Ross was an internationally renowned nature photographer and world traveler. Well into his 70’s, he was a strikingly handsome man with thick silver curly hair that cascaded into a long mane, framing his deeply tanned and weathered face. Flecks of crystal blue and green danced in his eyes. It was as though all of the oceans and seas he’d ever laid his sights upon had come to rest there in miniature. Quite fit and strong, he would sometimes walk with a cane, due to an old mountaineering injury during which he had suffered toe loss from frostbite. He considered it a war wound, and was more than delighted to retell the climbing accident to anyone who inquired.
Semi-retired, he now headed up a men’s club where they discussed adventures, shared photos and stories alongside aged whiskey, bourbon, and fine cigars. The annual retreat was at the Chateau Marivelle, an old ski lodge in Northern Montana. Men only. Countless tales of wild adventure were told between those walls, and Ross, being the most prolific storyteller, usually sat holding court, in the center of a captivated group.
It was during a highly anticipated seminar with a focus on unique experiences, that he shared the tale of a magical island. The group had been tolerating 2 hours of banal mishaps told by a novice traveler, when Ross cleared his throat and gently interrupted. He suggested they refill their glasses, and get comfortable, because he was about to divulge a secret that he had never shared with a single soul.
It happened during a trip to a very remote set of islands, while researching proprietary herbs alongside a local medicine guide. One swelteringly hot morning, Ross sat on the beach wearing his customary khaki shorts and tan t-shirt. A cracked straw brim hat was tugged low over his eyes, and a faded blue bandana wrapped around his neck. He was enjoying the sensation of warm ocean waves gently lapping at his toes, while savoring a warm bottle of beer he had brought along for a moment just like this. His calm was interrupted by two men who rushed over and sat down on either side of him. One man started to draw female figures in the sand. The other stood up, pointing wildly out to the sea, gesturing and smiling while making thrusting motions with his narrow hips. Ross laughed as the men gently tugged him to stand up, and pushed him towards a few small fishing boats tethered in the shallow waters. They motioned for him to get into the faded red carved wooden vessel. He carefully stepped in, and sat on the back bench. The men sat in front of him, yelling at each other as they fought over the oars. The heavier of the two won the battle, and began to row them out to sea. The other man moved to sit next to him on the bench. He opened a bag, and offered Ross something to smoke. As he felt a haze come over his mind, he was offered fresh local fruit, and coconut water. The hot sun began to beat down on them, and the man pulled up a canopy of thatched palms to shield them from the heat. Soon they were sailing slowly over calm waters, with the breeze gently passing over them as they lounged under the shade. Ross leaned back onto a soft cloth and dozed off.
A hand gently nudged his shoulder, and he cracked his eyes open. The sun was setting, and he had no idea where he was. The gentle rocking of the boat tempted him to fall back asleep, but the two men began yelling at each another again, jarring him awake. They were on the shore of a small inlet. The pink sand beach shimmered and sparkled in the setting sun. Tall palm trees rustled above in the tropical breeze. The men in the boat laughed at him, pulled off his hat, and poured some fresh coconut water over his head. They were excited and energized. One of them stood up on the bow, massaging his chest and making funny calls. The other had jumped out and was doing exercises on the beach as he yelled into the sky.
Then it began. Standing next to one another, the men started whistling and singing out in unison. Ross thought it was a bird call of some sort. He looked around, but saw nothing unusual. They continued their duet. Within a few minutes, he heard some rustling in the bushes under the palms. The sound of footsteps swiftly running on brush, was coming closer and closer. They were soft footsteps. As the footsteps approached, he first heard it. The joyous sound of female laughter. Momentarily, from behind a palm trunk, peeked a beautiful woman with long flowing hair. Her skin glowed, and her eyes shone like diamonds. She smiled, as her eyes met his, and Ross felt delirious with joy.
She ran out, wearing only a simple shift like dress, and jumped up to embrace one of the men. Suddenly a group of 8 or 9 women rushed out, swarming around all three of them. Ross shook with fear and wonder. More women appeared. At this point he couldn’t count how many. All types of women. Slim, heavy, tall, short, from youthful to ancient. There were blondes, brunettes, grey haired ladies and even some bald ones. They grabbed at the men, pulling at them and ripping their clothes off. Ross was tackled by two very large women, and fell to the ground as the sun set, overcome by the sounds, scents and sights.
It was his extreme thirst that woke him. Cracking his eyes open, he was blinded by the hot sun searing his face. His throat was parched. This time he welcomed the coconut water tossed over his head, and squinted his eyes to see his two friends as they headed slowly towards the small boat. He realized he was naked, and quickly gathered his various pieces of clothing that lay strewn about. He felt sore and noticed scratches on his torso, and bite marks on his arms and chest. He was exhausted, but relaxed. The men struggled to pull him aboard. He felt weak. They offered him some fruit. Sailing back to the mainland, they all remained silent. It only took 20 minutes, the boat was tethered to a wooden post and the two men smiled at him with a knowing look. Ross smiled back, uncertain as to what had happened. Whatever it was, he wanted it to happen again. And it would. Once a year, when he visited that locale for his herbal studies, the same two men would take him on a side trip to the secret isle of women. He would never quite remember the events in detail, but he could never forget either.
Ross had been telling the story with his eyes closed, reminiscing in depth. When it ended, all of the listeners began interrupting at once with questions. They wanted to know what the women did to the men, who bit him, details, they demanded more details! They wondered what each woman looked like, and how many there were. Ross could only say that it was the most wonderful experience of his life, and for as long as he lived, he would go back every year to be offered up to the “isle of women”. The captivated audience clamored to inquire if they could go with him, but he insisted that it was strictly off-limits and a highly dangerous place for anyone to visit except for him. They sighed and bantered about the concept of being taken over by a group of women, and even the most macho of the group confessed that he absolutely loved the idea.
Ross laughed as he poured himself another bourbon. He leaned back in the large leather lounge chair, raising his glass. “To Women. To the Isle of Women.” All of the men raised their glasses with gusto, laughing heartily and sighing with longing. The final storyteller was another seasoned traveler who had been abducted in Morocco by a goat herdsman and held for ransom. It paled in comparison to Ross’s island adventure, and the men began to excuse themselves to go to their rooms for the night.