The second novel in the Mythosphere series is well underway. It is entitled Murder in Mythosphere, and is a darker and more gothic work than the first, though with many of the same people. Iris, the rainbow goddess gets engaged, as does Richard, the oldest son of the Olympian family. The serial killer, freed at the end of the last book, becomes active at Byzantium in the decadent district beyond the city wall, occupied by vikings, vampires, and other dubious beings. Diana, determined to perserve all her secrets, becomes involved in acts that approach criminality at the very least. The reason for the picture above will become apparent to anyone reading the exerpt from what will probably be the prologue to the book.
Anyone who has read the first book will be surprised to find the forest, a beautiful and enchanted place, so dark and menacing. The kind of world we live in, however, is largely determined by who we are, and we are here dealing with a very ugly person, who lives in a very ugly world.
Walking to Byzantium
Sid Handley was not a coward; he would not give in to panic, though he could feel its alien presence moving inside his head, stretching long tendrils over his brain. He had tricked that fat little magician into freeing him after four years trapped inside a tree, but now he was lost. It had been past noon when he had begun his journey; by nightfall he was still in the forest. It was now the second day. His clothing was torn, his knees bloody, and he was very, very hungry. A forest in Mythosphere could not be this large. It was a hateful, hostile place; the forests of the Pacific Northwest were silent and empty, but here there was a perpetual rustling, and the sense of being watched. Several times he had glimpsed small, not-quite-human creatures peering out at him from the hollows of trees. Could this be a dream? He didn't think so; except for the endlessness of the forest, it was all too coherent.
He had thought he knew the woods, for he had gone into them often, but now he knew better. The many days he had spent checking out abandoned logging trails a car could drive into beyond sight of the highway, and then exploring the immediate vicinity on foot were no preparation for this.
He thought of the woman and the two infants from the day before. Then it had seemed wise to avoid them, but now he wished he had stopped. She could have given him directions. Besides, he was lonely. He wanted the warmth of her body, and the intimacy of her fear. A man alone is a dead thing, like Frankenstein's monster; he longed to feel her fear, hope, shame, pain, despair coursing through his limbs, animating them to life. And a few drinks of blood would have given him strength to go on. Blood is odd stuff, he thought, like chianti; it doesn't taste good, but you half-like it anyway. Maybe it's the metallic aftertaste, almost the same taste you have in your mouth at first sight of the prey, and again just before the kill.
He came to a stream. He had already crossed nearly a dozen, but beside this one, in the damp sand, was a shoeprint, the first evidence of human life he had seen all day. He looked at it warily, for he was both hunter and prey. He ran his fingers through his thin, sandy hair and squinted his already small eyes. He took a step closer, then lowered his own foot into the track--a match. Was there a force in the woods that would not let him out, that kept him going in circles? Could it be like that movie he had seen just before the turn of the century about a witch and some kids filming a movie in the woods? If so, he could starve here. He felt the tendrils grip a little tighter.
Diana would have killed him long before this, he thought, but she didn't have the balls--not in either sense. But if he died here, fat chance of her ever bringing him back. She would like that, the bitch--clean hands. She'd never kill someone straight out. She was the kind that preferred to watch.
Women were whores; killing them was merely turn about. All that life they had sucked out of other people, all of it just waiting to be tapped. But not Diana--no, she was dead like he was. If just once she had followed him on a hunt she might have grown to like it better than being a Madame to a city of whores. Her loss.
But probably he had simply gone in circles. He turned and started down the stream, hoping that more hours of walking would not bring him back to the same footprint in the sand. After a time, however, he grew more hopeful; the stream grew wider, and the trees larger and more scattered. He was sure he had not been here before, for this was less forest than parkland with grass and flowers. He heard a cock crow; there must be a farm somewhere ahead. He wondered why it crowed; it was not dawn. But maybe that was all bullshit, like most of what you hear.
He heard a high, clear laugh and jumped, startled. Crouching a little, he looked quickly around, seeing no one. His eyes scanned the area again, stopping suddenly at a glimpse of movement--a slender, white arm. And then, just ahead, in a pool of water covered with lily pads he saw the pale, slender face of a dark haired girl. He could see her shoulders and the tops of her breasts. He took two steps closer. There was another girl behind her--blonde, but with the same strangely pallid shade of skin.
He felt his skin prickle, but then told himself that he had been away too long. Probably they were from the farm down the stream where the cock had crowed. He looked toward the bank for there clothing, but saw none. The first girl motioned him forward, impatiently, rising until he could see her pale breasts and ribcage. She was very pretty, with delicate features and very large dark eyes. He edged a little closer, uncomfortable with their boldness. The girl sank back into the water until her shoulders were covered, but that seemed less modesty than a desire to draw him closer. It was odd that they were neither frightened or embarrassed. He had always heard that farm girls were horny--maybe that old saw was true. They both made small cooing sounds of invitation, and the blonde stretched out her arm.
He was at the edge of the pool, and had just started to kneel down when another girl burst from the water, this one red headed, but with the same pallid, unblemished skin. He started back, his throat constricting, and the hair raising on the back of his neck. Suddenly he knew why there was no clothing on the bank. He started back, falling backwards, and scrabbling away on hands and knees. He scrambled to his feet and ran. He did not stop until he could no longer hear their cooing calls. This was too strangely like on of his recurring nightmares.
He dropped to the ground, panting, his body drenched with sweat. That bitch, Diana, he thought. It was like she was taunting him, reminding him of what women will do to you if you let them get the chance.
Murder in Mythosphere
The picture at the top of the page is William Waterhouse's "Hylas and the Nymphs." It is based on an ancient Greek story from the Argonautica of Appolonias of Rhodes. A young man going to get water is lured by the beautiful water nymphs who draw him down to his death. At one point in Mythosphere Britomart and Lyn suspect that they have been mistaken for water nymphs or undines by a frightened fisherman. Such stories are worldwide. The picture immediately above is one of Arthur Rackham's pictures for The Ring of the Niblungs, and is of the Rhinemaidens. They are from the same tradition, though in the opera they guard a treasure rather than luring unsuspecting men to their death. Without sinking to psychobabble, I will point out that the connection between this archetypal theme and the serial killer is not hard to find.