"72 hours of immersion" (or, "Happy First-of-winter festival!")

by pacifist91w

This story will feature female, male, and mixed-sex (futanari, hermaphrodite, or whatever term fits for you) as well as homosexual, pansexual, and heterosexual characters. Please don't read the story if that will offend you.

Part One: Particular place and time

oOOOo

If you're going near the Arctic Circle in winter, you prepare for days with almost no sunlight, for bitter cold, and for snow. I was ready for all three. As an anthropologist who focuses on languages, I'd meant for years to visit Iceland again. I was 31 when a tragedy produced my opportunity. My fiance of two years had been killed in a car crash (texting and driving-how many times had I told him to quit that?) in the late fall. I was depressed and I really wanted to leave North Carolina for a while and think about something besides my sorrows. I had been to Reykjavik a few years earlier. Now that my holiday was unexpectedly free, I impulsively bought a ticket back there. Once there, I traveled into the countryside, talking to herders, fishers, and farmers, listening for local talk, until I heard a rumor.

Icelandic is a difficult language to learn. There was a remote village, said to have a dialect that added another degree of difficulty, since it was very isolated from the rest of the island. "But I know no one who has been there," said the red-cheeked, grey-eyed woman who gave me a good tip. She continued loading sacks of feed for her flock of goats into her truck. "Maybe, there are no safe roads to get there-nor safe waterways, what with the ice this time of year. Better wait for summer to look for it, I should think. Truly, even it could not exist; maybe, it is a ghost town."

I went back to Reykjavik with a mission. It took a while, but I found a tour manager who had a helicopter and said he would get me to the remote town. I was a bit surprised when he admitted that he also didn't know anyone who had been there. "People talk of the place sometimes," he said lightly. "It can't be too tough to find." I suspected his bluster came partly from the large charter fee I was willing to pay him. This was not tourist season; money was tight for someone who shows visitors the sights for a living.

We took off to search for the village in the late morning of the next day.

oOOOo

I was stranded, for at least a day or two.

The village had taken longer to find than my pilot had expected. When we spotted it, he was low on fuel. As we approached the largest building-probably the town hall, we guessed-the pilot told me that he would have to fly to Kjernhehlven, about 30 km away, and land there. Then he would rent a truck and go to the nearest place that had helicopter fuel. That was Olq, and it was another 95 km away, along roads that could be quite treacherous. Landing at Olq was out of the question; the chopper would run out of gas much sooner than that. Once the pilot got the fuel, he'd return to Kjernhehlven, gas up the chopper, and call me to set up a pick-up time. I was less than pleased with how things were going, but I put on a brave face and told him to be safe. He and I unloaded my two suitcases and I waved as he flew off.

As it turned out, the large building wasn't the town hall. This building was three stories tall and very long (more than 300 m) and it housed several enterprises. The town's largest restaurant/tavern, a sauna and spa, the town's only dental office, the lending library, and a general supplies store were all tenants.

The library seemed as good a place to begin as any. I went inside and began to ask questions. Luckily for me, the librarian spoke almost like a native of Reykjavik. I introduced myself as Xi-Lin; she introduced herself as Harkje.

To the best of Harkje's knowledge, the town had six or seven thousand residents. There was no hotel, but a few families put up visitors for small fees (just like towns in Albania and Croatia, and several other small European communities I'd been to.) Visitors were rare. This was primarily a fishing village, with some herders and a few people who made crafts, cheese, mead, and other products as cottage-industry artisans.

"You speak with almost no accent," I said after several minutes of conversation.

The librarian's pale cheeks colored with embarrassment. "I thought you might be a stranger when you came in. As soon as you greeted me, I was sure. Maybe you wouldn't understand me otherwise, I thought. You see, five years of my schooling were in Olq; they do not speak exactly as we do."

"I'm a linguistic expert," I told her. "I came here to hear your dialect. Would you mind talking to me as you would to anyone else?"

She looked at me dubiously, but began to say something else. After a few seconds, I laughed and raised both my hands for her to stop.

"I am afraid you are right; I understood your verbs and a couple of nouns, but little else."

She laughed with me. "I said that since there are few travelers who visit, we have no taxi service. We do have a place where they would rent you an automobile. If you are looking for peace and quiet, maybe you should inquire at Ms. Garrikoet's home. She will likely provide you a place to sleep, and a hot breakfast."

"You are so helpful!" I said. Harkje smiled politely. "Let me ask you: do most of the townspeople speak common Icelandic as well as you do?"

"Maybe not," she answered, shaking her head. "Not too many have ever been more than 15 km from the town, you see."

"Oh, well! In that case, may I ask you to accompany me around the village tonight-at least to dinner and to this Ms. Garrikoet's place?"

Her shoulders grew tense. "Not past midnight?" she asked. Her fingers drummed on the countertop while she waited for my reply.

"Not past midnight," I said. "Why do you ask?"

Her lips drew tight across her teeth. "Maybe you don't know? How could you not? A visitor arrives today of all days; is this by accident?"

"I did not plan my trip here," I said, too conscious of my understatement. "Does something happen today, after midnight?"

"..." She had been about to say something-I think-but the front door opened again, bringing a rush of cold air. A tall honey-blonde-haired woman stepped into the small front room of the library.

I should mention here that it was the 20th of December. There was more than 60 cm of snow on the ground, with much more in store for the winter season. The temperature outdoors was about 5 degrees below freezing (23 degrees Fahrenheit) in the rays of the weak afternoon sun. At night, the temperature would fall by three or four more degrees. I was dressed in layers: thick leggings, cold-weather walking boots, long skirt, cotton undershirt, wool sweater, stocking cap, full-length coat with liner, thin gloves-and I had thick mittens in my pocket, ready to be used. I could see that Harkje was wearing long pants tucked into lined boots, a thin turtleneck jersey, and a knit vest. I would have called her outfit sensible. I was sure she had her hat, coat, and gloves nearby.

The woman who'd just entered was wearing thick boots that looked like the librarian's, wool socks that stuck up just over the boots, and a shiny silver slingshot swimsuit that would have been skimpy in Rio de Janeiro!

The newcomer looked at me closely for a moment. Then she turned away and spoke to my new acquaintance, the librarian. I caught just a few words in their odd, clipped dialect.

Harkje answered the tall blonde while I simply stood aside and kept quiet, watching their gestures and demeanors to add to my understanding of their speech. After a minute, the severely under-clad woman turned, nodded to me with a welcoming smile, and shoved her way back through the heavy door.

"Has that woman just come from the sauna or is she going there?" I asked.

"No, she is accustoming herself to the chill," said the librarian. She searched my face, as if looking for the truth. "Fehherok will take part in the festival that begins tonight. I believed you must know about the First-of-Winter Festival or you would not have appeared now."

"Oh, a festival for the shortest day of the year. Of course: this far North, you would have to have one," I said. Why was Harkje worked up? Solstice celebrations are common; nearly every culture on Earth has them, or had them recently.

"Ours is different!" Harkje said forcefully. Her fingers began to drum again. "If you do not know of it, maybe you would be upset-"

This time, when the door opened, three people came in: a woman and two men. They were dressed for the elements. Apparently, not everyone was worried about this festival. I might be upset? She meant well, but Harkje was nowhere near as well-traveled as I am.

The trio knew Harkje; they got deep into conversation with her. Not wanting to interrupt, I sauntered back toward the books, particularly the section that seemed to deal with local interest. To my relief, the books were written in common Icelandic. I skimmed through a few.

Realizing that I was hungry, I put away the book I was looking at. The windows showed the swift approach of night; the sky was dark purple and the street lights were shining. The very short winter day was almost over.

I didn't have to be proficient in the dialect to get a bite at the restaurant just a few dozen meters away. I love learning language by immersion and taverns are good places for that. With a wave to Harkje, I left the library. She looked concerned and for some reason, her look stayed in my mind for a while.

oOOOo

Things had gone well! I'd had my meal. I'd listened to enough conversation to get some of the commonly-used expressions. I'd met Ms. Garrikoet and booked myself a room in her nice cozy house. (Geothermal heat is so nice!) I'd found a couple of really interesting books in Ms. Garrikoet's living room.

There was a desk and a pretty comfortable chair in my room. I sat there, making notes on my laptop, a mug of hot apple cider at my elbow. Had anyone studied this village's form of Icelandic before? How exciting would it be if I was the first! Some Welsh influence was present...

I heard footsteps in the hallway. Then there was an insistent knock. Ms. Garrikoet must have come to invite me to the living room to sing a carol or two, I guessed.

No, it was Harkje. And the time was after 2330; shit, it had gotten late. "I'm sorry, I forgot-"

She grabbed my elbow and pushed me into the room, cutting off my apology. "-Have you learned about our festival?" she demanded.

"No, why?" I said, but she was pulling me to the window.

The street lamps weren't the only light sources. There were bright decorations of red, gold, and silver lining the streets. There were people, too; lots of people were milling around; many more people than I'd seen before. Were they preparing for a parade?

Harkje pointed.

Was that person naked? I inhaled sharply. There was no doubt. There was another, and another-a lot of the people on the streets seemed to be wearing only boots, scarves, and hats.

I whirled to find Harkje staring at me. "I tried to tell you. This night begins three days of sex." I started to talk, but she pressed on. "Quiet, I speak now! This custom is ancient. All who wish to take part wear no clothing above their knees or below their nipples. They bear the cold; consequently, they earn rights of request. No reasonable request is refused. Doors are open to them. They must have sex outside, in the cold, unless partners say they can stay inside.

"And maybe, your black hair gets attention. Maybe your light brown eyes get attention. People watched you today."

By now, my mouth was hanging open.

Harkje took my hand. "You have a way to leave town, quick? Time is short!"

"I thought I would rent a car tomorrow," I said, feeling light-headed. "But I'm an American-I don't have to join, do I?"

Harkje steered me toward the door. "No one refuses!" she said. "I want to help you, Xi-Lin. Come and hide!"

Hiding didn't look possible to me, but I wasn't a local. Harkje led me silently out of my room and down the dark back stairway. We slipped out the door and into the snowy night. Harkje crept behind a close-set row of snow-laden firs. Then she turned to face me and tucked my shoulder-length black hair under my hat. She put her spare scarf across my face, so only my eyes were visible. "Act calm," she whispered.

We got to a narrow street that ran parallel to the well-lit main road. We walked-at a decent pace, but not fast-toward a long, many-winged building. As we got closer, I could see the sign in front of it. It was the secondary school. Wouldn't walking in that direction draw attention to us? I didn't dare turn to look to see if anyone was looking.

We turned a corner of the building. Harkje said, "Keep up!" She ran and I followed her, toward a side door. The sidewalk had been cleared and no snow was falling, but there was drifting snow blowing from roofs and trees all around us. Would our footprints show? Would the snow cover them quickly?

"This key is a secret copy. No one knows I have it," Harkje said. In another second, we were inside the temporarily deserted building. We leaned against the wall, catching our breath.

I grinned at the resourceful woman. Harkje smiled uncertainly back at me. "Safe?" I asked.

"Too soon to say," she said. "People noticed you. Some will look for you, ask about you. For now, safe, yes."

She led the way up a wide set of stairs, to a broad window more than five meters above the ground outside. Midnight had struck. We were a block away from the nearest action, but I could see the naked people touching prospective partners, beginning to pair up with lovers. Some weren't pairing, though; there were groups of three, four, and more scattered around. I could see almost no detail because of the distance, but the actions were unmistakable. Very few naked people were with other naked people. Most of those who'd been claimed were clothed, except for small areas where pants were lowered, skirts and shirts were raised. I noticed naked individuals entering buildings. Many of them immediately reappeared, clothed people in tow.

"Now I understand why Fehherok was so underdressed. Odd festival!" I said dryly.

Harkje put a sympathetic hand on my shoulder. "Now, you know some of the village's secrets. Not all...not all."

I stood at the window, not really focusing. My mind was in a whirl and I knew it. I hadn't processed most of this situation. Harkje moved from my side. I heard her footfalls as she moved toward a corner of the room.

Questions began to pop into my head. I didn't want to ask a lot of them. So I withdrew from the window quietly, one short, backward step at a time. I've spent enough time in faculty offices to know the sound of an office chair rolling across a carpeted floor when I hear it. My companion thoughtfully put the chair near me. We sat together in silence for a while.

At last, I felt calm enough to ask at least a few questions. "How long should we wait?" I began.

"I do not know." We sat in shadow, but I could tell that she was blushing again. "I did not ask: do you want to hide?"

That caught me by surprise. I didn't know anyone in this town. Sex with a total stranger or total strangers in the freezing cold, with any number of onlookers, and I would be expected to gratify their desires whether I wanted to or not-to say nothing of the emotional consequences, there was the risk of disease, pregnancy-hell, if there were any sadists, there would even be the risk of getting beaten to death. "Thank you. Yes, I wanted to hide. Especially if any of them like pain."

Harkje shook her head, and sounded less grim. "That is no worry at least! No violence is allowed." That was a relief. "So if you want to hide, it is best to hide until the First-of-winter holiday is over."

"We can't," I said. "My things are at Ms. Garrikoet's house; we have no-"

"-I can bring supplies," the librarian offered.

"Of course not! What about you?"

"I have experienced the festival many times. It is normal for me."

I wanted to respond to that. Where would I even start, though? I was fighting back an urge to scream at the sheer bizarreness of the situation.

With a serious look in her eye, Harkje said, "I must go anyway. People know we talked. Maybe if I appear, they will think you are not with me."

Arguing would be pointless. "Thank you!" I said. I threw my arms around her waist for a brief hug. She returned it briefly. Then she turned and left the room.

I watched from the dark window, waiting for Harkje to emerge. Still in turmoil, my mind replayed that hug. I could easily see that Harkje was a bit taller than I am, but when we were that close, the size difference was clear. Her shoulders and hips were wider than average and she was at least 173 cm (5' 8") tall. Her arms had felt strong, too. I was glad she was on my side.

It wasn't easy to spot her in the dark, but she came into view soon. From my perch, I saw her cleverly staying close to buildings, tall shrubs, whatever would provide cover. She deliberately stepped out of concealment when she got to the corner of a large house. To anyone who hadn't been watching her, she would have looked as though she'd just left that house; and that house looked as though there was a large party going on. Smart!

But there was a man, naked except for his boots-too far away for detail, but obviously a man-who'd spotted her and beckoned her toward him.

My stomach tightened with guilt. I didn't want to watch, but I sort of had to.

Harkje met the man in a few long strides. Basically, her back was to me, but I could tell that she unzipped her coat. She dropped to her knees in front of the man. From his motions, I gathered that he pulled up her sweater. She leaned forward and began to tit-fuck him. I don't know how long it took, but it seemed soon after that the naked guy put his hands on her shoulders. Her posture changed; she sank lower onto her knees. I didn't have to see to know that he'd put his cock in her mouth and was getting her to finish him that way. Part of my brain told me that she did this every year, but most of me felt like a heartless bitch. I saw the guy put his hands in her flaxen hair. He was blowing his load right in her mouth.

Finally, he backed away from her. She straightened up. The two of them hugged each other for a few long seconds. (That was a little comforting.) Harkje straightened her clothes as she headed toward the center of the village.

I managed to turn from the window; I didn't want to see her get used again. I took a deep breath. She would be back soon.

I decided to explore the building while I waited. There wasn't much else to do and it would be helpful to know where the nearest bathroom was.

After locating the bathroom and using it, I slowly walked through the halls, memorizing where things were. There were snack and beverage vending machines near the cafeteria; that was good luck. Junk food was preferable to nothing. There was a computer lab in the East wing...but the network was sure to have password protection, so that wouldn't be so useful. There were showers in the locker rooms; they were in the South wing.

I had a decent map of the library in my head about an hour later. I was tired.

Harkje hadn't come back. Worriedly, I returned to the second floor, where we'd separated. I sat in the biggest, most comfortable chair and waited for her. My eyes strayed to the window again.

There were a couple of groups of people fucking not too far away. One of the groups was a naked blonde woman with two clothed men; she was riding one of them cowgirl-style while she rubbed and sucked the other. The other group appeared to be a naked girl with short hair and large breasts and a clothed girl with longer hair. The naked girl must have been wearing a strap-on, because she was slamming her hips into the other girl as though she was giving it to her doggy-style. I was a little turned-on and a little disturbed. I was kind of glad that all this sex was happening far enough away that I couldn't see anything explicit. I turned away from the scene after a few minutes of absent-minded observation.

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