Bacchanal Of Bone Chapter Nine, Final Chapter

Sure that the book had simply gotten bumped or dropped onto the floor during the course of the previous few hours’ activities, they spent several minutes looking for it under and around the altar, the candelabras, and their scattered clothing. The spectral revelers didn’t seem to notice.

The next time Pete and Rennie turned toward the altar, it wasn’t empty anymore. A length of rope lay in its center, neatly coiled.

Standing on opposite sides of the slab, they looked at each other, a mutual understanding dawning in their eyes.

“We aren’t going to find the book anywhere in here,” he said. “We’re inside it. It’s our universe now.”

Rennie remembered the book’s chilling first verse.

“Pete?… We’re dead already, aren’t we?”

“Yes.”

“But when? When did we…?”

“Probably soon after we went to sleep in the wine cellar.”

She looked over in the direction of the door, half-expecting it to be gone, or perhaps bricked up, à la The Cask Of Amontillado. But it was in fact still there, and unobstructed. She turned to face him again.

“So if our bodies are sitting out there… could we just walk away from here, go back…?”

He spoke tenderly– “Rennie. You and I both know that’s not how this sort of thing works.” He paused. Then, “Besides, if it did work that way, would you really want to go back?”

“No,” she answered without hesitation. They had come this far, and there was nothing left for them in the world above.

It was then that they noticed the chamber had gone quiet. They looked around, and saw that the orgy had come to a halt. All the skeletons were watching them. But, oddly, there was nothing menacing about them even now– they were simply waiting, patiently. All they had was time, after all.

Pete wondered if the spirits could understand what he and his wife were saying. He hadn’t heard any of them actually talk.

In any case…

“I think this is our cue to make our contribution to literary history,” he said.

“What exactly are we to do with this, though?” she asked, gesturing towards the rope.

He thought for a few moments. “Do you remember that night when I taught you how to tie that rope-harness around my chest, so I could use one end of the rope to make a noose? Remember how I was able to tighten the noose around your neck just by lifting my body up a little bit off of yours while we made love?”

She nodded. “I remember that.”

On the night to which Pete was referring, she had begun to feel faint and lightheaded from the lack of oxygen, and for that reason, they had stopped the risky game immediately.

But that had been years ago– long before they had been ready for this moment. Long before they had been ready to take this slow plunge that had begun the moment they’d left American soil, and was about to end here, beneath a city that had been wracked by centuries of bloodshed and yet was celebrated by the modern world as a pleasure-seeker’s paradise.

“If we’re already one of them,” Rennie suddenly asked, indicating the ghostly orgiasts, “then why don’t we look like them?”

“I guess that doesn’t happen until after we complete our ‘entry’ in the book.”

She picked up the rope. “Well… we don’t have anything to lose this time.”

Because she had done it only once, and so long ago, it took her a fair while to properly tie the rope into a chest-harness, even with Pete walking her through it. Once it was done, he used the excess to tie the noose.

They helped each other up onto the altar. Pete placed the noose around her neck, and they kissed.

The skeletons were crowding around the altar now, but the lovers barely noticed them as Nature took its course.

They savored the act and made it last as long as they could, but in the end, as always, the lure of orgasm was impossible to resist. It overpowered them both in the same instant, right as Pete arched back, pulling the rope taut.

And then… it all faded to black.

 

The sound of Ray’s footsteps sent unseen rats skittering deeper into the gloom as he hurried down the corridor. He could have sworn that each time he called out, the very stones around him swallowed his words up… but still he kept trying.

“Dr. Banbaur!… Hello!… Can you hear me?… Mrs. Banbaur?… Hello?…”

When he’d received the dreaded alert, he had plugged his Ninshubur Unit into the module and downloaded the latest version of the map that had been transmitted by the Banbaurs’ device. Then he’d geared up, grabbed a satchel of emergency items he’d put together the day before they’d gone into the catacombs (this contained a first-aid kit, protein shakes, bottled water, and a few tools), and headed out.

He had sped over to a Métro station where he’d known there was an entrance to the tunnels that would bring him in closer to the Banbaurs’ last known location than the utility hole that had served as their starting point would have. From there, with the help of his Ninshubur, he’d made a beeline for them. But they’d found their way through such difficult and dangerous areas of the defunct mines, and gone so deep into them, that it had still taken him a while to get this far.

According to the Unit that Ray carried, the couple had stopped in an antechamber that was attached to a large, square room. On one hand, he found some reassurance in the fact that the square room had no outlet other than the passage between it and the antechamber– that meant he was only a minute or two away from catching up with them, assuming they had stayed put once the distress signal had been sent. On the other hand, he feared that they might have continued to wander around after that. Real-world observation had taught him that the most academically brilliant people sometimes displayed a shocking lack of common sense when out in the field, and that passion could and often did lead to foolhardiness. And even a fool could have seen that Dr. Banbaur and his wife were utterly consumed with thoughts of getting their hands on that book…

The rectangular anteroom on his electronic map turned out to be a wine cellar. And as soon as he reached it, he saw that he was too late.

Standing before the couple, he thought to himself that at least it appeared their death had been a peaceful one. They sat on the floor, close together, hand in hand.

On one side of them was an empty wine bottle, and their gear, including their Ninshubur Unit. Its screen was dark. Upon closer inspection, Ray found that it hadn’t been simply shut off, it had actually ceased functioning entirely.

He’d built four of the Units, they had been used by some of his colleagues as well as himself, and this was the first time one of them had failed. He put it in his satchel, planning to try to figure out the cause later.

To the couple’s other side was a door, with an imposing image of a skeletal angel carved into it.

He felt sad over the loss of them (he’d seen Dr. Banbaur as a mentor and a friend in equal measure, and although he hadn’t had an opportunity to get to know Mrs. Banbuar quite as well, he’d still considered her a friend, too), but he knew this was a purely selfish sentiment on his part. The couple had gotten exactly what they had wanted. They’d found what they’d sought.

He also knew that it would be at least a century or two, maybe longer, before the erotic tome revealed itself to anyone from the world of the living again. But meanwhile, his two friends, along with their companions in carnality, would be insensible to the passage of time, suspended in a merciful state of oblivion. And now that the Sexus Divinus held their souls, they would awaken and partake in the otherworldly orgy that was set in motion whenever the book was discovered by mortals, and get to witness a new perverse act each time.

Ray supposed there were far worse ways to spend eternity.

What did they do to earn their place in the pages of that book, though? he wondered.

Shaking his head, he chuckled grimly and answered himself aloud: “I don’t even want to know.”

But then, he had one more flash of morbid curiosity. He opened the door and went through a short entrance hall, to investigate the larger chamber that lay beyond.

When he swept the beam of his lantern around, all he saw was a gray, blank box of a room. No bones. Nothing at all.

He turned around, and began to walk back the way he’d come, closing the cellar door behind him and leaving the Banbaurs’ remains in peace.

He hadn’t really expected to find anything in that room. Because he hadn’t been seeking anything there.

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