WITNESS OF GOR
(Volume twenty-six in the Chronicles of Counter-Earth)
by John Norman
I looked about. No one was looking.
I crossed the perimeter of small, sharpened stones, a foot or so deep, about ten feet wide, which lined the interior wall, of the garden. This hurt my feet, which were small, and soft, and bare. Even the soles of our feet must be soft, and this is seen to, by creams and lotions, and the nature of the surfaces upon which we are permitted to walk, such things.
It was during the heat of the day.
The bangles on my left ankle made a tiny sound, and I stopped, looking about. I was frightened. But no one saw. How pleased I was that I had not been belled! Normally it is a new girl, or even a free woman, who is belled. To be sure, we may be belled at any time, and, naturally, if it is wished, kept that way. But usually on is belled, if at all, in serving, or in the dance. To be sure, it is sometimes required of us in the furs. Bells have many purposes, as might be supposed. Only one of these is security, making it easy, for example, to detect the presence, the movements, of a girl. This is particularly useful at night. One of the reasons, too, why new girls, and sometimes free women, may be belled is that they may begin to understand what they are, or are likely to become. This is not hard to understand when one has bells locked on one’s limbs. What sort of girl or woman would be belled? Later, of course, bells are unnecessary for such a purpose. Later, obviously, there will be no doubt as to what one is, either in the minds of others or in one’s own mind.
I crept to the wall and put my fingers to the smooth, marbled surface. I looked upward. The wall was some forty feet high. There are trees in the garden, of course, but they are not placed in proximity to the wall. One could not use them, thus, even if they were tall enough, to obtain access to its height. The wall, I had been told, was some ten feet in thickness. I did not know, considering the fashion in which I had been brought here, but presumably only the interior side was marbled. I had been told that the foundation of the wall extended several feet below the surface of the ground. The height of the wall, now that I backed from it, I could see was surmounted by incurved blades. I shuddered. Presumably some similar arrangement, perhaps, outcurved blades, characterized its exterior side.
I moved the armlet on my left arm a bit higher on my arm. It was warm to the touch. Many of the others were resting. I looked about. I did not want anyone to see me near the wall. We were not to approach the wall. The sun was reflecting against the wall. The glare hurt my eyes. We were forbidden to cross the perimeter of the sharpened stones.
I wore a brief wisp of yellow silk, fastened at the left shoulder, my only garment. Two bracelets were on my right wrist. I did not mind the silk. Indeed, I was grateful for it. It had only been permitted to me a few days ago. Too, of course, as I have indicated, the weather was warm. I brushed back my hair. I have brown hair, and brown eyes. My hair was now long. It was now below the small of my back. This is not untypical. Many of the others had hair even longer.
I looked again, at the wall, so smooth and sheer. It had a lovely pattern in its marbling, but this pattern, though the glare of the sun, could not be seen to its advantage. I looked up, again, at the lofty, formidable height of the wall. The wall seemed very smooth. Surely no purchase could be gained there. And the wall was very high. And there were the knives at its summit.
Behind me, in the interior of the garden, I could hear the soft splashing of the fountain. It was set among the trees, and its spill fed into the pool.
I looked again at the wall.
I heard voices, coming from the house. As swiftly as I could, wincing, hurting myself on the stones, I withdrew from the wall. It was my intention to circle about, though the shrubbery, and the tiny, lovely trees of the garden, to the vicinity of the fountain.
It is difficult to comprehend such realities.
I had screamed, of course, but I had had no assurance that I would be heard.
Indeed, I suspected that I would not be heard, or, if heard, that I would be merely ignored. I suspected, immediately, that my own will, my own feelings, and desires, were no longer of importance, at least to others. And even more profoundly, more frighteningly, I suddenly suspected that I myself, objectively, had now become unimportant. I realized that I might have value, of course, in some sense of other, for I found myself, and in a certain fashion, in this place, but this is not the same sort of thing as being important. I was no longer important. That is a strange feeling. It is not, of course, and I want you to understand this, that I had even been important in any of the usual senses of “important,” such as being powerful, or rich, or well-known. That is not it at all. No, it was rather in another sense of “important” that I suspected or, I think, better, realized, that I was no longer important. I had now become unimportant, rather as a flower is unimportant, or a dog.
It is difficult to comprehend such realities, the darkness, the collar, the chains.
I had screamed, of course, but almost immediately, I stopped, more fearing that I might be heard, then not heard.
I crouched there, shuddering. I tried to collect my wits.
My neck hurt, for I had jerked, frightened, against the collar, turning it, abrasively, on my neck.
I do not think that I had realized fully, in the first instant, or so, though I must have been aware of it on some level, that it was on me. Perhaps I had, in that first instant, refused to admit the recognition to my full consciousness, or had immediately forced it from my consciousness. Perhaps I had simply put it from my mind, rejecting the very possibility, refusing to believe anything so improbably. And in consequence I had hurt myself, unnecessarily, foolishly.
I felt it, in the darkness. It fitted closely, and was heavy. I could not begin to slip it. A ring was attached to it, and a chain was attached to this ring, running, as I discovered, to another ring, fastened to a plate, apparently bolted into the wall.
My wrists were also confined. I wore metal cuffs, joined by some inches of chain. My ankles, by metal anklets, linked by a bit of chain, were similarly secured.
I crouched in the darkness, terrified.
I felt the collar again. It was closed by means of a heavy lock, part of the collar itself. It would thus, presumably, respond to a key. The cuffs and anklets, on the other hand, were quite different. They had apparently been simply closed about my limbs, closed by some considerable force, perhaps that of a machine, or even, perhaps unthinkably primitive though it might seem, by the blows of a hammer on an anvil. They were of flat heavy strap like metal. They had no hinges. Perhaps they had begun as partly opened circles into which my limbs had been thrust, circles which had then been, by some means, closed about my limbs, confining them. They did not have hinges. There was no sign of a place for the insertion of a key. They clasped me well. It would be impossible to remove them without tools. I could thus be freed from the collar, and the wall, quite simply by means of the key. I could not be rid so simply, of course, of my other bonds. This suggested to me that I might be, in the near future, removed from this place, but that no similar indulgence might be expected with respect to my other bonds. I wondered who held the key to my collar. I suspected that it might be merely one of many keys, or, perhaps, a key to many similar locks. It would doubtless be held by a subordinate, or agent. The key to a collar such as mine, I suspected, would not be likely to be held personally by anyone of importance. The will by the rule of which, by the decision of which, I, and perhaps others, might be confined would doubtless be remote from the instrumentalities by means of which the dictates of that will be enacted. As far as I knew I did not have any enemies, and I did not believe that I had ever, really, truly offended anyone. I suspected, accordingly, that what had happened to me was in its nature not personal, at all, but was, rather, objective and, in its way, perhaps quite impersonal. Accordingly, although I did not doubt that I was here because of something about me, perhaps because of some properties of other, and thusly, doubtlessly, for some reason, I did not think that the matter really had anything to do with me in a truly personal sense. I suspected it had to do rather with a kind, or a sort, of which kind, or sort, I was presumably an example.
What had become of me?
What was I now?
I dared not conjecture, but knew.
The place where I was damp, and cold. I did not wish to be there. I did not want to be in such a place. I heard water dripping from somewhere, probably from the ceiling. I felt about, in the darkness. Near me, as I brushed aside straw, I discovered two shallow, bowl-like depressions in the floor. My fingers touched water in one. In the other there was something like a bit of damp meal, surely no more than a handful, and a curl of something, like a damp crust.
I lay back down, in the damp straw, on my right side. I pulled up my knees, and put my head on the back of my left hand.
I would certainly not drink from such a source, nor eat from such a place.
I pulled a little at the chain, that attached to the collar on my neck. I could feel the force, small as it was, transmitted through the chain, to the collar, the collar then drawing against the back of my neck.
Once footsteps passed, in what I supposed must be a corridor outside. I lay there, very quietly, not daring to move. I saw, for a moment, as the footsteps passed, a crack of light beneath the door. Until that time I did not know the location of the door. The light was some form of natural light, that of a candle, a lamp, a lantern, I did not know. As it passed I saw some of the straw on my side of the door. The door, as one could tell from the light, it revealing the thickness of the beams, was a heavy one. Also, along its bottom, reinforcing that portion of the door, one could detect a heavy, bolted band. It seemed likely, too, of course, that the door might be reinforced similarly at other points. These things, the light, the nature of the door, seemed to fit in well with the primitive confinements in which I found myself.
I then, trembling, put my head down again.
Perhaps, I thought, I should have called out, as someone, or something, had passed.
Of course, that is what must be done!
But when the steps returned, I was again absolutely quiet, terrified. As the steps passed, I did not even breathe. I remained absolutely still. I was frightened, even, that the metal on my body, in which I was so helpless, might make some tiny sound. I did not want, even by so small a sound, to attract attention to myself. It was not that I doubted that whoever, or whatever, was out there was well aware of where I was and how I was. It was merely that I did not want to draw attention to myself. I would later be taught ways in which it is suitable to draw attention to oneself, and ways in which it is not suitable to draw attention to oneself. On this occasion I am confident that my instincts were quite correct. Indeed, they have seldom, if ever, betrayed me.
I gasped with relief, as the steps passed.
To be sure, but a moment later, I again castigated myself, as having neglected this opportunity of inquiry or protest. Indeed, shortly after the steps had passed, I scrambled to my knees! I must be angry! I must pound upon the door! I must call out! I must insist upon attention! I must demand to see someone! I must demand release! I must bluster and threaten! I must attempt to confuse my jailers, and terrify them into compliance with my will! If necessary, I must appeal to undoubted legalities!
But I could not pound upon the door, of course. I could not even reach the door. I had not been chained in such a way as to make that possible. And I did not doubt but what that was no accident.
I struggled to my feet, bent over. I could not stand fully upright, because of the chain on my neck. I put my hand up. It touched the ceiling. I had not realized the ceiling was that low. I then lay down, again. I was alarmed, and dismayed. The area in which I was confined was not so much a cell, as something else. It was more in the nature of a kennel.
My mood, or fit, of indignation, or resolve, of protest, of momentary righteousness, of transitory belligerence, such a futile bellicosity, soon passed. Save for the sounds of a bit of chain it had been silent. I supposed I had thought I owed it to my background, or my conditioning program. To be sure, I suspected that neither of these was likely to be particularly germane, or helpful, with respect to my current plight, or, more likely, condition. It was not merely that it seems somehow inappropriate, or silly, and likely to be ineffective, to adopt a posture of belligerence when has a chain on one’s neck, and cannot even stand upright. It was rather that, given my current situation, chained and confined as I was, it seemed to me that any such pleas, or demands, or such, would be absurd. Doubtless decisions had already been made, pertinent to me. Matters, in effect, like those of nature, had doubtless already been set in motion. If there had been a time when such threats, or protests, might have been effective, it was doubtless long past. Too, I did not doubt, somehow, but what I was not the only one, such as myself, in this place. The chains, the ring, the depressions in the floor, the apparently small, close, nature of the area of my confinement, the incomprehensibility of my being here, except perhaps as one of a group, perhaps similar to myself, all suggested this. Let others, if they wish, I thought, adopt such postures. For myself, not only did I not find them congenial, given my nature, but, too, I was afraid, distinctly, that they might not be found acceptable, unless perhaps, very briefly, at the beginning, as a source for amusement. Too, I considered the nature of legalities. One tends, if naive, to think of those legalities with which one is most familiar as being somehow the only ones possible. This view, of course, is quite mistaken. This is not to deny that all civilizations, and cultures, have their customs and legalities. It is only to remark that they need not be the same. Indeed, the legalities with which I was most familiar, as they stood in contradiction to nature, constituted, I supposed, in their way, an aberration of legalities. They are, at the least, uncharacteristic of most cultures, and historically untypical. To be sure, if the intent is to contradict nature rather than fulfill her, there was doubtless much point to them. Thusly, that they produced human pain and social chaos, with all the miseries attendant thereupon, would not be seen as an objection to them but rather as the predictable result of their excellence in the light of their objectives. But not all legalities, of course, need have such objectives. As I lay there in the darkness, in my chains, and considered the factuality and simplicity of my predicament, and the apparently practical and routine aspects of my helplessness and incarceration, I suspected that my current situation was not at all likely to be in violation of legalities. Rather I suspected it was in full and conscious accord with them. I suspected that I was now, or soon would be, enmeshed in legalities. To be sure, these would be different legalities from those with which I was most familiar. These would be, I suspected, legalities founded not on politics, but biology.
I was now very hungry. But I would not, of course, drink from a depression in the floor, nor soil my lips with whatever edible grime might be found in an adjacent depression.
I was cold, and helpless.
If it would be stupid, or absurd, as I suspected, if not dangerous, to pretend to a belligerent stance, to protest, or threaten, or to appeal to legalities, the purport of which might well be aligned precisely against one, then perhaps, I thought, one might appeal to the pity, the mercies, of one’s captors. Could one not plead with them, armed in all the vulnerable panoply of one’s tears, of one’s utter helplessness and need? Could one not beg them for mercy? Might one not even consider, in such a desperate predicament, the almost unthinkable option of kneeling before them, and lifting one’s hands to them? Might one not, in such desperate straits, dare even to assume that posture, one so natural, so apt, to supplication? And might not one even cry, or pretend to? Surely they could not resist so piteous a spectacle. Surely, considering one’s weakness, and presumed power of one’s captors, this would be an endeavor more likely of success than the utterance of empty threats, of meaningless protests, the enunciation of futile demands.
I would not drink here, nor eat here.
I did not think, really, given the fact that I was here, the presumed methodically of my arrival in this place, the presumably routine manner of my incarceration, the nature of my cell, or kennel, suggesting that it was not unique, that my presence here would not be its first occupancy not its last, the unlikelihood that there was anything special about me, the probability that I was only one of several such as myself, that my pleas would move my captors.
I changed my position several times.
It is hard to comprehend such realities, the darkness, the dampness, the stones, the walls, the wet straw, its smell, the collar, the chains, the not being clothed.
There was some sense of security, oddly, just being on the chain.
I did not speculate that I might have gone insane. The chain was too real.
In time I went to my belly and put my mouth down, and lapped the water in the shallow depression beside me. Then, a little later, I reached into the other shallow depression and withdrew the damp crust there, and fed on it. Too, in a moment, I addressed myself to the small bit of meal in the same container. Later, with my finger, I carefully, methodically, wiped out the inside of the depression, that I might not miss whatever last, tiny, wet particles of meal might adhere there. They had suddenly become very precious. As I liked these gratefully from my finger, these few particles, such tiny, damp things, I realized that what I was fed, and when I was fed, and in what amounts, and, indeed, literally, even if I was fed, was now up to another. This is a very frightening thing to understand.
I lapped again a bit of water, and then wiped my mouth with the back of my hand.
I rolled to my back.
I looked up, into the darkness.
I bent my knees. I put my chained wrists over my head. I could feel the chain there, behind me, leading up to the ring on the wall from my collar.
I was not strong, or powerful. I was not strong enough, even, let alone powerful, for the sort of creature I was. What, I wondered, then, could be the meaning of the chains I wore. Perhaps in them, I speculated, was a lesson. Oh, to be sure, they confined me. They kept me in a place. I could not rush at the door, if it were opened. I could not run. I could not use my hands freely. They might keep me from being something of a nuisance, I supposed, particularly at the beginning, if I were so inclined, or became difficult or hysterical. But their primary reason I suspected had less to do with security than something else. That they were on me, that I was in them and helplessly so, I suspected might be intended, particularly at this time, to be instructive. Let me begin to be familiarized with chains, let me being to become accustomed to them. Let me learn, too, in this graphic, profound fashion, what I had become, what I now was. I supposed that later, too, such as I might find ourselves chained. But then, I supposed, apart from practical matters, such as security, and mnemonic considerations, and such, that that might be regarded as much a matter of appropriateness as anything else. I, and perhaps others, were such as to be appropriately chained. That was the sort we were. To be sure, beyond such things, there is no doubt as to the effectiveness of chains. They hold us, perfectly.
I rolled to my side.
I considered the simple, meager fare. What was I, I wondered, that such stuff had been deemed suitable for me. Too, I again considered the chains. What was I, I wondered, that I wore such?
I dared not conjecture, but knew.
I drew up my legs, and put my hands on my shoulders, huddling, making myself small in the damp straw.
I was cold.
The corridor was quiet outside.
I lay very quiet.
One feels some comfort, and security, perhaps oddly enough, in such a situation, being on one’s chain.
I had looked again at the wall.
I had heard voices, coming from the house. As swiftly as I could, wincing, hurting myself on the stones, I had withdrawn from the wall. It was my intention to circle about, through the shrubbery, and the trees of the garden, to the vicinity of the fountain.
“Stop,” I heard, a man’s voice.
Instantly I stopped, my heart sinking. I turned, of course, immediately, and fell to my knees, putting my head down to the lavender grass, as was its color here, in this portion of the garden, the palms of my hands down, too, on the grass, beside my head.
It was a man’s voice that had spoken.
I did not dare look, of course, upon he who had addressed me.
I had not received permission to do so.
But how could it have been a man’s voice?
How could it be, a man’s voice, here, in the garden, at this time of day?
Normally we vacate the garden when men enter it to work, as, for example, its gardeners. We are not for the eyes of such as those. And normally, if there are to be guests, if we are to entertain, information to that effect is issued to us hours in advance. We must, after all, have time to prepare ourselves. One must bathe. One must do one’s hair. There are silks, perfumes and jewelries to be considered. One must be made up, and so on. On the other hand, ironically, our appearance, achieved at such cost, with so much labor, and so much attention to detail, seems most often taken for granted by our guests. Often they scarcely seem to notice us, as we serve. To be certain, we are taught, in such situations, to be self-effacing, and to serve deferentially. Such things can be changed, of course, at so little as a word, or the snapping of fingers.
How could there be a man here, in the garden, at this time of day?
I kept my head down to the grass.
I had not been given permission to raise it.
Sometimes when men are to enter the garden, suddenly, or with little notice, such as guardsmen, say, in the line of duty, as in inspections or searches, a bar is rung, and we must find our body veils, and kneel, head down, and cover ourselves with them. Such veils are opaque. We are not, after all, for the eyes of just anyone.
But I was not now concealed in my body veil!
Who could this man be?
I was in light silk. It was extremely brief, and was, for most practical purposes, diaphanous. Certainly it left little doubt as to my lineaments.
I do not know how long I lay in the darkness. Sometimes I slept I did not know what time it was, what day.
Indeed, I suspected that I would not be familiar even with the calendar.
Once or twice some meal, and another crust, was placed in the shallow depression beside me. This was done while I slept. No longer did I permit it to linger there. I devoured it, gratefully, eagerly.
But for a long time now there had been nothing more in the depression. The depression for the water, like a sunken bowl, was replenished from a slender, flat trickle of water. I could feel it with my finger. It was more than a dampness. That trickle, I assumed, had its origin elsewhere in the darkness. It derived, doubtless, from the water which, as I could hear, slowly, drop by drop, fell into the chamber, perhaps from the ceiling, perhaps from some pipe or ledge. The water bowl did have a tiny run-off which might carry excess fluid away, presumably toward some drain, but the amount of water was so small in the bowl, and took such time to accumulate, that the run-off was not used. I learned to conserve the water, my tongue even licking the rough bottom of the depression.
But there had been no more meal, or crusts, of late, in the food depression.
I was ravening.
I wondered if my captors had forgotten about me. I wondered if I had been left here to die.
I mustered the courage to call out, piteously. “I am hungry,” I called. “Please feed me. Please! I am hungry!”
But I doubted that anyone heard. There seemed to be no one about.
I pulled on the chains. They held me well.
How helpless I was!
I was ravening. I was ready to do anything, just to eat.
Then, again, perhaps a day later, when I awakened, I found a bit of meal, and a crust, in the depression. It might have been the rarest of viands. I fell upon them, like a starving little animal. For a day or two then such slender provender made its appearance in the depression. I knew that I had lost weight. This would doubtless make some difference with respect to curves. But, more importantly, I think, I was learning to make do with what was given to me, and to be appreciative for it, whatever it might be. Too, of course, I had learned, and more keenly, and profoundly, than before, that I did not have control over my own food. I had learned that even for such a thing I was now dependent on another.
I awakened suddenly.
I thought that I heard a sound, outside.
I became instantly alert, frightened. There was a sound, outside! It came, I thought, from somewhere down the corridor, to the left.
I rose up, hurriedly, to my knees. I was wild, frightened. My chains made a noise.
I heard a door, heavy, grating, opening somewhere, away, to the left. I heard a voice. My heart almost stopped. I do not know what I expected. Perhaps I had feared that it would be merely an animal sound, not so much a voice, as a barking or growling. But it was a human voice.
I felt my body, quickly. I was frightened. I was unclothed. How much more slender seemed my body now!
I was frightened.
It was, you see, a man’s voice.
I heard doors opened, on different sides of the corridor, it seemed, getting closer. I heard, now, more than one man’s voice. Their tones seemed imperative, as though they would brook no question or delay. The voices themselves though clearly male, and human, seemed unlike those of men with whom I was familiar. I am not sure, precisely, in what the differences consisted. It may be merely that they spoke somewhat more loudly than the men I was accustomed to, for such things often vary culturally. But I think it was more than some possible difference in mere volume. Too, I do not think it had to do merely with an accent, though they surely had such, an accent which appeared distinctively, oddly, in words they uttered in various languages, languages some of which I could recognize, though I could not speak them, as the doors were opened, and which, on the other hand, seemed so natural, so apt, in their discourse among themselves. No, it was not really so much a matter of volume, or of accent, as of something else. Perhaps it was the lack of diffidence, the lack of apology, in their speech, which struck me. Perhaps it was this sort of simple, natural assurance which most struck me. Too, in their tones, intelligent, clear, confident, forceful, it was not difficult to detect a simple unpretentious aspect of command. Indeed, in the tones of several, perhaps their leaders, there seemed something which might best be characterized as sort of natural, unassuming imperiousness. This made me terribly uncomfortable. How dare they speak like that? Who did they think they were? Men? Did they think they were men? This is, of course, “men” in a sense long since prohibited to, or abandoned by, the males with which I was familiar. And could they be really such men? And, if so, what consequences might that entail for one such as my self? How could one such as I, given what I was, possibly relate to such creatures? In what modalities, on what conditions, would it be possible to do so?
I put my hands about my body, again. I was much more slender now. I could tell, even in the darkness. I had not been much fed.
The doors, opening, were coming closer now. They were heavy doors, doubtless like that on my chamber. That could be told from the sound of their opening.
Beneath my door now, visible in the crack between those heavy beams and the reinforcing iron band and the floor was a light. It was doubtless a dim light, but it seemed very bright to me, as I had been long in the darkness.
I heard a door across the way and a little to the left opened. I heard an imperious voice. Again I recognized the language, but could not speak it.
Then, a few moments later, I heard a key, large, and heavy, turned in the lock to my door.
I put up on my chained wrists, suddenly, frantically, wildly, and, as I could, on one side and then the other, fixed my hair.
As the door opened I covered myself as well as I could.
I winced against the light, and could not face it. It was only a lantern held high in the threshold, but I was temporarily blinded. I looked away, my hands over my body.
“Be absolutely silent,” said a voice, a man’s voice.
I would not have dared to make a sound.
“I see that you do not need to be instructed to kneel,” he said.
“You already know what posture to assume in the presence of a male,” he said. “Excellent.”
I squirmed a little, being so before a man. I fought the sensations within me.
“Put your head to the floor,” he said.
I obeyed, immediately. There were tears in my eyes, from the light, you understand.
He entered the chamber.
The lantern, now in the care of another fellow, remained mercifully by the door. It was easy to tell its position, as its light was clear, even though my closed eyelids.
The fellow crouched down beside me. “Remain still,” he said. “Do not look at me.”
With the pain of the light I would not have wished to look at anything.
He threw my hair forward. I felt a key thrust into the lock on my collar, and then, in a moment, for the first time in how long I knew not, that confining metal band, close-fitting, sturdy and inflexible, with its chain, attached to the ring on the wall, was no longer on my neck. I was no longer chained to the wall!
I kept my head down, of course. I did not move. I did not look at him. I did not make a sound.
I then felt his hand in my hair. I winced as he drew me up, forcibly, to all fours. He also, almost at the same time, keeping me on all fours, pushed my head down. I was then on all fours, with my head facing the floor. He did not do these things gently. I was handled, and positioned, as though I might be no more than an animal.
“You will keep this position,” he said, “until you receive permission to change it. Now, go to the corridor, where you will be appropriately placed, aligned and instructed.”
“Keep your head down,” he said. “Do not look at us.”
I fell, so frightened I was, trying to comply, caught up in the chains. I lay there for an instant, in terror, unable to move, feeling so exposed to him. My whole back felt terribly vulnerable. I was afraid, even then, even knowing as little as I did at the time, that he might not be pleased, and that I might be struck, or kicked. But he saw fit, at that time, at least, to show me patience. I regained the position and, slowly, carefully, my limbs trembling, crawled from the chamber. One may hasten on all fours, so chained, but it is much easier, of course, to move in a measured manner, bit by bit. It is not difficult, incidentally, to crawl on all fours in chains, even those such as I wore. It is just a matter of moving within their limitations.
I was to be appropriately placed, aligned, and instructed.
Outside the chamber I could see little but the stone flagging of the corridor hall. I was aware of the proximity of two or three men. I did not look up. They wore heavy boot-like sandals. One of them reached down and took me by the upper left arm, and guided me to a position in the center of the corridor. My body was then aligned with the long axis of the corridor. With respect to the interior of my chamber, I was facing left.
I heard other doors opening behind me, one by one, and heard the voices, in various languages.
I remained as I was, not daring to change my position in the least degree.
I was yet, it seemed, to be instructed.
I realized then, only fully comprehending it for the first time, one takes such things so for granted, that the voice which had addressed me had done so in my own language.
Other doors opened, father down the hall, behind me.
Patterns of light moved about on the stones, the consequence, I suppose, of the movements of lanterns.
He had had an accent, of course. Whereas it is surely possible to speak a language which one has not learned in one’s childhood without an accent, it is, as one might suppose, unusual. One’s speech generally tends to retain a foreign flavor. Sometimes that the tongue one speaks is not native to one is revealed by so little as an occasional slip in pronunciation, say, the shifting treatment of a consonant, perhaps under conditions of stress, such as anger, or fear. He had made no attempt, as far as I could tell, to disguise an accent. That his speech might be intelligible to me was, perhaps, quite sufficient for him. I could not place the language these men spoke among themselves. It was no language I knew, nor even one I could recognize. Yet, oddly, it seemed sometimes reminiscent of other languages, which, to one degree or another, if only by sound, I was familiar with. At times I even thought I detected a word I knew. To be sure, similar sounds need not mean similar words. A given sound might have many meanings, and quite different meanings.
I kept my head down.
My eyes were now becoming adjusted to the light.
The only source of light in the corridor, as far as I could tell, was that carried by various men, which source I supposed was lanterns. Without that light the corridor, as far as I could tell, would have been totally dark. The corridor itself, I supposed, would be sealed off by some door or gate. Even if I had been able to get loose from my collar, that by means of which I had been fastened to the wall of my chamber, even if I had been able, somehow to get though the heavy door which kept me in my chamber, I would, I supposed, have soon encountered another barrier, that which, presumably, closed the corridor. Too, as the corridor was in utter darkness, as soon as a lantern was lifted in it, I would have been rendered temporarily blind, and totally at the mercy of whoever had entered.
From the point of view of most, I suppose, the corridor would have counted as being, at best, only dimly lighted, but, as such things tend to be relative, it seemed, by contrast, well illuminated to me.
I was aware of a fellow standing near me. He had the heavy bootlike sandals, as did the others. Other than the sandals, his legs were bare. He wore a tunic, or something like that. I did not understand his mode of dress. It was totally unlike things with which I was familiar. I did not think I knew this place. This place, I thought, is very different from what I am used to. His legs were sturdy. I found them frightening, and disturbing. What place is this, I asked myself. It is so different from places with which I am familiar. I am not in my own culture, I thought. This is not my culture. I thought. This is a different culture. This may be a quite different culture. Things may be quite different here.
And my speculations, as I would soon learn, would prove correct, profoundly correct.
Then the man moved away.
But another, in short time, paused near me.
I was much aware of him, but, of course, I kept my head down. He was, it seemed, like the other, large and strong. I found his presence disturbing, as I had found that of the other.
The culture here, though quite different from my own, I thought, seems all of a piece. Things seem to fit, the nature of my incarceration, the simplicity of things, the architecture, the mode of dress, the iron on my wrists and angles.
I kept my head down.
What place was this? How had I come here? Surely I did not belong here! But then I trembled. Perhaps, I thought, the thought terrifying me, this is where I belong. Perhaps I was not where I belonged before. Perhaps this is exactly where I belong.
The fellow beside me moved away.
The last door had now apparently been opened. I heard no more of them being opened.
I lifted my head the tiniest bit. I saw small ankles before me, joined by chain, as mine were. I was only one in a line. I was then, I conjectured, as I had suspected. I was here as a result of selections, based upon some criterion or other. The matter was objective, not personal. It was not that I had offended someone and that my plight had been accordingly engineered for someone’s amusement, or that it constituted perhaps, in its way, some sweet tidbit of revenge, one perhaps of many such, the subjects of which, left here, might later be dismissed from mind, and, in time, forgotten. No, the matter was impersonal. My position here was not a consequence of who I was, but, rather, of something else, perhaps of what I was. The primary reason I was here was, I supposed, because I was of a certain sort, or kind. But what sort, or kind, could that be? I did not know. I looked at the ankles before me, and the anklets, so close about them. Some of the links of chain between the anklets rested on the stones. I supposed that the metal on my own anklets, though I had not seen it in the light, was the same, or similar. Certainly there would be no reason for it to be different. No, there was nothing unique or special than characterized the others in the line. It extended before me and, doubtless, behind me. How many were in it I did not know. There had been several doors opening and closing. Perhaps, I conjectured, there might be fifty of us in this line. There were several in front of me, and doubtless several, given the doors opening and closing, behind me. I thought I might be about two thirds of the way back in the line. Those before me and behind me, as nearly as I could tell, from the languages which had been addressed to them, did not speak my language, or, indeed, one another’s language. Our placement in line, I suspected, might not be a matter of chance. I did not think that we had a language in common, as yet.
I heard the tread of those heavy sandals approaching. I put down my head, even lower. Then they passed.
I, and doubtless the others, had been forbidden to look upon our captors. This was very unsettling to me. I wondered why this was. Yet I was, also, afraid to look upon them. I did not know what I would see. Why do they not wish us to look upon them, I wondered. Can their aspects be so terrible, or hideous, I wondered.
Perhaps they are disfigured. I thought. Perhaps they are not truly human, I feared. Perhaps they are animals! I did not want to be eaten! But I did not think they were animals. And I doubted that I would have been brought here to be eaten. Certainly I had not been fattened. Rather, given the meager diet to which I had been subjected, my figure had been excellently trimmed. This suggested an entirely different theory as to what might be one of my major values in such a place. To be sure, terribly frightened, I thrust this very thought immediately from my head. It was too terrible to even consider.
I then heard, the sound frightening to me, from back, near what must be the end of the line, the sound of several coils of chain thrown to the flooring.
“Steady,” said a voice near me.
I heard other utterances, too, before me, and behind me, soft, soothing utterances, in other languages. Their import was perhaps similar.
“Steady, little vulo,” said the voice.
I was very still. I did not know what a “vulo” was, of course.
I could hear the chain approaching, slowly, pausing briefly by each item in the line, its links moving against one another. Too, shortly after each pause, there was a clear click, as of the meshing and fastening of metal. After a time, it was quite close, only a few feet behind me.
I considered leaping up, running.
But I would only have fallen, miserably.
I was shackled.
Too, where would one run?
Most importantly, I knew that I would not have dared to leap up and run, even if I were not where and as I was. Only a fool, I thought, and understood, even at the time, would be so stupid as to disobey men such as these, in the even the smallest way.
I looked to my right, and before me. I could see the shadow there, on the floor, of the man who had spoken to me, it flung before him by some source of illumination, presumably a lantern such as I had seen earlier. He was clearly in a tunic, of some sort. Even in the shadow he seemed large, formidable. He, personally, was behind me, and to my left. He was carrying something in his right hand, which I could see in the shadow coils of something, the coils stretched out, distorted somewhat, like the silhouette itself. I did not know what the coils might be. I suppose it was obvious but I did not even consider it at the time. Too, if I had known more of where I was, I would have found his mere location, behind me and to my left, a source of considerable apprehension. “Steady, little tasta,” he said, soothingly. I did not know what a “tasta” might be. I had heard the expression ‘tasta’, and ‘vulo’, and others, used elsewhere by these men along the side of the line, ingredient among locutions in various languages. Such words, ‘vulo’ and ‘tasta’, I gathered, were words in their own language. We, of course, would not know their meaning.
Suddenly I heard, beside me, the rattle of a chain, and before I could think of reacting, had I even dared, a metal collar had been placed about my neck and snapped shut. It, like the collar in the chamber, fitted closely. This was one collar, apparently, of a large number of such collars, for I could see the lower loops of a long chain, one interspersed with such collars, before me. In a moment what was before me was also in a collar. Then the chain and collars were being taken forward, again. The fellow who had been behind me now passed me, on my left. I suddenly then saw the lower loops of what he had been carrying. There was no mistaking it now, no way to misinterpret its appearance. I gasped, and almost fainted.
It was a whip!
After a time two new chains were brought forward, each attached, in turn, down the line, so that, in the end, one long chain was formed.
We waited, those of us already attended to, heads down, on all fours.
Then the last of us, the first in the line, was on the chain.
We were all on the chain.
They then began to speak to us, in various languages. In mine I heard, “Kneel in the following fashion, keeping your head down. Kneel back on your heels, with your knees widely spread. Keep your back straight. Hold your shoulders back. Keep your hands back, and to the sides. The chain on your manacles is to be tight against your waist.”
I gathered that our “instruction,” now that we had been “placed and aligned,” had begun.
Men passed down the line, adjusting positions here and there. When one approached me I drew my hands back as far as I could, to the sides, at my waist, given the length of chain that joined my metal wristlets. I could feel the links of the chain deeply in my flesh. I forced my knees as far apart as I could manage.
“Good,” said the man, and continued on, down the line.
In time it seemed that we were all in the position desired.
Again the voices spoke, in diverse languages. In my own language, I heard, “Your heads are bowed in submission. Your bellies are under the chain.”
I did not raise my head, of course. I had not been given permission to do so. I looked down. The chain was tight against my waist. There were even marks of the links there. My belly, I had been told, was beneath the chain. What could that possibly mean?
We were left there for a time, in that fashion, kneeling, unattended to, our necks fastened together by the chain.
The men had withdrawn somewhat, I would guess to the end of the line. Their voices now came from behind me. They sounded as though they were several yards away. Perhaps they were at the end of the hall. I could hear them conversing, in their own language, whatever it might be, that language I could not place, that language which seemed so unfamiliar as a whole, and yet in which I detected, or seemed to detect, from time to time, like an image suddenly springing into focus, a familiar a sound, perhaps even a word I knew.
I knelt as I had been positioned, my head down, the chain pulled back, taut, at my waist. This rounded, and emphasized, my belly. It called attention to it. There was my belly, with its rounded softness, and, over it, the chain, its links now warmed by my own flesh, but still, though flesh warmed links of steel, inflexible and merciless. My belly, I had been informed, was beneath the chain.
I did not dare to move.
What did it mean, that my belly was beneath the chain?
I would later become extremely familiar with such positions, but they were, at the time, quite new to me, and somewhat frightening. What most frightened me about them was the way they made me feel. It was not merely that, in them, I felt profoundly stirred. In them,helplessly, vulnerably, I also sensed a personal rightness. I knew that in some sense I belonged in them. This was in contradiction to my entire upbringing, background, education and conditioning. Could such things have been wrong?
Let us return to the position which had been dictated to us, there in the corridor. It was, of course, a lovely one. There is no doubt about that. But you must understand that much more was involved here.It was not merely that the line of us, the fifty of us, or so, were well revealed in this position, excellently and uncompromisingly exhibited, but there was involved here more profound meaningfulnesses. Let us consider merely two or three aspects of the position. That our shoulders must be well back accentuates, of course, our figure. This calls to our attention, and to that of others, our unique, special and beautiful nature, that it is not to be hidden, or denied, or betrayed, but openly acknowledged, even celebrated. We must be, unapologetically, what we are. The symbolism of kneeling, itself, is doubtless obvious. So, too, perhaps, at least upon reflection, may be the symbolism of the opening of our knees, and what it tells about what we are. But I was not fully aware of this at the time. I was aware only that I felt terribly vulnerable. This makes clear our vulnerability. My own thighs felt inflamed at this exposure. Had someone so much as touched me with the tip of his finger I think I might have screamed. But there are various positions, kneeling and otherwise, and each has many significances.
Why were we now kneeling here, unattended to? Had we been forgotten? Must we wait, as though we might be nothing? I could hear the men speaking. Were they discussing us? Were they commenting on us? Might I, or some of the others, be being spoken of, in particular? Were there consulting records, were they checking off items on a list, or perhaps making entries?
We knelt, becoming more and more sensitive to our position, absorbing more and more deeply into our very beings and bellies its nature.
We knelt, chained, unclothed, fastened together by the neck, in a primitive corridor, heavy doors to the sides, doors to damp, straw strewn cells or kennels, from which we had been removed. We knelt, forbidden to speak.
Obviously we were not important.
We waited, neglected.
That we could be kept in this way, and as long as others wished, became clear to us.
Who were these men, that they could treat us in such fashion?
What could we be to them?
We had not even been permitted to look upon them. I was afraid to learn what they looked like, but I wanted to know. I did not think they were animals. I thought they were human. I wondered if they were fully human. Why did they not permit us to look upon them? Could they, for some reason or another, be so terrible to look upon? Who were they? Or, what were they? They seemed men, to be sure, but they did not seem men in the sense, or in the ways, in which I had grown accustomed to think of men. In some senses they seemed quite different. Who, or what, were they? I wanted to know, desperately. But, too, I was afraid to learn.
We knelt there, learning our unimportance, understanding more and more clearly our vulnerability and helplessness, and experiencing sensations, unusual and troubling sensations, sensations which were very deep and profound.
Then the men were amongst us again, and one stood quite close to me, a bit to the left, before me.
He was perhaps a yard from me.
The chain on my neck extended to the collar in front of me. I could feel its weight, and I could feel, at the back of the collar I wore, the weight of the chain there, leading back to the collar behind me.
I could see the heavy bootlike sandals.
He was to the left of the chain before me, almost at the shoulder of the preceding item on the chain.
My head was down. I dared not look up.
I began to tremble.
But I held position as well as I could.
He was close!
In whose power were we?
I heard voices before me, down the line, in order, approaching, and heard, shortly thereafter, one after the other, gasps, and soft cries.
I kept my head down.
I was terribly frightened, and terribly aware of the presence of the man before me.
“You may lift your heads,” I heard. “You may look upon us.”
I lifted my head and gasped. I cried out, softly, in inarticulate, unrestrainable sound, one of incredible relief, even of joy, one consequent upon the release of incredible tension, one consequent upon the discharge of an almost unbearable emotion.
He was human!
He smiled and put his finger to his lips, a gesture that warned me that I was not to speak, a gesture with which I was familiar, from my own cultural background. I did not know if it were native to him as well.
I heard the voices continuing behind me, and, down the line, more gasps, and cries.
I looked up at the man near me. He was not now looking at me, but, rather, looking back, behind me, down the line.
Perhaps I was not important enough to be looked at.
But I looked at him, wildly, drinking in all that I could. He was strikingly handsome. It took my breath away, to look upon him. But this handsomeness, you must understand, was one of strong, powerful features. It was not the mild, pleasant configuration which in some localities, such as those with which I was more familiar, those more germane to my own antecedents, was often mistaken for the quality. There was a ruggedness in the features. He was handsome undoubtedly, even strikingly so, as I have indicated, but this was in a simple, direct, very masculine way. He had seemed kind. He had smiled, he had put his finger to his lips, warning me to silence. He was a large, strong, supple man. He had large hands. He had sturdy legs. The legs disturbed me, for they were strong, and, in the tunic, brief, course, and brown, much revealed. He wore the heavy bootlike sandals that I had noted before. These, with their heavy thongs, or cords, came high on the calf. This footwear somehow frightened me. Its seemed to have a look of menace or brutality.
I was unutterably relieved that he was not looking at me.
I had never seen such a man!
I had not known such a man could exist!
I did not know what I could do, or would do, if he so much as looked at me. I wondered, though I attempted to prevent the thought from occurring, sensing its immediate and inevitable appearance, what it might be to be in his arms. I tried to put such a thought from me, but I could not do so. It was more powerful then i. It was irresistible. I shuddered. I knew that, in his arms, I would be utterly helpless. Indeed, if he had even so much as looked upon me, I feared I might have begun to whimper, beggingly. Could this be I? What was I? What had been done to me? How was it that I could be so transformed, and so helpless, given merely the sight of such a man?
But then, frightened, I looked wildly ahead, and about. So, too, it seemed, were the others. I looked at the other men. Again I gasped, startled. Again I was shocked. Again I could not believe what I saw. The fellow before me was not unusual, it seemed, though, given my previous acquaintance with men, surely I would have thought him quite unusual, if not unique. The other men, too, in their way, were strong, handsome fellows, and that, too, in an almost indefinable, powerful masculine way. This much disturbed me. They were dressed similarly to the fellow near me. They, too, wore tunics, some of them sleeveless, and, invariably, the same sort of sandals, sandals which might have withstood marches. Where was I, I wondered, that such men could exist?
Again I looked up at the man near me.
Then, suddenly, he looked down at me.
I averted my eyes, in terror.
Never before anything had I felt myself so much what, irreducibly, now undeniably, I was.
It might have been not a man, but a beast or a god, or an animal, a cougar, or a lion, in human form.
The only relation in which I could stand to such a thing was clear to me.
Some other men passed by me, going to one part of the line or another. Some of them carried leather quirts. Others carried whips.
Then they began, along the line, and behind me, to talk to us. They did so quietly, soothingly.
The fellow near me crouched down beside me. He turned my head, gently, to face him. I looked into his eyes. He put his left hand behind the back of my neck, over the metal collar, and the fingers of his right hand lightly over my lips. I was not to speak.
“You have no name,” he informed me.
I did not understand this, but his fingers were lightly over my lips.
He then stood up, and looked down at me. My eyes were lifted to his.
“Do you wish to be fed?” he asked.
I looked up at him, frightened.
“You may speak,” he said.
“Yes,” I whispered.
“Do you wish to live?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
Then he looked at me, frankly, appraisingly, unabashedly. I had never been looked at like that in my life.
It seemed he would regard every inch of me.
I could not even understand such a look.
Or did something in my understand it only too well?
Suddenly, piteously, I rose up from my heels, and, still kneeling, of course, lifted my hands to him. Tears coursed from my eyes. I wept. I could not control myself. I could scarcely speak. But he seemed kind. He must understand. I knelt before him, in helpless petition. “Mercy,” I wept. “I pray you for mercy!” I clasped my hands together, praying him for mercy. I lifted my hands to him thusly clasped, in desperate prayer, piteously. “Please!” I wept. “Please!”
He looked down at me.
“Please, I beg you,’ I wept. “Mercy! I beg mercy! Show me mercy! I beg it! I beg it!”
His expression did not change.
Then I felt unutterably stupid. I put down my hands, and my head. I sank back to my heels, my hands, in their metal wristlets, on my thighs.
I looked up at him, and then put down my head again.
“I am not to be shown mercy, am I?” I whispered.
“Not in the sense I suspect you have in mind,” he said. “On the other hand, if you prove superb, truly superb, you might eventually be shown a certain mercy, at least in the sense of being permitted to live.”
“Position,” he said, gently.
I struggled back to the position which I had originally held.
How stupid I felt. How stupid I had been!
I was merely one on the chain. I had not been brought here, doubtless at some trouble and expense, to be shown mercy.
How could I have acted as I did?
I was stupid.
I hoped I was not stupid.
I hoped that he did not think I was stupid.
Once again I felt his eyes upon me. Once again, I was being subjected to that calm, appraising scrutiny which had, but a moment before, so unnerved me.
“Please,” I begged him.
He seemed to be regarding me as might one who is practiced in such appraisals, one who, in effect, might be noting points. But surely I should not be looked at in such a way. But surely I was not an animal.
My hands crept up from my sides, that I might, however inadequately, cover myself.
“No,” he said gently.
His tone, in its kindliness, its patience, suggested that he did not think me stupid, in spite of my earlier outburst. This, for some reason, gladdened me.
Then I knelt as I had before, tears coursing down my cheeks, open, exposed, to his scrutiny.
It was thus that he would have me before him, and thus it was that I would be before him.
Before men such as these I understood that I would be choiceless in such matters.
“You are supposedly quite vital,” he said. “Is it true?”
“I do not know,” I said. I did not even understand the question. Or, perhaps, rather, I somehow, in some part of me, understood it only too well.
Would he now think me stupid? I hoped not. I did not think I was stupid.
He then continued his scrutiny.
Somehow I wanted, desperately, doubtless dreadfully, for him to be pleased, genuinely pleased, with what he saw.
Was I “vital”?
What could that possibly mean?
How would I know if I were vital or not?
Had he touched me, I though I would have cried out, in helplessness.
I could not help it if I was vital! It was not my fault! I could not help it!
And at that time, of course, I did not understand how such things could be brought about, even in those initially inert or anesthetic, how such things could be, and would be, suspected, discovered, revealed, and released, and then nurtured, and enhanced, and developed and trained, until they, beginning as perhaps no more than almost unfocused restlessnesses, could, and would, become fervent, soft, insistent claims, and then, in time, implacably, inexorably, desperate, irresistible, pitiless needs, needs overriding and overwhelming, needs over which one had no control, needs in whose chains one is utterly helpless.
I knelt there, then, as they would have me kneel. No longer did I dare to look at him. I kept my head down. Then, in a moment, he had apparently finished his examination, or, I feared, assessment. I did not know what might have been the results of his examination. He said something to another fellow. I did not know whether or not I was the subject of their discourse.Their tones, on the other hand, seemed approving. Both seemed pleased. To be sure, I did not know for certain whether or not I was the subject of their discourse. But it seemed to me likely that I was.
I suspected then, if I was not mistaken, to my unspeakable relief, that I might have been found at least initially acceptable.
I hoped that he who was nearest to me did not think I was stupid.
I did not want him to think that.
I was supposedly intelligent. I was, or had been, a good student. To be sure, the learning for which I might be held accountable here, if such learning there was to be, would doubtless be somewhat different from that to which I had been accustomed. The collar on my neck suggested that, and the chains on my limbs.
I heard voices, ahead of me, and, too, some behind me.
“You may lift your head,” he said. His fellow had went further back, behind me.
I lifted my head.
The metal shackle on my neck had been put on from behind, there is variation in such things. Most often, particularly with items such as we, new to such things, and naive, it is done in that fashion, I suppose, to minimize the tendency to bolt. At other times however, it is done from the beginning, particularly with individuals who realize clearly and fully what is going on, so that they may, in full specificity and anticipation, with full intellectual and emotional understanding, see it approach, one by one, and then find themselves, in turn, no different from others, secured within its obdurate clasp. The first, you see, might be frightened at its sight and, in their naivete, be tempted to bolt; the second, on the other hand, might be terrified at its sight, but realizes that there is no escape.
I heard the voices before and behind me.
It was not for no reason that I had been permitted to lift my head.
Here and there before me, and, I suppose, behind me, one or another of the men were thrusting whips to the lips of the items in the line. He who was nearest to me had such a device hooked on his belt. I looked on, disbelievingly. Then the fellow nearest me removed that effective, supple tool from his belt. I began to tremble. “Do not be afraid,” he said soothingly.
I watched the device, as he loosened the coils a little, arranging them, in almost hypnotic fascination.
“It will take but a moment,” he said. “Do not be frightened.”
The coils were then but an inch from my lips. I looked up at him.
“It was foolish of me to beg for mercy,” I whispered. “I am sorry.”
“You will learn to beg, in rational contexts, even more piteously,” he said. “Indeed, it will be important for you, to learn how to beg well. I do not mean merely that you will be taught to beg pretitily, on your knees, and such things. I mean rather that upon certain occasions the only thing which might stand between you and the loss of your nose and ears, or life, may be the sincerity and excellence with which you can perform certain placatory behaviors.”
“I do not want you to think I am stupid,” I said.
He looked down at me. I could not read his expression.
“I am not stupid,” I said.
“We shall see,” he said.
I heard words. I saw a whip thrust to the lips of the item before me in the line.
A whip, too, was within an inch of my own lips.
I drew back my head a little, and looked up at him.
He did nothing.
I did not know what to do. What was I supposed to do? I knew what I should do, what would be appropriate, what I wanted to do.
“I do not know what to do,” I said.
“What a shy, timid thing you are,” he said.
“The others are speaking to us,” I said. “You are not speaking to me. You are not telling me what to do.”
“What do you think you should do?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“What do you want to do?” he asked.
“No, no!” I said.
“You will kiss, and lick, the whip,” he said, “lovingly, lingeringly.”
I looked up at him, in terror.
“Do you understand?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“First,” he said, “the whip will come to you, and then, second, you will come to the whip.”
“I understand,” I said.
Surely I must resist this! I could feel the chain at my belly. I squirmed a little on my knees.
He held the whip gently to my lips. He could, I realized, have done this in a very different manner. He might have done it with brutality. He might, in effect, have struck me, perhaps bruising my lips, perhaps bloodying my mouth, forcing the soft inner surfaces of the lips back against the teeth. I might have tasted leather and my own blood. But he was very gentle. With incredible feelings, which I could scarcely comprehend, I kissed the whip, and then, slowly, licked it.
He then removed the whip from my lips and held it a few inches before me.
I was now, I gathered, to come to the whip!
It is one thin, of course, to have such an implement forced upon you, giving you, in effect, no choice in the matter. It is quite another to expect you, of your own will, to approach it, and subject it to such intimate, tender ministrations. What did he think I was? I would do no such thing!
I fought with myself. Part of me decried the very thought of coming to the whip. And part of me, some deep, fearful part, longed to do so.
The deeper part of me was stronger.
I leaned forward a little, and reached out with my lips for the whip. In ecstasy, I kissed it. I kissed it lovingly and lingeringly. I think that I had never been so happy, or so fulfilled, as in those moments. Then, with my tongue, again and again, softly, tenderly, lovingly, I licked it. I could taste the leather. I feared only the moment when it would be taken from me.
Then the implement was drawn back.
I looked up into the eyes of he who held the whip. I now knew what, in my heart, I was.
He who had been nearest to me now stepped away. I, and, I gather, the others, were now, again, left kneeling, but now our heads might be up.
We knelt there.
We were now being given time to ourselves, I suppose, kneeling there, the chain at our belly, that we might understand, and appreciate, the momentousness, at least from our point of view, of what had occurred. Let us now, kneeling there, the chain at our belly, realize what we had done, let us now understand, and appreciate, how we might now be utterly different from what we had been before.
I had kissed his whip, in giddy ecstasy!
I was prepared to give myself to him, to love him!
Had he so much as snapped his fingers I would have done anything!
I heard, again, voices behind me. One or another of the men were coming down the line, approaching from behind. I did not look back. It is not so easy to do, held in the collar, both from before and behind. Too, I did not know if it were permitted. This seemed a place in which it might be well to be very clear on what was permitted, and what was not.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, coming from behind, I saw the coils of another whip. Then two men were rather before me, to the left of the chain. I looked up. Joy transfigured my countenance for one, with his whip, was he who had earlier been nearest to me, he to whose whip I had pressed timidly, then fervently, my moist lips, which whip, too, I had subjected to the tender, eager servile caresses of my tongue. But it was the other fellow’s whip which was now held before me! It was not that of he who had hitherto been nearest to me! I looked up, dismayed, startled, at he who had been nearest to me. Surely it was his whip, and his whip alone, which I must kiss! He looked down at me. There seemed, for a moment, a sternness in his gaze. This terrified me. Quickly I put my head forward a little, as I could, in the chain and collar, and kissed, and licked, obediently, tears welling in my eyes, the other’s whip. The two men then, paying me no more attention, went forward on the chain and, in turn, each of those before me kissed what, too, for them, must have been a second whip. I knelt there. I looked after he who had been nearest to me. I choked back a sob.
In a few moments we again received instructions.
“To all fours,” I heard.
I, and the others, went forward to all fours.
We then waited there, on all fours, in the line. My tears fell to the stone flagging. My knees felt how hard it was, and my hands and toes. It had a rough texture. The corridor, it now seemed, was damp and cold. Too, it seemed dim now. The light from the lanterns flickered about. I became even more aware of my chains.
I had kissed his whip. I had though that it meant everything, but it had meant nothing. But, of course, in meaning nothing, it had, in its way, in a sense more grievous and fearful then I had understood at the time, meant everything. The kissing of the whip had been impersonal. I was, apparently, in this place, one for whom it was appropriate to kiss the whip. That was the kind of which I was, whatever kind, in this place, that might be. The kissing of the whip had been impersonal. It made no difference whose whip it was. It could have been any whip. That was the lesson of the “second whip.”
After a time the men returned and, here and there, took positions along the line.
He who had been nearest to me was now near to me again. This was doubtless because he could speak my language. He was a bit before me, and to my left. I looked up at him. What emotions I felt! I had kissed his whip! He put his finger over his lips, cautioning me to silence. The whip was now partly uncoiled, in his right hand.
I put my head down.
The chain attached to the ring on the front of my collar looped forward, and up, to the side of the item before me. The chain attached to the ring on the back of my collar, as the link turned, and given my position, lay diagonally over my back, behind my left shoulder, whence it descended, to loop up, to the front ring of the collar behind me.
I felt the coils of his whip touch my back lightly. It seemed an idle movement, prompted perhaps by no impulse more profound than might temp one, in passing time, to doodle on a sheet of paper with some writing implement, but, of course, any such touch shook me profoundly.
I looked up at him.
Again, with a gesture, I was cautioned to silence.
Did he not know what that touch did to me?
I put my head down again. There was a tiny sound of chain. I assumed that we, those of us in the line, would be soon removed from this place.
I did not know what awaited me.
Then, again, I felt the touch of the whip. This time, however, I did not sense that its movement was a completely idle one, little more, if anything, than doodling. Rather, it seemed somewhat more curious, more directed, as though it might have some object of inquiry in my mind. It moved, gently, inquisitively, along the side of my body. I gasped. There was a sound of chain. I almost fell. I recovered my position. I shuddered. I moaned, a tiny, helpless sound. I looked up at him, wildly.
“You do not have permission to speak,” he said.
I put my head down, again.
Then I felt the leather again, in its gentle, exploratory fashion, here and there, touch my body.
I did not dare to protest, of course. I was one, I gathered, to whom such things might be done.
“Ohh!” I said, suddenly.
“You may prove satisfactory,” he mused. “You may survive.”
At that moment words were again spoken, farther ahead in the line. But there need not be exact translations for us all, for the import of these words was clear enough, from the actions of those first in the line, who understood, and from the movements of the whips in the hands of the men, gesturing forward.
I heard the slack in the chains being taken up. I saw those before me, farther down the line, begin to move.
“Keep your head down,” he said.
I could not forget the feel of the whip, its touch, upon my body.
He who had been nearest to me was now back somewhere, back beside the line, behind me.
I heard chains moving ahead of me. Neck chains, and those on small wrists and ankles.
I had felt the gentle touch of the whip.
It seemed my body was on fire.
Then I felt the chain grow taut before me, and draw on the ring on the front of my collar, and I, too, on all fours, joined that procession moving down the corridor, and in turn, so, too, did those behind me.
I crawled in chains, at the feet of men.
The corridor was long.
I could not forget the touch of the leather. I had succumbed, physiologically, emotionally, to its touch.
What could that mean?
What had become of me?
What lay ahead of me?
“Harta!” called a man. “Harta!”
Did he expect us to understand him? That must be a word in his language. Certainly it was not one in mine.
“Harta!” he called.
How could we possibly know what that meant?
There was suddenly, from well behind me, yards back, back down the line, a sharp, cruel crack, almost as clear and terrible, in the narrow corridor, as the report of a rifle. I, and several of the others, cried out, with misery and terror. But I do not think that anyone had been struck. I do not think that I had ever heard that sound before, or certainly not in such a way, or place, but there was no mistaking it. Something in me, immediately, without reconnoitering, without complex reflection, recognized it. To such as I that sound was very meaningful. We recognized it, and understood it, instantaneously. We did not have to be told what it was.
We hurried forward, sobbing.
From time to time, as we moved down the corridor, we heard that sound again, from here and there along the line. Once it came from behind me, and to my left, only a few feet away. I screamed in terror and fell. My neck chain dragged forward on the collar. It cut at the back of my neck. What was behind me moved half beside me, sobbing. Instantly as there was again that terrible sound. I struggled to my hands and knees, hurrying forward.
“Harta!” I heard. “Harta!”
But we were hurrying! How could we go more swiftly?
Again cam the terrible crack of that snapping coil!
Gasping, crying out, sobbing, we moved even more swiftly!
We were terrified by the very sound of those supple implements.
Surely they could not be used upon us!
Surely these men, those leonine males, like gods and beasts, did not regard us as being subject to such attentions!
But somehow I suspected that these men, these unusual males, these incredible males, our striking, magnificent captors, were not likely to be patient with us. We were a kind, I gathered, on which such men were not likely to lavish patience.
But what kind could that be?
Of what kind was I now, or had I been, and now was explicitly, openly?
I dared not conjecture, but knew.
Somewhat behind me, to the side, I heard again that terrible sound, that sharp, fearful crack of leather.
I was kneeling in the garden, on the lavender grass, as it was in that part of the garden, my head down, the palms of my hands on the grass.
I had earlier crossed the perimeter of small, sharpened stones, a foot or so deep, about ten feet wide, which lined the interior wall of the garden. I had gone to the interior wall, the marbled wall, and touched it, and looked upward, to its height, and the incurved blades at the top. It had hurt, of course, to so approach the wall because of the sharpened stones, and one’s being barefoot, but I had wanted to do so. The garden was within the city itself. On the other side of the wall there was, I thought, a street. One could hear people talking, calling out to one another. One could hear vendors hawking their wares. One could hear wagons passing, drawn by four-legged tharlarion, ponderous draft creatures of this world. But not all the draft creatures of this world have four legs. Some have two legs. Sometimes, too, I could hear the snarl of animals, doubtless leashed. Too, sometimes one could detect the tramp of men, and, sometimes, too, they sang as they marched. Sometimes there were altercations outside the wall. Once I had heard the clash of metal. At other times there was the laughter of children, running, sporting in games, games which might be common, I suppose, to children anywhere. Occasionally heralds, or criers, would pass by, calling out news or announcements. Many on this world, you see, cannot read. Thus the importance of the heralds, the criers, and such. Many things are advertised, too, in such a way, by calling out bargains, the fruits in season, the markets, the cost of cloth, and such. Too, one may hear men, or, often, boys, for it costs less to hire them, calling out the pleasures of various taverns, and the delights that may be found within. I should not have gone to the wall, of course. We are forbidden, even, to step upon the perimeter of sharpened stones, that lining its interior side. But I had wanted to do so. I had wanted to look closely upon, and even to touch, the ascendant surface of that looming confinement, so beautiful, and yet so practical, and formidable. Did I expect to find within it a chink, or a secret door? No, I am not so stupid. I think I wanted to touch, and to understand, if only a little better, that which held me in this place. I have always wanted to touch, and to understand. The wall, in its way, aside from its height and thickness, its weight, its formidableness, its rearing terribleness, was mysterious to me. Perhaps better I might say that it, in its way, symbolized a mystery for me. What was I doing here? Certainly I was not one of the finest flowers in the garden. There seemed nothing so unique, or different, or precious about me. I did not think myself such that I might be selected out from hundreds to be brought here. There seemed to me no special reason why I should have been brought here. I did not know why I was here. Too, my curiosity was roused by the transition which had taken place in my fortunes, so abruptly, and with how I had been brought here, so secretly. One does not, commonly, go from what I was, within my kind, to one of the gardens. Usually one is either selected out almost immediately for the gardens, almost from the beginning, or, later, after one has attained various intermediate levels or degrees. One seldom goes, so to speak, in one moment, from straw mats and clay bowls to silk and gold. Betwixt there are many things, sheets of copper, plates of bronze, ingots of iron, tablets of silver, such things. To be sure, one may be seen, and have a fancy taken to one. There is little predictability in such things. Too, it must be admitted that one is sometimes brought secretly to such a place. I do not mean, of course, merely one who is not of my kind, that is, as yet, legally, or officially, but who will doubtless soon be of my kind, legally, and officially, but those who, to begin with, brought to such places secretly. Just as they may be acquired secretly. What the garden contains, you see, its contents, and their value, need not be for everyone to know. But I did not think I had been brought here merely in the light of such familiar, comprehensible considerations. Of course, I did not know. It may have been that someone noticed the turn of an ankle, the movement of a hand, the fall of one’s hair on the back, the hints whispered by a tunic, an expression, such things. I did not know. Could things be that simple? Perhaps they were that simple. I hoped so. But I was uneasy. I was not sure of it. Could I be different from the others, in some sense I did not understand? I thought, somehow, I might be. To be sure, I served here, as the others, and was subject to the same perfections of keeping as they. In this sense I was no different from them. Many of them seemed jealous of me, and resented me, for no reason I understood, but such things are natural, I gather, in such a place. But I did not think they really thought it strange that one such as I should be here, nor did the guards seem to think so. These all took me for granted, much as it is common to take for granted those in the gardens, saving perhaps one or another who might enjoy greater or lesser favor now and then. I was, from the point of view of the others, and the guards, as far as I could tell, only another adornment here, only another flower. Doubtless there was no more to it. I had touched the wall, and looked up to its height, and the knives. I did not want to be within the garden. To be sure, there are doubtless worse places to be. Many doubtless long for the garden, its plenty, its security, its beauty. It is doubtless safer here than on the other side of the wall. One could tell that at times from the alarms, the running of feet, the cries, one heard outside. At such times we looked at one another, in fear. Muchly then were we pleased to be within the garden. We were sometimes frightened that the portals of the house might be breached, that the hinges of barred gates might be broken from the stone, that the garden might be entered, and we might be found, helpless in the garden, like luscious fruit in an orchard whose supposedly impregnable walls have been rent. These fears were not as ungrounded as one might suppose. Times were hard in the city, I gathered, though I had not understand much of what was occurring. Sometimes something like anarchy seemed to reign in the streets. Certain gardens, we had gathered, had been breached, and plundered, their contents taken away, to what places and for what purpose who knew. But our house, I understood, was immune from such ravages. Our house, it seemed, enjoyed some special status. It stood high, it seemed, in the favor of those who controlled the city. We had been, until now, at least, exempted from exactions, confiscations, taxations, and such. To be sure, it was in its way an uneasy existence for us, in the garden, for we could hear what occasionally went on in the streets, on the other side of the wall, and we had gathered, from remarks of guards, overheard, and such, that not every house in the city, with such a garden, had been spared rude, abrupt attentions. In the garden we were pampered and soft. We need only please and be beautiful. We had silks, perfumes, cosmetics, and jewelry. Let such things be our concern. We were ignorant, almost entirely so, of what went on outside. Indeed, that was appropriate for us. It was not ours to be informed. That is not the sort we were. Sometimes, when there were harsh sounds in the street outside, I looked at some of the others, and saw them regarding one another, fear in their eyes, drawing their silks more closely about themselves. There was a world on the other side of the wall, a world quite different from that to which they were accustomed. It was a harsh, violent, impatient, exacting world. Were they to find themselves within it I did not doubt but that they would discover their lives considerably transformed. I myself, however, did not wish to remain in the garden. I had seen a world much more real outside the wall. It was in that world that I wished to be, even with its cruelties and dangers. It was not that I was dissatisfied with my condition, you understand, because I had come to understand what I was, and to rejoice in it. It was, rather, that I wished to be what I was outside the wall, not within the wall, not within the garden. Indeed, within the wall, I could not fully realize my natural condition, not to its fullest extent, what I was. One required for that a full world, with its thousands of ramifications and perils. I would have preferred a rag, if permitted that, outside the wall, to the silks and jewels of a favorite within.
I had heard voices coming from the house. I had then, swiftly, as swiftly as I could, given the stones, withdrawn from the wall. It had hurt to do so, cruelly, but it would be far worse to be discovered there, as the wall is forbidden. Indeed, it is forbidden even to enter upon the expanse of stones inside it, at its foot. Oh, I should not have gone to it, of course. It is forbidden. I had looked about, however. I had done my best to make sure that I had not been observed.
I had been sure that I had not been observed.
It had been my intention to circle about, though the shrubbery, and the tiny, lovely trees in the garden, to the vicinity of the fountain.
But I had scarcely entered upon the grass when I had heard a man’s voice. “Stop,” he had said.
I had knelt, of course, immediately, and put my head down ot the grass, the palms of my hands, too, on the grass.
How could it be a man, here, at this time of day?
I did not raise my head. I had not received permission to do so.
I did not break position.
I had not received permission to do so.
I was in the light silk. It was extremely brief, and was, for most practical purposes, diaphanous. Certainly it left little doubt as to my lineaments.
I knelt before him, my head down to the grass, my palms on the grass.
Who was he?
What could he want?
“On your belly,” had said a man.
It is unthinkable on this world that such a command not be obeyed instantly, or, at least, that one such as I not obey it instantly.
And so I lay on my belly, on the colorful tiles, in one of the sales rooms in the pens.
Too, of course, one does not simply sprawl on one’s belly. There are ways, diverse ways, of assuming this position. We are taught them. Other women, women unlike us, one supposes, do not know them. They, too, of course, can be taught. In this house, such a command, unqualified, requires that the head be turned to the left and the arms be placed down, beside the body, the palms up. A slightly different command requires the crossing of the wrists behind the back and the crossing of the ankles, as well. This is sometimes used when one is to be bound. If one receives permission to look up, or is commanded to do so, which is frightening, the hands are normally placed to the sides, at the shoulders, and one then lifts one’s upper body. The belly itself, of course, remains in contact with the surface on which one lies, the grass, the dirt, the gravel, the deck, the floor, the tiles, whatever the surface may be. But there are numerous variations in such things, as there are in ways to kneel, ways to hurry, ways to serve, ways to crawl to the furs, and such. There are even ways in which the whip, if called for, is to be brought. In our training, as you might suppose, we learn many things. In time our training, extending even to the tiniest nuances of attitude, and to the smallest movements and gestures, is internalized, indeed, in such a way that we are no longer, or seldom, even aware of it, it having become, in effect, the way we are. There is a world of difference between us and certain other women, women unlike us, as you might suppose, but what is perhaps less obvious, and what might be pointed out, is that there are considerable differences amongst us, even those such as I, as well. Consider merely the matter of training. One of us who is trained will normally, other things being equal, be appraised more highly than one who is not, one who is superbly trained will normally, other things being equal, be appraised more highly than one who is merely well trained, and so on. I refer, of course, to appraisals in a practical, factual manner, having to do, for example, with what men will pay for us.
“She bellies well,” observed a man.
“Has she been long in the pens?” inquired another.
“Not long,” said he who had spoken first.
“Has she made progress?” asked a fellow.
“She has made excellent progress,” said another.
“Can she understand what we are saying?” asked another.
“Yes,” said another.
“She is quite intelligent then,” asked one of the men. I did not recognize his voice. I did not think I knew him. I had not, of course, looked boldly about. Too, when one is on one’s belly, with the head turned to the side, one is scarcely in a position to study the countenances about one. Too, even if one is standing, or working, or serving, one seldom meets the eyes of such men directly.
“Considering her origin, and what she is, she is extremely intelligent,” said a man.
“Good,” said the fellow who had spoken before, him I did not recognize. But, to be sure, he was with three or four others who, too, I did not know, or doubted that I knew. They were from outside the house. I was sure of that.
“She is absolutely ignorant of the political situation?” asked the fellow I did not know.
“Yes,” said a man.
“She is from the world, Earth,” pointed out another.
“There is such a place?” asked a man, one of those I did not know.
“Yes,” he was assured.
“It is an excellent source of stock,” said another.
“And she has only recently arrived on our world,” asked one of those I did not know.
“Recently enough,” he heard.
“She has been in the pens?” asked another, one of those I did not know.
“She has not been outside them since her arrival,” said a man.
That was true. I had little, if any, idea of the nature of the world to which I had been brought.
“Are you interested in her?” asked one of the men I knew, one from the house.
“Have her stand, and turn,” said a man.
I heard the snapping of fingers.
Quickly I rose to my feet, and turned, before them.
“Interesting,” said a man.
“Clasp your hands behind the back of your head,” said a fellow from the house.
“Arch your back,” said another.
My left foot was now slightly advanced. I was bent backwards, by back arched. My hands were clasped behind the back of my head.
“Yes,” said another. “Interesting.”
“Belly,” said the fellow who had first spoken to me.
Instantly I returned to my belly, as I had been before, my head turned to the left, my arms back, down at my sides, my hands turned so that my palms, their softness, faced up, exposed.
The new fellows, those who were strangers in the house, I gathered, were not to be shown more, not without having requested it, it seemed, not without having, in effect, committed themselves to some degree, in virtue of the expression of some explicit, rather more tangible, interest. Those of the house were skilled in what they were doing.
“Perhaps we should look at others.” Said one of the fellows I did not know.
“We have items from various cities, and from villages and districts, brought in from time to time, requisitioned, and such,” said the fellow from the house. “We have an excellent item from Besnit, blond, whose hair comes to her ankles.”
“It must be an outworlder,” said a stranger, impatiently, he who seemed to be first among those I did not know.
“That was my understanding,” agreed the fellow from the house.
“But there must be other outworlders,” said one of the strangers, rather lightly.
“Yes, we still have several,” said a fellow from the house. “As you recall, you looked upon them last night, by lamplight, while they slept, in their kennels. This one, as I understand it, was your choice.”
I lay there. I had not realized that I, and the others, had been looked upon last night, while we slept. There is, of course, no way to prevent that.
“You have seen the papers,” said one of the fellows of the house to someone. “You have seen the reports. You have spoken to the teachers, and trainers.”
“They have other outworlders,” said the cautions fellow, one of the strangers.
“We do not have as many as we did,” said a fellow of the house. “They tend to be distributed about. We get only our share. Too, of those we receive, we normally have orders for several. Some we ship without training, to other houses and such. You must understand that, over the past few years, as their value has come to be more generally recognized, such items have become more popular.”
“And more expensive,” observed a stranger, irritably.
“Sometimes,” it was admitted.
“Are you sure you want an outworlder?” asked one of the fellows of the house.
“Yes,” he was told.
“Given your specifications,” said the fellow from the house, first among those of the house, “I really think this item is your likely choice.”
There was a silence.
“You must understand,” said the fellow from the house, first among them, “that your specifications are not easy to fulfill. If an item is reasonably skillful in the language it is not likely to be ignorant of the world, and, if it is ignorant of the world, it is less likely to be adept with the language.”
“This one is intelligent?”
“Quite so, subject of course, as made clear, to her origin, and what she is.”
“Let us consider others,” said the cautious fellow.
“We have seen them. We have examined their papers, and which,” said the stranger who, I took it, was first among them.
“We have several items in stock,” said the fellow from the house, who was first among those of the house. “You may examine them, if you wish, more so than you have already done. Nonetheless I really think that this item is the one best for your purposes. It should well satisfy your needs. I conjecture that it should do quite nicely.” He added, “I am quite familiar with our current inventory.”
“You could examine items at another house,” said another fellow of the house.
There was silence.
“Are you interested only in an item which satisfies the criteria you have made clear to me?” asked he who was first of those of the house.
“I do not understand,” said a man.
“I might, with your permission,” said the first fellow, “mention that this particular item has certain qualities to recommend it, should you be interested in them, beyond being intelligent, an outworlder, having developed, in a short time, a modest command of the language, and being ignorant of political intricacies.”
“Other qualities?” asked a fellow.
“Other then those which are quite evident to your senses, other than those which you could detect by merely laying eyes upon her,” said the fellow from the house, first among those of the house.
There was laughter.
I lay there, before them.
“Are such things also of interest to you?” asked he who was first among those of the house, first, at any rate, among those present.
“Are they not always of interest? Asked a fellow.
There was more laughter.
“More importantly,” said one of the strangers, “should she not be such as to appear plausibly to have been purchased for the typical reasons for which such an item might be obtained?”
“Yes,” mused another man.
“I assume you,” said the fellow from the house, “that she could be excellently, and judiciously, purchased for just such typical reasons.”
“She fulfills such criteria, independently?”
“Assuredly,” said the fellow from the house.
“Let her perform,” said he who, I took it, was first among the strangers.
“Prepare,” said he who was first among those of the house.
I rose lightly to my feet, and turned, and, head down, put my hand to my left shoulder. I was unclothed, of course, but had I been silked the disrobing loop would have been at the left shoulder. I had learned how to remove the silk gracefully. Now, of course, I must merely pretend to do so. I moved my hand as thought loosening the disrobing loop, and then, gracefully, stepped away from the silk which had supposedly fallen about my ankles. I then, facing the strangers, the new comers, knelt before them, in position of obeisance, my head down to the floor, the palms of my hands on the floor, too.
“She looks well in such a position,” said a man.
“They all do,” said another.
I had known, of course, for years, even before puberty, that such deferences, obeisances, and such, were owned to men, but I had never expected, except perhaps in dreams, to find myself in my present position, one in which I was subject to, and must have in accordance with, such appropriatenesses.
“Begin,” said he who was first among those of the house.
I rose to my feet, and, obedient to the injunction under which I had been placed, began to move. I moved first before one man and then another. I began, of course, with he whom I immediately sensed was first among the strangers. I sensed this from his position, central and prominent among them, and from the nature of his gaze upon me, which I could meet only for an instant. I moved before the men, first before one and then before another, approaching, withdrawing, sometimes as if unwilling, or shy, sometimes almost as if daring to be insolent or rebellious, but not quite, or not really, of course, for if such things are misunderstood one may quickly feel the lash. It is more as thought a token challenge were offered but one which is clearly understood as, and its presented as, no more than that, for one knows that even such tokens may be swept away, and crushed, and one may find oneself suddenly upon one’s knees, in one’s place, cringing in terror, in the rightful servitude of one’s nature. And then there is a sensuousness which can be taunting, in effect, a challenge to one’s conquest, and a sensuousness which is taunting in another respect, an invitation to partake of proffered raptures. And there are the movements of petition, of pleading, of begging. There are movements of these, and of many other sorts. Some of these movements I had been taught. Others, in effect, were known to me from long ago. I had, in secrecy, practiced them, before mirrors, when alone. I had found them somehow in the piteous recesses of my needs, had drawn them forth as though from an ancient knowledge. I had wondered who it was sometimes that I could have known such things. Had I moved thusly long ago, in a former life, before a prince of some royal house on the Nile, before some caliph in his cool, white palace abutting the slow waters of the Tigris, in the house of some oligarch overlooking the Tiber? Or were these things locked in the very cells of my body, in the mysteries of genes and chromosomes, a part of my nature, selected for, over thousands of generations? Perhaps, thusly, such as I had, at times, writhed naked and piteous at the feet of some primitive hunter, before his fire, that he would not use the heavy stone in his hand, that I might be permitted to live. How I would have been prepared to accept, the relish, eagerly, gratefully, the harsh terms which he might decree! And here, too, it seemed, in this place, new revelations had come to me of my nature. Here, away from my own world, with its confusions, its lies, its contradictions, its asceticism, its hatred, its envy, its resentment, its pervasive negativities, it seemed as though for the first time I could be what I truly was, without pretending to be something else. Here for the first time I felt I could be me, not some other. Had I so moved in Thebes or Memphis, or Damascus, or Baghdad, or Athens or Rome? I did not know. But if I had, here, in this place, such possibilities seemed much more real to me. It was as though I were suddenly in touch with a thousand possible lives, ones which I might have lived, ones which, surely, I could have lived. Or if these things lurked in the beauties of biological heritage, here at any rate, it seemed such an inheritance, such a heritage, might, at last, be spread forth in the light, a treasure no longer concealed, denied, in dank vaults, but put forth to gleam in public view, to be honestly what it was, to be admired, to be prized, to be used.
Oh, there are many such movements, and they must flow into one another well.
“Ah!” said a man.
I then transposed into floor movements, as these are often the climactic episodes of such a performance.
I made certain, of course, that I concluded my performance before he who was first among the strangers. It would not do at all to have finished it elsewhere. Sometimes an item such as I, struck with love, or careless, may move cumulatively, so to speak, and most meaningfully, before one who is not first in such a group. Such an error, however, despite its understandability, the desire to display oneself before, to call oneself to the attention of, and to attract him in whose power one wishes to be, can be very dangerous. Such things can lead among the men to rivalries, to fallings out, even to duels and bloodshed. And for one such as I they might lead at best to the thronging of the wrists and the waiting at the post, for the lash.
I heard exclamations from the men, the sudden intakes of breath, tiny sounds of surprise, murmurs of approval. These things coursed though the group, some even from those in the house. Such as I, you see, do have some power, but the ultimate power of course, is not ours.
Then I lay on my back, the performance concluded. My left knee was up, and drawn further back than my right knee, which was also raised. My hands were down beside me, at my sides. The palms were up, as is proper. The vulnerability of the palms is part of the symbolisms involved. My head was turned to the right, and I looked toward he who was first among the strangers. Then having done this, I turned my head back, and looked up. I could see the pitting of ceiling above me. My hair was about. My body was covered with a sheen of sweat. I was breathing heavily.
“She is quite beautiful,” said a man.
“She has become even more so, since she came here,” said he who was first of those present, he who was of the staff of the house.
I lay there feeling their eyes upon me.
I had found the way in which I was regarded by these men, almost from the beginning, as soon as I became aware of such things, almost from my first moments after having crawled from the corridor in line, with the others, chained by the neck, to the first processing area, to be startling, or, at least, very surprising. You see, I had never thought of myself, really, on my old world, as having been beautiful. I had thought of myself as perhaps pretty, at best. I did have, I suppose, delicate, some said, exquisite, features. But my body, you see, would be all wrong for my own culture. It approximates, very closely, that of the statistically normal female. For example, it is not unusually long legged, and it does not, as it might if it were almost breastless, seem to be, in effect, that of a stripling youth. It is, rather, for most practical purposes, only the body of a normal woman, as women are, only that. Agencies would not select me, for example, as a model, or, at least, one fulfilling the normal stereotypes of the model. For example, I could never slip a chain on my waist, fastening me perhaps to a beam. It would hold me quite effectively. The nature of my body would keep me its prisoner. And so I had never thought of myself as beautiful. But here I found, in this culture, that the standard of beauty is set by what women really are, in the helplessness of their hormonal richness, rather than, for some reason, the way boys often are, in their adolescence, before they achieve the girth and strength of their manhood. So, to be sure, I might not have worn certain narrow, stiltlike garments as well as a model but I had learned, initially to my surprise, and later to my dismay, and terror, and later, yet, rather to my contentment, and even joy, that I might, in a bit of silk, or in a bracelet and a pair of bangles, seem to be such that in me men might take great interest. Most of those who had been on my chain were, like myself, normally figured females. There had been only two of the “model” sort and they, it seems, had been brought here for a specialty market. The men did not regard them with much interest. As I began to understand how I, and my sort, those with normal figures, were viewed on this world, I began to feel sorry for the “models,” whom, at one time, I would, absurdly, have envied from afar. How difficult it must be for them, given their previous experiences, to recognize, and adjust to, the simple tolerance, if not contempt, in which they now find themselves held. But there is surely hope for them here, as there was, too, for us, on the old world. As we once were on the old world, so, too, here they are encouraged to put aside all thoughts of their “faults” and “plainness,” or what counts as such here, and compensate with qualities of personality, attentiveness, and character. But I do not feel sorry for them. For just as there doubtless were men, true men, on the old world, though on such a world, though on such a world they must guard the secrecy of their manhood, who would prize the normal female, she made for arms, and crying out, and yielding, so, too, there must be on this world men, and doubtless true men, who find the tall, breastless “model type” of interest. Two such, for example, were brought here. They were on my chain. But it is nice to find out that one is such that, in a given culture, one is regarded as beautiful. Too, I think the culture is more normal than that from which I was extracted, as it seems that beauty might most plausibly be found within the normal parameters of womanhood, rather than, say, at its fringes. For what its worth, as an economic sidelight on such matters, normally figured women, assuming, of course, that they are attractive and beautiful, tend, by far, to bring the highest prices. To speak plainly, men on this world, statistically, will pay more for them. Perhaps another remark or two might be made here. Whereas I am short, as are most women, I am not fat. My figure, which is small, has been “optimized,” so to speak, at least from the point of view of these men, within its own parameters. I have had no control over this. It has been seen to. It is a matter of diet, exercise, proper rest, and such. In the house these things are, in effect, taken care of for me. I am told that outside the house, however, items such as I, depending on their situation, are often assigned more personal responsibility in such matters, subject, of course, to supervision and discipline. They are expected, outside the house, just as within the house, it seems, to keep the latitudes of their bodies within certain prescribed parameters.
If they become lax in such matters, they are punished. A second point is that one of the men, as I have indicated, spoke of me as having become even more beautiful since my arrival here. I think this is true, as mirrors, and guards, have testified. The truest beauty, of course, comes from within, and, I suppose, from many sources. It may be, for example, a function of the lessening of inhibitions, and the removal of anxieties and internal contradictions. It may come from contentment, from happiness, from fulfillment, from joy, from such things. Such things cannot help but transform one’s expressions, one’s movements, one’s entire attitude and behavior. The beauty of the outside begins its journey from within. And, lastly, it is only fair to mention, behind such things, the subtleties of silking, of perfumes, of cosmetics, of adornment, and such. We are expected to know such things, and to utilize them to achieve desired effects. At times I had trembled, seeing what was revealed in the mirror, and understanding the only way in which such a thing could be understood by a man, and yet knowing, too, that that was I, that tasteless, brazen, garish, dramatic, provocative thing, in one of my authentic modalities. And then, too, such things could be applied with sensitivity and taste, and sometimes, if one wished, so subtly that only I perhaps might guess what enhancements had been applied. And at other times we were permitted only a rag or a bit of silk and taught so to stand, to sit or kneel that even so, without cosmetics, with no more perhaps than our hair combed, we would be beautiful. There are mirrors in most of the training areas. These accustomed us to be acutely conscious of how we might appear to others. This is very helpful, particularly in the early phases of training, before so many things, such as good posture and graceful movement become second nature to us. Sometimes I, and others, were placed before the mirror, in a rag, or silk, and told to stand there, or kneel there, or sit there, and see ourselves as we were. I would look into the mirror, and see myself as I was. I was now very different from what I had once been. I was now quite different. And so I had come to a place where I had found myself to be beautiful, even extraordinarily so. I looked into the mirror. I saw there one who was beautiful. This much pleased me. But, too, sometimes, I was frightened. I saw there in the mirror before me not merely one who was beautiful, but one’s whose beauty was only in one sense hers. In another sense, it was not hers, just as she herself was no longer hers, but another’s.
I lay before the men, suitably. I was looking up at the ceiling.
My hair was about my shoulders. I was still trying to regain my breath, from the exertion of my performance. My breasts heaved.
“Is she hot?” asked a man.
“It is so certified, by the house,” said one of the strangers. I gathered this information had been obtained from my papers.
“We have had to warn the guards away from her,” said one of the fellows from the house.
I kept my eyes up, on the ceiling.
“Already she has learned to beg,” said a man.
“She has been instructed to keep her hands within the bars of her kennel,” said another.
“In a few weeks,” said one of the fellows from the house, “she will be utterly unable to help herself.”
One of the fellows from the house walked over to me. “Put your knees down,” he said.
Immediately I complied. He then kicked one of my ankles to the side, so that I lay with my legs open.
I kept my eyes on the ceiling.
He who was apparently the leader of the strangers came and stood near me.
I looked up, but then looked away, quickly. I dared not meet his eyes.
He stepped away from me.
I moaned, a little.
“Are you interested?” asked the one who was first of those present, of the house.
“We will take her,” said the leader of those not from the house.
I did not break position.
I had not received permission to do so.
I continued to kneel before him, on the lavender grass, my head down to the grass, my palms upon it, as well.
The position is a common one, of obeisance.
I could hear some birds, among the trees. I could hear, a few yards away, the fountain.
I sensed that his eyes were upon me.
I was in the light silk. It was extremely brief, and was, for most practical purposes, diaphanous. Certainly it left little doubt as to my lineaments.
I knelt before him, in an attitude suitable for one such as I before one such as he, a male, that of obeisance.
I did not know who he might be, or what he might want.
Too, had he seen me near the wall?
“It is the rest period,” he said.
“Yes,” I said.
I had heard voices from within the house but I had thought them the voices of the one who was first amongst us and the assistants of that one. Some of us, in a place such as this, are usually subject to others of us. I was surprised, and frightened, when I had heard the voices, for it was unusual to hear such during the rest period. The rest period, I knew, was not over, or should not yet be over. If I had thought it even close to the time for the rest period to be over, I would not, of course, have been in the vicinity of the wall. That is, you see, not permitted.
“Why are you not on your mat?” he asked.
“I was not tired,” I said.
“You wanted to walk in the garden?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“It is the heat of the day,” he said.
“Yes,” I said.
“Why were you not in the shade?” he asked.
“I do not know,” I said.
“One such as you must be careful,” he said.
“Yes,” I said. I did not fully understand him. I was frightened.
“You should guard your complexion,” he said.
“Yes!” I agreed, relieved.
“It would not do to become sunburned, to become reddened, or blistered.”
“No,” I said.
“Or worse,” he said.
“No,” I said, trembling.
How was it that he was here, a man, now? Who was he?
“You might then be less pleasing,” he said.
“Yes,” I said.
“You are new in the garden,” he said.
“Yes,” I said. How could he have known that? I was sure he was not of the staff. Certainly I did not recognize his voice.
Could I be of interest to him?
Other, of course, than in the way in which one of my kind might be found of interest by any man?
“Position,” he said.
So said, so simply, I straightened my back, and knelt up, straight, but back on my heels, my knees widely spread, for this was in accord with my kind within a kind, the palms of my hands on my thighs. I kept my head bowed, however. This sort of thing, I had learned, tends to depend on the city, and the man. It is safest to keep it bowed, unless one knows that it is to be held otherwise.
“You may lift your head,” he said.
No, I did not know him. I did not recognize him. He was a strong, powerful man, of which here, in this place, on this world, there seemed no dearth. He was tall. He wore a street tunic, a fillet of wool holding back long, dark hair, a wallet. He did not appear to be armed. I was small, and soft, before him. I did not doubt but he, as one of his kind, would well know the handling of one such as I, one of my kind.
“What is your name?” he asked.
“I have had many names,” I said. It was true. A name for the purposes of training, a name for the purpose of kennels, and so on.
“You have an accent,” he said.
“Yes,” I said.
“What are you called in the gardens?” he asked.
“Gail,” I said.
He smiled. “An excellent name,” he said.
I put down my head, but raised it again, remembering that I had been given permission to lift it, a permission which suggested that it might be well to keep it lifted, unless otherwise instructed. Still, he had not commanded me to meet his eyes. Accordingly, gratefully, I tended to keep my eyes averted from his. It can be difficult for one such as I to meet the gaze of such a man.
“For one such as you,” he added. I was silent.
“That is an Earth name,” he said.
“Yes,” I said.
He then was aware of at least a portion of what is called the “second knowledge.” He might, thustly, be of high caste.
“You were originally from such a place?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“But now you are only from here, aren’t you?” he said.
“Yes,” I said. It seemed that nothing could be more true than that.
He drew a sheet of paper from his wallet. On it was a design, or a world, or name.
“Can you read this?” he asked.
“No,” I said.
I was illiterate on this world. I had not been taught to read or write any of its languages. Such skills were not deemed needful for one such as I.
He turned the paper over.
“Do you recognize this sign?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said. “It is the sign of the city.” It was a simple mark. I had seen it before, even within the house, on documents and such.
My mind raced. I did not know what, really, I was doing here, in the garden, or why I had been brought here. To be sure, perhaps I had been brought here, really, no differently from others, nor for purposes essentially different from theirs. That was possible. But I was not sure of it. The ‘flowers’ here were of astounding quality and I was not at all sure that I, even given the fact that I might be of interest, even of remarkable interest, on this world, really belonged among them, at least on purely aesthetic grounds. Similarly I was not versed in song, I was not skilled with lute or lyre, I did not even know the special dances of the gardens. It is one thing to writhe naked before guards, one’s body obedient to the slightest tremor of the flute, and quite another, for example, to swirl in a belt of jewels on the dancing floor of one of the golden taverns, reached only from the high bridges. But then, perhaps, they are not really so different after all. But, in any event, I had not had special training, or, at least, no training more special than any one such as I would have, who is not intended to be, and sold as, a dancer.
Why should he be asking me these things?
Of course I could not read! Could he not simply look upon my lineaments, and my silk, and know that? Of course some of the flowers could read. That was true. But I could not! Would he not know that? Of course I could recognize that one sign. Was it not well known?
What did he want?
He returned the sheet of paoper to his wallet.
I looked up at him. I wanted to read his eyes.
“Have you been near the wall?” he asked, offhandedly.
I must have turned white.
I was now sure that he had seen! He must not tell. He must not tell!
“Brand,” he said, idly.
I knelt up, from my heels, and, still kneeling, turned to my right. I drew up the silk on my left side, with the fingers of both hands, to the waist, as one does, this exposing the tiny, graceful mark there, high on my left thigh, just under the hip.
“A lovely flank,” he remarked.
Many times before had I received such compliments. My flanks, I had gathered, were of interest to men, and other portions of my body, as well, and the whole, the whole.
But then I sensed it was the brand he was regarding.
“Yes,” he said, looking at it.
But surely it could mean nothing to him. It was, as I understood it, in its variations, the most common mark on this world for one such as I. It was only the common mark, nothing special, or different.
“Yes,” he said, again. He seemed satisfied.
He was not surprised, of course, that the mark was on me. It would have been utterly improbable that that mark, or some equivalent sign, would not have been upon me, and most likely in that place. That is the most common site for such a mark. Merchant practice, and social custom, tend to standardize such things.
I, too, regarded the mark. It is expected, indeed, in such a situation, that we, too, will regard it, as it is exposed on the flank, the silk lifted to the waist with the fingers of two hands. We are to turn our eyes downward and to the left, and look upon it, seeing it once again, understanding it once again.
I looked at him, and he was looking at me, a slight smile about his lips.
I looked down, again to the mark. What could be his interest in it? Surely one such as he, large, tall, strong, vigorous, of this world, one in whose demeanor I sensed an unconfused unity and will, one in whose loins I sensed considerable power, would have seen such a thing many times before, and would have seen such as I many times before. I did not think he would be unfamiliar with my kind, the uses to which we might be put, our diverse values, and such.
Perhaps he had only wanted me to expose my flank to him. After all, cannot it be pleasant, or amusing, for them to observe us, while we, under command, perhaps reluctantly, perhaps in tears, reveal ourselves to them? Perhaps it was only in I that he was interested, as he might be interested in any of my kind, he what he was, we what we are. But, no! He had been concerned with the brand. But what could it have meant to him? It was only the common mark. It was a small, tasteful, beautiful mark, of course. I had no doubt it much enhanced my beauty. Too, of course, it had its symbolic aspects, in its design, and its reality, that it marked me. Indeed, sometimes, even thinking of it, I had screamed softly with passion. More than once I had, in my former places, bared it to a guard, in mute petition, calling thusly to his attention what I was and what I wanted from him, and what I hoped for from him, and what I needed from him, thusly pleading without words that he might deign to take pity upon me. But often they would not so spare my pride and would have me at their feet, licking and kissing, and begging explicitly. Then they would either take pity on me, or not, as it pleased them. Sometimes, of course, we would be denied human speech. At such times we must make known our needs by other means, such things as moans and whimpers, and tears. But the primary purpose of the mark, one supposes, is not to be understood naively in such terms as its simple factual enhancement of our beauty, nor even in terms of how it makes us, those who wear it, feel, but rather, more simply, in virtue of more mundane considerations, such as its capacity to implement certain practical concerns of property, and merchant, law. By its means, you see, we may conveniently be identified, and recognized.
But he had, I was sure, been interested in the particular brand I wore. This was hard to understand, of course, as it was merely one of the numerous variations on the common mark. There were doubtless many in the city, even thousands, I supposed, who wore the same, or a very similar, mark.
I looked up at him again, and then, sensing that I might do so, lowered the silk. I then returned to my former position, kneeling back on my heels, facing him, not meeting his eyes.
He had seemed satisfied, regarding the brand. It had seemed to mean something to him. I did not understand it. But surely he could not be interested n me, save as one such as he might be expected to be interested, if only as a passing whim, in one such as I.
“In what house were you first processed?” he asked. I looked at him, frightened.
“You have not been near the wall, have you?” he asked.
“Please,” I wept.
He regarded me.
Tears formed in my eyes. “I do not know in what house I was first processed,” I said. It was true.
“What was the name of he who over you first held total rights?” he asked.
“I do not know!” I said. I didn’t.
“In what city,” asked he, “were you marked?”
“It was done in the pens,” I said, “shortly after my arrival here. I was not permitted out of the pens. I did not know where I was.”
“You heard none speak the name of the city?”
“No,” I said.
He nodded. This response, it seemed, was the one which he had expected.
“What were the names of those who trained you, who taught you?” he asked.
“They did not speak their names before us,” I said. He smiled. That, too, it seemed he had expected. I remembered one especially, one whom I had never forgotten, he who was the first of the men of this world I had seen clearly, when permitted to look up, in the corridor. I, a woman from another world, a world not his, I, a woman removed from, torn from, my own world and brought as a mere captive, or less, to his, kneeling naked at his feet, fearfully, in chains, had looked up at him. I had quailed before him. I had not known such men could exist. It was he who, of all men on this world, I had first seen. It was he to whom I had thought that I might have been important. His whip had been thrust to my lips. The ceremony, so meaningful, in timid compliance, had been performed. I remembered him. It was he to whose whip my lips had first been pressed. I had thought that I might have been important to him.
Then, when I had kissed the second whip, I had realized that I was not. I was no more to him then another on the chain. I had often, in my training, piteously, tried to call myself to his attention, but he had paid me little heed. It was only too clear that I was nothing to him. Sometimes he even seemed to regard me, unaccountably, with rage. Never did he touch me, save to improve a posture, or to position me more appropriately. At such times he would handle me roughly, even severely, certainly more so than was necessary. He was not patient with me, as he might have been with the others. Surely, for some reason, he did not like me. I shook beneath his touch. I could hardly stand when he was near. Sometimes when I begged him, he would spurn me with his foot. Sometimes he would merely turn away, leaving me behind, on my knees, scorned, rejected. At other times he would throw me to another. I had never forgotten him. It had been he, of all on this world, on whom I had first, in my chains, from my knees, fully looked. It had been he to whose whip my lips had first been pressed. I could still remember the taste of its leather. I did not even know his name.
“How were you taken from the pens?” he asked.
“I do not know,” I said. “I was drugged. As the drug began to take effect, I was hooded, and shackled.”
“How were you transported?” he asked.
Why was he asking such questions? What difference could it make to him, or to anyone?
“I am confused,” I said. “I was kept drugged. It was now doubtless mixed with my food. I think there was a ship, I think there was a wagon, for a long time. I could not see out of the wagon. It was metal, and locked. The roads were rough. I was kept closely chained in the wagon, and hooded. I could hear little. People seldom spoke in my presence. It was sometimes hot in the wagon. It was sometimes cold. I was in it for a long time. We may eventually have been in mountains. There seemed steepnesses which were being ascended. I know very little of these things. I was unhooded only to be fed and watered. I could hear the locks opening and closing. Mostly I slept. I could not stay awake. I was sometimes slapped awake, to be fed and watered, and was then allowed, once again, mercifully, greedily, to subside into unconsciousness. Then I seem to remember being bound being bound hand and foot, and then being unchained. Never, it seems, was I without bonds. Did they fear I might escape? I did not know where I was being taken or what would be done with me. Could I be of some importance? Surely not! One such as I is not important. But why were such precautions taken with me? I could see nothing for they would not remove my hood. I was then wrapped in several folds of a blanket, it tied about me at several places, the ankles, knees, belly, breasts and neck. Were it not for this precaution I fear I might have died of exposure. I was then placed in some sort of basket. I could feel the fiber though the blanket. I was fastened in the basket by straps, at my ankles and neck. The basket swayed frighteningly. I was muchly grateful for the straps which held me in place. The wind whistled though the chinks between the fingers. Muchly, too, then, was I grateful for the protection of the blanket. The basket, it seemed, clearly, was being borne though the air. At the time I did not understand how that could be. I had thought it must be part of the drug, part of the dreams. Sometimes I heard weird, wild, birdlike screams. Sometimes I was frightened. But mostly I slept.”
“How long was it, after you left the pens,” he asked, “that you were transported, or think that you were transported, in one or another of these possible modalities?”
“I do not know,” I said.
“Days?” he asked.
“Yes, I think so,” I said.
“Several days?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said. “I would think so.”
“Weeks?” he asked.
“Possibly,” I said.
“I would suppose it would be hard to tell, in the state of consciousness you were in,” he said.
“Yes,” I said. Surely he knew how helpless we were in the grip of such substances.
What could be his interest in these things?
“There seems to have been a great deal of caution, or secrecy, in your transport,” he remarked.
“I knew nothing else, at the time,” I said.
“But that is clear to you now, is it not?” he asked.
“I gather so,” I said, “from what I now know.” This was true. Normally there was little concealment, or secrecy, involved in our movements. We tended to be moved about, and shipped, usually, quite openly. More often, it seemed, we were moved about in wagons covered with blue and yellow silk, our ankles chained to a central bar aligned with the long axis of the wagon bed, a bar which can be lifted up and down, and locked in place. Sometimes we are moved in special ships, constructed for us, with narrow, slatted tiers, on which we lie down, chained, closed off from one another with narrowly meshed steel screens. Sometimes, on flatbed wagons, we are chained to frameworks, or kept in metal containers, roped in place, or in sacks, tied, too, in place. There are, too, of course, simple cage wagons, in which, as what we are, we may be viewed behind the bars. There are many ways in which we may be moved. Indeed, it is not unusual for us, even, in brief tunics, chained together, by neck, or wrist, to trek the roads, afoot, under the surveillance of mounted guards astride saddle tharlarion. If others should approach, say, a caravan, we commonly yield the road, kneeling beside it, facing it, in obeisance, until the dust, the bells, passes.
I suddenly looked at him, in agony. He must not tell about the wall, that I had been near it!
Surely he would not tell!
“Stand,” he said. I complied.
I was regarded then, as such men regard one such as I.
“Disrobe,” he said.
My hand moved to the loop at my left shoulder, and I drew upon the loop, and, in a moment, stepped from the silk.
He gestured to the grass, permissively.
I sat back, on the grass, leaning back, on the palms of my hands.
In this fashion one’s hands are rather behind one, and rather held in place, by one’s own weight.
This position is one we are taught. In it, as is clear to us, we are more vulnerable.
He crouched beside me.
I was frightened.
I looked behind me, and upward, to the wall. I feared that I might see the back of a guard there. Although where we were was hidden from the house, by the shrubbery, it would have been an ill-disguised location for an assignation in the garden, being easily visible, as most parts of the garden are, from the wall. To be sure, the guards were supposed to keep their eyes away, unless suspicions were legitimately aroused, from the interior of the garden. Indeed, at certain times, they were not even allowed on the wall. This was, however, the rest period. They might well be on the wall now. Too, we had sometimes seen them observing us, and not merely when it was time for us to swim, or bathe, in the pool, or to try on silks, or for some of us to learn dances, but even when we might be taking our exercise, strolling in the garden, before the one who was first amongst us, though we pretended not to notice. It was interesting how our behavior changes, and so remarkably, when we find ourselves under the eyes of a man. It is as though we must suddenly become more beautiful. I think this is true even of women quite other then we. I think that they, too, thusly, in their hearts, know to whom they belong.
“You are frightened,” he said.
I looked at him.
He put his fingers gently over my lips. “You are not going to cry out, are you?” he asked.
I regarded him, in terror.
He lifted my right foot a little up from the grass, a few inches, with his left hand. My ankle was helpless in his grasp. He rubbed his index finger across the ball of the foot and then, his finger bright with a spot of blood, place it to my lips. I tasted the tiny bit of blood. My foot was cut, of course, from the sharp stones. I had exercised too little caution in fleeing from the wall.
He then did know, of course, that I had been at the wall. Indeed, he had doubtless, perhaps to his amusement, seen me there. What power in the garden did this give him over me! But who such as he needed any further power over one such as I? Did not, if not he, then his kind, already possess absolute power over on such as I!
“You are not going to cry out, are you?” he asked.
I moved my head, wildly, not so much in negativity, as in helplessness, and frustration.
“I am known in the house,” he assured me.
But that did not entitle him, surely, to enter the garden! To be with one of us, as he was!
“Very well,” he said. He reached down, beside me, to my discarded silk, and folded it several times. It was so light that even with several folds, it was not bulky. These layers of silk, folded neatly into a flat rectangle, he thrust crosswise in my mouth. Partly now they were back, between my teeth, my teeth closed on them, and partly, in front, those folds, they protruded from my mouth. I could feel them, between my lips. They extended an inch or so beyond my lips.
“You may recline,” he informed me.
I lay back, terrified.
Did he not know this was the garden? Did he not understand the danger?
“It is said,” he remarked, “that one such as you might be hot.”
Why had he phrased that in such a fashion? Those such as I might well be “hot”! That was not unusual. Indeed, we had better be, if we knew what was good for us! If we were not sufficiently hot, or sufficiently pleasing, we could expect to be whipped, or worse! We were not the sort of women who could use our favors, or the coolness of our responses, to achieve our own ends. Those weapons, if weapons they were, were no longer at our disposal. We had been disarmed. If wars were involved here, women such as I had clearly lost them. We had been defeated, utterly. We were now the helpless, obedient conquests of men. But, more importantly, we were, it seems, women like us, selected with various parameters in mind, such as intelligence, beauty, and heat. Then, too, we were placed in a situation where reservations, qualifications, inhibitions, compromises, and such, were simply not permitted.And our natural heats, which are in all of us, were brought forth, and encouraged, and even trained. They were fanned into flame, until we found ourselves their victims and prisoners, frequently, helplessly, profoundly, periodically, recurrently dependent upon men for their quenching. And in this place I had been muchly kept from satisfaction. I had often begged to be put forth for use, to lie chained between the tables for the use of guests, to be fastened even to a bench in the garden, my use a gratuity for those who worked there, or to be sent, gratefully, ecstatically, back braceleted, a sheet over me, to the quarters of guards, but the one who was first amongst us, who seemed to hate me, for no reason I could understand, had, almost invariably, to my pain and my misery, to my suffering, denied me these things.
I looked back, wildly, frightened, to the height of the wall, above and behind me. I feared a guard might make his rounds, that he might see!
Then he who was with me touched me, gently.
I reared half up, helplessly, a wild cry stifled by the wet silk I clenched between my teeth. He placed his hand over my mouth. Then he removed it. I had been unable to help myself. I looked up at him, piteously, tears in my eyes. I lay back, but whimpered, pleadingly. I lifted my body to him, beggingly. I looked wildly up at him, half in astonishment, half in supplication.
He seemed pleased. “Yes,” he said, rather as he had when he had noted the lovely mark, incised on my thigh. It would not come off, of course, it had been put there, in me, over a period of a few seconds, with a white hot iron.
I tried, helplessly, to press my body against his hand.
What cared I now for my questions, what mattered it if I understood him or not, if I fathomed his presence here, or what he wanted, or even if his interest in me might, frighteningly, be more than that of one such as he who had, in a garden, encountered one such as I.
I whimpered piteously, begging him, looking up at him, my teeth clenched on the silk, by body lifted.
I writhed, touched.
Again I lifted my body, begging.
But I was not touched. Tears welled in my eyes. Surely I was not to be tortured!
I whimpered, pleadingly.
I knew what could be done with me. He must not torture me! He must not torture me!
I looked up at him. All was in his hands.
I sobbed gratefully, entered.
I clutched him. On my left angle were golden bangles. On my left upper arm, there was a golden armlet. On my right wrist were two narrow golden bracelets. They made a tiny sound as I clutched him.
I did not think he would take long with me.
Surely he would have the dangers of the garden.
I clutched him. I hled to him, fiercely, with all my small strength.
He would be soon done with me.
I was only a girl in a garden.
I held to him, fiercely.
I wanted to savor every sensation, every feeling, every tiny movement. I was grateful, such as I was, for whatever crumbs might be thrown to me.
I looked at him, pleadingly, over the sopped gag in my mouth.
My eyes begged him not to stop.
I wanted more, more! I could not help myself!
Then I suddenly feared he might cry out. Sometimes such men, in their joy, in their ecstasy, roar like beasts! His cry might bring down the guards upon us!
I looked at him, frightened, my teeth clenched on the silk. He must not cry out!
I shook my head, wildly.
But he paid me no heed. His eyes were fierce. I might have been nothing in his grip!
Then I began to feel my own helplessness.
I knew that I was but a moment from being again conquered.
How piteously I looked up at him, and how well, I am sure, he read my helplessness.
I tried not to move.
I tried not to feel.
I looked at him.
He must not tell that I was near the wall! He must not tell that I was near the wall!
I had been quiet and obedient.
I had not cried out.
I had not called for guards.
Was I not pleasing him?
He must not tell that I had been by the wall!
What more could I do?
He must be quiet.
He must not make noise.
This place was not safe.
How long had we lain together?
Did he not know that we could be seen from the wall?
I feared that guards might see!
The rest period must be nearly over.
Others will be coming into the garden.
What if the one who was first amongst us should come to the garden?
What if we should be discovered?
But it was the helplessness which precedes the yielding.
All was in his hands.
I looked up at him.
He had brought me to the point where he could do with me what he wanted.
I was now his.
How it must amuse them, and please them, I thought, to have such power over us! But I clung to him in my helplessness. He could do with me what he wished. All was in his hands.
Oh, let him be merciful! Let him be merciful!
How they can wring from us our surrender!
Let him be kind! Oh, please, be kind! Please be kind!
He looked down at me, I fastened in his arms.
With my eyes I begged him, piteously.
I wondered suddenly if he had come to steal me, or one like me.
To pluck a flower, to seize, and make away with, a luscious fruit of the garden? But such things are almost impossible to do. To be sure, sometimes a flower would disappear, but then so, too, usually, would have a guard, or a member of the staff. That was dangerous, but possible. But he was not of the house, or of the staff, or the guards, I was sure of that. How, thusly, without the knowledge of the house, without the keys, the passwords, perhaps even friends within, could he hope to get me over the wall, or though the gate, past the guards? How could he even hope to ascend the wall himself, with the uncurved knives at the summit? But he had said he was known in the house. Could that be true? If it were so, then I supposed that he might, quite unlike one such as I, simply take his leave. Perhaps, waiting, he had wandered into the garden, to pass the time. He might then have seen me by the wall, and, perhaps taken with my beauty, as some men were, decided, on a whim, to accost and enjoy me.
How hateful he was!
But now I was his.
He had brought me to this point.
He could now do with me what he wanted.
But I knew in my heart that I had wanted him perhaps a thousand times more than he had wanted me.
He was a man of this world, and the sight of one can wrench out our insides.
We are made for such men.
He moved slightly.
I whimpered, begging.
I sensed whispers of he yielding, tiny whispers, becoming more insistent.
Already I was within the throes of the helplessness, that helplessness which precedes the yielding, which heralds its proximity, which warns of its imminence, that helplessness which sometimes seems to hold one fixed in place, where one, as though chained to a wall, knows that there is no escape, which sometimes seems to place one on a brink, bound hand and foot, in the utmost delicacy of balance, at the mercy of so little as the whisper of another’s breath.
I bit on the silk.
He moved, slightly.
I whimpered, gratefully, eagerly.
I looked up at him.
No heed did he pay me.
I clutched him.
How could I be brought more closely to the yielding?
I wanted it!
My eyes begged it.
I thought I heard voices from the house. I groaned.
Was this some torture to which he was subjecting me?
It may as well have been, so helpless I was, so much at his mercy.
To be sure, I was nothing, only a girl in a garden.
I had, of course, in chains, and in ropes, learned what such as he could do to me, how they could bring me again and again, gently, surely, cruelly, as it might amuse them, to such a point, to such a delicate, exact point, to the very threshold of release, to the very edge of ecstasy, to where I was only the cry of a nerve away, begging, and then, if they wished, simply abandon me there, letting me try to cling there, in place, until, protesting, suffering, weeping I would slip back, only after a time, if it might again amuse them, sometimes with so little as a few deft touches, to be forced to begin again the same ascent. Considering such power held over us by men, it is perhaps clearer now why women such as I strive desperately to be pleasing. Not all instruments of torture are of iron, not all implements of discipline are of leather. An analogue may be noted, of course, between such torture and the treatment often inflicted upon the males of my old world by women of my old world, in pursuit of their own purposes. But such matters need not concern us here. Rather they lie between the women of my old world and the men, or males, of that world. Here, as you might suppose, such techniques are not at the disposal of women such as I. The prerogatives of such torture, if it is to be inflicted, lie not in our hands but in those of men. We have been vanquished. I would not have it otherwise.
I heard again the sounds of voices, from the house. The rest period must be over!
I looked wildly, frantically, at he in whos arms I was captive.
He looked down upon me.
It was as though I was helpless, chained to the wall, at his mercy. It was as though I were on the ledge, bound hand and foot.
He moved, slightly.
And then suddenly there was a different helplessness, one which seemed for an instant to recognize, and then flee in terror before what could not be stopped. And then it was as though it stood to the side in awe.
I clutched him!
It was the yielding, and that of one of my kind!
Again and again I wept and sobbed.
No longer did I then, in those moments, care for the danger, or whether I cried out, or if he cried out, or about the guards, or who might enter the garden! Nothing mattered, nothing was real but the felling, the sensations of the moment!
I only then became aware of the might of him, too, as though molten, charged and flooding, within me.
I held to him.
He looked down at me.
My surrender, I gather, had been found satisfactory.
I did not want him to let me go, but, too, I was terrified now. We were in the garden!
I tried to pull back, a little bit. Did he not know the danger?
He pulled the wet silk from my mouth. He lifted it a little, to the side, and the folds fell out, and he dropped it to the grass, beside us.
I was helpless, of course, pinioned. And then, again, he had both his arms about me.
I could not now understand his expression, as he looked down upon me.
“In the house, were you first trained,” he said, “did those there speak as I do?”
I could not move. I was helpless in his arms.
I wanted to flee, and yet, too, I wanted to remain here, held. He had had me, and now was interrogating me. What was his intent regarding me? How much at his mercy I was! Clearly his interest in me was more than a fancy of a moment, a whim in a garden. I was frightened. He had put me to his pleasure almost casually because I was there, a matter of convenience. But his primary interest in me, I was certain, went well beyond the gratification and entertainment, slyly stolen, he might derive from one of a garden’s casually encountered, exquisitely figured, frightened, helplessly responsive flowers. I had been put to his pleasure almost as a matter of course. Now that he had done with me, he returned to his questions. Well then was I reminded of my own triviality and meaninglessness.
How helpless we are!
“They spoke the language,” I said. Here when one spoke of “the language” it was well understood what language was meant. Of course, those where I was trained spoke “the language.” They were not barbarians. It was I who was the barbarian.
“No,” he said. “I mean their accents.”
“They spoke the language differently,” I said.
“Did you recognize their accents?” he asked.
“No,” I said.
To be sure, I had heard such accents here and there, after having left the pens, and had heard them even, sometimes, though rarely, outside the wall, but I did not know what accents they might be. Indeed, I had heard a variety of diverse accents on this world.
My fears flooded back, again, upon me. What could be his interest in such matters?
“Turn your head from side to side,” he said.
I obeyed, held, frightened.
“Your earrings are pretty,” he said.
They were tiny, and of gold. They matched the bangles, the armlet, the bracelets.
“They contrast very nicely with the darkness of your hair,” he said.
I looked up at him, pleadingly.
I did not understand him.
Of course he knew I was a pierced ear girl, with all that that, on this world, implied. He would have known that before he had ordered me to disrobe.
He must release me!
No, he must continue to hold me, if only for a moment!
No, no, he must release me!
We were in the garden!
Did he not realize the danger?
“Where your ears pierced when you can to our world,” he asked.
“No,” I said.
“They were pierced in the pens?” he asked.
“No,” I whispered.
There was, at the pens in which I was first trained, I had learned, an additional charge for that, as there would have been for the piercing of the septum, permitting the insertion of a nose ring.
“Where were they pierced?” he asked.
“Not there!” I said.
He looked down at me.
“I do not know what you want,” I wept. “I am not special,” I protested. “I am not different from thousands of others.”
He drew back a little, and surveyed me. “Do not underestimate yourself,” he said. “You would bring a quite good price.”
I regarded him, in anguish.
“But, essentially,” he said, “what you say is true. You are, in your essentials, in what you are, no different from thousands of others.”
“Please let me go!” I begged.
“But that would have been to have been expected,” he said.
“Please,” I begged.
“Ah!” he said, suddenly.
But I had not meant to excite him!
But then again I felt him surgent within me and found myself again, even as I heard approaching voices, put to his purposes.
I then clung again to him, sobbing, helpless.
Did he not know the danger?
He looked at me, suddenly, fircely. “Are you Janice?” he asked.
“I am Gail!” I said. “Gail!”
“Have you ever been called Janice?” he asked.
“No!” I said.
“Are you lying?” he said.
“No!” I said.
“Do you know the penalties for one such as you who lies?” he asked.
“Yes!” I moaned.
“But you are not lying?”
“No!” I said.
“Do you know a girl, one of your sort, who is called ‘Janice’?”
“No!” I wept. I had been told how I must respond to such questions, if they were asked.
“Have you ever been to the city of Treve?” he asked.
“No! No!” I said. I had been warned of the possibility of such questions. I had been instructed as to how to respond. To be sure, it had not seemed likely to me, nor, I think, to those who had instructed me, that I would ever find myself in a situation in which I might be expected to respond to such inquiries. How could such matters be of interest to anyone? Why should such information be regarded as sensitive, or confidential? These things made no sense to me. I understood nothing of them. Perhaps those who had instructed me were mad. I knew nothing of interest or importance of anyone. I was not important. I was not special. I was no different from thousands of others, save, perhaps, in being such that I might, in certain situations, bring a higher price then certain others.
I looked up at him.
Let him not concern himself with such things!
I was only what I was, nothing more.
But might not that suffice, for the little that I might be worth?
I, his, in his arms, was in the garden. I was confused, frightened at his questions. But, too, I was shaken, with my sensations and myself. I had found myself, one such as I, once again put deliberately, and with perfection, to the pleasure of one such as he. My station, my condition, was unmistakable. I had been reminded, clearly, in no uncertain terms, of what I was. I lifted my lips timidly to his, gratefully, hoping to be permitted to touch them.
How hard they seemed, how soft mine!
Then eagerly, helplessly, gratefully, for there was time, there must be time, did I, my head lifted, kiss again and again at his lips, his face, his shoulders, his body.
Then I heard a voice, that of the one who was first amongst us, near, almost at hand.
I uttered a tiny cry of misery, and tried to pull back, but I was held in place, close to that mighty chest.
I heard a shrill cry of rage.
I turned my head to the right and beheld, in terror, she who was first among us!
But he did not fling me from him or leap up. Rather, to my terror, my misery, he held me there, helpless, unable to move, naked in his arms.
He then released me, and he stood up. I scurried to my silk and clutched it, and, kneeling, trembling, terrified, held it closely about me.
He turned, rather in irritation, it seemed, to regard those who had come upon us, she who was first amongst us, carrying a long, supple switch of leather, and her two assistants, both large women.
In one hand he held, loosely, his tunic, and the belt, with his wallet.
The three women who had come upon us were silked, of course, but rather differently, and more richly, then I had been, as was to be expected, as they were much higher in this place, in the garden then I. My silk, that now clutched about me, with its irregular mottling of dampnesses, from where it had been held in my mouth, where it had served as my gag, stifling my cries, keeping me silenced, that silk bearing even in places the imprint of my teeth, where it had been desperately bitten upon, clenched between them, as I had become more and more helpless, even to becoming uncontrollable, was no more than a brief, diaphanous tunic. But, as mine, there silks, though not diaphanous, were in their way excellently revealing, as such things are intended to be. She who was first amongst us wore a sleeveless silken vest, scarlet, against which her beauty protested. It was tied shut with a tiny string, the ends of which are loose, that they might, with a casual tug, be freed, the vest then ready to be slipped away, to the back. Her two assistants wore scarlet halters, fastened in front with accessible hooks. She who was first amongst us, doubtless because of her standing, had, in her belly silk, low upon her hips, been permitted the rather modest Harfaxian drape, in which the silk is rectangle, which fastens at the left hip. In this fashion the right leg is concealed. To be sure the left, as the wearer moves, is revealed. Indeed, her left side, is, in effect, bared to the vest. It was fastened at the left hip with a golden clasp. Her two assistants had been shown no such indulgence. Their belly silks, low on their hips, consisted each of two narrow rectangles. This is more common. These silks, in their case, were hemmed over a belly cord, which was fastened at the left hip. The cord must be tied in such a way that it may be easily tugged loose. Most men here, as on my old world, are right-handed. Such silks, however, are not always hemmed over the cord, or belt. Often they must be merely thrust, before and behind, over the cord, or belt. In this case they may be even more easily removed. Like myself the three of them were ornamented. They, too, wore bangles, and bracelets, and each, too, had an armlet. But they, unlike I, had necklaces, some with pendants. The beads of these, and the pendants, hung sometimes to their bared midriffs, moving against them, touching them. We were all pierced-ear girls, as it is said. I wore, as I have mentioned, tiny golden rings in my ears. Those were what I had been permitted. She who was first amongst us wore more elaborate adornments, which, in wire and tiny plates, hung down beside her cheeks. Her two assistants had in their ears large golden loops. All wore talmits, it should be mentioned, those fillets about the head indicative of authority. She who was first amongst us wore as fillet a narrow, golden band. It had a jewel, a ruby, set in its center. Her assistants had common fillets, of scarlet silk. One additional adornment, or mark, did we all have. We were all collared. Have I neglected to mention that I was collared? Perhaps. One takes such things so much for granted. It is customary for such as we to be collared, of course. We all wore golden collars, or, actually, collars plated with gold. These collars locked behind the back of the neck. We cannot remove them. We are quite helpless in them, I assure you. They are not uncomfortable. Often one even forgets that one is wearing one. But one may always be reminded, of course. The brands, which we all wore, of course, mark us as what we are. That is useful, as I have suggested, for legal, and commercial, purposes. The collar, commonly, identifies the house, or he who holds absolute rights over us. Both the brand and the collar are in their diverse ways, identifications, but the collar, as you can understand, is somewhat more specific. Collars can change, of course. But the brand does not. It remains.
“What are you doing here?” demanded she who was first amongst us, Aynur, of the tall, long-haired fellow to whose lips, to whose face, to whose shoulders and body, but a moment before, I had been pressing kisses, only, in terror, hearing her approach, to try to draw back, but not being permitted to do so, rather being held exactly in place, exactly where I was, naked in his arms.
“What?” she screamed. “What?”
I, kneeling, terrified, clutched the bit of silk against me. What, under the circumstances, a pathetic, insignificant defense it constituted for my modesty!
“What?” she screamed.
I was frightened. Aynur had a vile temper, but I had never seen her this way before. She seemed beside herself with rage. I trusted that she had not seen me kissing the stranger. That would not do at all! She must not have seen that! I must have been simply taken and used, without my consent, totally against my will, you understand. I must pretend to have found the whole matter distasteful. I must pretend to have experienced no interest, or gratification. Our passion, in theory, at least in the gardens, is to be regulated, reserved exclusively for he who holds total rights over us. But I do not know who actually believes such a thing. They make us, totally, the properties of men, and such that we can change hands and collars in a moment, and then act as though our exclusive passion must accompany, in effect, a bill of sale. It is absurd. Certainly the girls in the taverns and brothels are not expected to fulfill such a myth. Even in the gardens are we not sometimes placed at the disposal of others, as he who holds total rights over us, perhaps in his astuteness, or liberality, may decree? And if we have not been pleasing, and if we have not well responded, as may be determined objectively, from the effects of such responses on our bodies, may we not be severely punished, or even slain? Are we not, too, for example, often used in our way to further the fortunes of those who hold total rights over us, as our beauty might contribute, say, to the decor of the banqueting hall, and our activities, such as our serving and entertaining, sometimes on a chain between the tables, to the quality of the banquet itself? And is it not expected that we will writhe gratefully, and well, on the chain, and authentically, which matter may be checked? No, asking us not to feel, not to be what we are, is too much. Rather one might as well scold helpless, oil-drenched straw for bursting gratefully into flame at the touch of the torch. We are at the mercy of all men, as what we are. Do not blame us. But I must pretend, or course, that I had felt nothing. One must pretend to subscribe to the myth. That is important. I trusted that Aynur had not seen me kissing him, and as I had, as what I was! Perhaps Aynur believes the myth, I thought. I hoped, desperately, that Aynur might believe the myth.
“What?” she screamed. He did not respond to her.
“I shall call the guards!” she hissed.
I was puzzled, of course, that she had not yet done so. Aynur cast a look of hatred toward me. I knew she did not like me, but this look was terrifying. I had never seen her look like that at anyone. I put my eyes down, swiftly, in terror. I felt very small and vulnerable, there on the grass in the garden, the silk clutched before me.
“The garden is private,” said Aynur to the stranger. “You did not have permission to enter! You should not be here!”
again he did not respond to her.
“You have no right to be here,” she said to the stranger. There seemed indignation, outrage, fury, in her voice.
He merely regarded her.
I could hear the fountain in the garden.
The rest period was over.
But the other flowers had apparently not received permission to reenter the garden. Or, perhaps, wisely, they had refrained from doing so.
I did not understand Aynur’s manner. She had discovered a stranger in the garden. She had not fled away. How did she know he had not come to pick fruit, to pluck flowers? How did she know that he might not leap at her, and seize her, and gag her, and bind her, hand and foot, and carry her to the wall? How did she know that she might not, bound hand and foot, squirming, in a net, or bound on a rope, he hauled by confederates to the top of the wall, thence to be hurled to a great cushion of straw below, heaped in a wagon bed, to plunge beneath it, to be held there, invisible, by another confederate, the wagon then trundling away? I did not understand her manner. She had not fled. She had not called the guards.
Of course, she must know the man!
I lifted my head a little and, for a moment, met her eyes. But she then again faced the stranger. He was the center of her fury, her rage. I had, in the moment that our eyes had met, seen that I was a secondary consideration. I had seen that I was not important. I had also seen, in that look, that I could be attended to later.
The stranger did not seem frightened of Aynur.
Perhaps, as he had said, he might be known in the house. But that would not, presumably, uninvited, have given him permission to enter the garden, to partake, unlicensed, of its delights, such as they might be.
That he had no such permission seemed clear in Aynur’s attitude.
Did she wish that it had been she, instead, who had been found in the garden?
Why had I not resisted?
Why had I not called out for the guards?
Surely Aynur would wish to know that.
She must not learn that I had been near the wall!
That is why I had not resisted, why I had not cried out, of course, because I had been near the wall. It was that which had, in this place, given him, a stranger here, such power over me, not that such as he did not, independently, in a sense, have absolute power over one such as I.
But I knew that this was false, of course. I had disrobed quickly enough. I had obeyed quickly enough. I had wanted his hands upon me. I had wanted to be in his arms. Such as I belong to such as he. And the garden is lovely, with only the flowers, so beautiful, but meaningless and incomplete in themselves, and the glimpse, occasionally, of a guard. Too seldom did we, in this house, entertain, and amongst the flowers, too seldom did we, in this house, entertain, and, amongst the flowers, too seldom was I included amongst the entertainers. When Aynur made her choices, we all hopefully, beautifully, excitingly arrayed, silked, perfumed, bedecked, made-up, before her, I had been almost away rejected, told to remove my things and report back to my mat. I did not think that I was so much worse then the other flowers. Surely I might have sufficed for the bearing of trays or the pouring of wine. Some men had found me, I recalled, not unattractive. It was almost sometimes, I thought as though I were not a flower, or at least not a flower in the same simple, innocent sense as the others, but that I might be something rather different. It was almost as though I were here less as a flower than merely as something else, something to be kept in the garden. It was almost as though I were hidden here. To be sure, we are all kept in the garden. In a sense, we are all hidden here, not for the eyes of all, but for those of he who holds absolute rights over us, and such others as he might permit. But these thoughts were foolish. I was only another flower, neither more nor less. I had not been put forth more because Aynur disliked me. So, too, evidently, did several of the others. This, I think, was perhaps because some resented the possibility that I might, in chains upon a sales block, guided by the deft touches of the whip, responding helplessly, bring a high price, perhaps one even challenging theirs. Another reason may have been in virtue of my origins I was the only girl of my world in the garden. We are not always popular with others such as we, of this world. Too, I had wanted, and desperately needed, his touch, because of what I am, and was, though I had fought it, and not understood it so clearly, even before I came to this world. Too, I had never even been touched by he who held absolute rights over me. I did not know if the others had or not. Indeed, I had never seen him, for, when I had been brought to the house, and stripped and displayed, he, or perhaps merely some agent, had viewed me from behind a screen. On those times I had served in the house, at suppers, or banquets, only his subordinates had been present. Only his name was known to me.
I looked at the stranger.
But he paid me no attention.
He must not tell that I had been near the wall. He must not let her know that I had, of my own will, kissed him, perhaps once or twice.
I looked at the two women with Aynur. They were Tima and Tana, her assistants. Those names are extremely common on this world, for women such as we. There must be thousands with such names. Both had doubtless, over time, in their sojourn in the collar, had many names. Even I, who had not been so long on this world, had had various names. We learn to answer quickly enough to whatever name is put on us. We do not have names in our own right, of course, given what we are, no more than, say, tarsk and sleen. Both Tima and Tana were large women. Either alone might have overpowered me easily. Tana looked at me and smiled. I looked down, frightened. At her right hip, over the belly cord, hung a pair of bracelets, small, sturdy, pretty bracelets. They were joined together with three links of steel.
“What have you to say for yourself?” demanded Aynur, angrily, of the stranger.
Her behavior, her attitude, her demeanor, her apparent indignation, her virulence, her rage, was I have suggested, puzzled me. I did not understand it, at all. Too, of course, it frightened me, terribly. What could it mean? What could be the explanation for these things? It was almost as though she might have been somehow, personally, insulated or betrayed.
“Well!” she demanded.
“Have you received permission to speak?” he inquired, quietly.
Tima, on Aynur’s right, gasped. Tana, on Aynur’s left, made a tiny noise, of fear.
His eyes regarded Tima and she flung herself to her knees in the grass, head down to the grass, palms of her hands on it, in obeisance, as I had been earlier. As his eyes fell then on Tana she, losing no time, assumed the same position. The two small, sturdy, pretty bracelets, hanging at her right hip, made a tiny noise, striking together, as she assumed the position. They then hung from the cord a little before her right hip. Both Tima and Tana were large women, but before such a man, and before others, even less than he, they were small.
His eyes then fell upon Aynur. He regarded her, evenly. For the briefest moment, as though in futility and rage, she met his eyes. Then, shaken, uttering a cry of misery, and rage, her eyes brimming with tears, she removed her eyes from his. Then she was before him, as the others, her head down to the grass, her palms upon it, too, in obeisance. The golden fillet, with its ruby, was at the grass. Beside her right hand, discarded, was her dreaded leather switch. I trusted that she had not dallied too long in her obedience. Men such as he tend not to be patient with such as we.
He looked down at me, and I looked away, clutching the silk about myself.
“May I speak?” begged Aynur.
“All three, position!” snapped he.
The three women, instantly, assumed the common position, kneeling, back on heels, back straight, knees wide, palms of hands down on the thighs.
“You may raise your heads,” he said.
They might now regard him. It had been permitted to them. It pleased me, of course, to see them thusly, as any of us, even they, might be before one such as he. But then I looked down. They had been knelt before a man in a common posture of submission. Given their position in the garden, and the considerable authority they held here, over me, and the others, I did not think it would be wise for me to permit myself to be detected remarking this in any obvious manner. Too, of course, I could be immediately put in the same posture.
“May I speak?” begged Aynur, in tears, in rage.
“No,” he said.
Tears of frustration ran down her cheeks.
He then looked down at me, and I looked down.
I did not fully understand that look. It was not simply a look at a girl he had used, a bemused glance at an instrument, now unimportant, which had served his purpose.
I was not special, I told myself. I was not different from thousands of others.
I made as though to draw my wet silk hastily over my body.
“You have not received permission to silk yourself,” he said.
Quickly I put down the silk. I was still kneeling.
“Tunic,” he said, handing it to me.
I stood obediently, and shook out the tunic, and kissed it, as one is trained to do. I then helped him into it.
“Belt and wallet,” he said.
These, too, I kissed, and, putting my arms about him, trying to touch him as little as possible, for the others were watching, affixed the belt, with wallet, in place.
But the nearness to him made me tremble, he a man, and one of this world.
He pointed to the grass, to one side, and I knelt there, one such as I at the feet of one such as he.
He kicked his sandals to one side, a few feet away. Then he regarded Aynur. She looked at him, almost in protest, disbelievingly. He then pointed to the sandals, and snapped his fingers.
Aynur dropped to all fours and crawled to the first sandal, picked it up in her teeth, and brought it to him, and dropped it at his feet. She then fetched the second sandal, in the same manner. She then looked up at him, but he merely indicated, with a gesture, that she should return to her place, which she did, kneeling between Tima and Tana.
Aynur, she who was first amongst us, Aynur, in her rich silk, and ornaments, Aynur, in her golden talmit, and the affixed ruby, had fetched sandals, and before such as Tima and Tana, not to mention before one such as my lowly self! One this world hierarchy exists, and status, and rank, and distance. Such things, always real, are not here concealed. Here they are in the open. The people of this world do not deign to conceal that each is not the same as every other, and not merely is this true of those such as I. Such articulations, of course, so healthy with respect to maintaining social stability, constitute an institutional counterpart to the richnesses of difference in an articulated ordered, holistic nature. On this world, for better or for worse, order seems most often preferred to chaos, and truth to fiction.
Aynur had been made to fetch sandals, and before Tima and Tana, and such as I!
It is not that important thing here was the fetching of the sandals themselves. Not at all.
Indeed, I myself would have been pleased to fetch such sandals, and lovingly. It is a way of pleasing, and showing what we are. It is a way of beautifully serving. To be sure, such an act can be sued for disciplinary purposes, forcing us to understand clearly what we are, that we should bring the sandals so.
But it is one thing of course for one such as I to be permitted to bring sandals to one such as he in, say, the privacy of our precious intimacy, or before peers, where I might find myself honored before others, I and not they accorded this permission, or even in a public place, such as the baths, or the vestibule of the gymnasium, where no one perhaps but I, treasured it, an relishing it, thinks anything of it, but it is quite another for one such as Aynur to be forced to do so in a situation such as this, before such as we. Indeed, I suspected that Aynur, had she been alone with him, had she not been before us, had she not had her talmit, had her hair been loose, had she been naked, save perhaps for her collar and some ornaments, might have begged prettily, and quite abjectly, upon her knees, for the permission to render him such a service. But this, of course was not such an occasion.
Tears ran down Aynur’s cheeks, she kneeling between Tima and Tana.
The worst, of course, was not that she, who was first amongst us, had been forced to behave as though she might be the least amongst us. No, rather, the worst was that she, having fetched the sandals, had then been merely returned to her place. It had been hers merely to fetch the sandals. She would not, it seemed be permitted to place them upon his feet. He would not, it seemed, have her so much as touch him.
He then regarded me, imperiously. But I was not special! I was not important!
He pointed to the sandals, at his feet. He snapped his fingers.
I hurried to kneel before him. I picked up on sandal, looked up at him lowered my head, kissed the sandal, looked up at him again, and then bent to put the sandal on his foot, which I did, carefully trying the thongs. I then did the same with the other sandal. We are taught to do this in this fashion. One commonly, unless otherwise instructed, places the right sandal first, then she left. I did it in that fashion, of course. Two of the first things we are taught are the bathing and dressing of a man. I completed my ministrations by kissing his feet, of course, each in turn, and then backing a bit away, and keeling, in common position. We may thusly await further instructions, if any may be forthcoming.
Aynur sobbed in fury.
This frightened me. It was not my fault that I had been ordered to tie his sandals! I had not, in fear of her, at least as far as I was aware, put myself in the way of being subjected to such commands. I had not, as far as I knew, at least clearly, attempted to call myself again to his attention. I had not attempted, or had I, to solicit such commands? There are, of course, ways in which women such as I, subtly, wordlessly, with tiny movement of the body, a seemingly inadvertent placement of ourselves, a lifting of the bosom, a catching of the breath, the shyest of glances, the tiniest movement of a lip, can petition, and even beg. Had I don’t such a thing, naturally, without even being fully aware of it? I might have done so, I knew. It would not have been unusual in the sort that I was. We are such, even helplessly, you see.
Her eyes seemed to bore into me. Tart, she seemed to say, slut! But I could not help it if he had chosen me to tie his sandals! Tart, tart, slut, slut, her eyes seemed to say. Perhaps I had done something. I feared I had. It would have been only too natural! But then I was sure that even though I might have in some subtle way solicited permission to perform this service for him, which on a very deep level I desired to do, it would, in any event have been required of me.
Aynur, I recalled, had dallied, if only for the briefest moment, in assuming before him the position of obeisance. Such things are not likely to be forgotten, or overlooked. Instant obedience is expected of us. And these men, as I have suggested, do not tend to be patient.
Grievous at his hands was the punishment of the lovely, imperious Aynur, who was first amongst us in the garden. She had not been permitted speech. She must, before us, like a low girl, publicly fetch sandals. And then, the sandals fetched, she had been returned to her place, denied the opportunity to place them upon his feet. How mocked, how scorned, how reduced, was lofty Aynur, in her golden fillet, with the ruby!
Aynur wept in frustration and rage. Her small fists were clenched on her thighs. I had never seen her like this, almost beside herself. She was, after all, it seemed, in spite of her authority, in spite of her power, like us, only a woman.
She must remain positioned.
His will had been made clear.
She would obey.
Aynur looked at me in fury. I trembled. In part of me I was not at all pleased to have been made use of in this way, to have been used, in effect, as an instrument for her punishment. That would certainly, in once sense, not give me an enviable position in the garden. But, of course, in another sense, I was terribly pleased that it had been I, and not she, or not Tima, or Tana, whom he had selected out for the kissing and tying of his sandals. Only I, who only a few days ago had first been permitted silk in the garden! This pleased my vanity no small bit! Too, in a sense, it would surely elevate my status among the flowers, if they came to know of it. Might they not envy me this distinction, though, too, recognizing only too clearly the perils which it might entail?
Then I became conscious that I was once again beneath the gaze of the stranger.
I hoped, in fear, that I had pleased him. Certainly he had not been stinting in taking his will of me.
I flushed, too, recalling how I had been given no choice but to yield as what I was, and how with what authority he had made me his, and the spasmodic raptures which had accompanied my seizure and conquest.
He continued to regard me.
He must not tell that I was near the wall!
He smiled. I suspected then that he must have guessed my fears. How trivial such things might appear to him, the alarms of a small, curvaceous animal, but how momentous they were to me! He could leave, but I must remain in the garden!
He continued to regard me.
Many were the questions he had asked me.
I had been frightened by these questions, as to what might be their purport, or significance.
Why did he ask me if I were “Janice,” or had ever known a slave named “Janice,” or if had ever been in Treve?
I had, of course, responded negatively, as I had been instructed to do. But such questions, it habe been thought, by myself, and others, I supposed, would never be asked of me. But now they had been asked of me.
What did this mean?
But I was not special. I was not important. I was only another girl, only another flower, nothing more, in her collar, in a garden.
Then I could no longer meet that gaze. I put down my head, frightened.
He then took his leave of the garden.
This left me alone with Aynur, and Tima and Tana.
In a moment of two, perhaps when she was sure he was gone, Aynur leaped, enraged, to her feet. Tima and Tana, too, rose to their feet. Aynur looked after his route of departure, apparently a quite open one, though the inner gate, leading to the house, then doubtless though our quarters, then though the other gates, sealing off our quarters, and thence to the main portions of the house, and, eventually, out the main portal. He would then be outside the house, in the street. I had been brought here hooded, so I had never seen the city, which, I gathered, was a large one, nor even the street outside, which seemed to be a busy one, particularly in the early morning. Many of the flowers, incidentally, were quite as ignorant, and sheltered, as I. We wondered what the world might be like on the other side of the wall. To be sure, we were sometimes frightened. Sometimes we heard cries of pain, of such as we, and the sound of a lash. Sometimes we heard lamentations, of such as we, and the sounds of chains, and the cracking of whips. Sometimes we heard even, to angry cries, and the cracking of whips, cries of weariness, and misery, and effort, of such as we, cries mingling with the sounds of the tightening and slackening, and tightening, of harness, the groaning of heavily laden wagons, the creaking of large wooden wheels turning slowly on pavement. At such times you may well understand how it was that we within the wall, in the garden, in our delicate, pampered beauty, our light silks, our golden collars, might exchange frightened glances. Our lives would have been quite different, it seemed clear, if we were on the other side of the wall. Sometimes even I was grateful for the guards, and for the height and sturdiness of that massive wall within which we were sheltered. Only too obviously might there be perils, and fearful severities, outside the wall. I was not insensitive to such things. Indeed, I was much afraid of them. But still, on the whole, even so, I wanted to be out of the garden. Better to squirm in a tavern, better to trudge behind an army as one of its collared camp followers, better to be harnessed to a peasant’s plow, wary of his lash, than to languish in the garden! If I were a flower, let me blossom in the fields, or among paving stones, not in the garden. I wanted to be outside, where I could see, and, yes, be seen, where I could actively and visibly be what I was, serving and loving. Better a steel collar in the street than one of gold in the garden!
“I shall call the guards!” wept Aynur. But she did not do so.
It might be mentioned that Aynur, and Tima and Tana, despite their authority, and their importance, in the garden, were less than the least of the guards. They, too, in the final analysis, you see, were only “flowers.” More importantly, they were females, and the guards were males.
I wondered why Aynur did not call the guards.
She must, I conjectured, know the man.
Suddenly Aynur pointed to the dreaded switch at her feet and Tana knelt down, quickly, and retrieved the switch, and, then, head down, humbly, with both hands, lifted it up to Aynur, who seized it away from her. Tana then rose to her feet. All three then faced me.
My silk was on the grass, by my right knee.
“Position,” said Aynur. “Head up!”
I now knelt before them, as Aynur had commanded, positioned, my head up.
I was distressed, but dared not reveal my feelings.
Surely it was not before such as they that I should be so kneeling. It was not that such postures were not suitable for me. They were eminently suitable for me. Indeed, they were quite correct for me. Indeed, I belonged in them. But not before such as they.
“It seems that Gain has been naughty,” said Aynur.
“No!” I said.
“What?” asked Aynur.
“I have not been naughty!” I said.
“Who has not been naughty?” asked Aynur.
“Gail has not been naughty!” I said.
“you may now explain what occurred,” said Aynur.
“I was in the garden,” I began.
“During the rest period?”
“What were you doing in the garden during the rest period?” asked Aynur. “Why were you not on your mat?”
“I was not tired!” I said. “I wanted to walk in the garden!”
“But it was the rest period,” she said.
I was silent.
It was not forbidden to be in the garden during the rest period. She would know that. But it would not do to remind her of it.
“There are ways to keep you in the vicinity of your mat, you know,” she said.
“Yes,” I said.
There was, near my mat, as there were also near other mats, a heavy ring, set in the floor. It would be easy to chain me to that, presumably by an ankle ring.
“Did you expect to meet someone in the garden?” she asked.
“No!” I said.
Even objectively, of course, such meetings would be difficult and dangerous to arrange. We had no direct contact with the outside, and, for most practical purposes, those outside had no direct contact with us. And there was the wall, of course, and the knives at the top. Who, unsolicited, could simply come through the house, and enter the garden? But it seems that one had. He had said he was “known in the house.” It seemed likely. It is not the case that the gardens are without politics, nor that intrigue is not rampant within them, but these things are usually amongst the flowers themselves. As flowers, as far as outside contacts might occur, we were almost entirely at the mercy of others, guards and such. Sometimes there were attempts from outside houses to reach suspected flowers within. For example, let us suppose that a woman, not like one of us, is suspected of being held in a given garden. One might then attempt to ascertain this. Too, might she not attempt bribe guards, or such, promising rich rewards fro her release? But let her not be apprehended in such an intrigue, lest her lofty status vanish by morning, and she find herself in the garden then nor more than another such as we. Then the matter would take on another complexion. It would become, in all probability, then, not a difference between captivity and freedom, but a mere changing of collars. In all intrigues within the garden, involving the outside, a guard, or staff member, is almost always involved. They are necessary as intermediaries. But such things are terribly dangerous. Too, of course, there can be internal liaisons, and such. A flower, for example, much taken with a handsome guard, upon whom she has spied, might, risking all, place herself in his way, letting her needs and feelings be known. Too, of course, such liaisons might be initiated by a guard or staff member, for such are not as ignorant of the contents of a garden as is sometimes supposed. But, then again, there is terrible risk in such matters.
“Go on,” said Aynur.
“I was not tired,” I said. “I wanted to walk. I went into the garden.”
“You did not know anyone was there?”
“No!” I said. “I thought the garden was empty.”
“But it was not, it seems,” said Aynur.
“No!” I said.
“There was a man there?”
“Yes!” I said.
“Were you surprised?” asked Aynur.
‘Yes!” I said. “I was shocked! I was terrified! I was horrified! A man there! In the garden!”
“What did you do?”
“I did not know what to do,” I said.
“It seems that you managed to do something,” said Aynur. Tana laughed.
“I had no choice!” I protested.
“You could not help yourself,” suggested Aynur.
“I was seized!” I said. “I was helpless!”
“Perhaps you were beaten,” said Aynur, “but you do not appear to have been beaten. Perhaps you were bound, hand and foot, but there do not appear to be rope marks on your wrists or ankles, or at your belly.”
“I was overpowered!” I protested. I supposed that this was, in a sense, true. I had been overpowered by his authority, by my consternation, by my not knowing who he was, or his license to be here, by the hold he had over me, having seen me by the wall, by my own desperate, crying needs.
“Doubtless you resisted?” said Aynur.
“Yes!” I cried. “But I was too weak. He was so much stronger than I!”
“Why did you not summon guards?” asked Aynur.
Why had she not, I wondered, summoned guards?
“Why did you not call out?” inquired Aynur.
“I was gagged!” I said, relievedly. “See? The silk is wet! It was put in my mouth.”
“It does not appear to have been wrested from you,” observed Aynur. “It does not seem to have been torn from your body.”
“The disrobing loop was drawn!” I said.
“Who drew the loop?” asked Aynur.
“He!” I lied. “He!”
“And you were gagged with the silk?”
“Why did you not cry out before the silk was removed?” asked Aynur.
I looked at her, frightened.
“It could not very well be in your mouth and on your body at the same time,” she said.
“He seized me from behind,” I said. “He held me back against him, his left hand over my mouth. With his right hand he drew the loop. As I struggled the silk fell. He then flung me to my back on the grass, and put the silk in my mouth!”
“It was tired in place?”
“No,” I admitted.
“You did not attempt to eject it?”
“I did not dare to do so,” I said.
“When we came upon you,” she said, “the silk was not in your mouth.”
“it had become dislodged,” I said.
“And you did not cry out?”
“I was afraid,” I said. This would be plausible. At least I hoped so. Such a man, of course, could have snapped my neck with one hand.
“It seems then that you are in this matter fully guiltless,” said Aynur.
“Yes!” I said, relieved.
“But he did put you to his purposes?” she asked.
“Yes,” I admitted.
There seemed no point in denying this.
We had, I recalled, been discovered naked in one another’s arms. Indeed, I recalled that I had been held for a time, naked in his arms, even after Aynur and the others had discovered us. I feared that he might have made it quite clear, even flagrantly so, to my shame and terror, what had been going on. I could only hope that I could convince Aynur that I was in these things only an unwilling, innocent victim. She must believe that!
“Poor Gail,” said Aynur.
I looked at her, gratefully.
“You felt nothing?” asked Aynur.
“No!” I said. “My passion, such as it might be, is reserved exclusively for he who holds total rights over me!”
I hoped that Aynur would believe the myth.
Aynur walked around, behind me.
“Kneel up a little,” she said. “And put the tops of your toes flat on the grass.”
I must obey.
“Ah!” said Aynur.
“The bottoms of our feet,” said Aynur, “are to be soft, and caressable. That is why we must consider the surfaces upon which we tread. That is the meaning of the lotions and creams with which they are treated.”
I did not respond.
“But the bottoms of your feet have been roughened. They are cut, and bloody. You have been near the wall.”
I did not speak.
“And apparently,” she said, “you were too stupid to have trod softly.”
She then walked around me again, so that she was, again, before me.
I had been alarmed at the sounds of voices. That was why I had hurried, foolishly, from the perimeter of sharpened stones. That is why my feet had been cut.
“You did not respond to the man who was here?” asked Aynur.
“No!” I said.
“How then do you explain the condition of your body, when you were found?” asked Aynur.
“I may have felt, a little,” I whispered.
It would do little good, I feared, to attempt to deny, to an observer as astute as Aynur, what would have been obvious. There are so many signs, the dilation of the pupils, the helplessness, the sheen of sweat, the oils, the smells, the mottling of the body, the erection of the nipples, such things.
“You have felt the whip, and iron on your wrists,” said Aynur.
“Yes,” I said.
“Do you still claim to have felt little?” she asked.
“No,” I whispered.
Women such as I, of course, and Aynur, and so many others inside the walls, and outside of them, are the most responsive of all women. We are not permitted, for example, dignity and inhibitions. Such are incompatible with the collar. We know what is expected of us, and what we must be like. And we are trained. And we are under discipline. Too, we are, I suspect, selected with heat in mind. It is presumably one of the properties which those whose business it is to acquire us keep in mind. Such a consideration may, in many cases, make the difference with respect to whether or not we are to be acquired. Such a property is apparently important, for example, when want lists are compared with inventories.
“Do you think I cannot recognize a hot little tart when I see one?” asked Aynur.
“I do not know,” I murmured.
“Do you think I have not read your papers?” she asked.
“I do not know,” I said. I could not read them, of course. I did not even know what they said. There was apparently some remark on them pertinent to my heat. He whose whip I had first kissed, in the corridor long ago, he who had later treated me with such cruelty, spurning me, throwing me to others, he whom, in the long nights in the kennels, I had never forgotten, had old me that I was supposedly quite “vital.” The matter had been confirmed in the pens, of course. I had wept with misery and shame for hours afterward. But the proper endorsements had been included, I had gathered, on my papers. Aynur, it seemed, could read.
“You were at the wall,” said Aynur.
“Yes,” I admitted.
“Although it may have been difficult for you to wholly refrain from feeling,” said Aynur, “you undoubtedly did your best.”
“Oh, yes, yes!” I said.
“And you remained totally inactive,” said Aynur.
“As inactive as possible,” I whispered.
“Then you did not, for example, kiss him?’
“Of course not!” I said.
Tima and Tana broke into laughter. I looked at them, frightened.
“You saw?” I asked.
“Yes!” said Aynur, in fury.
My heart sank.
I had not known how long they had been watching. Apparently it had been long enough. I had heard a voice. That of Aynur. And then, a moment later, she had cried out in fury. I had then, in terror, tried to pull back, but he had not permitted me to extricate myself. He had held me where I was, against him, in his arms, naked.
“Slut!” cried Aynur.
“He ordered me to kiss him!” I cried.
“And you did so reluctantly?’ she screamed.
“Yes, yes!” I cried.
“Liar! Liar!” she wept.
I was terrified. I almost lost position.
“Naked, collared tart!” she cried.
Did not Aynur wear a collar, too?Did her collar not fit as well as mine? Did it not proclaim its message on her neck, as mine did on mine? Was it not well fixed there, and was she not as incapable of removing it as I was of removing mine?
“Naked collared slut!” cried Aynur.
Was there such a difference between us? Was she so loftily garbed? Was she not in her way almost as naked as I? Was there truly so much more to her attire than mine, other than the necklaces, and the jewelry, the earrings, and such, richer than mine? Was there so much, for example, to the silk she wore, the open skirt, held only at the left hip by a single, easily detached golden clasp, one which might be flicked away with a finger, to the scarlet silken vest, against which her beauty strained, tied at the front with a scarlet string, one which could be undone with a single tug?
“Naked collared lying little slut!” cried Aynur.
She chastised me as might have a woman other than we! Surely she knew my condition, and nature. I did not think it was much other than hers. I had surely sensed that Aynur was frustrated in the garden, and that she was, at least latently, highly and powerfully, and significantly and helplessly, sexed. Perhaps she had sensed the same of me, though I was smaller, and so much more vulnerable. Perhaps that was why we had not cared for one another. Perhaps that was why she hated me.
“Lying slut!” wept Aynur.
I had then been, seen kissing the fellow in the garden. I had been unable to help myself. I recalled that I, conquered as such as he can do to such as I, had done so, willingly, eagerly, gratefully, helplessly, passionately, uncontrollably.
“Slut! Slut!” cried Aynur.
Did she wish that it had been she who had been caught in the garden?
“Slut! Slut!” she cried.
Would she have behaved so differently from me?
“Slut!” she wept.
I did not think she was so different from me, in what we were, but here, in the garden, in the articulated structure of this world, we were separated by a chasm of almost infinite proportions. She was first amongst us, and I was the newest and, surely, the least of the flowers.
“Slut!” she screamed, beside herself with rage.
She raised the switch and I cringed.
But the blow did not fall.
Aynur had lowered the switch.
Then she said, quietly, her voice unnaturally calm, “Bracelet her.”
Tana, seizing me by the hair, threw me forward on my belly, on the grass. Then she and Tima, one on each side, crouched beside me. Tima jerked my hands behind my back, and held them there. I heard the clink of the bracelets being removed from Tana’s belly cord, where they had been over the cord, near her right hip. Then, with two rather clear, definitive little snaps, tiny, but quite decisive little noises, the bracelets were locked upon me. Tima and Tana then remained where they were, one on each side of me. I lay there on my belly, on the grass, my hands pinioned behind me.
The quietness which had been in Aynur’s voice, and that unnatural calm of it, had terrified me more than her rage.
“Get her on her feet,” said Aynur, quietly.
I, but Tima and Tana, one on each side of me, by the upper arms, was drawn to my feet, and held there.
Aynur slipped the base loop of the switch over her left wrist. The base loop, in certain adjustments, supplies additional control and leverage to the user of the implement. It also, of course, assures greater security in its retention. Too, by its means, obviously, the switch may be conveniently suspended, for example, over a hook or peg, or, say, as Aynur now had it, over a wrist, freeing the hands. Aynur bend down and picked up the silk and, neatly carefully, very methodically, very deliberately, folded it, until it was again in the shape of a small, soft, layered rectangle, some three inches by five inches, as it had been earlier, when the stranger had placed it in my mouth.
Aynur looked at me.
I tried desperately to read her eyes.
I could not do so.
Then she thrust the silk crosswise in my mouth.
I bit down upon it.
I could still not read her eyes.
I was again gagged.
Aynur then turned about and went toward the house. “Bring her along,” she said, over her shoulder.
I, biting down on the silk, terrified, tears in my eyes, my upper arms helpless in the grip of Tima and Tana, my wrists behind me. Locked in bracelets, stumbling was conducted toward the house.
I had stirred groggily.
For a moment I had expected to awaken in a former place, in a former dwelling, in a once familiar room, as I had so often before.
I lay on my stomach.
I would feel the sheets, and, with the tips of my fingers, beneath them, the familiar mattress.
Everything would be the same.
But it seemed that something hard was beneath me, not the mattress, but a surface less yielding, more severe.
I kept my eyes closed. There was light. It was rather painful. How foolish I was! I had forgotten to draw the shade last night.
Various were the memories, or seeming memories, which mingled in my confused, sluggish consciousness.
I did not know what was dream, and what was reality, if aught.
I had had the strangest dream.
I had dreamed I had somehow found myself on an alien world, one on which such as I had their purposes.
I must awaken.
What a strange dream it had been!
I could remember chains, and the cracking of whips, and others like myself.
I could remember kneeling in a dimly lit corridor, chained by the neck with others, manacled and shackled. I could remember my pressing my lips fervently, obediently, to the whip of a male unlike any I had ever known or had believed could exist. And there had been others, too, such as he. No dearth of such was there upon that world!
I stirred, uneasily.
And there was on that world an unfamiliar language in which such as I must develop a facility posthaste.
Oh, we strove desperately to learn that language! You may be sure of that! It was not we who held the whips.
Under such conditions, you must understand, such as we learn quickly.
The dream seemed very real, I thought, the lengthy training sessions, the kennels, and such.
Tears had formed in my eyes as I had thought of he whose whip I had, in what must have be the dream, first kissed. But how cruel he had been to me, after his first kindness, his first patience! How he had rejected me, and mocked and scorned me, how I had felt his foot, or the back of his hand, how he had thrust me to the tiles, how he would order me, angrily, to another, or even hurl me impatiently, sometimes in chains, to such a one!
But how much it seemed I had learned there, in that place, in my training! And how seldom were we even clothed, save perhaps to instruct us how to bedeck ourselves in certain garments, and how provocatively, gracefully, to remove them. I had learned much about myself there, it seemed. And I had learned, too, to my dismay, and shame, what men could do to me, and what I could become in their arms. And then I began to want this. How frightful the dream! How embarrassing, how terrifying, to learn that one cannot help oneself, that one is astonishingly, helplessly vital! And how miserable and embarrassed I had been when I had learned that this information, of such intimacy and delicacy, and secrecy, had been publicly recorded on papers pertinent to me.
The light seemed bright. Even though my closed eyelids it hurt.
Had I forgotten to draw the shade?
I must awaken.
Then I remembered, too, being summoned to a room. There had been men there, of the house and not of the house. I had performed. I had been discussed. Arrangements had been made. I must drink something. I had begun to lose consciousness even as I was hooded. I had lain back, within the hood, on the floor. I was dimly aware of my limbs being placed in certain positions, and then being chained. It was almost as though it were being done to another. I remembered trembling a little, and sensing the chains, and hearing them, and realizing that it was I who wore them, and not another, and then I had lost consciousness. There had then been a nightmare, it seemed, of transitions. Once it seemed, as I determined by touch, I was lying in a low, narrow, mesh-walled space, as on the slatted bunk. There were terrible smells. There was a motion, as of a ship. There were cries and moans, as of others like myself, about me. Because of the motion and the smells I feared I might vomit in the hood. But then, again, I lost consciousness. Then later there had been a wagon, one of metal, in which I was hooded and closely chained. Sometimes it was hot. Sometimes it was cold. When it was cold I held about myself, when I was conscious, as best I could, the single blanket I had been given. Then I would lapse again into unconsciousness. I was awakened, sometimes, and unhooded, and slapped awake, or awake enough, to take drink and sustenance. Then I would again drift into sleep. Some drug perhaps, in this dream, was mixed with my food or drink. I did not know where I was. I did not know where I was going. Indeed, in one sense I did not even know who I was. I felt myself somehow bereft of identity. I knew that I was no longer what I had been. That sort of thing had been left on a former, vanished world. That sort of thing was all behind me. Who was I? What was I? What was I to be? Such things it seemed, here, on this world, were not up to me. They would be decided by others. The wagon had left smooth roads. It had seemed, irregularly, but with frequency, to ascend, jolting and rocking. Within I was much bruised. Once it had nearly tipped. Eventually it, days, perhaps weeks later, must have reached its destination, wherever that might have been. I was bound hand and foot, and then, so secured, was relived of the wagon chains. I was wrapped closely in a blanket, which was then tied closely about me. This blanket was not the same as that which had been in the wagon. That blanket, it seemed, would be burned, and the wagon’s interior scrubbed clean. There would be few, if any, traces, of my occupancy left in the wagon. I take it that even those of scent were, to the extent possible, to be eliminated. Perhaps such might have been of use to some sort of tracking animal. I did not understand the point of such precautions. It seemed for some reason that my passage here was to be as though it had not occurred. I was then removed, so bound and so enveloped, from the wagon, I was carried for a time, over a shoulder, my head to the rear, which somehow seemed vaguely, to be the way I should be carried, however shameful or embarrassing I might find it to be, and I was then, at the end of this peregrination, placed on some sort of wooden platform. It was hard, even though the blanket. A little later I was placed in some sort of large, heavy basket, in which I was fastened down by two straps, one at my ankles and the other at my neck. The basket must have been something like a yard square. I must accordingly, bound, tied in the blanket, strapped in place, keep my legs drawn up. I was still hooded.
What a strange dream!
It seemed the basket flew!
Sometimes it seemed I heard the smiting of air, as though in the beating of giant wings. At other times I heard great birdlike cries, from above and ahead, or to one side of the other. And then I would lose consciousness again.
I decided that I must awaken, and in my own bed, on my own world.
The light seemed to bright, through my closed eyelids. I must, foolishly, have forgotten to draw the shade last night.
I was on my stomach. I pressed down with my finger tips, to feel the sheets and, beneath them, the familiar mattress.
But it seemed that something hard was beneath me, not the mattress, but a surface less yielding, more severe.
I kept my eyes closed. There was light. It was rather painful. How foolish I was! I had forgotten to draw the shade last night.
But the light did not seem to be coming from the proper direction. It should be coming more from behind me, to my left, where, as I was lying, or thought myself to be my left, where, as I was lying, or thought myself to be lying, my window would be. But it was not. It was coming rather from before me, and my left. I must have somehow, in my sleep, twisted about. I felt disoriented.
Everything did not seem to be the same. Many things seemed different.
I then, as I became more certain, but not altogether certain, that I was awakening, or awakened, became quite afraid.
I was not yet ready to open my eyes.
I remembered one thing quite clearly from my dream. I had been branded. It had been put on me. I had worn, almost from the first, a light, gleaming, about-a-half-inch-high, close-fitting steel collar. It locked in the back.
Not opening my eyes, frightened, I moved my fingers upward, little by little, toward my throat. Then, with my finger tips, I touched my throat. It was bare!
Again I felt my throat.
No band was there.
I did not wear such a circlet. I was in no neck ring, or such device. My throat was bare. No closed curve of steel, locked, inflexible, enclasped it.
I was not collared.
It would be hard then to describe my emotions.
Should they not have been of elation, of joy, of relief? Perhaps. But instead, perhaps oddly, as I lay there, somehow half between waking and sleep, I perceived a sudden poignance, as of irreparable loss.
As of isolation. As of loneliness. I felt a wave, cold and cruel, of misery, rising within me, a forlorn, agonizing cry of alienation, of anguish. It seemed that I had suddenly become meaningless, or nothing. But then, in an instant, how pleased I tried to be, as I should be, of course. I attempted, instantly, to govern my emotion, to marshal them, and break them, and align them in accordance with the dictates to which I had been subjected all my lift.
Yes, how relived I was!
How wonderful was everything now!
It had been, you see, a dream!
There was nothing to worry about.
It was over now.
I might, now, even open my eyes.
But the surface on which I lay did not seem soft, nor did the material beneath my finger tips seem to have the texture of cotton sheets. The light, too, was wrong. I must have twisted about in my sleep. Something seemed wrong.
Memories of the dream recurred, the movements, the metal wagon, the chains, the hood, the basket, the wind though its course, sturdy fibers.
My head, it seemed for the first time in days, seemed clear. I now experienced, it seemed for the first time in days, a consciousness I recognized as familiar, as my own, neither confused nor disordered. I did not have a headache. I did not know how long I had slept. It might have been a long while.
But the surface seemed wrong, the direction of the light seemed wrong.
Somehow I must be disoriented.
I opened my eyes, and gasped, shaken. I began to tremble, uncontrollably.
I lay upon stone.
That was what was beneath my finger tips. There were no sheets. There was no mattress.
I lay upon stone!
I rose to all fours.
I seemed to be in a sort of cave, carved into the living rock of a mountain, or cliff.
I looked to the opening of where I was housed, for it was from thence that came the illumination.
There was no window there. Rather there was a large aperture. It was regular in form. It was like a portal. Surely it was not a natural opening. It was in shape something between a semicircle and an inverted “U.” it was flat at the bottom, rather squared at the sides and rounded at the top. It was some six or seven feet high and some seven or eight feet wide. It was barred. The bars were heavy, some two or three inches in thickness. They were reinforced laterally with heavy crosspieces, an inch or so high, every foot or so.
My consciousness, suddenly, was very vivid, very acute. I seemed to be in a tiny brown tunic. How had this come about? It was no more than a rag.
I would never have donned such a garment!
I would never have permitted myself to be seen so, so bared, so displayed, so exposed in such a scandalous garment!
It was frayed, and torn. It was terribly brief. It was terribly thin. It had no nether closure, and it was all I wore!
I was outraged!
I might have torn it from me, bit it was all I had.
Who had dared to put me in this garment?
Surely I had not don so!
A sense of acute embarrassment, and then of fury, over came me! What right had someone to do this, to take such liberties, to so barb me, in so little, so pathetically, and so revealingly, and publicly, to so dress me, to so demean, insult and shame me, so deliberately, so grievously!
How could such a thing have been dared?
Who did they think I was?
What did they think I was?
I realized, of course, too, suddenly, the thought almost making me giddy and frightened, that whoever had done so must have seen me bared, fully. Whoever it was must, I surmised, surely have been male. Surely it was the sort of garment that only a man would put a woman in, or perhaps observe a woman being put in, under his direction. I wondered if he had liked what he saw. I felt vulnerable. Had I been violated while unconscious?
Things began to flood back to me.
Certain things now became very real.
It occurred to me that I was no longer the sort of woman who could be “violated.” An animal could be put to use, but surely it could not be “violated.”
It could be done with me as others might please.
And suddenly, it tending to shock me, in my confusion, the thought rose up irresistibly within me that I should, more properly, not be distressed by the rag I wore, but rather I should rejoice that I had been granted this gift, in indulgence, the lenience, of even so minuscule a scrap of clothing! It served to give me at least a little cover. Was I entitled to any? No, I had not the least right to such, or to anything. Surely I should be heartfeltedly grateful for even so little! Surely it need not have been granted me. Had I not, in the pens, as it had seemed to me in my dreams, if dreams they were, often pleaded for so little as a threat of silk?
What was I?
What had I become?
Something within me seemed to know.
The drug had now worn off. But it had induced a sense of confusion, an uncertainty as to what had occurred and what had not occurred, what had been dream and what had not been dream.
Had I dreamed the house, the pens, the chains, the wagon, the strange passage though cold, windy skies?
Was I dreaming now? Was I delirious? Was I mad?
Muchly had I been disoriented by the substance to which I had been subjected.
Was I still, unwittingly, its victim?
But it did not seem so.
The stone, the close-set bars, the long looming, tiered vistas beyond them, seemed very real.
I sought something to prove, or disprove, my fears.
Where was I?
Was I no longer what I had been, as I suspected? Had my reality, as I suspected, been transformed radically, utterly?
I must know!
I knelt back. I again felt my throat. No collar was there! Madly, feverishly, I pulled up the skirt of the tiny brown tunic, to bare my left leg to the waist. Yes! Yes! Yes! There it was, the tiny, lovely mark, incised into my thigh, just below the hip. I wore it, in my body! It marked me! There was no mistaking that small, beautiful sign. How beautiful it was! How well it marked me! It was my brand. It was truly there! I had been branded!
I again went to all fours, shaking, almost collapsing, now laughing, now weeping! I was overcome with elation, with joy, with relief. These emotions, from the depths of me, burst upward, like light and lava, like the throwing open of shades and the risings of suns, like floods, like tides, like treasures, like hurricanes, like fire, powerful, irresistible, precious! No longer was I isolated, or wandering alone, apart from myself, not knowing myself, lost from myself. Forgotten then was the cry of alienation, of anguish. I had not been returned to my former condition of meaninglessness, that of nothingness, in which I, denied to my real self, it forbidden to me, must pretend to false identities, must conform to uncongenial stereotypes imposed upon me from the outside. Here I was free to be what I was! Here one need not live as if indoors, sheltered from sunlight and rain, here one might look upon truth as it was in itself, not as it might be distorted in the labyrinths of prescribed protocols, here one might touch real things, like grass and the bark of trees.
Then, quickly, I knelt back, and, hastily, furtively looking about, thrust down the brief skirt of the tunic. What if someone should see? We have our modesty! I smoothed it down, with something like the dignity which, I seemed to recall from my training, we were not permitted.
I looked about.
I was here, truly here, wherever it might be.
The nightmare of the journey was apparently over.
It was now clear to me, as it had been when I was first subjected to the substance, in some house faraway, that I had been drugged. Now, however, as nearly as I could determine, the disordering, sedative effects of whatever substance had been administered to me had worn off. The dosage, apparently, for some time, had not been renewed. Too, I was now no longer hooded, or even chained. Indeed, even my collar had been removed. I had no idea, of course, as to where I might be. It did not seem to me that the drug would have been necessary. Surely the hood would have been enough, and the metal wagon, and such. Indeed, it seemed to me that I might as well have been transported openly, for all I, given my ignorance of this world, might have been able to determine of my whereabouts. Why, then, had such precautions been taken with me? Men had not even spoken to me, and only occasionally in my vicinity. I had heard some things, some phrases, some scraps of discourse, when half-conscious, struggling with the haze of the drug, but very little, and nothing that told me what I most wanted to know, where I was being taken, and why. What was to be my fate? What was to be done with me? To what purpose was I to be applied? Why should I not at least be permitted to know where I was? What difference would it make, I wondered, if one such as I knew where she was?
But such as I, I have learned, are commonly kept in ignorance.
But I was here now, wherever it might be.
Then, interestingly, I became afraid. I was here, and in the power of others, whom I knew not. Surely there was, after all, something to be said for the tepid world from which I had been extracted. Would it not have been better then to have awakened between my own sheets, in my own bed, as I had so many times before, in those familiar surroundings? Was that world not, for all its lies, its hypocritical cant, its ludicrous, wearying pretenses, its tedious self-congratulatory self-righteousness, and such, a more secure place, a safer place? The dangers there, it seemed, were for the most part at least comfortingly slow, and invisible, such as minute quantities of poison in food, significant only over time, and lethal gases accumulating in the atmosphere, molecule by molecule. Indeed, the men of my world, in their self-concern, preoccupied with their own affairs, doubtless of great moment, seemed prepared to let their world die. I did not think, on the other hand, that the men of this world would allow their world to be destroyed. Nature, and its truths, were too important to them. And so my feelings were understandably somewhat ambivalent. Doubtless I would have been safer in my tepid, gray, polluted world, conforming to its values, being careful not to question, or to feel, or discover or know, but I, somehow, perhaps unaccountably, was not discontent to be where I was. I had no doubt that there were dangers here as, in fact, there were on my old world, but the dangers here, I suspected, at least for the most part, would be intelligible. As intelligible as the teeth of the lion, as the point of a weapon. Too, the question, I reminded myself, was somewhat academic. I was not on my old world. I was, whether I liked it or not, and for better or for worse, here.
I had quickly determined earlier that the tiny brown tunic was all that I wore. I had felt a momentary wave of embarrassment, and surely of irritation, even fury.
There had been that much of my old world left in me at that time.
But now I felt gratitude.
To be sure I was clearly dressed for the pleasure of men.
What beasts are men, what commandeering, controlling imperious beasts!
But I did not mind. I was suddenly pleased to be beautiful, and to have my beauty displayed. If one is beautiful, why should one not be proud of it? Even if men force one, for their pleasure, to show it! And are we not pleased to be so displayed, to be seen as they will have us seen? Are we not then in the order of nature, as men will have us? Must one hide one’s beauty because of the envy of the ugly? But here, I thought, men would not permit one to do so, even if one wished. But what beautiful women would wish to do so? I was pleased now, even brazenly so, to be beautiful. But I did recognize its dangers, for it excites and stimulates men. We are, after all, their natural prey. On a would such as this a beautiful woman, or at least one such as I, is in no doubt as to her desirability, her vulnerability, and, I fear, her peril.
I had however learned, in the pens, that not all women on this world were such as i. But I did not know, at that time, if they were numerous or not. I had seen, at that time, only two. I had seen them, disdainful and resplendent, in the pens. How daintily, how haughtily, how fastidiously, they had picked their way about! I shall speak briefly of them later.
But even such women I suspected, in a world such as this, were at risk.
In any even, the men here, I thought, know how to dress women, or at least my sort of women, when it pleased them to dress them.
I was not collared.
I wondered if I had been freed.
Yes, I have used the expression ‘freed’.
I do not see, now, how I could escape its use.
I have hitherto been reluctant, as you may have noticed, perhaps even foolishly, to speak explicitly of my status, and condition, on this world, which means so to this moment, but I suppose it has been evident to the reader — if this is permitted to come to the attention of the reader. I am writing this in English, of course, for I can neither read nor right Gorean. Nor does it seem likely they will permit me to learn. It seems they prefer for me to be kept as I am, illiterate. That is common with women or, better, considering our status, girls, such as i.
Perhaps it has been evident that my status on this world is something with which the reader is likely to be unfamiliar, perhaps even something that he would find it hard to understand.
One does not know.
But I suppose, by now, it is evident to all that I am a kajira, or sa-for a. but of course it is not evident! How could it be? Forgive me. You do not know these words. Aside from the words, of course, my condition, my status, is doubtless clear to you. Would it not be clear from the speaking of chains, and collars, and such? You may find it objectionable. I do not. I love it. In it I find my fulfillment, my happiness, my joy! Perhaps you think what I am is degrading, and perhaps it is, but, if so, it is a delicious, precious, joyful degradation which I treasure, and in which I thrive and prosper, and one I would not, at the expense of my very life, have otherwise.
It is a thing of softness, heat, devotion, obedience, service, beauty and love.
In it I am happy, and fulfilled, completely, perfectly, totally as a total woman, as I could be in no other way.
In brief, the word sa-for a means “Chain Daughter” or “Daughter of the Chain”. The world kajira, on the other hand, is by far the most common expression in Gorean for what I am, which is, as you have doubtless surmised, a female slave. Yes, slave. The male form is kajirus. The plural of the first word is kajirae, and of the second kajiri. As kajira is the most common expression in Gorean for slave who is female, I suppose I might, in English be most simply, and most accurately translated, as “slave girl.” In a collar, you see, understandably, all women are “girls.” Almost all slaves on Gor are female. There are, of course, male slaves, but most are laborers, working in the fields, in quarries, in mines, on roads, and such, in chains and under whips. Some women keep male silk slaves, but they are rare. The Gorean view is that slavery is appropriate for the female, and not for the male. A saying, a saying of men, of course, has it that all women are slaves, only that some are not yet in the collar. I know now, of course, as I did not earlier, that there are many free women on Gor, and, indeed, that most women on Gor are free. An exception seems to be a city called Tharna. I do not know why that is the case.
I now return to my narrative.
Could I have been freed?
To be sure, the mark was still on my thigh. But that, of course, was only to be expected.
I looked to the heavy bars at the portal.
They did not suggest to me that I had been freed.
Too, I smoothed down the skirt of the tiny tunic. It was so brief! It was little more than a rag! That garment did not suggest, either, that I had been free. As mentioned, it had no nether closure. This is common with slave garb. The delicious, most intimacies of the slave are commonly left unshielded. She is to be open, and know herself open, to the master; this reality contributes to her sense of vulnerability, and informs, enhances, suffuses, and considerably deepens the rich emotionality of her nature. She is to be ready for the master at any time of the day or night, and in any place or manner which he may indicate. This helps her to keep in mind what she is. I had only twice, in my training, in my costuming, and silking, and such, worn a garment with a nether closure. The first was no more than a long, narrow silken rectangle thrust over a belly cord in front, taken down between the legs, drawn up snugly, and then ghrust over the same cord in the back. The other, more elaborate, was a “Turian camisk.” It is rather like an inverted “T” where the bar of the “T” has beveled edges. The foot of the “T” ties about the neck and the staff of the “T” goes before one, and then, between the legs, is drawn up snugly behind and tied closed in front where the beveled edges of the bar of the “T,” wrapped about the body, have been brought forward, meeting at the waist. It may also have side ties, if permitted, strings that tie behind the back, to better conceal, in one sense, and, in another, better reveal the figure. We must know how to put on such a garment, for example, and well, if one is thrown to us. This Turian camisk differs from the common camisk. The latter is little more than a rectangle of cloth with an opening for the head in the center. It is worn over the head and tied at the waist, normally with one or more loops of binding fiber. The comman camisk, of course, has no nether closure. Nether closures, as I have suggested, are seldom permitted to women such as I. We are expected, almost always, you see, to be immediately available to those who hold total rights over us.
And well does this help us understand what we are!
I smoothed down the skirt of the tunic even more firmly, more deliberately. One must be careful how one moves in such a brief tunic, of course. One is taught how to move gracefully in such a garment. Too, one learns how to do little things, such as, crouching down, to retrieve fallen objects.
I was pleased, of course, despite its brevity, to have been accorded a tunic. I knew I might not have received that much. Too, I knew, somewhat to my chagrin, that it could be ordered from me with so little as a snapping of fingers. I did try again to feel a bit indignant at the tunic, for a moment or two, it being all I wore, and so brief, and little more then a rag, but, to be honest, I was much pleased with it. Yes, I was pleased to wear such things. They set me off well. I knew that men found me exciting in them. I did not object to this. I was a woman. Too, if it must be known, such garments excited me, too. I loved to wear them.
I was not collared.
Could I have been freed?
The garment did not suggest so, nor the bars at the portal. I had best behave as I had been taught, I thought, at least until it might be clear that I had been freed. I shuddered. Twice, in the training, I had felt the lash, each time a single stroke. I did not care to have that experience repeated.
Could I have been freed?
Then I laughed at eh absurdity of the thought. These were not men like those of my world. Men such as these would never free one such as I. They preferred us as we were, theirs.
On this world I was what I was. That was that.
I then rose, and went to the barred portal. I stood there, and held to the bars. Outside it, breathtakingly beautiful, I could see mountains, many of them snow-capped.
I was in awe.
I had not realized this world could be so beautiful.
To be sure, what had I seen of it, really, other then pens, some rooms, some kennels, a glimpse, when unhooded, of the interior of a closed-sided cage wagon, such things?
I looked up. There was a narrow, rectangular slot in the ceiling through which, it seemed, the bars, lifting, as a gate, might rise. There was doubtless a system of weights and counterweights. The bars would not swing outward. That was well, for I could see, from where I stood, grasping the bars, that there was a narrow ledge outside the bars. It was surely no more than a yard wide. I feared from the valley below, and the mountains across the way, that the drop from the ledge might be precipitate. I crouched down to see if I might be able to lift the bars. I seized one of the crosspieces with both hands. I tried to lift the gate. I could not begin to do so. I had not really expected the gate to open, but I had thought I might be able to lift it a little, assuming some counterweights were engaged, at leased an inch or so, until it was stopped by some device, say, some lock, or bolt, or holding bar. But I could not move it, even an inch. If there were counterweights engaged then more than my strength was needed to activate them.
I turned about and examined the room, or cave, in which I was incarcerated. It was in depth some twenty feet long, in width some fifteen feet wide, in height some eight or ten feet high. Surely it was no kennel. It seemed to me large, even for a cell. I did not think it had been designed for the keeping of such as i. It could, in easy effectiveness, have held several men. The walls, and ceiling, were rough and irregular. The area was carved out of living rock. I had looked to the back. I had thought there might be some other entrance, perhaps a small iron door at the back, but there was not. In some cells, designed for such as we, there are, inserted with a larger door, or gate, a small door or gate. Whereas the larger door or gate may be opened, and men may enter the cell standing, if they wish, such as we are usually entered into the cell and summoned forth from it though the smaller door or gate. We thus enter on all fours and emerge on all fours, or, if it is wished, on our belly. This sort of thing is thought useful in reminding us of our status. It is also harder, obviously, to bolt though such an opening. Also, on all fours, or on our belly, as we emerge, it makes it easier to put us on a leash. But such has to do, of course, with cells. I was more familiar with kennels. These are usually quite small. They do not permit one to stand upright in them. They usually have barred gates. In this way, we, behind them, are always visible to our keepers. Toward the back there was a bit of straw and, I was pleased to see, a blanket. It was heavy and black. It would doubtless be warm. There were also three vessels in the cell. Two of these were of a simple yellowishly glazed clay, fragile and chipped about the edges. They had perhaps been discarded from some kitchen. The other was of a heavier, whitish porcelain type substance. The yellowish vessels were to one side and the whitish porcelain type vessel was on the other. I walked to the back, to examine them. Of the two to one side, the yellowish vessels, one was a flattish bowl, which contained a crust and some meal; too, within it I was pleased to see what I thought were some slices of dried fruit; such things are often included in our diet; they are precious to us; in the other vessel, of the two to one side, the left, as I faced them, my back to the bars, a taller, craterlike vessel, there was water. On the other side of the room, to the right, as I faced the back of the cell, was the larger, whitish porcelain type vessel. I was grateful for its presence. Such things are not always permitted to us.
I wondered where I was.
I walked back to the bars, and, though them, gazed again, enraptured, at the beauty of the mountains.
Then, more curious about my surroundings, I grasped the bars. I pressed my face to the bars. I could not put my head between them. They were too closely set. I pressed the side of my face against them, first to the left, and then to the right, trying to see to the left and right. I could see, through them, only a bit of the ledge, narrow, extending to each side. I pressed my body against the bars. I felt their hardness against my softness. This disquieted me. It made me uneasy. But I then pressed myself even more closely against the bars. Their hardness, suddenly, seemed powerful, and delicious. It made me feel weak. I felt so helpless behind them. They were so stern and hard, so uncompromising, so unyielding. And I was within them. Herein I think I found figures, or images, or symbols, of what I was not certain. There was hardness of the bars, and my softness, things so utterly different, and yet somehow, subtly, meaningfully complementary. And then, too, there were the bars and, within them, utterly helpless, was my softness. How might were the bars! How strong they were, and perfect! I pressed my cheek and body against them, happily, joyfully, gratefully, knowing that I could never break them.
I then drew back a little, but kept my grasp on the bars. This room, or cave, I conjectured, had not really been designed for such as i. It was so large, and strong. But it would hold one such as I quiet as effectively as one such as they. I, though much smaller then they, no more than they, could even dream of slipping between the bars. They were too closely set.
I could see little from where I was, other than the ledge, and the mountains across the way. I thought it quite possible, however, that my cell was not the only one in this mountain, along that narrow path. That did not seem likely. It was, presumably, one of several along the path. Indeed, there might be other such paths cut in the mountain, above this one, with other cells, and perhaps, to be sure, below me, as well, where I could not see. I considered calling out. But I did not call out. It is perhaps just as well. Woman such as I, you see, are subject to discipline. I did not know if I might call out or not. I had not received any explicit permission to speak. In my training I had twice, for days at a time, been refused permission to speak. One must then do as best one can, with gestures, with whimpers, and such, to make one’s needs known, that one desires food, that one begs permission to relieve oneself, and so on.
Yes, this cell would hold men, as well as such as i. Too, I thought, it would hold animals, even large animals. I wondered if animals were ever kept in it. Animals other than, of course, the sort that I was. I looked back to the porcelain type container, near the back wall, to the right. I was glad it was there. I would be expected to use it. One is taught, I, and animals, too, of other sorts, to use such things, corners of cells, boxes, drains, and such. I, or course, was “cell broken.” If no receptacle were there, and I need not “wait,” sometimes in misery, until conducted by keepers to a suitable place for the discharge of such homely functions, I knew enough to use the back, right-hand corner of the area. It was not pleasant to have one’s face nearly thrust into one’s wastes and then, on all fours, be dragged by the hair to the back, right-hand corner of an area, where the keeper points meaningfully to the appropriate place of deposition. One learns quickly, of course. One trains well.
I looked out towards the mountains.
I grasped the bars.
Here, on this world, I was an animal. I must obey. I was branded. I could be collared. I could be bought and sold. It could be done with me as others pleased.
I had been brought here, to this world, to this fate.
The mountains across the way were very beautiful.
I wondered where I was.
I was not unhappy.
I put on hand through the bars, reaching out, idly, toward the mountains. How beautiful they were. I drew my hand back, and held the bars. I had not seen a guard, or keeper. I drew back a little and pulled down on the short skirt of tunic. This made it tighter for a moment on my body. This movement, drawing the skirt down as I had, conjoined with a shy expression, and an attitude of timidly, can be quite provocative. One does this as an act of seeming modesty but, of course, it accentuates one’s figure. In such a way may the secret riches of a country be hinted at and an invitation issued to its conquest. I had thought of this, incidentally, even on my old world, but I had never done it there. I did not have the appropriate garmenture there, except, in effect, in my dreams. Too, there I had been a person, and not an animal. Too, to whom there might such an invitation be meaningfully offered? Doubtless there must have been some there who could have taken me in hand, but I had not met them. I had not been touched, as far as I knew, since I had left the house in which I had been trained. The drug, or drugs, had muchly suppressed my needs. Now, however, the effects of the drug, or drugs, had worn off. I was awake, and fully conscious. Indeed, I was even hungry. I was prepared to kneel behind the bars and put my hand through, begging. I did not think I would have to beg too hard. I had been popular with the guards at the house. They had, at least, made frequent use of me. Such as I, incidentally, often compete for the touch of men. Perhaps we should share, but each of us wants what she can get, and so we behave in such a manner as to obtain all we can. Our bitterest rivalries then are commonly with our “sisters.” In these competitions, as they had occurred in the house, in training, I had enjoyed what was apparently an unusual success. Aside from my possible independent interest to men, I do not doubt but what this success was largely due to my swift progress in readiness, need and heat, which progress was sure, profound and irreversible. Indeed, toward the end, primarily, I think, because of my ignited appetition and heat my inability to control my responsiveness, my inability to help myself in the arms of men, I was getting what was regarded as far more then my fair share of attention. This compromised to some extent, it seems, the training of others. It did not endear me, of course, either, to my fellow trainees. Sometimes I was struck. Twice I was beaten. At any rate, to my dismay, shortly before I was removed from the house, the guards had acuallly been warned away from me. No longer, it seems, was I to be permitted, with my smells and heat, the promise of my responsiveness, my possible beauty, my anxious petitions, to seduce them from their duties. Too, I was ready, it seemed, to leave the house. And there were, after all, fires to be stroked in other bellies. Others, too, must be readied for departure. It is not that I was totally neglected, of course, which neglect would have produced utter anguish, but rather that my use was then restricted, or rationed. But, to be honest, not all the guards observed the schedules, the warnings, the cautions. More then once, late at night, while others slept, I was awakened by a soft tapping on the bars and summoned forth from the kennel, to serve there before it, in the light of a dark lantern, thence to be returned to the kennel. Gratefully had I crawled forth; reluctantly had I crawled back.
I clung to the bars.
There would be men here, doubtless, in this place, similar to those whom I had known in the house.
I recalled how the guards had been warned away from me, late in my training, in the house. In its way that, at least in the memory, pleased me. They had not been subjected to such restrictions with respect to any of the others in my group. I was the only one! How special that made me feel! Oh, how I had wanted the guards! How prettily I had begged! And, if not soon satisfied, how rather desperate and plaintive had become my petitions. I could recall having been on my belly more then once, kissing their feet, weeping, imploring their touch. But on the whole I had not had to beg very hard. “Temptress,” had said more than one of me. I had in heat desired them,and they, in their power had put me often to their uses. Oh, yes, I had been needful and beautiful! Too, I had been quick in learning. I had mastered my lessons well. Certainly I was at least one of the best of the students. The guards had been warned away from me! Was it my fault if I might look well, kneeling at their feet? Was I to blame, if they found me of interest, perhaps even disquieting, or distracting? They did not have to spend additional time with me! It had been their choice! I laughed. How popular I had been with them, with perhaps one exception, he whose whip I had first kissed, he who had treated me with such cruelty. But what did he matter? Who cared for him! How special I was! Toward the end they had even warned the guards away from me. They must not be distracted by my plaints and beauty. I was already ready, hot in my shackles. Were there not others to be trained as well?
I did not doubt but what I would be well able to please what men might be in this place.
Had I not been evaluated, and purchased for this place?
Was I not trained?
Often, on my old world, I had been unsure as to how to relate to men, how to behave with them, I mean, really. I was familiar, of course, with the protocols of neuterism, the silly, self-contradictory tenets of unisex, invented by those apparently as innocent of logic as glands, and the pathetic absurdities of “personism,” such things, the fictions, the lies, the pretenses, the many tiny, brittle crusts concealing the smoldering depths of difference, of reality, of sexuality within one. But how tiresome it had been, and how frustrating, pretending to be only a surface, with no interior, no inner reality. Were those who preached such stupidities, I wondered, only such a thing themselves, a one-dimensional surface, or were they simply lying. Could there be very different sorts of human beings? Were some, in effect, hollow? If so, perhaps it was natural for them to suppose that others must be as empty as they. But I did not think that human beings were one-dimensional or hollow, even those who spoke in such a fashion. I thought that we were all very real. Some of us, however, might fear to inquire into this reality. Some of us might feel it was safer to pretend it did not exist, to deny it.
It seemed now to be late afternoon.
I clasped the bars.
On my old world I had been unsure as to how to relate to men, how to relate to them. Many had been the uncertainties, the confusions, in such matters. We had seemed, such as I, and men, on the world, to have no clear identities. We were strangers, and ambiguities, to one another. It was almost as though we had no reality of our own. It was almost as though we were only images, only projections, only shadows, only vapors. But here, on this world, such as I, at least, had an identity, an explicit, verifiable reality. I was here something, something very real, something as real as the living rock about me, as real as the bars of my cell. Here, on this world, there was no puzzle as to how such as I were to relate to men. Here there were no uncertainties. Here the doubts were dissipated. Here the confusions had vanished. On this world I would kneel before men. I would serve them. I would please them to the best of my ability, in any way they might desire.
I clung to the bars.
I pressed my left cheek against them. I thought of the men of this world. How else could a woman such as I relate to such men? I suspected they would find me pleasing. I was sure I could please them. I now knew how to relate to men. I now knew what to do. I had been trained. The uncertainties, the ambiguities, were gone.
I did not think I would have difficulty pleasing the men here. Too, I had had no difficulty in pleasing the men in the house, with but one exception. Why had he hated me? Was he angry that I could not help but be what I was?
The guards in the house, late in my training, had been warned away from me. That did not seem to me likely to happen here. Presumably that had been a special situation, where the resources of instruction must be rationally distributed, where there were others who must be trained, and such. But these were not, presumably, pens. If I were popular here I did not think it likely that men would be warned away from me. There would be no point to it. Rather, I would be merely the more frequently used. If any were to be upset about such a matter, it would presumably be others such as I, but, in that case, let them look out for themselves! I was quiet ready to compete, you see, in any such contests!
How scandalous, I thought, that I should have such thoughts. What had I become? But I knew.
Yes, I was sure I could please men!
I leaned against the bars, dreamily. I would, at any rate, do my best. I knew that I had always wanted to please men, and serve them. That had seemed to me in the order of nature, and to be fitting and right. But now, suddenly, remarkably, I had found myself on a world where, literally, I must do so. On this world, I had no choice in the matter. I was subject to discipline. I did not wish to be punished. I did not wish to be killed.
I held to the bars.
I looked out, at the narrow ledge, the beautiful mountains, the vast, bright, late-afternoon cloudy sky over the mountains.
How beautiful was this world!
To be sure, I was not important. I was less than nothing within it.
I thought of my old world, and its buildings, its streets, its roads, its signs, its crowding, its people, so many of them so wonderful, so precious, so many of them so miserable and sad, their mode of dress, now seemingly so unnatural, or eccentric, the vanities, the hostilities, the offensive, disgusting mindlessness of its materialism, the abuse of serious intellect and genuine feeling, the sense of emptiness and alienation, the destructive, pathetic search of so many for toxic stimulants, the banal electronic gaudiness, the unwillingness to look within, or ahead, the culture of selfishness, comfort and distraction. I was not then so disappointed to be where I was. In my old world I had been told I was important, as one tells everyone in that world, but I had not been, of course. Here I knew I was not important, but hoped that I might, sometime, mean at least a little to someone. One need not be important, you see, not at all, for that to be the case.
But how terrible was this world!
In it I had once actually been put in a collar, a steel collar, which I could not remove!
How I had treasured it!
Oh, there were dangers here, doubtless. And I did not know how many or of what sorts. How ignorant I was!
But I did not think I was discontent, really, to be here. Did not even mind the cell, really. Such as I must expect to be kept in such places. Surely it would not do, to let us run around as we might please.
I thought of some of my friends, on my old world. We had, of course, gone about together. I had had classes with some of them. But it was interesting how I now thought of them. I did not think of them now so much as they had been, on the bus, in classes, in the library, in labs, wandering about with me in the wide, smooth halls, and corridors, and courts of one or another of an endless list of shopping malls, patronizing garish restaurants whose claim to fame was the speed with which inferior food could be served, and such, but rather how they might be now, if they, like myself, had been brought to this world. How would three rows of thronged bells look, jinkling on the left ankle of a bare footed Sandra? Wouldn’t Jean look well, in a common camisk, carrying a vessel of water, balanced with one hand on her head, as we had been trained to do? And surely Pricilla would be fetching in a tiny bit of yellow silk, all she would wear. And Sally, plum, cuddly little Sally, so excitable, so talkative, so self-depreciating, so cynical with respect to the value of her own charms, let her wardrobe for the time be merely a collar, and her place only the tiles at a man’s feet. Let her kneel there in terror and discover that her previous assessments of her desirability, her attractions, were quite in error, and that, in such matters, much depends on the health of men, their naturalness and their power. I now thought of my friends, you see, rather in the categories of my new world. I wondered what prices they might bring, on a sales block. Certainly all were lovely; certainly all would look well in collars. It was my speculation that they would all, all of them, my lovely friends, my dearest friends, bring excellent prices.
Men would want them all.
But what if I had to compete for the favor of a master with them? That would be different. It would then be every girl for herself.
I heard, suddenly, from far off, out of sight, to my right, a shrill, birdlike cry.
I grasped the bars and pressed myself against them, looking up, and to the right. I saw nothing.
They cry had seemed birdlike, but, even far off, it was too might to have had such a source.
Then, a moment later, closer, I heard the same cry.
Again I pressed myself to the bars. I could see nothing, only the sky, the clouds.
I wondered what had made that sound.
My thoughts then wandered to some of the men I had known on my world. I wondered, too, what they might look like, clad not in the enclosed, hampering, eccentric garments prescribed for them by their culture, but in freer, more natural garb, such as tunics, and, as I had sometimes seen in the house, robes, and cloaks, of various sorts, things which might, in a moment, be cast aside, beautifully and boldly freeing the body for activity, for the race, for wrestling, for bathing, for the use of weapons, for the command of such as I. But whereas it seemed natural to think of the women of my world, or some of them, clad as I was, it seemed somehow foolish, or improbably, to think of the men of my world in the garmenture of the men of this world. It did not seem appropriate for them. I doubted that they could wear it honestly, if they could wear it well. I thought that they, given what they were, might be unworthy of such garments. But perhaps I am unfair to the men of my old world. Doubtless on that world, somewhere there must be true men. And I did not think, truly, that the men of my old world were really so different from the men here. The major differences, I was sure, were not biological, but cultural. I had been given a drink in the pens, for example, the intent of which, as I understood it, was to prevent conception. This suggested surely that the men here were cross-fertile with women such as I, and, thus, presumably, that we, despite the seeming considerable differences between us, were actually of the same species. The differences between the men of this world, so self-confident, so audacious, so lordly, so natural, so strong, so free, and those of my old world, so little like them, then, I assumed, must be, at least primarily, differences of acculturation. On my old world nature had been feared. It must be denied, or distorted. Civilization was the foe of nature. On this world nature had been accepted, and celebrated. It was neither distorted nor denied. Here, civilization and nature were in harmony. Here, it was not the task of civilization to disparage, condemn, and fight nature, with all the pathological consequences of such an endeavor, but rather to fulfill and express her, in her richness and variety, to enhance her and bedeck her with the glories of customs, practices and institutions.
I suddenly then heard again, this time so much closer and terrible, from somewhere to the right, perhaps no more than a hundred yards away, that dreadful shrill birdlike cry or scream. I was startled. I was terrified. I stood behind the bars, unable even to move. Then I suddenly gasped with fear. My hands were clenched on the bars. Moving from the right toward the left, some yards above the level of the ledge, some seventy or so yards out from it, I saw a gigantic hawklike creature, a monstrous, titanic bird, of incredible dimension. It must have had a wingspan of some forty feet in breadth! It was difficult to convey the terribleness, the size, the speed, the savagery, the power, the ferocity, the clearly predatory, clearly carnivorous nature of such a thing! But the most incredible thing, to my mind, was that I saw, in the moment or two it was in my visual field, that this monster was harnessed and saddled, and, astride it, was ahelmeted figure, that of a man!
I almost fainted behind the bars.
How grateful for the bars was I then!
The figure astride the winged monster had not looked toward the mountain, the ledge, the cell.
What had lain in this direction had apparently not concerened him.
Indeed, what could be of importance here, what worth considering?
I clung to the bars. My holding to them kept me from falling.
Such men existed here!
I felt giddy.
Men who could master such things!
I staggered back from the bars. My fingers went to my throat. Surely there must be a collar there! But there was not. I pulled down, frightened, on the edges of my brief skirt. I wanted then, somehow, to more cover myself. But, of course, the gesture, given the brevity of the tunic, was futile. I felt my thigh, through the tunic. The tiny mark was there, identifying me for any who might have an interest in the matter, as the sort I was. I put my finger tips then again to my throat. It was now bare. But I did not think that it would be long, in a place such as this, where there were such men, without a collar.
Suddenly certain of my memories, or seeming memories, of my journey here, made more sense. I, sometime ago, hooded, had been bound hand and foot, wrapped in a blanket, and strapped, apparently, in some sort of basket. I had felt as though it were borne though the air. I had thought I had heard great snapping sounds, doubtless now the beating of wings, and certain cries, doubtless, now, of such a creature, or of one somewhat like it, utilized for draft purposes.
I was terrified of that gigantic bird.
And I was property in this place, where there were such things, and men who could master them.
I was afraid.
I did not wish to be fed to such a thing.
But surely it was unlikely that I had been purchased and brought here, apparently from so far away, for such a purpose.
But then, perhaps strangely, perhaps unaccountably, I became excited, sexually.
I returned again to the bars, and, again, grasped them.
I thought again of my friends. I wondered if they ever thought of me. I wondered if they wondered, sometimes, what had become of me. I was not the same I knew. I was not much different. What would they think, I wondered, if they could see me now, in such a rag, in such a place, captive, and more then captive, animal and property, behind bars. Never would they suspect, I speculated, that their friend was now other than they had known her, that she was now quite different, that she was now subject to the collar, that she was branded. Would they be able to grasp now that she must obey, that she must please and serve? No, they could presumably not grasp such things. But I understood them quite well. How thrilled I was to be here, and, too, to be what I was. I had seen the great bird, in all its magnificent power and savagery. And I had seen its rider, too, paying me no attention, so careless of the cells. How exotic was this world! How beautiful it was! How exciting it was! How thrilling it was! How different it was! And I was here, and as what I was. I pressed myself against the bars, trembling. I wondered then again if my friends could have understood something of what it was to be a woman such as I, on a world such as this. Perhaps, I thought. They, too, are women.
What would it be like, I suddenly wondered, to compete with them? Surely they were lovely, all of them. What if they, too, were here? Would we not, suddenly, find ourselves divided against one another? Yes, I thought. We would. We would all strive to be the best, the most pleasing! Alone together, our skills and collars, in our locked, barred, lovely quarters, we might still be friends, chatting, gossiping, sharing intimacies. But before men how could we be other then competitive slaves? And how would this affect us, when we were again alone? “He likes me more!” “No, he does not!” “Did you see how he looked at me?” “I did not notice.” “I want that silken scarf!” “No, it is mine to wear!” “Oh, you knelt prettily in your serving!” “I knelt as I must!” “No!” “Yes!” “Collar meat!” “Collar meat!” “Slave!” “Slave!” “It is I who will be taught to dance!” “But not last night!” “The Master was distracted!” “You are supposed to be the distraction!” “I can do better!” “You had better, or you will be lashed, slave!”
There must be other women such as I, I suddenly thought, in this place! Surely I could not be the only one! There had been sixty women, as it had turned out, in my group in the pens, divided into tem groups of six each, each group under a whip master, the groups sometimes training together, sometimes separately, under the tutelage large of various others, some coming and going, switching about, teaching different matters, others concerned to teach specific subjects, and so on. We had all been from Earth. As soon as we had begun to learn our new language, we could, of course, as permitted, converse. We thus learned much about one another. Too, there had been five of us who spoke English as a native language, and some others who knew it as a second, or third language. We had been separated from one another, however, on the chain in the corridor, and early in our training. Of the five who spoke English natively, two were from America. O one of them, two were from England, and one was from Australia. Among the other Earth languages represented amongst us were French, German, Dutch, Italian, Greek, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese Chinese, and Japanese. But those in the pens, which were apparently large, were mostly native to this world. We of Earth constituted a small minority amongst them. We regarded the girls of this world as incredibly beautiful, from what we saw of them, but we did not really regard ourselves as so inferior to them, particularly as our training progressed. One becomes more beautiful, of course, with the training, not simply as one learns to move, to care for one’s appearance, and such, but, I think, even more importantly, as one begins to find oneself in one’s natural place in the order of nature, as one’s tensions and confusions are reduced, as one begins to discover what one really is, as one becomes gradually truer to oneself and so on. Beauty, as is well known, begins within. Some of our teachers were girls of this world, of the same sort as we. They, too, had their collars; they, too, were subject to discipline. Our lessons were varied. Some were in homely domestic matters, such as the making of bread and the sewing and laundering of garments. Others were, from our point of view, at least those of the Western girls, more exotic, such as the proper fashion in which to bathe a man, one of the first things we were taught, and the proper use of the tongue. The latter skill is useful, for example, if one’s hands are tied behind one’s back. But I mention these things primarily to make it clear that there were large numbers of us in the pens. Too, sometimes new girls would be brought in, naive, ignorant, cringing, terrified, in their chains, as we had once been, and other girls, more trained, would be taken away, presumably to other places of incarceration, perhaps where they might await their disply and sale. How superior we felt to the new girls being brought in, and how frightened we were, too, fearing the time when we, like more thoroughly trained girls, might be removed from the security of the pens, to what fates we could scarecely conjecture, in an unfamiliar, foreign world. No, I did not think I would be the only woman such as I in this place. There was clearly a place and role for my kind on this world. I did not doubt but what we were numerous. To be sure, I did not think that my kind, in origin, from Earth, would be common here. We, I gathered, were quite rare, though it seems not as rare as once we were. Some men, we gathered, actually preferred us. A market for our kind, it seems, though perhaps a small one, had, over the years, opened up. Our predecessors here, it seems, had proved that we could be of interest, and, I gather, of considerable interest.
Not all women here, of course, were such as I. I have mentioned that I had seen two, earlier. They had toured, with guides and guards, some of the cleaner, more respectable areas in the pens. They were apparently esteemed visitors. They had been richly robed, even veiled. Perhaps they were part owners of the enterprise. I did not know. We were not told such things. Before them we prostrated ourselves, in our nudity and collars, to the very belly. We were less than dirt before them; we were animals, things to be despised and held in contempt, things unworthy the notice of such lofty creatures. I recall wondering, however, as one passed me, and I saw the regal, swirling hem of that sparkling robe, if the concealed ankle within it would look well clasped in slave steel; I supposed that it would wear a shackle well; why not, was she not a woman? When they had passed, and I dared, I lifted my head a little from the damp stone and looked after them, they, in their layered veils, in their cumbersome splendor, in their glorious, elaborate ornateness! How perfect, how superior, how arrogant they were! But were they truly so different from us? I doubted it. Let them be stripped, I thought, angrily, and knelt down, and collared, and feel a stroke or two of the lash! I conjectured then that they, as quickly as we, would hasten to obey, and strive desperately to be found pleasing.
Did they not know that men were their natural masters, and that they might, as easily as we, if men chose, find themselves in chains and collars?
But surely legally, and socially, institutionally, culturally, we were not such as they. They were not such as we. Between us lay a mighty chasm.
I shall later, briefly, recount what happened when one of these women turned back, to stand before me. I suspect she had noted, or sensed, that I had dared to lift my head and look after them.
Perhaps she had suspected what might have been my thoughts, thoughts inappropriate in a slave. To be sure, perhaps it had merely been something about me which had annoyed her, scarcely noticed, in passing. Perhaps, in my eagerness and curiosity to see them, for I had not seen a free women of this world before, I had allowed some imperfection in my position, say, with respect to the angle of my body, the backs of my hands beside me, resting on the stone, the touching of the stone with my forehead? But then, again, perhaps it was merely a whim on her part, or a tactical device, randomly applied, to assess the quality of our training. I do not know, nor do I think it is important. In any event, for whatever reason, she had suddenly turned back, and I had not yet lowered my head. I had been caught by surprise! I gasped in misery, and quickly put my head down. But it was too late. An imperfection had been detected in my position! Too, my curiosity had been evident, and curiosity, it is said, is not becoming in such as we. Yet I wonder who, on this wide world, Is likely to be more zestfully and earnestly, inquisitive, more delightfully curious, then we! That is natural for women as a whole and it is certainly natural for us, who are the most female of all women. I shall briefly speak of this later, as it may shed some light on an aspect of Gorean society.
But it was not such women here, of course, that I was concerned with. They doubtless had their own world. Rather was I concerned with women here who might be such as I!it was those with whom I must compete.
How strange, I thought, what I had become!
I wondered what my friends, Sandra and Jean, and Pricilla, and Sally, might have thought if they saw me at a man’s feet, clad as I was, tenderly there the ministrations of one of my kind.
They, too, of course, if were they here, would soon enough hurry to do so!
There were the chains, and whips.
But what if they, secure in my old world, locked in that gloom, held within those walls, should see me so? I wondered if they would be startled, or shocked, or scandalized, or dismayed. And what if they saw how willingly, how eagerly, how joyfully I did this! But I thought, rather, that they, somehow, if only after a moment or two, beneath the immediate, superficial crusts of their conditioning, on some deep level, would feel something quite different, not shock, not scandal, not dismay, but something genuinely different, perhaps at first even frightingly so, a tremor of understanding, an unspeakable thrill of recognition. I suspected then they would feel envy at the openness, the naturalness, of this, the beauty, the rightness of it. Was this truly so strange to them? It is not so hard to understand. Had they not often been, if only in their dreams, in such a place? I could conceive of them being here, each of us in our collar, glancing shyly, one to the other, looking down, happily, scarcely daring to meet one another’s eyes. We had no choice, you must understand, given what we are. Might we not even meet, perhaps while on errands, or laundering at a stream or public basin, and discuss those who held total rights over us? In their hearts, if they knew, I did not doubt but what they would envy me, how free I was here, and what I could do. Too, was it not natural that we should belong to such men! But they, such men, of course, in one sense, would take us apart quite from one another. Our group, as it had been, would be broken up. We would find ourselves separated, each from the other, each of us now with a different destiny and fate, each of us having now to relate to a man, and a different man, hopefully, and what might these men have in common, other than the fact that we were theirs, that they held total rights over us?
But my friends were not here.
How strange, I thought, what I had become.
Yet, too, I knew it was what, in my heart, I had always been.
It was now growing dark.
The air, too, seemed to be getting chilly. I was glad there was a blanket behind me, in the cell.
I missed my friends. I wished they might know my freedom, and joy, but, too, of course, there were terrors here, and dangers. I shuddered, recalling the great bird in flight, the anonymous, helmeted warrior in its saddle. Such a man, I feared, might not be easy to please. Too, such as he doubtless owned whips. I was excited by the fullness and beauty of life, and I felt it more intensely here, even in this barren mountain cell, behind these bars, than I had ever felt it on my old world.
I felt wanton, and excited, and alive!
Too, in spite of my brand, my tunic, the cell, the bars, I felt free, more free than I had ever felt before.
There were women here who would doubtless know more than I, not merely about this world and its ways, but about the pleasing of men. I was only just out of the pens. And one’s learning, one’s training, I had been given to understand, is never to be regarded as finished, as complete. And men, too, are so different!
But I did not fear the other women!
I was sure I could compete with them.
In the pens I had been popular.
Let the other women be jealous of me! I had certainly encountered no little evidence of that sort of thing in my training. I did not care. Let them dislike me! I did not care! Perhaps they would not help me. Then I would not help them! Perhaps they would not tell me their secrets. Then I would not tell them mine, if I should discover any! Or we might bargain, and trade in such matters. Such things, you see, can be terribly important for women such as we. How amusing the men sometimes find us! What monsters they are!
But on this world I could not help but feel irremediably, profoundly, unutterably female.
Never on my old world had I been so conscious of my sex, and how important, and wonderful, and beautiful it was. It was so special, and glorious, and tender, and different from that of a man. For the first time in my life, on this world, I had rejoiced in being a woman. Gone now was the absurdity of the asserted irrelevance of the most basic fact about my being. Gone now were the acculturated insanities of pretenses to identity. Here I reveled in my differences from men, accepting what I was, for the first time, with joy.
I held the bars.
Oh, I did not fear to compete with the other women. I could compete for favor, and attention, and gifts, such as bit of food thrown to me where I was chained beneath a table, as we sometimes were in training, while the guards feasted, or the rough caress of a male hand, such things. I could compete! I had been popular! I did not fear the others! I thought again then of Sandra, and Jean, and Pricilla and Sally. They were pretty. They would bring high prices. What if we were in the same house? I could conceive of that. I had thought of it before. But then we would be slaves, all of us. I did not doubt again then that in such a situation, we in silk and collars, and such, we, even we, who had been friends, would quickly find ourselves pitted against one another. Before, you see, there had been no male to divide us, to come between us. Now, however, there would be a male, and one, presumably, of a sort appropriate to this world. How we would then compete! How each of us would strive to be first, the favorite! How we would fight for his attention, for his touch, for the opportunity to be chained at the foot of his couch! How jealous, how resentful, we might come to be of one another! How we might even come in time to hate one another! With what trepidation and watchfulness might we wait kneeling to see who was to be braceleted that night and sent to the quarters of the rights holder. With what fury we might, from within our sheets, twisting upon our sleeping mats, look upon another mat nearby, but one which was unoccupied, one which was empty.
But I did not expect, of course, to be competing with my friends, for which I was just as pleased, because I did not doubt but what they, suitably trained, and on this world, as I was, would be formidable competitors, highly intelligent, and tantalizingly and deliciously seductive, nor, indeed, did I expect to be competing even with women of my old world. I did not think it likely that there would be any such, or many such, here. Here, on this world, it seemed likely I would have to compete, if with anyone, with women of this world.
It was now almost dark.
Yes, it would be, doubtless, with women of this world that I must compete.
I would do so well, I was sure. I was trained. I had been popular with the guards, with the exception of he whose whip I had first kissed, he whom I had most zealously, even to the point of anguish, desired to please.
I did not fear the property women of this world!
I would show them what a property girl from Earth could do!
But then I was afraid. If the other women did not like me, if they were not kind to me, if they did not help me, might my life then to some extent be endangered? And what if they lied about me, perhaps telling men I had stolen a pastry, or something? I did not wish to be whipped, or killed. Perhaps I must pretend to be their friend? That might be safer. And then, in secret, I might woo the men? Would the women suspect? Yes, for they, too, were women! Too, they could certainly tell from the reactions of the men to me. But what if I were not fully pleasing, and authentically so, to the men, even before the other women, at all times? Would I not then, again, be in danger of being whipped, or slain? Yes!
For a moment, in misery, I did not know what to do!
Then I asked myself, who held the power, ultimately? It was the men, of course. And for what purpose had I been brought to this world? What, now, was the meaning of my existence? To be pleasing, and serve men! That was now what I was for. The men then must protect me from the other women. Naturally the other women would be my rivals. That was only to be expected. My best tactic for survival then would be to ignore the women, to disregard them, in effect, and set myself to please the men as best I could, letting the results fall out as they might. I must not defeat myself. I must let myself be superb. I must strive for excellence. Too, I wanted to please the men not just for the sake of my safety, or suvival, or that I might be better treated or fed, or have a better kennel, or for the sake of my vanity, or because of a sense of power, exerted over rivals, but because, ultimately, of what we were, they men, I a woman. I wanted to be myself on this world. It was the first world I had found on which such a thing was possible.
I wondered if women such as I, from Earth, might not prove to be of interest to many men here, or, at least, to some of them. We had been brought here from a sexual desert, thirsting and starving; we had not known that men such as these existed, we had never been permitted before to be ourselves.
I held to the bars.
It was now dusk.
I then put my elbows on one of the crosspieces, my forearms outside the bars, my hands grasping them above my head, and laid my left cheek against them.
I had then, having resolved these matters in my mind, felt dreamily confident.
Yes, there would doubtless be rivals.
But I did not care! Let them beware! I did not fear them! They would be nothing to me! I was excellent, I knew. I had been popular in the pens. Too, a girl must look out for herself! Too, I had desperate, peremptory needs, which required satisfaction. Too, I wanted to be excellent, to be superb!
There was nothing to fear.
Suddenly from my right emergent out of the dusk so quick so fierce so fast so large its head perhaps two feet in width the head large triangular its eyes blazing lunging toward the bars big the thing a hideous noise bars body pressing scratching I leaping back, screaming, it biting at the bars the fangs white grinding on the metal the snout thrusting against them the snarling, it couldn’t get through, the growling the snarling I falling back twisting crying out then terrified on my hands and knees seeing it long thick like a gigantic furred thing snakelike lizardlike the thing it had sex legs its snout then pushing under the bottom crosspiece of the gate, trying to pry it up, to get at me I screaming!
I had been unable to lift the gate, even and inch.
But I saw the snout of that terrible triangular head, perhaps two feet wide at the base, push it up three or four inches and then it struck against some bolt, some bar or holding lever. It could not crawl under the gate. I could not get under it either. It then in frustration pressed its snout against the bars, filling the cave behind me with the waves of its enraged growling. I went to my stomach and put my hands over my ears. I shut my eyes. I shuddered. I could hear the gate creak as the beast pressed its weight against it. I wept. The entire cell reverberated with the sounds of the beast’s fury. But it could not get through. When the sound stopped I uncovered my ears and opened my eyes. It was gone. I could not control the movements of my body. I was trembling reflexively. I could not have stood up had I wished to do so. I had never seen such a thing. And, even so, given the darkness, I had not had much of a look at it anyway. It had been little more than a dark, ferocious, gigantic shape trying to get at me. I sobbed. The bars had held! For a time I could not bring myself to approach the bars. I think it might have taken ropes or chains to pull me to them, or the snapping of the fingers of the rights holder. But they had held. How grateful I was to them! In time, as I was able to control my body, I rose, shaking, trembling, to all fours and crawled toward the bars, taking care not to come too close to them. I looked to the left and right, saw no further sign of it.
I had thought there had been nothing to fear.
Unable to walk I crawled back, on all fours, to the rear of the cell.
I looked back tward the bars.
They had held.
It was now dark. I shivered. It was chilly now in the cell, as doubtless it would be in these mountains, at night, even during a summer. I found the blanket. I wrapped myself in it, and knelt there, looking toward the bars.
The blanket, I knew, might be used to give my scent to a tracking animal, but I did not care!
What choice had I?
I must use it. I needed it. I was cold. I did not think I had much choice. I did not want to freeze.
Too, there had been the other blanket, that in which I had been wrapped in the basket. That was probably kept somewhere. I could only hope that it had, in the meantime, been used for other girls. Too, my scent was doubtless in the cell, as well, from where I had lain, or stepped. On this world I had not been permitted footwear. It is said that it need not be wasted on animals. It is also said that this helps us to understand that we are animals. It also serves nicely to contrast us with our betters, free women. But, too, I think, it makes us easier to track, given the oils and moisture, the residue, of our barefooted passage.
Too, as I was frightened, as well as cold, the blanket gave me some sense of sheltering, of protection, of warmth, or security.
These things can be precious to a girl.
Too, clothed as I was, if clothed one my say, I would be forced to use the blanket. Those who had placed me in this cell doubtless knew that. How we are controlled and managed! My scent then would be redolent in the dark folds of the heavy cloth, but nonetheless I must wrap it about me. What choice had I?
I must use it. I did not want to freeze.
I did not care!
I gave no though to escape. On such a world where would one escape to?
On this world I later learned, as I had already conjectured, there is no escape for one such as I. We are slaves, and will remain slaves, unless it is decided otherewise by our masters. And on this world there is a well-known saying that only a fool frees a slave girl. I think that it is true. Who so fortunate as to own one of us would have it otherwise? To be sure, we may be sold or traded.
I had never seen a mammalian creature, if it was mammalian, like that. It was long-bodied, large and terrible. It may have weighted fifteen pounds. It had had, I was sure, sic legs.
I had not imagined such things could exist.
My mistake, I was sure, had been that I had had portion of my body, my elbows and forearms, outside of the bars. I was confident that was what I had done wrong, for, you see, I was reasonably sure that my cell, in such a mountain, would not be the only one. There might, on various trails, be a hundred such cells in the mountain. And surely some of these might have occupants. But I had not heard the beast threaten, or attack, the bars of other cells.
How did I know that it was not some wild creature of the mountains, come to the ledges, hunting for prey?
There were various reasons for supposing that unlikely, even if it had not been for one item. Presumably, if that were the case, the ledges would be within its territory, and it would have learned by now that it could not enter the cells. It might have investigated them, perhaps even testing them, to see if they were locked, but it would not be likely to have been so agitated or enraged. Too, there must be men about here, at least sometimes, men with weapons, doubtless hunters, and such, and it did not seem such a beast, so dangerous, so formidable, would be permitted to traverse this area with either regularity or impunity. Surely it would be driven away, or killed.
So, even had it not been for one item, one might plausibly have doubted that it was merely a wild thing, come to the ledges in hunger, seeking food.
The one item which seemed to put the matter beyond all doubt was the fact that the beast was collared. The collar was at least a foot in width, with a dangling ring, and covered with spikes. Such a collar would doubtless protect its throat against its own kind and other such beasts. The fact that it had made its appearance after dark suggested that it had been released as a guard beast, to patrol the ledges at night. I shuddered, thinking what might be the fate of one such as I found outside the cell at night. We were not permitted, I gathered, even to have part of our body outside the bars. I was sure that was what must have triggered the beast’s frenzy.
I had thought there had been nothing to fear.
But there were such beasts on this world.
Doubtless they could be trained to kill us, or hunt us down. I did not doubt but what they would be indefatigable, efficient, tenacious hunters.
What escape could there be for such as I?
Was it not enough that I was dressed as I was, that I was branded, that I might be collared!
My scent was doubtless already within the blanket about my shoulders, or in the other, that in which I had been wrapped in the basket. I was, doubtless, even in the cell itself!
I thought of such beasts.
Perhaps they helped to preserve order here.
I did not wish to be fed to one!
But then I had presumably not been brought here, with such secrecy, over such a distance, merely to be fed to such a beast, no more than to that gigantic, carnivorous, hawklike creature, that titanic bird I had seen. No, that would make no sense. It would not be, presumably for such a purpose that I had been evaluated, and acquired. But for what purpose had I been evaluated and acquired? I did not think it would be merely for the usual purposes for which one such as I might be obtained, say, being purchased off a sales block or being obtained in barter or trade. They had been very particular in their requirements, requirements which, incidentally, might be difficult to satisfy conjointly, not being likely to be found combined in any single item or merchandise. They had wanted an Earth female who would have an adequate, or better, facility in their language, that of the rights holders, but who would be, in effect, almost completely ignorant of this world and its ways. She was to know nothing, it seemed, of its cities or countries, its geography, its history, its politics, such things. Indeed, they had wanted one who had, as yet, its seems, never even been out of the pens.
I groped about the cell and touched with my finger the rim of the shallow bowl of water. I did not know if, in this place, at this time, I was permitted to use my hands to feed myself or not. At times we had been permitted to do so in the pens, and, at other times, we had not been permitted to do so. I did not know what the case was here. It is well, of course, not to be too sanguine in assuming permissions which one might not have. Many were the times in which I, and my fellow trainees, had eaten and drunk on our bellies, or on all fours. Sometimes we must kneel, thrusting our faces into feeding troughs, our hands braceleted behind us. Sometimes, when we had been chained under the tables of feasting guards and food was thrown to us, we might use our hands and at other times, we might not. Many times had I, whimpering, been hand fed, putting my face to a guard’s knee. Many times had I picked up morsels thrown to the floor with my teeth. And I did not know what the case might be here. So I went to my belly and drank, lapping the water. Given what I was, that seemed safest to me. The water was stale, and cold. I did not know how long it had stood in the bowl. I fed, too, similarly, on the meal, and the crust. The slices of dried fruit I would save for later. It is not so much that I feared I might be being spied upon, or I feared that oils, or traces, of food, or such, might be found on my fingers. It was not even so much that I feared I might be challenged, later, on the matter, and my reactions, my expressions, my body, in their subtlest nuances and movements, read, to determine whether or not I was lying. It was rather, more simply, because I did not know whether or not I had the permission.
Let those who are such as I understand this. Let others not.
Too, let those who have been under discipline understand this. Let others not.
Then, from my belly, I had drunk and fed. The pieces of dried fruit I would save for later.
I wrapped myself, kneeling, in the blanket.
It was quiet cold in the cell now.
I was very grateful for the blanket.
I realized it could be taken away from me. I hoped it would not be. I did not want to lie on that stone floor, in the cold, my knees drawn up, my arms about myself, shivering, in only the tunic. Indeed, the tunic, too, I realized, could be taken from me.
What lay in store for me?
What did they want of me?
What was I supposed to do?
I did not know.
I had thought there was nothing to fear.
I had been mistaken.
I put my hand out, in the darkness, and felt the rough, granular texture of the enclosing wall, of rock.
In the cell were three vessels, one for food, one for water, and, a larger one, to my left, as I knelt within the blanket facing the bars, for wastes. The smaller vessels my have been discards from some kitchen. Both were chipped at the edges. The food bowl was cracked. The larger bowl, for wastes, was of some porcelaintype substance. None of these vessels was made of metal. There was no metal within the cell, you see, which might be used as a tool for, say, excavation. I had not even been given a spoon, not that such might have been availing. What could it have done other than scratch futilely at the enclosing stone?
I knelt there in the darkness, the blanket clutched about me.
I did not know where I was, or what was expected of me.
I was helpless in the cell. I was well kept here. I was totally in the power of others.
It was dark, and cold.
What was wanted of me?
I suddenly became very afraid.
I felt then within me a sudden body’s urgency and cast aside the blanket and groped awkwardly toward the larger of the three vessels.
In a few moments I had returned to my place.
I had reached the vessel in time. That is important. One does not wish to be punished.
I had learned to use such things, and drains, in the pens. If nothing like that was provided one waits, or, if permitted, uses the back right-hand corner of the enclosure, as one faces the rear of the enclosure.
One of the early lessons one learns in the pens is that one is not permitted dignity or privacy. I recalled the guard from the pen who had been, for some reason, unlike the others, so cruel to me, he whose whip I had first kissed. Several times it had been he who, it seemed in anger, had elected to “walk me.” Several times I must squat at the drains and relive myself before him.
Thought I was a slave I found this shameful, and embarrassing. Not before him, of all, he who was so precious and special to me, he who figured in my most helplessly lascivious and submissive dreams, he whose whip I had first kissed on this rude, beautiful world! Why did he hate me so? Why did he make me do this? Why did he wish to so grievously shame and humiliate me? Is this how he wanted to think of me, or remember me, as a foul, pathetic, meaningless little animal relieving herself upon command before him?
One cleans oneself, if permitted to do so, and this permission, because of hygienic considerations is seldom, if ever denied, with what might be available. In this cell, as was presumably intended, I had done it with straw and water. That is not that uncommon. The straw is left in the vessel. We are trained to clean ourselves well, incidentally. If we do not, we are whipped.
The slave is not a free woman; she must keep herself, as best she can, fresh, rested, clean, and attractive.
I now sat back in the cell, my back against the wall, wrapped in the blanket.
The blanket was warm, but, within it, I felt very bare, in the skimpy tunic.
Within the blanket, with the finger tips of my left hand, I felt under the skirt of the tunic. The tiny mark was there, my brand. Within the blanket I felt very soft, and vulnerable. Within the blanket I touched my throat. No collar was there.
I suddenly pressed back against the wall.
For the moment I dared not breathe.
The shape which had so terrified me but a bit ago was again at the bars. It was like a darkness among darknesses. It was standing there. I smelled it, too, now, a heavy beast smell. I heard its breathing. It thrust its snout against the bars. I heard a low, rumbling, warning growl. I pressed back even further. Then it was gone, padded away.
I gasped, shaken.
When I was sure it was gone I went again to my belly, and to the food bowl. I put my head down and, delicately, bit off part of one of the pieces of dried fruit. I then ate it, treasuring it, even that small part, bit by bit, little by little, particle by particle. Then for a long time I fed there, bit by bit finishing the first of the three pieces, and then the second, similarly, and then the third. Such things, the slices of fruit, are very precious. I had saved them for last. When I was finished, I rise, to all fours.
I had relished the fruit, dray as it was.
I was grateful that it had been given to me.
I then turned about and, for a time, on all fours, the blanket about me, faced the bars.
I heard a howling, far off. I did not know if it were the wind or some beast.
I was suddenly frightened, and lonely.
I hoped the men would be kind here. I would do my best not to displease them.
Surely they would be kind! They must be kind! Had I not been fed, had I not been given a blanket? Surely that was a kindness. My scent could always be taken otherwise. Had there not been three slices of dried fruit in the bowl?
But I had seen the great bird, I had seen the prowling beast, that fearsome guardian of narrow ledges.
I feared that men here might be strict with such as I, with their slaves.
Afterwards I lay down and slept.
I lay on my stomach on the floor of the mountain cell, my head toward the back of the cell, my legs widely spread, my arms extended outward and upward. It is difficult to rise quickly from such a position. I was counting slowly, aloud, to one thousand. One begins to count when one hears the gate lower and lock. One does not know if, or how long, someone might watch, and listen, to see if the directive is honored. So one counts aloud, and slowly. When one reaches one thousand one may rise, and fetch the food and water bowls, and the clean wastes vessel, from just within the bars, where they have been left. One knows when to place them before the bars because there is a signal, the ringing of a suspended bar, from somewhere outside. At the signal one puts the empty bowls at the waste vessel near the bars, and then assumes the indicated position, one of prone helplessness, facing the back of the cell. I had received these directives on the morning after my first night in the cell. They were issued to me in a female voice, belonging to a person I did not see, from somewhere outside the cell. I had, accordingly, as yet, seen nothing of my jailers. I did not know if the voice I had heard was that of one who was free, or one who was bond, as I did not doubt but what I was, in spite of the bareness of my throat. It seemed to me most likely that she would have been bond, as it did not seem likely that free females, in a world such as this, would be involved in tasks so lowly as the care of prisoners. From what I had seen of free females in the pens, to be sure, only two of them, in its more respectable areas, and from what I had gathered from remarks of guards, rough jokes, and such, they were a haughty, exquisite, frustrated, pampered, imperious lot. I had also been warned by more than one guard that I should watch my step with particular care among such creatures, as they enjoyed being incredibly cruel, petty and vindictive towards those such as I, who, doubtless for reasons of their own, they regarded with utter contempt and hatred. “How different they are from us!” I had once breathed in the pens. “Not so different,” said one of the guards. “Naked, on her knees, in a collar,” said another, “they are not other than you.”
I was pleased that he had said this for I myself, earlier, had boldly speculated much to the same point, but I did not, of course, explicitly profess this concurrence on our views. It is one thing for a man to say such a thing; it would be quite another for a slave. I did not thin he would beat me, but I did not know. So I remained silent. I was pleased, of course. He grinned at me, so I suppose I did not conceal that as well as I might have. In any event he did not beat me.
But how contemptuous, and how regal, they had appeared, and so beautifully robed and veiled! Many I was told, wore platforms of a sort on their feet, perhaps as much as eight to ten inches high, which would increase their apparent height, and, of course protect their slippers from being soiled, for example, in muddy streets, or, certainly, in the damp pens. The two I had seen, however, had been in “street slippers.” Such, I suspect might provide better footing in the pens, for in places the stones are damp, even wet. One is very much aware of that when one is barefoot. How serene and beautiful they seemed, in their veils and robes!
I had briefly, once, inadvertently, met the eyes of one.
It had happened in the pens when I had looked after the free women, as they had passed me. One, the first, had turned, and caught me with my head lifted. In that instant I saw her body stiffen with rage, and, over the colors of her veils, I saw her eyes were cold, and filled, with hatred. I trembled, and tried not to move. I was terrified. She came back and stood before me. I lay before her, prone and helpless, as what I was, a prostrated slave. I was nothing. She was mightiness, and beauty. I lay before her, miserably, trembling, helpless, hoping that she would not have me beaten. She remained standing before me, for some time. I dared not move. I scarcely dared to breathe. One of the guards attempted to distract her, calling her attention to a new model of a pleasure rack. But still she remained standing before me, looking down at me, I suppose. Then he said, “She is only an ignorant Earth slut.” “But she is learning,” said another. I was grateful to the guards. Had I not been so popular I wondered if they would have been as generous. I saw that they were trying to protect me. But I was frightened, too, that they might deem such protection necessary. What might she have done to me if she pleased?
“Kneel,” she snapped.
I scrambled to my knees before her, less gracefully, I fear, than I might have, but I was frightened of her. I sensed in her great hatred, and contempt.
“Split your knees,” she said, fiercely, “more widely!”
I complied, instantly.
Tears ran down my cheeks. It is one thing to kneel so before a man, and quiet another before a woman.
“She is an Earth slut?” said the woman.
“Yes,” she was told.
“I would have thought so,” she said. “They are all worthless, and stupid,” she said.
I dared not move.
“Yes, she is from Earth,” she said, musingly, acidly. “One can tell, of course. See how plain, and ugly she is. How lacking in grace and poise! The women of Earth as such inferior goods! What true man could possibly be interested in them? In the markets it is no wonder they are jokes. How lacking they are! Earth is such a thin, unlikely, impoverished soil for slaves. I shall never understand why they bother noosing these slaves. Once can harvest nothing there of interest, only pathetic mediocrities, at best, with good fortune, perhaps a girl of merely average attractiveness. Earth women are shabby stock, third-rate merchandise, inferior goods. At best such things could be only pot-and-kettle girls, low slaves, cleaning slaves, laundresses, and such. I do not see what men see in them. They cannot begin to compare to a Gorean woman. See, for example, this ignorant, presumptuous little slut, this meaningless little piece of slave suet trembling in her collar! I think she might well profit from a bout with the thongs of hot irons!”
“We have some new male slaves in Pen 2 of the Bata Section,” said another to her, he whose whip I had first kissed.
The woman turned, to see who had addressed her, and suddenly, for a moment, she seemed taken aback. I think she had not seen him well before. He whose whip I had first kissed was, in his unassuming way, a powerful, handsome Gorean male. I thought him the most handsome of all the guards. He was the most attractive man I had ever seen. I was weak when near him. It was his whip which I had first kissed on this world. It was from such a man that a woman might beg the collar! Why was he so cruel to me? I wanted only to please him, and as the slave I was. Her attitude immediately changed.
“Oh?” she said, archly.
“I do not know if you would be interested,” he said. “They are male silk slaves, pleasantly featured, symmetrically proportioned charming fellows, gentle, sensitive, unthreatening. They are well trained to be a woman’s slave.”
“Ah!” she said, as though interested.
I did not move a muscle. I knelt almost rigidly, my knees spread. I had not dared to meet her eyes. It can be deemed presumptuous for a slave to directly meet the eyes of a free person, unless the permission is clear.
Suddenly she had forgotten about me!
“They are the sort,” he said, “with whom a lady might chat of her day, her doings and thoughts, with whom she might exchange gossip, and gratefully share delicate confidences. They are well trained to be a woman’s slave. They would look well in their silk at your slave ring. You could be proud of them as they hurry about your errands, keep your quarters and serve your fiends.”
“They are not masculine, are they?” she inquired. “I find masculinity so offensive and vulgar,” she said.
The liar, the liar, I thought. Even within her garments I sensed her naked body palpitating in his presence!
What possible interest could she be to such a man, other than perhaps to be seized, stripped and caged, for an eventual sale?
“You need have no fear,” he said. “They have been selected for their nature, which is that to be a woman’s slave.”
I sensed that she, as any hormonally normal woman, would despise such creatures.
“By all means,” she said, “let us look at them.”
“Follow me, if you would,” said he.
The woman had then turned away. I was grateful that she had been distracted! I had been forgotten!
The guard, it seemed, was interested in displaying the goods of the house.
I turned my head a little and saw her follow the guard, he whose whip I had first kissed, from the area. He did not even look back at her. Doubtless I should have rejoiced at this development, facilitating as it did my escape from what might have been a most unpleasant situation. How fortunate that he, in the line of his duty, he so impatient and efficient, had recalled to her the presumed itinerary of her schedule. I was pleased that this, doubtless by some fortuitous coincidence, had occurred to him. But I had felt, too, a sudden uncontrollable wave of hatred and jealousy for her, she being permitted to follow him as she did. She followed him quickly enough, and meekly enough, I thought. This might have been noted, too, by the guards.
The woman with her accompanied her.
Then they were gone.
“I wonder what she would look like on a block,” said one of the guards. “Not bad, I would guess,” said another. “Do you think she could dance?” asked another. “Yes,” said another. “It is instinctive in a woman,” said another. “Certainly she could be taught,” said another. “She needs a collar, and a taste of the whip,” said another. “That is what they all need,” said another, “a collar, and a taste of the whip.”
Then the guards looked at me.
I knelt before them as well as I could.
“Do not mind what she said,” said one of the guards.
“No,” said another.
“You are beautiful,” said another.
“We will decide who is beautiful and who is not,” said another.
“And you are beautiful, very beautiful,” said another.
“Yes,” said another.
“May I speak?” I asked.
“No,” I was told.
“We know her,” said one of the guards.
“She was abandoned by her intended companion, who had become enamored with a lovely Earth-girl slave,” said another.
Perhaps I should not have been, but I was pleased to hear this. Her projected companion had preferred one such as I, an Earth-girl salve, to one such as she! Inferior goods indeed!
I wondered if the slave had simply been taken, or purchased, by the fellow, whether she wished it or not, or if she had smiled, and posed, and, finding him of great interest, had proffered herself as a slave, promising him delights beyond the interests, or ken, of a free woman.
We can do such things you know.
In any event, good for her!
“If the women of Earth were not hot, desirable and beautiful, if they were not superb slave goods, truly superb slave goods, they would not be brought to Gor.” Said another.
“True,” said another.
I wanted to express my gratitude, my elation, at their words. I wanted to ask them a thousand questions!
“May I speak, may I speak?” I begged.
“No,’ I was told.
So I was silent.
a bar then rang out, which summoned us again to our training.
I was jealous that the free woman was along with the guard, but I had no fear that he would bother her. It was not as though she were a slave, alone with him, naked, in her collar, who might be simply thrown back against the bars, and lifted up, and then, her feet off the ground, her back against the bars, made use of, for her major purpose, the pleasure of a master.
We were then marched to the training room, our hands clasped behind the back of our necks. This lifts the breasts and allows us to feel the collar.
I had had my first experience of the warfare between the free woman and the slave girl.
I would not forget it.
As I had reached the count of one thousand I rose and went to the bars, and looked out. I could see nothing much different from before, the mountains, the ledge, the clouds.
I picked up the food and water bowls, each replenished, the one, to my pleasure, even to three tiny pieces of dried fruit, called a larma, and put them in their place, to the left, at the back of the cell. I then, too, took the wastes vessel, now cleaned, and put it back, and to the right. I had speculated, by the sounds I had heard, that there had been two carts outside the bars, one of which followed the other, the wastes cart coming first, the food-and-water cart second. I supposed, but I did not know, that there were two women involved with the carts, one for each. I had heard, of course, only one woman, and, for most practical purposes, had only heard her once, when, unseen, she had issued my directives. To be sure, she did speak, in response to a pleading question from me on the day following her issuance of my directives, as I lay in the position indicated, facing the back of the cell, one additional word, “No.” I did not know whether or not there was a man in the vicinity. I supposed that there might be, as the bars had been lifted easily. I had tried the bars some days ago, to lift them even an inch or so, before they would strike the bolt, or locking device, but had been unable to do so. The beast, that with six legs, had lifted them with its snout some three or four inches before they had struck the bolt or locking device. The strength of two women, combined, did not seem to me likely to be able to accomplish the task, or, at any rate, as smoothly as it had been done. To be sure, there might be a lever or some such device outside which was unknown to me which would have put the task within even my strength, unaided. Perhaps, too, there was some way in which weights could be engaged from the outside, by means of which the task could be easily accomplished. One would not then need the strength of a man, or of the titanic beast I had seen. But I had not heard the use of such a lever, or the specific engagement of such weights. Another reason I thought there might be a man about is that the authority accorded to women usually derives from men and, in the final analysis, is backed by men. Too, might not two women such as I, performing their lowly labors, be being supervised by a man? Perhaps they were even chained to their carts. I might thrust aside a woman or women, but it was unlikely I could accomplish this with a man, nor was it likely I could elude a man, as my body, for whatever reason, had not been designed by nature to permit this, nor was it likely that I could hope to escape his grip once it had closed on me. To be sure, on the ledge, in the vicinity of the cells, perhaps there was no need of the actual presence of men. Where would one go? And there was the beast. And men would be somewhere.
I went back to the bars, to look out.
I still did not know if I might use my hands to feed myself. That information had not been included in what might count as my “orientation,” that issued to me on the morning after my first night in the cell. Indeed, my “orientation” had consisted only in directives, and a spelling out, so to speak, of the rules of my incarceration. On the second day, lying prone on the floor, arms and legs spread, facing the back, I had begged permission to speak. There were so many things I wanted to know, where I was, and such, not just such small things as whether or not I might use my hands to feed myself. “May I speak?” I begged. “No,” I had been told. So then I must be silent. I had been told “No,” in no uncertain terms. She who had spoken then, I had gathered, did have severe authority over me. I must obey her, as though she might be a man. Behind her, you see, would be the power of such, the power of men.
I stood behind the bars.
As you have doubtless gathered by now, one such as I is usually expected to request permission to speak, before being allowed to speak, and, as you may also have gathered, this permission is not always forthcoming.
In such a case, of course, one must remain silent.
This homely device is, of course, a great convenience to the master, and, too, of course, there are very few things which so clearly help us to keep in mind our condition.
This was now my fifth day in the cell.
At various times in the past days I had seen one or more of the gigantic birds, coming or going, aflight over the valley between my location and the mountains in the distance. Sometimes there seemed great speed in the flights, moving to the left, at other times the birds smote the air with leisurely precision. Sometimes formations left the area. Twice I had heard drums and rushed to the bars to see perhaps twenty such winged monsters aflight, the second stroke of wings keeping the cadence of the drums. Once, a large formation, consisting of perhaps two hundred such creatures, wheeled about in diverse aerial maneuvers, sometimes in abrupt, breath-taking turns, and ascents and descents, sometimes breaking into smaller groups and then reuniting, as though converging on aerial prey, to piercing whistles, and sometimes in more sedate, stately evolutions, responsive to an almost ceremonial skirl of shrill pipes. It was then as though there were a parade ground in the sky itself. Sometimes I would see birds leaving or returning to whose harness were slung baskets, sometimes open, sometimes closed. I did not doubt but what I had been brought here in such a conveyance. Too, of course, I could not but wonder if others such as I, coming and going, might be cargo in such containers. Once I saw some ten birds returning in straggling formation, some struggling to remain aflight. Some riders drooped in the saddles. Others, bandaged, seemed clearly wounded. Some were tied upright in the saddle, proudly unwilling, perhaps, to bow to exhaustion or wounds. On some birds there were two riders. Some of these men lacked weapons, helmets and shields. I could see the long hair of some of them, flying in the wind.
What manner of place could this be, I wondered. Perhaps there was agriculture in the valley below, which I could not see. Perhaps there was grazing there, and herding. Perhaps animals could be kept there, down in the valley, or even back among the mountains, in lofty, remote meadows, in which summer pasturage might be found. But what I could see from the cell suggested to me that the economy of this place exceeded what might be attributed to the pastoral simplicities of the herdsman and the bucolic labors of the tiller of the soil. More than once, sometimes in twos and threes, sometimes in tens and twenties, I had seen riders returning with bulging saddle bags, and sacks tied behind the saddle, and about the pommels, and with golden vessels, and candelabra, flashing in the light, slung from the saddles on cords. Sometimes, too, they returned with items of a different sort, living, luscious, excellently curved, stripped items, tied at the sides of the saddles, fastened there hand and foot to rings, or, literally, thrown over the saddle itself, belly up, there hands fastened back over their heads and down to a ring on the left side of the saddle, their feet fastened to a ring on the right side of the saddle. I was exceedingly excited by the sight of these captures. I wondered how many would be kept, and how many would be disposed of, doubtless like the gold and silver, in various markets. I wondered how man were women such as I and how many might, perhaps only days ago, have worn the heavy, complex, gorgeous, ornate robes and veils of the free women of this world. In a tunic such as mine, and branded, and subject to the whip, I did not doubt but what the latter would find that a considerable change had occurred in their life. Stripped as they were, the lot of them, the men would have little difficulty in assessing their quality. I wondered how the former free women might feel, for I assumed there must be some such among them. Some perhaps might be humiliated to learn that their objective value was now less than that of some of the women whom they had previously despised, of which sort they were now only another specimen. And some, perhaps, might be disconcerted to find that they now actually possessed an objective value, and one exceeding, on the same terms, and in the same dimension, at least some of those whom they had formerly regarded with such contempt. But I did not think that they would object to learning that they might have value. They were, after all, women. I bit my lip, wondering how I might compare with them. We might all, you see, be stood by a wall, and assessed. On my old world, you see, I had been priceless, so to speak, and thus worth nothing. On this world, on the other hand, I knew that I had a value, a particular practical value, based on what men would pay for me. This value, of course, as I recognized, would be likely to fluctuate with various market conditions.
No, this place was not some typical primitive community, sustained by some herds, by some gardens, by some fields, and such. Rather I thought that it was in its way more than that. It was, in its way, a lair of eagles.
I considered myself.
How clever, and marvelous and special, I had regarded myself on my old world. Then I had been removed from it, and brought here. Here I had found myself put in my place, not my political place, but my true place.
Truly my life had changed.
I had had little doubt, from shortly after my arrival on this world, what, in one sense, I was doing here. That had been made clear to me in the pens. I had learned to cook and clean, to sew and launder, and to perform numerous domestic tasks. Too, of course, for such domestic tasks are well within the scope of any woman, I had learned to please and serve, and, I think, with great skill, given my brief time on this world, in more significant modalities, innumerable modalities, sensuous and intimate. I had learned to move, and stand, and kneel. I had learned to apply the perfumes and cosmetics of this world. I had learned to wear silk and iron. And I had learned to please men, truly please them. How different this was from my old world!
And so my lift had changed.
I had been brought here, and had found myself put in my place. Here I found myself an animal, a property, subject in all things to the will of others.
But what was I doing in this particular place, here in the mountains?
I had been brought here secretly.
I had not been brought here as these others I had seen, tied at the side of a saddle, balancing another tied at the other side, or thrown over a saddle, bound there on my back, helplessly, in effect, displayed, as other booty, wrists and ankles fastened to rings.
I was not even of this world.
I was not a peasant lass, surprised in a field, nor a rich woman, one indigenous to this world, stolen from her boudoir. Surely I was not booty in the sense of these. I had been paid for.
What was I doing here?
Surely I had been brought here at least in part for the typical purposes of one such as I. That, at least, had seemed clear from the attitudes and interests of those to whose scrutiny I had been subjected, the strangers, my apparent purchasers, those who had assessed me in the pens, I performing before them, nude, clad only in my collar.
But I did not think I had been brought here merely for the typical purposes of one such as I.
Surely there was more to it than that.
I thought of these things, standing by the bars.
I was a woman from faraway, from a quite different world, a world of banality, glitter and hypocrisy, a world fearful of authenticity and truth, one afraid to understand and feel.
How special and wonderful, and clever, I had thought myself, on my old world. Then one, or more, it seems, on that very world, my old world, had seen me, and had made a decision. I had been brought here. No more was I now than an animal, and a property. Had I done anything, I wondered, to occasion that decision. Perhaps I had brushed against someone, the wrong person, and had permitted a tiny sound of irritation to escape me. Perhaps a mere expression of transitory annoyance had crossed my features. Perhaps something in my demeanor had hinted at an attitude of too much self-satisfaction or complacency, or had suggested some pretense to a fraudulent superiority or had tended to convey some subtle contempt. Perhaps the decision had then been made, and I had been brought here, perhaps to the amusement of one or more, to be what I now was, nothing, and at the mercy of the rights holders. But perhaps, too, all I had had to do with my presence here was to have been what I was, a female of interest to one or more appraisers, one fulfilling, perhaps excellently, certain criteria. I had perhaps been discovered, noted, followed, and reviewed, attention being paid not so much to what I was then, as to what I might, with suitable training, become. How, I wondered, did those who concerned themselves with such things, to whom they were doubtless a matter of business, assess such potentialities? Did they image me naked, or how I might look in silk, moving sensuously, or kneeling, in chains, such things? And how did they know about my secret heats, and frustrations, I had attempted to conceal so zealously from the world? Were such things betrayed, without my knowledge, to those who could see them, in certain tiny movements, in subtle expressions? How had they seen me — as an appealing property, one as yet unowned, as an animal, isolated and meaningless, one, as yet,lacking its master?
How bored I had been on my old world!
How little things had meant!
How dissatisfied and frustrated I had been!
I had been a tiny fragment, adrift, purposeless, moved with the waves and wind.
Then the decision had been made.
I had been brought here. I had now learned to wear silk and iron.
I was terrified, in a way, to be here.
But now I was no longer adrift, no more than the bars of the cell. No longer was I detached from the truths and ways of nature.
Here I would be, whether I wished it or not, what I ultimately and most profoundly was, a female, in the fullest sense of the word.
And I was not discontent.
Suddenly another great bird smote its way over the valley, this time moving to the right, returning apparently to its source of origin.
This one did not bear apparent booty, but bore, rather, it seemed, on long straps, dispatch cases. The rider was not armored. The bird was smaller than many, and with shorter wings. Such are most adept, I would learn, in evasive maneuvers.
What manner of men were here, I wondered. What manner of men here would own properties such as I? To whom would I, personally, belong? I wanted to belong to one man, to serve him perfectly and wholeheartedly in all ways, and, hopefully, to be his only property of my sort. But men such as these, I feared, might have several such as I. Could such a man be content with but one of us? What if his whim, or mood, should change? I would try to be such, of course, that my rights holder would feel no need for another, indeed, I would try to be such that he would not even think of another. And are we not expensive? Would this not be an argument for a rights holder not keeping more than one of us, at least at a time? But men here, it seemed, from what I had seen from the cell, might not pay for their women, or, at least, all of them. Apparently they took them rather as it pleased them.
I recalled the booty I had seen, booty other than I, and booty such as I.
How terrified I was of the men I had seen, masters of such monsters as the mighty birds I had seen!
I was pleased that I had learned how to wear silk and iron.
This place, I feared, was a lair of eagles.
I screamed suddenly, startled, at the pounding of the pipe between the bars, and at the snarling at the beast. I had not been looking. I had been taken totally unawares. I had not expected either sound. I scrambled to the back of the cell and pressed myself, my body and the palms of my hands, against the stone there. It was as though I would try to press though the rock itself. I looked back over my shoulder, wildly. I saw shadows there. “Please, no!” I cried in my native language. Then I realized in misery that such a lapse might earn me a beating. I saw the beast there, the low, large, long, heavy beast, six-legged monster, with the triangular viperlike head. It was just outside the bars. At its side stood a corpulent, massive male, in a half tunic, with a heavy leather belt, and leather wristlets. In his left hand he held the beast, on a short leash. The metal pipe with which he had struck the bars he threw behind him, on a shoulder strap. It was the sort of thing with which he might have subdued even a man. From his belt there hung a ring of keys and a whip. I heard the beast snuffling and growling. I heard the ring of keys, jangling, removed from the belt. He went to the side, as I could see, turning half about, past the right side of the door, as one faces outward. I heard him then, out of sight, to the right of the door. He opened, it seemed, a panel of some sort. I heard a key thrust in a lock, and turned. The locking mechanism, you see, is not visible from the cell. It is somewhere outside, and, I conjectured, protected in a paneled niche. I was to some extent familiar with these things from the cell’s having been opened several times before, in the morning. To be sure, I had then, warned by the signal bar, been prone at the back of the cell, helplessly spread-eagled. He had, however, as yet, not demanded any such accommodation. I crouched now at the back of the cell, turned about, looking. I saw him re-emerge into view, the keys back on his belt. He looked through the bars and, fro an instant, our eyes met, and then I looked away, unable to meet his eyes. I saw him transfer the leash to his right hand and reach down and, with his left hand, in one motion, with a sound of sliding metal, lift the gate. I gasped. This had apparently required considerable force, but it had been done easily. I suspected then that he, or another such as he, might have been with the woman, or women, earlier. The beast put its head down and moved forward, a quick, stealthy step, little more than the movement of one paw. I groaned. I trusted it was under effective discipline. I hoped the man could hold it, if it were not. But I had no assurance of that. It was larger and heavier then he, by far, and had the leverage of six clawed legs. I hoped the leash would not break. I heard the growling of the animal. I flung a pleading, helpless glance at its keeper, and perhaps mine. I did not darn meet the eyes of the animal, for fear I might trigger some attack response. It could have torn me into pieces. It could have bitten me in two. Briefly again, fleetingly, in terror, begging him to control the animal, my eyes met those of the massive male, and then, again, I looked down. He was a man not untypical of this world, in his size and strength. But, too, even more typical of this world, one could read in his eyes the absence of vacillation and confusion, the undivided nature of his character, the firmness, simplicity and unilaterality of his will. He did not belong to a world in which men, though deceit and trickery, and lies, and insidious, hypocritical conditioning programs, had been bled and weakened. On this world, at least where women such as I were concerned, men had kept their power. They had not surrendered their manhood, their natural dominance. In his eyes, you see, I saw the firmness of his character, the strength of his will, which was as iron. In his eyes, in a sense, you see, I saw, unpretentious and untroubled, the severity, the simplicity, the strictness, the rigor, the uncompromising relentlessness of nature.
I knelt before him then, with my back straight, but my head down. I spread my knees very widely.
I wanted to beg him for permission to speak, but I was afraid to do so. I wanted to beg his forgiveness for having cried out in my native language. After all, it would not be his language, and his language must now be my language. Our language must become that of the rights holders.
I heard the animal growl, a low, rumbling noise, and sensed it move forward another step.
I looked up, again, and then, frightened, knelt forward, putting my head to the stone flooring, my palms, too, down on the stone, in a common attitude of obeisance.
“Look up,” said he, in his language.
I looked up, frightened, crouching before him then on all fours. I did this immediately. He was the sort of man, like so many on this world, whom a woman obeys instantly.
Two gestures then did he make, in quick succession, the first indicating the left shoulder where, had I been tunicked in that fashion, there would have been a disrobing loop, and the second indicating, fingers spread, palms down, the floor. Instantly I drew the tunic over my head, stripping myself before him, and turned about, and put myself to my belly, legs and arms spread widely, spread-eagled.
I lay there thustly for some moments, regarded.
Then I sobbed as I felt the snout of the beast, prodding, rude, inquisitive, cold, pushing about my body.
“Do not move,” he said.
As if I could have moved!
“May I speak? May I speak!” I begged.
“No,” he said.
I sobbed, silenced.
“He is not really taking your scent,” he said. “He is only curious about you.”
I trembled, under the investigation of the beast. I smelled its fetid breath.
“Later,” he said, “once you have been named, you will be introduced to our pets in the sleen pens.”
I did not understand this at the time, but it would later become all too clear. The name is, of course, important, as it serves, in conjunction with other signals, to direct and target a hunt.
I did understand, of course, that I did not have, as of now, a name. I might as well have been then, I realized, in a collar. Any possible doubts as to my status had been dissipated. My brand was as meaningful as ever. It remained in full effect.
I felt his hand on my body.
I lifted it a little, to him, placatingly.
“Kajira,” he chuckled.
That is one of the words in the language of the rights holders for women such as I. Indeed, as I have suggested, it is by far the most common word in their language for women such as I. The first worlds I had been taught on this world were “La kajira.” — “I am a kajira.” — “I am a slave girl.”
He took the tunic I had discarded and folded it in small squares.
I had not been given permission to speak, and had thus not been permitted to beg forgiveness for having cried out in my native tongue. On the other hand, it seemed he had chosen to overlook my outburst.
I had, at any rate, not been kicked or cuffed.
I assumed he would have known, even before coming to the cell, that I was not from this world. And my outburst, under the circumstances, his sudden appearance, the noise, the beast, and such, certainly would have been an innocent enough one, a natural enough one.
To be sure, eventually, even such outbursts, I had little doubt, would be uttered in the language of the rights holders, that language, too, later, having become mine.
The men of this world are terribly strict with us, but few of them are cruel. Their pleasure is found in the manifold perfections of our service, intimate and otherwise, and in our devotion and love, not in our distress or pain. These men keep their animals under perfect discipline, as is their way, but they also, on the whole, treat them well.
I felt his eyes upon me.
“Kneel, and face me,” he said.
Swiftly I complied.
He placed the folded tunic in my mouth, deeply back, between my teeth, crosswise, and I, as I knew was expected, closed my teeth upon it.
He then stood up, and I, kneeling before him, looked up at him.
“You are a pretty one,” he said.
I looked at him, gratefully. Had I not been pretty, I supposed, I would not have been brought here. I gathered they tended to select “pretty ones.” They liked that sort. Interestingly, on my own world, as I have indicated, I had never really thought of myself as being particularly attractive, at least generally, particularly as I had regarded my body as erring, so to speak, in approximating closely the statistical norms for a human female. Here, however, it seemed that the normal woman, well curved and luscious, was, for whatever reason, esteemed more highly than her more boyish, stricklike sisters. I did not mind this, of course. It pleased my vanity. On the other hand, my desirability, such as it was, I recognized, might place me in danger. “I would like to have you in my shackles,” a guard had once told me. “I, too,” had said another. “And I,” had laughed another. I had been frightened. Many men, it seemed, and men such as these, such fierce, strong men, men like predators, like carnivores, might want me in their shackles!
“You are from the slave world?” he asked. I looked at him, puzzled.
“From the place called “Earth”?” he said. I nodded.
“Are there others like you there?” he asked. Tears brimmed in my eyes. I nodded.
He laughed. He then snapped his fingers and indicated that I should rise and leave the cell, going to the right, as one faced outwards.
I leaped to my feet and, going far to the right, stopped only by the stone, put as much distance between me and the six-legged beast as possible.
Then I was outside the cell!
It was breathtakingly beautiful. The air was bracing. I bit down on the folded tunic between my teeth. The wind blew through my hair.
I looked down to the left, and groaned, for there was a precipitate drop there, some forty or fifty feet to another trail below, and below that another such drop to another trail, and thence to another. Similarly, above me, I could see what seemed to be similar ledges, three or four of them, receding. There must have been more than a dozen such trails and ledges, several below, some above. Too, I could see several openings in the mountain, most of them barred. This was, in effect, I gathered, a place of imprisonment. I stepped back, dizzy for a moment, from the edge of the trail, and touched the rock to my right. I gasped; hundreds of yards ahead of me, where the trail led, past several barred cells, and approached by a narrow, ascending trail, there was a startling, lofty, sheer edifice that seemed to rear up from the mountains itself, its towers lost among clouds. It was walled. It was some sort of fortress or citadel. I looked again to the left. I could see the valley below now, or part of it. It was, I was sure, cultivated. Then I looked back, and trembled. The jailer was there, and the fearsome beast, held on its leash. Behind the jailer and the beast I could see the ledge trail going back around the mountain. To my right I saw the panel box, locked now, within which must lie the locking mechanism to the cell. The panel box itself, not to mention the mechanism within, could not be reached from within the cell. Other than this there was only the steepness, the side of the mountain, there on the right, rising up, and, on the left, below the ledge, the drop, forty or fifty feet, to the ledge and trail below. The rock ledge felt very hard, and granular, beneath my bare feet. it was chilly on the ledge. I looked back, again, at the jailer, and the beast.
Though I was out of the cell no leather or chain had been put on my neck.
The beast was leashed, but not I.
I had, incidentally, in the pens, been taught to walk gracefully, and to kneel, and pose, and such, in a leash. We are sometimes taken out in such fashions. There are also wrist leashes, usually worn on the right wrist of a right-handed girl, or the left wrist of a left-handed girl, and ankle leases, similarly oriented.
The point of the leash, of course, is seldom to hold or control a woman, for we all rational, and know we must obey, but rather to make it clear whose property she is, and to display her. Too, it might be mentioned that the leash has a profoundly erotic effect upon the female, as its meaning, and its symbolism of her domination, its profoundly arousing to her.
In this respect it is rather like the collar itself.
It does, of course, as a simple matter of undeniable fact, and this is something which should be openly acknowledged, have its custodial aspect. In it she is held. She is its prisoner. She is on her leash.
But I was not now leashed.
It was not necessary for one such as I, I thought then, to be leashed, perhaps for a free women, or a new girl, or a naive girl, or an ignorant girl, but not for one such as I, who had some understanding of the world on which she found herself, and what she was upon it.
But I would soon learn how wrong I was!
I would soon learn how much that simple device, the leash, had to teach me!
He was looking at me.
I straightened my body. We are not free women; we may not be slovenly or slatternly. We must stand and walk with excellent posture. I lifted and smoothed my hair a little, and moved it back, about my head. We have our vanity. His grin showed me that he saw me as a slave. I saw that he would expect perfect obedience of me, and was well aware that he would receive it.
No, a leash would not be necessary.
I understood the world on which I found myself, and what I was upon it.
How naive I was! How much I had still to learn!
ahead of me was the trail and the looming fortress or citadel in the distance. Wisps of cloud hung about the cold trial, and the turrets, or towers, of the structure in the distance.
He drew down the gate of the cell. It locked automatically. He then gestured ahead. As soon as he did this the best uttered a menacing growl and tugged forward. I swiftly, stumbling, turned, and hurried along the narrow ledge in the direction indicated.
The tunic was clamped between my teeth.
I looked into the cells as we passed them. Most were empty. Some, however, were occupied. In some were sullen men, clad in the remnants of what might once have been uniforms. Their wrists and ankles were chained. In others there were unchained men, some men sitting crossed-legged, playing some game with bits of cloth. Others stood near the bars, but kept their hands well within the bars.
“Hello, little tasta,” called one of the men to me.
I hurried on.
A tasta is a kind of small, sweet candy, usually sold at fairs. It is commonly mounted on a stick. Some men use it as a slang expression for one such as I. Another such is ‘vulo’. The vulo is a small, soft, usually white, pigeonlike bird. It is the most common form of domestic fowl kept on this world. It is prized for its mean and eggs. It is notoriously incapable of eluding hawks and other forms of predatory birds, by which it can easily be torn to pieces.
I passed another cell containing such men.
“Is she to be given to us?” one of them called out.
Again, frightened, I hurried on.
It occurred to me that I might, of course, being what I was, be thrown among them, for their gratification or amusement.
Not every cell which was occupied, however, contained men.
Some contained women such as I, who looked fearfully out, often from the back of the cell, through the bars. Their fear frightened me as I thought they might know more of this place than I. Some of these were clad in tunics such as I had been, invariably brief and revealing, the sort of garments in which men might choose to clothe women such as I. Others were clad in what appeared to be rags, some little more than castoffs, which might have been soiled even, from use in the kitchen, others in rags which, I think, were actually scandalous ta-teeras, artfully arranged rags, intended to well display the women placed in them. I was sure these women were such as I because their throats were encircled by collars, mostly of the common variety, those closely fitting, of narrow steel. But two, at least, wore the looser collars of rounded metal, the Turian collar. To be sure, it, too, cannot be slipped.
Some women in certain other cells, on the other hand, were not collared. They were, however, stripped. Too, they were in sirik, chained hand and foot, and neck.
The sirik is a common custodial device for a female, and its quite flexible in its possibilities. The common arrangement is a collar with dangling chain, to which are attached two smaller chains, the first with wrist rings, the second, at the termination of the dangling chain, a-with ankle rings. Women are very beautiful in it. I had learned to wear it attractively in the pens.
As the women were not collared I conjectured that they might be free.
“Do not look upon us, slut!” cried one. Quickly I looked away.
I wondered how she felt, locked in slave steel. Doubtless she was awaiting, or being held for, her processing. Such takes place, of course, at the convenience of the rights holders. Sometimes a captive is held in incarceration for days, being given time to reflect deeply and fully on what is to become of her. I did not think she would be as imperious should her thigh come to wear, as I suspected it might soon do, a mark like mine, identical in import if not in actual design.
In another cell I saw four women in rags of white silk. As they wore collars I gathered that they were women such as I. The combination of the collars and the white silk suggested that they might be virgin slaves. A “white-silk girl” is a virgin; one who is not a virgin is sometimes referred to as a “red-silk girl.” This need not refer, literally, of course, to the color of their garmenture. White-silk slaves, as you might suppose, are very rare. There is apparently a market for such. The most expensive of such slaves, as I understand it, are those which have been raised from infancy in seclusion, kept literally in ignorance of the existence of men. Then, when they are of a suitable age, they are purchased, unbeknownst to themselves, by unseen buyers. Later they are drugged and removed from their familiar surroundings, to awaken in new surroundings, of the buyer’s choosing.
It is in those surroundings, those of the buyer’s choosing, that they will learn that they are women, and that there are men.
I felt the hot breath of the beast on the back of my calves, and sensed the hot mouth, the teeth, at my heels. I whimpered in dismay, and hurried on.
The trail became steeper and my breath became shorter. The pace I was keeping began to hurt my feet.
I heard a fellow laugh, from within one of the cells, as I hurried past. Momentarily I was angry. Surely there was little dignity in my progress!
I supposed, however, if I proved capable of sustaining a more rapid pace, that that would be expected of me. I cast a glace back over my shoulder at the jailer. He gestured ahead, and held the beast back, by the leash and collar.
Again I hurried forward.
The soles of my feet felt raw. My legs began to ache. I moaned. I tried to draw breath in, wildly, through my nostrils, even about the rag in my mouth. Tears formed in my eyes.
I did not see how I could, given this elevation, and the ascent, maintain this pace.
And one of the prisoners had laughed at me!
I would show them!
Imperceptibly then, so subtly they would not even notice, I determined to slow my pace, ever so subtly, so subtly that they would never notice!
I could thus, in my way, fool them. I could thus, in my way, dally.
I had not been punished for having inadvertently cried out in my native language. I had been given a tunic and blanket in the cell. There had been slices of fruit in the food bowl. There had been straw in the cell, for my comfort and cleanliness! Even a vessel for wastes had been provided! Could it be that these men were weak, or, if not weak, that they were tolerant, understanding, and kindly?
Then it would surely be easy to fool them.
I need be only a clever girl.
I heard the slightest sound behind me and turned about, moving, and looked over my shoulder. My heart almost stopped! He had removed the whip from his belt and shaken out its coils. I then, despite the difficulty and the pain, weeping, in terror, increased my pace even beyond what it had been before. I feared to feel the whip. I knew that a man such as he behind me, a man of this world, would not hesitate for an instant to use it on a woman such as I.
I wept, hurrying up the trail, the beast at my heels, the jailer at its side.
“Hurry, little kajira,” I heard from one of the cells.
There was laughter, that of more than one man, from the cell.
I hurried forward, pressed to even greater haste. I could feel the breath of the beast behind me, on my legs. I heard it strain forward, its claws scraping on the stone. It nipped at my heels.
I moaned. I wept.
How could I go more swiftly?
The whip suddenly, like a shot, cracked behind me.
I went more swiftly!
I heard laughter from a cell, from some men, crowded behind the bars. I caught only a glimpse of them. Were they so much more then I?
“Give her to us!” called a man.
Yes, they were far more than I.
I feared being thrown to the.
The whip cracked again.
I stumbled, frightened, I regained my balance, I hurried on again, crying. In my fear I had almost lost the tunic from my mouth. I thrust it firmly back in my mouth. I hoped it would not be disarranged.
I did not wish to be beaten.
Women such as I, on this world, are much at the mercy of men!
There was suddenly, to my left, out from the ledge, a piercing scream, a great smiting sound, and, on my right, the cliff, as though flung there, twisting, a vast moving, wheeling shadow. A torrent of air threw me against the side of the cliff. I saw the fur on the beast blown as if my hurricanelike windsto its right, and the jailer, too, must brace himself not to be hurled to the side. I held the tunic in my mouth with both hands, crouching down. Then the gigantic bird had turned abruptly, wheeling about, and was making its way, it seemed to the very heights, the very pinnacles, loftly and cloud-obscured, of the citadel itself. The rider, now in the distance, moving swiftly, looking back, lifting his arm to the jailer, and the jailer, grinning, raised his whip in salute. Such men, it seemed, must have their jokes.
The jailer looked at me, and I leaped up, and continued my journey up the trail.
The joke had had nothing to do with me. I had been incidental to the interests of such men.
It seemed that I was being permitted to go more slowly now. Perhaps the jailer was contemplating some revenge on the prankster. He chuckled, perhaps in his ruminations, I almost now forgotten, having come to some suitable resolution. I was grateful for this respite. Then he suddenly made a sound of annoyance, as though abruptly recalling to himself his business, which, I gathered, had to do with the delivery of a kajira. Again the whip cracked and I again addressed myself to my hasty ascent. The sound of the whip, too, seemed to stimulate the beast. It snapped at my heels. It seemed I must not try to attain even greater speeds! I wanted to cry out, to remonstrate with him, to beg him for a little indulgence, but I could not do so, for the gag.
Perhaps that was the point of the gag, I thought, a kindness in its way, that not being able to protest or plead I need not be lashed for having dared to do so.
What manner of men would these be, in this place?
What hope had I of mercy?
Could they be so much the masters?
One does not, of course, remove such an obstruction without permission. That would be a serious offense.
“Kajira!” called more than one man, in a given cell, as we passed them, seemingly to alert those in cells father down the trail as to our passage. “Kajira!” I heard, behind me. Then the same cry I heard ahead, and it was then, from thence, relayed forward, again, and again. Men came to the bars, to watch. They pressed against the bars, but they did not put their hands though. Perhaps they did not wish them torn off by the beast! In the pens we kajirae, kneeling or crouching down, had sometimes put our hands through the bars of our kennels, trying to touch a guard, to call ourselves, whimpereingly, to his attention, but this experience suggested, uneasily, a quite different sort of possibility, one in which such as I might have to tread a passage with care, lest we fall within the grasp of fearsome, dangerous inmates. Would we not be in our way rather like food, dangled almost within the reach of starving men?
“Giver her to us!” called a man.
But the whip cracked again, and again I sped forward. Then we were past the cells!
I continued to climb upward. We were now on the trail leading up to the citadel.
The cliff rose sheer on my right, the drop, precipitous, was to my left. Behind me was the beast, so fearful, and the man, so powerful, with his whip in hand.
The whip cracked again.
I was being herded!
My feet were sore. I struggled to breathe. My body ached. Again I felt the teth of the beast at my heels.
I was not even of this world! How dare they treat me in this fashion? How dare they do this to me!
I had been taken from my world!
I had been brought here!
Then I recalled that I was now a kajira, and that anything might be done to me.
I fell and, frantically, struggled to regain my feet. “Hurry, kajira,” said the man, sternly, restraining the snarling beast. I sped forward, again.
There was no dignity here.
I was being herded! I was now being driven upward, like a pig, toward what I knew not!
Then, gasping, trying to hold the gag in my mouth, I sank to my knees before part of the stone mountain, a sheer wall of stone, at the end of the trail. There was the mountain there, rearing upward, and, high above, perhaps a hundred feet above, seeming to rise out of the rock itself, were the walls of the citadel. I could go no further. There was no place to go now, unless it were back. I looked back, frantically, at the beast and jailer. The beast viewed me balefully. Surely it must understand one could go no further! The jailer took from his wallet, slung at his belt, a whistle, on which he blew a succession of piercing notes. The notes, some simply, some in combinations, were linked, I would learn, with the alphabet of the language. The notes were spelling out, in the language, a phrase or password. These phrases changed daily, and sometimes oftener. I heard a responding whistle from above, also with succession of notes. The original signal and its response constituted the exchange of a sign and countersign. The beast, whose hearing was doubtless acute, seemed discomfited by these sounds. It twisted about, growling.
I heard a grinding sound from above and saw a wooden platform, in which there was a rectangular aperture, slide out from the wall.
Though this aperture there soon appeared a dangling rope, with one or more things attached to it, which, perhaps released from the cylinder of a windlass, began, swinging, to descend rapidly toward us. In a few moments the rope was within his reach. There was something on it like a stirrup, and, above that, something like a canvas bag. The jailer motioned that I should approach him. I did so, timidly. He opened the bag, the bottom portion of which was sacklike, but had two apertures in it. He indicated that I should step into the bag, putting my feet through the apertures, and I did so, one foot at a time. He then pulled the bag up, I standing, until it was snuggly on me. Next he closed the bag about me, my hands and arms inside, and buckled it about me, tightly. Lastly though the leg holes, but only to the extent permitted by the rope on the bag. Within the bag I was helpless. I looked at the jailer, frightened, and at the beast, and, upward, toward the platform so far above me. Clearly I wanted to speak. The jailer fixed the folded tunic in my mouth, more carefully. I was not to speak. I looked at him, pathetically, over this gag. But he paid me no attention. He stepped away from me, going to the beast. He freed it from the leash, putting the leash at his belt. He then returned to the rope and pulled on it, twice. I now saw the rope begin to move upward. I shook my head wildly, whimpering. I did not dare release the gag, of course. I had, for example, no way of retrieving it if it fell. Too, I did not know what would be done with me if I should even let it fall, let alone eject it. Too, it was my only clothing in this place, and that made it inordinately precious to me. Too, I did not want to be punished. Too, these not men of Earth. If I lost my clothing, I did not know when, or if, it might be replaced. I suddenly felt my toes lift from the stone. I tried to reach down with my toes to touch the stone, but they could not do so. The rope now, with y weight on it, was taut. I felt myself ascending. I saw the jailer, below me, put his foot in the stirrup, his left foot, and at the same time grasp the rope with his left hand, above his head; and then the rope, too, bore his weight. The bag was attached to a ring on the rope by means of its own ring, a ring which could open and close. In this way, even if a girl, in her ascent, should squirm or struggle, the bag, ideally, remains affixed to the rope. I trusted, of course, that these rings would hold. Too, I hoped the rope would hold our weight. The beast, below, looked upward. Then I saw it prowl away, perhaps returning to its lair, or perhaps to its patrol of the ledges. The bag swung a little on the rope, but the weight of the jailer, below me, muchly steadied it, preventing what might otherwise have been a most frightening swaying of that stout strand. From the stirrup, incidentally, a sword may be used. The stirrup is commonly attached to the rope below the sack for two reasons, first, in order to facilitate its defense, and, secondly, to enable it to be steadied, or even held, or supported, if necessary. I kept my legs still, not wanting to press stress on the rings which held the sack in place. Foot by foot the rope moved upward. I was soon some yards above level of the trail. The rope swung a little, moving upward. I was absolutely helpless. I felt no tearing of canvas, no breaking, or pulling away, of stout threads, one my one, from straps. I looked up at the rope above me. I detected no unraveling of strands. It seemed the rings and the ropes might hold. I grew more confident. I had not been this high before, at least unhooded. I saw ranges beyond ranges of mountains, some snowcapped, extending into the distance. I put my arms about myself, inside the sack. I bit down on the tunic. The air was bracing. The mountains were very beautiful. In a few moments I could hear the cranking of the windlass. I looked down as I could. The jailer, below me, his foot in the stirrup, his left hand on the rope, was seemingly contemplating the mountains. That seemed remarkable to me, for he was no more than a brute of a man. In a sense we both perhaps felt small before them, and both found them awesome and beautiful. I looked up I could see the platform now, so close, a few feet above me, and the aperture through which I would be lifted. I could not see the windlass. The rope ascended through the aperture and went over a pulley, attached to what was apparently a tripodlike arrangement of beams. Above the platform the walls of the citadel reared up, toward the clouds. Perhaps we might feel small before the mountains, in their vast, mute grandeur, but men, here, had made themselves a part of this, making for themselves a lair, an aerie, in this very magnificence, like eagles.
I was drawn upward through the rectangular aperture and found myself suspended, a bit below the pulley, some ten feet above the platform. I dangled there. The jailer had stepped from the stirrup to the platform as the stirrup had cleared the aperture. Greetings were exchanged between the jailer and some men on the platform. These men were in scarlet tunics. Doubtless it was a livery, or uniforms of some sort. They were, I gathered, guards, or soldiers, of some sort. I heard the windlass and flet myself being lowered. When I reached the vicinity of the aperture the jailer reached out and drew the sack, by the rope, back over the platform. With difficulty I got my feet under me. The rope descended another yard or so. He then, I standing, and the slackness of the rope facilitating it, opened the ring on the sack, and freed it of the rope ring. I was now free of the rope. I knelt, as was proper, for I was in the presence of men. I did edge back from the opening.
From the platform I could see the mountains. The jailer looked at them, too, for a moment. Those on the platform, on the other hand, paid them little attention. To them they were doubtless quite familiar. I looked up at the jailer, and then looked down. He and I might both have noted the beauty of the mountains on the ascent, achieving in that moment a sort of brief parity, suspended as we were on the rope, between the land and the sky, between worlds, in a sort of aesthetic void, an artificial stasis, but we had now come to the platform, to its solid beams. He stood. I knelt. Once again worlds of differences loomed between us. I was kajira. He was a free man.
“This is the one who was purchased?” asked one of the soldiers.
I gathered that these men seldom purchased their women.
“Yes,” said the jailer.
“For what purpose?” asked a soldier.
I listened, eagerly.
“I do not know,” said the jailer.
Could it be that he did not know?
Another of the soldiers crouched beside me, and took me by the hair, pulling my head back, sharply, that they might better observe my features. We may be handled in such a fashion, as, on my old world, might be, say, horses. Do not blame them for this. Do not think anything of it. On this world, as I have mentioned, we, women such as I, are animals.
“Not bad,” said he who held my head back.
“No,” said another.
“When you buy them,” said another, “you can at least see what you are getting.”
“Fully,” agreed another.
Some of the men laughed.
This was, I suppose, a vulgar joke, but there wee no free women present, who might be offended, or scandalized. My presence did not count. I was kajira.
Women, of course, are commonly examined nude before being purchased. Men like to see what they are getting, all of it. It is said that only a fool would buy a woman clothed. That is doubtless true.
I was no stranger to this sort of thing.
Before I had been sold I had been so examined in great detail, even to the extent of performing what was almost a choreography before my prospective buyers, that my features, expressions, attitudes, movements, charms, if any, and such, might be better assessed.
One theory for the revealing barb in which kajirae are commonly kept is that in a primitive, warlike, barbarous world, a world in which slavery is common, and beautiful women are regarded as a familiar form of booty, such garb tends to make them the desiderated objects of capture, seizure and theft, this being thought, in its way, to constitute something of a protection for the free women, in their cumbersome, concealing robes and veils. But there are, doubtless, several reasons for the distinctive forms of garb in which kajirae are placed. One commonly mentioned reason is that it draws a clear distinction in a profoundly stratified society between our lowliness, marked by our rags, or brief tunics, and such, and the loftiness of free women, expressed in the complexity, richness and ornateness of their habiliments. It is not likely then that we will be confused with our betters. The most significant reasons, however, I suspect, have to do with the gratifications of men, who enjoy dressing us, if at all, for their pleasure, and with the informative, mnemonic, and stimulatory effects achieved on the slave herself. It is hard to be dressed in certain fashions without comprehending very clearly and meaningfully that one is beautiful and desirable — and owned. These comprehensions, in turn, enhance sexual responsiveness. The garmentrue of the slave, then, has its effect not only on those who see her, but on the slave herself. With respect to the first reason, that of protecting free women, I think there may be something to it. For example, if stalking, or careful hunting is involved, r if an escape must be made quickly, then the robes of concealment, as they are often called, might give some pause to a hunter. Who would wish to risk his life for a woman only to discover later in his camp, after her unveiling, that better than she might have been purchased for a few coppers from an itinerant peddler? Would he not feel much a fool? To be sure, he might be lucky. He might have his rope on a prize. But, even so, would that not be mere luck, and, in a sese, would he not then be merely a lucky fool? Certainly professional slavers on this world would customarily exercise great care in such matters, perhaps even having recourse to elaborate techniques of inquiry and espionage. It is rumored they sometimes work in conjunction with free women who manage baths, and such, patronized by free women. In the conquest of cities, of course, or in elaborate raids, in which perhaps outlaying villas, or cylinders, are struck, by several men, one may take more time, sorting out captures into field girls, kitchen-and-laundry girls, kettle-and-mat girls, tower slaves, pleasure slaves, and such. In the capture of a city a woman may be disrobed, or ordered to disrobe, on the spot. One then may decide whether or not to put her on his rope or, in some cases, to bind her and then insert a nose ring, to which a leash cord may be attached. Sometimes a given warrior may have several women hurrying behind him, their leash cords grasped in his fist. When a conquering force is disciplined, the women are sometimes merely bound helplessly, and marked, and then left where they may be easily found later, in collections, for return to the original captor. The marks are various. Sometimes the names, or signs, are written on her body. Sometimes a token is affixed to her, as, say, a tag-bearing wire thrust through her ear lobe and then twisted shut, to preclude dislodgment. Women of my world, of course, for the most part, are not veiled. In this way those of this world who come to my world, doubtless for various purposes, but amongst them, it seems, though perhaps only incidentally, to acquire women for this world, women who will become such as I, encounter little difficulty in making their assessments. Doubtless it pleases them to do this at their leisure, and quite openly. How convenient all this is for them! Are the goods not, so to speak, publicly displayed?
What sort of culture, I wondered, allows its women to be so exhibited, to be displayed so brazenly, so publicly and conveniently, for the inspection of men? And what of the women? Have they, in their haughty displays, no inkling of how they appear to men? Do they wish to insult men? Do they wish to disturb and taunt men? Do they wish, in their frustration, to challenge men? Or do they long on some level to be taken in hand, and be done with as men please? Do they long on some level for the iron and the chain?
I remembered with chagrin how I had on my old world obtained gratification from teasing boys. Now I belonged to men.
The soldier released my hair, and my head came forward. I kept it lowered.
The platform on which I knelt was some twenty feet square, and the aperture within it was some four feet by five feet. It had slid out from the side of the citadel. It was large enough that one of the great birds could have landed on it. The tripodlike arrangement of beams which, with its pulley, facilitated the movement of the rope, could be set up or taken down. Above the track of the platform, swung back now, was a double gate. It was such that the platform, if the tripod of beams was not set up, could be extended or withdrawn without reference to it. In each of the double gates was a smaller opening which was now shut, though which only one person at a time might pass. Given these arrangements several permutations were possible, the most obvious being the gates shut and the platform withdrawn, the gates shut and the platform extended, and the gates open with the platform extended or withdrawn. I would not wish to have been on the platform if the gates were closed and the platform was withdrawn. I suddenly whimpered, for the platform began to move back, into the citadel. I did not dare rise, or course. I did look up and saw, as I passed under the wall, heavy and menacing, in a large, oblong overhead slot, the downward-pointing spikes of a great, barred barrier. One would not wish to have been beneath those spikes had they descended. Just behind that area was the inner threshold, which would be closed by the gates. With a rumble the platform stopped. It stopped well within the gate. This allowed the gates, if and when they would be closed, clearance of the tripod, that associated with the windlass. In this fashion the tripod might, if one wished, be kept in its braces. I think saw, rattling and heavy, the barred gate, with the spikes, descend. The spikes descended into sockets in a stone sill. I could now see the windlass. It was within the gate itself. The gates were then closed.
I knelt on the drawn-back platform. The gates were twice barred, with heavy beams. They slid slowly across the inner faces of the gate. They must have weighed hundreds of pounds. They were now secure within their monstrous iron brackets.
The gates were now closed, now barred. The gates were heavy and high. They must have been a foot thick. The exterior surfaces had been sheathed with nailed copper sheets, the intention of which, one supposes, was to resist fire.
I looked at the great gates.
How helpless I felt, kneeling on the platform, my upper body pinioned helplessly within that stout canvas sheath. It was so tightly buckled upon me that I could scarcely move my hands and arms within it. Too, it was buckled closely about my neck.
The beams of the platform were rough and heavy. They felt splintery beneath my knees and were the upper sides of my toes, as I knelt, now rested upon the. The bottoms of my feet burned from the ascent to the lower level. Here and there on the platform were deep gouges, were weapons might have struck, or the talons of the great birds.
I did not know where I was!
I had not asked to be brought here!
What was I doing here?
This was not even my world!
I was afraid.
How faraway then seemed my own world, and my past.
“I will tell them that you are here,” said one of the soldiers.
We were then, it seemed, expected.
This understanding did not ease my apprehensions.
What was I doing here?
Why could I not be as other girls, routinely processed, auctioned summarily off a block to the highest bidder, and then led, braceleted, barefoot, frightened, hopeful, to the domicile of my buyer, and new master?
How was it that I was so different?
We waited on the drawn-in platform.
It seemed we waited a long time.
It was hot in the sack, my hands and arms closely confined within it, but, on my bared legs I could feel the cool air of the mountains. The mountain air, too, moved my hair a little. I shook my head a little, to move the hair away from my eyes. Confined as I was I could not reach it with my hands.
“Steady, little vulo,” said one of the men.
He brushed the hair back from my face with his large hand. I looked up at him, gratefully, and then again put my head down. Masters are often kind to us, for we are so much theirs, and so helpless. But they are always the masters.
I was grateful for his small kindness.
A touch, a smile, a candy, a pastry, mean much to us.
We are kajirae.
On my old world I had lacked an identity. Perhaps we all did. On my old world roles and masks made do for identities, for realities. We were all told we were real, of course, but when we inquired as to what were, really, we were met with evasive answers; I suppose we were just supposed to know; when we went to touch those supposed realities, our hands passed through them. They weren’t really there. And if they were truly us, then we, too, were not there. But we knew we were real somehow, something beyond the masks, the roles. Not everyone wants to disappear behind a mask, or even to hide behind one. It seemed we were all waiting. Young, we were supposed to wait. Reality was around the corner. Existence and truth must be postponed yet another day. And so we waited, and distracted ourselves with sweets and lies. But where was the end of this? Were the older ones real either?
Could it be that the older ones, too, were waiting? Were they embarrassed to admit this? Were the parents real? Had they learned, in their longer lives, secrets they refused to reveal? It is a terrible thing to look behind a mask and see nothing. The masks can be voracious. How many scream, trapped within a mask? How many do not scream, unaware that they have become the mask, that now there is nothing left but the mask?
We awaited the return of the soldier.
How could I be here?
Was it not madness that I was here? But I was here.
Here, however, I had a reality. I had an identity. There were no problems with that matter here. No longer need I wait in some windy place, on some lonely bridge or busy street corner, hoping to meet myself. That rendezvous had now occurred. Here, at last, I was something, really. Here I had an identity. I was an identity as real as that of a dog or pig. I was kajira.
I looked up. Then I looked down.
“Bring her,” said the soldier to the jailer.
He stood some ten or twelve feet from us.
I felt myself drawn to my feet. The jailer did this. It was done by means of the ring on the back of the sack, that by means of which I had been attached to the ring on the rope. I stumbled a little. I feared to fall. My hands and arms pinioned I would have no way of breaking the fall. I did not lose the tunic. It was now muchly dampened, and must bear within it tooth marks.
The jailer snapped a light leash to a small ring on the sack straps, just below my chin.
The development affected me with apprehension.
I had not been leashed below, outside, on the ledge.
Was a leash necessary?
But what manner of place was this? What was I too see? This leashing was surely not for purposes of display, not here, not now, but now, I understood, of girl management, of girl control! Or perhaps girl instruction! I knew a female could learn much on a leash. And where was I to be taken? I was suddenly very much frightened. I was suddenly so much more in their power.
I was leashed!
Did they think I was a new girl? But here, in this place, I was a new girl! I was an ignorant slave here, one unaware of her surroundings and their nature. Might I run, or bolt? Might I, in some imminent situation, overcome with terror, attempt irrationally, unable to help myself, to flee? But even if I wished to do so, and dared to do so, I could not. I was leashed.
Or was it to teach me something that I was leashed? Did I not yet know myself slave enough?
Apparently they would see to it that I would learn.
Had I not been leashed on the ledge, that I might be the more startled, the more apprehensive, the more conscious of it here? Where was I to be taken? What was to be done with me?
The soldier turned about, and strode away. The jailer followed him, and I followed him, on the leash.
If I were to precede him I supposed that he might have used the stout leash with which he had restrained the six-legged animal, it secured to the ring on the back of the sack.
Leashes are often held partly coiled on this world, the leash otherwise being somewhat long. The length permits the leash to also serve as, in effect, binding fiber. One usually prefers to be led rather then to lead. When one leads, as, say, if it might be the wish of the rights holder to so display one, one might, if one does not, for example, walk well, feel the free end of the leash only-too soon, as a lash. That is another advantage of the long leash, of course, that one, if the rights holder wishes, may be punished while still upon it. I preferred to be led. I hastened to keep up with the soldier and jailer, the leash in the grasp of the latter. They moved quickly. One is customarily expected to follow at an appropriate distance, that constituting an attractive, lovely interval, but it is not always easy to maintain such an interval, for various reasons, such as crowding, or the rapidity of the leash holder’s pace. Two or three times I was jerked forward, and nearly fell. The leash was often taut. I was conducted through several narrow passageways. Sometimes portions of these were barred, and signs and countersigns were given. Twice we passed women such as I, but in collars. As the men passed, they went immediately to their knees, performing obeisance. Both wore brief tunics, the skirt of one being slit to the waist on both sides. There seemed few in these narrow passages, or streets. I did see one child. I would have had to kneel before it, as before any free person. It regarded us idly. It had apparently seen many women such as I, so conducted. Then the lash jerked taut again and I nearly lost my footing. I hastened on. I did not think it would be difficult to defend such passageways.
In what seemed but a matter of moments we had come to a large, heavy door, almost a gate. A panel was slid back, a sign and countersign exchanged, and the door opened. Within was a high, vaulted room, apparently a guard station. Inside there were some tables and benches, several men, in scarlet livery, and some chains dangling from the ceiling. It seemed clearances were to be obtained here. One of the men fastened me, but the ring on the back of the sack, to another ring, on one of the dangling chains. These dangling chains were such that they could be drawn upward. The keeper, or jailer, looped the leash coils about my neck, rather closely, tucking in the loose end to hold them in place. He then went to one of the tables, accompanied by the soldier. Two men then, by means of the rings and the chain to which I was now attached, hoisted me upward, foot by foot, until I was suspended some thirty feet above the floor, some two thirds of the way to the ceiling. At this point the chain was secured. I swung there, waiting, while the jailer completed business at one of the tables. There were papers in his wallet which he presented. I supposed they were my papers. One feels terribly helpless, suspended thusly. One is not in contact with the floor, or ground. One has no leverage. One cannot bolt, or run. Indeed, from such a height, even if one is not gagged, it is not practical to communicate. One waits, isolated. One waits, at the pleasure of others.
The jailer, and the soldier with him, were still before one of the tables.
I squirmed a little, but then noticed one of the guards looking upward, so, frightened, I stopped. I had gathered some inkling in the pens as to how I, or, indeed, I suppose, any kajira, struggling, or even moving a little, might be viewed by a strong man. I then kept as quiet as I could. It was hot near the ceiling. I bit down on the gag. I was afraid of dropping it. The leash coils were about my neck, looped there rather closely, the free end of the leash tucked in, to hold the coils in place. I saw, far below, over to one side, briefly tunicked, entering with a pitcher, unobtrusively, as was appropriate, a woman such as I. She glanced up, but then looked away. I gathered that she had seen more than one woman, perhaps even free women, suspended thusly in this place, in the custody of the sack and chain. The chains suggested that that might not be uncommon in this place. The custodial arrangement, as you might imagine, was quite effective. On the other hand, I would suppose that it was primarily designed with free women, prisoners, or new kajirae, in mind, women who might not yet fully understand the meaning of their collars. I did not think the security of this arrangement was necessary for such as I. I might be a new kajira but the pens in which I had been trained had been efficient. Not long on this world, I has already learned something of discipline. The kajira who had entered with the pitcher was collared, of course. I could see the collar. It was flat, narrow, about half inch in height, and closely fitting, a common collar. She was blond. I saw this with some contempt, and perhaps a bit of jealousy. This may have been something lingering from my old world, for, on this world, brunettes seem to be favored, it being claimed, truly or not, that they are much more easily aroused, and much more helpless, and passionate, in the furs. But, to be sure, blond hair, genuinely blond hair, is rare on this world, except for certain areas, as it is on my old world. This rarity, of course, as would be expected, tends to increase its marketability somewhat, except in more northern markets, where it is common. The hair of kajirae who are up for sale, incidentally, is never dyed, or, if dyed, that is made clear to the buyers. A buyer who regards himself as defrauded can be, as I understand it, extremely disagreeable. With respect to heat it is my supposition that blondes, at least if properly managed and disciplined, are also responsive and passionate. Indeed, they had better be. Frigidity is not permitted to kajirae. We are not free women. If it is pertinent I might mention that in the pens I saw blondes on their bellies, tears in their eyes, begging the touch of guards, just as brunettes and redheads. These things really depend not on the color of hair, but on the individual woman. I might note, in passing, that in many slave markets, the single, most prized color of hair seems to be auburn. That hair color is highly prized in a kajira. An itinerant vendor, then, if desiring to defraud buyers and raise the price of a kajira, is more likely to have her hair dyed auburn than blond.
At the table there seemed some puzzle as to my disposition, one which the jailer, as far as I could tell, could not really dispel.
I noted, to my irritation, that the fellow who had been looking up at me was now eyeing the blond. But surely I was more attractive than she! She was pouring some liquid from the pitcher into one of the vessels on the table. And I think that she, the vixen, was not that unaware of his scrutiny! He was suddenly standing quite near to her and she looked up, into his eyes, only inches from him. Then she hurried away, though a beaded side-entrance, and he, in a moment, followed her.
I squirmed in the sack. That fellow had been handsome. It might be pleasant to be in his arms! He was not an ugly, repulsive, callous giant like the jailer. Perhaps I should have moved a tiny bit more before him, as though inadvertently, you understand.
I whimpered a little, not so much as to make it clear that I was trying to attract attention to myself. Indeed, I was not trying to attract attention to myself! I had just made a little noise, you see, not really meaning it.
When I sensed that one of the fellows was looking up I moved my legs a little, putting them together, and then separating them, and pointing the toes a little, and bending my legs back, a little. I had pretty legs, I was sure. I did not think this display, even though totally inadvertent, would be lost on such men. And I could always pretend that they had misunderstood. To be sure, such defenses, in a kajira, are not likely to prove effective. Indeed, what would such men be likely to care, really, whether they had understood me or not?
“What is her name?” asked the fellow below me.
My heart leaped.
“She does not have a name,” said the jailer.
I was muchly pleased. He had expressed interest. The name is important. One commonly keeps track of a girl by her name. It is useful in putting in a call fro her, in having her sent to one, and so on. But I did not, as of now, I had just learned, have a name.
Perhaps it was just as well, I thought. These men, or some of them, were the masters of monstrous beasts. I did not doubt then but what they would be excellent, and sever, masters of other sorts of beasts, as well, for example, curvaceous little beasts, such as I.
How fortunate then!
If I did not have a name, it would be more difficult to put in a call for me. I needed then have less fear of being summoned to the furs of such brutes! But I wanted a name, though I knew it would be only a slave name, put on me for the convenience and pleasure of masters. How else could I be summoned, or have it written on a shard drawn at random from an urn? I had not been caressed in days! Surely someone must have mercy on a kajira! I supposed the name, as I was an Earth girl, would be an Earth-girl name. They are regarded as slave names. Sometimes they are put on a Gorean girl as a punishment. I did not mind, of course. I hoped it would be a pretty name. Surely it would be one which, to a Gorean master, would say “slave.”
The business at the table had now, apparently, been successfully terminated.
We were apparently cleared to proceed.
I was lowered, foot by foot, to the floor. Then I had my feet under me. I was now among the men. I seemed very small among them. Suddenly I felt rather frightened. No longer was I secure in a protected elevation. To be sure, that security, and that elevation, that protection, that sanctuary, had been wholly at the discretion of others. They might accord it to me, or terminate it, instantly, as they pleased.
The leash was then unlooped from about my throat. It was then securely in the hand of the jailer. I was then freed of the chain.
Briefly then my jailer and the soldier, his guide in this place, conferred.
One of the guards, a handsome fellow, he who had looked up at me, and asked my name, regarded me. I looked away, and tossed my head.
Let him understand that!
What cared I for him!
But he slapped his thigh in amusement.
Had I not yet learned my collar?
I feared suddenly that he might one day make me pay dearly for that expression, that gesture.
But my jailer, preceded by the soldier, now again, continued on his way.
On the leash I swiftly followed him.
I heard laughter behind me.
Those men might remember me, I feared.
We passed though a portal, once again one less like a common door than a stout gate.
I followed, leashed.
Within was a long, dimly lit tunnel, with several opened gates within it, some of bars, some of metal-sheathed wood,with tiny apertures some eight to ten feet above the floor. These were tiny ports, used, I would learn, for the missiles of the crossbow. They are manned by platforms which are a part of the interior surface of the doors. I did not notice them at the time but there were other ports overhead from which missiles might be fired toward the doors, should foes achieve the dubious success of reaching them. I think there was no place in that corridor, or perhaps generally in the fortifications as a whole, which could not be reached my missile fire from at least two directions. Noxious materials might be emitted from such vents, as well, such as pitch, acids, and heated oil.
When we went though the next gate, we were suddenly plunged in darkness, absolute darkness.
For several minutes we made our way through a number of labyrinthine passages, occasionally stopping at various gates, which, after an exchange of signs and countersigns, were opened for us. I think there were side passages, too, for I occasionally sensed a difference in the air. If one did not know the passages, I supposed one might, lost and helpless, wander about in them for days. Once I silently screamed, and bit down, fiercely, on the gag, that I might not lose it, and wept in terror, for I felt my thigh brushed by a thick, greasy fur of a large, curious animal, one, I think, like that I had encountered earlier on the ledge. I do not know how many of them were in the passage. Though I could not see them I could often smell the. They were silent. Once I heard claws scraping on the stone. There was no reflection of light from their eyes fro in those passages there was no light to be reflected. The soldier, and the jailer, continued to move with assurance. I did not know if they had memorized the passages or not. Perhaps they guided themselves by touch, or by some irregularities in the flooring. My own passage was guided by the leash. Had I not been leashed I would have had to be led in some other way. A common slave-girl leading position is to grasp her by the hair and hold her head at your hip. Needless to say, we prefer the leash.
Perhaps this is the reason for the leash, I thought, that I not be lost in the tunnel, or injure myself against the walls, or flee in terror, madly, upon the discovery that the tunnel is shared by beasts, whose function is doubtless to protect it from any to whom its passage might be prohibited. Such utilities were intelligible, and plausible.
These things were doubtless true, but I would learn, as well, that the leash had additional purposes, later to become clear to me.
Several times I lost my balance, and must struggle, stumbling, to regain it. This was not easy to do, as I could not make use of my body, within the sack, it strapped so tightly about me. One is not only helpless in such an arrangement, but one is very sensitive to one’s helplessness. One feels very vulnerable. You follow the leash as best you can. Twice I actually fell, bruising myself in the darkness on the stone flooring. Then the leash would pull against the sack ring, under my chin, and I must needs rise up, and again follow.
My legs were tired. The bottoms of my feet were sore, mainly from the ledge.
It had been, so far, a lengthy, wearing, mysterious peregrination.
Surely we must be near its end.
In the darkness, I had sensed that we were often climbing.
I did not know how high we might be.
We then passed though another door, and emerged, at last, into a lighted passage, though it was lighted but dimly, with two torches, one at each end of the passage. The light was not bright, but it hurt my eyes. We paused, all of us, waiting for a bit, to allow our eyes to adjust to it.
Then I shrank back, to the end of the leash.
We had come, on the other side of the door, a few feet from the door, to a deep, narrow, moatlike depression. This extended in the corridor, from side to side, for the width of the corridor, perhaps for some five to seven yards, until it terminated several feet before the farther door, at the end of the passage. Bridging this moatlike depression, running parallel to the sides of the corridor, there lay a narrow, retractable metal beam or plank, perhaps two inches in width.
I shook my head negatively, wildly, beggingly, piteously.
Even were I not confined as I was, I would not have dared to essay that narrow span, that long, terrifyingly narrow beam. At best, unconfined, under duress, I might have tried to inch across it on my belly, trying to balance upon it, clinging desperately to it.
I began to tremble.
I feared I could not long remain on my feet, so weak and frightened I was.
I looked at the soldier, the jailer.
My eyes must have been wild with fear. I whimpered in terror. My legs buckled under me. I slipped down to the stone. I could not stand. I could not even begin to rise to my feet. I knelt down, and put my head to the stone. I could not speak a word, for the gag which I clenched between my teeth. But my mien, doubtless, was pathetic.
I could not even stand.
The jailer may have expected some such response from me. Perhaps he had brought other kajirae to this place.
In any event he did not remonstrate with me, or order me to my feet, or lash me with the strap of the leash.
Perhaps he had not expected more of me. Would a Gorean girl have been different? I did not think so.
He roared with laughter, which much unsettled me.
This was, it seemed, a joke of Masters?
Of course, I suddenly realized, he had not expected me to negotiate that barrier. Perhaps some women might have managed it, even in constraints as I was, but I was not one of the.
The soldier, I saw, made his way swiftly across the bridge.
This startled me.
The jailer then reached down and, to my misery, I helpless, scooped me up, and threw me over his shoulder. I bit down on the gag, that I might not scream with fear, and loose it in the moatlike depression. He carried me with my head to the rear, as women such as I are often carried. We are helpless in this carry, and cannot see to what we are being carried. I held my breath until we reached the other side. He moved across that narrow bridge swiftly and surely, as had the soldier. I saw, in the bottom of the depression, some forty feet below, numerous upward-pointing knives. Perhaps the bridge was wide enough and sturdy enough for those accustomed to such things, but it seemed terribly narrow to me, with the drop beneath, let alone the knives. Men, I knew, in carnivals, or circuses, traversed even narrower and far less steady surfaces. But I did not think those surfaces were likely to be suspended over knives. I then kept my eyes closed until we reached the other side. The bridge shook, and vibrated, with a ringing noise, as we crossed it.
“Wait here,” said the soldier.
I was then put on my knees to one side. The jailer lifted a chain from the side wall. It was attached to a ring there and was itself terminated with another ring. He clipped the ring on the back of my sack to that ring. I was thus, in the sack, kneeling, fastened to the wall.
“Do you like our little bridge?” he asked.
I shook my head, negatively.
“There are far worse things in this place,” he said.
I regarded him, frightened.
“You are going to be a good little kajira, are you not?” he asked.
I nodded my head.
“I wonder why you were purchased,” he said, looking down at me.
I looked up at him. I did not know.
“To be sure,” he said, “you are pretty.”
I put my head down, quickly. One is sometimes wary when one hears one so spoken of, too, by such a man. The buckles of the sack were within his reach, of course. It was I who could not reach them.
“We are in the vicinity of one of the high terraces,” he said.
I thought I detected a freshness of air, and a draft from beneath the door.
“You have not been a kajira long, have you?” he asked.
I shook my head, negatively.
“You are familiar with gag signals, are you not?” he asked.
I whimpered once. When a woman is gagged, one whimper means “Yes,” and two, “No.”
“That is better,” he said.
I hoped he would not cuff me.
“You wish to use them then, do you not?” he said.
I whimpered once. Of course! Of course!
“Good,” he said. “Have you been a kajira long?”
I whimpered twice.
“You have much to learn,” he said.
I whimpered once.
“Within,” he said, “you will find yourself in the presence of an officer. Do you understand?”
I whimpered once. I did not really understand, fully, the import of what he was saying but I gathered enough to understand that he within, or he on the other side of that door, he before whom I might soon expect to appear, was of some importance in this place.
This was, as you might suppose, a piece of very frightening intelligence for me.
“You do wish to live, do you not?” asked the jailer.
I whimpered once, earnestly, fervently. Tears sprang to my eyes.
“Good,” he said.
We continued to wait.
“You do not know why you were purchased, do you?” he asked.
I whimpered twice. I looked at him, pleadingly.
“I do not know either,” he said. “Perhaps it is merely because you are pretty.”
I looked down, frightened.
“You are pretty,” he said.
I whimpered a little, not in response, but rather in fear.
I could hardly move in the sack. By means of it I was tethered to the wall.
He looked down at me.
I was within his power.
But he did not unbuckle the sack. I wondered if I might be in some way special. I had certainly not been regarded as special in the pens, except perhaps insofar as I might have been thought to have been of “special interest” to strong men, or, in their rude humor, “specially delicious” as a “tasta” or “pudding.”
I looked at the door, fearfully.
I wondered what lay beyond it.
Behind that door then, I would guess from some several yards behind it, there sounded a gong.
I looked up, wildly, frightened.
“Steady,” he said “It will be a few Ehn.”
He then unclipped the leash ring from the ring on the straps, under my chin. He then, over the straps, pushed my chin up, and fastened the leash, by means of its own clip and ring, about my neck, a portion of the leash thus serving as its own collar. The loop fitted closely about my neck. Perhaps there was something like a half inch of play in the loop. He jerked the loop open, as far as it would go, to its limit, where it was stopped by the ring and guard. I then had something like an inch of play within the loop. I could not, of course, hope to slip such a tether.
“Note,” he said.
He then gave a slight tug on the leash and I looked up at him in terror. Where as the loop might widen to the point where I might have as much as a full inch between my throat and the leather, no limit, other then my throat itself, was imposed on its closure. As the leash was now arranged, it constituted a choke collar. This was quite different from the earlier arrangement, when the ring had been attached to the sack straps.
“Do you like the choke collar?” he asked.
I whimpered twice.
“They are commonly used for dangerous male slaves,” he said, “sometimes for new girls, sometimes for arrogant free women, that they may immediately cease to be arrogant, sometimes for ignorant girls, sometimes for stupid girls. Sometimes women use them for controlling other women, for they have less strength.”
I looked up at him. Such a collar terrified me.
“Do you think it necessary for one such as you?”
I whimpered twice.
“No,” he said. “I do not think so, either. But I thought it useful that you should feel it, and understand that it can be sued on you here.”
I was not totally unfamiliar with choke collars, for they had occasionally been used in my training, in the pens. I did fear them.
I shall elaborate on this matter briefly, at another point.
“Good,” he said, “I see that you are an intelligent kajira, and that you understand. But have no fear, or no more than is necessary. I will now make a simple adjustment.”
He fixed the ring differently.
“There,” he said.
He then jerked the leash. But now it did not close on my throat. It had been adjusted, to be a normal collar.
I looked at him, gratefully.
I still could not slip it, of course.
“That is better, is it not?” he asked.
I whimpered once.
“You do not now fear the leash, do you?” he asked.
I whimpered twice.
“You are mistaken,” he said.
I regarded him, puzzled. What was there to fear from a common leash?
He then freed the ring at the back of the sack from the chain on the wall.
No longer was I attached to the wall.
I felt him unbuckling the sack.
I whimpered, begging him to speak to me.
“You are perhaps concerned about the gong,” he said.
I whimpered once.
“That was the first signal,” he said.
When the sack fell free from about my upper body I was put to all fours. My upper body suddenly felt cold. It had been uncomfortably warm in its tight canvas enclosure, from the pressure of my limbs held so closely to my body and the general heat and constraint of the sack. It had been covered with a sheen of perspiration, from its confinement and my exertions. Now it felt cold, from the air of the corridor. He then had me crawl forward, until my legs, too, were free of the sack. He then folded the sack and put it to one side. He then picked up the leash, looping its long end in three or four coils.
We then waited, again.
He was to my left. I was naked. I was on all fours. The tunic, in its small, neat folds, was grippedbetween my teeth.
The leash, in his hand, looped down, and then up, to my neck.
I regarded the closed door.
“Remember that you would like to live,” said the jailer.
I whimpered, once.
He looked down upon me, as such men often look, and appropriately, upon women such as I.
“You are a pretty little she-sleen,” he said.
At that time, though I was familiar with sleen, or at least the one who had patrolled the ledge, I did not know the word.
There are many varieties of sleen, incidentally, adapted to diverse environments; the most formidable, as far as I know, is the forest sleen. There is also a sand sleen, a snow sleen, even some aquatic varieties, types of sea sleen, and so on. They are very greatly in size, as well. Some sleen are quite small and silken, and sinuously graceful, no larger than domestic cats. They are sometimes kept as pets.
It was easy enough to understand, of course, that a “pretty little she-sleen” must be some sort of domestic animal. I was on all fours. I was to be, apparently, marched forward, through the door, on all fours, leashed. How could it be made more clear to me that I was an animal?
At that time I did not know of the habit of some masters, usually imposed as punishment, to refuse an upright posture to their girls, and to refuse them, as well, the use of human language. They must go about on all fours, or their bellies, and communicate, as they can, by whimpers, moans, and such. They are naked, save for their collars. They are not permitted to use their hands to feed themselves, and so on. Needless to say, they also serve in this modality. There are various Gorean expressions for this; one is the “discipline of the she-tarsk.” A tarsk is a piglike animal. The boars are tusked, and can be quite large. They are also territorial and fierce. Many hunters have lost their lives in their pursuit. The sows are smaller and lack tusks. The male keeps them in his group, or, so to speak, in his harem.
“Do you understand the leash?” he asked.
I whimpered once.
“I wonder,” he said.
He then, suddenly, without warning, jerked the leash upward, and its leather was tight under my chin and I was jerked up to my knees, and I looked at him wildly, helplessly held in place; he then, with ease, with flicks of the leash, flung me to one side and the other, bruising me on the stone and the walls, and then put me to my back, and his booted sandal was on my belly; I looked up at him, in terror; the stone was hard beneath me; and then, with snaps of the leash and the sides of his feet, and gestures, he rolled me about on the stone, from one side to the other; and then he flung me to my belly; how hard was the stone! I shuddered, lying before him, on my belly, in his power. How well I had been controlled by the leash, even though my hands were free! I lay there prone, trembling, sweating on the stone, the tunic tight between my teeth; he then put his foot on my back, holding me down, pressing me to the stone, and, leaning forward, pulled up the leash, the leather again under my chin; my head was painfully back; always, as a practiced leash master, he avoided exerting pressure on the throat; that can be extremely dangerous; the pressure of a collar, of whatever sort of collar, is to be always high, under the chin, or at the back or sides of the neck; happily, he had adjusted the collar so that it was no longer a choke collar; else I might have been slain; most collars, of course, as mine now was, given the adjustment he had made, are not choke collars; such collars, as suggested, can be extremely dangerous; indeed, most masters eschew them; too, they commonly train their girls to such a point of perfection that there is no need for such a device; too, of course, the girls go to great lengths in diligence and perfection of service to avoid having such a device put on them; also, as a matter of fact, other devices are as much or more effective in girl training, even things as simple as bracelets and a switch; but even if a choke collar is used, the slave knows that she has nothing to fear fromit, unless she is in the least bit recalcitrant or disobedient; then, of course, there is much to fear from it; he then, with the free end of the leash, which was long, tied my hands behind my back, and then crossed my ankles, and pulled them up, painfully behind me, and tied them to my wrists. I reared up a little, but was helpless. I then, lay, subdued, on my belly, before him, my wrists tied behind me, my ankles pulled up and tied to my wrists.
How I had been intimidated, controlled and mastered!
“Do you understand the leash now,” he asked, “a little better?”
I whimpered once, fervently.
I now understood the leash, and its power, as I had never understood it before.
And as he had adjusted it, it had been only a common leash. How terrifying then would be a choke leash!
I had received additional training.
I gathered that he had though I needed it.
Certainly I would be a better kajira for it.
Another device which can be used for training, display, control, or such, is the slave harness, to which a leash may be attached. This does not touch the throat. Such a harness, well cinched on the slave, can be extremely attractive. There are usually two rings on such a harness, for the attachment of a leash; one is on the front of the harness and the other is on the back.
He then unbound my hands and feet, and gestured that I should once again go to all fours.
I did so, the leash still on me.
I would be taken through the door leashed, on all fours. I was a slave, an animal. And thus I would be presented, as an animal, before whoever might be on the other side of that door. The leash was a common leash. I did not require a choke collar.
“Soon, little tasta,” he said. “Soon.”
My knees, and palms of my hands, were sore, from the stone. My body, too, was bruised from my leash training.
I had a clearer notion now of what I was.
I was more of a kajira now than I had been this morning.
This was, I think, a kindness on the part of the jailer. He wanted me to live.
Then I started as, from behind the door, from somewhere well behind it, once again, sounded the gong.
The door opened.
“Proceed, little tasta,” said the jailer.
I then, on my leash, crawled toward the opening.
As soon as I crawled though the opening I felt fresh air, and my hair was blown back somewhat by the wind. I found myself on the stone flagging of a large, circular terracelike structure, perhaps some forty yards in diameter. It was apparently the roof of a bastion or tower of some sort. About its edges, facing outwards, were defensive works, some movable, some roofed. Above it, supported by beams, casting a pattern of almost intangible shadows, seeming to stir on the flagging, were numerous, swaying strands of fine wire.
The sky was very bright, and very blue. In it billowing clouds scudded like speeding fleets. The air of this world is very clear, and rich.
At the far side of the large area, away from the door, near the outer circumference of the circle, was a stone dais, reached by some three steps, on the top of which was a thronelike chair.
I crawled forward, slightly in advance of the jailer, who, the leash in his hand, was to my left.
“Stop,” he said, softly.
There were only a few individuals on the terrace, and these were on, or near, the dais.
Their eyes were upon me.
I put down my head.
I wondered what was wanted of me.
The jailer then, to my surprise, removed the leash from my neck.
Perhaps he had received some sign from the dais to do so. I did not know.
I stayed there, on all fours, my head down.
What did they want of me?
I wondered if I were worthy enough to have been brought here.
Was I good enough? Would I prove to be satisfactory? My experience in the pens had suggested that I might do. I had been popular there, with most, if not with all, if not with one, in particular.
I trusted that those who had made this decision, to bring me here, knew their business. I hoped they knew their business. I did not want to die!
And there would be other women here, doubtless, women of this world. How would they view me? I gathered that they might view me as negligible, as far less then they, even if their own fair throats were enclosed in collars.
There was one woman besides myself on the terrace. She wore scarlet silk. She was well bejeweled. She was not veiled. Her face, like mine, was bared. Any might look upon it, as they pleased. She was on her knees, to the left of the thronelike chair. She was chained to it by the neck. On the other side of the thronelike chair, lying there, stretched out, indolently, its large, triangular head down on its paws, was one of the sex-legged beasts, one such as that I had met on the ledges. It was chained to the right side of the thronelike chair. As the beast was at the right hand of the thronelike chair and the woman only at the left, that signified, in this world, that she was less then it.
On the thronelike chair reclined a richly robed figure. His shoulders were of great breadth. His robes were largely of scarlet, liked with purple. He was strikingly handsome, and had large hands. On his feet were golden sandals; on his forehead was a golden circlet.
He gestured that I should rise, and I did so. I then stood some fifty feet, or so, before the dais.
He then indicated that I might remove the tunic from between my teeth. Gratefully I did so. I then held it in my right hand. It was very damp.
He then said something to one of the men standing near him. Among them was the soldier who had brought us here, but it was not he to whom he spoke.
I stood very well, naked before him. How different this was, the thought crossed my mind, from my old world. How far I was from the shops, the malls. I wondered how my old companions, Jean, and Priscilla, and Sandra, and Sally, might stand before such men, masters of women.
I think he was pleased with me. I was sure that he had commented favorably concerning me to his fellow on the dais. The woman to his left, she kneeling, chained by the neck to his chair, had not seemed much pleased. That was surely a point in my favor. She would not like me. I was sure of that. She was, even now, regarding me angrily. I did not like her, either. Let her watch out for herself, and her place on a chain! I hated her!
I considered the eyes of the men.
I stood even straighter, more gracefully.
“Slut,” said the woman.
I pretended not to hear. I gathered that she must be a high slave, and that she had a general permission to speak. To be sure, such a permission may be instantly revoked, at so little as a world. If men do not wish to hear us, we must be silent.
It seemed to me now that I could feel the interest of the men, reaching toward me, almost like heat, in waves of desire.
I now felt less frightened. I was now more confident that the slavers who had taken me may have known the business after all, at least as far as externals were concerned. I was such, it seemed, as might quite plausibly appear upon a slave block. And I wondered if only I, at that time, had known the “internals,” so to speak, of these matters, that I was such as would be fittingly placed on such a block, indeed, that I was such that I, in a sense, belonged on such a block. Could they have known that, as well, from some clues I was not even fully aware of? It seemed possible. How skilled were they? Doubtless quite skilled. And certainly determinations, made with merciless thoroughness in the pens, had clarified such matters beyond all doubt. And entries pertinent to these matters, I gathered, and had gathered originally to my dismay, for I had regarded such things as my closely guarded secrets, now appeared explicitly on my papers.
They man before me, regarded me, spoke again to some of those about him.
The collars were removed from the monstrous beast on his right, which yawned, and rose to its feet, and from the woman, on his left, who remained kneeling, close to the arm of the thronelike chair.
I was not too pleased to see that the beast was loose.
The others, however, did not seem alarmed.
The man then motioned to me, that I should approach. Timidly I began to do so. Then, suddenly, I stopped. I flung my hands before my face. I screamed. I could not move! The beast, descending lightly from the dais, had bounded toward me. It was now behind me, having circled about.
I took down my hands from before my face. I opened my eyes. I was still alive!
I heard some laughter. My terror had seemed to amuse them!
“Stupid girl,” said the woman.
There is a considerable difference between the killing charge of such a beast, direct, ferocious, energetic, savage, violent, ravening, once, after exploratory sallies, it initiates it, and this approach. But I knew nothing of these things. And I think that even one who is familiar with this world would find it quite alarming to be approached, even as I had been, by such an animal.
“Do not be afraid,” said the fellow on the thronelike chair.
I cast him a grateful glance.
“He will not kill you unless I tell him to do so,” he said.
I nodded, numbly.
“She knows little, I think, of our world,” said the jailer.
I saw glances exchange amongst some of the men near the chair.
“She is stupid,” said the woman.
I wondered then if the releasing of the beast, perhaps anticipating its curiosity, and its likely inquiry, had been a test of sorts, one assessing my familiarity with this world and its ways.
I sensed the breath of the beast on my calves.
“Come closer,” invited the man on the dais.
I stopped, warned by his eyes, a few feet before the dais.
“Put aside the tunic,” he said, “and turn about, fully, slowly.”
Then I was again facing him.
“Are you trained?” he asked.
“To some extent, Master,” I said. I suspected he must know this.
“Do you know where you were trained?” he asked.
“No, Master,” I said.
“Do you know where you are now?” he asked.
“No, Master,” I said.
“It is my understanding,” said he, “that you can move in fashions which may not be entirely without interest.”
I looked at him, frightened.
“But that is not inappropriate for what you are,” he said.
“No, Master,” I said.
“Move,” said he.
And swiftly then did I comply, much as I had done in the house from which I had been sold, before the agents, or buyers.
“Ah!” said a man.
One learns to display oneself, and well, as the merchandise one is. Much of what I did I had learned in the pens, but much, too, comes from within one. Some movements I had done as long ago as my old world, in the secrecy of my bedroom, before the mirror. Sometimes in the midst of such presentations, in effect, the dance of a woman as a woman, as herself, her true self, so brazen, so forward, so honest, and yet, too, so pathetic, so vulnerable, so needful, and, above all, so totally and utterably different from a man, I had abruptly wheeled away, weeping, crying out, in shame, frightened, miserable and confused that I, only one such as I, might be so desirable, so beautiful, and, for my world, so exquisitely and forbiddenly feminine, but then, later, I had returned to them, determinedly, unabashedly, accepting at last, even angrily, what I was in truth, and should be, a woman, a total woman, in all her moving, exciting variety, in all her richness, in all her vulnerability, in all her marvelousness.
“Excellent!” said a man.
How pleased I was!
It is dangerous, of course, to appear as a woman before strong men.
But here I had no choice. I must be what I was.
My performance must be concluded with “floor movements.”
“Excellent!” said a man. “Excellent!” said another. Some of the men struck their left shoulders in commendation. I saw that the woman in scarlet silk, she kneeling at the left side of the thronelike chair, she who had been but moments before chained to it, was looking upon me with great anger.
“Excellent!” called another man.
I then lay before the dais, supine, gasping for breath, covered with sweat, even in the coolness of the elevation and wind. I turned my head to the right. I looked toward the thronelike chair.
“Excellent, excellent,” said men.
But I could not read the expression of the occupant of the thronelike chair.
I went then to my stomach and lifted myself up, on my hands, and regarded him.
Had I done well enough? Would I be acceptable?
Those about the chair looked at its occupant. He regarded me. I looked down, and to the right, unable to meet his eyes.
“Let her be fed,” he said.
I sank to my belly. I was no longer capable of sustaining my weight on my arms. I lay before the dais, trembling. I was to be fed. I would then, at least for a time, be kept. He had not then, it seemed, been totally dissatisfied. It seemed then that, at least for a time, I would be permitted to live. This decision, I had sensed, had been welcomed by those about the dais, with doubtless one exception.
The woman in scarlet silk rose somewhat angrily. She had a narrow steel collar on her neck, which had been covered by the earlier higher, heavier collar, that to which her chain had been attached. I was quite pleased to see that she was collared. She too then was only a slave! She went to the side, to a small table within one of the roofed defense works. There she shook some meal from a cloth sack into a shallow pan. She then, from an earthen pitcher, poured some water into the pan. She then shook the pan, mixing the ingredients. She held the pan in her left hand. From the table, she picked up, to my dismay, a long, supple switch. I did not care to see it in her possession. She now approached me, the pan in her left hand, the switch in her right. She put the pan down, on the stone flagging, before the dais, a bit to the right of its center, as I faced it. She pointed to the pan with the switch. I rose to all fours and crawled to the pan. I put down my head.
“What do you think of her, my dear Dorna?” asked the man in the chair.
“She is worthless,” said the woman.
“Perhaps not entirely without worth,” he said.
“She is worthy only to comb the hair of a true woman, if that,” she said.
The fellow chuckled.
“Giver her to me, as a slave’s slave,” she wheeled, “that I may do with her as I please.”
“I do not think you will be displeased with her disposition,” he said.
“Oh?” she asked, interested.
“You will see,” he said.
This exchange alarmed me somewhat.
“Continue to feed,” said the woman to me.
I continued to feed. It was slave gruel.
Whereas the food was certainly feed, and true food, though plain fare, the function of this feeding, of course, was primarily symbolic or ceremonial. I was feeding as a certain sort of thing in a certain sort of way, on a certain sort of provender. I was under no delusions as to what I was, or how I fed, or on what I fed. Another lesson implicit in this matter, which might be noted, was that I was dependent on others for my feed, not only with respect to its quality, quantity and nature, but even with respect to whether I would to be fed or not. In this, of course, all slaves, even the highest, are similarly dependent. The people of this world are rich in traditions and symbolic behaviors, which are very meaningful and important to them. There are many such behaviors, traditions, ceremonies, and such, and there is, apparently, a considerable variety in such matters from place to place.
I sensed a man moving about, behind me.
“Keep your head down,” said she who had been called Dorna.
There was some laughter.
I continued to feed.
One is, of course, vulnerable, so feeding. More than once in the pens I had been caught at such a pan.
Then the man who had been behind me had ascended the dais. He had entered recently, apparently. He conferred with the occupant of the chair. He then left. He had paid me, as far could tell, little, or no, attention. Indeed, he may have scarcely noticed me. I was not important. I was only a kajira, feeding at the foot of the dais.
“Lick the pan,” said Dorna.
I did so. I was angry with her. She held the switch. Had my performance not been of interest? Could she have done better? Were her curves likely to be of more interest to men than mine? But it was I who was feeding, and she who held the switch. But I could set myself to please the men! Take away her switch! Let us compete as equals!
“Lift your head,’ said Dorna. “How silly you look!”
There were crumbs of meal about my mouth and lips.
“Bring some meat,” said the occupant of the chair.
Dorna, with an angry swirl of her silks, spun away, to return to the small table under the roofed defense work.
I wondered that the fellow accepted, with such apparent tolerance, what appeared an obvious manifestation of annoyance on the part of the slave, if not of actual insolence. Did she not fear her silks would be removed and that she might be tied to a ring and whipped? I supposed she must have felt the whip at one time or another. She did move well, of course. That suggested that she was not totally unfamiliar with the whip. We must move well. We are not free women. If we do not move well, men, and their whips, see to it that we soon do. And whatever might have been her peripheral tokens of irritation or exasperation she did obey with alacrity. Yes, I thought, she undoubtedly knew something of the whip. Yet, too, undeniably, her behavior seemed to leave something to be desired. Perhaps she presumed too much on the status of a high slave, which status, it seemed, must be hers. Or perhaps she had been a high free woman, and her master, or masters, allowed her to act as she did, finding some amusement in the absurdity of it, she not understanding the joke, knowing they could in an instant bring her to her knees as a humbled, abject, servile, weeping slave. But, in any event, she was accustomed, it seemed, to being treated with some indulgence, perhaps even with permissiveness. How else would she have dared to exploit such latitudes of tolerance as seemed to be accorded to her? To be sure, she was a high slave. But are not such, in the final analysis, owned every bit as much as we? And is not one man’s high slave no more to another than the least of his bond maids, laboring shackled in his stables, her use a perquisite for rude grooms, and is it not the case that even for the same man she who is this evening a high slave may be tomorrow the least of his properties in the scullery?
Dorna returned with a small dish in which there were some tiny bits of meat.
She handed this to the occupant of the great chair.
He regarded me, and I looked up at him, from all fours, from the floor below the dais.
“She has pretty hair,” he said.
“Mine is better,” said the woman.
We were both dark brunettes. Indeed, our hair was almost the same color. Perhaps hers was a little darker. I suddenly realized that our complexions must, too, be similar. I then suspected, naturally enough, immediately, that perhaps we were both of the “type” in which the personage in the chair might have an interest. Some men, it seems, are interested in certain “types” of women. On this world men have little difficulty in finding the types in which they might be interested. Here there are many markets, some of them even specialty markets, catering to particular tastes. One may accordingly, at one’s convenience, browse though various markets, seeking wares to one’s liking. A fellow, sooner or later, is almost certain to find an item, fastened to one ring or another, which will conform to his particular taste. Too, as an option, “want lists” may be circulated. Some women of Earth, I suspect, owe their very presence on this world, their very brand and collar, to the fact that they happen to satisfy, unbeknownst to themselves, in virtue of some particular configuration of properties, features and such, to a greater or lesser degree, the requirements of such a list. To be sure, these are doubtless delivered to specific customers. If there is a consolation or advantage in this it is that they are almost certain to find that they are exactly, or almost exactly, what someone wants. I did think that my figure might be superior to hers, at least from the point of view of what seemed to be the common preferences of men of this world.
The occupant of the chair tossed one of the pieces of meat to the floor.
I went to it, on all fours, and put down my head, and picked it up.
The next tidbit of meat he tossed to the first step of the dais, where I retrieved it.
I looked up at him, the palms of my hands on the firs step of the dais, my knees on the flagging below the dais.
He tossed the next piece of meat on the second step.
Obediently I took it. He was drawing me upward.
The next tidbit he threw to the floor of the dais, before his chair. I crawled to the floor of the dais and put down my head and picked up the bit of meat. I was grateful for it. I had not had beat since the pens. I looked up at him. My hair fell before my shoulders. I was nude. My neck was innocent of a collar. On my thigh there was, of course, the brand. Once or twice in the pens I had been given a candy, a hard candy, and once, a part of a pastry. I did not hope for such items here, of course, at least at this time. He now held the next piece of meat between his fingers. I was to approach him, and take the it from his hand. I crawled to him, and knelt before him, and dared to put my hands upon his left knee. Dorna, the high slave, was a little before me, and to my right. She was standing beside the arm of the thronelike chair, at his left. I put my head forward, delicately, to take the piece of meat, but he drew back his hand a little. I then drew back my head a little, and looked up at him.
“You are from the world called “Earth”?” he said.
“Yes, Master,” I said.
“What have you learned of our world?” he asked.
“Very little, Master,” I said.
“But you have learned how to obey, have you not?” he asked.
“Yes, Master,” I said.
“Are the women of your world obedient?” he asked.
“Doubtless some, Master,” I said.
“But you were not,” he said.
“No, Master,” I said.
“But you have now learned to obey, have you not?” he asked.
“Yes, Master,” I said.
“And you now obey very well, do you not?”
“Yes, Master,” I said.
“Instantaneously, and unquestioningly?” he said.
“Yes, Master,” I said.
He then put the bit of meat into my mouth.
I took it, gratefully. I finished it. I looked up at him. I hoped that he found me of interest. Women such as I, on this world, must please men. It is what we are for.
“Do not concern yourself with her,” said Dorna. “She is totally unworthy of your attention. She is nothing, only a slut from Earth.”
The broad-shouldered, large-handed man looked down upon me. How tiny I felt before him. He had been referred to as an “officer” by the jailer. Those large hands, I suspected, were not unpracticed in the techniques of weaponry. Certainly they seemed rough, and strong. I feared to sense what they might feel like on my body.
At his least touch I knew I would respond to him as what I was, a kajira.
Then I put my head down, quickly, for I sensed that he understood this, as well. Indeed, he could doubtless read women such as myself with ease. He had undoubtedly subjugated many of us in his time, reducing us to helpless, spasmodic, begging slaves.
“She has no status, even as a slave,” said Dorna. “Put her from your mind. She is only from Earth. She is entirely worthless.”
The fellow smiled at the insistence of the slave.
“They are the coldest of the cold,” said Dorna.
Two or three of the men about burst into laughter at this remark. They had experienced, and perhaps even owned, I gathered, women such as I, from Earth. Indeed, perhaps they kept one or more in their domiciles now. I doubted that we were brought to this world because we were cold. If anything, for another reason. I kept my head down. I reddened.
“Sometimes women learn heat in a collar,” said a man.
“I have heard that of a slave named “Dorna,”” said another. There was laughter. Dorna looked away, angrily.
“Are you “cold,” little kajira?” asked the man.
“I do not think so, Master,” I said.
I wondered if some women did not, indeed, learn their heat in a collar.
“They are the hottest of the hot,” said a man.
“It depends on the particular woman,” said a man.
That, I supposed, was true.
I did not believe, of course, that the women of my world were cold. Certainly, at least, they did not seem to be once they had come to this world. To be sure, there were doubtless many reasons for this. On this world we found ourselves in a true world, a biologically natural world, a world in which nature was fulfilled, and celebrated, not outlawed, denied, and denounced. Here a natural sexuality was acceptable. Indeed, it was required of us. Here, for example, we need not pretend to subscribe to the pathologies of identicalism, neuterism and personism. Here we found ourselves in the order of nature where, biologically, we belonged. And here, too, at last, after having lived for years in a sexual desert, unhappy, frustrated, deprived and starved, we find ourselves in a land of plenty. How eagerly we eat! How joyously we drink! But, too, of course, we have little choice in these matters. Heat is here required of us. Just as total passion and complete surrender were, in effect, forbidden to us on our old world, here they are, quite precisely, required of us. Do we have reservations, or scruples? Are there lingering vestiges of the barbaric conditioning programs to which we, even as innocent children, were subjected? Such reservations, such scruples, such vestiges, may be quickly removed with the lash.
“They are all cold,” insisted Dorna.
The fellow in the chair reached out and I watched his hand, with apprehension. Then he placed it on my body.
I gasped and drew back. I trembled. I closed my eyes, whimpered.
I tried to hold myself still. He must remove his hand! He must! He must!
“She would be hot in her chains,” laughed a man.
In another moment I felt I must thrust myself against him, again and again, desperately, kissing and whimpering.
Then, mercifully, he removed his hand from my body.
I looked up at him and, my eyes wide, licked and kissed his hand.
“They are all meaningless, hot-bellied sluts!” said Dorna. “That is all they are good for, rolling about, kicking, screaming, moaning, gasping, begging, in the furs!”
“They have many uses,” said a fellow.
“Yes,” laughed another.
“Slave belly!” snapped Dorna.
“I thought you said they were all cold,” said a man.
“No,” said Dorna. “It is rather that they are all trivially, meaninglessly hot.”
“They are the hottest of the hot,” said another man.
“It depends on the individual woman,” repeated another.
Again that seemed to me true.
“They are the lowest of the low!” said Dorna.
“That is true,” said a man.
“Yes,” agreed another.
“Are you the lowest of the low?” asked the man.
“I do not know, Master,” I said.
“You are,” he assured me.
“Yes, Master,” I said. If I had had any doubt as to how I had stood on this world before, I had none now.
The fellow in the chair still held, in the palm of his left hand, some tidbits of meat.
He took one of these between the thumb and forefinger of his right hand and held it out to me.
I took it, and ate it.
I looked up at him. I wondered if he would again touch me.
I took the next piece of meat.
“You take your food from men,” he said.
“Yes, Master,” I said.
He then held another piece.
“See her being fed by hand!” said Dorna to those about.
I took the next piece of meat.
“Feed, little Earth beast!” laughed Dorna.
Suddenly the occupant of the chair turned toward Dorna and regarded her.
She turned white.
Her switch was taken from her.
Then the proud Dorna knelt beside me and, putting forth her head, angrily, in fury, was fed as I.
“You take your food from men,” the occupant of the chair informed the proud woman kneeling beside me.
“Yes, Master,” she said. That admission, I conjectured, had cost her much.
About us some men laughed, and some smote their left shoulders in approval.
In order that the matter be lost on no one, the occupant of the chair, of the last three pieces of meat, casting each to the floor of the dais, cast the first to the six-legged beast, which lapped it up instantly with its tongue, scarcely a scrap to such a maw, the second to me and the third to Dorna. Dorna and I, then, on all fours, from where we had retrieved that largesse which had been granted to us, cast to the floor of the dais, looked up at he who occupied the chair.
“May I rise, Master?” she asked.
Though a high slave it seemed she thought it wise, under the circumstances, to request this permission.
“Yes,” he said.
She leaped to her feet.
I remained on all fours, before the chair.
Dorna was regarding me with fury. She was not pleased to have been knelt beside me, and fed as I was, nor to have to have pursued a bit of meat thrown to the floor, just as I had, as one might expect of a low girl. And there were others about. It was not as though she were naked, and alone with him.
I saw that she was very angry with me. Surely she must blame me for her humiliation. Too, I suspected she might, for some reason, be jealous of me. Was it my fault if I might be more beautiful or desirable than she? Did she resent the interest of the men in me? Did she fear that I might turn the head of the fellow in the chair? Might that be it? Did she fear that she might cease to be his preferred slave, if, indeed, she was that? I did not think that she was likely to have been a bread slave, except insofar as every woman, being a woman, is a bred slave. Perhaps she had once been a high free woman. But now, of course, somehow, it seemed that she had come into the collar. Perhaps her life now was quite different from what it had once been. Perhaps once she had even possessed some sort of authority, perhaps even over certain men. But now, it seemed, she must obey men, strive to please them and hope to be fed. Perhaps she hated me because I was from Earth. It was not that uncommon for women of this world to hate us, I had gathered. Perhaps they regarded us rivals, or something? Perhaps we were resented because many men of this world seemed to prize us, though, to be sure, they kept us under strict discipline, as perfect slaves.
They wanted us that way, and saw to it that that would be the way we would be kept.
Little on Earth prepares a woman for Gor.
“Return to the foot of the dais, and stand,” said the man in the chair.
I backed down the steps of the dais, on all fours, and then, at its foot, rose to my feet.
“Bring slave wine,” he said.
My heart leaped.
Dorna, angrily, descended the steps of the dais behind the thronelike chair and went again to the table beneath the roofed defense work.
I was pleased.
I looked down, shyly.
I had been given slave wine in the pens, of course, but it was not mine to call that to their attention. Indeed, the matter was undoubtedly noted on my papers. Perhaps these men merely wished to make sure of the matter. Or perhaps they merely wished to have me drink slave wine before them, either for their amusement, or because of he effects of this act, which were not only practical but symbolic. The effect of slave wines, at least those now in general use, seems to be indefinite, but they are commonly renewed annually, perhaps largely for symbolic purposes. One removes the effects of such wine by drinking a “releaser.” The wines themselves could be sweetened, but normally served bitter, which taste, as I understand it, is closer to that of the original root, the sip root, from which they are ultimately derived. The “releaser” or, at least the wine in which it is mixed, the “breeding wine” or “second wine,” is sweet. The breeding of slaves, like that of most domestic animals, is carefully supervised. Slave breeding usually takes place in silence, at least as far as speech is concerned. Similarly the slaves are normally hooded. They are not to know one another. This is thought useful in reducing, or precluding, certain possible emotional complications. The breeding takes place under the supervision of masters, or their agents, with endorsements being recorded on proper papers. I was pleased, of course, because, just as I took my feeding to be an indication that I was to be kept, if only for a time, so, too, I would interpret my being given slave wine as constituting something of a reassurance of my desirability something in the nature of an indication that I might have been found, these men looking upon me, not without promise as a kajira, even though I was a woman of Earth.
Dorna handed me the goblet.
I could be every bit as good as a woman of this world, I was sure!
I did not even look at Dorna.
Who needed to look upon her?
I stood naked before the dais, and looked up at he who sat in the thronelike chair.
What could a woman of my world be before such men but their slave?
And they would have it so! Choiceless we would serve, docile, obedient, fearful, overwhelmed. They were our masters. Did they care what was in our secret hearts? Did they know we wished to be taken in hand, commanded, prized? Did they know we wished to be objects of such desire, that we wanted to be sought, tenaciously and powerfully, and relished? Did they know they had appeared in a thousand secret dreams, as our masters? Did they know that we were born for them, that we would be forever incomplete without them? I asked only, choicelessly, to love and serve such men.
“Drink the wine, slut!” hissed Dorna.
I did not look at her, but at the man in the chair. I felt suddenly very strong, and very powerful, though I was so small and weak. I had aroused the interest of these men as a kajira. I was sure of that. Let Doran fear then for her place on a chain! I would happily, eagerly, compete with her for the privilege of kneeling before such men!
I lifted the wine a little upward and toward the man in the chair. I then looked at him over the rim of the goblet. My eyes spoke to him, I think eloquently, over the rim of the goblet, telling him doubtless what he knew, that before him there stood a slave.
I then drank. It was terribly bitter. I shook with the bitterness. I clutched the goblet with both hands.
“Do not spill any,” warned Dorna.
Tears came to my eyes.
“Hurry, slave,” said Dorna. “More quickly!”
I lifted the goblet again.
It seemed more bitter than that I had had in the pens.
“Hurry,” said Dorna.
I could hardly take a sip.
“Hurry,” she insisted.
I looked to her for mercy, but in her eyes there was none.
“Drink, slut,” she said.
Then I tried to ruse the fluid, that I might be finished before I could fully taste it.
It was mostly gone then and I held to the goblet, and shuddered, and coughed.
There was laughter.
In the cup there now remained only a tiny bit. I could even see the bottom of the goblet through what remained.
I looked again to Dorna, but she was merciless.
“Finish it,” said she. “Drain the cup. Drink it to the last drop.”
I finished the liquid, to the last drop. Dorna swept the goblet from my hand and took it away. I stood before the men, half bend over. I could still taste the bitterness, palpably, like tiny, foul damp grains in my mouth, on my tongue, my lips. I put my hand over my face, as much to wipe away my tears as anything. I trembled. Then I took down my hands and straightened up. I looked about a little. I sensed now that the men looked upon me somewhat differently. Now doubtless I was more what they wanted, or, perhaps, actually, merely more assuredly so. Was I not now, even more obviously than before, a plaything or a possession, something that might figure in the most casual of gratifications, something which now might be utilized even in amusement or sport, with no fear whatsoever of any inconvenient consequences?
I looked up at the man in the chair.
I now felt no more than a cringing, vulnerable slave.
“Let her be collared,” he said.
I gasped, and put my hand to my throat.
“There are various collars,” said Dorna.
“A common collar will do,” said he.
I would not have expected to have worn other than a common collar, of course, there are many sorts of collars. The most familiar are the “common collar,” which, in its varieties, tends to be flat and closely fitting, and the “Turian collar,” which, in its varieties, is more rounded, and barlike, and fits more loosely. Both lock behind the back of the neck. Dorna wore a “common collar.” Some other types of collars are decorative collars, holding collars, training collars and punishment collars.
“A used collar?” said Dorna.
“Certainly,” said he.
I now realized that I was not as special or important as I had thought I might be, or had hoped I might be.
“We have them with a variety of names,” she said.
I had expected, naturally, to be named. It is useful, after all, for a slave to have a name. It makes it easier to refer to her, to summon her, and so on. But I would have expected a master to have considered me with some care, as he might another form of animal, and to have then selected a name for me which, at least to his fancy, seemed to him fitting or suitable, a name which might then, sooner or later, be inscribed on a collar. To be sure, not all collars have the slave’s name on them. Some apparently say things as simple as “I am the slave of so-and-so,” “I belong to so-and-so,” “I am the property of so-and-so,” or “Return me to so-and-so,” such things. An advantage of having the girls name on the collar is in tracing her. After all, a rich man might own a hundred or more women. A typical collar might read, “My name is Tula. I am the slave of so-and-so.” But it seemed now that I would not be considered, and named, with a collar, a new collar, a personal collar, eventually following the naming, as one might hope, being suitably inscribed, but that my name, whatever it was to be, would be the result of what already appeared on a collar. The collar would not be a function of the name, so to speak, but the name, it seemed, would be a function of the collar, of some name already on a collar!
“What do you suggest?” he asked. He seemed amused.
“She is from Earth,” said she.
“So?” said he.
“I then suggest,” said she, “one with an Earth-slut name on it.”
“Would you do that to her?” he asked.
“Surely no harm could come of it,” she said.
A man laughed. I felt uneasy.
“Still,” said the fellow in the thronelike chair, “she seems to have learned at least a little about our world, and, for her time here, seems unusually adept at our language. Indeed she seems, subject to what she is, and her antecedents, quite intelligent. That is clear even from her papers. Perhaps then we should be kinder to her. Perhaps we should not do that to her.”
“Oh, no, Master,” said Dorna, quickly. “She is from that place and so that should be made clear in her name. Let her wear a name that makes clear her origin, so that men will know the treatment she deserves, and how to deal with her.”
“Do you so hate those from that place?” inquired the man in the chair.
“Were it not for one such,” she cried, “I would not be here in diaphanous silk with a collar on my neck!”
“One from such a place enslaved you?” asked he.
“No,” she said, “but were it not for him I might now be tatrix in my city!”
“Your schemes failed,” said a man.
“One from Earth brought your plans to naught,” said another.
“Your city is now quite different from what it once was,” said the man in the chair.
“You are quite fortunate to be here, and in a collar,” said another man.
“Rejoice that you live,” said another.
I understood nothing of this.
“But we are now considering this little kajira,” said the man in the chair, returning his attention to me.
Dorna looked down at me, in fury.
I was frightened, and, unbidden, I knelt.
“She kneels well,” said a man.
I knelt in position, of course.
I looked up at the man in the chair. I wondered if he would send for me this evening.
I trembled, even thinking of it.
Dorna, I think, was not unaware of the fact that I fell well within the regard of him in the great chair.
“You think that a collar with an Earth-girl name would be suitable?” he asked Dorna.
“Suitable, and appropriate, Master,” she said, in honeyed tones.
This made me apprehensive, particularly when I recalled her remarks to the effect that this would let men know how I was to be treated, and such.
“Shall we give her an Earth-girl name?” asked he in the chair of the men standing about.
“Do so, Captain,” said one of them, smacking his lips.
“Yes, Captain!” approved another.
Many Earth-girl names I would discover, understandably enough, I supposed, have an exotic flavor to the men of this world. They tend to find them sexually stimulating. They are also, like certain names of this world, regarded as slave names. I am not fully certain why that is. It may be because they tend to be unfamiliar names to the men of this world. It may be because they are found on women brought to this world to be slaves. It may be because we often sold under such names, we then wearing them as slave names, put on us for the convenience of masters. To be sure, it may be for another reason, a simpler reason, the simple reason that we make excellent slaves. There are some names, of course, which are common to both this world and my old world, which suggests interesting questions of etiology. Similarly there are some names on this world which are on free women but which are also, often, found on slaves. One such is ‘Dina’. It is not unusual for a name of this world, incidentally, to be put on an Earth girl brought here. This is not entirely unnatural, of course, as such names are often beautiful, and, naturally, more familiar to the masters. Too, such names sometimes help the new slave to make the transition to her new status and condition. Indeed, they sometimes help to free her of her inhibitions and increase her sexual responsiveness. In other cases, it seems clear that wearing an Earth-girl name, whether one which was once her own, now put on her as a slave name, or another Earth-girl name, now also, of course, only a slave name, can have similar effects on a girl from my world, she now recognizing herself as, and being in effect, embonded fauna in an alien environment, singled out, and marked, as such, by the name. The contrast between the familiarity of the name, like a tie to an old world, and the new reality in which she finds herself can be both astonishing and stimulating. An interesting variation on this sort of thing is the giving of Earth-girl names to women of this world. This is a way of informing the, I gather, that great heat is now expected of them and that they are now, at best, to regard themselves as the lowest of slaves. To be sure, in time, as we learn our collars and condition, I think that the names make little difference. Many names, of diverse sorts, are stimulating and beautiful. And, of course, perhaps most importantly, we are well aware that any name we wear, whatever it may be, is, when all is said and done, a slave name.
“Very well,” said he in the chair. “Choose some collar with an Earth-girl name.”
“Yes, Master!” said Dorna, eagerly. She hurried back to the roofed defense work. I gathered that there might be several collars there, some of which bore names which either were, or might be regarded as, Earth-girl names.
In a moment or two Dorna had returned to the dais with a collar. The collar was a common collar, flat, bandlike, gleaming, not unattractive, now closed. Looped about it was a string, on which there were two tiny keys. She showed the collar to the fellow in the chair. “Excellent,” he said. She then showed the collar to the others about the dais. “Quite suitable,” said one fellow. “Indeed,” added another. She then hurried down the steps, and showed it to others. One man laughed. “Good,” said another. “Quite good,” smiled another. “Superb,” said another. “Excellent,” said another. She then hurried back to the dais and the man in the chair opened the collar and slipped off the keys and string. He handed the keys to one of the fellows near the dais. I gathered that he would put them somewhere, or would turn them over to someone. I did not know where they would be kept. The collar was then returned to Dorna and she came down the steps of the dais and stood near me, where I knelt.
I looked upon the collar.
I would wear it.
I looked up at the man in the chair.
“You now have a name,” he said. “It is that which is on the collar.”
“Yes, Master,” I said.
I did not, of course, at that point, know my name, only that I had one.
“Read it!” said Dorna, holding the collar before me.
“I cannot,’ I said. The script was unintelligible to me.
“She is illiterate,” said the man in the chair.
“It is on her papers,” said another.
“Stupid illiterate slave!” said Dorna. The man in the chair looked at me.
“You belong to the city,” he said. “The collar is a state collar.”
That I had not counted on! I did not even understand what it might be, to belong to a polity, a city, a state. Who then owned me, the polity, it seemed, the city, the state. But who did I serve? What did I do? I would doubtless learn.
“Prepare her for her collaring,” said the man.
“Down on all fours, slut,” said Dorna to me.
I immediately obeyed.
Dorna walked about me, in front of me, and handed the collar, opened, as it was, to the jailer, he who had brought me, and to my left.
Dorna then crouched down, and, combing it a little with her fingers, brought my hair forward, before my shoulders. She then arranged it. It hung down before me. My neck was muchly bared.
Dorna then rose to her feet and stood a bit before me and to my right.
“Is she prepared for collaring?” asked the man in the chair.
“She is,” said Dorna.
“Tenrik,” said the man in the chair.
“Yes,” said the jailer.
“Are you prepared to collar her?” asked the man in the chair.
“Yes, Captain,” said the jailer, whose name I now understood to be ‘Tenrik’. We, of course, do not address free men by their names but as “Master.” Similarly, we address free women as “Mistress.”
“Collar her,” said the man in the chair.
I was then collared.
I was naked on all fours, before the dais, on a barbaric world, a collared slave girl.
I heard Dorna laugh. Was she so much more than I? Did she not, too, wear a collar?
“She is pretty in a collar,” said a man.
“They all are,” said another.
Dorna turned away, angrily.
“Has she been collared?” asked the man in the chair.
“Yes, Captain,” said Tenrik.
I gathered that this must be part of the ritual of the collaring, as there could be little doubt, now, about the light, inflexible, gleaming circlet gracing my throat.
“Kneel,” said the man in the chair to me.
I knelt, in position. I knew I was beautiful in this position, collared. I had seen myself in mirrors, in the pens.
“Remove the collar,” said the man.
I looked up at him, puzzled.
I could not read his eyes.
But one does not wait for a command to be repeated. I tried to remove the collar. I could not do so, of course, as it was of inflexible steel, and securely locked.
Dorna laughed. I threw her an angry glance. Let her remove her collar, if she could!
“Can you remove the collar?” asked the man in the chair.
“No, Master,” I said.
“No not forget it,” he said.
“No, Master,” I said.
“You are pretty,” he said.
“Thank you, Master,” I said.
“Take her to the ring,” he said, gesturing to his left.
I looked up at him, startled, but had scarcely time to react for I was seized by the hair, by the jailer, and, half scrambling, half dragged, was conducted to the side, to a ring. There I was knelt down and my wrists were tied together and fastened to the ring. I looked wildly over my shoulder. The jailer was there, and was shaking out the five strands of a broad-bladed slave whip. “Master?” I cried. Another man brought my hair well forward, again, as it had been for my collaring. “Please, no, Masters!” I cried.
“Do you think we are weak?” asked a man.
“No, Masters!” I said. “No, no, Masters!”
I had seen the six-legged creatures. I had seen the great birds. I had seen the warriors go forth. I had seen them return, sometimes with loot, with booty, at the saddles, silver and gold, and women.
Then the lash fell and I shook and sobbed. I had felt the whip before, twice in the pens, a stroke each time. I was not at all eager for a repetition of that experience.
Again the lash fell.
In the pens it had been a single-bladed lash.
Again I felt the leather.
I went to my belly, unable to remain on my knees. I could not believe what I felt.
I had heard of this whip before, the broad-bladed, five-stranded lash, designed for use on such as I, but never before had I felt it. It is to be clearly distinguished from many other forms of whip, in particular, from the “snake,” a terrible whip used sometimes on men, beneath the blows of which even a strong man might die. The five-stranded lash, that to whose attentions I was now, to my dismay, to my misery, being formally introduced punishes terribly, but inflicts no permanent damage. It is designed to hurt, not injure. Indeed, it does not even mark the subject, which might reduce her value.
Again the lash fell.
“Please stop!” I begged.
What had I done? I had done nothing as far as I knew!
“Please stop, Masters!” I cried. How naturally I had called out to them as “Masters”! Of course, I knew by now who were the natural masters, and, indeed, on this world, even the legal masters. On this world the fundamental biological realities of dominance and submission, thematic throughout nature, had not been falsified. Indeed, they were recognized by, and acknowledged within, and confirmed, within, the very intuitions of this world. But even had it not been for my understanding of what I was, an understanding going back even to my native world, one which I had achieved, but had scarcely admitted to myself, long before I had been brought here, and one which I now understood even in terms of actual, significant, pertinent legalities of my condition and status, I would, I believe, in that moment, have called out to them as “Masters.” I would think that any woman, even the most anesthetic, even the most stupid, even the most naive, even the most defensive, even the most resistant, even the most brainwashed, would have cried out so. In such moments shams dissipate. In such moments fundamental profound realities obtrude. I think that in such moments almost any woman would be likely to see through the illusions to which she has been subjected, though the lies that she has been taught, through the puppetry of her conditioning program. Behind the fabrications and prevarications of political facades lurks the Realpolitik, so to speak, of nature. And on this world, at least with respect to women such as I, the facades do not exist. We are put on our knees. We are collard. We are in our place. We obey. We serve.
Again the lash fell.
I writhed on my belly on the flagging. The stones felt cold, a considerable contrast with the flames that danced on my back. The feeding in the cell, and the watering there, that I had been fed and watered, and even that I had been given some bits of precious fruit were, it seemed, quite meaningless. So, too, surely had been the blanket, and even the wastes vessel! Had I understood such things as evidence of a special status, of special treatment, of special consideration, either of myself personally, or, more generally, of my soft of woman in this place? Had I interpreted such things as signs of lenience or tolerance? Had I understood them as signs of weakness or even, say, of a sort of soft kindness which I might be able, cleverly, in time, to exploit to my advantage? Let now, then, a stupid slave be disabused of such illusions!
Again the lash fell, like lightning, flashed downward. Again I wept. No longer could I cry out. I was helpless. I could do nothing for myself. I was completely dependent on others. I was in the hands of the masters.
Four times more the lash fell.
I then lay at the ring, on my belly, my crossed wrists stretched toward the ring, to which they were fastened. I tried to breathe. Tears had run down my cheeks. The flagging was wet from them. The bonds on my wrists, too, from earlier, were moistened by the tears. In one place the back of my wrist was wet where a tear had slipped between the cords.
The whip was being put away.
I lay there.
I suddenly realized that all likelihood there had been nothing whatsoever personal in the beating. I had not, for example, at least as far as I knew, been displeasing, nor had I offended anyone, unless it be the other kajira. I had not done anything, at least as far as I knew, in any normal sense, to provoke, or merit, the beating. To be sure, reasons are not required for beating a slave. If the master wishes, they may be beaten simply at his whim. They are, after all, slaves. Similarly, as far as I could tell, these men bore me no ill will. I was, from their point of view, only a domestic animal. The beating then, in all likelihood, had not been punitive or even, really, disciplinary. Similarly it did not seem to be arbitrary. Rather it had been, it seems, ritualistic or institutional, and, presumably, by intent, instructive. It had been painful, but surely brief, strictly considered. I had not been informed of its purpose. I had not had to beg for the beating. I had not had to denounce myself before or during the beating. I had not had to count the strokes aloud, and so on.
The cords binding my wrists were freed from the ring, and then the cords were removed from my wrists.
I still lay at the ring.
I did not know if I could move.
The purpose of the beating I am sure, and thereby the intent, the rationale, of its inclusion in my induction here, so to speak, was neither unprecedented nor unusual. It was to help me understand certain things very clearly from the very beginning, that I was subject to the whip, that the men in this place were fully capable of using it on me, and that, if they saw fit, or felt so disposed, would do so. As I have suggested this lesson is neither unprecedented nor unusual. It is often thought to be a valuable lesson for a girl, particularly when she is brought into a new house.
Then I cried out as the jailer pulled me up to all fours by the hair and then, his fist in my hair, hurried me back to the dais.
I was now on all fours, at the foot of the dais. I looked up, though my hair, it muchly before my face now, and my tears, at he in the great chair.
“Do you wish to be beaten again?” he asked.
“No, Master! No, Master!” I said.
“Kneel,” said he.
“To whom do you belong?” he asked.
“To the state, Master,” I said. To be sure, I did not know what state.
“Are you important?” he asked.
“No, master,” I said.
“Put your head to the floor,” he said. “Clasp your hands behind the back of your neck.”
I wept, and obeyed.
“Tenrik,” said the fellow in the chair.
“Yes, Captain,” said Tenrik.
I cried out.
“Keep your hands clasped behind the back of your neck,” warned Tenrik.
“Yes, Master,” I wept.
My eyes widened.
“Oh!” I said.
“Steady,” said Tenrik. “Clasp your hands.”
“Yes, Master,” I said.
“You feel that?” asked Tenrik.
“Yes, Master!” I said. “Yes, Master!”
I tried to hold myself still.
“Steady,” said Tenrik.
“Yes, Master,” I whimpered.
“Permit her to squirm,” said the man in the chair.
“You may move,” said Tenrik.
I began then, gratefully, to move, almost beside myself. I began to gasp.
“She is a pretty little thing,” said the fellow in the chair.
“Yes,” said one of the men near him.
“Oh!” I said.
“See the Earth slut!” said Dorna.
I began to cry out, softly, helplessly.
“Listen to her!” laughed Dorna.
I tried to stifle my cries.
“See her move,” said a man.
“She cannot help herself,” said a man.
“No,” said another.
“A kajira,” said a man.
“Yes,” said another.
“She is pretty in her collar,” said another.
“They all are,” another reminded him.
“True,” agreed the other.
Dorna made an angry noise.
There was laughter.
But no one paid her much attention.
“Oh!” I said.
“A quite pretty kajira,” said another.
“Yes,” agreed another.
“Oh!” I cried.
“There!” laughed a man. “She is over the brink!”
“She cannot return now,” said another.
“She has gone too far. Tenrik has her now. She is lost!”
“No,” said another. “She is on the verge.”
“Please,” I begged “Please!”
“See?” said the man.
“Yes,” said the other.
“Please, Master!” I begged.
“Captain?” asked Tenrik.
“Very well,” said the man in the chair.
“Ohhh!” I cried.
“Now she is lost,” said one of the men.
“Yes,” said another.
“Ha!” cried Tenrik, a sudden cry, more that of a beast than a man.
I cried out. His hands were on me like iron. I could not have been held more helplessly in the vise of a branding rack. It seemed I was struck again and again.
Then I was left whimpering on the floor before the dais.
“Good,” said Tenrik, appreciatively, now on his feet, his voice husky.
“You find the kajira satisfactory?” asked the man in the chair.
“Even in such a way, in such a time,” said Tenrik. “It may only be conjectured to what lengths she might be brought, given different circumstances, and more time.”
“Do you think she will soon reach the point where she is totally helpless?” asked the man in the chair.
“Yes,” said Tenrik.
I lay before the dais. It was with bitterness, and chagrin, I heard myself so discussed. It was done so publicly, so candidly. Did they not know I was present? Did they not know others were present? I was being discussed as publicly, as candidly, as though I might be an animal. Then I realized again, of course, that I was an animal. I trembled. I already felt that I was, in such modalities, helpless. I was startled to learn I might become even more so. What then could I do? What then would I be? I had learned in the pens that I had an unusual potentiality for vitality, that somehow beneath the encrustations of a subtle, pervasive, insidious conditioning program, one to which I had been mercilessly subjected from childhood on, beneath, and in spite of, all the antibiological values, all the instilled inhibitions, reservations, hesitations and guilts, there lurked a primitive, powerful, natural, healthy responsiveness. This conditioning program, and its effects, now, bit by bit, fragment by shattered fragment, had been broken away from me. In its ruins I had emerged, like a beautiful thing, innocent from the sea. To be sure, I had emerged as something real, not mythical, something which found itself in a very real world, a world in which I learned I was a certain sort of thing, vulnerable, precious and beautiful, and not at all the same as certain other sorts of things which were quite as real as I, and the world, but quite different, as well.
“How worthless she is!” said Dorna.
“Not altogether,” said a man.
There was laughter.
“Look at her body,” said a man.
I knelt, covering my body as I could. I was muchly flushed. I covered my breasts. I did not want them to see the erection of my nipples. I was gentle. They were tender. I kept my head down.
“Position,” said the man in the chair.
I must obey, instantly.
I knelt now with my back straight, back on my heels. My hands, now, were down on my thighs. My knees were spread. I kept my head down.
“Head up,” said the man in the chair.
I lifted my head. There were tears in my eyes.
I knelt, collared, before masters.
“See her,” said a man, considering the condition of my body.
“Yes,” said another.
“She is a new slave?” asked a man.
“She is just out of the pens,” said a fellow.
“We had her on her first retail sale,” said another.
“Her brand is still smoking,” laughed another. It was a saying.
“She was delivered, hooded, only a few days ago,” said another.
“It is hard to believe that she is new to her collar,” said a man.
“It is so certified,” remarked another.
“I have seen her papers,” said a fellow.
I knew I had papers but, of course, I could not read them. Such papers, as I understood it, begin with a girl’s arrival in the pens. That is when her meaningful existence, her slave existence, begins. Nothing before that counts. There is no interest in our origins, save that we are of Earth, nor in our history or background. Such things have no relevance, or importance. They are all behind us. We are no longer free women. What interests them is merely that we are slaves, and our slave properties. A number of things are commonly found on papers, which may be more or less detailed, for example, our brand type, a number of measurements, the sorts of training we have received, and such. There is also, usually, a place for sales endorsements, for when a girl changes hands. There is also a “remarks section.” where miscellaneous information may be recorded.
“And already, so soon,” said another, “she cannot help herself.”
“She is hot,” said another. “Slave hot.”
“Superb,” added another.
I blushed, even more.
“Yes,” said one of the men, considering me, “a hot slave.”
He could they speak of me so?
But, of course, I was an animal!
“Consider what she will be when the slave fires have been truly lit in her belly,” said another.
“See,” said a fellow, “she is afraid!”
“But see, as well,” said another, “she is intrigued.”
“Yes,” said another. “She wants it. She wants it.”
“And helplessly, desperately!” said another.
“Yes!” laughed another.
I tried not to meet the eyes of any of the men.
Could they so read me?
And could there be more? Could I be more helplessly theirs than I was now?
And what were “slave fires”?
I dared not speculate.
“She might easily be a silver-tarsk girl,” said a fellow.
I did not understand the allusion, but gathered that a silver tarsk was a coin, and might be a good price for me.
Not only could my face and body, my beauty, if beauty it be, my dispositions, my talents, my capacities, my intelligence, my feelings, my emotions, my service, my pleasure, be sold! My heat, too, could be sold. It, too, could be put up for sale!
Men could buy it!
It could be purchased with the rest of me.
It is all of her, you see, the whole slave, that is sold.
“See her!” laughed a fellow.
My entire body, I fear, was a rage of subsiding arousal, and scarlet shame.
Could I help it if my body was so alive, and so much at their mercy? Too, had they not done much, the men of this world, to bring me to this helplessness?
They had not permitted me to hide from myself! They had forced me to be myself!
“She is an Earth slut,” said Dorna. “That is the way Earth sluts are. They are all like that!”
“I do not object,” said a man.
“Nor I,” said another.
There was laughter.
I wondered what I was supposed to do. Should I have tired to be unresponsive and frigid, and thus, in some absurd or perverted sense, have attempted to uphold the honor of the women of Earth? And it was not merely that in the pens many of my inhibitions had been forcibly removed from me and that my natural sexuality had been freed and encouraged, permitted to grow, to thrive and blossom, but that my reflexes had actually been honed, so to speak, to greater sensitivity. I was now no stranger to arousal and responsiveness. I had even received training. Besides, I was a kajira! If I proved to be displeasing, I could be punished severely, even slain.
And so I knelt before them, naked, in a position of submission and subservience, a collared slave girl.
I had a name, but I did not know it.
“A hot, curvaceous slut,” said a man.
I knelt before them.
My body was no longer my own, but belonged now to the masters.
I must obey. I must serve.
How far away now was my old world, how far away now were the boutiques, the shops, the malls!
I wondered how my old friends Jean, and Sandra, and Priscilla and Sally, would have looked, kneeling as I was. Doubtless much the same.
“See the whipped slave!” laughed Dorna. “See the utilized slave! See the Earth-slut slave!”
I stared ahead. I did not look at her.
“How are you kajira?” inquired Dorna.
“I will obey! I will try to be pleasing!” I said.
“Do women kneel thusly, before masters, on your world?” inquired Dorna.
“Some, perhaps,” I said. “I do not know!”
“Did you?” asked Dorna.
“No,” I said.
“What is wrong with the men of your world?” she asked. “Are they not men?”
“I do not know!” I said.
“You did not kneel before men,” she said.
“No,” I said.
“But now you do,” said Dorna.
“Yes,” I said.
“Yes, what?” she snapped.
“Yes, Mistress?” I asked.
“Yes!” she said.
“Yes, Mistress,” I said. I must then, it seems, address her as ‘Mistress’. She was not free, of course. It was rather that I was so much less then she. I did not think she was “first girl” over me. I would have dreaded that. It seemed rather that I was a low slave, and she was a high slave. And, perhaps she wished to be addressed as ‘Mistress’ by me because I was from Earth. She seemed to hate Earth, and those from Earth. I had gathered one from Earth might once have been involved in some shift in her fortunes. Now, of course, she had one before her who was from that world, and only a helpless kajira. I trusted that the men might protect me from her. After all, it was they who were the masters of us both.
“Earth slave!” sneered Dorna.
“Yes, Mistress,” I whispered, frightened.
It was true that that was what I was, and all that I was.
Dorna turned about and hurried up the steps of the dais. I did not care for the expression I detected on her countenance the moment before she turned away. Then she was at the left side of the great chair, which it seemed was where she belonged, and there she turned about, and was now facing me, looking down at me. But she addressed herself to the man in the chair. “She is the lowest of the low, is she not! Master?” asked Dorna.
“Yes,” said the man.
Dorna smiled and leaned down, confidentially to him, and whispered something.
She then hurried down the stairs, and, going behind me, seized my hair and held it up over my head, knotted securely in her grip, with both hands. I winced. She turned my head to the right and held it back, exposing the left side of my head to the chair. She then retaining her grip on my hair with her right hand, with her left, with the tips of her fingers, her palm up, indicated, and lifted slightly, the lobe of my left ear. It was almost as though she might be a slaver, or a slaver’s man, calling attention to some feather which might be of interest to a buyer. I did not understand what she was doing. “Pretty?” she asked. “Yes,” said the man in the chair. Then she returned both hands to my hair and, still holding it up, over my head, twisted my head to the left, and back, thus exposing now the right side of my head to the chair. She kept her left hand in my hair, and I whimpered, at the rightness of her grip, and then displayed, in the fashion she had earlier, the right side of my head, indicating, and lifting, slightly, the lobe of my right ear. “Pretty?” she asked, again. “Yes,” said the man in the chair. She returned both hands to my hair and held my head back, forcibly, cruelly, before the dais. “Let her ears be pierced!” she cried.
I heard cries of protest, of dismay, from several of the men about.
She held my head back, painfully, as she had before.
“Let her ears be pierced!” she cried.
“Yes!” suddenly said one of the men, almost inaudibly.
“She is very pretty,” said a man.
“Why not?” suggested another.
“Can you imagine what she would look like, thusly?” said another.
“Excellent,” said another man.
“She is only from Earth,” said another.
“Yes,” said another.
“Let her ears be pierced!” urged another.
“Yes!” said another eagerly.
There was silence.
“Yes” smiled the man in the chair, musingly, looking down upon me, with such a look of power, of possessiveness of mastery and desire, that even held as I was I almost fainted. “Yes,” he said musingly, “let her ears be pierced.”
“Excellent!” cried Dorna, releasing my hair and stepping away from me, looking down at me with triumph.
“Excellent,” said more than one man. I heard the striking of shoulders behind me. It was done with the flat hand, the left shoulder with the right hand.
I understood very little of this. I had not had my ears pierced on Earth, but I had considered it from time to time. I had not had the courage to do so. I suppose I regarded it as too barbaric, too sensuous. After all, I was not then owned. Such an act, too, it seemed to me, would be to make too public certain secrets of one. It would have seemed to me, in effect, to acknowledge one’s inner realities, to call attention to what lay within one, to proclaim one’s inner self publicly, to offer oneself for bondage, to beg, in a way, the collar. I certainly had no objection to having my ears pierced. Did this mean that I was so obviously a slave? I assumed, of course, they had in mind some natural sort of piercing, and not some grotesque mutilation. But I did not think that was involved here.
The men of this world, with all their barbaric animal heat, with all their ardor, and power and mastery, loved and desired women, and relished them, and prized them. The last thing they would want to do would be to decrease the beauty or value of a woman. Even their strictest and most sever devices of punishment and discipline were designed with the protection of such features in mind. Indeed, if anything, these men insisted on the women making themselves, and keeping themselves, as desirable, attractive and beautiful as possible. This is the way they want us and, if necessary, even to the imposition of punishments and disciplines, that is the way they will see to it that we remain. To be sure, I was so poor a woman of Earth that I did not mind being desirable and beautiful. Indeed, I was eager to be such that I would bring a high price on a slave block. Indeed, as I am a slave, even on Earth I had wanted to be such, desirable and beautiful, and such as would bring a good price from lustful, bidding masters. But what distressed me now was the sense I gathered of the response of the men to the suggestion that my ears be pierced. I realized now, only too clearly, that this primitive, barbaric, homely little detail, seemingly so tiny in itself, the piercing of the ears, making possible the affixing of certain forms of ornaments, seemed, for some reason, quite momentous to them. I gathered that once my ears were pierced there would then be, at least from their point of view, something quite different about me.
“Come here,” said the man in the chair. I regarded him, but he was looking at Dorna.
“Master?” she said.
He pointed to the floor of the dais, before the chair.
Frightened, she hurried there, and knelt before him. He drew her more closely to him, she still kneeling, and he bent forward. He took her head in his hands and brushed back her hair. “Master?” she said, uncertainly. He turned her head to one side, and then to the other.
“Pretty,” he said.
“No!” she said. “No!”
He turned to one of the men to the side. “Let her ears be pierced,” he said.
“No!” cried Dorna. “No!” she leaped to her feet and turned about, fleeing, stumbling down the steps of the dais and then, at its foot, half bent over, turned about, facing the man in the chair. “No!” she cried. “No!”
He regarded her.
“No, please, no!” she said. She did not seem so haughty then, so arrogant, so imperious, so hard. She seemed then only what she was, a female, in the hands of men.
He did not speak, but continued to regard her.
She then drew herself up, proudly, as though she might be other than what she was. “Never!” she said. “Never!”
“Perhaps,” he said, “you would prefer to go to the ring.” She took a step backward, aghast.
“I am Dorna,” she said.
“That may be changed,” he said.
“I am a high slave!”
“That, too, may be changed,’ he said.
“No!” she said.
“Does Dorna want to go to the ring?” he asked.
“No!” she said, shuddering.
“What?” he inquired.
“Dorna does not want to go to the ring,” she whispered.
“You seemed to find it amusing when the Earth slave was at the ring,” he said.
“Be kind,” she begged.
“But then she is only an Earth slave,” said the man.
“Yes! Yes!” said Dorna.
“But you would doubtless wriggle at the ring, as well as she,” he said.
I did not want to meet the eyes of any of them. I was frightened, kneeling before the dais. Dorna and I were the only two women on the terrace. We were both slaves.
“Please, no, Master!” said Dorna. I noted she called him “Master.”
“Perhaps you would enjoy being at the ring, and then being publicly utilized, as she was,” said the man in the chair.
“No, Master!” cried Dorna.
“Your silk can be taken from you,” said the man in the chair.
“Please, no, Master!” she said.
“Perhaps it could be given to the Earth slave.”
“No, Master, please!” said Dorna. She case me a wild glance. I saw she was genuinely frightened.
“The Earth girl might be made a high slave and you a low slave,” he said.
“Please, no, Master!” she said.
“The word ‘Master’ sounds well on your tongue,” he said.
“Yes, Master!” she said. “Thank you, Master!”
“I think you do not use it frequently enough,” he said.
“Forgive me, Master!” she said. “I will try to improve my behavior, Master!”
“Does Dorna want to keep her silk?” he asked.
“Yes, Master!” she said.
He regarded her.
“Dorna wants to keep her silk!” she cried. She clutched the silk about her, desperately.
“But perhaps I have a better idea,” he mused.
“Master?” she asked.
“Perhaps you should be returned to Tharna in chains,” he said.
At this Dorna turned white and flung herself to her knees at the foot of the dais.
“Oh, no, Master!” she cried.
“They might enjoy seeing you again,” he said.
She began to weep and tremble. She looked small, and piteous, and female, at the foot of the dais.
“Look up,” he said.
She did, through wild tears.
“They might enjoy having you again within their walls,” he mused.
“No,” she sobbed.
“I wonder what it might be, after the procession though the streets, you naked, in chains, on a chain neck-tether, conducted through the jeering crowds, goaded by spear points, hastened by whips, and after the public humiliations, would it be torture and the spear? Presumably not, as that is too simple. Too, that is too honorable. And you are now merely bond. Perhaps then you might be nailed to the great gate or to the public boards. It can take days to die in such a fashion. There is little bleeding. Or, more quickly, you might be cast to sleen, or fed to starving urts, or be flung to the fangs of dry, thirsting leech plants.”
“No,” she whispered. “Please, no.”
“You might be spared,” he said. “You might be enclosed in a cage, suspended in the piazza. Others might then learn from your fate a lesson. You might be put in a dozen chains and flung into the deepest dungeon in the city. Perhaps then, eventually, you would be forgotten, save perhaps by a warden and some urts. You might even be kept chained in the public tarsk pens, in the mud, for years, there to compete naked, mocked by all, for your swill.”
She put her head down, trembling.
“To be sure,” said he, “as you are only a slave, it might be amusing for them to keep you chained to a ring in the lowest brothel in the city, your use free to any and all.”
“Lift your head,” he said sharply.
She looked up. Tears streamed down her face.
“Your face is bared,” he said.
“The faces of slaves should be bared,” he said, “that their tiniest expressions may be read.”
Again she wept.
“No longer,” said he, “can you hide behind a mask of silver, or gold.”
“No, Master,” she wept.
“Your face is bared,” he said, “as is fitting for the face of a slave.”
“Yes, Master,” she said.
“But there is another possibility,” he mused, “an interesting one, one other than merely returning you in chains to Tharna.”
“Master?” she asked, frightened.
“You could be returned to he from whom you were stolen,” he said.
“No!” she screamed, in terror. “No! No!” she suddenly, wildly, crawled up the steps of the dais, and flung herself to her belly before the man in the chair. She pressed her lips again and again to his feet, fervently, in terror, covering them with frantic kisses. “NO,” she begged. “Please, no, Master!”
“Do you not know how to kiss a man’s feet?” he inquired.
She sobbed, and then delicately, humbly, softly, submissively, devotedly, with much care, with great attentiveness, with exquisite sensuousness, with her tongue as well as lips, addressed her ministrations to his feet and sandals.
“Better,” said he.
I was frightened at the terror exhibited by the slave. The mere thought of being returned to some former master, from whom, I gathered, she had been stolen, was apparently more dreadful to her, more fearful to her, than the assemblage of fates which had just been outlined before her, those possibly consequent upon her being returned to Tharna, some city into the power of which, it seemed, she would be ill-advised to fall.
“I would think you might enjoy being returned to your former master,” said the man in the chair, “he who first captured you, and put the collar on you.”
“No! No!” she said.
“He is rumored to be one of the finest swordsmen in the world,” said the man.
She sobbed, and continued to kiss his feet.
“Did he not slay a retinue of one hundred men before he reached the curtains of your palanquin, to tear them aside?”
She did not raise her head, but trembled.
“It was he who first removed the mask from you,” he said.
“Yes,” she whispered, shuddering.
“And did you not, even as a free woman, kneel in the dust beside the palanquin, your mask taken from you, and kiss and lick the blood from his sword?”
“Yes,” she said.
“I wonder that he was interested in you,” said the man.
“Master?” she asked, lifting her head a little.
“His sword could have won him many women, women whose attractions he would presumably have had little difficulty in detecting,” he said.
I assumed he meant women such as I — slaves, suitably clad, lightly and revealingly, women of whose charms there could be little doubt.
“Could he have known that you were as beautiful as you are?” he asked.
“Thank you, Master,” she said.
“It would not seem so,” he said.
“But doubtless he was pleased to see that you were beautiful,” he said.
“Perhaps, Master,” she said.
“But he must originally have had you in mind for some other purpose,” he said. “He must have had some use in mind for you.”
“Master?” she asked.
“But the first use was doubtless merely that you would follow him naked, and collared, bearing his shield.”
“That was the second use,” she said.
“Of course,” he said.
“I would think,” he said, “ that you would have enjoyed belonging to him.”
“No!” she said, in terror.
I was frightened to think of such a master, one who inspired such terror. I shuddered. What manner of man might he be? As slaves, of course, it is appropriate, and not at all unusual, for us to retain a healthy fear of our masters, particularly if we suspect we may have been in some detail remiss or may have been in some respect less than perfectly pleasing, for we are, after all, their slaves. We are totally dependent on them in all things, and they have absolute power over us. More simply put, they are master.
“For you two would seem to have much in common,” he said.
“Do not return me to him,” she wept.
“But you would seem much the same as he.”
“No, no!” she said.
“No?” he said.
“No,” she said. “I am a female.”
“You now understand that?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said.
“It seems he knows how to keep a slave,” said the man.
“What did he want you for, other than the usual purposes of a slave?” he asked.
“I do not know,” she said.
“Perhaps we are too lenient with you here,” he mused.
“No, no,” she whispered.
To be sure, it did not seem likely to me that this was a place in which men might be criticized for being too lenient with their slaves.
“I wonder what we should do with you,” he said.
“Do not return me to him, I beg it!” she wept.
I saw she was terrified. I thought of the master she feared. From her reactions even I, who did not even know him, began to tremble. From her fear I was afraid. I was afraid even to think of such a man. Then I thought that perhaps I now better understood men in this place, that they might steal from such a man. To be sure, I did not know the whole story. Perhaps her former owner, he under discussion, was ignorant of the identity of her thief. Or perhaps the men here had merely purchased her, or captured her later, from another. Between the man she feared and this place she might have changed hands a dozen times, as any property.
“I wonder what I should do with you,” he said.
“Keep me!” she begged.
She did not request her freedom, of course. How insulting and absurd would have beensuch a request of men such as these. We wore our collars and would continue to wear them. They liked us in our collars, and found us precious in them. It would be as absurd and meaningless for us to be freed on this world as it would be for a dog or horse to be freed on my former world. It is said that only a fool frees a slave girl. It is true.
“Keep me, Master,” she begged. “Keep me, Master.”
she then, lowering her head again, began again, beggingly, pleadingly, submissively, with tears, desperately zealous to placate and please him, to lick and kiss his feet. She did this quite well, I thought. My fear did not prevent me from observing her carefully. I was only a collared Earth-girl kajira. One might even have said, as one had, as the saying has it, that my brand was still smoking. Surely it was fresh. I had much to learn. Knowing suitable placatory behaviors, sometimes necessary to pacify and appease these impatient men, these demanding and powerful masters, is something very much in a girl’s best interest. Indeed, being able to please and placate a male can sometimes mean the difference between life and death, between being ordered to the furs, there to be incontestably ravished and subjugated, there, gratefully, to be totally conquered — and being hurled to ravening sleen.
She lifted her head to him, timidly, after a time, doubtless anxious to examine his visage for some clue, however faint, as to his mood, seeking there some trace, however tiny, which might hint at what was to be done with her.
I myself could not determine what he might be thinking.
“Have my ears pierced, Master!” suddenly said Dorna.
“What?” he asked.
She rose to her knees, begging, before him. “I beg to have my ears pierced, Master!” she said. “I beg it!” She turned her head before him, to one side and then to the other. She displayed herself, desperately, pleadingly. She indicated her ear lobes. “Let my beauty, if beauty it be,” said she, “be enhanced with earrings!”
There was laughter behind her, but Dorna paid no attention to it.
“Are you not curious to know what I might look like in earrings, Master?” she asked.
“Do you not fear that such might enflame your belly?’ he asked.
“Let it then be enflamed!” she said.
“You do not care how much of a slave you become?” he asked.
“No, Master!” she said.
“Perhaps I could have your ears pierced, and have you put in earrings, and then have you returned to your former master,” he mused.
“Oh, please, no!” she wept.
She sank down, again, to her belly.
“It is interesting to ponder what might be done with you,” he said.
“I am a Master’s slave,” she said. “It will be done with me as Master pleases.”
Dorna then, clearly, was not a state slave. He in the chair was clearly her master. I did not even know his name. He was an officer in this city, it seemed, a captain, or perhaps even a high captain.
“Do you think you have been pleasing?” he asked.
She lifted her head, tears in her eyes. “I have not been pleasing,” she said. “Forgive me, Master. Let me begin again. I beg to be permitted to begin again. Let me prove to Master how good a slave I can be.”
“Kneel,” he said.
She rose to her knees before him.
“Speak,” said he.
“I beg to have my ears pierced,” she said.
He regarded her.
“Dorna begs to have her ears pierced,” she said. “Dorna, who is Master’s humble and abject slave, begs to have her ears pierced.’
“But it has already been decided,” said he, “that Dorna will have her ears pierced.”
“Yes, Master!” she said.
“What does Dorna wish?” asked he.
“To be kept by Master!” she said.
“I see,” he said.
“Let me prove to you that I am a new slave,” she begged. “Let me prove to you that I am not totally worthless in your collar!”
“Perhaps I shall make the decision tonight,” he said, “after your ears have been pierced.”
“Yes, Master!” she exclaimed.
“I am curious,” he said, “to see what you will look like in earrings.”
“Yes, Master,” she said.
“See Dorna on her knees,” said a man.
“See her beg,” said another.
“I would like to see her in earrings,” said another.
“She belongs in them,” said another.
“A bared face and earrings,” laughed one, “is a far cry from a mask of silver or gold.”
“She might make an interesting slave,” speculated another, “a common slave, I mean.”
“Yes,” said another.
“I beg to be pleasing to Master,” said Dorna.
“Hear Dorna begging to be pleasing to a man,” said a man.
“Doubtless she did not foresee this when she fled Tharna,” said a man.
“No,” laughed another.
Doubtless Dorna could not have helped, on one level or another, to have been aware of the comments of the men. But if she was aware of them, she gave little, if any, indication of it. Her primary attention was clearly on he in whose power she lay totally, as a helpless slave.
“Do you think you are capable of being pleasing?” he asked.
“Yes, Master,” she said.
“And you wish to be kept?”
“At least for a time?”
“Yes Master!” she said.
“Tonight,” said he, “I will give you an opportunity to please me.”
“Thank you, Master,” she said.
“Your performance tonight will help me decide,” he said, “as to whether or not there is any point in keeping you among by women.”
“Yes, Master,” she said.
“Do you think you will do well?” he asked.
“I shall do my best to be pleasing in all ways,” she said.
“You will endeavor to prove acceptable?” he asked.
“Yes, Master,” she said.
“But I require more than mere acceptability in the performances of my women,” he said.
“That is well known amongst us, Master,” she said.
“It will be a test, will it not be?” he asked.
“Yes, Master,” she said.
“What level do you think you must attain to pass this test?” he inquired.
“I know that I must be superb!” she sobbed.
“And do you think you can attain such a level?” he asked.
“I will do my best, Master,” she said.
He then spoke to one of the fellows near the great chair, the same to whom he had given the keys to my collar. “Take this slave away,” he said, indicating Dorna. “Send her to me tonight, bathed and perfumed, in earrings, with but a single veil.”
“Yes, Captain,” said the man. “Slave,” said he to Dorna, indicating a location near the wall, where a flat trap had now been thrown back, revealing a stairwell. “Yes, Master,” said Dorna to the man. Then she put her head down quickly, kissed each of the feet of the man in the chair. “Thank you, Master!” she said. Then she leaped up, and hurried to the stairwell, preceding the man down. She would not dally, nor make him wait. She was a slave.
Attention was then returned to me, and, instantly, frightened, I adjusted my position, so that I knelt with perfection. Under the gaze of he in the chair I subtly, frightened, widened my knees, slightly. One feels terribly vulnerable kneeling before men in the common position. It makes it so clear that one is a slave, and, too, so clear, the sort of slave one is.
I did not know where I was. I did not know my name. I did not know why I had been purchased. I did recall that he in the chair had speculated to Dorna, before his displeasure had been incurred, that she would not be displeased with my disposition. That did not reassure me. To be sure, perhaps it meant only that I as not to be entered into his household. I was, I had learned, a property of the state in this place, whatever place it might be. Dorna was now no longer on the terrace. She would thus, not immediately, at least, learn my disposition. To be sure, sometime or another it might well come within her purview. Perhaps then, I thought, swallowing hard, she might not be displeased to learn it. I had thought of her immediately as a rival, and doubtless she had thought of me in this fashion, as well, even though I might be a new slave. Indeed, even in the pens I had looked upon the others, and doubtless they upon me, or most of them, as rivals. But I suppose this is natural enough for women, even on my world. Even those who seem most hostile to men also seem, perhaps paradoxically, to desire to be pleasing to them. Perhaps this is an implicit recognition, even in such unlikely quarters, that men are the masters. But the matter is clear on this world, at least with women such as I, and she, Dorna. Here it is obvious that we are the slaves and men the masters, and that we are to please the masters. In this fashion it is not only the case that kajriae within the same house are likely to find themselves in rivalry, but that in the culture as a whole, wherever we are, on whatever chain, fastened to whatever wall, running whatever errand, heeling whatever masters, we tend to have a sense of such things. For example, we commonly strive on the sales block to bring the highest prices. I do not think this merely because we wish to be purchased by more affluent masters, which suggests that our life may be easier, but because of the personal vanities involved. Each wishes to be the most precious, the most costly. This is perhaps not so different from my old world, except that here women do not vend themselves, and take the profit on them. How many women, I wonder, marry truly for love, and only love? Do we not consider many other matters-the finances of our potential spouse, his education, his family connections, his positions in society, the likely location of his domicile, the presumed trajectory of his career, the prestige of the match, and such? But here, as I have suggested, we do not sell ourselves, reaping our own profits. No, here we are sold by others, and it is these others who will reap the profits. It is they who make the money. It is ours, rather, to be fully pleasing, and see that we obey with perfection.
“She kneels well,” said a man, observing me.
“She is from Earth,” said another.
“Yes,” said another.
“That is a land,” said one.
“Where is it?” asked another.
“To the south,” said a fellow.
“No,” said another. “It is a world.”
“Yes, a different world.”
“Are you certain?”
“Do not be foolish,” said another.
“No,” said another. “He is right.”
“Tarns can fly there?” asked one.
“No,” said another,” it is reached in ships.”
“Slave ships?” said one.
“Perhaps among others,” said a man.
“Tarns do not care to leave the sight of land,” said another, as though reminding his peer of something.
“Of course,” said the fellow.
“If it is another world,” said a fellow, “how can ships sail there?”
“They are special ships,” he was informed. “They float on clouds, as other ships on water.”
“Oh,” said the man.
I had occasionally heard conversations of this sort in the pens, particularly among the lower guards. The men of this world, I had gathered, differed considerably among themselves in their sophistication and information. Some seemed quiet aware of the nature of my world, its civilizations, its views as to the correct relations among the sexes, and so on, and others seemed astoundingly illinformed and naive. I suspected that the man in the chair, and certainly the higher officers and guards in the pens, were quite cognizant of most of the pertinent realities of my world of origin. This world seemed one of technological paradox. I had been brought here by a technology which currently, at least in certain dimensions, exceeded that of my own world. And yet here many men, if not most, seemed unclear as to its nature, if not completely ignorant of its very existence. How astonishingly paradoxical seemed my situation! Here on this world, where men seemed so proud, so untamed, so unbroken, so free, so mighty, so hot-blooded, on this world seemingly so primitive, so splendid and barbaric, on this world of leather, and silk and iron, not of plastics and synthetic fibers, of heat and love, not tepidity and hypocrisy, of ardor and skill, not of boredom and gadgetry, on this world where men had mastered monsters and seemed ready, at a word, to adjudicate disputes with edged weapons, I knelt before a dais, naked and collared, as a barbarian slave girl. Yet I could not have been brought here except in virtue of an obviously advance technology. It was almost as though I had been somehow magically flung into the past, into a world quite different from my own, a world whose ways I must speedily learn and in which I must learn, if I would survive, to be obedient and pleasing. But there was no magic here, no enchanted rings or sorcerer’s wands. Things here were quite real, as real as the stone flagging beneath my knees, as real as the mark in my left thigh. A sophisticated technology may have brought me here but I knelt here, literally knelt, and on my throat was a steel collar. Clearly, or, at least, so it seemed, the technology was not the property of all the men of this world but, at best, of some of the. Too, it might be furnished, I supposed, by others, say, allies or confederates, not of this world itself. That, too, I supposed, was a possibility.
“But what matters it,” asked a man, “the place from which she came, and whether it is a land, and where it might be, to the south, or elsewhere, or a world, and wherever it might be?”
“It matters naught,” said another man.
“It is enough,” said another, “that it be a suitable orchard from which slave fruit may be plucked, a suitable field from which may be harvested crops of slaves, a place of suitable herds, from which may be selected slave meat.”
“True,” said another.
“Women from Earth make good slaves,” said another.
“Excellent slaves,” said another.
“Yes,” said another.
I supposed there were reasons for this. Yet, I think, ultimately, the matter has to do not with geographies but with biology, not with origins but with nature. If we made good slaves it did not have ultimately to do with the fact that we were from Earth, even given its terrible conditioning programs, but that we were women. Ultimately, there are women, and there are men.
“A pretty kajira,” said one.
“Yes,” said another.
“Yes,” agreed another.
I knelt there helplessly. I was very conscious of my nudity, my collar, my brand.
“Yes,” said another.
How helpless one is!
“Yes,” said yet another.
I was very afraid. Men on this world, you see, had not surrendered their sovereignty.
“She is quite desirable,” said another.
“Yes,” said another.
This frightened me, but I was pleased, as well. What woman does not wish to hear that she is desirable?
But women here must fear. Men here, you see, had not surrendered their sovereignty!
They had power, and women, at least those such as I, did not.
They could do with us as they pleased. We were slave. They were master.
Some of the men walked about me. I did not dare to meet their eyes. A kajira knows when she is being appraised, frankly and openly, from the top of her head to the tip of her toes.
“Lovely hair,” said one.
“Not the perfection of the figure,” said another.
And thus they did assess the property and animal before them.
“Superb,” said one.
“Yes,” said another.
“It is a shame that one had to pay for her,” said another.
“True,” said another.
They preferred, it seemed, to take their women, perhaps to stalk them with stealth, as game, then to spring the nets or snares at some time of their choosing, some moment of unsuspected ripeness, or to seize them in capture strike, or to take them by theft, perhaps roping and gagging them in their own beds, there to enjoy them, and then to hood them and carry them off, bound hand and foot, to this aerie, or at sword point, in open challenge, or even to obtain them in raids and war, perhaps as incidental loot or perhaps, even, as the principal object of such endeavors, for women on this world, you see, even free women, not just women such as I, count as an accustomed and legitimate form of loot of booty, as much, or more, than gold and silver, and fine cloth, and such things. Indeed, wars have been fought to obtain us. These are often referred to as “slave wars.”
The men stepped back.
Many seemed interested in me. I wondered if I would be sent to any of them. I wondered if he in the chair might sometime, recalling me, have me sent to him, perhaps, as he had suggested with Dorna, in earrings and a single veil, if that. I would surely try to please him. But I feared the feel of such hands on my. I feared I might begin to spasm at the first sight of him.
You must understand. We are totally theirs.
I lifted my eyes, timidly, to he in the great chair. But he had now turned to others. He was conversing with them. Their business, I gathered, had nothing to do with me. A wave of irritation coursed through me. I had been much the center of attention, but now, it seemed, I was forgotten. It was strange to be kneeling so conspicuously before the dais, but neglected. One was, of course familiar with the studied inconspicuousness of the serving slave, for I had learned it in the pens. One serves humbly, self-effacingly, eyes cast downward. When not serving one kneels deferentially, silently, well back, and to the side, of the low tables. When then one is summoned to further service, by perhaps so little as a glance or snapping of fingers, one leaps up and hurries forward, perhaps then, on one’s knees, to clear, or perhaps to fetch and then serve, again kneeling, the tiny cups of strong coffees, or black wines, the shallow silver bowls of white and yellow sherbet.
And so I knelt there, in correct position, naked and collared.
My thoughts wandered back to my old world, to my life there, to my classes and classmates, to the shops, the malls, to my friends, Jean, and Priscilla, and Sandra, and Sally.
I could feel my hair blown about my shoulders by the wind sweeping across the terrace. It was now a bit before my face. I did not break position to adjust it.
My back stung from the lash.
On my neck was a steel collar. I could not remove it.
“Slave,” said the man in the chair.
“Yes, Master!” I said, eagerly.
Once again I felt eyes upon me.
“As you have doubtless surmised,” said he, “your disposition has been decided.”
“Yes, Master,” I said. He was the sort of man whom I think even a free woman might have found herself drawn to address as “Master.”
“Perhaps you have guessed what it is to be?” he said.
“No, Master,” I said.
But naturally my mind raced ahead. I had learned in the pens that I was unusually beautiful and desirable. Similarly I had trained quickly and exceedingly well. Too, though I was often terrified, I, on the whole, loved my new life. In it I had my sex had for the first time in my life become truly meaningful. No longer was the most important thing I was to be regarded as an inconsequential accident, as a mere irrelevancy. Rather its significance was recognized and, by strong men, would be uncompromisingly enjoyed and exploited. I had found my life and my meaning in bondage. I had, in this far place, for the first time in my life, come home to myself. I had once in the pens jested with a guard, confiding to him that it seemed I was “born for the collar.’ I have not forgotten his reply. He said, simply, “So, too, are all women.” But with respect to my disposition I was sure, given my beauty and desirability, and my talents, even such as they were now, that it would be a lofty one. I was thinking in terms of the high slave, one of great value, one who might even expect sandals, to say nothing of costly, if revealing, silks, and perhaps even a golden collar. Had not that female, Dorna, a high slave, clearly exhibited jealousy of me? Perhaps I would be first girl in the slave quarters. I might receive further training. I might be displayed with pride to a master’s acquaintances, or perhaps, as a state slave, to foreign diplomats or merchants. I would not need to fear the lash like a common girl. I might be often called to the couch of high men, to kneel there, belled and perfumed, and kiss the coverlets, and then, bidden, to insinuate myself sinuously into their arms.
“Beware, slave,” said the man in the chair, “of making a false step.”
“Master?” I asked.
“Hood her,” he said.
Someone behind me, whom I did not see, placed a hood over my head and drew it down, over my features. It was then buckled shut, under my chin.
In a moment then I was lifted in someone’s arms, perhaps those of the jailer, and carried about. In a moment or so I was disoriented in the hood.
Some hoods are cruel but this was a simple, common hood, one which did not even contain a gag, part of its structure. Hoods are, of course, far more effective than the common blindfold. Sometimes we must kneel in hoods for hours, forbidden to move. We do not even know at such times whether we are under surveillance or not. Can we move with impunity, for no one is watching? Or is someone watching, and, if we move, we will be punished, terribly? We do not know. We kneel in the hood, unmoving, docile and obedient. There are many purposes for hoods. Sometimes we are put in them and handed about. I had worn on almost constantly in my journey to this place. Accordingly I had no idea how I had come here or what place this was. I have indicated, too, that such devices are frequently used in the matings of slaves.
I was now set down, on my feet. I seemed to be standing on some sort of board. My hands were free, of course. But I had not received any permission to removed the hood.
“Walk forward,” said a voice.
The board seemed wide enough. It must have been twelve or fourteen inches in width. I felt its edges once or twice with one of the other of my feet.
“She walks well,” said a man.
I had, of course, been taught in the pens how to walk. I continued to walk forward. I was a little uneasy, as the board seemed to move a bit under my weight. “Masters?” I called.
“Continue,” said a man.
“Stop!” he said.
Naturally I stopped.
“Remove the hood,” said the voice.
I unbuckled the hood, and drew it from my head.
I screamed and staggered, and put out my hands, wildly.
Below me yawned an immense drop, one of hundreds of feet, with jagged rocks below.
In an instant, with rapid steps, sure-footedly, the jailer had reached me, lifted me up, turned about and returned me, trembling, wild-eyed, to the foot of the dais.
“Beware of making a false step,” said he in the chair.
“Yes, Master! Yes, Master!” I cried from my belly, a terrified slave girl.
I had learned a lesson. This was not a place where, nor were these men among whom, false steps would be wise.
The jailer, with some difficulty, pried my fingers from the hood, and handed it behind me to someone.
“Tenrik,” said the man in the chair.
“Captain,” said the jailer.
“Bind her, hand and foot,” he said.
My hands were pulled behind me and my wrists crossed. In a moment, with a dispatch and effectiveness that could only have been the result of long experience in such things, the knots had been jerked tight. Then my ankles were crossed, and, with a separate bit of cord, lashed together.
“Carry her to the wall,” said a man in the chair.
The jailer then lifted me up and carried me in his arms to the wall, on which he stood, I in his arms. The wind blew fiercely there. I whimpered piteously, terrified.
“Look down, slave girl,” called the man in the chair.
“Please, no, Master!” I cried.
“Must a command be repeated?” he inquired.
“No, Master!” I wept.
I turned my head and, moaning, looked down. The rocks were hundreds of feet below.
“It is enough,” he said.
I closed my eyes, and put my head back, tightly, against the chest of the jailer, trembling.
“You realize you could be easily hurled to the rocks below?” inquired the man in the chair.
“Yes, Master!” I said, not even opening my eyes.
“Sleen come there at night, looking for bodies,” said the man in the chair.
“Yes, Master,” I said, keeping my eyes shut.
I was then carried down from the wall and deposited, again, before the dais. I lay on my side. How welcome was the stone flagging of the terrace floor!
I looked up, fearfully, at the man in the chair.
“You understand something now of what it might be to be a slave in this place?” asked the man in the chair.
“Yes, Master!” I said.
“You will try to be a good slave, will you not?” he inquired.
“Yes, Master!” I cried. “Yes, Master!”
I lay there, on my side, bound. They then attended to other business. I was sure that they were through with me now, at least for all practical purposes. Why then was I not carried away, or conducted somewhere?
Somehow, now, I was no longer so certain that my disposition, apparently already determined, would be as lofty and certain as I had hitherto conjectured.
I did not even want to go near the wall again, not even to the parapet. The board I had trod earlier was wide and, objectively, it was easy to tread, even hooded as I was. Certainly the folks of this world seem to have little fear of such narrow places. They are accustomed to them. They think little more of treading them than I might have of treading a sidewalk on my old world. Much depends on what is familiar to one, what one grows used to. Many of the “high bridges” in a city such as this would be regarded as quite alarming, at least initially, by most of those of Earth, as they might range from a foot to four or five feet wide, and arch over frightful drips, sometimes to a maze of bridges below, but these people, who have grown up with them, seldom give them a thought. The point of the high bridges seems to be twofold, first, they are lovely in their traceries against the sky and between the cylinderlike buildings, and such things are important to these people, who seem to have an unusually developed aesthetic sense and, second, they have military value, inasmuch as they are easy to defend. Each of these cylinders, in its way, can constitute a stronghold, a fortress or keep. To me, of course, traversing these bridges, particularly in the beginning, constituted a nightmare of terror. I would sometimes crawl on them, scarcely able to move. I would sometimes go to great lengths to avoid them, even though I must then hasten, gasping, running, on my errands, the message tube tied about my neck, my hands braceleted behind me, that I might not have been thought to have dallied. I am still uneasy on such bridges. My fears sometimes occasion amusement among the masters. But my fears, I have been told, are not unprecedented, and, indeed, are not unusual among girls of my sort, girls from my world. Brought here as slaves. But fortunately insouciance and thoughtlessness on the high bridges, common to those of this world, are not required of us. It is other things which are required of us.
I lay there on the flagging, on my side, helpless, bound hand and foot, for some time, while business was conducted. I could see the tiny tunic to one side, where it had been dropped. I made no effort to call attention to myself. It would be done with me as others pleased. I was slave. I did, at one point, see one of the men looking down at me. I pointed my toes a little, even with my ankles bound, and sucked in my waist, that the line of my legs, and the nature of my figure might be accentuated. I do not think that this was particularly because I realized that the means at my disposal to improve my life and condition here were largely limited to my beauty, heat, and service, but, rather, simply, because, under the eyes of a man, such a man as one of these, I could not help myself but behave as a slave, and perform as a slave, and present myself as the slave I was. He laughed, and I blushed, and, shamed, looked away.
Shortly thereafter the fellow who had conducted Dorna away, she preceding him with alacrity, returned to the terrace. With him was a grimy fellow in a leather apron with a tiny kit of tools.
Seeing he who had conducted Dorna away I thought immediately of her. Tonight, I recalled, she was to serve as the slave she was. Perhaps even now she was preparing herself, or perhaps, as she was high slave, she was being prepared by lesser slaves, for her “test.”
I was certain she would strive humbly and zealously to pass that test. I gathered it would not go well with her if she failed.
Somewhere else, I gathered, at another time, she had been a free woman and, it seems, an important personage. They had even spoken of a mask of silver, or gold, or such. Here, of course, her face was naked, and she was only another slave.
The man with the fellow who had returned to the terrace was, as I would later learn to recognize at a glance by his garb, a member of the leather workers. In many of the Gorean cities there is a caste structure which is significant not only socially but politically. The leather workers are a “low caste.” The high castes are normally accounted five in number — the Warriors, the Builders, the Physicians, the Scribes, and the Initiates. The Initiates are sometimes thought of as the highest of the five high castes, and the Warriors commonly produce the administrators and ubars for a city. It is not easy in a world such as this to deprive those who are skilled with weapons their share of authority. If it is not given to them, they will take it. There are some ambiguities in the caste structure. For example, some rank the Merchants as a high caste, and some do not; and some rank the Slavers with the Merchants, and some see them as a separate caste, and so on. It is usually a very serious thing to lose caste in this society. To be sure, not everyone has caste. Priest-Kings, for example, whoever they may be, have no caste. They are said to be “above caste.” Similarly, outlaws and slaves have no caste. Outlaws are thought to have relinquished caste, and, in a sense, thus, to be “out of caste,” and slaves, of course, as animals, are “below caste,” or, perhaps better, “aside from caste” or “apart from caste.” To be sure, I think there are others who also lack caste, really. Some may not have been raised “in caste,” some may decline or flee their castes before the initiations, and so on. Similarly, there are entire groups of people, as I understand it, barbarians, savages, and such, whose social arrangements are not based on caste. Very little on this world, and, I suppose, on others, is simple.
“Dorna is now a pierced-ear girl?” asked he in the chair of the fellow who had returned to the terrace.
“Yes, Captain,” said the fellow.
The man in the chair smiled. There was laughter from the men about. Some smote their left shoulders in approval. I had gathered earlier that the piercing of the ears was regarded on this world as somehow rather significant. That surmise was now confirmed.
“Slave,” said he in the chair to me.
“Yes, Master,” I said.
I looked up at him from my side, where I lay. He had not ordered me to kneel. It seemed it was his will that I should retain my low position. It is difficult, of course, to get to one’s knees, bound as I was, but it can be done. If ordered to do so one strives to do so as quickly and gracefully as possible. We are expected to obey unhesitantly and swiftly, subject, of course, to the proviso that we should do so as well, as beautifully, as possible. These people have, as I have suggested, a highly developed aesthetic sense. They require beauty in their slaves, both in appearance and movement.
“Dorna,” said he, “has been a slave longer than you so it is fitting that it would be her ears which would first be pierced.”
“Yes, Master,” I said.
“Accordingly,” he said, “even though she is a high slave and you are a low slave, you are, at this moment, as your ears have not been pierced, a thousand times higher than she.”
“Yes, Master,” I said. I was, of course, puzzled by this. One thing seemed clear, once again, the apparent cultural momentousness of ear piercing on this world.
“But,” said he, “as soon as your ears are pierced, you will be, again, a thousand times lower than she.”
“Yes, Master,” I said.
He turned to the fellow in the apron. “Pierce her ears,” he said.
I could not resist, of course, bound as I was.
The leather worker put his tiny kit of tools down beside me, and, undoing a string, opened it, and spread it out.
“Kneel her,” he said.
A fellow seized me my the hair and pulled me up, painfully, to a kneeling position.
“Spread your knees,” he said.
“Hold her head,” said the leather worker to the fellow who had knelt me.
He crouched behind me and fastened his hands in my hair, tightly. I could not move my head in the slightest without great pain. It hurt even as he held me. “Take her arms, you, and you,” said the leather worker to two other fellows. “Hold her down, on her knees.” The two fellows addressed them, one on each side of me, seized an arm. I was then held in place, bound hand and foot, down, on my knees, one man holding my head, by the hair, another holding my left arm, and another my right. Their grips were tight. I had little doubt that marks would be left on my arms. To me, of course, these precautions seemed not only unnecessary, but excessive. I did not much fear having my ears pierced. I gathered, however, that on this world many women might. Perhaps they would shriek and struggle, however futilely. I began to sense then, even more, how momentous ear piercing was on this world. This made me uneasy. If I had truly understood the meaning of ear piercing on this world perhaps I, too, I supposed, might have regarded it with horror, and striven to resist, however meaninglessly, however stupidly, however unavailingly and ineffectually. But I doubted it. As a slave it seemed to me fitting that my ears would be pierced, and that men would do with me as they wished. It was not lost on me, of course, that I was knelt. This was to make it clear, I gathered, that ear piercing was something that was done only to slaves. Too, the fellow who had pulled me up to my knees had told me to spread my knees. Thus, I would be kneeling as a certain sort of slave, when this was done to me. I would thus, I suppose, associate these two things, my ear piercing and the sort of slave I was.
I saw the leather worker with a bright, long needle.
I felt my left ear lobe drawn downward, taut. It was then pierced. There must have been a drop of blood, as the worker rubbed the ear with his thumb. He then inserted a tiny object, like a droplet with a steel pin, though the wound and, on the other side of the ear lobe, snapped on a tiny disk. These operations were then, with suitable adjustments, repeated with respect to the right ear lobe, even to the wiping away of what must have been another drop of blood. I was then released and allowed to lie on my back. The leather worker was then wiping his needle and returning it to his kit, which he then did up, as it had been. There had been very little pain, though I had felt a prick each time, and I could now feel the tiny rods through my ear lobes. It was a strand feeling. My ear lobes felt a little sore. This soreness, I realized, would quickly pass.
“You are now a pierced-ear girl,” the fellow in the apron informed me, grinning.
“Yes, Master,” I said.
I sensed, frightened, he liked me that way.
“You are not to disturb this work,” said the man in the chair.
“No, Master,” I said. I gathered that some women, doubtless would of this world, might, perhaps in hysteria, try to tear such things from their ears.
The man in the apron stood up, and caught a coin in one hand, tossed to him by the fellow who had conducted him hither. The man in the apron then bowed, and, with another look at me, lying on my back, bound, on the flagging, took his leave.
One of the men looked down at me. “Pierced-ear girl,” he sneered.
I turned my head away. I did not dare to look at him.
I suddenly sensed a new, pervasive, remarkable interest in me. I sensed powerful heat. It was almost like waves of flame. I lay there, small and helpless, a naked, bound slave at the mercy of masters. Was there now so much that was now so different about me?
“Tenrik,” said the man in the chair, sharply.
“Yes, Captain!” said the jailer.
“This is not the time for us to amuse ourselves with a slave,” said the man in the chair.
“No, Captain,” said Tenrik.
In a moment it seemed that order was restored.
Whereas the remark had been ostensively addressed to Tenrik it had obviously not been intended for him, or for him in particular, but, by means of him, so to speak, had been a remark addressed to all.
I gathered the remark, of course, that there might well be times when such as I might be given up for the amusement of men, but that this was not such a time.
Too, I gathered that there was discipline in this place, and here I do not speak of such things as the correctives and admonitives, however sure, strict and sever, to which an errant slave might find herself subjected, but of sterner stuff, the discipline of the military, that of the Warrior, that discipline necessary for the raid, the engagement, that required for decisive and coordinated action in highly dangerous circumstances, and, even, too, that other sort of discipline, the long, slow, staying sort of discipline, that which might be required for weeks and months, even years, that tenacity, that sturdiness, needed for the sometimes seemingly endless rigors and privations of campaigns, and wars.
I rose a bit, on my elbows, my wrists tied behind me.
I looked about a bit. Some of the men were still regarding me. But they would not act, not now.
I was safe now, at least for a time.
I looked away from the eyes of a man, frightened. His eyes might as well have been those of a lion.
But I was safe now.
The eyes of others, too, were as those of lions.
How fearful it must be for any woman to be among such men, let along one such as I, a slave!
I felt as though I might be a delicacy, one which, had it not been for a word from he in the chair, would by now have been seized and devoured. But on this world there were doubtless many such delicacies, silked and perfumed, combed and belled, deliciously curved, trained, eager to please. Might they not be encountered in any tavern? Indeed, I had at one time thought that I might be sent to such a tavern. Girls such as I, from my world, are apparently popular purchases with tavern keepers.
I lay there before the dais, helpless, but now, apparently, quite safe.
But I felt somehow angry, somehow vaguely dissatisfied, even irritated.
What sort of girl was I?
How pleased I was that I was now safe!
They could not touch me now!
But my belly seemed aflame. My ears had been pierced! I had some sense now as to what that might mean to men such as these. I could feel the tiny rods in my ear lobes.
But I was safe now. How pleased I was!
But I was somehow angry.
I went to my back, lying on my crossed wrists, they below the small of my back. This arched my body somewhat, lifting my belly up, having my head a bit down. I breathed quickly, deeply, prominently, two or three times, and moved my shoulders a little, twisting them, and lifted my knees a bit. I did this though I knew the eyes of several were upon me. How foolish this was, for would it not call attention to the slave at their feet? But surely this was all quite innocent, and quite unintentional, or, at least, must be seemingly so. What woman would dare to stir thusly before such men, even in all innocence, in all inadvertence, almost like a restless, frustrated, yearning, begging slave, on attempting to call attention to herself, surely only one naive, or one reckless, or one oblivious to, or heedless of, what she might be doing. Did she not understand how such things might be viewed? Had she not considered the danger of provoking them, of even in some subtle way perhaps igniting their heats and needs? How foolish must such a woman be! Might not such movements, all innocent and unintentional as they might be, be misconstrued? Might they not even been understood as slave moments? I glanced to one of the men. I am not sure then precisely what happened. I think an expression of irritation, or of annoyance, may have crossed my features, perhaps fleetingly, ending perhaps in a tiny smile, perhaps in an as-if-triumphant little smile, as I turned my head away. I was safe from him. He could not have me now! This was all subtle, you understand. Even now I am not quite certain of everything that occurred in that moment, or half moment. What I think I may have done was to convey, or seem to convey, my contempt for them, subtly, challengingly, that I had not been seized and ravished and, at the same time, slyly, vaunt my immunity from their predations. I was, I suppose, in my way, taunting them. This was, of course, a mistake. It was not one I would make again.
“Slut!” cried a man.
“Oh!” I cried in pain, kicked.
“Throw her to sleen!” called another.
“No, please, Masters!” I wept. “Oh! Oh!” I cried, twice more kicked.
“Take that, slave!” cried another.
“Oh!” I wept.
“And that!” cried another.
“And that!” cried yet another.
“Oh! Oh!” I wept.
“Bring the whip!” cried a man.
“No, Masters!” I begged.
“I have it,” cried another.
“Please, no, Masters!” I begged.
Down came the lash!
“What have I done?” I cried.
“Stupid slave!” cried a man.
“Lying slave!” cried another.
Again and again the lash fell.
“Forgive me, Masters!” I cried, writhing bound under the last. “Forgive me! Forgive me, Masters!”
“It is enough,” announced the man in the chair. “She is new to her collar, and yet naive.”