The steam from the hot springs located behind Gardner House is being illuminated by the full moon tonight. As you glance at its silhouette, the manor glooms rather eerily, as miniature sized winged creatures float above it through the fogged sky.
You are still somewhat shocked at the fact that you have landed this particular position. Historically, it has been given to only men, but with your references and your work ethic the odds were in your favor. You stretch your arms across yourself as you feel your nipples react to the humidity clinging to the shirt you are wearing.
It is mid January, and this is your third week on the job as the new caretaker for the manor, or GHM, as you have heard the locals call it. The air is unusually warm for Amboise, France during this season, and this, coupled with a peculiar wailing sound that you hear, convinces you to walk the grounds at such a late hour.
You have just finished cleaning the six rooms that were required for the large guest party that arrived a week prior. This leaves you alone for the moment, at least until the new guests come in about three days. Not having been able to leisurely view the establishment, you relish this moment, and venture out toward the springs. As you follow the path leading to the water, you glance both ways as you hear a sudden swooshing sound about half a mile from the main house.
Unable to see into the dense forest nestled on your right, even with a flashlight, you scan to the left, where you can distinctly hear the bubbling sound of the natural sauna. The wailing sound seems to have vanished, but while you peer toward the water you catch a glimpse of what seems to be a figure standing in it. The image wanes in and out of focus as mist swirls around the spring, then it disappears suddenly. You are startled by your name being called. As you look back toward the manor, you see pale light come from the back door entryway. Having thought of yourself as being alone tonight, you briskly walk to the manor to see who it might be.
As you step into the foyer, you smile as the plump, motherly image of Guineverre, the elderly French cook, appears with her head scarf and mittens intact.
“You catch cold like this,” she scolds while shaking her head with disapproval.
“I’m sorry Mrs. G, I didn’t realize anyone would be in tonight. Do we have guests arriving?”
“Oh no, no. For you I cook the dinner. I cook every night, no matter if we have guest or not. What are you doing outside so late, it is not appropriate for such a young lady?”
You feel your eyes buckle at this statement, inwardly laughing at the thought that mid thirties would still constitute as being young in today’s society.
“Well Mrs G., I heard something outside, and then the weather is so warm and inviting, I thought I would enjoy a quick walk to the springs. I haven’t had a chance to visit them since arriving. It is after all, the selling feature of the manor. I have to sample the amenities in order to promote it to our clients, don’t you think? “
“I could have sworn that you were just out as late as I was.” You smirk as you know that this tease will spark the feisty older woman.
“Don’t get cross with me, Amelie, for one I am too old for anyone to take the time to clonk on the head, and if they do, I will make a soufflé out of their balls”
“You are pretty, new in town, and American. Exotic looking, with your floofy hair and brown skin. Yes, you are a tempter here. If I had known you earlier, when my Pierre was still alive, I would have shunned you from his view.”
“Now you are like the daughter I never had. If my Daniel wasn’t married, I would suit you with him, no? How about roasted beef with potato, salad, and crème brulee’ for dessert?”
As you nod your approval and follow Guineverre into the kitchen, you glance at the large window in the dining area that creates a magnificent view of the springs and coniferous trees.
“ Mrs. G., I thought the weird noise that I heard may have been a wolf or something, but I don’t think wolves are around here. It was a deep howling sound, but it almost sounded humanlike. Have you ever heard anything like this before?”
Guineverre continues to heat up her pre-cooked delicacies as she responds.
“My dear, I have heard many stories of this sound. It could be animal, it could be something else. Who knows? You should not go out alone just in case. There is a folk story of some sort of bat man that lives in the woods. Just some locals with too much time on their hand I choose to believe.
“It is also another selling point of the manor. Come to see the springs and the feathered man. Ooh la la. It is because of all the competition with being so close to Paris I would think.”
“Come eat now. I have to leave in a little while. I will see you on tomorrow evening, yes.” She air kisses you and goes to the front to gather her gear before departing as quickly as she arrived.
You take a few bites of the meal, and then check to see if she has gone. Immediately after, you rush back to the springs, but this time walk closer to the warm, bubbling liquid. As you scan the surface, out of the corner of your eye you glimpse a shape. This time when you turn to look, it remains.
Then something fascinating happens, the clouds surrounding the object dissipates until you clearly see the formation of a tall man. When you turn the flashlight on to see more closely, you realize that it is no human. He stands at least seven feet, has tinted ash blue skin that glistens in the moonlight, and to top it off, a pair of jet black wings that he spreads out and flaps as he gazes at you.
Although you should feel afraid, you don’t. You wade closer to him in the water and your nipples start to tingle again as a surge flows down your spine; he stands completely still as you slowly look him up and down, mesmerized at the sight of this perfect, naked being. Neither of you murmur a word as you stand before him. His clawed nail suddenly slices through the flesh of his wrist, and he stretches out his dripping arm as an offering, which you willingly drink from.
Immediately your body starts to react to the tangy, electrified taste that is him, and your body melds into his. In unison, he wraps his wings completely around you and you both go under the water.
The next thing that happens is surreal. You wake up the next morning in bed, the covers tossed to and fro. Your body is sore and aching from the encounter with the winged man, yet you are quite pleased by the feeling.
You still wonder if this was imagined, until you look at yourself in the mirror, and blood is smeared across both cheeks. You lick around your mouth and spasm at the taste. Another selling point you’re sure, but this one you will definitely keep to yourself.
Tamuriel L. Dillard