It was hardly surprising that I can’t tell you what the magazine was or what I was reading about. My eyes may have scanned the print, but nothing entered my brain. After a while, although it was summer, I started to get cold.
“Sir, can I put something on, please? I'm getting cold.” I asked.
“No, boy. That won’t do. You have to get to the Grove yet.”
I looked at him, once again puzzled. But somewhere at the back of my mind a thought started to form, a thought so scaring that I knew it couldn’t come true. But a thought which, nevertheless, made my throat feel as if I’d just finish a 200 yard sprint, but without the heavy breathing to go with it; a thought which laid hold of my stomach and seemed to hold it still while I asked the next question.
“But I’m not going like this, am I sir?” My voice rose to an almost childish whine, half in anticipation, half in pleading, though despite what my body was doing to me I never thought that the answer would be ‘yes’.
“Yes. I told you that everything done at the Grove must be done entirely naturally. It’s the more important for you, as the Village’s hope, to be seen to be entirely natural from the taking in of the seed of the Village’s youth to the casting of yours onto the sacred ground.”
I gaped at him. My mind stopped working, except to scream silently at itself: “Nooooooo… ” At long last I found my voice, except that it wasn’t mine but a throttled, rasping, shrill me.
“But I can’t do that…”
“Of course you can, boy. You have a man’s body now, one you can be proud of. It’s still a bit small, but bigger than I was at twelve. And you have the most important part of your duty to the Village to perform, one that will put you in people’s debt to the rest of your life. As you walk along, people will be able to see just what a man you have become, and rejoice with you at it and marvel at the way you are facing your task.”
That was the gist of it, but I took in only every other word. Things like ‘people’ and ‘see’ and ‘your body’ stayed very fresh in my brain, and ‘duty’ and ‘rejoice’ and ‘marvel’ hardly made any impact. Had I not been sitting, I think I would have done at that point, and with a bump.
And as it all sank in, without any prompting on my behalf, my sight grew misty, and the corners of my eyes and then my cheeks grew wet. Nothing else happened for what seemed like ages, then my whole frame heaved with a soundless, gut-wrenching sob as the situation proved too big for me to handle.
He came to me, and talked to me, and what he said I don’t know, but something in his voice managed to calm me as if I’d been a horse he was shoeing for the first time, or a wild animal he was freeing from a trap. And by the time I was partly composed again, if not dry-eyed and certainly no less fearful and horrified at what was about to happen, he looked at his watch and declared it was time to leave.
I was still sitting. He crossed to the door the boys had gone through and threw it open.
“Come out now.” His voice was imperious, and brooked no denial.
They were by now clothed. As they saw me, still naked, there was a rumble of comment, and Ben walked purposefully toward me. The smith stopped him with a look.
“You will all walk behind him. When we get to the outskirts of the village you will all strip. When we reach the fringes of the woods I will strip. We will then go to the Grove and do our duty.”
At least I would have to walk only half way naked on my own. Perhaps there would be no one about.
Still shakily I stood. The smith turned and crossed to the other door, the one that led to the public meeting room. He unlocked it, turned, and motioned us onwards. My feet felt like lead. It was only the presence of the fourteen eyes which were, I thought, boring into my naked bottom as I walked in front of them, that kept me close to the smith. But unbeknown to me Ben and Carl had managed to work their way to the front of the group, and, independently of each other, they each called out to me.
“It’s all right, Aidan, I’m on your side, and no harm will come to you.” That was Carl.
“Aidan… I promise you that I’m your friend, and I’ll do whatever you need to help you,” from Ben.
It made it slightly less unbearable, but not much.
At the front door the blacksmith paused. This was it, I thought. This is where everyone in the Village gets their chance to laugh at me, to ridicule me. How will I be at school? I’ll have to go somewhere else. Private lessons, that was it. Then I needn’t see any of my past friends ever again for them to laugh at the knowledge that they’d seen me naked in front of them.
If there were any of them out today.
The blacksmith hauled open the door.
Two columns of all the people I knew, all the inhabitants of the Village, stretched away from the hall. All facing inwards so as to get the best view of the path we must all take to get to the Grove. The path I must take to get to the Grove. Naked. In front of all the people I knew. All my school friends. All the young bucks of the village, friends of my brothers. All the girls of my school. My dad.
In the cheap books you read things like “Horror welled up inside him.” Well, it does. The state of panic that gripped me so that my feet just seized up was, I think, the greatest emotion I’d ever experienced. I remember shouting.
“No… NO… I can’t… NO!” Stung into motion I tried to run back down the body of the hall. But there were bodies there, hands there that caught me, and held me, and a face came down to me.
“You must,” it said. “We’ve all gone through a lot. Your part is the greatest. I see that now. You must go out and do your duty. They are all with you. They are on your side. They aren’t going to laugh at you. You have a good and capable body. There’s nothing to laugh at about it.”
Dimly I realised the speaker was Carl. Did he really think that? But someone else spoke.
“Aidan, I’ll take my clothes off too, if you like, then we’ll both be naked.” It was Ben. His and Carl’s words and voices calmed me a bit. Ben was already undoing his clothes.
The blacksmith had turned and had heard. His look seemed to go straight through Ben as though he wasn’t there, yet it was Ben he was addressing. The boy stopped releasing his trousers. The man continued in a louder voice, for the benefit of all the ‘contributors’, and for those of the crowd who could hear.
“The only one to be unclothed here is Aidan. He must be seen as the saviour of the village, and he must be entirely natural in his appearance. You are right about his body though. It is absolutely normal and healthy and capable, despite his being less than thirteen. And he must be seen as such. All the people watching will know that he will make his seed to grow our future, and they will not mock him, or make any comments that would hurt. For he is their saviour in this hour, and from him our future will stem.
The murmuring of those nearest the door, noticeable as soon as we had appeared, stopped completely at this. For me, although I still felt as though my gut was being gripped from inside me, I felt for some reason as if it was all meant, that it would be all right, that I wouldn’t get ridiculed when I went back to school on Monday. But still the thought of walking naked through those two columns of people was mind-blowing. But the blacksmith set off, and I could hear movement from behind me, and I had no option at all but to drag my feet, one at a time as if it was an effort, over the threshold until I was in the full gaze of the silent people.
I remember glancing down at myself. Had there been any doubt of my effectiveness at what I was about to do, my body was doing nothing to reassure people. The shock and the horror of what I was about to do – what I was doing – had reduced any pride in my endowment, as it were, to nothing. I looked like the scared boy that I was. Small. Ineffective.
Then there was a voice from the crowd.
“Good for you, Aidan. I’m proud of you.”
I didn’t recognise the voice. But it started others shouting too, shouting all sorts of things meant to encourage me. And as my shrunken, exposed body made its way between them, I knew that my stoop became less, that the knowledge percolated through to me that maybe, just maybe, what the smith had said might just be true.
But my guts still felt as though they were tied in knots.
They say that if you do something out of character for long enough it becomes natural. Well, I wouldn’t go that far, but by the time we were reaching the outskirts of the Village I was walking normally, nearly bringing myself to acknowledge the people we passed, and almost, not quite, but almost, anxious when the lines of people thinned, lest there were some who hadn't seen me. But by the time we were free of them all I was relieved, more relieved than I can remember being ever before. Or since, bar once. But we’ll come to that. Mind you, I was still naked, walking in front of a group of clothed boys or young men. And now the pressure of having crowds watching my approach had eased, I imagined having seven pairs of eyes watching every movement of my bottom as I walked. I tried clenching the muscles in it so as to make it less wobbly, but that made walking uncomfortable, so I decided there was nothing else I could do but relax and walk.
At the end of the village’s playing fields the track bent. As soon as we were completely out of sight of any of the village children who might come to play after the evening’s excitement the smith stopped and turned round.
“Your turn now, boys. Strip. Everything. Leave your clothes by that bush.”
To my surprise there was no rebellion, no comment, no refusal. I imagine by that time they were all in the state of mind where nothing they were told to do would have surprised them, and my own nakedness had made them feel almost eager to join me. Without any hesitation except on the part of the fat Steve and the friendly Ben, they all unlaced, unbuckled, unbuttoned, pulled up, pulled down, and finally stood there rather self-consciously, naked as me, a bundle of clothes in their arms.
“Put them in piles over there,” came the instruction, and the bottoms receded behind the line of scrub at the side of the track.
We walked on, the blacksmith behind us now, toward the green brown line of the thick woods that were our destination. As we neared it, one or two of my naked companions seemed to be lagging behind – not Ben or Carl, who were keeping up with me as if their life depended on it. But the others all seemed to want to be at the back. The smith drove them on with some sharp words.
At the hedge that surrounded the woodland we stopped and watched whilst our shepherd calmly stripped off his own clothes. One or two of the others was wearing a chain with a cross on it, and was curtly ordered to remove it.
“Continue. I’ll tell you where to go.” The man’s voice was grating, as if he was under some sort of inner tension. I wondered why. “No… Carl first, as he’s furthest away, then the rest of you, then Aidan, then me.”
Once again there was milling around, as if some were anxious to be at the back. But at last the group was ready and we started off again. Walking over the fallen branches and sharp twigs was at times painful, and there were places where stones stabbed at our feet. But the path was generally clear, a good thing as the tree cover grew thicker, rendering the light subtly less and less the further we travelled. The air seemed to be hot, stifling, and a nameless foreboding came over me; one that was caused by the atmosphere, not by the anticipation of what I was to do. Indeed, the memory of that had all but vanished from my mind, so otherworldly had the wood become. The smith’s muttered directions were the only words: they were very nearly the only sound apart from quiet, muffled footfalls and the occasional indrawn breath as a bare foot stepped on a stone or twig and received a sudden reminder that this was no dream. We walked, driven by the smith’s presence, for ages. Or so it seemed: the only time I had been there before – illicitly – it had been nearly as mysterious but had taken a lot less time. Particularly on the way out…
In what seemed like the gloom of a murky evening in late autumn we arrived finally at the dark, leafy tunnel that led to the forbidden glen. In reality it was a roomy way between thick, mature hedges of boxwood, but our mood was heightened by the strange darkness whose influence permeated our very bones. The tunnel seemed like the start of a journey to a different, frightening world.
And for me, looking back, of course it was just that. I see now that it was at the moment we turned into that unknown, leafy burrow that I entered adulthood.
For the next few minutes as we walked – did we? Or did we float? – down into the darkness, away from the last vestiges of the world that we knew, away from my twin worlds of the Village and of Childhood. We could see little: there was little to see. There was no sound, no distinction between beginning and end. We passed through it as through a dream, forgetting afterwards just what it was like; just as so many pass through adolescence and forget about the confusions, the shattered confidences, the dawning realisation that we are not to be looked after for the rest of our lives, but have to make our own chances and live with them.
The sight of the edge of the clouds of a thunderstorm and the blue, still skies beyond them lift the soul to almost spiritual heights. So it was as we emerged from the darkness to find the glen. The same glen that had appeared so daunting to my companions and me as a child now appeared light, airy, full of life and hope, of birdsong and pure, plain, fresh air; its seven central saplings standing as a token of life, continuing life and fruitfulness. I remember giving a laugh of delight as I looked round; not a laugh just of relief from the oppression of the journey here, but of the sudden realisation that I was at one with all around me. The Grove was natural and laid bare in the sun and air. And so was I natural and laid bare as a son and an heir – but an heir to what? To a father and six brothers? The real heir would be my elder brother. But I knew without being told that I was to become an heir to something even greater than my own family, if such a thing were possible. I was to become heir to the traditions and wild knowledge of the centuries, a knowledge without beginning whose roots lay in the anonymous earth of my land. No, not my land. Our land. The land that had been my forbears’ for generations, and enabled by a spirit for whom I was about to provide my seed.
And with that my mood became solemn again, or as solemn as the lightness of the air caressing my body would allow. For I had forgotten all the others, assuming that they would be as affected by this wonderful place as I.
From my heightened spiritual plane, as it were, I looked around. The blacksmith was quietly ordering where the seven should stand. The seven village lads looked… what? Scared? Unhappy? But how could anyone be unhappy here? In this light, airy, good place? The man came last to me, and as if from a distance I heard his voice.
“Stand as near to the middle as you can, Aidan, inside the ring of saplings. Face which way you like. The rest of us will face away as we each give our own seed. But you need to be in the centre. You know what to do and how to do it, and no one will watch you until you have called out that you are through. But I shall need to look at you afterwards, to make sure you have really made your seed for the earth. Take as much time as you need.”
His voice was low and reverent, intended to be calm. But to my sensibilities it grated falsely, juddering like an old, worn, un-oiled gate.
I shuddered, glad he had walked away to the entrance with its dark shadows. Looking round again I saw only the trees and the light, and the gentle airs washed the memory of him from me. I could see the others, but almost faintly: only two stood out in my sight as having real substance, Ben and Carl, and of these even Carl was a bit fuzzy.
Dimly again I heard the guttural creak of the smith’s voice, and as he came to the end I saw Ben’s hand curve round to his front and start to manipulate… I lifted my own hands to my front too, and took hold of my grown penis and scrotum as I had done so many times under the bedclothes at night before the message forbidding me to continue became strong in my mind and stopped me. This time there was to be no stopping. This time my desire to enjoy the fruits of my own body could be realised. This time nothing mattered: no censure or disgrace would ensue. I could make my seed, enjoy the feeling to the point where I had always stopped, and then go on… And would I be affected as Ben had? Would I really fall senseless to the ground as my body did its work for the first time?
My thoughts had caused the first part of the exercise effective in that my penis was at its longest and hardest. Having seen it in his stage only in the bath – never in bed as it was hidden under the covers in case my brother came up early – I was quite impressed. But it was still not as big as the others’. But then, I was the youngest.
Idly I fondled and stroked, and as the resolve took me, my right hand started to work properly, certainly more positively than I had dared do in bed. It was a shadow of the way I had dealt with the seven, but I had lots of experiments to try when it came to myself, even in this situation. I wanted to do it properly, and I had only learnt what to do that afternoon. I thought of Ben, and his gentle ways, and the excitement in his eyes as they met mine as I worked on him. And I thought of his words as the feeling overtook him: “Oh Aidan… I love you…” Had he really said that? I looked at him again now, noticing perhaps for the first time how rounded and muscular was his bottom. And my heart sang, and I had no idea why, but knew it was to do with this friend of mine. And so as my hand continued its work, so did my brain, delighting now not just in the clean air and the lightness and in my own euphoric mood, but in the spirit of the friend I knew I had, and with whom I already knew I needed to share this place.
The tingling of my mind receded not at all. The plateau of pleasure came up to me rather than bearing me up as I know would have happened elsewhere. And as I came, all unaware, to the end of the plateau and to the steep hill that leads to orgasm, my mind knew its purity and knew that my body was about to join it in man’s ultimate delight. From deep inside my loins the feeling started, and took me over completely, now displacing even the spirit of magic there was about the glen. From inside me it rushed, to my formative testicles, massaged as they had been, and from there to my penis which was now exposing its glans fully to the gentle air. And suddenly I shouted, and from my body rushed, spurted, audibly, my first ever semen, sperm of my body for the god and the good of the village. Time and time again it happened, and all I could do was ride with it, and the small part of me that was unaffected by everything came back to life and marvelled at what I had been feeling, and now felt, and how everyone was right, and how I was potent and able to fulfil my Village’s needs.
As the flow of my gift to the gods diminished I remember my knees buckling, and the euphoria of my mind grew, and I was only just aware of a jolt as my body crumpled slowly to the floor. Of the glen, and the presence of the man and the seven, and of their own efforts of appeasing the old spirits of the place, I was unaware. I remained there, prone, facing the way I had been all along; yet my mind cleared gradually and I became aware.
In front of me, where I would have looked had I been in the mundane world of clothes and common sense, the surrounding trees were younger, thinner, sparser. Through the scant barrier they presented I saw another, smaller clearing, sun dappled, at peace, warm: and in it stood a stag. A king stag, magnificent, with antlers in his glory showing as many points as any pictures painted of poorer animals in the Highlands where humans went to shoot them. To shoot this creature, I knew, would be the death both of me and the Village. He was aware of me. His large, brown, liquid eyes held mine. I was being tested. At length he shook his proud head as if in assertion and pawed the ground. As if this were a signal, from the thicket by his side appeared another stag, barely showing any sign of antler, just what I knew would be just a soft, velvety lump by each ear. Yet strangely the two were not at combat with each other. The young one, slim legged and elegant, crossed to the king and rubbed along his side. And the king responded, then, to my surprise, rubbed the side of his head against the stripling’s, and turned, and silently left the clearing.
The youngster now had his turn to hold my eyes. And unlike the testing sensation my brain had registered with the king’s gaze, this time there was a gentle friendliness, and an acceptance. Had he smiled I would not have thought it strange. We communicated in this manner, for some moments, a fire of goodwill and friendship kindling between us.
There was a movement behind me and, startled I turned over. And opened my eyes.
Blearlily I looked out from my skull and saw the eight grouped around me, anxiety in their eyes. Swiftly I turned back to will the young stag away from danger.
Before me, the mature trees lined the glen, close, impenetrable. No light showed behind them. No second clearing could possibly exist in that closeness.
“Wha…?” I sought explanations. All my companions were concerned about was me, and the fact that I had collapsed after my first ever orgasm, and was still unconscious some five minutes later. It seems that most of them had heard my shout as the moment had taken me, and this had sped their own finality. Even the smith, who was older than us all and whom I had brought to orgasm only a few hours earlier, had managed a second, and had crossed to me once he had seen my plight, and had brought the others around me too.
Now, as he saw I was recovering, he rolled me over on my back, and, despite a twinge away by me, held my softened penis between thumb and forefinger. Carefully he pulled at the foreskin and squeezed. A drop of white fluid appeared at the tip, and he carefully lifted it off with another finger which he put to his mouth.
Having come down to earth with a bump, literally as well as spiritually, I was once again totally embarrassed by his attention despite all of us being still naked. This was my body he was examining again, in front of others, and he had taken my semen from it in front of them too. I squirmed. But he continued, and at the base of the penis, where it joined my belly, he found more of the cloudy, white fluid.
“Look, boys,” he said in a quiet, wondering voice which seemed no longer to grate as my ears had told me it was earlier. “Look. Like each of you, he has made his seed. And this is the first his body has given. And he has given it to the Spirits.”
Their mutter of approval made me feel better, yet my mind turned to the king stag and his young companion. Were they the Spirits everyone had talked of?
“Can you stand?” His question jolted me back to something approaching reality. I nodded.
“Come, then. You will follow us now, when you will. Today’s actions have made this place as much yours to visit as mine, for you, too, are a chosen one.”
I just looked at him. What he said made an impact of sorts on me, but my brain was still too addled to appreciate just what he meant. But the young ones turned away, and the smith made sure I could both stand and walk before he followed them from the glen into the low, forbidding tunnel.
I walked after him. But at the edge I remembered his words: “Follow us now, when you will.” I had a choice, then. I paused in the light of the glen, its airiness diminished slightly now, and looked back. And despite the change of its atmosphere, and despite the saplings almost barring my sight, I saw the clearing. The other clearing. The clearing behind the ring of trees. Yet I knew it could not be there. And yet it was. But as I peered from my standpoint the air became darker, and sadder, and I could no longer make it out.
There seemed no point in staying there then, and letting the place scare me as it had when I’d been a child. I wanted to remember it as a place of lightness, of wholesomeness, the place where IT happened for me for the first time, the place where I lay down my virginity. I scurried after the blacksmith’s broad back, through the dank tunnel and into the outside world.
The blacksmith put on his clothes.
It hit me then. I was going to have to walk back naked to the hall. This time it would be worse, because everyone I met would know what I’d just done. I’d made my own seed, in public. I stopped, appalled, the gorge rising to take hold of my throat again.
“S… sir?” I faltered, hoping against hope. He stopped.
“Have I got to walk through the village with no clothes on again?”
“You’ll have to wait and see.”
“Enough. I’ve given you an answer.”
And that was that. With my nerves on red alert I followed his now clothed back. That he was clad made me feel worse, although peering past him I saw the naked bottoms of the others waggling as they walked in front of him. Even over my worries I was surprised at how dark the wood had become. When we set out it had been the almost inevitable warm sun, the continuation of the drought which had led to this whole performance. Now, although warm, it was like dusk, though I thought it could hardly be that late.
The first few drops found their way down through the trees and each of us flinched as our naked skin was hit by them. The rain grew heavier as the woods thinned, and by the time we reached the edge of it, we were in a downpour. A warm downpour. Rain that left us who were without clothes glad of the fact. Rain that soaked everything the smith was wearing so that his clothes stuck soggily to him. I smiled for the first time for ages.
When we reached where the others’ clothes had been left the seven stopped and looked at the uncomfortably wet smith.
“Well, what are you waiting for?” he asked.
“Is it worth it? And should we wear anything if Aidan can’t?” said Ben suddenly, asking the question of nobody in particular.
“Please yourself,” the man replied. “We’ve done what we came to do. Aidan has no clothes because he had to come here naked. You had to leave your clothes somewhere, and now it’s up to you. If it wasn’t raining they’d be lining the street to see us return, but nobody wants to be out in this.”
They stayed for a moment, considering, silent. Then the obnoxious Steve shook the rain from his face and dived behind the scrub to fetch his clothes. He lifted the bundle.
“They’re soaking wet,” he cried angrily. “I can’t wear these!”
One by one the others retrieved their few pieces of clothing from the small stream that had formed just where they had lain. It was the blacksmith’s turn to smile.
“Perhaps it’s the old spirits’ way of making you at one with the person who shares your seed.”
There was an uncomfortable silence. Then Ben spoke up again, despite being the youngest, but because he was a genuine friend to me.
“I said I’d take my clothes off to help Aidan face his journey to the Grove. I’m going back naked to help him return. Who’s with me?”
I like to think that their reluctance was due to the idea of being naked in public, not the idea of supporting me. Only Steve decided he’d put on his soaking trousers, which in his case I was glad of, because they hid his rather unpleasant body. I shuddered at the thought that I’d had to bring my lips down on that ugly organ.
Disregarding any possibility that the lit windows of the village might be framing spectators, we walked back in nude companionship, moods lightening as we neared the hall. The partially clothed Steve was being more or less ignored by the rest of them, something I learnt later was quite usual. To have the warm rain coursing over us was refreshing, and added a strange, attractive sheen to the healthy young skin we younger ones each were blessed with.
When we were safe inside, we found the fire lit in one of the rooms, making it hot as an oven. Clothes were strung up there, and almost immediately it was impossible to see from one end to the other, so full of steam was it. I was the only one whose clothing was dry as everything had all been a long way from me during the rain, and although I longed to get dressed I just felt it wouldn’t be right after the others had all supported me on the way home. Cynically I wondered if they’d have done the same so readily if their clothes and the weather had been dry.