By Sarah Dorrance
A breeze brushes past me: soft breath on my skin. It's nearly dark. The fireflies are out; so too the crickets, which make their ritual evening serenade as I test the ground beneath me for softness. This is not a good place to set up the tent: too rocky. The rocks might come in handy later for something, but I don't want to set up a tent on them, cot or no cot. A bit further up is a pine grove, where the ground is soft and springy and smells vaguely of incense. It's secluded, and dense at the edges with undergrowth. Perfect. A perfect place for a late spring night spent under the sky.
Actually, I've always hated camping. It's not that I dislike the great outdoors per se, but the pollen and so on gives me allergic fits, and that combined with insects tasting me for sweetness gives me this feeling that my skin is crawling, and I really loathe the hard work that is involved in setting up a camp, staying there for only a night or two, only to strike it. Let's just say I've always been an indoor girl and leave it at that. This night is no exception; on an aesthetic level I enjoy the crickets and fireflies and mellow dusk, while the rest of me curses at having to set up a tent in the dark.
"Have you set up camp in the dark before?"
"No. I'm sorry. I get my boyfriends and girlfriends to do that kind of thing for me."
He snorts. "It figures."
"I know. I'm pretty much useless except for one or two things. It pains you, but can you live with it?"
We look at each other. Neither of us grins, but there is a conspiratorial energy in the air. He grimaces a little, and mutters, "You did pack all the stakes and shit, didn't you?"
Yes. This time, for once, I had packed efficiently and thoroughly, remembering the essentials but leaving the frou-frou out, checking and rechecking the supplies because I had no written list to follow. Everything was there, even the lantern and the tiki torches and fuel, so that we would not have to battle the darkness. I'm trying hard not to let him see how nervous I am. I'm scared. I want to make this absolutely perfect for him. I'm only going to get this one chance; it has to be right. What if I'm not good enough? What if he hates what I've planned? It's terrible, the stage fright. I always get it on a first date, but it's never been this bad.
And I'm hungry. Oh God. I've never been this hungry. I've gone without for over a year, and even then, it wasn't like this.
Surely he can tell.
He pulls out the tarp, then the tent and the stakes and the mallet, then the lantern and the torches, and starts setting up camp. I busy myself with things like rope, the latex bodysuit and cap, the gloves, the needles and blades, the candles and matches, the gym bag with its assortment of goodies (I pull out a rubber squeaky rat and a short steel-tipped flogger, in addition to a riding crop that I bought online just a week ago) and similar necessities. I outline in my mind the general course of the evening's activities while he pounds stakes. I like having an outline, even though I usually end up deviating from it a little. I finish preparing at about the same time that he finishes setting up the tent, fire bucket, and lanterns.
"Do you want a fire?" I ask. "It's going to get cold in a little bit. Fires draw attention, but they do warm things up."
"Do you see any other campers?"
I smile to myself. "True enough. Let's get a fire going over by the rocks."
Despite the warmth of the evening, the cold soon follows the darkness. We sit by the fire warming our hands. I pull out a bottle of aged Talisker - a good portion of my monthly wages - and pour some of the precious liquid into a plastic Thermos cap. "Here. Happy birthday. Drink up." None for me, of course; I need coordination. I am one of those people who believes that driving drunk is never acceptable; be the driven thing a vehicle or another person.
After he drinks his whiskey, grunting with what I hope is awed appreciation but what in actuality is probably just alcohol up the windpipe, I pick up the rope and the small bag of equipment. "Ready when you are."
We make our way to another part of the pine grove, this section without the plethora of creeping scrub trees. I wrap the trunk with duct tape - he said that he liked discomfort, but I don't think pine sap and a crackful of bark count as "good" discomfort - and note with satisfaction that the trees are spaced absolutely perfectly. I was going to start with the back, so I get him to face the trunk before I start tying his ankles together.
"I can hold still."
"I'm sure you can," I purr.
"You didn't tell me you planned to tie me up."
"No, I didn't. I know you think you won't try to run away from me, but I don't want to take my chances, hmm? The last thing I want to do is take up half the night staging a scene from The Blair Witch Project. By the way, I don't have a rifle, so we'd better pray that we won't get attacked by any bears, which would be just my luck..."
I finish tying his ankles and work on stretching out his arms, fastening them to the nearest trees. He's almost suspended. Not quite. Almost. Actually, I studied my Girl Scout knot guide for months and practiced, all in preparation for this. It's not quite crucifixion, what I'm doing to him, but it's pretty damn close. His arms I draw to either side, and slightly back over shoulder level, which is incredibly strenuous, because it pulls on the muscles. It looks lovely, of course, but it's not the sort of position you want to keep somebody in for very long unless you plan to actually cause serious damage. It's definitely not a position for a heavy or pear-shaped person to be put into. Their weight would actually cause a strain or worse. If it gets really bad, I can tighten the rope underneath his hips to give him some support, but for now I leave it slack so that he dangles.
He's already starting to struggle for air. I hadn't realized that the effect would be so quick.
I pull out the steel tipped cat: no warm-up for this boy. He likes pain. He'll get it. "Yell all you want," I say quietly, "because there's no one near to hear you scream." I practiced with this flogger for months, to get my aim right. Ready, aim, fire. The tips land on his flesh, on his gaunt frame. Already I'm drawing blood. Too late I realize that he'll probably get chewed up by mosquitoes, and I hope that this will enhance the whole gestalt experience because I'm not about to stop now. He hasn't started screaming yet, although he's grunting a lot, and the blood is running a lot because of the whiskey thinning it. Oh, yes, that was deliberate. I do think of these things in advance, you know. I'm getting into a good rhythm now. The scary thing is that I really don't have to hit very hard. I'm afraid of what might happen if I use this thing with full force.
I don't want to turn his back to meat - not yet - so I lay off the flogger for a while and pick up the rat. It's either that or the riding crop, and I figure he doesn't like the stereotypical bum-thrashing unless that's the only thing he can get. I love him. He's a friend. I do not subject friends to stereotypes.
The rat makes an absurd little squeak in my hand.
"Meet Ratbert," I murmur, and the rat squeaks again shortly before the round, ringed tail bites into his arse. Ratbert is at least as nasty as the steel-tipped cat, if used right. My nastiest toy of all is actually a plastic jump rope. It's amazing what you can pick up at a dollar bargain store. I hope I get a chance to use the jump rope later; I wouldn't dream of using it on anybody but a serious pain junkie, and I haven't met any other real pain junkies, at least nobody that I want to play with.
He's breathing raggedly, in hoarse coughing gasps. No. I don't want him to asphyxiate to death. I stop - the welts on his arse aren't quite bleeding freely the way his back is - and undo the rope on one of his wrists, pulling on the rope until I reach him so that he doesn't fall. Repeat on the other side. He hasn't collapsed yet. He's just having trouble breathing. His back is very wet; my latex gloves come away covered in blood. I don't lick the blood off; it's not fresh anymore after it's left the body. Besides, I don't want my saliva on the gloves.
This shaking, pale puppet needs to be kissed. I put my lips carefully to his wounds. Must kiss them to make it better. Must kiss them. Must - ah, how sweet, and firey on my tongue - I can taste his craving, it's like pungent fruit, and his fear...Yeah, okay, so I'm a sick puppy. So is he. That's what we like about each other, isn't it? Anyway, you'd be surprised how many real vampires there are in the world. It's not just the blood, it's what's in the blood, the energy and passion…
But I'm not done with him yet. He's not done with me, either. We have a long way to go.
I turn him around so that he's facing me, then stretch him again; more tightly. Now he's upright and leaned against the trunk instead of stretched forward. It's quite beautiful to watch: a short, wiry, scrawny, and utterly masculine man, a good five inches shorter than I at least, on tiptoe, stretched out as tight as can be - and as hard as a rock. That's the sort of thing I definitely like to see.
I reach out for him and, pulling hard on his member, feeling it stiffen even more at my touch, lean close to him, whisper in his ear. "Are we having fun yet?"
"You know I don't get off on this. I'm not aroused."
"Me neither," I say, stroking back and forth lovingly. "I don't really get into men. Sometimes I get the hots for one, though." I squeeze. He twitches. "Are you sure you're not getting off, just a teensy bit?"
"This isn't - what I'd had in mind - "
I lean close to his ear. "I know. You don't like domination. You don't get into rape scenes. But I do. I need you. I'm having a very hard time holding back right now. I have you where I want you, and I do not want to let go." I trace his member with my fingernail, caress his head with my other hand. "And whether you want it or not, you're hard. How - " My voice quavers. I'm riding high on nerves. This is not good. "delicious. But I'll stop. Even though this is hard for me. Excusing the pun."
I pull away and pick up my new crop. It's time to give the crop a good christening.
He's starting to look pale. His breath comes out in rattling gasps now. The blood has run down his back and his chest, and dried, and congealed; his cock is red, and raw in some spots where I hit him over and over several times in a row, hard. He came twice. Not bad for someone who doesn't have a sex drive and doesn't find me at all attractive. The crop indeed got a good christening before I pulled out the whip again - and tore into him. That's the only way to describe what I did. Because his flesh was torn by the time I had to stop to rest. Something in me came out, finally, and howled and demanded to be fed, something that I keep chained and controlled, and it got loose and I don't even know how long I whipped him, just that it felt much too good and I don't even know if I would have stopped if he'd begged for mercy, which he hadn't. I usually try to avoid letting myself lose control like that…I have never done this before. I don't believe in letting go. This is supposed to be "safe, sane, and consensual." What we do tonight is none of these things. What if he were to cry safeword? Would I even listen, at this point? I'd like to think so, but if he'd begged for mercy a few minutes ago I wouldn't even have heard him. I did give him a safeword, of course, only an idiot wouldn't, but what's the point of having a safeword if I can't hear it?
I let him down, slowly. He can't stand up by himself. He's on the verge of passing out, so I support him. It's not that hard. He weighs less than I do. I can count his ribs by running my fingers over them. The welts, too. A book of Braille.
Clinging to each other, conspirators to a crime, we stagger over to the rocks.
He doesn't have enough strength to complain when I break out the cuffs and set about restraining him again. I stretch him out to his full length, lengthwise this time, and pin the wrist and ankle cuffs down with pegs. These I secure with little lines and stakes. I need a good canvas, so I don't secure his entire body, but I do lash down his arms and the lower parts of his legs, and his neck. I think of Gulliver in Lilliput, only Gulliver had his clothes on, and my partner is naked. It's close enough to the fire that we're still warm. I don't want him to shiver. Shivering would get in the way of what I want to do just as much as squirming would.
Should I blindfold him? No. I want him to see exactly what I'm about to do.
I've never actually done this before. I don't suppose it will make a difference, really, all things considered, but I'm still sweating bullets. I'm so afraid of screwing up. I'm also afraid of my tools: in addition to my usual razor blades, and an artist's knife, and a few other things that fit into a plastic bag, I have packages of needles. Accupuncture needles. Piercing needles. I usually avoid them because I have this hangup about never doing to other people what I wouldn't be willing to endure myself. However, he said that the only thing he wanted out of this evening was pain; I'm really not an imaginative person, I'd make a lousy torturer, and I couldn't think of very many things to do to him that wouldn't break bones, remove body parts, or otherwise maim him. There are some things that I really don't think I could do unless I were fighting for my life. Besides, I suspect he wouldn't get any emotional satisfaction out of ripped tendons or broken bones or anything like that, painful though these things might be. There's a difference between good pain and bad pain. Good pain is when you're getting something done. Bad pain is when an anvil falls on your foot.
The clamps go on first. Japanese clamps - the kind that get tighter when you pull on them. I've tried them, and I can't handle them for longer than ten seconds. The usual places: nipples, balls.
I'm ready. I show him the needles.
He starts shivering.
"Don't shiver," I say. "It gets in the way and makes it hurt more. Wait a minute. That's what you want, isn't it?" I start with the piercing needles - I hung out in a tattoo parlour and quietly apprenticed myself to one of the piercing artists there two months earlier, just to learn how to do this right - and remember that if it's loose flesh, it can be pierced temporarily. Most of his ears are pierced already. So I slowly push the needles through the less obvious spots: the small folds on the upper chest, the upper arms, the lower arms, the upper thighs. He wears armour now, armour that has been woven into his very skin. I'm glad of the restraints that hold him down, because his body is shuddering in hard, terrible waves.
I smile. "Do you know what the Aztec warriors used to do?"
"What?" he asks through clenched teeth. He is not enjoying this. I am.
"They pierced themselves exactly this way, to make personal offerings to their war god. Most Aztec sacrifices were personal. They didn't involve other people."
"How nice. You know how I feel about religion."
"Yes. I know. I thought you'd want to do this for the sheer fun of it anyway." I only have five piercing needles left, out of a hundred. I've been reserving them for this. I take the first of these five needles and insert it into the top flesh of his now mostly flaccid penis. And for the first time tonight, for the first time after being flayed and strangled to within an inch of his life, then turned into a writhing pin cushion, he screams, a high girlish shrill of agony. I wait until he is done screaming, then push in the second needle, a little closer to the head of the penis. He screams for each needle. By the time I am done, he is hoarse and wet, and the shaft of his cock is bloody.
I am having far too much fun. I was not supposed to enjoy it this way. Something about this night has released my inner monster, and she is out romping, howling, screaming for an orgasm. I will never do this again, I remind myself. Never. Never will he. Aren't we having fun?
He is limp, and white, the colour of skimmed milk. He isn't trembling as hard, but his body is shivering; if a sine wave had a human form, it might look something like this. I think he might be about at the end of his rope. Actually, if the circumstances were different, I'd be calling an ambulance about now.
"Be glad you aren't an Aztec," I murmur, "they used huge cactus spines rather than these little thin needles."
He curses. It sounds like a whimper. Good. There's still plenty of him there.
"Dear," I whisper, "I'm not done yet."
My canvas opens his eyes again, disbelieving. My God. He actually looks a little worried. There's a manic fire in his eyes that I realize for fear. I don't want him to be afraid. I want him to be elated, high on his pain and on his natural desire and his life, not frightened. I start to reach for his head, to stroke his hair and reassure him. But something in me stops. I don't want him to be afraid - but I need it. I need it. I need him.
"Stay with me," I whisper, "don't fade out on me just yet. Remember our little bargain. I'm not letting you go. Not now."
I pull out the Exacto knife, with its fresh blade that I had loaded earlier while wearing my latex gloves, and begin to trace designs around the piercings. I did this with woad at a historical reenactor's camp a couple of years ago, painting swirls, knots, lines and waves. Now I etch the same - triskeles and waves and dots, primitive markings, tattoos of an earlier, bloodier age. Often the blade slashes across raw flesh. He isn't screaming, but despite himself, he's crying. After a while he stops trying to hold it back and gives over to it. He writhes a little, and this probably hurts him just as bad, because his mangled back is pressed against sharp rocks. He doesn't writhe often, but sometimes he can't help it. It's terrible to watch, and beautiful. I'm not distracted by the possibility of orgasm anymore. I'm on the edge, but I'm busy doing other things now and I can't be bothered with my bodily reactions. The blood and the design, the writhing and the moans of pain, the firelight and the smell of pine. The awful aloneness of the night, the night that we own.
I stop and look at my handiwork. Somewhere, underneath the needles and the cuts and the welts, is a human being, but you'd have to look awfully hard.
"I wish you could see yourself..."
He looks at me again. He's not glaring at me. He's not crying anymore either. I'm not sure I even recognize what's in his eyes. Whatever it is, it's capable of a smile, so I know there's a stubborn part of him that hasn't quite succumbed yet. Amazing. Well, he did describe himself as an unbreakable toy. And they say vampires are the ones who have all the constitution points. Not this time. I would have passed out long ago. "You should see yourself," he laughs, and I realize what that look is. He laughs, hysterical and triumphant, and I don't laugh with him because I'm focusing on what comes next. One of us has to drive. As I said, I don't drive drunk. I have nothing against other people getting drunk when I'm driving, though.
The needles all have to come out. He knows this.
After another fifteen minutes or so undoing my pincushion, it's time to take off the clamps. "You know how long these things have been on?" I ask, as I prepare to pinch them open - I don't care how much he likes pain, I'm not going to yank them off. He'll get plenty of pain anyway. They've been on for almost forty five minutes. Long enough to make him scream again when the clamps are removed and the blood comes rushing back.
I let him get his breath for a minute, then pick up his last ordeal for the evening - a beeswax candle about three inches in diameter. I usually avoid beeswax because it's dangerously hot. It's been burning for the duration of the piercing and cutting. I wonder what bad second degree burns feel like on abused skin. Awful, I suspect. Under other circumstances I'd say that the point of this is to cauterize the bleeding from the worse cuts, but we both know that there's no point to that, and it's just about gratuitous pain. But ah, no, none of the pain tonight is gratuitous. It's there for its own sake. Give me your worst, he said, and I asked, are you sure you really want that? My worst is pretty bad. Do you know what you're getting into?
My dear partner in crime. This will hurt me more than it hurts you - but not just yet.
It's over. It's over. I get him loose. He trembles in my arms, despite the heat of the fire. Now I know he is in shock, because he seems to be almost nodding off. But he's still fighting it - he keeps snapping back and blinking hard.
"Are you ready to go into the tent?" I ask.
We look at each other.
"Give me another drink," he says, and I give him a whole cupful of Scotch. What the hell. It can't hurt now. Down the hatch it goes. I watch his throat work. Then, after a few minutes of looking into the fire, watching the phantoms appear in the smoke, making me wonder if he's succumbed and lost consciousness, which would let me off the hook - for a while anyway - he says, "All right. Now I'm ready."
He needs to be held up, so I hold him while he stumbles into the cheap little dome tent.
It's dark inside. I turn on the flashlight. It's not light enough. The light of the campfire flickers outside, and that, too, is not enough.
He lies on the cot.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" I ask. There is a point when there will be no turning back. Yes, I know, it's an old, old cliche, but for once the cliche is based on something real.
"Yes." He looks me in the eye. "I've wanted this for years. I'm tired of never being able to get it from anyone else. If we lived together, who knows, maybe things would be different, but we live on different continents and I don't think we have enough in common to work anything long-term out anyway. Besides, in the end I don't think it would make a hell of a lot of difference."
"All right then." I pull out the straight razor that I found in the antique shop six months ago, and place it to his throat. My hands start to shake. My God. I'm actually doing it. I hadn't expected him to want to go through with it. I thought the pain would be like heroin to him, would get him hooked and begging for more. As a friend I hate myself for what I am about to do, hate him for making me give him up. As myself, simply myself - I must confess to a certain curiosity. There. I guess I am a monster after all. Who but a monster would help a friend kill himself? and actually look forward to it?
"I'm ready when you are," I say. He nods, a single short nod, and I slice. Carotid. Jugular.
The blood is everywhere, which is one reason why I put on the latex suit before our evening started.
I bend down to drink. It feels like sacrilege, and sacrament, all at once. I've never had a life. I've drunk blood and life, but I've never taken it. Oh God. The sweet metallic taste devours me, fills my mouth, I can't have it all or I'll make myself sick, I have to be careful, I bury my face in it and absorb the awful sensation of him, his clammy skin and hot stubborn spark, the life leaving his body, his last gasps of breath deserting him, the rushing and the drowning and then the cold oblivion of him being gone, simply gone. The blood no longer tastes sweet.
I want to cry. I will never see him again, never write him again. Few people understand me and accept me for who and what I really am. They sugar coat me, or I give myself to them with a spoonful of sugar because I know they can't handle the real me. Or I make myself ugly, to drive them away, or to make fun of this thing inside myself, because humour defangs anything. He never thought I was horrible. He liked me. We had something together that few people share - and now he's gone, all because I helped him to die. I don't believe in dying alone, the loneliness and coldness of it - when I die I want to die in the arms of someone who loves me, if I have the chance. I also don't believe in letting opportunities go to waste, and what an incredible opportunity comes from the death of an extreme masochist. Finally, a chance to really be myself, no holds barred. And it killed him.
I can't cry. I want to, but I can't. My eyes are dry, and my throat is
numb. I'm still buzzing from the blood and the incredible energy of his
life, that he breathed into me. He is in my veins. It's not the same,
though. Even his aftertrace cannot fill the absolute loneliness that is
left in his wake.