LOVE POTION NUMBER 9.5 by Simon Smith

Faizal and Hamish positioned themselves comfortably upon what, after only three weeks, they had come to regard as “their bench.” Disdaining the city’s more famous and more fashionable drinking holes—The Eagle, The Lamb, others of similar stamp—they had instead selected for their own, The Queen’s Legs. A haven from the world’s cares, a place of peace, a veritable home from home, and conveniently opposite the bench on which they presently passed the time. It was almost eleven o’clock. They were waiting for The Queen’s Legs to open so they could have a drink. 

Two young men away from home for the first time. They were, one might suppose, well supplied with that curious combination of unscalable self-confidence and unscalable insecurity, of supreme knowledge and supreme ignorance, of blossoming intellect and blooming stupidity. Often and often had their kith and kin looked upon them and wondered, sadly, how they had ever survived to reach university in the first place and whether they would survive to see graduation. 

For fellows of such cast and character, The Queen’s Legs held many attractions. Not one of the oldest pubs in the city nor the most popular, The Queen’s Legs had, nonetheless, a plentiful supply of the drink, both cheap and fizzy. Happy Hours were regular and allowed the provident patron, for a sum just shy of twenty quid, to get utterly bunched, scuttered entirely. Physical violence was rarely used against the clientele and then only as necessity dictated, the barman being a large, patient man with, so said the clacking tongue of rumour, a history in the Special Forces and a limp. Precisely what a former SAS operative should be doing sweeping up students in a dump like The Queen’s Legs remained a matter for conjecture. Most important of all, perhaps, said clientele consisted largely of mysterious Goth girls, dark eyed and kohl eyed, perfumed, oiled and slick with strange unguents from out of antres vast and deserts idle, Goth girls garbed in startling combinations, mostly of leather and PVC. There were, besides, the purveyors of exotic substances, the sale and consumption of which is commonly frowned upon by the authorities. Ever genial and attentive as the latter were, the former had proved entirely recalcitrant when faced by the charms of the two new students. Faizal and Hamish did not hesitate in acknowledging the truth of Joyce’s Buckish bon mot: “each man, his own wife.” Taking their lives in their hands, as it were, they immediately embarked on a life of vigorous self-abuse: alcoholic, narcotic, and, of course, autoerotic. 

On this very particular morning, Faizal and Hamish had, according to recently confirmed habit, missed their first lectures, preferring instead to breakfast on the sausages, eggs, cold pasta, and possibly hummus, all of which had been unwisely left unlabelled in the fridge. The house had been empty, everyone else having already left for classes or the library. Labelled or not, the food was there and there to be eaten. Naturally, they had obliged. There were those among their housemates who were still to learn the jungle laws of the house share: survival of the fastest, he, or indeed she, who hesitates is lost, or rather, their food will be so. 

As they sat and waited, Faizal and Hamish passed between them, with unaffected dégagé, a fat and inexpertly rolled doobie. Upon lighting this, their first of the day, they had been more circumspect, exchanging it between surreptitiously cupped hands, casting casual glances about the half empty street in a manner guaranteed to arouse suspicion and attract attention. Indeed, had they been anywhere but a town where students have foregathered for many hundreds of years they would have spent much of the day in chokey. As the first wisps of blue white smoke curled lazily into the morning air, however, it had become apparent that the sixteenth of Moroccan black that Faizal had carefully crumbled amid the dry tobacco was not what it seemed. As the smell of smouldering stock cube filled the air, the students smoked and reflecting on their luck. Being by nature optimistic, Hamish shrugged and took a long, beefy drag. 

“At least,” he observed, displaying not one jot or tittle of either racial or cultural sensitivity, “we should be grateful that neither of us is vegetarian and that you, my friend, are not Hindu.” Said friend’s sour expression indicated that he did not, in the event, regard this as great consolation, Hamish ignored the expression and continued, “whatever else one says, one cannot deny that the Doveston does his market research.”

“Nor,” said Faizal, clearly irritated by this display of starry eyed idiocy, “can one deny that he has taken our money in exchange for dehydrated gravy.” Hamish nodded sadly. 

“True,” he said. “True. And this is certainly a matter upon which we shall dilate at length when next we meet.” 

The two friends sat in silence for a moment, sharing the engraved spliff. Behind and above, the dreaming spires of Oxford, before them, the not quite nightmare of a public house still locked up tight. No sign of a barman known for his patient mien and limp. It was past eleven now. Stuttering unsynchronically, clock towers across the city confirmed paradoxically that this was so. With supreme indifference to the deepest fears of its newest charges, tower, steeple, and spire all stretched up into a celestial blue sky, Church, chapel, and college catching wise old fingertips in the fragments of cloud which drifted like white caps on the sea at Brighton or, perhaps, much more like the smoke from a beef flavoured number on the temperate, late September air. 

“Of course,” said Faizal after a time, “this eventuality does not trouble me over much.” Shaken suddenly from his reverie of Sunday roasts with Yorkshire puddings, his friend looked up sharply. 

“Does it not?” he said interrogatively, removing an unclean finger from an unclean ear. 

“Indeed not. For I am, as you know, a man of great faith.”

“And it is a faith which sustains you in times of loss?” Their short acquaintance and the firm friendship which had subsequently arisen had not prepared Hamish for such a revelation. Faizal moued, fingering thoughtfully the fine peppering of alleged moustache which adorned his youthful upper lip. 

“It might,” he conceded, “in other circumstances. However, the current situation is one from which I, as a man of great faith¬¬¬¬¬—.” 

“Man of great faith,” chorused Hamish. 

“Man of great faith,” continued Faizal, with itching throat, “must remain aloof. I am not, you see, like you,” he said with considerable seriousness. “Drugs, alcohol, even cigarettes, all these are forbidden to me. I cannot befoul my soul with such things.”

“Befoul?”

“Befoul.”

“I should pull the other one if I were you, it plays a varied selection of campanological classics. And what, besides, of the search to which we have so ardently dedicated ourselves these last three weeks?” The man of great faith looked quizzically at his friend for a moment. Hamish, being a man, as he considered himself to be, of steadily diminishing faith, snatched the guttering number from his friend and took a final, irritated drag. “The company of women, alluringly tattooed and erotically pierced, wild and willing, generous women with low standards and lower expectations, that nighted penguin fringed abyss, as one burdened with knowledge secret and terrible dubbed it.” Faizal waved dismissively, declining both reminder and proffered smouldering roach. He returned his friend a smile of pity. 

“I am your friend,” he said, raising a compassionate hand. “Your bosom pal.” Momentarily distracted the students could not but snigger. “I accompany you, of course, but I fear for your soul, friend Hamish.” 

“I fear for your sanity,” replied friend Hamish who was, at that moment, sorely tempted to push friend Faizal’s compassionate face in. “Your memory appears to have gone.” These words, however, were greeted with another smile, sad and sanctimonious, and a head shake of similar character. 

“I am not like you. There is one who would have me be like you, who would have me dishonour myself likewise. He is your friend and he may mean you no harm, at least, you believe it so. But he is not my friend. He would have me harm myself.”

“The Doveston, you mean? Well, I wouldn’t call him a friend, exactly. More of a business acquaintance. Still, he likes you well enough, I’d say. He certainly doesn’t intend you any deliberate or permanent damage.”

“Not the Doveston, foolish infidel. The enemy, the evil one, the Prince of Darkness.”

“Christopher Lee, is it? Isn’t he dead?” 

Before exasperation found a voice, the sound of irregular bootsteps thudded dully, irregularly, up the quaint cobbled street towards them. Messenger from a secret morning. At last, the patient barman of legend, impatiently awaited, limped into view, newspaper under his oxter, cheery whistle on his lips, and the keys to The Queen’s Legs in his large, well trained hands. With their own incalculable quickness, Faizal and Hamish were on their feet. Matters of significance were unfolding rapidly before their bloodshot and onanistically impaired vision. A trice and the pub door was open, another and the lights were on, last, the ghostly grey blue light of the television flickered into ersatz life. Wordlessly, our beau sabreurs agreed that questions of religion, culture, and horror films of the 1970s—in all of which matters, they were experts of some renown—ought to be pursued under the convivial auspices of the beer seller’s eye. That, indeed, seemed the eftest way. 

Should one care to pass through the dark, dank, though ultimately welcoming, portals of The Queen’s Legs, one’s nostrils would first be met by the funereal aroma of ancient smoke, which mingles tartly with the still more antediluvian odour of the gents’ lavatory. A damp and gloomy place, even with all the lights ablaze and the early autumn sunshine streaming through the cracked and stained windows. Inside, hard wooden chairs crowd around short legged tables. Old sofas line the walls, their stuffing leaking drily from innumerable splits and tears, leaving the casual viewer with the impression that Jack the Ripper had abandoned his freestyle approach to gynaecology for an equally wild enthusiasm for upholstery. To Faizal and Hamish it was, as noted, a second home.

In an infinitesimal flash they crossed the scarred and sticky floor, footboards muttering in muted agony, and took their place before the bar. 

“Good morning, my lads,” said the barman, patiently limping back from a kitchen that would not have looked out of place in a Victorian gaol. “The usual, is it?” He asked, reaching for two smooth and mostly clean pint glasses. The students nodded eagerly and the glasses were filled with alacrity. “Shall I put the Brevil on as well?” A brief consultation and assessment of current finances followed before all agreed that, since the time for luncheon was well upon in its merry way, activation of the Brevil would indeed be appropriate. Money, almost exclusively in the form of the smallest possible denominations, was exchanged and the students retired with their pints to their usual table near the door to await a brace of cheese and ham toasties, that prince of sandwiches. Picking out the foreign coins with an indulgent smile, the barman slid the rest into the till and rang up ‘No Sale’. Such, he was given to understand, was the correct procedure for full time part time barmen everywhere, so much he had gleaned from a book he had read when he first took employment at The Queen’s Legs many years previously. 

“Tell me,” asked Hamish, taking a satisfying first, and even more satisfying second, sip of the fizzy yellow liquid, “is there a history of mental illness in your family?” Faizal forbore to respond. “I only ask because our earlier conversation suggests that you, like the Archdeacon Haynes, are suffering from incipient decay of the brain, though with entirely different symptoms, of course.”

“You are not a man of faith,” Faizal replied evenly, putting down his half empty glass. “You would not understand.” 

“I might have suspected the debilitating effects of tertiary syphilis except that, on the evidence of your recent performance in the field, a disease in the sexually transmitted style is clearly out of the question.” Faizal sniffed disdainfully and reached again for his pint glass. “Steady on there,” Hamish raised a warning finger. “Consider the inefficacy of our morning smoke, please. We may not be down at our financial heels as yet, but those heels are well worn, and besides,” he said, nodding surreptitiously at the small pile of coins on the bar, “the barman has discovered those Bahraini bottle tops we palmed him.” 

“They’re called ‘baisas’ and they’re from Oman, not Bahrain.”

“In the present circumstances, still worthless, you will allow me that. These,” he tapped his glass, “will have to last us until the Doveston arrives and we can recover from him the price of our purchase.”

“Indeed,” nodded Faizal returning his glass, untouched, to the sticky table. “And I hope he will not be long. This is his usual hour, I believe.” Hamish, too, nodded but before he could answer the cracked groaning of the opening door cut across the empty room. “Speak of the Devil,” said Faizal turning, “or in this case the Doveston.”

“Same thi—” began his friend. And stopped. 

The two students gawped with ill-concealed and juvenile carnality at the young woman who now entered the public bar of The Queen’s Legs, their eyes goggled in a manner that suggested hereditary defect, their slack mouths hung open, saliva pooled upon the foul floor below.

“Beauty” is a word too often and too easily bandied about today, in the present case, it was, besides, entirely inadequate. Celestial enchantress, lustrous Aphrodite, Belle tournure, picture of pulchritudinous perfection, if the alliteration be permitted, or simply, stunner, all such terms might have occurred to the inflamed consciousness of either Faizal or Hamish had their “reading” extended any further than the illustrated publications still hidden, as much out of nostalgia as any real need, beneath their unhygienic beds.

Dark eyed and kohl eyed with crypt white skin, the vision of womanhood strode across the bar to where the barman waited with a patient and welcoming smile. Her legs were long and luscious, slender and stocking clad, their lower extremities terminating in large, heavily studded boots while the upper came to an abrupt conclusion some six inches below the pleats of a most remarkable miniskirt. Those pleats, though far from her stocking tops, concealed her pontulious still. They swung and swished erotically in time with her every move. 

“That nighted penguin fringed abyss,” whispered Hamish, his strangely strangulated voice a mixture of awe, hope, and inconsolable sexual frustration. 

Above that fascinating garment, a lithe form was clad in skin tight lycra, matt black and slashed in several places, apparently with a razor. Large sections of naked midriff and ample décolletage were, as a result, revealed, as well as a tantalisingly substantial portion of side boob. So much was evident both to patient barman and steadily engorging students alike. What the former could not see, but the latter could, when their watering eyes had refocused, was the legend scrawled across the back of the woman’s shirt. In an old fashioned, untidy hand it read:

That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may
Suck
My
Big
Hairy
Balls

All in all, the lady’s—for certainly she was nothing less—attire left nothing whatsoever to the imagination, a fortunate thing for both Faizal and Hamish since, despite their cleverness, they had none to call upon. This may, perhaps, explain why it did not occur to either of them to ask the obvious question. 

The two students looked and, shameful to relate, as they looked, they leered. In a moment, the barman was handing over change, some of which appeared to be paper money, and a brimming, darkly glistening pint glass. Venus of the purple lipstick turned to a table with her snakebite ‘n’ black—a beverage no longer served anywhere but The Queen’s Legs—took a book from her bag and settled herself to read awhile. 

Faizal, meanwhile, tapped his friend lightly upon the shoulder and made a gesture indicating that now would be the very moment to watch and learn. Smoothing his almost hairless upper lip and arranging his face into what he considered a suave expression, he rose and strolled with near insouciance to the young woman’s side. 

“I see you are reading Feuerbach’s Das Wesen der Christentums.” No answer was there nor, as far as Faizal could tell, any that regarded. “Is it the Bolin Jodl edition?” he went on, nerves almost audibly beginning to splinter. At this, the woman looked up, frowning at him from under expertly arched brows.

“No,” she said shortly. “Schuffenhauer.”

“Ah yes. Much the better version.”

“Not particularly.” She turned back to the book. “I’ve always found George Eliot’s English translation perfectly adequate.” Undeterred, the lion hearted lad attempted another gambit.

“Indeed. A powerful work when rendered into English. A dialectical masterpiece: the deconstruction of archaic ontologies is complete and, to my mind, unsurpassed. The developmental theology which complements it, however, that is the lambent flame which illumines matters of transcendental import, offering a renewed metaphysic of the human spirit. At least, so much The Renegade himself claims.” 

The woman’s dark, sensual eyes returned to the young man, roving over his person in a fine grained, critical appraisal. Process complete, she glanced past him at Hamish who, suddenly conscious of his own trouser tightening voyeurism cast his eyes about the room in highly strained nonchalance. Placing her book face down, somewhat unwisely in Faizal’s opinion, on the begrimed table, the woman sat back, folded her arms, and looked him in the eye. 

“Do you ever think about anything other than sex?” she asked evenly. Suddenly thrown off guard, Faizal nevertheless, forced a laugh. 

“Ha,” he spluttered. “A fine jest. You are a connoisseur of Woody Allen’s films then?”

“Not particularly,” she said again. “But your erection is almost in my drink.” This, she pointedly moved to the other side of the table. Faizal, perhaps wisely, said no more. Roseate blooms burst upon his cheeks as the prickling heat of embarrassment engulfed him like an old, familiar blanket. Faizal ahem ed, turned slowly, and returned his shame clenching buttocks to the seat beside Hamish. It was, one might care to note, with a supreme effort of will that he resisted the temptation to look down and see how close to the woman’s drink he had actually been. 

“Masterful,” smirked Hamish unsympathetically. “Truly masterful. Is it not time you took your rightful place amongst the faculty of this venerable institution, as the new chair of shaganomics, perchance?”

“You may laugh,” muttered his friend indignantly.

“My thanks, I shall.” And, with a theatrical air, he did just that. 

Faizal sat down, not without some physical discomfort. 

“Please feel most welcome, if you believe you might succeed where I failed, to try your luck.”

Hamish shot a glance down at his trouser region, pulled a face and shook his head, almost simultaneously. 

“I think not,” he said firmly. 

Undeniably woebegone, the brace of Lochinvars sat and waited for their toasted sandwiches, which, by the merest chance, the distracted barman had forgotten to make. While they sat and waited, they sipped their drinks and cast glances entirely lacking in any subtlety at the long, nylon clad legs which crossed and recrossed themselves but a few short yards away. 

Time passed. Before long, however, their sulphurous reverie was shattered once again by the agonised complaint of door hinge and the subsequent bang of wood in hole. Expectantly, all there looked up. The identity of the entrant established, two sets of eyes returned, with not the least flicker of interest, to their particular preoccupations: one to the psychodynamics of religious consciousness, the other to the copy of Reader’s Wives, kept for medicinal purposes beneath the bar. Into the room strode a young man wearing a long and rather grubby overcoat and swinging a rolled umbrella. With a brief glance at our two heroes, he stepped smartly to the young lady’s side. 

“Sorcha my heart,” said the gallant, doffing the battered homburg which habitually covered his be dandruffed head. “How are you? Well, I trust.” Then, tipping the edge of her book upwards and reading the title, “ah, still working on the old transcendental dialectic I see.”

“The Analyticals congregate for their night of word games and mutual masturbation tomorrow,” she rejoined with a flicker of a smile. “I intend to challenge their fundamental tenets, tear them a new arsehole, and drive a tractor through it.”

“How very unpleasant for them. You are the very woman to do it, Sorcha my sweet, the very woman. And your title?”

“‘Y’all Betta Back Down ‘Fo’ Y’all Git Smack Down’.”

“Certain to be well received.”

“Shall you not come?” 

“Me? Oh no, my dear. I am far too squeamish. You know how I dislike the sight of grown men weeping.”

“Grown men?” snorted the scholarly one. “Here? But let that pass. What of you, Doveston? Still selling Oxo cubes to the new bugs?”

“Sorcha, my cluster of camphire,” the Doveston contrived, unconvincingly, to look hurt, “how could you suggest such a thing?” Before she could reply, however, he bowed courteously and turned to greet two of those self-same ‘bugs’. 

“Gentlemen, gentlemen, well met. An indubitable pleasure to find you here at this hour. How goes the day with you?” 

“Well met indeed,” grimaced Faizal. “We are delighted to see you likewise.” 

“All goes cross with us this morning, sad to say,” Hamish added. 

“I am very sorry to hear that, friends. Pray, tell me what occurs to make you so disconsolate that I may offer—”

“Compensation?” interrupted Hamish.

The Doveston smiled a warmly sympathetic smile. “I was going to say, succour.”

“Indeed,” Faizal muttered shortly. “It goes this way. On partaking of our morning smoke, what should we discover but that the finest Moroccan spidge, retailed to us by your good self, was in fact a sixteenth of significantly less exotic beef flavoured seasoning?”

“Oxo, I believe yon learned lady said,” put in Hamish. “Or possibly Knorr. I am no connoisseur in matters culinary.”

A look of what appeared to be quite genuine disappointment clouded the Doveston’s features. “My friends,” he said in sorrowful tones, “you have my profoundest sympathies. Such tribulations are difficult to bear, particularly when the day has hardly begun. Remember and be comforted, I beg you, the wise words of dear old Father Stephen: what does not kill us only makes us stronger.” This was, indeed, a considerable consolation to the boys in Father Stephen’s charge, as reports of the trial made clear. The two who sat before the Doveston, however, merely sniffed scornfully. Wise words, they evidently considered unsatisfactory under the circumstances. “But, ah, you say it was from me that you purchased this supposed stock cube, this alleged false hashish?”

“Quite so. And undoubtedly it would have been just the thing had we been making soup or some such. Soup is nice.”

“Soup is nice,” agreed the Doveston. 

“But it was not, you understand, our objective.” 

The Doveston nodded thoughtfully. He understood, very well indeed.

“But perhaps you are mistaken,” he said, with a conciliatory gesture. “You have dealt with another retailer. Haven’t I warned you of the dangers of doing so? Many an unscrupulous creature haunts this city.” 

The two students shook their heads firmly. “We did not.” Hamish insisted. “We dealt with you and you alone.”

“A robbery then? Perhaps that was it. Some cut purse exchanging trash for gold.”

“Black,” reminded Faizal. “You said you had none of the Rocky Gold about you.”

“This is beside the point.” Hamish put in peevishly. “You sold us seasoning for spidge. A refund is owing.”

“And you,” added Faizal, draining his glass and placing it firmly on the table before the Doveston, “are in the chair. In both senses.”

“A double blow,” groaned the Doveston. He looked at the two students and made a quick mental calculation. Three more years of good custom at least, should he tread lightly now. “Under the circumstances, I concede that a gesture of goodwill is most certainly called for. I shall honour, therefore, the second charge at least. In the matter of refreshments, you will not find me wanting.”

“Bloody English Lit grads,” muttered Hamish as the Doveston swept to the bar. A few moments later, he returned with two glasses brimful of yellow fizz which he placed before his disgruntled clients. 

“Ah no,” he said, in response to the faintly quizzical look with which they were received. “I shall forbear for the present. I cannot afford to sleep through any more tutorials just at the moment. Old Poddy will have me on a charge.

“Now gentlemen, to business. First, be assured, I beg you, that if what you say is true, then it is a terrible mistake, most distressing to me, but no deliberate attempt to defraud you, on that you have my word.” Faizal and Hamish said nothing, only sipped in stony silence. “So, if you would simply return the offending substance, I shall only be too glad to provide you with a full refund.” The Doveston watched his customers exchanged uncertain glances, knowing very well what they were about to say. 

“Ah,” said Faizal.

“Ah,” said Hamish. 

“It’s like this,” they said together. “We do not, in fact, have the seasoning cube—”

“Alleged seasoning cube,” the Doveston interrupted.

“Alleged seasoning cube, we no longer have it in our possession.”

“You did not, I most fervently hope, gentlemen, make so rash as to sell it on to anyone else.” said the Doveston, visibly appalled. 

“Of course not,” snapped Faizal.

“We smoked it,” said Hamish. “Without realising at first, of course, and then it seemed too late so we finished it.”

“Oh dear. That is a problem. If you no longer have the item to return, I’m afraid that I shall be unable to refund your money. You see why, surely, do you not?”

“Now see here!” said Faizal, almost on his feet. “This is outrageous!” Hamish placed a restraining hand on his arm.

“Shouting will resolve nothing,” he said, through gritted teeth. 

“Indeed, it will not,” the Doveston concurred. “Nevertheless, I quite see your point of view. You are out of pocket and still sober, though Phoebus is far along in his journey ‘cross the sky.” He looked at the students again for a moment, counting to five under his breath. “But perhaps a compromise might be reached.” He had their attention now. “I cannot, in all conscience, agree to a refund.” 

Faizal huffed and Hamish shushed him. 

“However, I might see my way clear to offering a replacement.”

“Of dope?”

“Unfortunately not.” 

Faizal huffed again, Hamish shushed likewise. 

“Soft you,” said the Doveston, leaning conspiratorially across a table he would have preferred not to touch. “I am, most unfortunately, out of all hashish products. But fear not, the shelves are not entirely bare, Mother Hubbard’s hound shall not depart disappointed.” So saying, he produced from his waistcoat pocket a small, clear plastic baggy containing a single blue pill.

“Tazzies?” queried Hamish with an almost professional air. 

“Indeed not. This, my friends, is something not yet on the market, something completely new.” 

The two students looked at one another and then at the pill, finally, they looked at the Doveston. 

“This,” he continued, in hushed tones, “is something you will find far more interesting, not to say useful, than all the drowsy syrups of the world which of you habitually partake.”

“What is it?” whispered Faizal. 

“Its testing name is ‘Love Potion Number 9.5’.”

“Love Potion?” said Hamish, almost sneering. Almost, but not quite.

“9.5?” said Faizal nervously. 

“That’s the test batch: 9.5. And yes, my friends, I tell you truly: Love Potion. Guaranteed to work.”

“Where did you get it?” the students asked in univocal suspicion. 

“Pepperidge. He is in the biochemistry faculty. His main line of research is insects, I think. He’s certainly always banging on about his praying mantises. This,” he tapped the baggy, “is a side line, funding for his DPhil.” 

The two students stared at the pill for a long time. Finally, Faizal sat back, a worried look clouding his smooth and youthful brow. 

“I don’t know about this,” he said, pulling at his almost hairless upper lip. “Spiking a lady’s drink hardly seems fair, don’t you think? Getting them drunk is one thing, but this smacks of sinister intent.”

“Agreed.” Hamish gave a vigorous nod and sat back in his chair, arms firmly folded. “Date rape is not the route for me.”

“Foolish boys,” the Doveston smiled indulgently. “You don’t give it to her. You take it yourself.”

“Myself?” They chorused once again. “How, may we ask, does that work?”

“For the specific details, you should have to ask Pepperidge. I couldn’t begin to understand the chemistry of it. Something to do with pheromones and such like alchemical entities. This delightful little thing alters them in such a way as to make you utterly irresistible to any woman within a radius of approximately ten feet.”

The students looked agog at the Doveston before shooting a rapid glance towards the young woman who still sat, reading, and sipping the last half of her pint. 

“You just swallow it,” said the Doveston watching them carefully, “wait a few moments and—” 

“And?” they whispered hoarsely. 

“Let the orgy commence. Pepperidge and I are toying with marketing it under the name of ‘The Bacchae’. A neat little classical allusion that should appeal to the punters, don’t you think?”

Faizal and Hamish nodded silently. The myriad possibilities stirred by the word ‘orgy’ cartwheeled wildly through their freshly blossoming imaginations. 

“Now, I must warn you,” the Doveston cut in, “this is still in the testing phase, though far along the road, of course, otherwise I should not be offering it to you. Nevertheless, there may be one or two side effects.”

“Side effects?” echoed Faizal suspiciously. 

“Nothing serious. A little blurred vision perhaps, impaired judgement, one ought not to operate heavy machinery, the usual sort of thing. Have no fear, it’s perfectly safe.”

“I don’t know—” began Faizal, reaching to pick up the baggy from the table. The baggy was empty. Hamish grinned sheepishly at him.

“Swine!” spat Faizal. “Half of that was mine!”

“Only one dose, I’m afraid,” smiled the Doveston. Faizal glared at his friend. Beside him, unnoticed, the Doveston produced a small notebook and pen from his breast pocket. Hamish sipped his pint calmly and waited for something to happen. 

“What are we waiting for,” he asked eventually. “Is something supposed to happen?”

“Wait and see,” murmured the Doveston. “Wait and see.”

“Well,” muttered Faizal, “I can see no diff—” he stopped. Had the lights in the bar flickered and dimmed a little just then? A chair scraped across the wooden floor. Aphrodite rose to her feet. With a long, languorous sigh, she stretched her slender arms, revealing more side boob than either the students or the barman could ever have hoped for, and turned towards the trio at the table. In two strides, she stood over Hamish, looking at him, her eyes hooded sensuously, skin sizzling with the hot scent of lust. 

“Stand up,” she breathed aromatically, almost sending a priapically blue Faizal careening over the edge. Clutching his groin tenderly, the youth watched his friend climb to his unsteady feet. Sorcha breathed in, long and slow, inhaling deeply of the chemically altered whiff of Hamish. “You smell nice,” she said, despite the evidence, and took his face in her hands. Her mouth began to flit and flicker over his face, softly kissing and biting, her tongue, a gliding serpent, reminder of lost pleasures, Edenic, ancient, gently probed his eyes and ears. Her low, guttural, animal growl harmonised perfectly with the young man’s delirious groan. Her mouth found his kiss, mouth to his mouth’s, Hamish’s hair stood on end. Faizal, the barman, and the Doveston gawped, six eyeing the scene dumbly. An erotic explosion of oral acrobatics, wet osculations, loud, sucking. An awesome sight hitherto unimagined. Long slurping moments passed before, recalling himself at last, the Doveston set to the making of careful notes in his little book. 

After what seemed to be a very long time, the lovers came up for air: he, panting and gasping and gulping like a landed fish, lips still lipping at fleshless lips of air, she, breathing heavily but evidently in control, or something like it. 

“Jesus Christ’s Holy Tits,” respired Hamish, hoarsely.

The kiss had, undoubtedly, been long and hard and deep, despite what had occurred immediately beforehand, it had still come as a considerable surprise to the young student. Likewise, the savage head butt which followed it. Wet, crunching contact was established, Hamish’s head snapped back, his face all in a gore of blood, as, one supposes, the right phrase goes. His knees gave way, he crashed to the floor. 

“Jesus Christ’s Holy Tits,” echoed the patient barman, in his heart, a certain perturbation at the unfolding scene began to bud.

“God you’re gorgeous,” growled herself, wiping a redgreen smear from her forehead. She dropped on the stunned and bubbling youth like a bucket of hot snakes. Her long, wet tongue slid up his face and slithered eelishly into his ear, roving wildly around the whorls of soft flesh and probing the dark and sticky canal. Simultaneously, her hand dived downwards, burrowing frantically into the front of Hamish’s trouser area. In acknowledgement of this, Hamish gave a high pitched squeak of surprise. His left leg spasmed.

“Now steady on,” the patient barman said, leaning far over the bar to get a better view. “There’s a time and place for everything, young lady and—” But he got no further, his words cut short by a sudden animal scream of pain. Hamish bucked as he had never bucked before, in wild desperation he fought beneath the heaving body that pinned him down. And then she was sitting up, a dripping rag of earlobe redpanting from her wolf’s jaw. 

“Scrumptious,” she hissed, swallowed, and dipped to lap at the hot blood gushing from Hamish’s mangled head, her hand still firmly lodged in his trousers. “Hush now, little rabbit.” Lap lapin. 

Sweating and swearing, gasping and groaning and violently wrestling, two bodies thrashed together, becoming a many limbed monstrosity which howled and writhed about the blood smeared barroom floor. Faizal and the patient barman unfroze at the horrifyingly erotic sight. The former made to dive upon the heaving and squirming bodies in the manner of a schoolboy ‘bundle’. The latter beat him to it, nimbly vaulting the counter, he grabbed the woman, nay, fiend, around the waist and hauled her kicking and twisting, banshee howling, from the battered, bleeding and badly bitten student. Hamish instinctively curled up in a ball, arms covering his remaining, unchewed ear. 

“You’re barred,” said the barman firmly. But before he could say more, a thrashing boot made abrupt and brutal contact with his shin bone. There was a sharp, dry crack. Hardly had he joined the animalistic chorus of yowls and yelps when a second boot, with remarkable, almost double jointed, dexterity, found his crotch and cruelly silenced him. Releasing his grip on the instant, the patient barman doubled over, clutching himself and retching violently. The soft, genitalian thud evoked a wince and choke of nauseated sympathy from Faizal and the Doveston. Before they could move—the one to battle, the other to fill another page of his notebook—Sorcha fell upon her foe. With strength to match her Olympian beauty, she raised him high above her head. Her muscles throbbed visibly, almost audibly, veins bulged upon her neck and forehead and with a triumphant cry she flung him back across the counter from whence he came. 

A bulging, fish eyed Faizal froze, the Doveston stopped writing. Both gawped, appalled by the terrible power of this mighty amazon, this female Hercules. Roused by the crash of the Nemean barman’s landing, Hamish abandoned the doubtful safety of his foetal curl and leapt to his feet. His clothes and flesh were wildly rent, his shirt and skin in all but flinders. Blood ran freely, rilling from great gouges in his face and arms and from the ragged remains of his ear, scallop edged by whitely perfect teeth, and down below, much bruising owing to a far from gentle grip. 

Sorcha spun back to face her sweaty little loverman and mid-morning snack, Hamish shrieked and stumbled backwards, clutching for support at sofa, almost as tattered as he. Stretching out her arms to him she licked his blood from her glistening lips. 

“Mmmm, delicious.” Hands still reaching, “c’m’ere hot boy,” she summoned with fearfully thrusting hips. “Woof!” 

Hamish shrieked again, weakly now, and almost fainted. 

Faizal, energised as much by the semi pornographic display as by the desire to save Hamish, leapt forward. Determined now, he would do battle with this superhuman succubus, grapple with her and, if possible, cop a feel in the process. Before his groping hands could find her supple flesh, however, a vicious backhand sent him spinning across the room, disabling once and for all the aged jukebox which stood beside the gents’ lavatories. Bestirred, instanter, by the curious fragrance lingering about that corner of the pub, he struggled, wheezing and groggy, to his knees only to see the ravenous ravisher turn once again upon his friend. 

And Hamish hit her with a chair. 

Three young men gasped with, as it emerged, premature relief as one scholarly young woman dropped, like a sack of owls, to the floor. 

“Playing hard to get, sweetmeat,” she grunted thickly, hauling herself up by Hamish’s belt buckle. Kneeling before him, face level with his crotch, she looked up with a lascivious grin and licked her lips again. Mesmerised by the black glowing gaze, darkness which the light comprehendeth not, and long, slender fingers which, even now, were fiddling with his zipper, Hamish felt his will drain away. He could not, he knew, help himself. There was but one reply.

“While you’re down there, love...” he said, hopefully. 

“No!” screamed Faizal and the Doveston in unison. Faizal leapt and, with a strength he hardly believed himself capable of, yanked the battered boy free of his sexy nemesis, flung him out of The Queen’s Legs, and dived after him. 

“Come back!” screeched the voracious harpy. “I think I love you! And I’m really, really hungry!”

As the sound of running feet died away, Sorcha fell back in a sudden swoon. Ever the gentleman, the Doveston completed his notes, laid down pen and paper, and stepped quickly to her side. 

“Pepperidge will find this useful, I am sure,” he said to himself. “Some further refinements may be required in batch number ten. Sorcha, my dear, are you quite all right?”

The young woman groaned and clutched at her head.

“W—what happened?” she murmured, evidently dazed. The Doveston helped her to a chair before moving to the bar and peering cautiously over the counter. The once patient barman still slept soundly in a crumpled, upside down heap in the corner. He looked for all the world like a cat, if a large and essentially hairless one, curled up in the sun, with one paw over its eyes, so the Doveston thought, anyhow. Once behind the bar, he quickly assured himself that the barman was still this side of the Acheron before turning to the bottles on the side. A large scotch for himself, merely to settle the nerves, was quickly followed by a glass of fizzy water and another of brandy for the lady, sat still staring vacantly into space, swaying slightly. After barely a moment’s thought, he added a slice of lemon to the water and returned to her side. 

“What happened?” she asked again as he passed her the drinks.

“You might want to sluice your mouth out with the water first,” he said gently. “Get rid of the taste of blood.” 

“Blood?” she demanded, horrified and disgusted. “What the fuck have you done to me this time, you bastard?”

“Now calm yourself, Sorcha. Getting over excited will do you no good whatsoever. Have some water and then drink this.” He handed her the brandy. “I’m sure your memory will return in no time. Should it wish to do so.”

The young woman took the glass and struggled to sit up, but before she could question the Doveston further, he had downed his own drink, grabbed a towel from the bar, a bottle from behind it, and disappeared through the door. 

“I shall do for that bastard one of these days,” she muttered picking what appeared to be hair from her teeth and wondering what that pungent odour on her right hand was. Before anything else, however, another brandy would be essential to wash from her mouth the strange taste of blood and—dear God, surely that couldn’t be earwax!

Behind the bar, the barman cautiously opened a patient eye. He could hear the young woman muttering to herself on the other side of the counter. Best stay where he was for the moment. Just a quick check of the equipment. Silently, a hand made its way down the length of his torso, softly a finger tapped the hard plastic cricket box he kept down there for emergencies. There was, he noted a little sadly, a substantial crack down the length of it. 



Outside in the street, the Doveston was following a trail of women slavering and glassy eyed. Some stood in bemused knots, others turned around and around, heads high, noses a twitch as though to snag the scent of something which had recently streaked past. With some, not very arduous effort, he traced Faizal and Hamish to a bench in a nearby park. 

“Ah, there you are,” he said, tossing Hamish the bar towel. Without thanking the Doveston, Hamish pressed the towel to his torn and bleeding ear and slumped back on the bench. Beside him, Faizal, ever the contrarian, slumped forward, breathing hard, his head almost between his knees. 

“And what, if I may be so bold as to enquire,” he asked, “the actual fuck was that all about?” 

“I did say there may be side effects,” the Doveston demurred. 

“Side effects? Blurred vision you said, but nary a single word, if I recall correctly, did you utter concerning the rise of the Cannibal Fuck Bomb.”

“You exaggerate, surely.” 

“She ate my fucking ear!” howled Hamish, not unreasonably. 

“Only part of it,” replied the Doveston. “Nevertheless, that was a little unexpected.”

“Indubitably,” put in Faizal. 

The bushes behind them began to rustle violently and all three looked up. Several women were emerging, their expressions empty of everything but a sudden and ravening sexual arousal coupled with a raw and gnawing hunger. Across the park, more figures began to lurch and stumble in their direction with alarming rapidity.

“Mo motherfucking ham—” Faizal began.

“Jesus titty fucking Christ,” interrupted Hamish in a breathless whisper. 

“Doveston?” murmured Faizal as the figures came closer, all the while tugging at their clothes and licking their lips. 

“Yes?” replied the other, reaching for his pen and notebook. 

“How much do you want for another one of those pills?”

 



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