Witherworth loved the nightlife.
Holding the microphone with practiced confidence, a cock unlike her other one, she strutted into the spotlights, and sang to her adoring fans here at the 2X, myself included. At the start of the set she told us that holding the microphone put her in control, let her truly become whom she wanted and the person we adored.
Her green silk gown hugged her breasts and hips, tight enough to highlight her curves, but not so much so. Diamonds glittered on her fingers, about her graceful neck, from her ears. Wavy auburn hair hid half her face, playing peek-a-boo as she moved, so it seemed she only winked her baby blues at whichever lucky bastard chanced to catch her full gaze. She blessed us, sharing this illusion crafted of gesture, song and bravado.
Some knew the truths she guarded. Others came to 2X, watched and found themselves entranced, and spent the rest of their night asking, “What’s under it all?” It was the common thread binding their whispers together when Witherworth left the stage, each utterance forming currents beneath the wave of applause and exuberant howls of appreciation.
They wanted to know, because she was truly beautiful and feathers covered her body from head to toe.
“He must spend hours applying them.”
Hopkins offered this observation, sipping his beer as we leaned back against the bar and watched the scrum by the stage.
“It’s all real, Jack,” I said, signaling the bartender for refills. “I’ve seen Witherworth before they start the sets. Impossible to miss someone with that hair and eyes.”
We were drinking Reality Czecks. My choice, since I was buying, and Hopkins had resisted my previous invitations to come to 2X. He was a short guy, worked as a dentist out of Ingleside, and considered himself too mainstream now to hit drag bars in the Castro. We roomed together briefly at UC San Francisco, and he hadn’t changed much since then. His black hair was clipped tight to his temples (mostly to hide premature graying, as he was only in his mid-thirties), and he wore a blue button-down Oxford and tan khakis because he made it a point to dress well whenever he went out on the town rather than supporting any particular style other than looking put together. We’d remained friends after hot sex turned into genuine intimacy, but neither of us wanted to settle down.
“I did like his hair and eyes,” Hopkins said.
“Daniel, you’ve brought me to drag bar,” Hopkins said, gesturing at the other patrons beside us and at the tables surrounding the stage. His face appeared pale under the pulsing yellow neon cast by the signs above the bar. One was a stylized version of the bar’s name — 2X — drawn so the numeral resembles an engorged penis, and it flashed and shifted position, tilting toward the X without any subtlety. “If this Witherworth isn’t a drag queen,” he continued, “then I’ve led a more sheltered life than I believed.”
“You have.” I paid for our beers, and shepherded Jack toward backstage. “The world offers wonders and … well, that’s why we’re not an old married couple yet. I’m fortunate enough to know Witherworth. She shares her secrets with adventurous, open-minded fellows. I’ve talked about you with her, and she says I can share her with you.”
“I don’t know what to say, Daniel.”
“Don’t say anything, Jack. Just trust me.”
The immediate backstage was brightly illuminated, and stagehands and other performers moved about with the efficiency of seasoned production. There weren’t any as esoteric as Witherworth among the latter. One stagehand had a protuberant chin and deep-set eyes under a heavy brow, though, so his face appeared sunken within a half-moon, and a second with a reddish tint to his skin wore his head shaved except for thick, ropy dreads dyed in alternating rings of red and white.
Jack didn’t notice as I pushed him past them; backstage was a new world for him, everything unfamiliar and unexpected, as it had been the first time I visited Witherworth in her basement dressing room. Peloquin was the one who escorted me downstairs that night, muttering about naturals and his hunger. I understood his complaints better now since seeing Witherworth, but his old home was unmade and it wasn’t safe for him and the others with Witherworth to act any longer as a breed apart.
At the bottom of the stairs, I took Jack through a heavy steel door. A dark corridor ran straight on the other side. Witherworth’s dressing room was at the end. The door was open, and a flickering light from within let us make our way past several closed doors.
Jack stopped short of the entrance, turned and confronted me. “What’s with all the mystery, Daniel?”
His face looked jaundiced illuminated by Witherworth’s light after the 2X neon upstairs.
“When you know someone well enough, good days seem like good years, good years like forever,” I said. “I knew you would appreciate Witherworth.”
Jack frowned, then laughed. He put a hand on the back of my neck, pulled me closer, and touched his forehead to mine. “You were always a romantic, Daniel,” he said. “Alright, take me into your lion’s den.”
From within the dressing room, the light’s pulses quickened, and Witherworth called for us to enter. “Yes, Daniel, come inside and bring your friend with you. I’ve another set tonight, and I got to boogie.”
“Yes, Witherworth,” I said, and ushered Jack inside.
When he saw her standing before the dresser, naked but for her feathers, he froze in place, and then dropped his beer. The glass shattered against the tile, splashing the lager across his khakis.
Witherworth greeted me in the same manner when Peloquin brought me down. “I wanted to gauge your will and desire, Daniel,” she explained afterward. “This isn’t for everyone.”
Her stance was statuesque. Except for her Titian mane, still hiding one half of her face and her right breast, it was possible to believe she was an iridescent sculpture where the artist who created her meticulously glued thousands upon thousands of feathers to her form. She vaguely reminded me of a character from the X-Men movies, Mystique by name, but where Rebecca Romijn and Jennifer Lawrence were symbolic of mainstream society’s beauty ideals Witherworth wasn’t computer-generated. Heat radiated from her body and only moments passed before your heart synchronized with this rhythm. Unborn babies in their mother’s womb must feel similarly; held close, bound by their umbilical and dependent, but wrapped in warmth and protected, maintained.
This intensity radiated outward from her groin where a dark cock hung, devoid of any feathers, the flesh a bright polished onyx. The light in the dressing room emanated from this organ, which was larger than any I’d seen before in my life.
Witherworth shifted her skin, and her feathers slipped under the surface, revealing a Caucasian woman in her forties. Her hair remained the same, and her eyes still held their bright blue color that reminded me how a cool ocean breeze felt on a cloudless spring day. The only unchanged aspect was the cock, held in place by a series of sweat-stained leather straps previously hidden beneath her former plumage.
The pulsing light emanating from within soothed and drew our gazes. I heard a voice, whispering between the flashes, repeating the same two words: unmade, remade; unmade, remade; unmade, remade. Jack only heard what I had heard before I changed: a name.
“I don’t … I don’t understand,” Jack said. “Who is Baphomet?”
“This is Baphomet,” Witherworth replied, stroking the cock, her hand trembling. “A part of him, at least, one of many pieces carried away from beneath Midian.”
Visions filled our thoughts: of Witherworth communing with Baphomet in a dark chamber beneath a cemetery, where pieces of his body float in a large fire; of others like her given different pieces of Baphomet to spirit away, to guard and protect until their sanctuary was remade by someone named Cabal.
Witherworth stepped forward. Jack swayed, but he can’t retreat, any more than I could. Baphomet’s cock held our attention. “We attendants, we grow tired of waiting,” Witherworth said, continuing to stroke the cock until it hardened. “So we breed, and night by night, with each success, our numbers swell.”
I gently pushed Jack down to the tile, making certain his knees avoided the shards of broken glass. Peloquin was rougher with me when I did this, but I knew Jack, loved him.
I bent over, whispered in his ear. “It only hurts a moment.”
Jack didn’t reply. His gaze remained fixed on Witherworth and the attention she paid to Baphomet’s cock.
“It is better to add to our numbers,” Witherworth said, taking another languorous stride forward, performing here as much as she did onstage. “To add to ours–and subtract from yours.”
I dropped my mouth to the side of Jack’s neck, embraced my newfound Breed, and tore open his throat. His body jerked, and blood gushed from the wound as the cock ejaculated, baptizing him.
* Author’s note: This is a piece of fiction inspired by characters from Clive Barker’s Cabal. This is not published for sale, resale. Copyright, Steve Nagy, 2014.