The Moon God Takes – Robert Leslie Bellem (1936)

sascoverThis is the third story I’ve read by Bellem, and I’ve enjoyed all of them.  Even though the three are each very different, this one stands apart. Blood for the Vampire Dead was just as matter-of-fact as the title suggests.  The Shanghai Jester had the same stripped-down prose but with a noirish detective flavor to it.  The Moon God Takes is more romantic and has literary pretensions that the others don’t even hint at.  I was caught off-guard, but it hooked me.  The ending regresses to the mean, but it is still fun.

John Salvar is watching a woman dancing naked in the moonlight before a large grey rock. She reminds him of his late girlfriend Helen.  “Hungry he was for the lovely dancing girl . . . Strange, weird unearthly was the girl’s dance.”  If there is a deleted scene of Yoda at a titty-cantina, this would be his dialogue.

Salvar had lived in the cottage on the cliff for a year and had never noticed the big rock. Who is the woman who seems to him like a Moon-Goddess?  And not just when she has her back to him.

He watches her dancing naked before the stone for an hour before approaching her with some singles. He asks her name and she replies, “My name?  I have no name.  I dance in the moonlight. I belong to the Moon-God.”  Salvar says he is a sculptor.  She says she wishes she were a sculptor so she could carve the large stone to look like the Moon-God.

Salvar offers to sculpt the stone into the Moon-God for her if she will come live with him in his cottage.  Since Salvar has never seen the Moon-God, the girl directs his sculpting. Salvar begins chipping away the stone, but discovers it feels like he is carving flesh.  He is repulsed, but the girl strips naked and threatens to leave, so he continues.

Days later, when he finishes the sculpture, he steps back.  “My God!  It’s foul!  It’s monstrous!  It’s blasphemy!”   It sounds like a modern art masterpiece, but Salvar tries to destroy it.  The girl stops him.  When she tells him that the Moon-God is actually Satan, “maggots of horror ate into his heart.”  She strips naked again and he is suddenly cool with the devil-worshipping.  That’s her answer to everything — her excellent, excellent answer.

At midnight, Salvar awakens to see the girl in the scaly arms of the Moon-God.  She will be his mate unless Salvar confesses that he killed Helen five years earlier.  He agrees, writes a confession and flings himself off the cliff to save the girl.

The twist is that the girl is actually Helen’s sister.  She created this elaborate ruse so that Salvar would confess his crime and finally face punishment for murdering her sister. Her husband Ted was a good sport by pretending to be the Moon-God.  Also by allowing his wife to dance naked in the moonlight for hours, to strip naked repeatedly, and to bang Salvar. [1]

What baffles me is why the stone felt like flesh as he carved it.  Was it just his imagination?  Was he flashing back to carving Helen up like a roast when he disposed of the body?

Another fun story in this collection.


  • [1] There is a similar scenario in Bellem’s Blood for the Vampire Dead where a man is pretty forgiving of his wife being abducted, stripped naked and used as bait.
  • First published in December 1936.
  • Also that month:  Mary Tyler Moore born.
  • Actually, in some alternate R-rated universe, this would have been a good role for MTM.

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