Rurutu glyph in the air with my wand, the feathers, lavender and orchid, quivered and danced.
The Pedant: "Is she trying to summon a lesbian with all the lavender?"
Big L: "Shall we just have a category of stupid magicks?"

I stepped into my heart pentagrams, easing the arch of my foot into the proper golden groove
Bonegeek: "We've got a foot fetish going on here..."

Standing for a moment, I allowed the pulsating energy to reset the rhythm of my heart.
Big L: "Reset?!" 
The Anthropologist: "Medical complication!"

My blood flow slowed, but pulsed with increased force. It inundated my smallest arteries...
The Pedant: "That implies she doesn't have blood in her arteries normally, before the start of the ritual..."
The Anthropologist (drinking): "Medical complication!"

...imbuing them with oxygen and nutritious glycogen.
The Balance: "Does it count as a medical complication when it's doing what it's supposed to do?"
The Pedant: "Again, implying it wasn't doing this before."

My fingertips, my clitoris, my lips, and the tips of my toes-every small, erogenous part of my being swelled with this thick, slow blood.
The Pedant: "Her blood is flowing backwards?"

And the hormones of desire.
The Anthropologist: "Is it possible she's some sort of bacterium?"
The Pedant: "They do have extremely active sex lives."
The Anthropologist: "If this is an episode of House..."

Secretions from glands in my cervix moistened and lubricated the walls of my vagina.
The Balance: "It's very, very... precise."

Under the spell's strength, my tingling feet...
The Pedant: "Tingling feet is symptomatic of bad circulation." mind focused on the paper at the center of the hearts. The paper's microfibrils.
Bonegeek: "That's a sentence. The paper's microfibrils."

A debate ensues on whether or not paper can have microfibrils (rather than microfibers, for that matter.)
(The Chronicler, having too much time on her hands, has consulted Azrael, our resident biochemist, and it emerges that Microfibrils is probably not the dominant structure of paper and she probably means microfibres, but decided to be a wee bit more pretentious.)

The Anthropologist: "Maybe it's an activation phrase or something. Sort of like, By the Power of Grayskull...

...I concentrated, hunting specific complementary protein structures within my own chemistry...
The Balance: "Why is there a bad biochemist writing a romance novel?"
Bonegeek: "Oooh... biochemistry turns me on?"

The man I sought had to have particular testosterone distributions...
The Club erupts into giggles.

The Chronicler: "What sort of distributions, pray tell?"
Bonegeek: "I will, in fact, tell you, dear Chronicler. As the book does kindly enlighten us."

His dopamines and serotonin needed to be just right. Endorphin triggers needed to be easily accessible. 
The Anthropologist: "Via a button, perhaps."

His tears and sweat and semen needed to be worth all the effort I'd expend in extracting them.
Big L: "I feel like we should be drinking for something, but I'm not sure what."
The Anthropologist: "Bad biochemistry?"
Bonegeek: "The category should be called Biochemistry Makes Me Hot."

Deep in this unconventional spell...
The Chronicler: "You can say that again..."
(And just to recap for readers who aren't following, the narrator is casting a spell to summon a man with the correct testosterone distributions.)

Power from the etchings pulsed through the balls of my feet, up adrenaline-laden pathways in my calves and legs, through the core of my body and to my brain...
The Anthropologist: "What brain?"

With the right assistant I could cure the anguish suffered by the victims of the most persistent serial rapist in living memory...
Big L: "That's a turn off..."
The Anthropologist: "Shall we have a category for non sequiturs?"
The Pedant: "No, because we'll die."
The Anthropologist: "So many good categories are vetoed because of that."

Perhaps, with the help of the right assistant, we could actually find the rapist and bring him to justice...
The Anthropologist: "As opposed to doing what? Not actually finding the rapist and bringing him to justice. What have them been doing so far? Arresting random people in the street?"
(The Chronicler notes in hindsight that the Anthropologist spoke too soon.)

My perfect man also needed some magical abilities...
Big L: "Not to mention the perfectly distributed testosterone."
The Balance: "All that hot dopamine."

Any little aptitude could flourish in the proper environment. I'd provide that environment.
Big L: "All I'm seeing is lots of Petri dishes."

In short, I needed a hero, one worthy of the Star Goddess herself.
The Pedant: "Which one?"
Discussion and pedantry resulted and the Pedant finally concluded it is quite possible that this a reference to a legend that involves some sort of incestuous mother-son love.

By necessity, the Rurutu spiked my nipples...
Big L: "I thought they were already hard twice?"
The Anthropologist: "Maybe it's like in Cupid's Melody where the heroine's breasts kept getting bigger. Like somebody just pulled a ripcord, and they start swelling every time she turns gets on by the hero."
The Pedant feels that it may be something like having dinghies full of boulders strapped to her chest. 

I couldn't Grab the right hormones unless a cascade of reactions had started. 
(In case anyone has thought all this self-fondling and magical horniness is for any other function, especially for its own sake, the presumed heroine is actually using herself as some sort of magical biochemical factory. She then magically "Grabs" them from herself and... well, read on...)

The wetness between my thighs, my pebbled nipples...
The Pedant: "Yay! Pebbled nipples..."
(The Club was waiting for the use of that ubiquitous phrase.)

... told me the cascade had properly begun.
The Pedant: "Has she just wet herself?"
The Chronicler: "Some sort of Watersports fetishist?"
Bonegeek: "Don't forget the feet."

But precision was required. Cautiously, I slid my legs until my labia was positioned exactly in the center of the hearts.
I paused a moment, absorbing the thrumming of the hearts beneath me, then I shifted two degrees west.
The Anthropologist: "Her floor is vibrating?!"

Now I was perfectly aligned-the electromagnetic energy of my body throbbed in time with that of the earth's field.
The Pedant hisses at the mention of "the earth's field"...

The spell directed my position-legs spread, my feet flat on the floor, one in the Hiva Ea groove and the other in the Hova Ua.
The Anthropologist: "How do you spell that?"
Debate ensues on what exactly do these words mean and what tradition the author was putting over a barrel. No, the Loinfire Club still doesn't know.

I needed the wand, couldn't release it, but my other hand ran the length of my stomach, hard and flat, skimming the curve of my breasts.
The Balance: "Is she just groping herself now?"
The Anthropologist: "Her floor has a built-in vibrator, what do you expect?"

I slid my fingers slowly, as slowly as my beating heart.
The Chronicler: "Not very slow then."

Remembering to breathe...
The Anthropologist: "Very important, that."

... I slid them against the smooth skin that sheltered my clitoris...
Bonegeek: "Unusual anatomical design..."

Grab, said the spell. And as my heart pentagrams pounded beneath my back and my ass, I Grabbed. 
Bonegeek: "I want to clarify, that's Grabbed, with capitals."
Big L: "That has to be mystical, then."
The Anthropologist: "It's not usually one's floor telling one to Grab with Capitals in these scenes."

Within my personal biochemistry, I sought proteins that would bind perfectly to his.

There is much debate on whether or not this makes sense. We wonder if she means some sort of blood-sharing process (c.f. renaissance beliefs of what happened during sex) or if she was referring to some actual physical bonding that would mean them become some sort of Siamese twin. Azrael, who is an actual biochemist, is sorely missed though his comments and opinions will later be added (maybe).

Bonegeek: "Maybe she's like Prozade? That's how it works"
The Chronicler: "What?"
The Pedant: "It's a very good prosthetics application..."

I wanted penetration. Real penetration. But that wasn't what I'd get. Not here or now.
The Pedant: "She has a wand!"
The Balance: "It has feathers on it."
The Pedant: "But they are dildos with fuzzy cat tail things on them." 

With slow deliberation, I slid two fingers into the hot, tight folds of my sex.
Bonegeek: "Dear god, I hate that use of the word."

Grab, said the spell.
The right hormones were available, and I Grabbed.
The Balance: "Biochemistry!"

But a niggling fear danced in the back of my brain. Were my standards too high? I'd cast this spell three times in the last year with no luck.
Big L: "Has she been altering the spell at all? Maybe she's not doing it right?"

The resulting fliers each brought back unacceptable prospects...
The Anthropologist: "I want Christ as a Porn Star."
Big L: "So what? I want perfectly aligned proteins but I don't mind about the amino acids?"
The Pedant: "I want him to cook and clean, but he can wear odd socks."

Big L: "Fliers... what does she mean?"
The Anthropologist: "I was just thinking, you know, a sort of leaflet advert sort of thing."
Big L: "Why would she..."
The Anthropologist shrugs. 
The Pedant: "Maybe they're sort of mystical spirit-birds? Messenger spirits or something flangey like that."
Big L: "Now I've got this message of little memos flying about and doing her will." who'd seemed so promising at the beginning but lacked the proper concentrations of spine or semen or serotonin in the end.
The Balance: "Biochemistry!"
The Chronicler: "Alliteration helps not your lists of chemicals."
The Anthropologist: "Well, if he has vertebrae in his kidney, it's quite a serious problem.... Maybe the spell has to be really, really specific. Like a demonic contract. She remembers all the details about his testosterone, but..."
The Pedant: "She forgot the spine."
The Anthropologist: "Oh no! He has his spinal column in his face!" 
The Pedant: "It could lead to interesting sexual positions."
The Anthropologist: "Such as, the Blob... the Blob turned upside down.... the Blob suspended from the ceiling with a tentacle..."

I didn't want triplets, figurative or otherwise.
Big L: "What? Someone can be the Perfect Man but if he has twin brothers it ruins everything?"
The Pedant: "Maybe he won't want to share?"
The Anthropologist: "But if he's the Perfect Man, he will."

Legs spread, my head thrown back, I received inadequate relief...
The Anthropologist: "Inadequate? That's not very sexy at all..."
The Balance: "They're stealing your Teacher** porn."

An orgasm, firmly controlled, rippled through me, leaving me panting but not out of breath ...
The Anthropologist: "Yup, Teacher porn."

In the thrall of the spell, I'd Grabbed the required proteins from my adrenal gland and my pituitary, from my blood, as hormones were generated and broken down.
The Pedant: "But that's physically impossible!"
Bonegeek: "You forget the capital G in Grabbed. Magic."
The Pedant: "But if you don't have your pituitary gland you die!"
(The Chronicler notes that this is something of a badly constructed sentence. It is easy to misunderstand that the heroine – unnamed at this point – has been Grabbing her pituitary gland and dumping it places, as opposed to Grabbing the proteins from the glands and blood.)

I'd Grabbed those proteins and put them into my tear ducts...
The Pedant: "Aaah! Itchy!"

Now, I wiped those protein-laden tears from my eyes with a sterile white handkerchief, and wrung the tears onto my wand.
The Pedant squeaks and hits herself.

The tears would go directly onto the paper, onto the flier. Now I could affect the paper, prepare it to travel the city and countryside, riding the breezes, searching and seeking.
Big L: "Wow, it actually is a flyer."
The Anthropologist: "I told you so. I came up with a simple explanation and you came up with a more complicated if more logical one... who's right now?"

I wrung the handkerchief onto my feathers, filling the air with an electric sizzle. I held the wand over the paper flier, holding my breath in hope.
The Pedant: "I'm a better witch than her."
Big L: "I'm fairly sure I'd make a better witch than her."
The Pedant: "Maybe, you have a male witch look about you."
The Balance: "It may be the beard."

Energy sparkled off my wand, dripping golden glitter onto the paper then evaporating...
The Balance: "Those damn golden showers again."

Satisfied, I lifted myself fully from the spell, brought myself to normal consciousness. The throbbing from the hearts finally quieted and then ceased.
No Wizard had cast the Rurutu spell in millennia, but I felt its strength now.
Bonegeek (after staring at the page for a while): "What's going on with the grammar her?"
The Balance: "Biochem makes her hot."

Big L: "It involves capitals letter in strange places, what else can you say?"
The Anthropologist: "Well, everyone knows that capitals are mystical."

Would the Wizard's Guild disapprove of the use of my spell? Had it been retired for a reason, or just lost in time? I didn't know.
The Anthropologist: "You could have asked."
Big L: "Nor has she even bothered to check, apparently."

Bonegeek: "Pedant, just put fingers into her ears and just say lalalala until I tell you to."
The Pedant: "I'll just drink."

I didn't thrive on scorning the opinion of the Guild, but my need for the perfect assistant outweighed any girlish warnings Guild Chair Uriah or his minions might have.
The Chronicler: "Girlish?!"
Big L (valley-girl-esque): "Oh my god! Oh my god! It's going wrong."
The Anthropologist: "Now he's Intriguing Rivers of Male BLAH."

Conventional solutions weren't available to the rape victims who were just recently filling my waiting rooms. To relieve their misery, no spell seemed too arcane, too bizarre to try
The Chronicler: "Did you charge them money?"
The Anthropologist: "Now I'm going to picture this woman as Sarah Palin***!"
The Balance: "She could be. We haven't had any physical descriptions of her yet."
The Pedant: "Oh God! Now this is going to end up on some Republican Blog, isn't it?"
The Anthropologist: "What, just to show the moral degeneration of Liberalism?"
The Balance: "Sarah Palin does SEX MAGIC! That's going to be quite a headline."

A long conversation results. The Chronicler suspects it's all in the hopes that the quotes will be Grabbed and the blog more widely noticed by the political commentators out there. Or not.

Shrugging into my silky robe, I walked down the narrow stairs to the tiny garden in the back of my brownstone.
The Pedant: "She's not a proper witch, where is her woolly jumper and huge boots?"

In the bitter cold air, only the holly and rhododendrons had any color, a withered green. Everything else was brown and gray.
The Balance: "She has a crappy garden, even for winter."

The heat that had permeated my body during the spell still lingered, but the warmth wouldn't last long on this bitter morning. 
The Anthropologist (rather overly enthusiastic): "Heat!"
The Pedant: "She's be doing a dark sexy spell in the middle of the morning? Is it just me or does that just sound wrong?"

My feet cringed against the icy earth, and I had to force myself to relax them, to flatten them. 
Big L: "What's wrong with her feet?"
The Anthropologist: "How the fuck is she walking? Has she bound feet?"
Bonegeek: "Chinese foot binding cake!"

Speaking of bound feet, Bonegeek begins an anecdote about this pediatrist who got a cake in the shape of a bound foot for their leaving party.
The Anthropologist: "Did it have coconut flakes of peeling dead skin?"
Bonegeek: "It did have the yellow toenails in icing."
The Anthropologist: "I never realised they had such wild parties. Someone should make a soap opera about the wild and wacky adventures."

They couldn't read the electromagnetic field if they were curled defensively against the cold.
Big L: "They're trying to get as far away as possible from the rest of her."

Squinting in the late winter sunlight, I climbed to the top of a small hillock covered in hoary, dried grass, just behind my fountain.
The Balance: "She lives a brownstone, yet has a fountain in her back garden?"
Bonegeek: "It may a cheapass plug-in one from B&Q."

Glad for the stillness of the air, I again let my robe fall to the grass at my feet.
The Pedant: "The witches I know would have thistle in their garden to ward against this." 

Ignoring the scent of my own juices on my hand...
(The Chronicler notes that this is a sign of things to come in the chapter following.)

I thrust my wand into the... sky.
Bonegeek: "Thank god she said sky! There's an unfortunate page break here."
The Pedant: "This reminds me of the course that I ran away from. The one where we had to 'anoint your wands with your sex.'"
The Anthropologist: "Which course was this?"
The Pedant: "I'm not giving you any more details. This is going on the internet... We all balked since we're British and quit quietly."
The Anthropologist: "Is this the same one you're talking about before..."
Ramble results.

Electrons crackled off my wand into the atmosphere, changing the temperature immediately. 
The Anthropologist: "Is this why we have a hole in the Ozone Layer?"
The Chronicler: "Ozone layer and Global Warming two different things..."

A warmth, uncharacteristic of mid-winter, surrounded me.
Bonegeek: "She's changing the climate?!"
Big L: "More importantly, why didn't she make it warm before she went outside naked or even before she took her clothes off?"

The temperature change brought a damp wind from the sea, thick with briny salt. At my bidding, the breeze immediately lifted my flier aloft and carried it away.

There's a long and rambling debate in which the essence of it was:
The Anthropologist: "How do we know she's not an Orang-utan?"
The Chronicler: "Because we know she's Sarah Palin?"
The Anthropologist: "She could be the weird love-child of an Orang-utan and Sarah Palin."

Now I only had to sit back and wait.
And hope.
(The Chronicler notes that there is a rather obvious quip that we missed here.)

*Everyone knows that the distant cities of the east with their clean and efficient transport system, sleek underground trains, towering skyscrapers, air-conditioned walkways, outdoor escalators, matchbox-like livings spaces and dense shroud of smog are Lands of the Future.

** No, this probably doesn't make sense to you, dear reader. But little of this in-joke-riddled mess does, anyway and the story is too long and complicated to explain. Suffice to say it's not about real teachers and is tangentially related to Maelstrom.

***This does merit some explanation. The Loinfire Club doesn't – well, rather, the Chronicler doesn't really want to get too political with this somewhat flippantly started running joke of the evening, but well, we're called the Loinfire Club, our subject matter should be self-evident. Earlier in the evening, the chatter had descended to the topic of the US presidential elections and the McCain-Palin ticket. Palin, being a divisive figure, generated much chatter and the bit that repulsed/enraged/shocked us all the most was the fact that under her reign as Mayor, women paid for their own post-rape examinations, which cost something between US$500 to 1200. Of course, Palin has been denying any knowledge of this, but she did appoint the guy who passed the new regulations into place and also sign the documents concerning the cutbacks in funding. (Either she's really oblivious or lying, neither really being a good trait.) If the dear reader wants more, a google of "rape kit" and "Sarah Palin" should render them more than they want to know about the matter. This really wasn't intended to descend into political debate, it's mostly to justify the continued reference to Palin's callousness to rape victims. Oh, and the bit about her being a soccer mom.


Lucinda Betts said...

I love MST, and I'm glad you're reading my book. However, if I said I was glad to be fodder for MST, I'd sound too much like Sarah Palin claimin' to be happy about bein' mocked by Tina Fey. Wink. And I will NOT be compared to Sarah Palin.

Hope you're all drinking Badgers Best Bitter as you read! Here's to pebbled nipples!