The Church of Aphrodite’s Children


by William H. Libaw


In their dressing cubicle at the church, C. C. Robeesy’s wife was reluctant to take off her clothes. Having already put his own garments in the locker, he said, “Ann, you’ve been there, done that. You shed your body shyness years ago. Remember those sniff-me taste-me sessions? When you took us to The Center for Higher Awareness of The Lower Functions?”


“That was different,” she said as she slowly removed her clothing. “That was natural, out by the ocean and the sand. Like one of those nudist camps they once had.”


Robeesy offered a way out, “Maybe we’re both getting old for this kind of a thing, which is likely to be more than just sniffing or tasting.”


“Oh, C. C., we don’t have to do anything here, I just wanted to see what goes on. They are a religious organization, you know.”


* * *


After getting bare-bodied, they went inside the main room, where they could see little more than foam. Glistering shimmering gossamer streams of sparkling froth swirled past them. Geysers of multi-hued foam erupted, only to float down like sluggish raindrops. Feeling his way through the whirl and swirl in the dimly lit room, Robeesy led his wife through bubbling eddies, twisting downdrafts and slow whirlpools of shining suds. Sparkling bubbles bounced from or burst on their bodies as they tried to orient themselves.


An ushering guardian found Robeesy and his wife, and led them to the reserved first-row of cushioned seats which his name had earned for them. They could see that carpets of blown foam covered the barely visible walls and ceiling. Looking through the sudsy sea of glycerin-based bubbles around them, they saw little more than heads and arms above the less-visible bodies of the congregation.


Ann spoke above the music, “I don’t know what’s coming, but isn’t this something?”


Robeesy responded, “Yep, I’ve never seen anything like it.”


Before long, an offstage voice announced, “The invocation will be led by one of Aphrodite’s Priestesses for South San Francisco, Melodie Swanson.” The foam began to thin as source valves were turned down and hidden conduits sucked in the airborne bubbles.


In her dressing room, Melodie Swanson was applying the last bit of make-up to the features of her face and her shapely bare body. Her mind, however, was occupied by C. C. Robeesy, who would be in the up-front seat she had suggested for him. His name had told her that he was the former senator, thus a man she’d like to become friends with. A quick internet search with her phone had informed her that fifteen years ago, Robeesy, then a fifty-five year old senator, had wed his thirty-ish trophy-wife, Ann.


As the music fall silent and the lights on a stage brightened, golden-haired Melodie came to the center of the stage and started to speak, her bare body in a swirl of bubbles whirling down on her. Like a siren’s harp, her rich voice played her audience with the tenderness and wonder of one of Homer’s Hymns to Aphrodite. Then she began the catechism, slowly bringing her congregation up into tingling participation. After each multiple question, she waited for the many-mouthed answer before proceeding to the next.


Melodie had taken her Sithe capsule as the first of the congregations arrived. As they entered, the Church members had been given their own capsules with some wine to down them. The Sithe had already begun to stir them up as she started to speak. “Who wavers not, but laughs in the sea of life? Who maketh the waves of the sea into a foam of laughter?”


“Aphrodite,” came the response from her listeners.


“Who brought beauty to humankind? Who wrought us in the shape of desire?”


“Aphrodite.”


“Who bringeth love to our lives, and life to our loves?”


“Aphrodite!”


“Whose wiles conquer all? Who concurs in all wiles?”


“Aphrodite!!”


In the middle of her catechism, Melodie spotted Robeesy and his wife in the front row seats given them at her suggestion. She was feeling her own dose of Sithe, the exciting change as the haven of luscious fulfillment came within reach. Knowing he had declined the offered Sithe capsules didn’t keep her from telling herself, Give him a big smile. Maybe later, you can give him what he’ll want.


Melodie and her audience switched roles. Led by the Church’s employees called “Guardians,” who kept the later interaction orderly, the audience now voiced the questions. Each time, she waited for their silence, then supplied them with the name of the goddess. She smiled at Robeesy as she awaited each of her turns, and noted with satisfaction that his eyes were drinking her in. She made him a silent offer, Wanna start an investigation, Senator?


As she moved on to her sermon, speaking with evangelical fervor of life as a grand and glorious seeking and finding of love, the former senator and now investor was getting curious about this so-called Church and about the Sithe. Even as he was watching Melodie as an obviously attractive sex object, he repeated to himself some words he had heard long ago from an old orator on the Senate floor. Age does more than lend distance. I can tell you that it borrows desire! Around him he saw what the young participants may have viewed as tender touching. To his eyes, it was all graceless groping.


Melodie went on about communion with the goddess, about allowing oneself to be consumed by the fires of desire, about drinking Aphrodite’s ambrosia, the nectar of the gods. As she continued, Robeesy realized there would be a performance on stage “to inspire the congregation, to ignite their own rubbing kindling.”


He turned to his wife, “Let’s take off. As a spectator sport, sex doesn’t hold a candle to football.” Noting her reluctance to leave, his mood shifted. He asked harshly, “Or maybe you want to join what will follow?” Ann didn’t realize it, but he was getting an idea that frequently troubled him. He imagined that she had a lot more interest in sexual activity than he did.


Ann sought to calm him, “Need you be so crude, C. C.? What she said was moving. Besides, I saw your eyes on her, maybe you’re the one who’s getting ideas.”


Melodie Swanson announced “The Dance of the Loveseekers.” Covered with bursting bubbles on their lubricated skin, a bare-bodied young couple came on stage. The senator and his wife threaded their way out as Melodie began to describe their activity.


* * *


As they were putting on their clothes, Ann said,“I wouldn’t have minded watching for a while. Maybe even the whole thing, if it was done like graceful dancers.”


Robeesy took her remarks as related to the infrequency with which he sought sex with her these days. Disarmed by that thought, he said, “We could go back, but they’re not gonna dance!”


A knock on the dressing-room door interrupted them. Half-dressed Robeesy opened it, and was surprised to see still-naked Melodie Swanson. As she spoke, her voice showed the warmth that had helped her rise in an organization where skin-deep was what seemed to matter. “I saw you and Mrs. Robeesy leaving early, so I stopped by. I hope it’s not prying to ask why you didn’t stay longer.”


Ann’s eyes slipped down from Melodie’s face to her slim ankles.


Still disturbed by his spouse’s interest in staying, Robeesy responded to Melodie, “If I heard you right earlier, the undressing was to free us. To strip the veneer of position, name and clothing that keeps people apart. So our name shouldn’t matter to you, should it?”


Melodie curtsied demurely, saying “You are absolutely right, Senator. Being bare of buffering cloth, I have an unfair advantage. So it’s wrong for me to be here now.” She paused to present him with a jiggling turn-around. Then she continued, “About the group feast that will start soon, I don’t care for it much myself. Nor does the goddess insist, there are lots of rooms here for privacy. Aphrodite has many paths for those who truly seek love.”


Robeesy was still in a sullen mood as he responded. “Many ways, you say. But they all require those little pep pills we were offered? What’s in them?”


“The Sithe, you mean? It’s Aphrodite’s gift.” Melodie knew only that the drug and Aphrodite’s Children had been around for a few years. “It’s an aphrodisiac. The aphrodisiac, you could say.”


“I didn’t know there were any, other that crude stuff like . . .”


She interrupted, “Oh, no. All that stuff’s terrible. But Sithe is marvelous. And it’s . . . well, it’s indescribable.”


The former senator, now an active investor, was getting interested, “Is it addictive? Is it legal? Or is it no more than a new package for some of the drugs that get the body fluids pumping? I’m sure you know, to help men get it up. And some to get women’s juices flowing.”


Melodie started to answer, “It’s certainly not addictive, I wouldn’t go near it if it was. And it doesn’t work like those . . . “ She stopped talking. Suddenly self-conscious, she turned and left them, but not before saying, “But it does get the juices flowing.”


Forty-five-year-old Ann was aggravated. “Did you see that? Bouncing that young bare body and batting her eyes at you, that was bad enough. But did you see? Before she left? The insides of her thighs, they were actually dripping!”


Seventy-year-old Robeesy had seen the droplets running down Melodie’s thighs. They acted like intoxicating alcohol that fell on and flared the remaining ash-covered hot coals of desire within him. He had been thinking about exploring his curiosity about Sithe and this church. Now he added Melodie to that list.


* * *


After her encounter with the senator and his wife, Melodie was fretful as she returned to the congregation. She asked herself, How could I? Teasing him like that. Must be the damned Sithe. Annoyed with herself, but still driven by the flame in her loins, she looked around for consolation in satiation. She found a young man she had spotted earlier. Then she took him to one of the small dining rooms. There they found delights small and mighty, all under Aphrodite’s nightie.


* * *


Melodie woke the next day with her pickup beside her in her bed. She looked at the young man beside her, He really is attractive. Maybe again? She reached over and started to caress him. Then she drew back abruptly, and leaped out of bed. I’m such a fool. Should have known better.


The young man awoke, and looked at her as he said, “Last night was out of this world! How about some more, Melodie? I could make love to you all day long.”
“Yeah, sure,” she snorted.


“You’re really attractive, Melodie. I mean, really,” he insisted.


She was too bummed-out to be cautious, “You’re a new member?”


He answered, “Third time, why?”


“That’s long enough, you ought to know by now. What were you thinking about all last week? Sex, maybe? And, besides thinking, what were you doing about it? Tell me! Tell me all about it!”


It was clear that he wasn’t answering, so she went on. “That’s the way it is with Aphrodite. The highs are way up there. And in between, there’s zilch, nothing, except thinking about it.”


She saw that he still didn’t understand, so she said, “Not sure you agree? Give me a nice hug. Then think again!”


He started to embrace her. And soon realized he didn’t want to go on. “You mean everyone, all who come here, they all get this way? All get hooked on that Sithe stuff?”


“Some think about sex a lot more, some less. Nobody does much, except on Sundays at the church with Sithe. But hooked, no! Believe me, I’d be the last one to get into something addictive. Anyone, they can all leave Aphrodite whenever they like.”


“Okay, sis, I’m not stuck! I was doing okay before, damned if I’m going to let that Sithe run my life.”


As he angrily pulled on his clothes, she said to herself, By-by, Buster. See how you like the dishwater sex you’ll go back to without Sithe.


Free of yesterday’s mate, she brewed coffee. And had some with her bath as she started to think about the senator. He kept looking at me. Maybe he’ll come next Sunday. Wonder if he tints that silver hair. She looked down to her triangle of pubic hair swaying slowly beneath the water. Silver threads mixed with gold? Foolish nonsense again! Rotten Sithe. Better go to work.


* * *


Others on Aphrodite’s staff were already there when she arrived, getting their minds away from sex. Letters had to be sent to the new visitors, reminding them about the joy of belonging to the new church, and mentioning the tithe members must pay. Then came the tougher job, deciding how to deal with those members who were sluggish about contributing ten percent of their wages to The Church of Aphrodite’s Children.


After a while, their supervisor, Zeke Hollenbeck, came in. He had an office right next to Melodie’s cubicle. She went in to ask him about handling one of the reluctant tithe-payers. She looked at the nameplate on his desk, “Hezekiah Hollenbeck, Trustee,” but not at him. As they spoke, she barely glanced toward him. It was better that way, it avoided what none of them wanted, the futility of seeing their fellow workers as sex objects. As Zeke responded to her question without looking at her, she noticed that he didn’t sound well.


Before she left him, she sought to learn more about the organization of the church. “Does Mrs. Rosenhepple run the whole show, Zeke? Are there others behind her? Men, I mean.”


“Flo Tillie Rosenhepple, she’s it. The boss.”


“Tough boss?”


Apart from phone calls, Zeke had been in recent touch with his boss just once, when he had flown down to L. A. to get his promotion from chief of the local guardians to one of the leaders of the growing organization. But he used what he had heard to imply that he know more. “She’s something else. I’m not talking about her appearance, she really runs everything. Her husband’s dead, he was some kind of a biochemist. He concocted the stuff. It might have corroded his liver or maybe his kidneys, and that might have done him in.”


Melodie had heard that last part before, and it worried her. When she started to inquire about it, Zeke said, “I’m not feeling too good, I may just go home,” and cut her off.


Just after Melodie got back to her desk, she got a surprising phone call that lifted her spirits. It was from Senator Robeesy, he wanted to talk with her and would call again in a few days when his schedule was more clear. He also wanted to know more about The Church of Aphrodite’s Children, so she gave him Zeke’s number.


When she stopped work to go for some take-out lunch for herself and a couple of the others, she poked her head into Zeke’s office to ask if he wanted some food brought in for him. He told her he was going out for a long lunch. When she voiced surprise because he wasn’t feeling well, he said the lunch might be important business, it was with Senator Robeesy.


Later, when Zeke left, Melodie had an idea that emboldened her to step into his office for a few minutes. She knew the Sithe supply was in the little safe, and she had previously noted where he concealed the key to the safe. She opened it, took two of the little capsules, put back the key, and started to leave the office. Her idea was to make a mid-week date to meet the senator at her own apartment, and then to use the Sithe with him.


She paused before she reached for the door. On the wall was something new, a framed photo above the nameplate, Florence Matilda Rosenhepple. The picture showed, towering above her desk, a woman of middle age and massive proportions. Good grief, thought Melodie, I didn’t realize she was that large.


* * *


At lunch with the Senator, Zeke answered some questions about Melodie. She had quit college to start working about a year ago. Not because she needed to earn a living. She wanted to get ahead, she saw a good future in the Church. When Melodie was young, she had a mother who was into drugs, and there was no father around. She had found a way to support herself, and probably her mother, since her high school days. Peddling herself probably paid a lot better than when she came here.


Zeke then told the senator a little about the organization of the Church. But before he could inquire about Robeesy’s interest, he had to leave and go home. He was getting feverish.
A couple days later, the senator called Melodie again, and made an appointment to chat with her about The Church of Aphrodite’s Children.


* * *


Now, days having past, the senator knocked on Melodie’s door. As she invited him in, he cooly noticed again how attractive she was. Melonie, however, was more hot than cool, still hot from her last Sithe capsule. With a big warm smile, she said, “Do come in, Senator Robeesy.”


“Please, call me C. C.”


“Would you like a drink, C. C.? By the way, I do have some Sithe here, in case you’re curious about experiencing it privately, rather than at the church. Maybe you’d like to take some with me before your drink. It takes a little time, you know. Of course, if you’d rather, I can give you both capsules to try at home with Mrs. Robeesy.”


Her forwardness sprinkled cold water on the hot coals within the conflicted man. The ill-at-ease ex-Senator said, “You’re a very attractive woman, Melodie, but I’m not sure we know each other well enough to really enjoy intimacy.”


Then, after an awkward pause, Robeesy went to his subject, “What I would like is to know more about your church, and also about those little capsules. It’s an odd name you people have for that stuff. Sounds just like what the grim reaper uses. ‘Sithe,’ the pill. And ‘scythe,’ the tool he uses to cut us down. The stuff has physical after-effects?”


She hedged, “For some, there is a minor after-effect. Thinking about sex too much. There’s rumors about more serious things, but no one believes them.” She offered him the two capsules, and touched her glass to his in a toast, “To the best of life.”


Ignoring the offered capsules, Robeesy asked, “How long have the two been around, Sithe and the church?”


She knew little, “Maybe a few years. Right now, we’re only in San Francisco and L. A. But I’m sure we’ll be expanding, that’s really why I joined.”


About the two capsules in her open hand, Melodie asked, “One now? Or none now? Maybe you’d rather see what two will do for you and your wife.”


What didn’t sit well with Robeesy was the thought of taking both capsules, taking them for Ann and himself when he went home. The otherwise-insightful former senator had a blind spot, the extent of his wife’s interest in sex.


He didn’t realize that he was paying a price for the now-gone years when he sought frequent sexual activity, usually within his marriage, occasionally outside it. The price? Projecting his own past feelings, imagining them to be his wife’s current feelings. He had stuck himself with the notion that, apart from Sithe or any other drug, Ann was at-present highly interested in sexual activity.


Then something like current salvation came to Robeesy’s mind. He saw a solution, a fix that would, at least now, fix everything for him. If he took only one of the capsules, took it for himself, that might make for a great night in bed for Ann as well as for him. So he reached for and took one of the two Sithe capsules in Melodie’s hand.


To Melodie, that meant that Robeesy wanted sex with her, right here and now. That would help her make the senator a useful friend. So she promptly put the other capsule in her mouth and downed it with a sip of her drink.


Seeing her action, Robeesy realized he should have explained before he took the capsule. Tardily, he said, “I’m taking this one for me to try at home. I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise.”


After a long pause, Melodie managed to say no more than, “Goodby, Senator, and good luck.” Too proud to search the streets or phone for another man, Melodie spent the long long night with no more company than herself.


* * *


Early in the morning after Robeesy’s active night with his wife, he reached for her again. That was when he experienced Sithe’s do-nothing after effect.


Once that sunk in, the silver-thatched old fox had made inquiries that led him to a certain place. The former senator took an early flight down to the appointment he had made later that same morning in the lair of Aphrodite’s first lady, Florence Matilda Rosenhepple. He went to her office to smoke her out about what seemed a thriving new business called a church.


When Robeesy met Mrs. Rosenhepple, his eyes gave him a surprise, her size. The bust and hips that made the waist small, the sturdy long legs that brought her eyes up to a level with his own, they brought a magnified view of the long-ago gay-nineties. He was also surprised that he couldn’t take his eyes off her. The sight of the woman promised cheery novelty in exploring that abundant body, that freshness soon to be followed by unique ecstacy.


Mrs Rosenhepple had received word earlier that Robeesy had visited Melodie, and had taken a Sithe capsule with him when he left. Forewarned about all that, she extended a hand as she said, “Please call me Flo Tillie, Senator.”


Robeesy’s mind was in a whirl as he replied, “Then you must call me C. C.” He had a sudden concern: After the shake, he might move his hand to her waist for a hug and more. So he didn’t shake. Instead, he greeted her with a wave. He was also having difficulty getting his mind back to the purpose of his visit, prodding to appraise her strength and weakness as a business owner.


Mrs. Rosenhepple knew her Sithe, and sensed his difficulty immediately. Her own intent was to befriend the former Senator, so she sought to help him with a simple suggestion: That they not look at one another as they spoke. Accepting her suggestion, he looked elsewhere as he went on. And then he found it easer to get back to his intention to probe her “church” business.


He hinted about possible inquiries from the government about the church’s tax-exemption.. Robeesy then insinuated that there might be congressional probes into unauthorized drugs. He went on to imply that Melodie’s giving him Sithe was designed as a prelude to extortion.


When she responded, Robeesy got another surprise, Flo Tillie’s calm ability to cushion his blows. “Oh, my! I can see how bad it must look to you, Senator. But it’s all my fault. Even though we’re expanding so rapidly, I should have done more to help Hezekiah with some understanding that might have forestalled what happened.


“As for Melodie, I am at fault for not seeing that someone gave that girl what she’s never had, some real help. She was raised more by neighbors than by a mother whose main devotion was to getting high, and then low. I must try to make amends to Melodie, to Hezekiah, and of course to you, Senator.”


Although off-balanced by her response, Robeesy went on as he looked around the room. He mentioned the possibility of investigations by old-fashioned religious organizations, although of course not instigated by him.


That prompted Mrs. Rosenhepple to note that her booming business had needs for friends in high places, as well as needs for investment capital.


Then, with his guard down, she slipped in a blow below his belt. To make reparation for the distress that Melodie had caused him, Flo Tillie insisted that she should send a supply of Sithe to his home. “Surely,” she said, “Mrs. Robeesy would like to try Sithe. As would you like to try more, of course.”


The second phase of the Sythe he swallowed—the sex-in-the-head aftermath—was now working him over. So the notion of himself responding to his wife’s active desire for sexual activity was exciting. However, the thought of Ann driven by Sithe to seek gratification beyond what he could provide, that was jolting and more to Robeesy.


That was when Robeesy realized that Flo Tillie was no pushover, but rather a heavyweight battler. Rather than box with one hand protecting his private parts, he decided to seek a draw. More important, now he wanted to explore the possibility of her as a formidable business partner. “Let’s quit shadow-boxing, Flo Tillie. Right now, I’d rather not give any to my wife. And I suspect that’s not news to you.”


Then Robeesy went on with some ideas about Sithe as a product to be marketed. “The stuff is marvelous in its way. However, it might be improved. Maybe a lighter less-lasting version could find a market with people older than Aphrodite’s Children. Maybe the risks associated with it, if there are real ones, might be reduced by a good drug company. Are you sure you’re not wasting the stuff on those kids? The food of the gods now goes to those young animals. A diluted sugar-coated variation might be marketable to those with more money and less passion.”


“You don’t think older people would complain?” she asked. “About the sex spinning in their heads afterwards? I’m not sure you fully understand everything about Sithe, C. C. Let me do something that will make it crystal-clear to you.” Then she wrapped her arms around him in a warm tight hug.


Robeesy was confused. Despite her talk about Sithe, the hug he saw coming meant she might be interested in intimacy with him, just as he was with her.


But as soon as her arms were around him, his ideas and feelings did an abrupt reversal. He really wanted no part of her! He realized she was showing Sithe’s effects, and not her own feelings.


The leader of the Church of Aphrodite’s Children saw what was happening with him. She said, “C. C., we all know that, totally apart from Sithe, there have always been two aspects to sex. One is what you could call ‘Sexual feelings and ideas in the mind.’ The other part amounts to ‘Sexual activity with the body.’ With Sithe, however, there’s this difference: The-sex-in-the-head part is more intense. The mental part also persists longer; but the body’s interest in sexual action soon shrinks.”


She thought Robeesy might be of great help to her. And continued to treat him as an insider. “Just between us, C. C., that’s where the sex-pill’s name, Sithe, came from. It was kind of a joke at first. Then somehow it got to be the name, which is short for what amounts to an after-effect: Sex In The Head, Endlessly.”


Then she said, “It looks like we have much to talk about, C. C. Shall we meet again? Meet when?”


Robeesy was as interested as she was in exploring what they could do together. He said he’d call within a week. When he left, he and his Sithe capsule gave Flo Tillie a quick hug.


* * *


For Melodie, the days after her attempt to make a friend of the ex-senator had been difficult. In the early morning after her restless night without him, she went to work her church. Nobody was there but Zeke, who called her into his office as soon as he saw her.


Unknown to Melodie, Zeke had deduced, from having taken frequent count of his unsafely-deposited supply of Sithe, that she had made off with two of the capsules. Zeke then got Melodie to admit that she had given one of the capsules to Robeesy to take home, and taken the other herself. He told her to go home for a week to clear her head, then they would talk. During that time-out, she had to endure the endless thinking about sex that followed two doses of Sithe within one week. She took a second week off, which calmed her and cleared much of the Sithe from her head.


However, before she went back to work, she got a bummer call from Zeke. He had spoken to Mrs. Rosenhepple about what had happened. And the boss lady had told him to send Melodie down for a meeting.


* * *


Now Melodie sat with ginger jitters in her boss’s boss’s L. A. office. Then Flo Tillie entered. The initial nature of their encounter, however, was not what Melodie expected. The leader of Aphrodite’s Children took one look at her, and then greeted her with wordless open arms. Melodie was surprised by that; she was also relieved of her nervousness. Anyone with receptive arms, male or female, had been familiar territory to her for years, years before she joined of the Church and used its Sithe. To Melodie, that gesture suggested, Somebody not only likes me, but may well have the hots for me.


She walked toward Mrs. Rosenhepple, who reached down and then embraced her like a wayward child. “Melodie,” she said, “won’t you let me try, try to give you some real help? Even though it might be tough for you to take?”


Suddenly ill-at-ease again, Melodie Swanson didn’t know what to think as Flo Tillie went on. “You may be one of those people for whom Sithe can do more harm that good. Either way, will you let me help you? You’re smart and you’re ambitious, let me help you go back to get a really useful education. And help you decide about work that may suit you better.”


Melodie’s mind swirled with confusion. What’s going on? She really means all that? Or just wants to get rid of me? Can I actually give up Sithe? Do I have to give up a job with good prospects? I’ve always worked under Aphrodite’s nightie, can I work outside it? The young woman could only rise on her toes to say to the ear above her, “I just don’t know. I have to think about it.”


Then she flushed as Mrs Rosenhepple planted a motherly kiss on her cheek and said, “Stay in town. Two or three days should be enough. Then call me; we’ll need time to work this out together.”

_______________

William H. Libaw's published work includes the books "How We Got To Be Human" (2000, Prometheus Books) and "Painting in a World Transformed" (2005, McFarland & Company). Prior to his present work as a writer, he was an electronic design engineer.

The Church of Aphrodite’s Children
© 2011 by William H. Libaw

 
     
     

 

 



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