December on campus was not like any other month, especially for Friedrich. For one, the oddities of college reached a peak when winter was in session. Top frats coalesced at midnight in warm rooms that smelled like fake Rosé and Friedrich, of course, chugged up all the hype. Even on one old semester night when he missed a party, he begged one of his bros to Facebook Live the multitude of poker matches he never won whenever he played his cards, just to be vicariously in the moment. It seemed, though, that tonight, this night, a royal flush would be in Friedrich's future.
On his way to the frat house, though, Friedrich received a text message from Maddy. Upon seeing her name on his phone screen his poker plans took a solid turn. The party was no longer his destination and after making some stops at a number of food stores, Friedrich was ready to fulfill Maddy’s wishes. With a bag full of beer and a box of pizza, he made his way to Maddy’s residence building.
It was there and then, on that cold December night, that Friedrich came upon Maddy’s secret cult as he entered her dorm. A dark room, dimly lit, he had an inclination of what was going on, but as peculiar as the setting was, Friedrich didn’t inquire further. He watched as Maddy and four other women, around the same age as him, stood in a circle. They chanted words in a language Friedrich had never heard before, wearing robes the color of fine, translucent sand.
It was difficult to distinguish who Maddy was from the robed group, but Friedrich was certain she was under the garment with the special hood--an oddly fluorescent hood. It emitted a yellowish color, like an angel’s halo. Each time the chants grew louder, the hood shone brighter, almost as if palpitating in splendid color.
Attempting to get Maddy’s attention, Friedrich started waving his hands up in the air. Taken by surprise, Maddy and the girls noticed this and then, out of nowhere, the room lights turned on. “What the fuck, Freddy, why are you here?” said Maddy.
“I brought the beer and the pizza you told me about. You know, it’s really hard getting a specialty M&M and cheese combo this late at night,” said Friedrich.
Friedrich’s remark was met with no reply, instead, Maddy placed her hand over her face, as if trying to think of some sort of excuse to explain the sudden moment. By the look of the other girls’ faces, Friedrich understood quite frankly that they didn’t like his early arrival. He had discovered their secret. Nevertheless, he was certain that Maddy would forgive him since their bond was special, as he liked to believe. Friedrich was particularly fond of the nickname Maddy had given him: Frat Boy Freddy.
Still rather confused, Friedrich placed the food on one of the dorm beds. Whoever thought that Maddy was the religious type? Or that cult leaders liked M&M pizza? Indeed, these were the thoughts that invaded Friedrich’s head, but his attention soon turned toward another direction, when suddenly, the girls in the room followed to take off their robes. To Friedrich’s pleasant surprise, they were all completely naked. “Wow.”
“Look away, asshole, you’ll be next,” said one of the girls.
“What were you girls doing? An orgy or something?” asked Friedrich. “I’d actually love to be next, if you know what I mean.”
“Don’t say that,” said Maddy.
In swift motion Maddy and the girls got dressed and each grabbed a slice of pizza and a cold beer. Quickly after, the four girls left the room with no sign of awkwardness, or embarrassment, from what had just transpired. Friedrich was still trying to wrap his head around what he saw when he asked Maddy about the recent nude encounter. “Maddy, really, what the hell did I see? Don’t you think it’s super weird that I saw all of these women naked and none of them seemed to care?”
“We are not insecure, unlike yourself,” said Maddy.
“Jeez, that’s a low blow, I just want to understand,” said Friedrich.
“This was the first time you saw me naked, right?”
This wasn’t the first time Friedrich had seen her naked. A few months before on Halloween, when Friedrich tried to surprise Maddy with some late night treats, he tried slipping some candy under Maddy’s dorm door. The chocolate bars and Twizzler packs were a little too big for the gap beneath the door so, with finesse, he applied some force. The door, though, was not completely shut. Friedrich didn’t realize this until he caught a glimpse of what laid on the other side: Maddy was in bed with a man. Friedrich closed the door as silently as possible as to not make any noise. He didn’t want to disturb his friend’s erotic experience, but more importantly, he didn’t want someone who wasn’t as friendly as him to suddenly walk into Maddy’s moment. Friedrich stuck more chocolate bars and Twizzler packs under the door, securing it enough so that no mere push could open it. It was a sincere act of kindness, as Friedrich convinced himself, but the sight of Maddy in the act of love never truly left his stream of consciousness.
“Well... yeah, of course I’ve never seen you naked,” said Friedrich.
“Well, I’ve seen you naked dozens of times, Freddy,” said Maddy, with a sarcastic yet humorless look on her face.
Maddy’s words made Friedrich feel anxious and a bit perplexed. More so, since he was a virgin—a quality he was very proud of. How else could Maddy had seen me in my purest form if not through the act of sex? Perhaps while I was taking a shower? Or maybe Maddy is a spy, hiding behind a secret camera? Nervous thoughts bemused him. Nevertheless, he started to like the idea that his best girl-friend had seen him in his birthday suit.
A crush or not, Friedrich had once felt closeness and tenderness for Maddy. This was back in high school, but then in college, his love for Maddy began to diminish as he soon came to accept that she was never going to see him as something more than just Frat Boy Freddy. Despite all of this, the once-abandoned feelings of love and affection made a comeback and Friedrich had some rather smart words to say. “So, does that mean you’ve seen how big my—”
“—Let me stop you right there,” said Maddy. “First of all, you won’t speak of tonight to anyone. Second, since you saw our little gathering, you’ll have to be present every time me and the others meet. Finally, we are gonna have to do something about that problem of yours.”
“What problem?” said Friedrich.
“Your virgin problem.”
“How the fuck did you know?”
Maddy replied, “After what I’ve seen multiple times, oh, I know.”
“Okay, about that, how have you seen me...” Friedrich stopped in mid thought and then, “Actually, what do you propose, Maddy?” Excited about the idea, he didn’t care anymore of Maddy’s methods of seeing him unclothed.
“I think it’s time you knew exactly what we were doing tonight,” Maddy said, as she turned off the room lights with the movement of her hand, like magic.
“Shit. That was, ahh, pretty awesome, can you do that again...”
Maddy moved her hands again in strange motion, like an Arabian dance, and all of a sudden Friedrich collapsed into an aura of muddled numbness. It was all painless, but like a religious experience, Friedrich felt as his soul, or his mind, or his ghost, had escaped his body. Noises, like television static, came from nowhere and echoed through his ears, endlessly. Through the frequency of the sounds he could hear Maddy as she chanted words in that language from earlier. Though, through this trance-like state, he could now understand every syllable, every word, every phrase.
“Goddess of love and of desire, Ishtar, queen of Venus, in me I possess your love. Enthrall in this loveless soul the desire you yearn to give and loath to withhold.”
As Maddy uttered these words, her voice also danced like the fingers of her hands, yet not like any song Friedrich had ever heard, and with a slight change of pitch on every rhythmic stop. Her enchantment ensued for minutes that felt like hours and on the sixth iteration, she followed to undress Friedreich, who was now levitating as if gravity was nonexistent.
“Maddy, are we about to… do it? You and me?,” said Friedrich, afraid of what was to come.
“Just relax, and think of your deepest desire,” said Maddy, her voice almost dissipating into thin air.
By now, Friedrich couldn’t believe what his eyes were beholding. Maddy began to disappear, like a phantasm. The silhouette of her ghostly persona now wandered through the dorm like autumn leaves in the windy night, and in quick succession followed to thrust itself into Friedrich’s suspended body. His closed eyes popped open as Maddy’s bodiless self was seemingly inside him. But Friedrich’s body didn’t feel anything. Ghost-like, he was a mere observer looking down upon his physical self through a mist of emotions. Feelings had reached a new plane of cognizance; his ghost’s out-of-body experience had given him a new perspective. Once again, Friedrich was in love, mesmerized by dear old reveries.
“Think of your deepest desire,” a voice whispered. It could’ve been Maddy, but Friedrich wasn’t sure anymore. Everything became a fog as his mind imagined his deepest desire.
Like a motion picture transition, Friedrich found himself back in Maddy’s dorm hallway, with different clothes on and with a bag filled with chocolate bars and packs of Twizzlers. Students walking by had costumes on of different kinds and going by the hallway decorations, Friedrich soon realized it was once again Halloween night.
“How in heaven? This can’t be real... I can’t believe it,” said Friedrich, transfixed by the sight of the past. He was no longer a ghost, or a soul without a body, but was now a memory in physicality.
Friedrich was lost in awe thinking about the machinations of such a phenomenon. No rational explanation emerged as to how it was all possible and the more he thought about it, the more he convinced himself that he was insane. Still, after pinching his arm and punching his face to assert his reality, Friedrich’s suspicions all led to one outrageous conclusion. Indeed, the only way he made sense of it all was by deeming the incident as something along the lines of time travel. If that was the case then he was sure that Maddy would be right where she was supposed to be, according to his recollections. With a tight grip on his bag of sweets, Friedrich made his way toward Maddy’s dorm door and just as he thought, the door wasn’t completely shut. And precisely, on the other side was Maddy, in bed and fully unclothed. This time though, to his surprise, there wasn’t anybody else with Maddy in the room. Then he heard a voice.
“Come in, come in, Freddy. Don’t just stand there like a creep.”
Maddy’s voice seemed different, almost playful, and Friedrich was stunned. He went in and sat by her side. She then kissed him and after a delicate embrace, Friedrich’s deepest desire came to fruition. A virgin no more.
Days, weeks, months passed after Friedrich and Maddy made love for the first time, but Friedrich still felt as if he was living in an alternate universe. He still had concrete recollections of Maddy’s cult gathering, the M&M pizza, the naked robe girls, plus everything that transpired thereafter. He figured that if his time travel theory was true, then there was time to have some fun where money was involved.
Certainly, Friedrich placed bets and gambled his way through student poker matches that he had once lost, earning good prizes and even a top ranking in his fraternity social ladder. Yet, even though the fun was enough to keep him sedated, Friedrich still had a curious inkling as to what actually happened in Maddy’s dorm. A few days were due before she eventually asked him to get her the M&M pizza, so Friedrich made it his mission to arrive even earlier to the cult gathering than in his previous encounter. Something sketchy was happening prior to his subtle appearance and this time around he was going to find out in acute detail.
The night of the gathering, Friedrich received a text from Maddy. He was expecting it, as it was the same message she had sent him in what he could only describe as a past life. Maddy made her order, M&M pizzas and beer, but Friedrich was already one step ahead. With the food already in his possession, he made his way up to Maddy’s dorm, hours before the secret cult gathering was set to begin.
As he entered the residence building, Friedrich noticed that the “robe girls” were already in the hallway, fully clothed of course and with no robes. There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary about these women, especially since they didn’t seem like members of a secret society. Regardless, Friedrich wanted no unpleasant surprises, so he tried his best to avoid them, fearing that if they saw him, he wouldn’t be able to sneak into the gathering. In tippy toes he approached Maddy’s dorm, slithering alongside the hallway walls, looking like a freak. Such an odd choice of movement caught the attention of the girls, whose only expression were of mere what the fuck. Alas, Friedrich was discovered. However, it seemed as if the girls had no idea who he was. This was apparent by their lack of intrigue, since they soon switched gears to other matters.
“Interesting,” thought Friedrich.
It made sense now. He had met the robe girls for the first time in his initial interruption of the gathering, and going by his time travel theory, it was then impossible for them to know who he was. Jackpot. Friedrich was still on the green. As soon as the women were far from his vicinity, he opened the door to Maddy’s dorm, entered, placed the food in her refrigerator and hid under one of the dorm beds. According to his calculations, the gathering would start in exactly 30 minutes. Without any doubt, he was going to uncover the truth.
The dorm was dark when all the women entered. Maddy, though, was not among the group. The four women seemed dumbfounded, perhaps even a little worried, and Friedrich couldn’t grasp why such emotions jumped off their faces. Could this have been their first time? Erotic thoughts fascinated Friedrich’s rather freaky imagination, even more when the four women followed to undress each other, none taking their own clothes off. With smooth caress, their hands swayed like a painter's brush as their garments fell to the floor. Friedrich couldn’t believe his eyes once more, but the sight of naked women wasn’t the climax of the occasion. Almost immediately after undressing, the four women started to glow. What the hell? Their skin seemingly started to boil, like hot oil, yet none showed pain. Like a snake, their skin shedded from their bodies, only for that old encasing to transform into what Friedrich could only describe as translucent robes, the color of sand. Now, truly, the color of skin.
“Goddess of love and of desire, Ishtar, queen of Venus, in me I possess your love. Enthrall in this loveless soul the desire you yearn to give and loath to withhold,” said the four women in unison.
And then again, and again.
As they repeated that familiar phrase, Friedrich’s heart started to beat faster and faster. Anxiety filled his body and a cold sensation penetrated through his skin even as sweat protruded from his pores. He needed to get out of there. Like the many 'Call of Duty' games Friedrich played in his frat house, he tried to slide his way out from under the bed in prone position. The four women, busy chanting in a circle of light, failed to notice Friedrich attempting his escape. I’m out, so close. Then, when his hand grabbed the door knob, with freedom on the other side so imminent, the women’s chants stopped. They turned toward him and with a swirl of their hands, made him stand up involuntarily. Oh, no. With another swirl Friedrich was now levitating off the floor and with yet another swirl, the women plunged him into the middle of the circle, as if telekinesis was some earthborn natural quality.
“Please, please, I just wanted to know what was going on. Maddy is my best friend, go get her, she knows me,” said Friedrich, in fear and sweating like never before.
“Goddess of love and of desire, Ishtar, queen of Venus, in me I possess your love. Enthrall in this loveless soul the desire you yearn to give and loath to withhold.” The women only repeated what they had said many times already. Friedrich, now in his knees and in the middle of the circle, begged for his life.
“I won’t tell no one, please, don’t kill me.”
“Freddy,” a voice whispered.
“Maddy?” A sense of tranquility came upon Friedrich.
“Give in, Freddy, don’t be afraid. Give in,” the voice said.
The familiar voice relaxed Friedrich to his core and with more desire than ever before the four robed women came in closer. Their skin now just millimeters away from Friedrich’s face.
“Give in, come to me,” said the voice. Friedrich was now deep in a sea of emotions: enraged, in love, afraid and cosmically lost. A spiral of dreams immersed him in a state of the unthinkable and after moments of tense reminiscence, he laid back on the floor and relinquished his soul, with Maddy’s image implanted in his mind. I’m yours.
The ritual was now over and the women took off their skin-formed robes. Naked, and with no sign of embarrassment or awkwardness, they headed toward the fridge to catch a beer and some cold pizza. After they finished their treats, they got dressed and left the dorm as if nothing had happened. Oddly, Friedrich was nowhere to be found in that peculiar college room. The only remnants of his presence were the clothes he left behind and the food he bought for his friend.
The four women didn’t go away entirely, though. They stood outside the dorm, as if waiting for someone to exit. And indeed their patience was rewarded. After a yellowish light peaked through from beneath the dorm door, a lone figure stepped out of the dark room, rejuvenated and vibrant, like an angel’s halo. Wearing Friedrich’s clothes, this new being seemed familiar yet ultra distinct. With an M&M pizza in one hand and a beer in the other, it joined the four women that brought it to life.
“You look beautiful, Maddy,” they all said. “We can’t wait to do this all over again.”