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It was autumn of 1831, and hormones were the air on Jew Street in Barbados. The teenaged Chaim Witz and his yeshiva classmates ambled down the street. Rabbi Pasqual instructed them to discuss Maimonides’s Thirteen Articles of Jewish faith, but their conversation quickly veered away from the assignment and onto a more pressing matter: girls.
Jewish men and women lived in isolated worlds. They only meshed again in marriage. So what were these boys to do in the meantime? Well, they did only thing they could do; they masturbated. The act made them unclean, but there were specific stipulations to return to a state of purity. It is written that when a man ejaculates semen he must wash his whole body with water, and will be unclean until evening.
The act itself wasn’t the problem; it was finding something worth jerking it to. Their access to pornographic materials was limited. Chaim’s bought a copy of Justine by the Marquis de Sade from a passing sailor. Secular works were shunned in their community, and it’s not like there was a version of the book translated into Hebrew. His friend Binyamin taught him enough French to read it. In order to keep anyone one of them from monopolizing the reading material, they ripped out the individual pages. As long as there was something steamy happening, they didn’t care about the order in which they read the story.
But something had happened to Chaim that he hadn’t shared with his friend. He had set his eyes on Isha Erets. In fact, she was across the street shopping with her sisters. She was stunning with her pale complexion, long braided hair, white shirt with the high collar, and dress that covered her ankles. Granted, they all the girls looked that way for modesty’s sake, but something about Isha made Chaim hot under the yarmulke.
Isha’s sisters took a break from haggling over the price of potatoes to gossip about the boys. Diane, the oldest, set her wicker basket down on the sidewalk to stretch her muscles. “That one looks like a turnip.”
“The guy next to him looks like an angry eggplant,” Esther, the middle child, pointed out.
“And that one’s head looks like broccoli,” Diane said, sticking her nose out at Chaim. “What, is he in mourning that he can’t get a haircut? Who does he think he is, Samson?”
Isha didn’t mind Chaim’s scruffy look. She thought he was cute and wild. Maybe one day she’d tame him into husband material. Their eyes met through the bustling crowd and their intentions were clear.
“I’ll catch up with you later. I left one of the pages back at the yeshiva,” Chaim whispered to Binyamin.
His friend’s face dropped. “Are you kidding me? Do you know how much trouble we’ll get in if the Rabbi finds it?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll go back and get it myself. If you don’t hear from me, then something went wrong,” Chaim said and dashed away. He called back over his shoulder, “Wish me luck!”
Isha saw Chaim disappear around a corner. “I’m feeling a little lightheaded. I’m going to go lie down.”
“Don’t be lazy.”
She whispered in her sister’s ear, “I think I’m about to start my monthly.”
“You said that last week, but you were wrong.”
“Do you want to risk me contaminating the food?”
“Go then! And you better not be lying.”
“I’d never.” Isha gave her sister the basket of vegetables and was off like a flash.
The young sweethearts darted down side streets, away from prying eyes. Their strict religious upbringing had very clear rules about unmarried men and women from being alone together. They had a special meeting spot in an abandoned one-roomed shack at the edge of their community. The tiny building was overtaken by vegetation. Chaim had found the spot as a child and kept it as a private home away from home. His best friends didn’t even know about it, and after he acquainted himself with Isha, he was glad he kept the place hush-hush. Not much was left behind aside from some creaky furniture and plenty of cobwebs. As they were raised, they touched the mezuzah before entering.
“This place is such a mess,” Isha said running her fingers over a dusty side table. “I should really clean up.
“Just because we’re playing house doesn’t mean you have to play as the housekeeper,” Chaim said taking off his coat.
“I’m no maid,” Isha snapped. “I just don’t care for the dirt.”
Chaim grabbed her, spinning her around, and pulled her in close. She looked away from him, her pale face flushed red. He put his hand on her cheek and he kissed her soft, thin lips. She reached up and twirled Chaim’s sidelocks. Their hearts raced from their taboo expressions of love. A frenzy of emotion overtook Isha. She took Chaim’s hands and put them firmly on her breasts. She moaned and leaned into his palms.
“Keep your voice down,” Chaim said, worried about the sound carrying. But she was too busy nibbling on his earlobe to care.
They leaned against a short dresser by the door. Chaim pressed his throbbing erection against her. Isha hoisted her dress. She spread her legs and looped them around his waist. She pulled him by his sidelocks and whispered, “I want you to put it in me.”
Chaim swallowed hard. “Are you sure?” His voice cracked. They had only done heavy petting before. He didn’t expect Isha to be so willing to go all the way so quickly. What if he finished too quickly? What if she didn’t like it? That was a lot of pressure, but he wasn’t going to let the opportunity slip away from him. Would the Marquis de Sade let an opportunity like that slip away from him? Of course not. “Let’s do this,” he said.
“Just don’t finish inside of me,” she said.
“But it’s a sin if I finish on the floor,” he said. Onan had done so in Genesis and God struck him down.
“Let me know when you’re close. Take it out and I’ll swallow your seed.”
He fingers fumbled as he tried to unbutton his trousers. She was impatient and she yanked down his pants with one hard thrust. She wrapped her fingers around his penis. She was about to guide him inside when the dresser began to shake violently. She groaned and gyrated her hips. It was almost as if the shack was going to come tumbling down. Her groan turned into a bark and then an out and out howl.
She ignored him as she reached out and ripped the mezuzah clean off the doorpost. She pushed Chaim away and furiously began masturbating with the brass tube. Isha was so caught up with penetrating herself that she didn’t even notice when Chaim ran out of the shack, terrified, with his pants around his ankles. She passed out cold on the floor with the mezuzah sticking halfway out of her knish.
Polly the virgin ghost went to see her friend, Mae. The two met on top of a boulder along the beach. Though invisible to mortal eyes, they appeared clearly to one another as wispy blue swirls of light and air.
“So, how’d your latest attempt at possession go?” Mae asked.
“Terrible,” Polly said.
“What happened this time? Did you cause plates to fly around the room? Or did the paintings on the walls scream as they melted?”
“What could possibly be worse?”
“I got close, but then started masturbating with a mezuzah.”
Mae roared with laughter. “You’re kidding!”
Polly curled up in a tight, tiny ball. “Something terrible happens every time I try to get lucky. All the ghosts I know have successfully possessed a human for sex. It’s supposed to be the absolute greatest experience the afterlife has to offer. You said so yourself. At this rate I’ll never lose my ghost virginity.”
“You’ll get it one of these days. You’re just need to take control by letting go.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
As Polly reeled in her misery, the angel Jophiel who watched over the island flew down to converse with the two ghosts. She had dark brown skin and wild curly hair. Her blue and green wings curled around her flowing yellow robe. “You put on quite a show earlier. I had to come down personally to let you know how hilarious you are.”
“That wasn’t my intent,” Polly said.
“I’ve been watching this island for a long time, and there has never been a ghost as unlucky at love as you,” Jophiel said. “Maybe you should keep to yourself and stay out of trouble.”
“She’ll get it,” Mae said.
“I’ll believe it when I see it.” The angel flew off laughing.
“Don’t pay any attention to her,” Mae said.
“I’m getting desperate, but maybe I should just listen to her and give up.”
“Listen, since you’re having such a bad time of getting laid on your own, how about we pay a visit to the synagogue.”
“The synagogue?” Polly asked.
“We can pay the Rabbi in exchange for people to possess.”
“Pay him with what? We don’t have any money.”
“He accepts payment in the forms of miracles. So what do you say?”
“I don’t know about this,” Polly said. “Every time I possess someone, something freaky happens.”
“Don’t worry about it. They’re religious fanatics; they love being able to participate in that kind of stuff.”
“Have you ever done this before?”
“Well, not me personally, but I’ve heard good things.”
The idea of letting her freak flag fly without any fallout excited Polly. “Then let’s go now.”
“Cool your stove,” Mae said. “We’ll have to wait until the Sabbath.”
That Sabbath, Polly and Mae went to the Nidhe Israel Synagogue. In English it meant the Synagogue of the Scattered of Israel. It was a fitting name given their ancestors’ history. The community began their migration when Sephardic Jews fled Spain and the Inquisition in 1500 for sanctuary in Brazil. When the Portuguese began their own Inquisition in the 1650’s, many traveled north. About 300 built a home in Barbados. They constructed their temple of worship in 1654.
The synagogue had two floors. The men were on the first floor. The floors had a Caribbean blue and black checkered marble pattern, the walls were white with rose marble columns spread out to support the balcony. Silver chandeliers with glass chimneys hung from the ceiling. There was a dark wooden stage where the Torah scroll was read, surrounded by long wooden benches. The ark, where the scrolls were kept, was a large bureau-like cabinet made of dark mahogany wood set against eastern wall. Above the ark was a reproduction of the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments.
The women prayed from the balcony surrounded with white lattice. Chaim kept looking over his shoulder up at Isha. Polly doubted that Chaim had said anything about what had happened. She wondered if Isha remembered any of it. It was difficult to see honestly in love, separated by the rules of the community or other powers beyond their control.
Polly remembered her days as a mortal, and how strict her family was. The expectations of marriage only permitted through a matchmaker. Before she was set up with anyone, Polly died from a sudden tuberculosis outbreak and entered the afterlife without ever properly knowing the touch of a man. The rules after death were different. Now she had a chance to find real, uninhibited pleasure; that is if she could find and hold onto it. Polly was giddy about getting the chance to possess one of the congregants without having to hold back. She wondered which one it would be.
Mae went to strike a deal with the Rabbi’s medium brother, Gershom. He wasn’t much of a looker. He had oily skin and a thinning hairline. His face was scrunched like a guinea pig. “Rabbi Pasqual demands that all payment be made upfront before any spirits will be permitted into a willing vessel.”
“How does that sound to you?” Mae asked Polly.
“I’m fine with it.”
“Wonderful,” Gershom said. “When the Rabbi gets on the stage and raises his arms, carry out his commands, and he’ll grant you entrance into a willing vessel.”
“I thought he’d do the miracles,” Polly said to Mae.
“So he’s a bit of showman. There’s no harm, no foul as long as we get what we want. We’ll do it,” Mae said.
Rabbi Pasqual made his appearance. He was a hefty man. His long white beard covered up his floppy jowls. He wore a black robe with gold embroidered leaves around the collar. He had a blue turban to cover his head.
The congregation cheered and applauded for him. He hobbled up onto the stage and dabbed the sweat on his brow away with a handkerchief. He raised his hands and the congregation fell silent. In a loud and authoritative voice he said, “It is far too dark in here. Let there be light.” He pointed toward the chandeliers. Polly and Mae dashed to light all the wicks.
Women in the balcony screamed. Men covered their faces and davened.
“I will now open the ark and remove the Torah.” He held out his arms toward the ark. Polly opened the doors of the ark. Mae lifted up the Torah and slowly set it down before the Rabbi. “Behold, God has blessed me!” Rabbi Pasqual said. “I have been blessed with power and I am stronger than any spirit!”
The performance astounded the congregants and they threw sterling silver coins at him. Polly thought it was all part of the show and they would get to possess people as promised. But Mae was getting anxious. She went back to Gershom. “I want to speak directly to Pasqual about the possessions.”
“I speak for him,” Gershom said.
“Would you prefer I haunted you for the rest of your days?” Mae asked.
“I will have a word with the Rabbi.” Gershom approached Rabbi Pasqual and whispered in his ear. The Rabbi nodded. Gershom waved Polly and Mae over. “Go wait in the mikvah and we’ll send over someone for you to possess.”
“Now was that so difficult?” Mae asked.
Gershom grinned as the ghosts made their way to the mikvah.
It was dark in there and the two could barely see.
“This is happening! This is really happening! I’m so excited, Mae!”
Rabbi Pasqual called out to them from the other side of the door. “Are you spirits ready in there?”
“You bet we are!” Polly said.
“They said yes,” Gershom relayed.
“That’s good. Cause here it comes!” Pasqual said. The Rabbi tossed in an ancient charm to cast them out of the mikvah. They drained the water and Polly and Mae were sucked through the pipes. The two ghosts heard laughing all the way down as they were carried out to the ocean. The floated up through the filth to the surface.
“That bastard!” Mae fumed. Her blue swirls shifted into fiery red spikes like a burning sea anemone.
“What happened?” Polly asked.
“He tricked us, you idiot!”
“Hey, don’t get mad at me.”
“Damn it. I can’t believe I let him use us like that. He made us look like fools. He thinks he so tough.” The water rippled violently around Mae. “Well, I will not let that conman get away with this. Mark my words. I will have my revenge!”
After being shamed at the temple, Polly felt she needed some time alone. She floated along the streets and watched the people, busy with their day. They ate, touched, smelled and used their sense and bodies without any mind to how fleeting it all was. They didn’t know just how much they took for granted. She wanted to reach out and tell them to truly live their lives, to not bicker about the little things, but to embrace them. But there was no way to get the message across without making someone seem completely insane. And what would that achieve? Getting someone locked up for the rest of his or her life in a rundown mental hospital? That wouldn’t be right. It was better to leave them with their ignorance.
What was she going to next since the plan at the synagogue was a total bust? Maybe she could leave the island and travel to another temple and try again. But who was to say the results wouldn’t be the same or worse? And even though she was dead, Barbados was her home, and she wanted to stay there. She liked watching the people, seeing the fashion and the culture change and grow.
The idea of being a virgin forever made Polly queasy. She considered practicing possessing something smaller like a dog or a bird and get used to that. Then maybe someday she would be able to take control of a human and have sex. She didn’t want to lose her virginity to an animal. She still had some personal standards she refused to give up. She was taught that death wasn’t forever, that someday the Messiah would return and the dead would walk the earth once more. Even when that happened, and knowing her luck, she still probably wouldn’t find a man that would have her.
Jophiel flew over to her. “I take it you haven’t seen Mae in a while.”
“No, I haven’t.”
“That’s because she went back to the temple.”
“What? Why would she do that?” Polly asked.
“She was livid and looking for revenge against Rabbi Pasqual and his brother. I saw her on her way to the temple and warned her not to go, but Mae didn’t want to listen to me. She said she was upset about being used and refused to let it stand.”
“What happened to her?”
“Things didn’t go well for her when she confronted Pasqual and Gershom. They used their charms to rough her up pretty badly and they damaged her spiritual form. She was too weak to get away and they trapped her inside a glass bottle.”
“Why didn’t you do something to stop them?”
Jophiel put up her hands as if she was apologizing. “All I do is observe. I am not permitted to interfere inside the temple. There are laws I am obligated to obey. Mae chose to ignore my warning.”
“But we have to do something to help her!” Polly said. “We can’t just leave her there!”
“You shouldn’t go back to the temple or else you might end up like Mae, or worse,” Jophiel warned.
“What those corrupt brothers are doing isn’t right,” Polly said. “If we don’t do something the others spirits on the island will be in danger. And who’s to say that they won’t be able to trap you and other angels too? If we work together, we can stop them and save Mae.”
“What do you have in mind?” Jophiel asked.
Polly went to the temple during services. The congregation prayed and sang. She kept her distance from Gershom. Mae had to be somewhere. Then Polly heard her voice, “You bastards! You’ll pay for this!”
“Mae? Where are you?”
“I’m over here, behind the tablets.”
Polly flew over to the ark and found Mae trapped inside a long necked green glass bottle. “Polly, get me out of here!”
She tried to pop the cork, but Gershom had put a charm to prevent otherworldly tampering. “Just hold tight. I’ve got a plan.”
Polly spotted Isha quietly praying on the balcony. The ghost jumped into her body. The young girl sprang up with a start, knocking into the women around her. “The Rabbi and his brother are thieves and liars!” She screamed. “They are wicked! Do not trust them!”
“That girl is possessed by a demon!” Gershom said pointing to the balcony.
“That could be a good show,” Rabbi Pasqual said to his brother. “Come,” he announced to the congregation. “Move aside! We will save this innocent soul!” They ran to her, but were quickly out of breath when they reached the top of the stairs. “I shall cast you out of this young girl, demon.” Rabbi Pasqual swiped a charm from his brother and plunged it against the girl’s chest.
Polly leapt from Isha into Gershom. His eyes crossed and his arms and legs contorted at weird angles. Isha and the rest of the congregation jumped up and ran out of the synagogue in terror.
“Brother, control yourself!” Rabbi Pasqual said. “You’re costing me money!”
Gershom turned toward his brother and vomited green slime right in face. He tumbled backward and fell over the edge of the balcony. Before he could fall to his demise, he reached out and caught the edge of a chandelier. He rocked back and forth of the chain. Rabbi Pasqual reached out to him, to try and pull him back to safety, but his arms weren’t long enough. Gershom lost his grip and slammed against the ark. Polly released her control of the medium so he could see what would happen next for himself. The force of the impact tipped over the bottle containing Mae. The bottle rolled off the top of the ark and shattered against the floor.
Mae burst free as a whirl of black smoke and wind. She spun around the sanctuary faster and faster. The gusts caused the walls of the temple to sway. Lightning bounced around the room from the chandeliers to the silver coins that had been left behind. Her rage extended beyond the building all the way out to the ocean lifting up a giant wave dozens of meters into the sky. The swell of water and wind rushed toward the shore and crashed down against the island, flattening buildings across the island. Even the synagogue was reduced to rubble and a heavy cloud of wet dust.
The two ghosts floated out of the ruins of the temple. “I think you might have gone a little over the top,” Polly said.
Mae laughed. She looked like she had been dashed against a cheese grater, but at least she was free. “It was building for a while.”
“It’s not over yet,” Polly said.
The brothers clawed out from ruins. Rabbi Pasqual called out blindly, “You’ll pay for destroying their beloved temple, you wicked spirits!”
“Follow me, Mae!” Polly said and headed for the cemetery.
“They went this way,” Gershom said.
Jophiel appeared in a flash of light in all her glory before the brothers, stopping them dead in their tracks. “You two have committed terrible crimes. Retribution is demanded!” She stretched her arms out wide and a wide, cavernous hole appeared in the earth before them. Jophiel lifted her left hand and the dead climbed out of their graves. The rotting corpses closed in on the brothers and they fell into the pit. The angel clenched her fist and the hole sealed them up in front of the entire congregation to see.
A few days after the storm went out to sea, Jophiel reunited with Polly and Mae.
“Thanks for your help back there,” Polly said.
“After years of watching, it was a nice change of pace to be part of the action,” the angel said. “But old habits die hard.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means I think you should go see those young teens from before and try your luck one more time.”
The island was heavily damaged. Almost two thousand people perished in Mae’s storm. Those that survived were left to pick up the pieces. In time, small carts appeared once more on Jew Street. After all, people had to eat. Luckily, everyone in Isha and Chaim’s immediate family survived. Isha didn’t remember what happened inside the temple, but she had given the whole community a scare, Chaim included. She was nervous about seeing him again. She had blacked out twice before and both times Chaim seemed more standoffish.
Isha was shopping with her sisters and Chiam was with his friends practicing their French. They kept a good distance from one another. The incident in the synagogue made people look sideways at Isha. Some said she was a prophet, protecting the congregation from the impending destruction, while others said she caused it. She tried to ignore it all, hoping life would return to normal. Before heading home, she gave a nod to Chaim. He had seen that look before. He swallowed hard and looked away. She was worried that what they had shared was lost, but took a chance on him.
She went to their private spot. Somehow the surrounding trees had protected the tiny shack from destruction. The rain and wind seemed to have cleaned out the dust and cobwebs. She waited there for about a half hour, and right before she gave up, Chaim arrived out of breath, his face red. He apologized for making her wait, and said he couldn’t get away from his family sooner. “Are you alright?”
“Now I am. I’m sorry about how things have been. I haven’t felt like myself recently.” Isha blushed.
Chaim was quick to embrace her. He missed being around her. He missed holding her. He kissed her forehead.
Polly floated above the couple. She had jumped into her body twice before, and both times were a total mess for the girl. She didn’t know if she was going to screw things up again or how long she’d be able to stay in control before she’d freak out, but it was worth a try. She entered Isha.
Isha kissed Chaim’s neck. He slid off his long black coat and spread it out on the ground. They laid down, letting their hands explore each other’s flesh.
She unbuttoned the front of his shirt and rubbed the few hairs that had sprouted on his chest. She unbuttoned the front of his pants and his erect member leapt out. A bead of clear precum dripped from the head. She licked it. Milk and honey had nothing on him. He pressed up against her and her body tensed up.
“Maybe use a couple fingers first,” she suggested
He nodded and jammed his fingers inside.
“Easy, easy. Like this.” She guided his hand, how to move it and the rhythm. Once she was wet she nodded at him to enter her. “Just go slowly.”
He eased himself inside her. It was as if he was coming to understand the secrets of the universe. “Better?”
His mind was electric and his mouth was wet.
“I’m ready,” she said.
“Are you sure? Because last time…”
“There is only this time,” she said. She put her hands on his hips and controlled the pace.
“Have you done this before?” He joked.
“I’m just doing what feels right. This feels right, right?”
“Completely right.” He kissed her.
She moaned. “Yes, yes. Faster.” He followed her command. She grabbed her breast and pumped her hips. “Right there.” Her muscles twitched with pleasure. For a moment, she thought she was going to lose control and pee, but she rode through it and squirted a blast ectoplasm all over the shack. She left Isha’s body and floated over them. Chaim used the back of his sleeve to wipe the ooze off of his face. Before she floated away, she heard Chaim tell Isha, “I love you.”
“Heaven help those two,” Polly, the former virgin, said.