Being parted from a beloved co-conspirator is never the ideal situation, Joseph Curwen had often mused over many years of solitude which sometimes became bleakly lonely, but as a man of more than average longevity, he possessed patience than exceeded that of most other men. After all, had it not taken him decades of study, trial and error to achieve the skill in necromancy that was now his?
Curwen had believed, due to this tendency towards forbearance, that he was capable of waiting almost forever for the eventual reunion of himself and his lover, Simon Orne. In the meantime he had, albeit unsuccessfully, sought liaisons with men of intelligence and depth who he hoped would be able to stimulate him intellectually, if not physically. He had even attempted to content himself with the more conventional pursuits of marriage and fatherhood. And yet the recurring dreams still stirred and bothered him.
They had begun to torment him intermittently since he had fled the witch hunts at Salem to establish himself as a freeman of Providence. And now every night since his wedding day, strange visions that could only be described as erotic nightmares had seemed to possess his very soul.
Clouds of blue and scarlet smoke with a heady perfume reminiscent of sandalwood swirled around him in these dreams. Flashes of sinister purple lightning reflected from the darkened skies, and in the shadows lurked the obscured yet still fearsome visages of the unspeakable deities from dimensions beyond the boundaries of Earth that Joseph’s chants and potions had summoned to the sacred place with its altar of obsidian.
Curwen saw himself, bare in the primal embraces of Simon, pale as the light from the moon that they could no longer see. As their ritual coupling intensified, the whole universe seemed to echo with the unearthly voices of the demonic gods. Thunder roared around them, so fierce and powerful that it seemed about to destroy the fragile atmosphere of the entire world.
The dreams disturbed him with their intensity, and yet he relished them for the delightful memories of Simon that they restored to him. Of course, there had been visits between the two men since their initial taking leave of one another, but these were few and far between due to distance and the necessity for safety and self-preservation. And there were frequent letters between Simon and Joseph, as well as communication with their mentor, Edward Hutchinson, who had relocated himself and his unholy experiments to a castle in Transylvania. But no correspondence, no matter how diverting, could ever replace being in the arms of Simon, that most exciting, magically competent and passionate of men.
Joseph had voyaged all around the world, and had met many a fascinating personage on his travels, but no other man or woman had ever captured his imagination, or aroused his senses, as much as his childhood friend and companion in nefarious deeds, Simon Orne.
Their separation had been long and arduous; but that very night it was finally to end. Simon, now posing as his own son so as to avoid drawing the attention of righteous folk to the sheer amount of time he had been alive, was now making the lengthy journey to the Curwen home at Olney Street in Providence.
It was a strange sensation for Joseph to experience, but he felt almost impatient with anticipation, all too eager for Simon’s arrival in spite of having endured his absence for such an extensive period. The early part of the day of Simon’s arrival passed at far too slow a pace for Joseph’s liking, and it was a relief when supper-time finally came and with it the distinguished gentleman who now went by the name of Mr Jedediah Orne.
Jedediah – Joseph had to be careful to remember the name – it was such a ridiculous one, far too unwieldy for a remarkable man like Simon, and Curwen had on occasion forgotten to address the epistles he sent to Salem with the new appellation. However, Joseph knew that he must keep up the fiction that his old friend was the latest scion of the noble house of Orne, as he had described Simon thus to his wife, Eliza, and to the few other members of the community who would tolerate his company.
And it was as Mr Jedediah Orne that Joseph introduced his friend and beloved – the charming Mr Jedediah Orne, for very charming he was indeed. He was not only highly demonstrative of his happiness in seeing Joseph again, but was most gracious and courteous to Mrs Curwen as well. Mr Orne was also full of praise for Joseph and Eliza’s infant daughter Ann, calling her a most beautiful child who was bound to become a credit to both her parents. And at the supper table, he entertained his hosts with tales of his travels, the magnificent sights he had seen and the important and interesting people he had met. Naturally, he did not speak of the topics that were not suitable for conversation in ordinary society.
Those he saved for when his hostess and her child retired to bed, and he was able to engage with her husband privately, in the relative seclusion of the library.
Joseph was even more welcoming in this environment, brimming with excitement over his new discoveries. His eyes shone with a gleam of triumph as he described the acts of necromancy he had perfected, alive with the flickering firelight and his own inner devilish passions. Simon listened intently, not even minding for that instant his beloved’s lapse of caution in not addressing him as Jedediah, as there was no other person awake to hear their conversation.
“I tell you, Simon, the technique is now without fault, even better than even Mr H. could have dreamed of! It is just as Borellus wrote, and as I spoke of in my letters – I have called them up from the essential salts and with you – and with Mr H. in our next correspondence – I will share the knowledge I have gleaned. I cannot express how eager I am for tomorrow – then we shall travel to my farmhouse at Pawtuxet, and all shall be revealed!”
“I rejoice to hear this news, Jos,” Orne replied, his deep, gravelly voice sending a slight shiver of delight up Curwen’s spine. Seeing the other’s reaction, Simon leaned nearer to Joseph, intending to capture his lips in a kiss that reflected the desire stirring, as it almost always was when he was in proximity to Curwen, in his loins.
Joseph, however, gently placed a dissuading hand on Simon’s shoulder, whispering, “Not in this place. We must tarry awhile until we are at the farm, and can enact the rites of pleasure that will draw down He who awaits our supplication in the Spheres Beyond. Such an act of power will bring greater raptures than a simple joining of the flesh beneath a mundane roof!”
Simon’s eyebrows raised slightly in amusement. “What is this reticence that I perceive? Has my reckless beloved, who so openly speaks of his prowess in all forms of knowledge and enterprise, now become the cautious one? Do you fear your wife discovering the true nature of the path your heart has taken?”
“I fear nothing of the sort,” Joseph replied, smirking a little at Simon’s reaction to his words. “Nor has my ardour for you lessened in the slightest. But we shall need all of our strength and our lust for the ritual. And the more enticing our coupling appears to the Great One, the more we shall be able to petition Him to grant us. Why must we choose between love and profit, when both of these are readily within our reach?”
Simon frowned a little. “We must take care in such a venture – Those Outside do not think as men do, and upon a whim they can swiftly turn against even those who serve them most faithfully. I know that you have taken pains to establish a bloodline to provide for an heir to resurrect you should there be misfortune, but I do not wish to do so.” His dark look intensified, and Joseph’s smirk grew broader.
“So you desire to bed no other besides myself, my love? Curwen teased, and Simon could not help but nod, admitting his one weakness.
“I will reward you with one kiss, and one kiss only, since you are so devoted and I have been tormented by endless sensual dreams of you for many months, but no more shall you have until we stand before the altar,” Joseph murmured, and moved to halt Simon’s sudden movement towards him yet again as he saw the other man lean impatiently closer.
“Answer me this one question first, however, before I gratify your wishes – whatever possessed you to go by such an outlandish name as Jedediah?”