Monday, April 9, 2012
FROZEN IN TIME
Set in Ancient Greece, at the time of Alexander the Great, a time when the spirit world of gods and goddesses and other immortal beings bleeds into the world of mortals, Frozen in Time is an engaging story of a love that can transcend anything. Even death or banishment to otherworldly realms, or the transformation of the lovers into immortal beings.
After the death of his wife in childbirth, Philip, grief stricken and suicidal, joins the army of his half brother Alexander, with whom he has a very uneasy relationship. But the world of immortals has other plans for him and the vampiric monster, Scylla, plays on his grief by seducing him in the form of his dead wife. Horrified when he discovers the truth and that he too is now one of the immortals, it becomes his life’s quest to escape Scylla, find a way of destroying her forever and also reunite himself with his beloved wife in one way or another.
FROZEN IN TIME EXCERPT
Philip could not believe his eyes. His Amaranthea. Sweet Amaranthea - a temptress in the silver moonlight.
He felt as if he were in a trance. Perhaps all the wine he had consumed had gone to his head. Trying to blink the vision away, he realized this was no alcohol-induced apparition. No, this beauty was alive. Solid. As clearly defined as the craggy rock at his side, a glorious sight clad in a scarlet cloak.
Strange mysterious music rang out as she called his name. Bewitching. Caressing.
‘Come my love, be mine.’
Without a second thought, he took her jewelled hand and let her lead the way along the rocky mountainside.
The air was thick with dust. Down below in Darius’ camp the flames from the torches outside the tents glowed brightly, flickering in the light breeze. Alexander had instructed his men to monitor Darius’ every move and nothing should have deterred Philip. But Amaranthea was his life.
Had been his life.
He wouldn’t even be in this war if it had not been for her. In all honesty, it meant nothing to him. He cared not whether he lived nor died.
Amaranthea led him to an opening buried deep within the jagged rock. Philip hesitated, turning to glance back at the campsite he had just left behind.
Through the hazy air he could see in the distance the masses of tents where the army rested for the night. They had all feasted well, as if tonight was their last, in preparation for tomorrow’s battle. By walking away, he had betrayed them all. Betrayed Alexander.
But the life of a soldier didn’t suit him. The thought of the terror and bloodshed he witnessed made him want to vomit. He had no real desire to kill anymore. And yet he had. So many times. It was what he was paid to do. But there were also times when he simply wished that an enemy spear would soon put an end to his misery.
Amaranthea’s voice drew him out of his dark thoughts, ‘Come, my love,’ she said, the breeze catching her long red hair.
He turned towards her, meeting her dark gaze. How could I have wished to die? he thought. We are together again.
They stepped into the vast cave. It was pitch black, but as Philip followed Amaranthea she seemed to glow, lighting his way up ahead. Philip blinked in astonishment at the network of passages that clearly came into focus.
As they walked the light illuminated something. Philip jumped back as the figure of a winged serpent with a woman’s head leapt out at him. The cave was painted. Walls covered in images, both beautiful and terrible. Recoiling, Philip caught the image of a serpent woman devouring the head of a child.
‘Why have you brought me here?’ he asked.
No reply. He paused, staring at the figure of Amaranthea walking steadily ahead of him. More paintings of monstrous creatures and women with half-serpent bodies, of winged maidens and warriors with snakes and torches in their hair came to view.
‘Why have you brought me here?’ he asked again.
Still no answer, but he could not help but follow Amaranthea towards a welcoming gleam of light. The sound of gently plucked harp strings floated in the air towards them, a melody so calming to a man whose ears had grown accustomed to the cries of war.
On entering the chamber, the intense heat hit Philip’s face. Fires and torches blazed brightly. Shadows from the flames danced on the ochre-painted walls, and fragrant oils burned - awakening his senses to memories of times long passed. On the ground, he noticed a scattering of rose petals. Whatever this dwelling-place was, he soon began to feel at ease.
Amaranthea guided him towards a large bed draped in shiny silk of crimson and gold. Philip sat his aching body on it. He so longed for a good night’s sleep. To lie back on those sumptuous cushions.
Amaranthea stood before him, holding his gaze. Her dark eyes flashed. Removing her scarlet cloak, she let it drop to the ground. Naked, her pale skin glistened in the glowing torch light, her red hair cascading over her shoulders. Philip had never seen anything so beautiful. So perfect, like a goddess. Overwhelmed with desire, he pulled her to him...
They made love. He had waited a long time for this.
‘Amaranthea,’ he cried.
Then everything changed. She hissed like a snake. Alarmed, Philip opened his eyes and to his disgust, he found himself staring into a pair of red demonic eyes. This was no longer Amaranthea but a strange woman that hissed like a serpent. In place of Amaranthea’s slender hands, sharp claws reached for him.
He tried to move away but it was too late. Something sharp pierced him in the neck and he felt his blood oozing out from the wound. He roared with pain. The creature pinned him down and began to suck his blood, licking and devouring it. He grew weaker. Then once again, he heard Amaranthea’s sweet voice.
‘My love, you are dying. I will give you back your life if you promise to be with me always. Until the end of time. I will not let the gods take you from me. You are far too beautiful for that. But you must be mine. Always. You will never love another. Do I have your word?’
He could barely speak. ‘Yes.’
Blood gushed into his mouth. He tasted it and hungered for more.
As more hot blood flowed into his veins, his heart throbbed strongly, its pulse heavy in his ears. He shuddered, felt cold, shivered. His eyesight began to flicker. Images of his life flashed before him. His childhood. His mother. His brothers. His wedding to Amaranthea …
Scylla’s skin prickled with excitement. Emerging from the ocean, water running from her slender body, she ran her hands across the slick black panther fur that was her only covering. The salty night air, heavy with the scents of pine and wild flowers, intoxicated her, and the cries of those participating in the worship of her father, fired her senses, calling her to join them. The snakes twined in her hair hissed malevolently. It was the one night she could remain in this human-form for the whole night. For she knew her immortal father watched over her. The evil spell would not have any power tonight.
The smell of frankincense drifted in the breeze as the pounding rhythm of drums drew her. Overcome with excitement, she sprinted into the woods to join the manic dancing and screams. Maenads armed with thyrsus, the sacred wand wrapped in ivy and tipped with pine, carried a goat in offering to the divine god of wine. They wore faun skins and had wreaths of ivy in their hair, and like Scylla, a few also adorned their heads with serpents, the hissing sound emitting from them drowned out by the heavy pounding rhythm of drums.
Standing in a ring with joined hands, the maenads sang an incantation to the divine one before they sacrificed the goat. They then beat the ground with their feet, manic laughter ringing through the misty air as they began to dance wildly. Cymbals clashed as the women twirled, whirling in frenzied fits.
Tearing branches off elm and oak trees, they ran untamed through the forest, biting into the raw flesh of any animal they could find, blood trailing down their mouths and chins. Tasting and savouring in delight. Then a gathering of fauns descended upon them and everyone abandoned themselves as an ecstatic Scylla ran to the top of the fir-topped hill, raised her hands to the sky and hailed her father’s glorious name.
Philip walked over to Amaranthea and wrapped his arm around her waist. The festivities, the lust burning in the air, had made him long for her. They had barely been able to keep their hands off each other since the very day he took her from her parents’ home, saving her from the miserable fate that had awaited her.
‘Let us disappear for a while,’ he said, his hot breath in her ear as he proceeded to kiss her on the neck.
Amaranthea unwound herself from his strong arms and turned towards him with a dazzling smile. The scent of him, of wine and sweat, made her feel lustful. ‘Oh, is that all you have on your mind?’ she said, teasing him as she fondly took his hand in hers.
He kissed her on the lips as he held her close and said, ‘Yes, my love.’ He pressed himself hard against her. ‘It is a time for pleasure, in the name of the great god.’ He lifted her and carried her off into the nearby woods, leaving Callias, Amaranthea’s brother, and their friends to their celebration of the maturing of the wine and coming of spring.
She kicked her legs in protest. ‘Put me down, Philip!’ she giggled as her burnished curls swayed behind her. The music played by Callias on the lyre as he entertained their friends at the farm had faded into the distance. Instead, she heard the sound of pounding drums, pan flutes and the rattling of sistra in the forest, and feet stomping the ground. It was a night vibrantly alive with elation.
Fuelled by love and desire, the crazed drumming sounds and orgiastic cries didn’t make her feel threatened. Tonight the veil between this world and the other lifted. No need to fear. Perhaps a journey into the invisible world wouldn’t be so forbidding after all. Would it not be fun, considering how her life had turned out? The gods had blessed her at last. No longer wealthy, no extravagant house to live in, no ornamental clothing, but she was the happiest she had ever been. Well, almost, she thought. But you can’t be truly happy. The gods wouldn’t like that.
Philip carried her off into the depths of the forest. The air was alight with laughter and the sound of lovemaking. Amaranthea settled into Philip’s strong arms and felt her desire rising. He was a very passionate man and they made love almost every night. But sometimes she felt it was a little too much. However, she hoped that the gods would see fit to give her the child she so desperately wanted. Only then would her life be complete.
At last Philip put her down so that she was leaning her back against the trunk of an old oak. He stroked her hair and began to kiss her. She groaned with pleasure as his lips brushed against her neck, his breath hot and reeking of wine. Skin tingling with desire, she reached up to embrace him, hands around his neck as his lips travelled lower. She sighed, thinking she would die from the longing. She loved this man so much. And she knew that he loved her, for he had risked so much so that they could be together. Running her fingers through his dark hair, she wondered what would have happened had she not met him. No, don’t think of that now, she thought, moaning as she felt Philip’s hands explore her body.
The pleasure was mounting. She needed his love. ‘Now!’ she cried, unable to control herself any longer. ‘Please, Philip,’ she sighed, pressing herself against him.
A babe was crying.
‘Can you hear that?’ she said, suddenly drawn back into reality.
‘It’s nothing,’ Philip said, pushing himself against her, burying his face in her neck. Whatever it was, it could wait. His hand slid up her slender thigh.
‘It’ s a baby crying,’ Amaranthea said, lifting her hands to his face in order to stop him. She took his face in her hands and widened her chestnut eyes.
‘Can you not hear that?’ she said, staring into his grey-blue eyes. ‘It sounds like an infant’s cry.’
‘You are just hearing things,’ he said, reaching under her chiton again.
‘Forget it. Let us have fun making our own child.’ His lips were upon her neck again.
‘Stop it, Philip!’ She said, pushing him away. The wreath of ivy in her hair caught on a branch and slipped off her head. Philip handed it to her and she noticed in the darkness that his eyes were glazed; he was very drunk, and she didn’ t like it. She had never seen him like this. The evening had become very strange. Something wasn’t right. Placing the wreath back on her head, she glanced up on the hill and caught sight of the large full moon almost touching the tips of the fir-trees. A very strange night indeed.
An infant’s cry again.
There was nothing for it. She had to find this poor babe and see why it was crying so loudly. Probably an abandoned child that nobody wanted. Most likely deformed in some way. She took a deep breath as she advanced towards the direction of the wailing. Her heart raced, strangely mimicking the rhythm of the drums.
Philip had no choice but to follow her. There would be time for more lovemaking later. Besides, he realized that she was right. It was not an animal’s cry. The wailing grew louder. It came from a dark cave. As Amaranthea ventured into the darkness with Philip behind her, she glimpsed a basket balancing upon a rock. Though it was dark, she could see it clearly from the light of the moon and also the lighted torches beaming from all the wild celebrations in the forest. Heart still pounding hard, she bent down to look into the basket. A crimson-faced babe kicked its legs under the blanket.
Amaranthea drew closer and gazed at the little screwed up face. ‘Oh, Philip, it’s a newborn babe!’ She lifted it gently into her arms. The wailing almost deafened her. The poor thing must have been so hungry. ‘Who would do such a thing?’ she said. The babe was tiny, the smell of birth still upon it. It was a boy as he had just revealed from under the blanket as he kicked and fussed, and it did not look deformed at all.
‘Perhaps the mother is dead,’ said Philip.
‘Yes, but who put him here?’ She held the babe close and tried to rock it calmly. He seemed to like her as the crying had begun to wane.
Philip threw a quick glance around for any clues. Dark, dirty… Just an empty dark cave. No clues whatsoever.
‘We have to look after him. We can’t leave him like this,’ Amaranthea said, her eyes deep pleading pools as she looked at Philip. She turned back to the child. Such a small babe, her heart almost erupted with love.
Philip, trying to focus his mind after the numbing by the wine, put his arms around her. ‘We have to find out whose it is.’ He didn’t add that feeding another mouth would not be practical for them right now. They simply could not afford it. But then when did that ever stop anyone from having a child
'Oh, Philip. The poor thing,’ she said. ‘I sense such deep sadness surrounding the conception of this child. He was not made of love.’
‘Not many children are,’ said Philip cynically.
‘Perhaps not. But this one, I can’t help feeling so sad for him, the poor little thing,’ she said, starting to rock the babe in her arms. ‘Sh… little boy, everything is going to be all right now.’
She smiled as the babe really seemed to be calming down. Unable to resist, she gently kissed the top of his soft, birth-scented head. ‘Oh, sweet little babe,’ she said, her heart swelling with love. She took a deep breath. Could it be that all her prayers and offerings of wine and honey to Hera had worked? It wasn’t quite what she had wanted, but somehow a child had been blessed to her, even if it was not from her own womb. She held it tight against her heart, wanting to look after it and keep it out of harm’s way.
Their attention was suddenly drawn to a horrified Callias running past them, shouting. ‘Help! Someone, help me!’ His olive-green eyes were wide with shock, and for a moment he didn’t recognize his sister. ‘It’s taken Chrysanthe!’
‘What do you mean?’ asked Philip. ‘What has taken her?’
‘It was some hideous woman with fangs. She just took Chrysanthe and bit into her neck and…’ Chrysanthe was a girl Callias was sweet on. The daughter of one of the workers on Philip and Amaranthea’s farm. Callias had fallen quickly in love with her and had wanted to marry her when he was a bit older. But now it was too late. Callias wailed uncontrollably.
‘Calm down, dear brother,’ said Amaranthea, reaching out an arm to hug him while she still held the babe in the other. As Callias’ elder by three years, she had always felt maternal towards him and had always taken care of him. They were very close, for they’d had to be with the parents they’d been cursed with.
By now the babe had also started crying again.
Philip turned to a horrified Amaranthea. ‘Take the child and go back to the house immediately.’ He dragged Callias by the arm. ‘Take me to where it happened.’
Callias hesitated, his throat choked with words he could barely get out. ‘I can’t… It was terrible.’
‘Come Callias, be brave,’ said Philip. ‘Maybe we can save the girl.’
‘No!’ Callias wept. ‘It’s too late. It’s too late!’
Marie Symeou was born in North London, where she still lives. She is the author of FROZEN IN TIME, a historical vampire fantasy set in Ancient Greece, and AGE OF DREAMS, a semi-autobiographical tale of fame, love and addiction set in the 1980s. She also writes screenplays and song lyrics, and is the vocalist of Violet Eternity. She is currently working on the sequel to FROZEN IN TIME.